Ad’s That Just Don’t Work Anymore

Even though it’s 2010 some of my friends still forward countless stupid emails.  Angela, the same person responsible for sending me the insanely popular best pumpkins post just forwarded me an email that’s too good not to post up.

I’m already a huge fan of Mad Men, the TV show based in the early 60’s and focusing on the advertising industry of New York City so this collection of ads that just don’t work anymore, while totally sexist and completely wrong, still made me chuckle a bit.

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Randomn3ss Refreshed

Thirty-nine months ago I launched this project known as Randomn3ss.  The sole intention was to use this site as a platform to rant, rave, give reviews, complain and write about anything I wanted.  A staff of sorts quickly started writing with me and now, this is the 899th article published!

During the lifespan and evolution of Randomn3ss many changes have been made and this now is the third re-skinning of the site and I’m very pleased.  After using premium themes to re-launch my own site and more recently a friend / client’s site it seemed to make sense that Randomn3ss would receive one too. Continue reading »

Review: Phototastic WordPress Theme | The Relaunch of SabottaImagery.com

Last year I relaunched my own site utilizing a premium WordPress theme and had a wonderful resonance to the change.  Over the winter and into the spring the number of stunning premium themes coming out from developers is nothing short of amazing, so when my former client Jeff hit me up about rebuilding his site, I was all for it.  Jeff owns and runs Sabotta Imagery, a Pennsylvania based photographer specializing in weddings, engagements and family shoots, he also happens to be a friend of mine.  I had originally set him up more then two and a half years ago with WordPress and a free theme, but it was time to take his website to the next level, one that was on par with his photography and that his clients would appreciate more.  Knowing his needs, I found the solution with ThemeSnack and their Phototastic premium theme. Continue reading »

Review: Gallerific WordPress Theme | The Relaunch of MikePanic.com

Last month I installed WordPress and theme for Juliart Photographics, a photographer who wanted a clean, simple site with a manageable back end so she could do updates herself.  She had no need for a blog but that doesn’t mean that WordPress wasn’t the best choice for a back end for her needs.  A premium theme was chosen from Theme Forrest and then slightly modified to fit her specific needs.  As the project was coming to a close, I realized that an update to my own photography site was in need, mostly because I never fully finished the last version and partly because my site needed a better focus and direction.

Having such great results with the premium theme from Theme Forrest, I searched around and found what looked to be the perfect theme, fitting all the needs I had without me even knowing what I needed when I started.  Before this review goes further, I’m going to be as specific as I can with regards to the theme itself, this is not intended to be how-to install WordPress or Themes.  You can hire me to install WordPress and the theme of your choice / customize it though.

Why a premium theme? Like I mentioned, I had great results with my previous client’s site.  Most of these results were because of a well documented install directions, PSD files of the entire site and solid code.  There are thousands of free themes out there, but for the $15-35 for a premium theme from Theme Forrest, the value seems overwhelmingly worth it for me.  They are half or a quarter of what other premium sites charge for themes and some of the best looking one’s I’ve found.  The other reason for me choosing a premium theme is that I know it will limit the chances of seeing another person using the same one as me.  As it stands now, only 50 people have downloaded the theme I chose, who knows if they all got installed yet.  Compared with the average downloads of free themes, I like my odds more of having a somewhat unique theme.

Gallerific.  The theme I chose is called Gallerific and was created by Justin Scheetz, who through a little research also happens to live less than 20 miles from me.  Even though it’s the internet, I like to support local artists.  It instantly appealed to me because of the large images used for the home page navigation, it comes with two different color schemes and utilizes some creative and unique image handling techniques.  It also has a drop down menu system for the header navigation for a super simple and clean look and feel.  I’ve always felt that photography portfolios should be focused on making the images look good, not be so overly complicated that it takes away from the photographs featured.  This meets my needs.  Here’s what my site currently looks like.

Mike Panic Home Page

Gallerific was a simple install, following the instructions included.  There were however some speed bumps along the way that I needed to iron out, which I’ll cover later in the article.  Because I already had content, most of the initial tweaks were minor ones to properly display the home page.  If you are installing this for the first time, plan on having at least seven unique blog postings ready or this won’t work for you.

Breaking down the home page and all the features.

Header Navigation

The header navigation is powered by a combination of both Pages and Categories.  In my case, the Home button takes you obviously to home and is hard coded into the theme.  Blog and Galleries are actually categories for posts, Archives and Contact are Pages.  During setup of Gallerific, you specify which comes first (left to right), pages or categories.

For my site, every post is labeled with the Blog category, this gets everything to show up nicely in one spot and because I sometimes need to post non-photographic updates, like site updates or to promote an art show.  The Gallery category is the Parent and utilizes ten Child categories, all neatly displayed in the roll-over drop down menu system. While the theme comes widget ready, I didn’t like the idea of storing my archives in the sidebar and wanted a specifc page for them.  I created the Archive page and installed the Clean Archives Reloaded plugin that I feel serves as a better overall archive and site map than one in the sidebar.  Lastly is a rather standard Contact page with another plugin for the form used.

