Happy New Year! the 2022 edition

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2022 begins today, and looking back, the top post here was How I Make GIFs. That process has changed significantly, so I guess I’ll need to write an update. Maybe that will be the top post this year?

A quick list of favorites this year, I hope you enjoy them too:

Consider sharing your voice and experiences with the world this year. If you don’t have a place to write yet, launch your own site with WordPress (and Jetpack) or WordPress.com, or if shorted content is your thing, take Tumblr for a spin. Don’t know what to write yet? Join the Bloganuary Challenge!

May your new year be what you make of it.

How I Make GIFs

I launched MacManX Aside about a year ago, and since then, I’ve been filling it with animated GIFs. I’m no stranger to GIFs, I like that they can provide additional context on top of text when replying, and there is even a thankfully now-dormant Slack bot at work that pings me to return a reaction GIF instead of Slack’s built-in GIF sources.

Folks have been asking me how I make GIFs for quite some time, and it seem appropriate on this almost-one-year anniversary of MacManX Aside to share that now. A quick note before you read any further, these instructions are for macOS only, but the basics might still apply to whatever you use on any other system. So, let’s learn how to properly make GIFs, or at least how I do it.

First of all, you’ll need GIF Brewery. This hasn’t been updated in a few years, but it’s very feature-rich and still works great. That’s the only third-party thing you’ll need going forward, so find your GIF’s source, and open QuickTime Player.

Get your source close to where you want the GIF to start, think of this like pre-editing, and in QuickTime choose File > New Screen Recording. Line up the crop markers and hit Record, play the video you’re recording from, and hit the stop button in the menu bar when you’re done. Not all video sources will let you record this way, some even blank out the video when QuickTime is recording. If you find that happening to you on a streaming service, try playing the video in Firefox instead, as it doesn’t seem to share the same qualms about this with other browsers.

Once you have your raw screen recording in QuickTime, choose Edit > Trim to further edit your selection. Hold the shift key while dragging the selector to move frame-by-frame, and when you’re done, choose File > Export As > 480p. There’s no reason to export higher, because we’ll size it down even further later.

Next, open the video in GIF Brewery. In the Settings section at the top-right, check “Calculate Frame Count & Delay” to synchronize your GIF’s frame rate to the video (so it’s not too fast or too slow), and “Optimize GIF Colors” and “Enhanced Color Optimization” for the best quality to file size ratio. For the color count, start at either 256 or 128 colors, more on that later.

In the Resize section at the top-left, resize the GIF to 500px wide with “Maintain aspect ratio” checked. 500px is plenty big enough, and it’s the content width in Tumblr’s default theme. Remember, someone will have to download this to view it, maybe on a mobile phone, so there’s no reason to be posting huge GIFs. Now, finish up any necessary edits at this point by clicking Frames, where you can highlight individual frames and choose “Set Start” and “Set End.”

Finally, let’s talk file size. First of all, many places allow maximum uploads of 10 MB, but don’t shoot for that. Again, someone will have to download this to view it, and they may be on a mobile phone, so be nice. I try not go higher than 5 MB in general, and no higher than 2 MB for reaction GIFs (by default, Slack won’t auto-play GIFs larger than 2 MB). When you click “Create” in GIF Brewery, after some processing time, you’ll see both your finished GIF and its file size. If you need to decrease the file size, mess around with the number of colors first, and don’t go below 48 colors. If messing with the number of colors isn’t enough, make the GIF itself smaller. I recommend no lower than 450px wide if it includes text, and no lower than 400px wide overall.

What’s that about text? Yes, you can add text in GIF Brewery! Choose Text up top where you can type your text and choose its font, color, and size. In the editing window, you’ll be able to drag that text around and right-click it to set its start and end time. You can even add multiple text elements, like I did for The Code, which has no place being embedded here so you’ll just have to click the link. Or, if you don’t want to bother with that, try making your GIFs from already subtitled sources, like that massive tokusatsu library at ShoutFactoryTV.

Most important of all though, learn by doing, tweak your formula as you go along. You won’t learn anything about making GIFs by not making GIFs, so go out there and have fun! If you don’t have anywhere to post GIFs, consider opening a Tumblr or WordPress.com site just for this. And when you post your GIF, don’t forget to share its source. If you’re using Tumblr, they have a special field for that.

Everything in this tutorial is free except GIF Brewery, which is about the price of a fancy coffee and worth every penny, so start making some GIFs today!

Happy New Year! the 2021 edition

2021 begins today, and while the new year is supposed to be about casting aside the bad things to focus on a bright future, it hardly feels that way in the midst of a global pandemic. But, writing these has been a tradition since 2013, and this doesn’t seem like a good year to break with any traditions.

Keeping with the theme, the top post here was Working From Home, written at the start of the lockdowns in the United States. I’ve been working from home for 10 years, and now most of us are, so I hope folks found it useful.

