‘…With a Side of Cute’ Series

When you meet someone special, you have this overwhelming urge to document every aspect of your time together. You save ticket stubs, notes, cards, you name it, you save it. There is this desire to keep each and every memory as if these little momentos will eventually become important artifacts for future anthropologists. As life continues on, these keepsakes may amount to nothing more than clutter in drawers but their preservation feels imperative.

Of these pieces we collect, none are more important than photos. They capture life 1/10th of a second at a time. The story begins long before a picture is taken and extends far beyond it, yet somehow that little visual sliver can serve up some seriously comprehensive cliff notes.

With that said, I’m happy to introduce ‘…With a Side of Cute’. Is that a ridiculously corny title? Absolutely. See, when you meet someone special, corny becomes the comforting status quo. So enjoy this snapshot into my life…

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01/2o12 @ Mario’s

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02/2012 @ Glazed Over

20120310-222246.jpg03/2012 @ Jilly’s Arcade

46227_10151135636260863_849139463_n11/2012 @ Palace Skating Rink

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12/2012 @ Epcot

380655_10151165653080863_1512945212_n12/2012 @ Philadelphia International Airport

More ‘…With a Side of Cute’ photos will be posted periodically to my Facebook page.

 

Horses and Bayonets: First 3 Hours on the Internet

Each debate comes with it a memorable moment. Depending on your humor, you’ll either remember “the 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back” burn or the “horses and bayonets” quote. Both comments were made by Barack Obama whose personality has risen from the dead. The right will spin it that 80s foreign policy and bayonets are a good thing. That’s what you do as a good PR team when you can’t stop the internet from doing their thing with a funny albeit negative comment about your candidate. How much time did Romney’s campaign have until the internet is overrun by horses and bayonets memes? About 1.1 seconds. That’s how long it takes for the average person to type horses and bayonets.

Having avoided Twitter during the debate, my first brush with impressions came via Facebook. My ticker and NewsFeed was filled with references to President Barack Obama’s quote. Both my left and right leaning friends were getting in on the LOLs. Now before you read any further, I have to admit that anything resembling insightful political analysis won’t appear anywhere after this sentence. This post is about the wildfire social media allows the world to set on a nightly basis. Sometimes its a blown NFL call, other times its a national disaster (Like tonight’s debate! Ahoo! Sorry, I forget I’m not funny) Whatever the case, welcome to the first few hours of an internet sensation.

11:14: My first sighting on Facebook of the Horses and Bayonets page. At that time, as seen above, it had 903 likes. 35 minutes later, it’s at 1360. What should we expect from here on forth? Well there are a lot of factors at play. If it reminds a comedic, equal opportunity offender the sky is the limit in terms of growth. However, 40 minutes ago at 11:15 the Horses and Bayonets page shared MoveOn’s pro-Obama post. With the post hidden amongst 30 others from that page in it’s first 2 hours, it remains to be seen if that will hinder growth or if the comedic value of the page will overshadow their partisanship.

At 12:15 AM EST, the page is sitting at just above 1500 likes. That’s a slight decline from the first hour but they may be doing themselves in with an exorbitant amount of posting. The key to social media is timely posting. While it’s hard to contain your excitement if you’re a new page admin, over-posting is the quickest way to get hidden from NewsFeeds. Once you’re hidden, your chance of ever being seen by that user again plummets to close to 0.

It’s only been an hour since I made my 9000 by tomorrow morning prediction and I’m already ready to recant on that. Here are the lessons you can learn from one page’s 15 seconds of fame…

Do’s

  • Stay up to date on every facet of your target demographic’s life.
  • Keep your message on point with the topic of your page.
  • Be as social as possible. Facebook, word of mouth and success are intrinsically linked.
  • Comedy will be your best friend so long as it complies with the first 3 rules.
  • Photos get traffic, shares and subsequently fans.
  • New Page Likes get precedent in the NewsFeed. If you want to keep your audience, start right.

Dont’s

  • Don’t post more than once or twice an hour unless it’s really important.
  • Stay away from political allegiance, it will start a troll war.
  • Don’t berate your followers ever.

I’ll be back tomorrow to give the update on this. I’ll also put together some stats about shares, likes and growth so we can see where Horses and Bayonets succeeded and failed.

Decision 2012: Who Should You Vote For?

Obama Romney American

With November just around the corner, the ends of the political spectrum are quickly coming into focus. If composite sketches are to be believed, you have baby-killing, peaceful, misguided-robin-hood elitists versus the patriotic, god-loving, tractor-driving, gun-toting billionaires. From now till November, hundreds of talking heads will craft an entertaining narrative about two characters based loosely on a true story. As an audience, we’ll waste our time defending our pick of poison to our friends and enemies. Then shortly after 11PM on the sixth day of the eleventh month, one network will project a winner. Americans will have spoken, democracy will have rung its bell and everything will be different. The end.

