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Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Geographic Information System (GIS)

How can Geographic Information Systems (GIS) help writers and content creators visualize data? Do you use information visualization in your publications and documents? (Click image for credit and source)

Data visualization is becoming the new frontier in content, writing, and communication. In this post, I want to share with you a remarkable type of map.

There are your standard, average sorts of maps, and then there are your WOW! amazing, captivating maps.

In The World in Tweets and Photos and Infographic of the Day: Using Twitter and Flickr Geotags to Map the World, Eric Fischer has created a marvelous series of geographic maps of the WOW! kind showing overlays of geotagged photos posted to Flickr and tweets to Twitter.

This fascinating project visualizes the intersection of geography and vast quantities of user-generated data.

When you look at Fischer’s images, you will see clusters of multi-colored dots that represent where people are when they send photos and tweets. Red dots correspond to Flickr photos; blue dots signify tweets; and white dots indicate locations from which both have been sent.

From New York and Washington to the entire United States to Europe to the entire world, you can see images that instantly communicate how many people are using those two social media, and where they are when using them.

In an earlier post, Information Visualization: How Can It Improve Your Publications?, I wrote about the value of using visualization to extract meaningful information from a sea of data, and gave you some guidelines for successfully doing just that.

I think Eric Fischer’s maps beautifully illustrate the best reason for visualizing large and complex data sets: visualization is a technique that allows us to explore visually and perhaps arrive at some understanding of patterns and groupings that might otherwise remain invisible.

That type of large-scale analysis gives writers and other communications professionals a powerful tool to connect with their audiences and convey a story in moving and unforgettable ways.

Enjoy Fischer’s glorious maps. I hope they inspire you to come up with even better visualizations for your own publications and documents.

Now it’s your turn: What do you think of Fischer’s maps? Do you use information visualization in your own work? What software tools do you use to take large sets of data and convert them to visual form? Please share your tips, techniques and experiences – thanks!  Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas

Metaphor: The Open Road

Can we imagine any part of our life without using a metaphor? Do we need metaphors to create meaning? (Click image for credit and source)

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All is connected, all is real, and all is metaphor.

Do you think this statement is true?

Recently I ran across a website of metaphor examples. According to its author, the site is based on the idea that metaphorical relationships can be considered to be “universal” in scope: a sort of Rosetta Stone between disciplines, if you will.

A related view is that metaphors provide a set of tools to compare two (seemingly) unlike things that are alike in at least one important way. Pick the tool of your choice – simile, analogy, personification, and others – and use it to explore and better understand the unknowns.

Then there’s this definition: “A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea … Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via association, comparison or resemblance.”

And what of visual metaphorsCognitive metaphors? Root metaphors?

If you follow some of the links in this post, you will see that metaphors of all kinds appear to be an indispensable key to understanding as well as creating our reality. They also allow us to connect to other forms of reality and to live beyond the boundaries of our own space.

Could we write, or communicate in any way, without metaphors?

Can you think of any aspect of your life that is metaphor-free?

If you were deprived of all metaphors, could you exist?

Do you think humans are responsible for creating metaphors, or do we just notice all the connections around us and attempt to describe their interfaces and correspondences?

In a recent post titled Language: The Government Wants Your Metaphors, I discussed IARPA’s Metaphor Program, which seeks to “exploit the fact that metaphors are pervasive in everyday talk and reveal the underlying beliefs and worldviews of members of a culture” in order to “characterize differing cultural perspectives associated with case studies of the types of interest to the Intelligence Community.”

Although analytically and intellectually admirable, at least as a mathematical construct, such a project may ultimately prove too daunting to be practicable, because what metaphors say is so complex, interlocking and interrelated that it seems quite a challenge to untangle all the possible meanings and connections. And never mind that all of those qualities are dynamic.

If, as some suggest, metaphors are the foundation of our conceptual systems, then apparently we require them in order to think and act.

And if we can only understand or experience one thing in terms of another, that is, by using metaphors, then what don’t metaphors say?

Now it’s your turn: Do you think metaphors are the engine of communication? Could language itself be construed as a form of metaphor for life? Without communication of all kinds would life exist? Thanks for leaving your comments!   Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas

Marketing EBooks

Could digital marketing across multiple platforms represent a new business model for publishers? Could this model work for books on paper as well as ebooks?

Just a few years ago, who would have thought the subject of book publishing and marketing could have become as contentious and sometimes rancorous as it has these days?

Authors, agents, publishers and readers tussle over which is preferable: digital or traditional (print) publishing … and lately it seems that the trend is swinging toward a blend of both. But hold on to your hat! The blend itself is probably just another transition phase …

And do you even want to wade into the fray about book marketing?

