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Source For Free Images That Will Knock Your Socks Off

maldivespavilliononpierI’ve mentioned Unsplash.com before as a site to get copyright-free stock photos.  Indeed, there are several sites that have sprung up over the last couple of years that provide excellent photography with either no copyright restriction or with very generous royalty-free licenses.

But today, I want to talk just about Unsplash.com.  It has become a repository for spectacular landscapes.  That’s not its mission.  It serves up all kinds of subjects.  However, more landscapes appear to be submitted than other kinds of photos.

This is a great opportunity in so many ways.

Think about it this way: look at the photo at the top of this post.  What associations does it bring up for you?

When I first saw it, I thought I could smell the wood of the pier and the salty sea water under it.  I could almost hear a gull cry.  I thought how nice it would be to take a book and a folding chair down to that pavilion at the end of the pier and just sit, read and enjoy the silence, solitude and sea breeze.

Pictures like this are wonderful for inspirational posters.  Or inclusion in inspirational videos (maybe even with the sound of a gull dubbed in.)  They’re great in greeting cards and postcards. They are valuable to use as conceptual art for stimulating ideas for posts and articles of all sorts. They make fine backgrounds for compositing to create illustrations for books and ebooks.

There is no end to their uses.  They are a treasure trove for putting together products quickly.  Or making a point that you can’t fully express with just text.

Their greatest value, however, is in the fact that they make you feel something.  They speak to the emotions of your readers or viewers.

Nature photography — especially landscape– and art actually has been shown in scientific research to quickly and effectively reduce stress and lift spirits.

Because of the emotional connection, folks who read your articles and books may be more engaged and more likely to write comments or reviews.  People who view your nature/landscape themed videos may be more attracted to see more of your channel.  The products you make from photos that are excellent in and of themselves will probably sell better.  Especially if you are good at enhancing them and fitting them to the right products.

As I said, free public domain photos that are so good are a real opportunity.  What are you waiting for?

Take it.  Create something even more wonderful than the photos per se.

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Magical Talent For Texting, Note-Taking and Writing– Electronic Shorthand For All Your Devices

ifyoucanreadthis2

Despite the recent hilarity over the FBI’s “exhaustive” — and almost useless — list of Twitter and texter slang and shorthand, there’s a serious, practical use for a real, standardized shorthand.  For all your computerized devices.

(Nevertheless, stay tuned, because there will be a funny video later, despite the actual seriousness and practicality of this article.)

What’s Old Is New Again

Did you know that abc style shorthand is back again?  Sort of.

Are you familiar with abc shorthand?  It uses the English alphabet, a few extra symbols and the dropping of vowels to shorten words and make it faster to write and take notes.  If you don’t know how to write a particular word in shorthand, you can just write it in longhand.  Easy. Easy. Easy. Or should I write e-z?

One of its most outstanding features is that you can do it with a pencil or a keyboard.  Any kind of keyboard.  Including smartphone keyboards.

Many folks who learned abc shorthand are still using it for note-taking.  Especially people like news reporters.  Many old-school reporters still use a form of abbreviations that really could be considered shorthand.

But the new users are texters and tweeters.  Especially teen texters.  There’s a growing standardization of sets of common abbreviations that are fairly intuitive and easy to read.

Now, I don’t mean only the slang abbreviations like LOL or IMHO.  The slang is hardly intuitive or easy.  No, I mean the intuitive abbreviations of many common words, like cn for can.  Or u for you.  They are very like the various abc shorthands.

Most of this new shorthand is still in the formation stages, with the slang still holding sway.  But it’s growing.  And it’s sensible.  Useable. Practical.  For everyone.  If you’re going to write with your thumbs, it’s almost mandatory to learn a system that will let you write more quickly and easily.

So even if you don’t tweet or chat, if you don’t know the “shorthand,” you’re already behind times.  Maybe it’s time to learn the most used modern slang, abbreviations and shorthand of the new communications media.  Because, at the very least, with the growing use of smart phones, you’re going to want it for texting, email and other uses on your mobile phone.

Start With A Standardized Form, Then Add The Twitter/Texter/Chat Slang And Abbreviations

ABC shorthand systems are so easy that most people can figure out what you’re writing, whether they know the system or not.