Except it won’t be the end. America’s story has no foreseeable end. We don’t get a 30 minute slow motion finale like Lord of the Rings. Instead, we’re like a never ending episode of Lost with twist after cliffhanger after twist after cliffhanger minus the time travel and polar bears. So with November’s presidential cliffhanger around the corner, how do we begin to create a satisfying payoff? We vote. For who? For ourselves.

We all seem confident enough to believe in our words and opinions, yet we continually fail to embrace the true power of our actions. We are absolutely the masters of our destiny. Congress will not pass the ‘You’re Allowed To Be Happy Act of 2013′. No, our happiness and prosperity starts with us, not our President or politicians. So stop worrying about birth certificates and spelling errors and try to actually do something that will matter. Be the president of your life. Enact your own legislation that makes things better for the people you love. Declare war on your demons and character flaws. Worry about how to use your own money more effectively. We panic when the government seems to be imposing on our freedoms. What does it matter if we’re not fully utilizing the freedoms we have right now?

Think outside the box. Actually just throw the box away. Erase every single boundary you think holds you back. Those boundaries only exist because you’ve believed in them. Believe in yourself. Every great person to ever walk the Earth came in the same way you did. Like us, they’ve all borrowed oxygen and water from this planet to maintain their existence. The duration of all our lives is defined by the longevity of the thump thump in our chest. Once that’s done, we are too. However, the story of our life is not defined by our heart but our brain. While we often times lack any say in when our cardiac compadre quits, we have all the control in the world over it’s lobe-laden counterpart upstairs. By allowing anyone else but ourselves to dictate our life or mood, we’re voluntarily lobotomizing ourselves. If someone was trying to stab you in the heart, you’d fight, quite literally, for your life. The brain, the host of our free will, must be regarded with the same sense of self preservation.

So Mr./Mrs. President, what will you be your first act as the new leader of your free world?

Five Must See Artists @ Wizard World Comic Con Philadelphia

Wizard World Comic Con has descended upon Philadelphia this weekend and I’m unleashing my inner-geek to the umpteenth degree. Thanks to the good folks over at Wizard World, the assistance of some great friends and the willingness of some strangers I placed 3rd in the con’s costume contest! Since 3rd place wasn’t enough to score me passes to the show, I rolled up my pennies, ignored a few bills and treated myself to a VIP pass that includes a meet and greet with my favorite WWE Superstar, the Best in the World, CM Punk. While the multitude of celebrity appearances turn the event into a full blown extravaganza, it’s the hundreds and hundreds of vendors that form the backbone of the show. Last night I had a chance to meet some of those folks and I decided to put together some must sees.

Yehudi Mercado of SuperMercado Comics- Table #242

Yehudi Mercado Buffalo Speedway Wizard World Comic Con Philadelphia

Yehudi’s featured product at the con is his Buffalo Speedway trilogy. The story is spread out over 3 digest-sized graphic novels and takes place on June 17th 1994, the busiest day in the history of pizza delivery. Yehudi’s story began as a feature length screen play, winning Final Draft’s Big Break Screenwriting Competition. It was poise to head to the big screen at one point but in the end, Yehudi decided to turn the story into an epic comic for all us fanboys to devour. If you purchase all 3 for the special price of $40, the books come in a pizza box! Later this summer, Mercado will be releasing a new book called Patalones, TX. Be sure to stop by and chat with this immensely talent fellow.

You can find more from Yehudi on his website.

CJ Draden- Table #504

CJ Draden Wizard World Comic Con Philadelphia

The Art of CJ Draden involves glass, paint and an abundance of creativity. Celebrating all the most popular sagas of the sci fi and fantasy universe, Draden paints a sheet of glass then meticulously scraps away at it. In the end, you’re left some of the coolest and most jaw dropping renditions of your favorite characters. I’d love to sit here and craft a descriptive paragraph that properly explains just how impressive his work is, but truth be told, my vocabulary lacks the words. Check out his table or website to fully understand the beauty of his work.

Artist Alley

Joshua Heckert- Table #2518

Wizard World Comic Con Philadelphia Joshua Josh Heckert

This PA-based tattoo artist found himself between a rock and a hard place a few years ago. The good part? He married the girl of his dreams. The bad part? His wife deemed his collection of posters inappropriate as the wall decor in their new home. Utilizing his artistic prowess, Heckert came up a good idea: paint some portraits on canvas. Canvas screams art and class. His first piece was an extreme close-up of Spiderman. His wife approved. Joshua soon realized that several fanboys might find themselves in a similar situation sooner rather than later so he started painting dozens of characters and selling them. His drip technique gives each piece a unique texture and reminds me of the pages in my old comic books that often times ended up smeared or worn. If you no longer live in your parents’ basement or college dorm room but you want to proudly display your superhero loving side, you have to stop by and get some new art for your walls. Your girlfriend or wife will love it. See more here.