Authors think it’s the publishers’ job. Agents and publishers insist that, for the most part and for most authors, it’s primarily the authors’ responsibility. And the audience … wait, do they even know you just published a book and are frantically trying to get their attention?

Yes, how exactly are you going to market your book to your target audience?

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Multi-Platform Marketing Campaign

Use various types of channels and media to build a multi-platform marketing campaign. (Click image for credit and source)

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A New Marketing Model?

How does the following approach to marketing your book grab you?  Let’s say you could reach out and connect with your audience in these ways:

Market your backlist books online.

Create frontlist fiction and non-fiction books digitally, and publish them as ebooks as well as online to various devices and as POD (print-on-demand) in selected retail outlets.

Team up with independent, traditional publishers to bring your ebooks to a larger audience through enhanced marketing, publicity and editorial strategies; these strategies would be implemented online via social media, blog postings, videos, photos, written pieces and interactive promotions.

Partner with agents and publishers who could do far more than just sell film and TV rights. Imagine partnering with someone who could actually develop selected ebooks for all screens (film, TV, web, mobile).

Collaborate with publishers who would build up your list of ebooks as well as other curated, complementary pieces, and then package and syndicate your digital publications as appropriate to other outlets, for example, social networks, blogs and mainstream media portals.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Here are two ways of thinking about digital marketing—before the sale (top) and after the sale (bottom).

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Digital Marketing on Top

Digital Marketing on Top: Use a multi-platform blended approach of digital and traditional media to move your customers from awareness to purchase. This example emphasizes digital media. (Click image for credit and source)

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Digital Marketing on Bottom

Digital Marketing on Bottom: Use a multi-platform blended approach of digital and traditional media to keep your customers loyal and committed to giving your company their repeat business. This example emphasizes digital media. (Click image for credit and source)

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If you want to learn more about how one publishing company is going about creating this type of new, digital multi-platform marketing model, take a peek at the website of Open Road Integrated Media (ORIM).

One purpose of this type of digital marketing model is to forge strong connections between authors and their audiences in ways that haven’t been possible before now.

Even though authors may not always meet and greet their fans in person, authors must still reach out and connect their ideas to … well … to other people and their ideas. In essence, you have to create mind links.

Is that sort of connection necessarily any less real if it’s done digitally instead of in person?

Could we be catching a glimpse of where book publishing must go if it is to survive as an industry?

Should traditional publishers consider retooling their operations around a similar model?

If you are one of the 80,000 independent publishers, would you consider partnering with a digital marketing company?

In fact, will traditional publishers even survive if their business model does not emphasize heavy-duty marketing, especially digital multi-platform marketing?

Now it’s your turn: What do you think? Is this model the book-marketing wave that authors, agents and publishers alike have to catch to survive and thrive? Please share your thoughts in the comments – thanks!  Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas

Google Traffic Generation Trends Analysis

Google Traffic Generation Trends Analysis - Video Ads vs. Social Marketing vs. Pay-Per-Click Ads vs. Search Engine-Optimization

It’s no secret that Google recently changed its search formulas.

Google’s intent was to decrease the occurrence of “content farms” in search results, because the farms were clogging the search rankings. Content farms tend to be heavy on ads, post information without much regard for quality, and often use text copied from other sources.

So good for Google! Time to stop rewarding the content farms.

Alas, however, Google’s modifications to its search algorithms also spawned some unintended (and negative) consequences for legitimate companies.

If you own or work at a small business with a web presence, then one or more of the accidental side effects may be giving you a real headache.

Recent articles on CNN Money and in the Wall Street Journal noted that, as a result of Google’s changes, many small businesses have seen dramatic declines in their web traffic and web-generated sales – think drops in sales of as much as 40 percent.

Wouldn’t that make you sit up and take notice? Thought so. As you might imagine, then, those businesses are now taking action.

Which brings us to the “silver lining in the cloud” part.

If you are a freelance writer, pay close attention here, because one tactic favored by those companies is to hire more freelance writers to customize copy.

You see, many of the affected companies sell lots and lots of different products. Formerly, they relied on the manufacturers’ product descriptions, meaning they basically just copied the text. The manufacturers certainly didn’t mind (it’s partly why they created the copy, after all), but that approach seems to have caused their sites to lose their place in Google’s rankings.

So rejoice, freelance writers. As Carol Tice says in her excellent post about this subject: “Google’s change is opening up a world of freelance writing opportunities.”

In addition to writing original product descriptions, companies also need copy for email marketing campaigns, customer Q&A, social media, direct customer communication and much more that will help each company distinguish itself from its competition.

Companies, although you’re going to suffer some short-term pain, in my opinion you have been handed a golden opportunity to make your businesses even more profitable and productive. You and your customers will eventually benefit enormously from what good freelance writers can bring to the table.

Remember, good communication is the heartbeat of a great business. (And better Google rankings.)

