Archive for category: Professional Auteurism

Bad Kitty!

24 Nov 2006
November 24, 2006

You might remember last year I discovered that someone was “hotlinking” to one of my images. Hotlinking is where someone links directly to your image file and places it on his or her own site. This violates a couple key netizen rules:

  1. Don’t steal someone else’s bandwidth. Every time the image appears on their site your Web host charges you for the use of bandwidth.
  2. Always ask.

When coming upon a hotlink transgressor there are effective strategies of dealing with him/her. Using some coding to my site’s .htaccess file I can ban them from linking to any images on my server. For example, I have banned all sites on MySpace.com –a major source for hotlinking– from linking to any of my images (why don’t the heads of these major sites educate their flock?). Or, I can replace any link they make to one image with one going to another image. Some bloggers have used this tactic by swapping the hotlinked image with one of a questionable variety (as in “not safe for work”). Embarrassing humor ensues. I prefer a slightly different, but related response.

Top: Zeus hotlinks to one of my images.

Cat blogger Zeus hotlinks to one of my images. Bad kitty!

Earlier this week I was going through my referrer logs to see who was linking to my posts and I found another site linking to one of my images. This time it appears the blogger is a cat named Zeus who pens a blog called The Zeus Excuse.

Rather than ban the image, I created a special Photoshop file just for his site. I show the purloined image in the background but put a message about hotlinking in the foreground. Usually, the blogger sees the new image and replaces it. But, poor Zeus must be off in catnip heaven at the moment and hasn’t noticed the change to his recent post.

Zeus, there is no excuse. Bad kitty!

Update: It took about a week but Zeus finally got the hint. The post has been taken down. (For the record, dear Zeus, I only asked you to stop using my image without permission. You didn’t have to nix the entire post.)

When Type Goes Bad

19 Nov 2006
November 19, 2006
Installing Signage at Clyde's Restaurant

Installing signage at Clyde’s Restaurant. We were hopeful.

When the Smithsonian American Art Museum closed for renovations in January 2000 the neighborhood surrounding its building was neglected and deserted (especially when the Federal workforce left for the burbs at the end of the day). What a difference six and a half years made.

Our museum, open since July, is now right in the middle of a vibrant city life with restaurants, shops, and sports events. So rich is the night life that we changed the Smithsonian’s traditional hours from 10–5:30 to a later 11:30–7 to take advantage of the after work crowds.

Over the years my fellow museum workers watched as the area morphed. We documented each store and restaurant opening. And we took our lunch breaks exploring our new metropolitan environs en masse. When Urban Outfitters and Bed, Bath, and Beyond joined a multiplex and a bowling alley just a few doors from each other, we knew we were truly witnessing an urban renaissance.

A few months ago I photographed the workers installing what looked to be beautiful 3-D signage for a local upscale eatery, Clyde’s. But returning a few days later to view its completion I was shocked to discover a huge 3-D typographical faux pas: they had used a tick mark instead of an apostrophe to indicate the possessive!

I was shocked. Truly shocked. In addition, the kerning between the “tick” (also known as a prime symbol) and the “E” before it was excruciatingly close. It was painful to view. Oddly, the type treatment for their new restaurant strayed from their corporate logo (which uses an anatomically-correct apostrophe) used as signage at their other locations.

What went wrong? And who could I commiserate with? Who would understand the depths of my type trauma? So I sought out our museum print designer to tell my tale. She alone, I thought, would understand. And indeed, together we breathed a collective sigh of indignation.

I was so incensed I shot off an email to Clyde’s management:

I have eaten at many of your restaurants and was looking forward to the opening of your new place on 7th Street since I work close by.

I enjoyed watching the beautiful letters of your name being installed a few days ago. However, today when I passed by to view your completed signage I was disappointed to see the apostrophe you used.

In fact, it’s not an apostrophe at all, but rather an inch mark. The type you used to spell out your name is a beautiful serif typeface (and it was great to see each letter in 3-D). The mark you use for the apostrophe is not only incorrect but sits way too close to the E.

Such an elegant sign of for an elegant restaurant ruined by this error.

I will not be eating there until you change it.

I have put my money where my proper punctuation resides. But so far they have not returned my correspondence. And the tick remains (both on their sign and in my heart).

Related Links: Apparently I’m not the only one to defend the apostrophe and point out a few additional typographical mishaps. (Via Kottke) Also, check out The Atrocious Apostrophe photo pool at flickr. I am, indeed, not alone.

Silence is Golden

14 May 2006
May 14, 2006

Sometimes silence is golden. Click the image above to start. (Quicktime, 7.6 MB)

I enjoy watching TV with the sound muted. It gives inane programming new meaning. Media moguls take note: it often improves my television watching experience. Programs I would never watch become MUST SEE TV. Take this bit I recently Tivo’ed.

When I turned on the TV the volume had been turned off. I just stared at these boys with no context for their visual cues. And without it I was mesmerized. In fact, I kept replaying this clip without any sound. To this day I have not listened to it. Why should I? This silent movie is so much more entertaining.