Marc Zakroff- Table #2319

marc zakroff Wizard World Comic Con Philadelphia

Remember the collages we’d make as kids? We’d scour our favorite magazines and books cutting out the coolest pictures then we’d glue them all together? Well take that childhood memory, inject it with 500ccs of steroids and call it Marc Zakroff art. The work of Zakroff, like that of Heckert’s, is kind of piece you’d proudly hang in your living room. One technique he uses requires painstakingly and perfectly cutting out hundreds of black and white comics which he then pieces back together to create a minefield of mesmerizing visuals. As if that weren’t enough, he places a large vividly colored image over top to give the feel that the character just escaped the page. It’s not just all super hero stuff either, Marc keeps his fingers on the pulse of pop culture and politics as well and creates accordingly. His website has showcases his awesomeness.

Dave Perillo- Table #2258

dave perillo Wizard World Comic Con Philadelphia

Dave’s work re-conceptualizes some very familiar faces and places them into a new world where everything is pretty and perfect. His art is smart, sleek, subtle and pleasant. Each piece oozes nostalgia and for some reason it makes me think of Don Draper. By the looks of his website, he has done a lot with teefury.com. That’s good news because I’d love to wear his work around.

What If: Kurt Angle Joined ECW in 1996

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The mid to late 90s was a unique time in wrestling history. Between WWF, WCW and ECW, wrestlers had a lot of options in terms of performing. Some of that era’s biggest names used all three companies to hone their skills or breath new life into their careers. Stone Cold Steve Austin falls into that category. After a 4 year stint in WCW, he was released because Bischoff didn’t see him as ‘marketable’. Austin hooked up with Paul Heyman and his hardcore promotion ECW.

Around 4AM one fateful night, Austin cut a taped promo that would showcase his mic skills and plant the seeds for his Texas Rattlesnake persona years later. Austin joins Rob Van Dam, Mick Foley, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and Rey Mysterio Jr as former ECW stars who would go on to capture a WWE World Title. That list almost featured another superstar: Kurt Angle. That brings us to this week’s What If…

Read more »

Top 5 WWE Stories Heading Into Summer

World Wrestling Entertainment made a major announcement last week during USA’s upfronts: after 19 years, their weekly cable program will expand to 3 hours. The change will take place when WWE airs their 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw on July 23 2012. 1000 episodes is a remarkable milestone for any program. When you consider that there are no re-runs and no summer vacations, you can’t help but marvel at the incredible work ethic of WWE’s writing staff, superstars and technical crew. They’ve strung together over 94,000 minutes of original programing every Monday for nearly two decades!

While there is no official season premiere or season finale for WWE Raw, there is a discernible cycle. Wrestlemania usually serves as the cumulation of a year’s worth of story lines. For example, the 2011-2012 season began with the Rock and John Cena agreeing to a match at Wrestlemania 28. In sticking with that logic of story arcs, April 2nd, the night after WM28, was the beginning of this WWE season. Eight Raws and 2 pay-per-views into this season, there are a lot of things to be excited about as a WWE fan. Here are my top 5 stories to pay attention to as we move towards Raw’s 3 hour expansion and WWE’s annual tentpole pay-per-view SummerSlam…

5: Christian’s Road to Redemption

How We Got Here: When Edge was forced to suddenly retire last year due to complications from repeated neck injuries, his charismatic compadre Christian, seemed poised to step into his best friend’s shoes. Christian was able to capitalize on this opportunity by defeating Alberto Del Rio for the vacated World Heavyweight Championship. His title reign was cut short when Randy Orton defeated Christian to win the title after only 5 days as champ. From there, Christian took on a crybaby persona thus turning him heel. After a few failed attempts at recapturing the gold from Orton, Christian faded in the background until injury sidelined him in late 2011.

Christian re-surfaced for in-ring action at Over the Limit this past Sunday. Captain Charisma was able to the win the 20 man Power to the People Battle Royal and in the process gaining a shot at Santino Marella’s United States Title or Cody Rhodes’ Intercontinental Title. To the surprise of many, Christian opted for the latter then to the surprise of just about everyone he defeated Rhodes to win his 4th Intercontinental Championship.

Where Are We Now: The Intercontinental Championship used to be the launching pad for WWE Superstars to the main event. With the title now around babyface Christian’s waist, we may be seeing a new direction and dedication to the mid-card. There are a plethora of heels on the roster for Christian to feud with if WWE decides they want to enter him into a prolonged story arc with an up and comer. By the same token, the vast pool of competition for the IC belt could simply lead to a variety of quality matches between the veteran Canadian champion and various superstars who are in desperate need of TV time. Which ever direction they decide to go, look for Christian to become a staple of the mid-card and a regular presence on both of WWE’s weekly programs.