A quick list of favorites this year, I hope you enjoy them too:

This year especially, we’ll need more people sharing their voices and experiences as we navigate our lives during this pandemic, so please considering launching your own site with WordPress (and Jetpack) or WordPress.com, or start posting again if you already have one! If shorted content is your thing, take Tumblr for a spin. I didn’t think I was going to do much there, but now it’s a big part of my online presence.

If we work together and have empathy for not only one another, but also for those we lost along the way, we might just make it through 2021.

Blog What You Want To

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

“What should I write about on my new blog?” is a question I’m asked very often. I always reply with my own question, “What do you want to write about?” which always leads to an interesting conversation, so today I figured I’d take to my blog to blog about blogging, because I want to.

A lot of folks think they need to pick one subject to write about in order to build an audience fast and get rich quick, and they’re not wrong. If you write only about fish, people looking for sites about fish will find you often, and ad revenue and subscriptions can build up quick if your content is good. But, are you willing to write about fish daily or weekly for the next year or more? I’m asking not only do you have the knowledge at hand, but are you ready to put in the work solely about fish? Some people are, the existence of popular single-subject sites is proof of that, but even most of their founders have taken a back seat and hired writers instead.

Burnout is real, and if you find yourself repeatedly doing something you don’t enjoy, you may find yourself giving up or paying someone else to do the work. I know this, not only from watching single-subject sites fail over burnout, but from having personally experienced it too. I kept my Splash Panel and Rewatch reviews going for quite some time, but eventually putting the work into them became tedious. I just didn’t enjoy them anymore, and by extension, I didn’t enjoy blogging anymore.

There’s an alternative to having a single-subject site, and that’s to just write what you want to when you want to. When inspiration strikes, write it down and share it. Don’t hold yourself to a single subject or schedule, just show the world who you are. If you don’t have time to write a post at the moment, jot some notes down really quick and write it up the next day. You won’t build a following as fast as you would with a single-subject, but I can say from experience that audience will hang around a lot longer. They won’t be one-time visitors from a search engine, they’ll be long-time subscribers. That’s what I used to do around here, and I think that’s what I’ll do again.

If you’re burning out over a single subject and don’t know how to get out of that rut, start by sharing small bits of content you enjoy elsewhere. I really have to credit MLTSHP and Tumblr for reminding what it felt like to just share what I want to without being beholden to expectations, and for that reason, I’ll keep sharing things there. Stop by MacManX Aside or signup for MLTSHP any time for some random fun, but do expect more longer form random fun here from now on.

Writing for a single-subject on a schedule will almost certainly grow your site quicker, but it’s nowhere near as fun as sharing yourself with the world by sharing what you like when you’re inspired to. And, if you’ve never blogged before, stop by WordPress.com where we’ll be happy to get you started!

On Social Networks – Tumblr

Back in November, I shared some thoughts on social networks. I had just joined Tumblr at the time, so I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with it. I think I’m getting the hang of it, so I thought it would only be fair to revisit it separately. Before I continue though, please take a moment today to ask Facebook to stop profiting from hate speech and misinformation.

Back in the old days of this blog, I’d post short content far more frequently. Photos, GIFs, videos, links to articles elsewhere, single-sentence remarks, usually multiple times per day. I didn’t have anywhere else besides my Twitter account to share these things, and Twitter isn’t really built for centralized consumption, so the blog here was a more natural fit. Over time though, this blog has evolved into much longer form content, leaving no room for frequent small shares.

Tumblr is much more centralized than Twitter though, so I have begun to post small frequent shares again at MacManX Aside. Not only is the experience of browsing an individual’s content similar to consuming a stand-alone blog, but the overall community seems perfectly suited for the things I want to share. It even has specific posting styles for text, photos, quotes, links, invitations to discuss, audio, and videos, all of the things I stopped posting here (for the most part). In November, I had no clue what to post there, but the light bulb went off rather quickly, and I’ve begun posting small things I love again quite frequently. Plus, that all auto-shares to Twitter, so that’s handy. Engagement there is still low for now, but to be honest engagement has always been low here too.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a post about social networks without me mentioning my absolute favorite social network, MLTSHP. I post similar things there, far more things actually, and it is quite simply the best, kindest, most supportive, and most diverse social network I have ever been a part of. Think of it as a highly curated selection of things we love. Plus, engagement is off the charts, and everyone feels like a friend from day one. Sure, it costs $3/year to join, but that’s because it’s entirely community funded (no ads or tracking), and that tiny $3 gate seems to keep the bad people out (there is an aggressively enforced Code of Conduct for any who gets through though). Did I mention it’s entirely open source too? Anyway, if you ever decide to join, please feel free to follow me there, or check out the publicly visible Popular page if you’re unsure.

With all that said, while posts like these are somewhat permanent, my views on social network usage are always in flux. Therefore, I am now keeping an up-to-date page listing which social networks I use.

(Photo by Merakist on Unsplash)