Logo, Search and Social Networking

Included with Gallerific is a PSD file to customize your logo, I made a minor color tweak to my existing one and uploaded it.  The directions do not specify the file format and I’m thinking it needs to be a PNG, as the JPG I used is slightly off in color.  Search is well integrated and, well searches.  The default install of Gallerific includes a section in the admin panel to easily put your name, address and phone number below the search box.  Because I’m not a studio photographer, I don’t really have a need for those fields and have a specific Contact page for such information.  I edited the theme file header to include some social networking links and an RSS icon.  The only design flaw I found for this theme was the lack of an integrated RSS button, something I hope makes it into the next version release of the theme.  For the time being, I’ve installed the overly trendy Web 2.0 style buttons, these happen to closely resemble iPhone icons.  They will more than likely change when I find something that fits in a bit better with the overall theme.

Featured

Moving down is the Featured section of the home page.  Photos in this section appear when posts are in the Featured Category and the photo must be set to a specific width to work properly.  The screen shot above shows what happens when you roll the mouse over it.  Note that it shows the post name, categories it’s filed under, number of comments and the first few words associated with the post.  Clicking the post title or View Details will take you to the specific post.  The arrow to the right will take you to the next Featured posting. This is way cool and a great way to spotlight specific files and a very creative use of WordPress.More Featured

Directly below the featured header box are square boxes numbered, in my site’s case, 1 through 3.  When you hover over them a small thumbnail will appear of the other featured posts that can be displayed in the header if clicked.  From the overall size, I’d guess two dozen or so images could be utilized as Featured and gives the viewer another way to access and see images used.

Main Body

The main body features cropped images from the last six blog postings made and text, customizable from the back end of WordPress.  I really like the fact that every blog post means fresh content on the front page utilizing these lower six boxes, always giving visitors something new and fresh to look at, while the featured box at the top can remain a little more static.  The text to the right is where I’m displaying what would normally be on an About page, which I usually hate on portfolio websites.view-details-larger-image

The six images also hide one more secret, they are not just links to the blog posts associated with them.  Hover over and you will be given two options.  The first is View Details which will take you to the blog post, the second is View Larger Image.  When the second option is clicks, the uncropped photo opens up and gives the viewer a better idea of what could be seen in the rest of the article.   Once again, giving the visitor to the site more to do while remaining super clean with design.

footer

The footer is clean and utilizes the same header navigation, sans the drop down menu system.  Copyright info is displayed to the right, I’ve chose to leave the credits in the footer and added in text for my RSS feed, which again was lacking, and a little icon for stats tracking.  One design element I find missing here is an Up or Back to Top button, often usefull so the user doesn’t have to manually scroll.

Looking at more details.

blog

One setting that is kind of unique for Gallerific is how Categories are displayed.  Each Category can be displayed as a blog or as a gallery.  For the Blog category, I’ve chose to display it as a blog, same is true if you click on the word Gallery.  This shows one highlighted image that I specify for each post (same as used on the front of the site or for the featured section) and about 40 words followed by a Continue Reading that takes the reader to the rest of the individual post.  This keeps the page neat and clean, which is why I like it.  For each of the child Categories under Gallery, I’ve set them to gallery view, as seen below.

people

This displays 10 posts that are in the People category in the same fashion as the front page, looking like a nice gallery with the options to roll over images and view one larger or be taken directly to the post.  Text indicating older entries takes the reader to the second page and so on. You’ll note the two images / articles featuring cars in the screen shot above and may wonder why they are showing up in the People gallery.  Because I’ve associated each of those posts with more than one category, including People, they show up under different galleries.  Because you can only specify one image for the display square, it’s hard to be exactly perfect.  Each of those posts also feature photos of people, clicking the View Details button reveals that in the full post.

As I’ve said, the install went really smoothly and once I wrapped my head around how the categories section worked, I’m more than thrilled to use this as the theme to power my site.  Making images Featured on the front page and creating the thumbnails for the gallery view is very straight forward and well documented.  I do have plans to utilize Parent / Child categories more for an upcoming wallpaper section of the site which I hope to launch in a few months, as well as a page to sell prints from.  The only main problem I had with the theme during install and configuration was that I had existing posts, more than 150 to be exact.  Each post was in a category but didn’t utilize the parent / child sections because, well I had no need to.  Gallerific almost requires that and relies heavily on categories to function to its fullest potential.  Because I wanted every post I’ve published to show up under Blog and needed to move every post in an existing category under the parent category of Gallery, some time was going to need to be invested.  WordPress does not feature a bulk or mass edit categories option, and I spent two full days searching google with different search strings, asking on Twitter and Facebook for a plugin that would simply let me bulk edit categories with no luck.  The plugins I found weren’t supported by the newest version of WP and I was left high and dry.  A week after giving up I tried a new search query and found exactly what I needed and compliant with the newest version of WP, Manageable.  This plugin should be included with the theme as it’s almost essential to anyone looking to use Gallerific on a site with existing content.