4) The Desperate Giant

How We Got Here: Big Show is one of the few active leftovers from WWE’s Attitude Era. It’s easy to take Show for granted and view him as just another big guy, but he’s a seasoned vet who works well with almost every superstar. In the past year, his work with Mark Henry legitimized Henry as a true main eventer after a decade of irrelevance. After finally overcoming Henry and winning the World Heavyweight Championship at the Tables, Ladders and Chairs PPV in December 2011, the 7 footer became the latest victim of a Money in the Bank winner. With Show unconcious, Daniel Bryan took advantage, cashed in his title shot and left with the belt. In the process, Show recorded the shortest WHC title reign in the history of WWE and made a superstar out of Bryan.

Show got a few more shots at Bryan but he was cheated or bested each time. His quest to avenge his embarrassing defeat ended at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view when Cody Rhodes eliminated him with a DDT. Those two then entered a program leading to matches at Wrestlemania 28 and Extreme Rules. During this time, Show was repeatedly ridiculed by Rhodes for his poor track records at previous Wrestlemanias. The world’s largest athlete gained the victory over Rhodes at the grand daddy of them all in early April but lost in their rematch at Extreme Rules, ending the feud between the two men. Weeks later Big Show found himself in hot water after making fun of Raw General Manager John Laurinaitis’ distinctive voice. Despite begging and pleading, Johnny Ace sent Big Show to the unemployment line on May 14th. Six days later during Laurinaitis and Cena’s main event bout at Over the Limit, the big man reappeared to presumably seek revenge on his boss. However, instead of beating on his former employer, Big Show shockingly knocked out John Cena giving the win to Laurinaitis.

Where Are We Now: With 18 years in the business, one has to assume that Show is nearing the end of his wonderful career. That’s purely speculative but no one can last forever. It’s been 13 years since Paul Wight ripped through the ring at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to make his WWE debut in an effort to help his boss win. It’d be fitting to see Show don that persona once more time before he calls it a career. Of course this iteration is different for two reasons. 1) His boss is no longer Vince McMahon and 2) This version has the fine tuning that only a pro of Big Show’s caliber is capable of. Look for Cena and Show to put on a few great matches then wait for the best part of any beloved vets’ heel run: his redeeming face turn. After that, he can ride off into the sunset and begin to utilize his massive personality on the big screen.

3) The Art of the Save Starring The Entire Raw Roster

How We Got Here: Back in the days of the Monday Night Wars between WCW and WWE, WCW had a stranglehold on ratings for quite sometime. Their formula was pretty simple. Let the nWo on the mic. Toss in a strong cruiserweight division. End the show with the nWo beating up a good guy then have Sting drop from the rafters to make the save. That’s how WCW utilized their three hours on Mondays over a decade ago. With the recent announcement of WWE’s expansion to 3 hours, they’ll need to utilize their entire roster. We saw them do that last night on Raw. Early in the night, John Cena was ambushed by sparsely used superstars Tyler Reks, Curt Hawkins, Titus O’Neil and Darren Young. Seeing these young guys on TV was a great step for WWE’s developmental efforts of young talent. Then unexpectedly, Sheamus made the save. This too was a nice departure from the recent booking norm of letting a superstar take a beating then roll around in pain until they went to a commercial break.

The extended TV time for the entire roster continued during the main event when Sheamus and Cena took on Tensai, Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger in handicap lumberjack match. With heel henchmen surrounding the ring, Cena and Sheamus found themselves on the receiving end of an uneven assault whenever they were tossed out of the squared circle. Just as Cena gained the upper hand in the ring, the meddling lumberjacks pulled Sheamus from the apron. Cena came to the defense of his tag team partner but they were impossibly overmatched. That’s when, to the delight of the crowd, the locker room emptied to even the score. CM Punk, Kofi and Truth, Christian, Santino, Brodus Clay, all the guys we love to cheer for were coming to the rescue of two of the company’s top good guys.

Where Are We Now: The save was a lost art for a long time. WWE usually opted to play up the underdog angle by letting a good guy get beat up a lot then finally gain the upperhand at the pay per view cumulation of a feud. Now with the brand extension meaning less & less each week and Raw going to 3 hours, there are opportunities everywhere for superstars that aren’t ready or cut out for main event status. Seeing superstars rush to the ring to save a fellow good guy is one of the most underrated things in pro wrestling but it’s a great technique. People love seeing characters that exist in the same universe cross paths. It’s why I love Batman/Superman crossovers and it’s why the Avengers has made $463 million dollars in less than 3 weeks.

2) The Looming Collision

How We Got Here: When John Cena asked for the Rock to come to the ring the night after Wrestlemania, some folks may have groaned, feeling that we’ve seen enough of Cena/Rock. When Brock Lesnar’s music hit instead, even casual fans couldn’t help but cheer. Lesnar had a relatively short but amazingly successful run in WWE for 8 years. His UFC career made him a mainstream star among the male demographic. When he announced his retirement from MMA, every WWE fan knew his return walked the line somewhere between possible and probable. With only a few short weeks to build a feud, WWE played their cards right with Cena and Lesnar. Lesnar said his return was about bringing legitimacy back to the company. John Cena, the most polarizing figure among fans, was the perfect target for Lesnar. Cena is the kid tested, mother approved, grown up boy scout of pro wrestling. He’s also one of the most talented, recognizable and respected superstars. Brock on the other hand is a warrior who you would probably be too afraid to speak to in real life in fear that he’d hurt you if you offended him. Their match at Extreme Rules worked perfectly for both of them. Lesnar showcased his brutality. Cena showed his guts. Both deserved praise for their efforts.

