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Earth People technology

Photography’s hottest stars are on Twitter

Happy Sunday to you all. After Wednesday’s wonderful post, I thought it would be great to follow up today with astrophotography. What else are you going to do on a Sunday night besides look up at the sky?

As usual, when you view, please remember to visit each account and leave some feedback for the talented photographers. We have lots of tweets to view, so sit back and scroll.

Amit, Exploring Night Sky, is on Twitter. By day, he is a software developer. His work as an astrophotographer has won him awards. He is based in New Zealand, and he says that his photography of the night sky has helped him overcome the fear of darkness. This is why he enjoys bringing the night sky to you. He is dedicated to his art, and in Guiding Light, his patience won out after eight hours of driving and eight hundred steps to the top of a lighthouse. After a long wait, the dark clouds cleared, and you can see what his camera lens picked up.

Adrien Mauduit is an engineer, author, aurora guide, professional night sky photographer and cinematographer. He is mostly specialising in time lapse images. This collection features some of his most innovative astrolapse work, which is also the first such photography work to be minted on the ethereum blockchain.

Ross is an astrophotographer from the UK and he uses photographs to inspire people to get outdoors and see the beauty in the heavens above. His favourite image is one of the Andromeda Galaxy, but I am going to showcase this video of the Orion images he has worked on. Ross did a lot to help organise this showcase, and he did so by spreading the word among his colleagues and friends. Thank you, Ross.

Mustafa Aydin, from Turkey, is a superstar on Twitter. Shield your eyes before looking at his spectacular follower count. He is adored on Twitter, and I will tell you why. He takes amazing photographs and he has a great personality. He regularly drops into conversations by replying to my tweets, and he was kind enough to join in this showcase today. Mustafa is interested in deep space astrophotography as well as widefield and Milky Way astrophotography. He loves the endless learning curve and we love the goosebumps we get from looking at his work.

Josh is a sixteen-year-old New Zealander, and he is part of the Twitter astrophotography community. During the day, he explores our beautiful planet, and at night, the stunning night sky above. You can see some of his beautiful work on his Twitter profile.

Tom is also from New Zealand, and he is the same age as Josh. Isn’t it heartwarming to see young people so enamoured by our planet, our solar system, and this expansive universe? Tom is well-loved wherever he goes, and it is always a joy to chat with him in Twitter Spaces. He reminds us that his work is based around creating a connection between earth, people and the universe. His passion for art and the stars has been there ever since he was very young. Like him, I am happy he discovered this amazing hobby.

In his own words, “My work is based around creating a connection between earth, people and the universe: to bring it to those who can’t access it due to the sad reality of light pollution within our cities. I try to spark a sense of curiosity for the night sky through my images, as I believe it can teach us valuable perspectives on how we live our lives, the world around us, and who we are as people. My appreciation for art and the stars has been there from a young age, first inspired by the Hubble space telescopes incredible images. I am so happy to have found something that I’m passionate about and to have others supporting me with it!”

Diego Juaregui is from Argentina and he is an amateur astrophotographer. He likes the feeling of being alone in a faraway place watching the stars and thinking about infinity. It is a comforting feeling.

Marcel Strelow is a landscape photographer from Munich, Germany. He has been into nightscapes forever and fell in love with deep sky photography during the last lockdown in winter.

Mark Coull is from Scotland and is relatively new to astrophotography. He is learning incredibly quickly. His fast progress might be due to his eye for detail, which he refined as a multimedia designer. He loves to learn and is here to teach. We are glad he is. Our galaxy has a beautiful palette, and you can find more of it on Mark’s timeline.

Yusuf Qureshi is a UK astrophotographer now based in New Zealand. He says that the skies out there feel so special. And under the shining stars, he feels at peace as he is pointing his camera lens up towards them. Let us join him outside soon.

From Switzerland, we have Marco Kern, a landscape photographer who is passionate about stargazing. He loves the silence of the night when he can be alone under the stars.

And here comes Willard Sharp, stormchaser from Madrid, Iowa. It was wonderful meeting an American astrophotographer, as my time zone puts me closer to Europe, Asia and Oceania. In this image, you can see the rig he set up in his backyard. Then look below to see an example of what he captured. That is a truly spectacular view.

In India, we have Ubik, a photographer and filmmaker who has been documenting life in photos for the past 12 years. He enjoys running around on sleepless nights to get a glimpse of the night sky. And then, he takes it all in on camera. He finds the process meditative and we love that about his work.

