Retro New Wave Java

Insects Coffee MugMmmmm…. smell that coffee now!

The other day I was reviewing all the wonderful products available in the Official Insect’s Department Store. There was a noticeable void in the housewares department. Shame on me!

To rectify this temporary oversight I crafted these lovely dishwasher-safe coffee mugs with an antique photo of the bugsters playfully leaping in the air.

Woo hoo!

Look how Les’ leg is sticking out of the picture. Wow! How’d they do that?

Magazines to PDF. Finally.

It’s taken years.

The world of print has been trying to deliver magazine electronically ever since the first user asked, “What’s a PDF?” Screenshot of Winding Road magazine as viewed in Adobe Acrobat

And someone finally got it right.

Last week I opened a copy of the online magazine Winding Road for the first time in months. I was surprised to see the cover. The entire cover. The proportions matched the shape of my monitor– I saw a horizontal spread instead of the usual upright potrait orientation of a paper magazine. “Wow,” I thought, “It’s about time.”

Instead of squinting at a faraway image of an off-the-shelf magazine, or a zoom view of half the cover, I was looking at a purpose-built periodical. At first I thought they might have just set Adobe Acrobat to display the file in spreads. But a closer look revealed the layout was truly situated to take full advantage of the medium.

Get Horizontal, Baby
Through the years I’ve seen several attempts to capture the “magazine experience” in a PDF. Some were minor niceties added to the print layout like embedded bookmarks, linked page numbers, etc. Unfortunately there have been other solutions that I found more painful than the problem. Some of these involved bulky viewers that were time-consuming to download and cumbersome to use. Most of them worked on the principle of turning pages.

I can hear the salesman now, “See, it works just like a real magazine!”

Sorry, but that’s not how a real magazine works. We don’t always turn one. Page. At. A. Time. Besides, there are already little arrows in Adobe Acrobat for previous and next page. Wow!

Often I see a story highlighted on the cover of a magazine that sounds interesting and I turn to it and read. Or more accurately, I look for it. And look. Typically I don’t find it the first time through and only stumble on it later. It’s maddening sometimes, and it’s also nothing but a memory in the world of digital publishing. If you download a copy of Winding Road, you’ll be delighted to find the cover articles are linked. So you’re just a click away.

Winding Road is a free e-zine for automotive enthusiasts available at www.windingroad.com

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Magazines.com, Inc.

Blame it on NPR

The other day a friend told me about a story he’d just heard on NPR. It was about this web site called Threadless where you can submit a t-shirt design and if enough people like it they print up a batch and sell them. I was curious.

There are thousands of people posting designs and some of them are pretty cool. I played around voting on different images for a little while and gathering inspiration. The site is a grassroots creative outlet mixed with the social interaction of visitors as they rate designs on a scale of 1 to 5. It’s sort of like Cafe Press meets MySpace.

So I downloaded their template and played around with a couple of old comics and some clipart. They didn’t care for my first try claiming it was mostly text. It was an old comic I had penned many years ago of a computer visiting his therapist.

The first design Threadless accepted was a play on my Radio Milan t-shirt theme, but with a super 8 movie projector— I called it “They keep making them smaller.”

They keep making them smaller... - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

Feel free to click the above link and vote for the design. You will have to register on Threadless but it’s pretty painless.

T-Shirts for the Masses

Since sixth grade I’ve been putting stuff on T-shirts. Back then I used a magic marker. That was fun, not just for the creativity. Back in the Sixties a magic marker smelled like an auto body shop and would get you high as a kite! Today I doodle mostly with Photoshop and a digital camera, although I still sketch by hand occasionally. And instead of drawing on spare tees from the underwear drawer I let Cafe Press print them for me.

Buy or Create Hilarious T-shirts and moreCafe Pressis a unique marketplace that makes all sorts of stuff– shirts, postcards, mugs, panties, posters, etc. The neat thing is none of the stuff they make is their stuff. It’s your stuff!

You create a design or take a photo, then create a product with your image. They take care of all the fussy stuff like making it, packing it, shipping it and taking money for it. The best part is you decide how much you want to make and set the markup– if any.

A similar scheme is offered by Zazzle. They promise 24-hour-turnaround on orders and claim superior printing quality to Cafe Press. Either offer a quick way for you to start up for free.

Another unique approach to embellished clothing is Threadless. Think of it as My Space meets Cafe Press. The idea here is to rate submissions then produce those with the highest approval. Site visitors create designs or create slogans and post them on the site. Other users rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 and can also post their comments. If the design garners sufficient interest Threadless prints the design and offers it in their catalog.

Here’s a few of the designs I’ve dreamed up and posted on Cafe Press:

Maduko SpA
Ever since Quasi Maduccino invented the Space Tube they’ve been exploring the cutting edge of the unnecessary at Maduko. It’s been my lifelong goal to document it.

Oklahoma Centennial Blackout Mother never let me out of the mainframe. Air Racing Team featuring a Caproni Ca.133

Radio Milan
Back in the Eighties I played in a band originally called The Insects, later the name became Radio Milan. You can buy recreations of the band T-shirt as well as a compilation CD online.

Audio CD of Insects and radio Milan recordings. The classic Radio Milan tee. Wake up to coffee with the Insects!