The Lesnar-Cena program accomplished it’s goal so swiftly, there was no reason to continue it. That left the high-priced Lesnar without a new opponent but it gave the WWE a great opportunity. Triple H hadn’t been seen since his Wrestlemania bout with Undertaker. Bringing him back without purpose would have been anti-climatic. Using Lesnar on a weekly basis would ruin his aura of importance. So it was logical for these two to begin a patiently, developed feud. Triple H resurfaced to confront Lesnar about his contract. Lesnar attacked. Since then, fans haven’t seen Lesnar but we have been treated to the return of Paul Heyman. Heyman is one of the best ever on the mic. Seeing him in a WWE ring as a rogue, representative of his good friend Brock Lesnar is the absolute best way to utilize his skills while also keeping Lesnar relevant.

Where Are We Now: Brock Lesnar and Triple H are on collision course. The best bet is to assume that they won’t face off in the ring until SummerSlam in August. Between now and then, we’ll surely hear several memorable Paul Heyman promos and perhaps see a few appearances by Brock himself. Legal battles rarely make good TV in the WWE universe but with such big players involved in this one, expect to see some compelling segments throughout the summer.

1) The Indy Boys Reign Supreme

How We Got Here: We could say that this began a few weeks ago when Daniel Bryan won the Beat the Clock Challenge to earn a shot at Punk’s WWE title. We could even say this began the night after TLC when Bryan and Punk stood in the ring together holding the industries’ top two titles. Truth be told, this began long before either of those moments and well before either man joined WWE. See, Punk and Bryan are the indy darlings of the internet wrestling community. Their amazing successes over the past year bring joy to the long time fans who have seen twice as many shows in bingo halls and VFWs than we have in big arenas on Monday nights. We’ve connected with these guys because they personify some of the things we hold dear.

First, they came from the places we’re from. They wrestled at venues in our neighborhoods that don’t have parking lots or concession stands and they did so for maybe a couple hundred bucks a match. Yet they performed like it was a main event at Wrestlemania. They earned our respect because they showed how much they respect us as fans. Secondly, they are wrestlers. WWE is the industry leader in sports entertainment but in recent years they’ve moved away from using wrestling as their primary method of story telling and they’ve focused more on in ring promos. The benefit in this is less impact on the performers’ bodies which means less injuries and less negative long term effects. It’s important to respect that decision and it’s hard to argue it, but the 21 and older crowd grew up in an era where wrestling meant wrestling. Guys like Punk and Bryan have a style that reminds us of the wrestling programs we watched as kids. They invoke nostalgia. Finally. They’re good. They’re damned good. Long time WWE broadcaster Jim Ross said Bryan and Punk’s Over the Limit match would have held up in any era. That’s a major compliment from a pro wrestling historian who has seen it all.

Where Are We Now: Punk beat Bryan at Over the Limit but the end of the match brought with it some controversy. After a hard fought battle, Punk found himself in the Daniel Bryan’s Yes Lock (formerly the Labell Lock). The WWE Champ was able to shift his weight enough to get Bryan’s shoulders down. The WWE official noticed, counted 1..2..3 and Punk was the winner. As the bell rang however, Punk tapped. There was no question that Punk was the winner but it did make you wonder whether Bryan could have gained the victory had Punk not forced him to make a mistake. The ending almost ensures that the straight edge superstar and the American dragon will cross paths again at WWE’s No Way Out PPV in June, most likely in a submission match!

WWE Raw airs every Monday on the USA Network @ 9PM. Additional WWE programming is also featured on the SyFy network, YouTube and WWE.com. All photos have been borrowed from and remain property of WWE.com. Ryan Simmons (RySimmons@gmail.com) has no affiliation with WWE though he totally plans to apply there eventually. If you are reading this and your name is Vince McMahon, Triple H, John Laurinaitis, Stephanie McMahon or you have any hiring power at WWE Inc., feel free to shoot me an email and I can drive up to Stamford, CT in about 3 hours and 4 mins according to Google Maps. 

Facebook Interactions: How to Unsubscribe and Hide Friends

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Unsubscribe/Hide

Facebook gives us an immense amount of control over what and how much we see from each friend. These settings are easily editable from the NewsFeed. When hovering over the right side of a friend’s post, an arrow will appear. Clicking that will offer a host of options. ‘Hide Story’ offers you the ability to hide that one post that keeps popping up on the top of your NewsFeed. ‘Report Story or Spam’ is for blocking and reporting a post that may be generated by a clickjacking incident that your friend may or may not be aware of.