Bonus just for you: If you’d like to read more about substantive content and SEO, and why you should care, check out these recent posts:

Now it’s your turn: How do you present your products and services in an original, creative way? What keeps your customers coming back to your website and actually buying stuff? Writers, what do you think about the opportunities presented by Google’s changes? Please share your thoughts and keep the conversation going in the comments – thanks!  Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write ideas

Information visualization provides a way of helping people make sense of large, complex data sets, such as the following:

  • Topology data
  • Epidemiology data
  • Sets of time series
  • Medical data
  • Geographic maps
  • Network connections
  • Financial data
  • U.S. Government Budget
  • Billions of customer transactions
  • Radiation doses and their impact over time

Improving large-scale analysis of these and many other massive data sets presents an ongoing challenge for businesses, academia and government. Using information visualization techniques, however, allows us to explore visually and perhaps arrive at some understanding of patterns and groupings that might otherwise remain invisible.

Essentially, information visualization allows you to extract meaningful information from a sea of data.

And those data do not have to correspond only to the physical and concrete. They can be abstract, drawn from the domains of the symbolic, the textual, the logical, the tabular, the networked, and the hierarchical, among others.

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Example: Accessing the Geosocial Universe via Mobile Devices

How popular are the various geosocial networks with mobile users? This infographic is a good example of “compare and contrast.”

Geosocial Universe

This infographic illustrates and compares the popularity of different geosocial networking services. (Click to see credits and source.)

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Example: Ranking Themes in Documents

If you’re curious about the relationships among documents, this visualization shows clusters of themes and their strengths in health- and medical-related literature.

IN-SPIRE Software: ThemeView Landscape

This ThemeView Landscape figure shows relationships among documents. High peaks represent prominent themes. Peaks close together represent clusters of similar documents. (Click to see credits and source.)

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Example: Ordering  News Topics by “Interestingness”

Ever want to find out what are the hottest news topics within a given time period? In this visualization, the most reported (hottest) topics are in the center column. Less-reported topics appear in the side columns.

Automated, Intelligent Broadcast Video Content Analysis

News visualization topics are arranged according to “interestingness” for a given time period. Hottest topics (those most reported) appear in the central column. Side columns are used for topics of lesser impact by the interestingness measure. (Click for credits and source.)

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Using Information Visualization to Improve Your Publications

For your visualization to be effective, it must be useful to your audience as well as aesthetically appealing. This requires thoughtful analysis, attention to detail, imagination, and no small amount of perseverance. This YouTube video provides some examples and techniques. You may also find inspiration in Edward Tufte’s website.

The idea is that you do the heavy lifting, so your audience doesn’t have to.

To guide your work, ask the following questions:

Does your visualization have a purpose?  That is, what is the story you are trying to tell with this visualization? What information are you trying to tease out of the data and put into visual form?

Is your visualization the best one to convey the story?  That is, when your audience sees the visualization, will they immediately grasp the “big picture” of your analysis of the data? Will they easily grasp the meaningful patterns in the subject? If details are also important, does your visualization scale to that level in a way that makes sense for the subject and the audience?

Is your visualization interactive? Interactive views allow you to guide the story and are especially helpful when there is too much detail to show all at once. Although interactivity works best online, it can be approximated in print by breaking out information into related visualizations.

Is your visualization beautiful? Beauty influences comprehension. How you present something can determine its usefulness. Visual attributes such as fonts, colors, sizing, orientation of view, scaling of graphic elements and placement of graphic elements have a large impact on the user experience. For an example of WOW! beautiful maps, check out Maps: Visualizing Twitter and Flickr Data.

Tell me, do you think information visualization is the new frontier?

Now it’s your turn: What do you think? Do you use information visualization in your work? Do you generate your designs by software or have a graphic artist create them? I’d really like for you to keep the conversation going by leaving comments. Thanks!  Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas

PDF with embedded video: H1N1 Awareness

This is a screenshot of an informational H1N1 Awareness PDF with an embedded video segment: imported video, hand-illustrated characters, Photoshop and Adobe Acrobat. The subject is the H1N1 virus.

Who says a PDF has to be just an e-version of the static printed page? Now you can offer your readers a rich, multimedia experience by including video in your PDF documents. Although many documents could be made more useful and engaging by adding short video segments, customers and users may find such a feature especially helpful in reference guides, how-to tutorials, and training procedures.

Many writers create documents using content-authoring software like Adobe FrameMaker, Microsoft Word, MadCap Flare, or the OpenOffice word processor. As far as I know, all of these companies have a document-to-PDF guide on their website. If you are working with FrameMaker, for example, you’ll find the conversion guide under Resources.