Recently Cingular has been broadcasting ads that tout their stellar record for the least dropped calls of any cell phone provider (don’t write me to dispute their evidence). In their first commercial a man tells us what really gets under his skin (dropped calls of course). But just as his anger builds to its crescendo the sound drops out. All we see is a contorted face “yelling” at us. His anger is palatable. I immediately get his point. (Employing the same technique, Cingular’s other ads in this series are not as successful, in part, because we don’t “feel” the person’s rage in the same way we do here. They simply are not convincing.)

I was reminded of this Cingular ad as I watched these guys pantomime their over-the-top enthusiasm. Without the audio to distract you it’s easier enjoy the visuals. And I get their point.

Television has become the background to our home life –the underlying buzz that permeates the house. When I walk in the door after a hard day’s work with the smell of dinner wafting through the air (thank you my wife), the sounds of the TV are also part of the background ambience.

Sometimes boys will be boys. And sometimes silence is indeed golden.

Seeing Red: Handling Your Own Baggage

07 May 2006
May 7, 2006
A real skycap and me

Separated at birth: the real thing with his dopplegänger.

At the conclusion of my two day meeting in NYC I shed my business attire and re-entered my normal world. Donning my casual uniform, jeans and my red baseball cap (the G on its front stood for Gates not The Gap of course), I checked out of my hotel and grabbed a cab to Penn Station.

While I generally ride coach, I like to wait for my train in first class style. Usually I can sneak into the Acela’s premiere lounge for a nice seat while my train advances to the top of the departure board. But this time the Acela gatekeeper never left her checkpoint. And she was checking everyone’s ticket as they walked passed her to make sure they belonged. So I silently stood on the outside with the rest of Economy waiting for my gate number to appear.

As departure time came closer the cavernous waiting area filled. Everyone was waiting for my train. And I was waiting for the inevitable stampede to begin. But I had a plan. I stood next to the lounge attendant and listened as Skycaps checked in with her: “Any word on 93?” they’d ask. With a long line of patrons wanting help with their baggage, they too wanted to know which track my train would come in on. “No, not yet. It’s running a bit late from Boston,” she’d answer.

If you’re nice this attendant will tell you when your train has been assigned a track. And you can quietly make your way to the gate to be the first one down the escalator. This is especially sweet when your train is sold out and getting a seat home is high priority. I once had to stand all the way from New York to Philadelphia before I could rest my derriere.

I stood within earshot while leaning on my suitcase, listening for any clue. A fellow traveler approached me: “Where is Gate 13E?” he asked. I pointed the way (having scoped the station’s geography in order to quickly exit when I got my special word). A few minutes later another man came forward. “Which way to 7th Avenue if you please?” I thought a moment (the outside world was not mapped to my internal GPS system). “That way,” I pointed. The Amtrak Skycap asked the gatekeeper once again for word on 93’s arrival. Nothing yet.

A well-heeled woman, of Upper East Side vintage, approached me. Demonstrative as her station in life warranted she announced: “I’m taking Train 93 to Washington and I have a few big bags.” She expected me to fill in the rest of her request. I nonchalantly flicked the bill of my cap up a bit on my forehead as if that would help me figure out why she was asking me to do this job. We were surrounded by Amtrak employees.

Suddenly I realized my red cap along with the luggage I was leaning on was a perfect “glyph” of a waiting Skycap. My close proximity to the Acela information desk filled in the rest of her misdiagnosed context.

I had caught this woman skimming through life –sifting through the world, grabbing only the information she needed to complete her tasks. I had been reduced to a pattern she recognized in her super-saturated routine. My red hat and luggage were all she needed to complete her picture. So that was all she saw.

“Sorry,” I said. “I’m more detailed than at first glance.” And without any further regard for my odd reply she quickly moved on to the next red-capped gentleman in line.

“Your train’s coming in on Track 16. That will be Gate 15E,” my source quietly informed me. I removed my red hat, grabbed my bag, and furtively made my exit.

You Say Resume, I Say Résumé

01 Apr 2006
April 1, 2006

resume \’rĭ-zōōm’\ v. tr. 1 : To begin or take up again after interruption: resumed our dinner. 2 : To assume, take, or occupy again: The dog resumed its post by the door. 3 : To take on or take back again: resumed my original name.

résumé \’rĕ-zōō-mā’\ n. 1 : A brief account of one’s professional or work experience and qualifications, often submitted with an employment application. 2 : A summary: a résumé of the facts of the case.

There aren’t too many things that drive me up a wall. Yes, there is the occasional fingernail on the blackboard or the exporting of Democracy to various and sundry countries in the Middle East. Uncomfortable? Yes. Divine retribution for leading a pure life? Perhaps.

But these pale by comparison to seeing the word RÉSUMÉ (notice the accents over the e’s) spelled RESUME on Web sites and blogs.

Each time I see this typographic transgression –each time I see a fellow blogger title his or her job history as such I feel a pressure on my chest and a compulsion to right and rewrite this wrong. I can’t get over it and I can’t help myself.