The next section allows you to control how much you see from a friend. The options include ‘All Updates’, ‘Most Updates’ and ‘Only Important’. How does Skynet Facebook decide what’s important? They use an interesting algorithm called Edgerank. On the surface, it’s kind of simple. Go to someone’s profile, like someone’s posts or write on someone’s wall and the probability of them popping up in your feed increases. That’s where the simplicity ends. This YouTube video delves a little deeper into it.

The final options are ‘Unsubscribe’ and ‘Unsubscribe from…’ Unsubscribe means that person’s post will never come across your NewsFeed ever again. They are still your friend however. You’ll have full access to their profile and vice versa. The ‘Unsubscribe from…’ option allows you to block one facet of that person’s posts. Let’s say you have a photographer friend who posts cool shots but distasteful status updates, you can hide the latter. Block individual types of posts works for photos, status updates, life events, games and applications. All of these options are available to edit on a friend’s profile as well under the ‘Friends’ tab.

When it comes to brands and Pages, the options are all or nothing. You either see their posts or you hide all. You may say, ‘Why would I be a fan of something but hide all their status updates?’ Think about it. Your sister’s boyfriend’s band, your neighbor’s heating and air conditioning business, your college roommate’s personal training profile. You want to support stuff like that but it might not always be pertinent to your every day life.

This is the first in a series of 3 posts about Facebook Interactions. Tomorrow we’ll deal with handling event overload. Friday we’ll tackle the most taboo subject on Facebook…unfriending. If you have a question or suggestion for a post regarding Facebook, shoot me a message on my page. As always, thanks for reading!

Now Open! Gifts That Keep On Giving Store

This year’s Gifts That Keep On Giving Campaign benefits Kickstarter campaigns! The premise remains the same. Old gift cards are turned into guitar picks, they’re sold on Etsy then the proceeds are given away. On Kickstarter.com, we’re always reminded that every dollar counts. That means every time you buy picks from the Gifts That Keep On Giving, you’re not only helping the environment, you’re also supporting someone’s dream! More details here. Check out our mini-Etsy store below!

 

New items every Tuesday. We ship every Friday.

Thank you and keep on giving,
Ryan

Gifts That Keep On Giving: Fundraising for Kickstarter Campaigns

Last year I launched the Gifts That Keep On Giving campaign. The idea was simple: collect gift cards, turn them into guitar picks, sell picks on Etsy. The initial incarnation was created to support music education. Unfortunately, the funds were not lucrative and operating costs were higher than I expected. When it came time to distribute the money, the donation was quickly diluted due to the amount of students in each program. With a blink of an eye, the money was gone. My heart was in the right place, but my brain knew that I was basically wasting my time. There had to be a way to help this modest fundraiser have more of an impact. Enter Kickstarter.

For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter.com, it is a site that allows people with great ideas to seek funding through individual donors. The projects on there range anywhere from tech start-ups to films to ambitious art projects and everywhere in between. In following several campaigns, there is one reoccurring theme in their plea for donations: every dollar counts. Since I’m looking for a way to maximize each and every dollar the Gifts That Keep On Giving Campaign raises, Kickstarter seems like a good avenue! Below you’ll find ways to get involved!

Buy Picks: New picks are uploaded every Tuesday! Check out the Etsy store to buy picks!

Share This Campaign:

  • Facebook or Twitter: With a simple post, you can spread awareness about this unique project.
  • Blog: If you profile this campaign on your site, you help support recycling and art!
  • YouTube: What better way to sell picks than to see them in action? Get picks, record a video, post!
Share Kickstarter Campaigns: Post Kickstarter projects you’re passionate about on my Facebook page and they’ll be considered as candidates for donations!

 

Vote: The last week of every month, I’ll create a poll on my Facebook page featuring a few Kickstarter campaigns. The campaign with the most votes will get all the money I have to donate. Some months it may be $5, others it may be $50. Either way, every dollar counts!

 

Donate Gift Cards: We are not currently accepting anymore gift cards from the general public. We have nearly 10,000 cards right now! But if you have a unique idea or something to contribute, contact me!

 

I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate your support in this endeavor! It’s a pleasure to recycle, create and subsequently support art! If you have any additional questions, message me on my Facebook page. Thank you!

4 Great Apps for Productivity and Business

A few weeks ago when I purchased my iPad 2, I challenged myself: move into a post-PC world. The basics of social media and web browsing were easy. The most difficult aspect of life to convert was business. Without Microsoft Excel and a scanner, nearly a decade of business practices needed to be relearned. Fortunately, I was able to find some great apps to help!