That was made quite clear many years ago when the ads for courses for those systems read like this: “f u cn rd this u cn mk a gd lvng.”  Most people understood the abbreviations immediately and were encouraged to add the skills to their repertoire.  In the days those systems were being developed, having shorthand or stenographic skills could mean a much higher paycheck.  For both men and women.

The best part of learning abc shorthand was that you could buy a book and learn it on your own.

When I was in college, I had day jobs and went to school at night.  I got most of my work in offices, because I had learned to type in high school.  Although I missed (by a long shot) the heyday of the rush to use abc shorthand, it was still in use and stenographic skills were still highly valued. I got myself a book on abc shorthand and added that to my skills.  I did, indeed, get higher paying jobs.  It was easy and fast. It only took about three weeks of learning and practice, on my own, to be able to take notes or dictation.  In very short order I could write at 80 words per minute.  It made note-taking in class a breeze.

If I wasn’t in the office, most people there could read my notes, since the principles of the system were so obvious that they could figure out what I meant.

So, you could take one of the old systems and just add the most-used slang, abbreviations, acronyms and symbols to it, and you’d have an easy-to-use texting/chatting/tweeting language that is fast, fast, fast way to type.

The standard for abc shorthand is about 80 to 100 words per minute if done by hand.  Compared to the Gregg system of symbolic shorthand, which can yield 225 words per minute, that may seem miniscule.  But if you think about the fact that experienced touch typists can already type at
50-80 words per minute, what will happen to the speed if you add abc shorthand to keyboarding?

Tell Me More About Why This Would Be So Awesome

You’d also be able to write articles, books, emails and other documents quickly in the shorthand — by hand, by keyboard, or by mobile device — and then have them transcribed.  Or, perhaps, dictate them from your notes into one of the Nuance dictation programs. Sure, it’s best to do dictation directly, but what if you were away from your computer when a great idea hit you?  Yay shorthand.

No matter where you are, if you have a fast, easy shorthand typing system, you can open your browser on your mobile device,  go to your web mail, write what you want and send it to yourself or your transcriber, and it’s done.

(In case you’re wondering I don’t simply recommend voice recognition type dictation apps for the smartphones, my objection is that voice, music and sound takes up too much space.  Which is also why I don’t recommend voice recording apps for dictation.  Furthermore, digital shorthand is faster than dictation because of the way voice recognition dictation programs work.  More about that some other time.)

Stuck in a two hour traffic jam and you have a report due?  Write it in web mail and send it off for later transcription.  You’re productive anywhere.

Of course, there’s still the overwhelming advantage you’d have as a texter on your smartphone.

About Learning An ABC Shorthand System

There aren’t any books of instruction in any of the styles of abc shorthand that I can be sure are in the public domain.  So, I don’t have any free ones for you to download.

However, there are plenty of texts, both old and new, that you can use to teach yourself one or more of the systems.  They’re all based on the same principles.  Just be careful, a lot of books that are billed as abc or alphabetical shorthand are actually symbolic shorthand.

Look for “Speedwriting.”  That’s one of the best known and standard styles.

References, Resources And Funny Video

Articles:

How to Write Faster — http://www.wikihow.com/Write-Faster — Includes both shorthand techniques for actually putting words on paper (or digital paper) and suggestions for composing written documents faster.

Speedwriting Technique — http://homeworktips.about.com/od/studymethods/a/speedwriting.htm

Top Twitter Abbreviations You Need to Know — http://socialmediatoday.com/emoderation/512987/top-twitter-abbreviations-you-need-know

Easy Text Shortcuts You Should Be Using — http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/x-text-shortcuts-you-should-be-using-176907 —  As an alternative to sending shorthand, you can use text expansion apps.  These apps allow you to type in the app’s “shorthand” and the app outputs the full word.

Tironian notes — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tironian_notes — For fun, here’s a shorthand system than goes back to Cicero (yeah, that guy from the time of Julius Caesar).  His scribe, Marcus Tullius Tiro, invented it.

Old but good books:

A Shorthand Dictionary, J.B. Dimbleby. — http://superperformance.com/oldbooks/shorthanddictionary.pdf –Just to have a measure of how long abc shorthand has been used, here’s a book from 1868 that lists the vowels-removed-shorthand for English words.