Places 2 Ride
These are shirts promoting my motorcycle web site. It’s basically a list, as the name implies, of places to ride your motorcycle.

The Green Tee I get to ride home. The HANG UP AND DRIVE sweatshirt.

More Various and Sundry T-Shirt Information

Incidentally, my Threadless design didn’t make the cut, but it was fun just participating in the process. Here’s a thumbnail:

My design for Threadless called They Keep Making Them Smaller

Can I Really Make Money with My Web Site?

If you have a web site or blog, even though you may not know it, you are a publisher. And your “publication” has the potential to refer or inform somebody’s potential customer.

The answer is yes.
About ten years ago I began experimenting with what was then a fledgling industry: affiliate marketing. The concept is simple and predates the New World of cyberspace: I’ll pay you to send me a customer.

The basic idea falls into three main categories:
Pay per Click paid when someone clicks the link
Pay per Action paid when someone clicks link and does something
Pay per View (or impression) paid when the ad is viewed or displayed
You’ll sometimes see acronyms like CPA, this describes “cost per action” which is the same thing as “pay per action” but from the merchant or advertiser’s point of view. In other words, to pay you it will cost him. These all relate back to the basic concept of paying you to send someone a customer.

Worthy Links to Revenue
Here is a list of the most reputable affiliate providers and my less-than-scientific observations on each.

  • Share a Sale
    Combined payments and easy access to product datafeeds are a big plus for this up-and-comer. Don’t expect to find the Fortune 500 here, their specialty is smaller retailers that can’t afford the huge up-front costs of the larger services. If you’re looking for niche markets this is great place to start.
  • Link Share
    Ever-improving network of advertisers make this provider a must see. A wide variety of companies in all sizes work with Link Share. Linking interface is a little clumsy and doesn’t allow for much flexibility. Datafeeds are only available if you pay for them. WTF?!?
  • Clix Galore
    These folks are heavy on the Aussie merchants, although U.S. companies are also players. They combine payments too which is nice. Managing links is a little clunky but the reporting interface is good.
  • Commission Junction
    The biggest player in the affiliate marketing game. CJ combines payments and offers one of the most elite advertiser lists out there. Their “Smart Zone” feature is still the best in the biz and works with advertiser’s product datafeeds.
  • Google Ad Sense
    As usual Google is a new arrival on the scene and has taken a novel approach. It’s basically a pay-per-click program but with a twist. The ads displayed on your site are based on the content of your page. Advertisers bid on keywords and Google shares the revenue with you if a visitor clicks the link.
  • Valueclick
    If you have a high-traffic site you should consider visiting these folks. They are biggies in the pay-per-impression and pay-per-click advertising. Their advanced user interface allows you setup defaults and alternate network ads as you see fit.
  • Burst Media
    Burst is another CPM network and they specialize in working with niche publishers. This is a good fit if you have a forum or blog.

This is only a partial list of course, and it’s growing all the time.

How it WorksSpeaking of Pixels
The size of computer monitors vary greatly. Measurements on the web aren’t stated in inches because computer monitors, like most of the world, doesn’t know what an inch is. While I surf along with a 15″ CRT you may be staring at a 30″ plasma flat panel, and then you have the guy who looks at a web page using a cell phone. All three of these screens have different ideas of what an “inch” is. However, they all have pixels.

That’s why you see banner ads described as 468 x 60 as opposed to something you’d find on a ruler. The dimension is always width first, then height. Common sizes of web site ads these days include 468×60, 728×90, 120×60, 120×600, 160×600, 300×250, 125×125 and 250×250.

Whew.
You join an affiliate program and they provide you a blob of script or a special code. You paste this special link on your web site– it may take the form of a graphic or plain text. The important thing is when someone clicks on this link it identifies you to the advertiser or merchant as the source or referrer. Sort of a 21st century version of, “Who sent ya’?” Then, depending on the payment terms, you get credited for sending the visitor.

In the early days affiliate marketing was more or less based on the venerable banner ad. Most any site worth a GIF sprouted advertising across the top of the page in the form of the now familiar rectangle measuring 468 pixels wide and 60 pixels tall. Today affiliate marketing includes rotating banners, product datafeeds, contextual text ads, keyword searches and search engine marketing.

Getting Beyond Basics
Before you can make any money you’ll need to sign up with an affiliate program. These come in many different shapes and sizes, but fall into two main categories: program providers and merchant program.

Providers are companies that offer merchants/advertisers a way to manage their affiliate program without actually having to “manage” it. The provider handles all the record-keeping, serving up the links and paying the affiliates. You’ll find a list of the most popular affiliate program providers below.

Merchant programs are simply affiliate systems that are not managed by a third party. In other words, the advertiser themselves take care of the bookkeeping and link management. Most of the time this method is used by smaller organizations, but not always.

Affiliate network providers offer you one-stop access to many advertisers. They usually have the horsepower to serve up links and banner ads without a glitch. Some of them combine payments, which can speed things up and reduce the chance of small amounts being trapped in limbo. On the other hand, most self-managed programs offer higher commissions. This is simply because they don’t have to pay a third party.

I hope this article was helpful for those of you considering the possibilities.