Numbers (iPhone and iPad)

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Numbers is Apple’s equivalent to Excel. Like all Apple products, it’s sleek and simple. The irony was that I found it too simple. As we go deeper into the tablet era, the iPad as well as iPhone are making everything so intuitive, you have to become accustomed to the ease involved. After I got use to using gestures, Numbers helped me make my first beautiful invoice on my iPhone/iPad (Syncs via iCloud). If you ever use a spreadsheet, you need to pick up Numbers. Note: Definitely go through the tutorial at the beginning.

Scan Pages (iPhone)

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Anyone over 50 years old may disagree but fax machines are pretty archaic. At work, we found the easiest way to share pages of information was simply to snap photos on our phones and message them. While this practice is easy for most people, you sometimes need to rely on a scanner or -gasp- a fax machine when doing business. Scan Pages is a scanner in your pocket. You take a picture of the document then Scan Pages gives it that scanned look. You can save the photo to your device, email a PDF or use Evernote, Dropbox or Google Docs. It rocks for sending W9s, printed invoices and even expense receipts.

ScatterBrain (iPhone)

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“I have an idea!” and “I forgot it…” go hand in hand when you’re a busy entrepreneur. Keeping track of clients, projects and ideas should be easy with the amount of technology we have at our disposal but it’s all about finding the app that works best for you. ScatterBrain is the first app that I’ve been able to assimilate into my daily life. Using an ongoing log, bullet points and color coding, ScatterBrain can manage anything from pipedreams to bucket lists. You may find something that works better for organizing thoughts, but ScatterBrain is best for me because…I’m scatter brained.

TomorrowHD (iPhone and iPad)

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Tomorrow is an unbelievably simple to-do list app that allows for procrastination with the push of a button. While embracing such a habit might be a bad thing, Tomorrow helps prevent that overwhelming anxiety and actually makes you a better worker in the long run. You write down every single thing you need to do then you can easily prioritize and guiltlessly push off the non-pressing issues without forgetting about them entirely.

Talula Red Interactive @ Who’s On First! Show Your Love!!!

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As I’ve pulled together my piece for Talula Red at Who’s On First (February 6th-18th), I’ve struggled with a direction. I had a basic outline and structure for what I wanted it to look like but I wasn’t sure what it meant. Last night, I tore the whole thing down and started from scratch. I didn’t do so because I hated what I had, I did so because I loved another idea. Now I’m rebuilding and I need your help. I’ll post the artist statement next week, but for now, here is how you can get involved…

This piece isn’t mourning heartbreak, it’s celebrating love. So I want to incorporate as much love as possible. Here’s what I need from you to kick off this celebration of love!

Step 1: Snap a photo of you and someone you love or write a poem or draw a picture or write them a love letter. You can share anything you’d like! The only thing I ask is that it is portrait/vertical in it’s orientation!

Step 2: Upload it to my Facebook page or Tweet it to @IONRyan or email it to RySimmons at gmail.com

Step 3: Stop by Who’s On First at 1st and Asbury in Ocean City, NJ between February 6th and February 18th to see how it was incorporated!

It’s that easy! If you have my cell phone number, you can text it to me. I’ll be updating the photos every Wednesday and Friday! Be sure to come to the artist reception on Friday February 10th too!!!

How I Doubled My Hits In 1 Month

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When writing a paper in college, I’d type as much as I could before double spacing. Seeing the page total jump significantly closer to the required amount was a great feeling. Last month, I kind of did the same thing with my blog. In 2012, I wanted to increase the traffic coming into my site. Instead of compulsively checking totals, I decided I’d just post as much content as possible then look at the WordPress site stats at the end of the month. How did this work out? I doubled my traffic.

Now before I tell you how I succeeded in this endeavor, let me offer two disclaimers. One, I’m not a professional blogger or SEO expert. I’m just a young guy who really likes the internet, creating and sharing. Disclaimer two, the acts of paying no attention to hits and placing the premium on content are not exactly intrinsically linked. Obviously the latter is quite important. The benefit of the former is simply psychological. See, I’d sometimes become discouraged when I realized only 13 people read something. Ignoring that allowed me to shift my measure of success from how much incoming traffic I received to how much outgoing content I posted, at least for the time being. So how’d it happen?

Creativity

Your blog shouldn’t be an extension of your personal journal. Well it can be, but if it is, your audience may be limited. You need to offer things that are applicable to someone’s life or invites them to get involved. I posted two ‘How To’ pieces in January. Skipping the self-indulgent-here-is-what-I-think post made my blog a lot more interesting and accessible. People were coming to my site to learn then coming to my Facebook page to ask questions.

Outside of how-to stuff, I held a simple contest for creative Facebook cover photos, offered a suggestion and review for a Netflix film, spread the word about an artist opportunity and documented my own creative process in a series of random/confusing videos. Those are the things my friends and readers want to check out. You may say, ‘Ry, I have an automotive blog, creativity isn’t a focal point of that industry.’ To that I say, it’s not about posting on topics centered around creativity, it’s about being creative in the topics you post. Post something that your readers may have never seen, thought about or tried had they not seen your page.

