Is Social Media Truly Social.

18 01 2010

snowUK20009 Over the last few months I have been considering this question. It started off with the recent snow fall we had and how people were dealing with it. I am of the age where I can remember having similar if not worse snow fall and can remember going outside to clear all of the pavements and and the road along with all the other neighbours and kids. it was quite a social event. Everyone would talk about how cold it was and the weather being bad etc and children making snowmen and throwing snowballs – but the pavements would be clear and Cars could get out as everyone helped each other.

Compare that with today and you get everyone talking about the weather on Twitter and saying how cold it was and to stay in doors and not too go out. I had people saying to me that they couldn’t go out in their car because of the snow. These were younger people who have never experienced anything worse than a couple of inches of snow and certainly don’t know how to travel in a car in slippery conditions. So rather than try and do these things, they simply give up because they have been told it would be too difficult. Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t want anyone to put themselves or others at risk; however my point here is that we simply talk or tweet about these things and not with the people that actually live in our own social community. I personally don’t know all of my neighbours and I doubt if I’m the only one who doesn’t.

So this started me thinking about the so called Social Media – The media might be social, but is it affecting the way we socialise in general?

Dhavri Slums Mumbai I was watching TV and saw a programme about Mumbai and the slums. It was a documentary by Channel four, Kevin McCloud: Slumming It. It showed the slums of Dharavi and how it truly had a community spirit. With over 80% employed (yes in the slums the majority worked there) but what really showed was that everyone had a good community spirit with nearly no crime rate and in the evenings everyone was together catching up on things and helping and sharing sharing together. A  real social gathering. So what did these people have that we didn’t?

Well the answer isn’t what they have that we don’t, but what we have that they don’t. They don’t have the technology that we do. You don’t see them checking their twitter accounts or writing on their blogs (like me now) but rather they actually communicate with each other in a way that we no longer do. They speak to each other face to face.

What does this show? To me and I’m sure lots of others, it is easy if not easier to send a quick email or msn message, or to write a quick post rather than meet people face to face. We call this progress and technology, but are we actually making things worse. We have lost all of the social skills necessary to communicate effectively with our fellow human beings and now the young ones growing up with this so called advanced technology have lost the ability to talk to others unless it is over a headset while playing their latest game and letting their friends know where they are on Twitter.

Is social media an add on to our real social life or has it become a replacement?

Comparing the positive side of Dharavi Social gatherings and the way we used to help each other when it snowed. I can only come to the conclusion that not everything that is called Social, necessarily improves our Social capabilities.


Consumer Electronics Show site doesn’t work correctly

5 01 2010


This is how the site looks in Google Chrome and Firefox



As you can see the menus are hidden behind other objects. The site works correctly in IE but I don’t see why users should be forced to use a specific browser to use the site.

This is a classic example of developers and testing not communicating and probably due to time scales and rushing things out having a detrimental effect on your target audience.

Another bug-bear I have found is that if your target audience is new visitors to the exhibition, I defy anyone to approach this site as a new user and find out what CES actually stands for or even the location of the Exhibition.

If you want to find out about what is going on and who will be there, the site is great; however if the site is targeted at this audience then they should have a section for new users/visitors.

These are just a few of my personal opinions from my initial visit to the home page. I’m not going to give the site a full critique. From a new users point of view I probably wouldn’t go much further than the home page unless I was really interested in going to the exhibition. It would also make me think about what the exhibition would be like if they can’t organise a web site to work on different browsers (yes I know this isn’t the case, I’m looking at it from a new users point of view).

How to design a customised Twitter background

3 01 2010

Alexandra Levit (Workplace author and speaker) asked the question via Twitter


I took a look at her Twitter page and could see that she had tried to add an image of her new book – New Job New You:A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career 


So based upon this knowledge I thought I would have a go at creating a background for her using an image of her new book.

This is what I came up with. (applied on my own Twitter account)


I’m not sure if this tutorial is going to be classed as EASY which is what Alexandra is looking for, but it should allow you to have the basics of what you need to do to create a background image usable with various colours (more on this later).

I will also go through a step by step of how you make the necessary changes within your Twitter account.

The tools I used to create this are:

Fireworks for editing the images, you can use whichever image editor you prefer, but it will need to be able to output images in png format with transparency.