Are you among those who already use video-capture software to create video segments? Then no doubt you are probably familiar with names like SMRecorder, HyperCam, Camtasia Studio, Adobe Captivate, and CamStudio, among others. If you’re new to these (and similar) packages and want to get a feel for what they can offer, take a look at CNET Download.com for reviews of Camtasia Studio as well as links to reviews of the others.

Once you’ve got your document and video files ready to roll, how to munch and crunch everything into one fabulous PDF?

Use Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro (and Extended Pro) or Acrobat X to embed video directly in the PDFs you create. (By the way, if you have ever wondered about embedding a flash file (*.flv or *.swf format) in a PDF, yes, your users will need a flash player to view the file. Fortunately, about 99 percent of internet users already have flash player installed.)

When you create a PDF, Acrobat will allow you to embed the video directly in the PDF file, or embed a link to a remotely hosted video.

Here is an Acrobat X Pro step-by-step guide to inserting rich media into PDF documents.

And here are some links to video tutorials that show the embedding process:

These resources can help you easily learn how to embed videos in PDF files.

At long last, you can turn those ho-hum, static PDFs into media-rich productions that will boost your users up the learning curve.

Now it’s your turn: If you embed videos in PDF files, which packages do you prefer, and why? Have you discovered any pitfalls to avoid? Can you recommend any helpful tips and tricks? Please leave comments to share your thoughts – thanks! Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas

Internet Radio Means Global Reach

Do you use internet radio in your marketing strategy? Ever thought about it? It may be worth looking at the thousands of internet radio talk shows that could help you get your message out.

Radio interviews are a dynamite way to get massive exposure that can reach way beyond a local market. So think BIG—think global. Why confine your marketing to one or more local markets when you could be heard all over the world?

There are thousands of internet radio shows on over 10,000 internet radio stations. Some of these are “terrestrial” stations that also offer streaming or podcasts over the internet; others are entirely creatures of the internet.

And these stations all have one thing in common: their talk shows always need new content. Every day, each show has to feed the engine that draws listeners and powers the world of news and information.

World Map of Midwest Irish Internet Radio - Global Reach

Internet radio reaches people all over the world, so why settle for one or a few local markets when your audience is actually global? Internet radio lets you take your message directly to them, wherever they are.

 

Finding Internet Radio Shows

How do you find the shows you would like to be on? Here are two tips:

Audience. Define the target audience for your product, service, or message. You might segment your audience by demographics – age, gender, education, socioeconomics, and so on. Or perhaps it makes more sense for you to classify your audience by interests or lifestyle. Remember that a product intended for one group may also appeal to another, if only as an item to give as a gift. The takeaway here is to analyze your audience very carefully so you don’t overlook a healthy market.

Research. Use the following links to check out the types of talk shows that appeal to your audience. If your topic is kitchen tools and gadgets, for example, you wouldn’t be looking for an interview on a radio show about fashion accessories or gardening. Use specific keywords in your search for shows.

 

Contacting an Internet Radio Show

When you find a show you are interested in, the station or show website will display a Contact tab or menu option. Make a note of the show’s producer or host, including the email address and any other contact information. In most cases, email will be the best way of contacting someone and will also help you keep your lists organized and under control.

When you send an email letter, introduce yourself and let the producer or host know why you are contacting them. Tell them a little about yourself, why you would like to be a guest on their show, and how talking with you will benefit their radio listeners.

Be sure to keep your email lists updated and organized as you continue trying to book yourself on radio shows. You may have to follow up if your initial contact attempt gets no response (and expect that in a few cases you may never get a response to your query).

Continue searching for more contacts, and be persistent in trying to book yourself on shows. Eventually you should get some interviews.

 

So … What Are You Going to Say?

Congratulations! You’ve finally snagged an internet radio interview and now you’re preparing for your guest spot. What are you going to say?

Don’t even think of “winging it.”

Map your outline in such a way that your interview will have a storyline – a beginning, a middle, and an end. What are your key points? What is your overall purpose?

Break your storyline down into topics (speaking points), and create a question to introduce each topic.

Develop each topic by writing out the answer to its question. As you write, your objective is to get your message across by appealing to your audience’s needs and interests.

Remember to time each topic, according to the timelines your contact gave you, so you will be a good guest and not force the host to cut you off mid-sentence when show time is up.

Read everything you have written out loud. If some part of your script sounds odd or just doesn’t seem conversational enough, rewrite it. Edit and rewrite your material until it sounds right, says what you intend to say for your audience, and stays within the timelines you’ve been given.

Email a copy of your question-and-answer storyline to your interviewer well ahead of your interview date.

Now you’re on your way … soon to be a guest on an internet radio talk show. And guess what? You can use the same interview script, or a lightly tweaked version of it, for other guest appearances on shows that play to the same audience. Nice job.

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever been a guest on an internet radio talk show? What was your experience? Share your thoughts and opinions in a comment – thanks! Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas


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