I don’t know where this holier-than-thou attitude comes from. Luckily, I have a modicum of self-control. I have only contacted a handful of my fellow webbies to offer my expertise (you know who you are). I have thankfully left the rest of you alone.

But the strain of holding back is getting to me. I want to shout from the top of the Empire State Building: “DON’T FORGET THE ACCENTS!” –both of them and both facing the correct direction. Accent aigu for you Francophiles.

In html the word is coded “r-&-e-a-c-u-t-e-;-s-u-m-&-e-a-c-u-t-e-;” and in Photoshop the accented é is created by using cmd-e option-e, e (Mac) or alt-0233 (PC).

To make it easier, as a service to my field, and as personal therapy I am offering an html version of résumé along with a Photoshop version in a handy dandy zip file. Download and use liberally throughout the Web.

I can’t single-handedly stop our way of life from oozing uncontrollably from our shores. But I can do my part to end this bit of spelling debauchery.

Don’t thank me profusely. It’s a selfish act.

The 21st Century Mark of Success

12 Feb 2006
February 12, 2006

We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.

Former Vice President Dan Quayle

Jeff's mashup video linked by Boing Boing

Boing Boing links to Jeff’s Sprint Mashup

Last week, as I was talking to Cultural Tourism DC, a group of small Washington cultural organizations about the genesis of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s blog Eye Level, I was asked “How do you measure success? What do you hope to get out of this project?” An appropriate question. Blogging is a new way of disseminating information for organizations; traditional benchmarks of success don’t always apply, especially if you’re interested in more than just a revenue stream.

I began my answer by talking about the primacy of the social network that is the Net and specifically the blogosphere. It’s people linking to people, slowly building a loyal audience that will be interested in what you are saying and doing. See the Technorati links at the end of this post? Clicking on any one of them will show you who else is talking about the same subject. This type of social networking is natural and commonplace to members of Gen-X and Gen-Y, audiences these organizations are trying to connect with.

Most sitting around the table that day knew what blogs were but had questions about the importance of the medium to their small organizations. Should they? Could they? Resources being tight, how could they sustain a blog initiative? Groups all over the country are beginning to ask the same questions as the medium shifts into the mainstream.

I was joined in this discussion by Eye Level‘s writer Kriston Capps, who also pens his own blog, Grammar Police, and Rob Goodspeed, co-founder of DCist, a Web site about the goings-on in Washington.

How did I measure success? Just a few days before I received the best news a blogger could get when Boing Boing, the most popular blog in the world linked to my mashup video of a current Sprint TV commercial. My visits immediately shot up by a whopping 768 percent! And my achievement was heralded by the 21st century mark of success: an email from my Web host informing me I was about to go over my allotted bandwidth. I’d have to pay big for my achievement:

The domain outtacontext.com is over pace for web/ftp traffic in the month of Feb. The total traffic for the month so far is 21.199 GB. The projection for this month is 105.995 GB. The limit on your account is 100 GB. You have seven days to…arrange payment for your overages. If we do not get your approval within seven days, your account will be disabled.

Thank you for your attention.

The blogosphere is littered with pleas from bloggers who suddenly and with out warning become the darling of the Net. Fame catapults their sites to the top of the stat charts and with it comes a big fat bill from their Web hosts for too much activity (that’s “bandwidth” for you neophytes). They desperately search for a new host for their über popular Quicktime movie or Flash app. A big file in search shelter from the big bad Host. Would somebody mirror my remix? I pictured myself on the off ramp to the Electronic Superhighway holding a sign: “Will write for bandwidth.” Fame is addictive.

Every community has ways of dealing with its social dilemmas. As broad a group as the Net is, helping those in bandwidth need is something our citizens can related to. Today we have grassroots groups like Ourmedia or open-source projects like Blog Torrent who will host our large files for free. This is just one benefit of the social network I referred to in my Cultural Tourism DC remarks.

More importantly, just as blogs have the potential to create new connections with interesting content, projects like Ourmedia and Blog Torrent allow small groups and individuals the power to deliver cultural programming without the need for traditional (and expensive) media outlets. “Sticking it to the man” by simply going around him is here. And the new audiences these organizations seek go to the Net first for their content.

With mixed emotions I have to report my visits soon returned to normal. I would not exceed my bandwidth limit and I would not need to ask for help. Not this time. The next day my stats came down to a mere 233 percent above the mean and by the next they had returned to just above pre-fame levels.

Friday I reluctantly called my Web host to inform them that, alas, the blogosphere was fickle and I wouldn’t surpass my bandwidth limit this month. I reflected on my momentary star status. A momentary spike rather than a sustained jump? Not quite. With each blockbuster link from other sites I gain a few more loyal readers. My stats have steadily, albeit slowly, risen over the last few years.

Jennifer, the kind lady in my Web host’s billing department took pity on me. Because I had been a loyal customer since the good old days of the late 20th century she would gave me the Net’s equivalent of winning the lottery: unlimited bandwidth for any future endeavors.

Success is fleeting. But now I’m prepared, just in case. A good idea; a good Web host –Boing Boing, I’m ready for my next close up.

© 2001-2015 Jeff Gates ISSN 1544-4074