Ronan Hunt is from rainy Ireland, and we are happy he is able to capture beautiful images for us to enjoy. If you want to make friends with Ronan, his Discord server is linked on his Twitter bio. Feel free to follow him or add him to your list of favourite photographers so you can keep up with his amazing work.

Our other American friend comes to us from New Jersey. His handle name is Desclafani Photography and he loves to share his knowledge of photography with his followers. Visit his profile and follow him. He is always ready to share his process.

Lee and Brenda Amber are a family of photographers based in California. They have a fascinating story, and if you want to learn more, please join them in Twitter Spaces. As a family, they love the magic of capturing a moment with a camera. They enjoy sharing images that show what they saw and how they felt.

Across the ocean, in the UK, we meet Sajjad, who is based in London. He traveled back to Pakistan to take photos of the night sky here. From his rooftop, he took some of the Helix Nebula, NGC 729, a planetary nebula located in Aquarius. Below that, you can see the image he captured of the North American Nebula, NGC 7000.

Give a warm welcome to Thai photographer, Notto. I am happy when I see his work in my timeline. And not only is he a member of one of the most wonderful communities of artists on Twitter, but his work there is also admired by photographers everywhere. Visit his profile, follow him, and enjoy his wonderful work.

We round out the presentation with Jack, a New Zealander who is actively involved in the NFT community. He was the first person to respond to my call for submissions and I am so glad he did because his work is stunning. Or is it, “Stella”?

I think we have covered most of the planet, and I am proud to be colleagues with these talented artists. Each of the astrophotographers featured creates non fungible tokens from their photography work. They are also active members of the NFT community and we wish them all the best. Thank you for viewing this gallery.

Categories
about me art artificial intelligence creative writing fiction opinion People technology

Instagram’s smart tech is a loving me thing

It is Saturday afternoon and as I write this, I am waiting for a meeting to resume. Unfortunately, two expatriates seated at the far corner of the conference room are talking loudly about assorted bedroom activities. I gather that the man is gay and his friend is a married straight woman. I suppose they are comparing notes?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

It was impossible to hear myself think, so I am standing near an open window to let the sound of traffic drown out their voices. And while I am here, I thought it would be good idea to update you with my Instagram goings on.

At the moment, I’m hardly posting on Instagram. But for the past eight days, every 23 hours to the hour, I see that I have 25 new followers. This exact number, at exactly the same time, tells me that this is the work of a machine. 

Remember that last year, Instagram was burning my posts. And now, after two months on the platform, the smart tech is working for me. I was advised in a Clubhouse room, a couple of months ago, that Instagram was doing a big reset. I was also advised to take advantage because this was a once-in-a-lifetime event. The problem is that I am an introvert and going live on video will never happen. Because of that, I needed a modified approach.

Photo by Tim Gouw

Here is what happened after two months and 18 reels, 3 (15-second) stories daily, no lingerie selfies, and zero live posts. I am at 472 followers. My account is growing every day, so I will continue on this path. (If only Twitter were as malleable).

Metrics 

  1. This is a business account. 
  2. I do not pay for ads which means that all of my engagement is organic. 
  3. All of the new followers brought over from Instagram’s smart tech are 85% artists in the NFT community, 5% follower boosting accounts and 10% crypto investors. 
  4. Quite a number of my other followers are from Clubhouse. The apps share data with each other. Instagram will automatically suggest my account to anyone following me over there and vice versa.
Photo by Fiona Art

Posts and engagement  

  1. After my first five posts, I started posting reels in the form of animated videos showcasing my artwork. 
  2. Avoid captions. Only a few of my reels have them. Instead, I tell a story in a slideshow or MP4 video. 
  3. Nearly zero hashtags on posts or reels. Instagram treats hashtags like spam. 
  4. Edit all videos or images (to create a slideshow) in the IG native editor using filters.
  5. Add music and carefully choose clips within the song to match the story. Music choice is the number one compliment I have received so far. People seem to have a positive emotional reaction my artwork because of the music. 
  6. Repost my own reels/posts to stories. 
  7. Hashtags only in stories – limited to one per story and this is always NFT related. 
  8. Follow back as many accounts as possible. Check occasionally to make sure that all followed accounts are active. 
  9. Restrict spammy, fake looking accounts and never follow sales people (crypto investors). 
  10. Reply to all comments and respond to private messages. Delete messages I don’t want to answer. Accounts look spammy if they don’t talk to each other. 
  11. Mute accounts that post more than 5 reels in one hour. These kinds of accounts rarely engage with my posts. Then I look spammy to the smart tech. 
  12. Visit new followers’ profiles and engage with posts. 
  13. Engage with my timeline. Hide, mute, like or share posts to friends.
  14. Join live broadcasts even for a few minutes. Send comments and reactions while there. This signals that I am a real person.
  15. Engage with my followers’ stories by sending reactions and comments. Gauge feedback to these and mute accounts that are not responsive. 
  16. Remix posts from active followers and share them to my stories. Add music, fun stickers, gifs, scribbles, text and mentions.
  17. When a follower adds the above remix in their stories, immediately share to my stories.
  18. Use voice memos or calls where possible. 
Photo by Steve Johnson

