First Maria’s Guides Book Now Available

I’ve rolled the dice on this crazy gamble. Let’s see where it takes me.

I’ve owned the domain name for a while now with the idea of expanding into the short, inexpensive ebooks that I know readers are hungry for. Unfortunately, until recently, I’ve lacked the time and motivation to put it all together and make it happen.

All that changed this week. With a light flying schedule and no new book or video projects on the near horizon, it seemed like a good time to take the plunge and begin developing the Maria’s Guides series.

I began with a topic I first wrote about last year: creating watchable video. I took the original articles, revised and updated them, and laid them out in a format compatible with the MagCloud print-on-demand service. I also made sure my InDesign files were ready for ebook exporting in the EPUB format so I could easily prepare the book for various ebook formats: Kindle, iBooks, Nook, etc. For help with that, I consulted the excellent course, “InDesign CS4 to EPUB Kindle and iPad,” by Anne-Marie Concepcion. (I’m still on InDesign CS4; a CS5 title is also available.)

The printed version of the book is available today, along with a special MagCould iPad app version. Use the link below to check it out and see a free preview online. The Kindle and iBooks ebook versions should appear over the next week or so. I still need to work out how to get them online using the tools available to me. I suspect I’ll be watching a few more of Anne-Marie’s videos this afternoon.

Of course, the Maria’s Guides website needs a complete overhaul. It’s seriously outdate and has broken links. That’ll likely be next week’s big project. It’s a real pleasure working on stuff like that in my new Phoenix office; the Internet speeds here are about 15x what I suffered with in Wickenburg.

I’m also looking for suggestions for new Maria’s Guides titles. What would you like to see me write about? Use the comments feature for this post to share your suggestions. Keep in mind that they don’t need to be computer related.

Making Movies: A Guide for Serious Amateurs

By Maria Langer in Maria’s Guides

64 pages, published 21 OCT 2011

Tired of turning raw video footage into ho-hum productions that make people yawn? Or, worse yet, just putting raw video out there and hoping for the best? If so, this guide is for you. It clearly explains how to research, plan, shoot, assemble, edit, and fine-tune video productions for just about any purpose. Richly illustrated with stills from an example movie, it’ll get you on the right track to making movies that’ll inform, entertain, and impr…

YOU are NOT Steve Jobs

So stop using his image as your profile photo.

It started happening the day after Steve Jobs’s death was announced: the widespread use of Steve’s image as Twitter and Facebook profile pictures. It was mostly done by people who like playing follow-the-leader on social networks, the same kind of people who copy and paste Facebook statuses, the same kind of people who mostly retweet what others have already said because they can’t think of anything original that’s interesting enough to share. People who lack imagination, people who think they can best express themselves by copying what other “cool” people are doing and saying.

Six-Color Apple LogoAnd as one of the Apple faithful, as someone who bleeds in six colors — and has been around long enough to know what that actually means — I’m offended by the practice.

I’m especially offended by the fact that it continues, more than a week after Steve’s passing. If it isn’t Steve’s face staring out at me beside the mindless automated tweet of someone who isn’t Steve, then it’s Steve’s profile as the bite in a black Apple logo, a design only marginally less offensive, beside the latest Facebook copy-and-paste status update.

Yeah, we get it. You’re a fanboi and you miss Steve. But is this how you honor him? By abusing his image?

Do you think that’s what Steve would really want? To brand your social networking babble with his likeness?

You should be ashamed of yourself.

Stay Tuned

First, I need to thank Lorelle for sending her site visitors here. I really appreciate the nice things she said about me.

Unfortunately, due to an extremely hectic travel schedule, I’ve been neglecting this blog — so there’s nothing new of interest to read! How embarrassing.

I hope any first-time visitors aren’t too disappointed. Try back in a week or two; I hope to be back up to speed. I definitely have lots to blog about. I just need time in front of a computer to get it written.

Interesting Links, September 2011

Here are links I found interesting in September 2011:

Battling Comment Spam

An interesting — but unfortunate — statistic from this site.

One of the biggest challenges to bloggers who allow comments on their blogs — other than dealing with immature, know-it-all asses who can’t write a civil sentence — is comment spam. It generally comes from three sources:

  • Automated spambots that are programmed to post comments on blogs. This accounts for more than 90% of the comment spam out there.
  • Real people who manually post comments that promote their products, services, or websites.
  • Pingbacks from blogs built by scraping content from other blogs, primarily to attract hits to other links on their pages.

I wrote about comment spam extensively on my Maria’s Guides site when I was regularly providing fresh content about WordPress. If you’re a blogger, you might find the following posts there interesting:

Spam vs. Ham on An Eclectic MindWordPress’s anti-spam tool, Akismet, does an excellent job of catching and filtering out spam so I don’t really need to see it at all. It also provides statistics about comments. This morning, while looking at these stats, I discovered that a full 98% of all comments posted on this blog are spam — or about 4,000 to 10,000 spam comments a month — leaving only 2% as legitimate comments (or “ham,” a term used by Akismet).

If this percentage is about the same on all blogs, it’s easy to see why so many bloggers elect to either turn the commenting feature off or require registration for commenting. (Note that registration doesn’t always help; some spambots can also register an account and then manual intervention is required to identify and delete those accounts.)

Comments are moderated here for two reasons:

  • Aksimet doesn’t catch all spam. It misses, on average, about 10 spam comments a month.
  • Akismet can’t identify abusive comments.

I have a zero tolerance approach to spam and abusive commenters and don’t want to see any of it on this blog. So I manually review all the comments that Akismet approves before allowing them to appear on this blog.

June 30, 2014 Update
I’ve finally gotten around to writing up the site comment policy on a regular page (rather than post) on this site. You can find it here: Comment Policy.

(If you believe that deleting comments is censorship or somehow violates your freedom of speech, read this and this.)

Personally, I’d like to see a higher percentage (and number) of legitimate comments on this blog. I like when good conversations get going among readers. I can think of two posts offhand where reader comments have added real value to what I’ve written: “The Helicopter Job Market” and “Why Groupon is Bad for Business…and Consumers.” I write from experience and my experiences are limited. When readers share their own thoughts based on their experiences, they provide more information for other readers to draw upon. They help round out a discussion. And as long as they don’t get rude or abusive to me or other commenters — or are obviously commenting to promote their own product or service (i.e., spamming) — I don’t care if they disagree. Intelligent, civil debate based on facts is encouraged.

But while comment spam is obviously a serious problem for all bloggers that allow comments on their blogs, I have it well under control here.