Video

The FBI’s Guide To Twitter Slang Is Hilarious? — This is a “cover your face with your hand and groan” kind of funny.

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Can I quote you? Tools for writing articles based on quotations.

Photo Source: iclipart.com

Photo Source: iclipart.com

Do you use the technique of starting an article or blog post with a quotation?  It’s a fine way to generate content quickly. With the quotation, you already have the main idea and theme.  And if you use a template with it, you can almost “fill in the blanks” without a lot of effort.  (If you haven’t picked up my free template for writing with quotations, go get it here.)

I’m quite fond of using quotations and I came across one today that I wanted to use:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

It was attributed to Albert Einstein.  But I was skeptical.  I can’t count the number of times that I’ve found misattributed quotations online.  Including on quotations sites, which apparently don’t check them.  I probably have a few in past articles and posts that I wrote before I caught on that nobody was doing any fact checking on the quotations sites.

These days, I check the quotation source myself.  If I can’t find the origin, I’ll publish the quotation as “attributed to.”  Or, if it’s fairly certain that the most usual attribution is in error, I might mention that the origin is unknown but usually “mis-attributed to.”  After all, a good quotation is a good quotation, regardless of who originally said it or wrote it.  So I don’t throw away a perfectly good idea.

But, back to the supposed Einstein quotation. I did some searching and found many instances of the quotation.  With the same attribution. And I found some sources that questioned if Einstein was the author of the quotation. Then I found a tool that I’m recommending to you today.

QuoteInvestigator.com  is Garson O’Toole’s website.  He meticulously researches the origins of quotations and publishes his findings in detail.  He also has a “resources” page with links to other tools and sites.

I’ve added the site to my own resources.  I found it by using my usual method of simply typing the quotation into a search box with the words “who said” or “did x say.”

But, it’s a good idea to start with specialized sites like O’Toole’s.  A “who said” search on your favorite engine usually turns up a lot of hits, but it takes time to research them.  If you start with a site like his and find he’s already done the investigation, you may be all set.

If you don’t want to investigate the origin of quotations, at least start using “attributed to” instead of declaring authorship that you don’t know for certain.  If you are trying to build trust and authority with your content, you want to keep your facts straight.

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A New Productivity Tool: List of over 200 blog post ideas

Photo Source: iclipart.com

Photo Source: iclipart.com

I follow Ryan Deiss’s blog at DigitalMarketer.com.  He and his team constantly come up with interesting ideas and share a lot of content for free.

A couple of days ago, Digital Marketer published a list article by Russ Henneberry: “The Ultimate List of Blog Post Ideas.” (http://www.digitalmarketer.com/blog-post-ideas/)  It’s a very long article.  In fact, he ought to rewrite it enough to meet Amazon’s standards for avoiding duplicate content and publish it as a Kindle booklet.

I know I’d pay for something of this quality — if he hadn’t already made it free.

It’s 212 blog post ideas. Explained and categorized. Not to mention that he has a downloadable mind map version.

If you have a site or blog that you have to fill with content, you can really use this handy tool.  Go get it.

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Cats and Ducks and Performance Improvement

 

Mommy And Me!

(Cat PhotoSource: iclipart.com — Duck Photo Source: Creative Commons)

 

What does a cute kitty video have to do with performance improvement?

I ran across a sweet, but unusual video from the BBC’s YouTube collection. Apparently a cat that had just given birth discovered some ducklings that had just hatched and adopted them as her own. (Rather than having them for lunch.) In their turn, they imprinted on her.

The story is a bit longer and has some suspense to it, so even though I’ve spoiled the ending, I’ve included the video itself below. It’s quite charming and not at all like the “cute kitty” amateur offerings you might have been subjected to in the past.

The reason I thought it was something for a performance and productivity blog is simple: one of the big takeaways from the story is that if the right circumstances occur, the most exceptional things can happen.

Much psychological and business literature is devoted to subjects like “creating change,” “finding the right perspective,” “motivating right action,” and just plain “getting things done.” So stories like this one make me ask what I can do to create circumstances that overcome natural or learned resistances and even instinctual responses. What circumstances are necessary to allow learning and growth? What timing, environment, people, training or other factors will I need to achieve a goal?

This video literally shows us that change, growth, progress and even miracles occur when we make sure that we have all our ducks in a row. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Enjoy the video.