If you are interested in testing this approach, try it on your Instagram account. I must point out that I am niche specific. I am an artist in the NFT community. I focus on graphic design and I’m interested in paintings from visual artists. And though I never tell Instagram what my specific niches are by using captions or hashtags, the smart tech introduced me to blockchain specialists, abstract painters and 3D/animation artists in the NFT space. Then, bear in mind that I spend no more than 30 minutes a day creating at least three stories. I also respond to all of my messages.

No selfies, no bikinis, no bare butts. Only plenty of good music, interesting stickers, and artwork to inspire me. Best of luck.

Categories
artificial intelligence technology women writing

Clubhouse v Greenroom: Tuesday AM Beef

Where two or more humans are gathered on a social media platform, there will be beef. And, on Tuesday morning, social audio delivered two servings of beef to me before I even got out of bed.

It started when I woke up at 1 AM to have some water. I checked my phone and noticed an invitation to join a Greenroom networking session. The room looked like an exploded space ship. Avatars were floating about, and all mics were muted. In the notifications was a hyperlink to an adjacent Clubhouse networking session, so I beamed myself in. After saying hello to the group, I bid everyone a good night and promised to visit again.

Five hours later, I was awake. Now, I checked new messages in a Discord server for creators. Almost all of the members were posting screen captures of notifications showing that they had been blocked from entering one particular room on Greenroom. These individuals were all button-down suburban types, and not ratchet gang-gang Crips v Blood folk. The person accused of starting the drama was a new member of the server. I thought that for sure, the server was under attack (!) so I sent a message to the administrator.

Seconds later, I was back in the Clubhouse room from earlier that morning because I wanted to see if the group was still active. I noticed that the room had a different title, and that the host was discussing the blocking incident. He explained how groups worked to “steal networks” from influencers. The app is only three weeks old, but Evil never rests. I turned off my phone, put it on my desk, and went to work.

As I reflected on the storm that was swirling in my phone, it occurred to me that burnout on social media is caused by emotional attachments to vanity metrics. In the end, these metrics are a rendering of specific data points in virtual space. Many of us do not have a clear purpose for using social media applications. Too often, we misuse them and then blame “social media” for dampening our creative spirit.

I reminded myself that I should focus on communicating with the smart technology that runs these platforms. And how do I define effective communication on each platform? Knowing that they have different functions, learning what they require for sustenance, and feeding them.

On Sunday, for example, I practised a focused detachment on Twitter. Applying a formula to composing my tweets, I noticed that each one was retweeted. Then, I focused on networking on Greenroom. In a short time, I got a dozen new follows. These individuals searched for my profile on Clubhouse and followed me there, too. Stress level? Zero.

Yesterday, I took a break from my tested formulae to whine about “rude people”. My tweet was ignored. I allowed myself to get irritated by a creepy person leering at an attractive woman posing in underwear. I was taking things personally, and not being purposeful about promoting my business. No-one followed me. I promised to manage my time better.

To be honest, Tuesday’s incidents were nonstarters and quite boring. But I could see how people get addicted to feelings and then lose sight of their objectives. On Wednesday morning, everyone had moved on, so Tuesday’s energy expenditure was nullifed.

There is nothing I can do to convince anyone to feel less possessive over imaginary fiefdoms populated by the digital imprints of purported people. Perhaps my scepticism is based on the understanding that anything existing in electronic form can be made up, invented, copied, duplicated, forged, faked and reproduced. And it goes without saying that given how easy it is to do all of that, beefing over vanity metrics means next to nothing if you cannot convince your followers to show up for you when and where it matters.

Categories
opinion technology women

Social Audio Etiquette

Are you a writer, artist or creative professional using social audio for marketing? Do you wonder if there is a chapter in Debrett’s Handbook on social audio etiquette? If you are networking on Greenroom, Twitter Spaces, and Clubhouse, you will need good conversation skills. And until they update the Handbook, I will offer you some tips. Put them into practice and reap the rewards of branding through social audio.

I have been on Clubhouse for two weeks, and just over a week on Greenroom. Occasionally, Spaces show up on my Twitter timeline, and I drop in to listen as often as I can. And as I observed conversations in each space, I noticed that branded influencers had excellent social audio etiquette.