I also use TechSmiths SnagIt but you can use the free Jing software again from TechSmith which is very good and free. You don’t need this for creating the background images, I just use it to make life easier – as you will see later on.

Creating a book image

I took a screenshot of my Twitter page, using SnagIt, as I didn’t know the sizes that I would be working with and then created a new Fireworks document and pasted it in.


I needed to make sure that I took the screen shot exactly from the left edge. I wasn’t took concerned from the right hand side and in fact I could have made it much smaller and only included a bit of the actually page, but for me, I like to see what it would look like as a complete page.

I now have something to work with. The next thing I need was an image of Alexandra’s book. Which I found on Amazon (I’m sure Amazon and Alexandra don’t mind me doing that – I hope!)


We need to edit this image, as you see it has added white sections on the left and right. So lets crop it in Fireworks to the correct size.

View a Screencast of how to do this (created with Jing)

Save the image once cropped. We now have an image of the book that we can insert onto our page.

Before we import the book image I added a guide so that I can line up the book image correctly. Screencast

Import the book image into the Twitter image we took the screenshot of earlier. Fireworks menu – File – Import select the image just cropped of the book

Insert the image by dragging the selection to the correct size Screencast

You should now have something like this:


Now that we have everything looking correct within Fireworks, we now need to export the bits that we need so that we can use them within our Twitter account.

From all of this, all we are going to export again is the book Image with a bit of extra space around it and that extra space needs to be transparent – explained later.

So lets add a slice to our image.

imageTo add a slice we use the slice tool on the Fireworks menu on the left

Then drag the slice from the  top left of the image to the bottom right of the book. It should look something like this:


Before we export the slice we need to make a few adjustments to get the correct output.

First lets change our Optimize settings.


Lets change them so they are PNG-32 and change the Matte to none (for transparency)






it should look like this…


We now need to make the background of our image transparent as well. To do this lets turn off all the other image we aren’t going to export to make it a bit easier.


Turn off the layer for the bottom Bitmap – just click on the eye to do this.


You page should now look like this:


Click anywhere on the white background. The properties section at the bottom of the page should be showing.


Click the white box next to Canvas:

Again choose the transparent option as you did previously.

Your page should now look like this:


OK we are now ready to export the image.

Right click anywhere on your selected slice and choose Export Selected Slice.

You shouldn’t have to alter any of the setting.


Choose an appropriate file name (I chose bookBackground.png) and click Export making sure you know where you saved it so you can get to it later.

OK we are now done with Fireworks – phew! 

Make sure you have your file saved and go ahead and close it down as we wont be needing it again (hopefully if everything as gone correctly) you have been saving your file regularly haven’t you? perhaps I should have mentioned that as we went though this!

Changing your Twitter settings

Log into your Twitter account and choose settings from the top menu.


Then Design


This is where you can choose which background you want to use.


Select the Change background Image option at the bottom. Which will give you the following options:


Select the choose file and select the bookBackground.png image you previously saved.

Once you select it your file name will display next to the choose File button. (to me this is a bit of a bug as the image doesn’t display on the page until you actually click the save changes button. All the rest of the of the option provide a preview before clicking the save changes.)

Go ahead and click the save changes.

If everything has gone correctly your book image should now be showing on your page.

One more thing to mention before leaving this tutorial – the reason we used a transparent image is so that you can choose whichever background colour you want and the book image will still look correct. If you are sure you are never going to change the colour, you could have chosen that colour from your Canvas within fireworks and exported the image as a Gif. Personally I think it is best to use transparency, just in case.

So lets change the colour of the background to prove it works. At the bottom of the screen on the right choose the Change Design Colors


Click the first box to change the background

Either enter the Hexadecimal code if you know it! Or just pick the colour using the colour picker. You will notice that as you select your colour the background changes accordingly so you can preview what it will look like. As you do so your book image should look as good as it did with the first background colour you used.

Go ahead and click save changes once you are happy with your colour.

And Finally

I hope you have found this tutorial useful.

If so and you would like to help me raise money for Myeloma Cancer Research, you can do so via my JustGiving page. You can follow my other blog ‘My Life With Myeloma’ to see my personal progress dealing with cancer.


Many thanks



WordPress Tags: Tutorial,Fireworks,Twitter,background