Consistency

It’s easy if you’re someone like a tech blogger, you probably deal with Apple or Facebook news every day. If you’re an artist or a writer who enjoys tackling a variety of topics, you may struggle with what to post. Creating reoccurring features worked wonders for me. I introduced The Other Ryan Simmons series and weekly SJSL Dodgeball recaps. The people following my page came to expect those on Thursdays. I also created a routine for myself behind the scenes. I knew I’d post Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday no matter what. Then, after some research, I figured out when my audience was present on the social networks and I posted accordingly.

Community

This is a no-brainer: you need social media. 46% of all my traffic came from Facebook. 18% from Google searches. 13% from Reddit. 9% from Twitter. 5% from Pinterest. 3% from Google+. That means only 6% of hits came from people typing ‘imaginationsimmons.com’ into their browser. Now if you look at the math of my Facebook Insights or bit.ly clicks via Twitter, you’ll see that only 40% of my total traffic came from my personal outlets. This means everything else came from people who reposted my links on their own pages. If possible, keep an eye on who is sharing your stuff on Facebook or Twitter and return the favor or offer a thank you! You appreciate their support and they’ll surely appreciate your gratitude.

Finally, and this kind of ties together everything mentioned here, be sure you are thinking of your audience. Hits aren’t numbers, they’re people taking time out of their day to see what you have to offer. Make sure you are giving them something that is worth their time. Try to make your work beneficial, insightful and honest. Respect and appreciate them. If you’re only getting 100 hits a month, realize that you have the attention of 100 people which is pretty awesome. Enjoy yourself and be grateful. Good luck!

The Other Ryan Simmons: The Adventurer

Birthday: January 9th, 1983. I’m in my last year of the twenties… let’s not talk about that though
Location: I grew up in Michigan, mostly in Allegan on the west side of the state. After college and not finding many design opportunities locally, I moved to Indianapolis with my girlfriend where she had landed a job with her sorority headquarters. The area had a lot more promise and within a couple weeks I had found a web design position. We now live on the north side in Carmel with our two dogs. (Side note: This weekend the city will be hosting the Super Bowl!)
Occupation: I have a relatively new job with Bluefish Wireless as a graphic designer in the marketing department (Bluefish helps corporations manage their wireless program – powering mobile strategy). It’s been a great fit, the group is dedicated and the culture relaxed at the same time. The office features a putting green, bubble hockey table and a robot. Either customers or off site employees can drive the bot around and interact with the office from anywhere. The company also has a few different brands that allow the design tasks to stay diverse. Occasionally, I also take on some freelance design work. I enjoy having a full time job that allows, and encourages, me to stay creative. I get to fill my time with what I love to do and have a little extra income.
Smarts: I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Central Michigan University. CMU is also where my parents met and we lived in married housing on campus right after I was born.
I had originally decided on CMU, because of their teacher education program. My hope was to be a high school art teacher. Thankfully one of the first required courses freshmen year involved in class hours. I quickly learned that it may not be a great fit for me, mostly due to my lack of patience. That same year I had a graphic design class that did fit.
Website: I’m currently working on ryansimmons.me (some other Ryan Simmons has the .com). Thankfully I have plenty of design work to get done right now, but that also means my own site is not getting much love. My twitter handle is @rlsims, but you can also find me on almost any social media site.
Favorite Website (other than your own): No day is complete without visiting Google Reader, but that may be cheating. One of my favorite design sites to follow right now is Quipsologies.
3 Words to describe myself: Creative, fit, adventurer.

I think those summarize me fairly well, or at least what I want out of life. The creative portion may be obvious at this point.

Fit, because I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself and what I’m able to accomplish. Last year was attempting a 50k trail marathon (Dances with Dirt), after never doing any race over a 5k. Right now, I’m working at becoming better at CrossFit – an all around fitness program with olympic lifting, gymnastics and endurance. I enjoy the mix and constantly changing challenges it offers.

Adventurer, because I’ve always been drawn to escaping into the woods. Each summer my family (my brother Nathan and our Dad) plan a trip to somewhere adventurous – backpacking in Alaska or mountain climbing in Colorado. Even Indiana has some trails worth visiting and are a good weekend escape. When I’m not able to escape, I find my fix through reading adventure books that now fill a solid book shelf.

What was your coolest live music experience?
Through high school and college, even as my taste in music changed, I had always enjoyed Incubus. Finally getting to see them this past year would have to be my highlight.

Does creativity play an important role in your life?
Absolutely. I think that problem solving and the act of creating is what draws me to design. Tasks at work, freelance jobs and the occasional drawing when time allows all involve creativity.

The best piece of advice you can offer?
Find a job you love. That has been my biggest lesson over this past year and adult life. The changes go well beyond working hours and I couldn’t be happier. It took time, effort and patience, but was well worth finding.

 

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