I’ve quietly launched this, now 4th version of MikePanic.com over the last two weeks while tweaking and making minor customizations to it, and adjusting all the categories to fit my needs.  Today marks the unofficial relaunch, in this review, and the best my site’s looked since buying the domain name 9+ years ago.  I can’t thank the coder / developer Justin enough for making such an amazing, low cost theme.  Justin currently has six super high quality, amazing themes available for WordPress here, some as low as $15.00.

The Portfolio of Michael Anderson

Randomn3ss reader Ashley sent me a link to the very best resume I’ve ever seen, period.  Take a gander (click for larger image)

the-portfolio-of-michael-anderson

I mean, this says it all and then some, and has pretty colors too! Intrigued, I typed into my browser the rather unique domain name listed in the top right corner, theportfolio.ofmichaelanderson.com.  A quirky blog from a designer who clearly likes his job and enjoys amusing others with his design work.  I’m hooked.  If I needed a designer, he’d be one I’d look for.  Only one major design flaw in the whole site, there’s no obvious way to contact Michael Anderson without looking at the full resolution image here and then typing his Yahoo! email address into your mail client.

Twitter friends mug, aka TwitterMug

Found from a Tweet by @scottwyden, CrowdedInk, a Social Media Swag site, has combined two Web 2.0 technologies to give you a mug wrapped with all the profile pics that your Twitter friends use.

It’s stupidly simply to create one, simply enter your Twitter user name into the little box and click Make the Mug. In roughly twenty seconds the browser refreshes and dumps you onto the Zazzle web-page, a company that will create on-off products for you.  You’ll now be shown a live preview of how your new mug will look.  CrowdedInk randomly lays out your friends profile pics and you can’t change the, I don’t see this as a bad thing though.  The image used here is a screenshot of what a mug would look if I got one made, but for fun I did a second one to see how @kevinrose would turn out.  With roughly 83,000 people following Kevin Rose, I was kind of testing the script to see if it would break.  Sadly, it only uses the same number of images and clearly repeated a lot of them.  With 83,000 friends, I wouldn’t expect them all to fit on a mug but I would at the very least expect them to not duplicate.

Pretty cool little script, even cooler that I found out about it because of Scott posting it on Twitter.  Social networking at it’s finest.

Interactive LED Coffee Table

From today’s earlier article about fwdfwdfwd, this is something that Kevin was talking about in the diggnation podcast, and I found the link on the second page and the inner-geek in me wants this.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkmpIXd9Q90[/youtube]

The table is built by none other than Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, the same people that made bristlebots more than 2 years ago.  For just under $2,000 you can get one of your very own from Because We Can.

FFFFOUND!

Randomn3ss reader Scott sent in another great link over the weekend, FFFFOUND! (not always safe for work), a new twist on social bookmarking.  FFFFOUND,

is a web service that not only allows the users to post and share their favorite images found on the web, but also dynamically recommends each user’s tastes and interests for an inspirational image-bookmarking experience!!

Now, I don’t sign up for every Web 2.0 social networking / bookmarking site out there, and I haven’t signed up for this one yet, but I have subscribed to their RSS feed and been somewhat hooked on it all weekend.  It’s photos, graphic designs, marketing material, basically anything that is found that someone thinks is worth sharing, all in one blog.  Because of FFFFOUND I found some really cool photo blogs along with some inspiration for design concepts.

They are currently on an invite only basis, which I’m sure is fueling the fire and making people even more curious as to what the back-end offers users, but I’ll just continue to lurk for now.  If you are into cool imagery, FFFFOUND might be for you, just wait till you get out of work to view it since occasionally there is a fine art nude photograph on the front of the site.

Frustration Free Packaging

Randomn3ss reader Scott shared a really interesting link with me this morning on Amazon’s website.  Amazon apparently understands the frustration that goes along with buying toys for kids, and by the way they are also helping the environment out.  Working with manufactures they’re now able to offer Frustration Free Packaging.  They describe it as recyclable and coming

without excess packaging materials such as hard plastic clamshell casings, plastic bindings, and wire ties. It’s designed to be opened without the use of a box cutter or knife and will protect your product just as well as traditional packaging

Great news for parents who have to fight opening up toys for kids, and then try to locate all the zip ties and other small objects used to bind toys into pretty packaging, great for the environment since there is simply less packaging and great for the kids because now they can play with their toys that much faster.

Check out the FAQ on Frustration Free Packaging to get all the answers you may have and then browse the products currently available.

1800 Tequila Bottle Contest; Support SeyOne

My good friend and fellow artist SeyOne has designed five unique bottles in the 1800 Tequila Bottle design contest.  The winner gets their design put into full production.  Bonus, one of the bottles SeyOne designed features my photography!  Using the flash applet below, please rate each of the 5 bottles with 5 stars, using the arrow to move right and left.  You can vote once per day and I’m hoping that all Randomn3ss readers can help my friend [and me] out on this one, we need your support and votes!

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