Before I present my list, I should point out that boundaries are important online. Your conversations are public, and rooms may be recorded without your knowledge or consent. Refrain from sharing private information to satisfy a listener’s curiosity.

On Sunday, I dropped in on a Greenroom conversation with a well-known podcaster. A voice without an avatar started asking me personal questions. Imagine hearing your name called out over the PA system at a crowded coffee shop, as someone asks you to say your street address and read out details from your driver’s license. It felt like that to me.

This kind of nosy question-asking is quite common, unfortunately, even offline. It happens because many people do not realise that you can learn good conversation skills. Which is why, when you practice these skills, you will grow your audience in a relatively short time. 

Interruption as strategy 
You may be surprised at how often people interrupt speakers on stage to ask an unrelated question. One reason for these kinds of questions is that the person wants to quickly form an opinion of you. Another reason is that they do not want to hear what you have to say. The distracting question serves to start a new topic or allow the person to become the focus of the conversation.

The polite response to this is silence. Mute your microphone, and allow some of the awkwardness to revert back to the speaker. It is polite to let the host start a new topic. Learn from my mistakes: You will never control another person’s inappropriate behaviour by raising an objection to it. They receive the attention they want by diverting you from the topic of discussion. And you may find that your response will irritate listeners.

For your part, be considerate by first observing the room dynamics (read the room), and then decide if you want to participate in the discussion. Focus on the topic of conversation and avoid questions that will start an unrelated topic thread. If you wish to do that, ask to connect with the speaker outside of the room, and continue your discussions there.

Even with the best of intentions, it is possible to say something that makes someone uncomfortable in your audio space. You can avoid this by limiting the meeting time, preparing open-ended questions, and having a list of topics ready before hosting a room.

Below, I have compiled five habits that will help you in social audio spaces. Your objective, as you practice them, is to maintain a positive atmosphere around yourself. When you send out invites to your own audio spaces in future, your guests should remember how they felt whenever they were on stage with you and be happy to support you. 


Ask after objectives
Take a cue from hosts with large followings. They ask fellow speakers why they are participating in the conversation. They do this because they want to know how best to include the person in discussions. If you must, must, must ask an off-topic question, explain why you need to know this information. Again, be mindful that you are in a recorded conversation in a public forum.

Ask about experiences 
If you want to play FBI, try asking someone to demonstrate their skills. They can do this by explaining something complex, or by rephrasing a statement. Be indirect and open-ended to elicit quality answers. Whereas, questions that require a one-word answer will leave the conversation dry. You will soon run out of things to talk about. Your audience will remember that.  

Verbalise your offer to let someone speak first 
With some platforms, if you would like to speak, you may interrupt another speaker. After a few seconds of silence, say, “I would like someone else to go first,” or something similar, and wait. That usually breaks the deadlock and gives you time to prepare. Remember that you want to be the last person to offer an opinion. 

Explain any interruptions
At times, I am listening to a conversation while getting ready for work. For that reason, I may want to say something before the moderator moves on to the next topic. In that situation, I will say, “It’s six in the morning, and because I am getting ready for work, allow me to interject here so you can get on with the discussion?” Then, I speak for a very short time. Every time I do this, I get new follows and because of that, I will keep it up. 

Follow through immediately 
Whenever you receive invitations to collaborate or converse privately,  follow through immediately. This shows that you are interested in hearing what the other person has to say. Conversations disappear into the memory’s ether, which is why collaborations are more likely to happen when you are responsive. Here are seven ways to follow up: 

1. Save, share or comment on social media posts.  
2. Post conversation notes with mentions to Instagram stories.
3. Quote tweets with a thank-you note. 
4. Retweet a post relevant to the topic. 
5. Subscribe to newsletters.
6. Send direct messages.
7. Send email. 

Then, it is up to the speaker to show that they are equally interested in collaborating with you. My preferred method of following up is to tweet out from the room immediately after the offer has been made. I am noticing engagement on these kinds of tweets, even from people not in the conversation, and I will continue doing that. 

Summary
It has only been two short weeks but so far, I can say that social audio feels like a casual chat at your local coffee shop. The connections you make tend to be fleeting. And because of that, you should work to build upon them so that your networking efforts become meaningful in retrospect.

When hosting, allow people to freely drop in and out of the room. But make them so comfortable they will apologise for leaving. Maybe you are not hoping to become a branded influencer, and that is okay. But if you cultivate good conversation skills for social audio, you will remain at the top of everyone’s VIP invitation list. And that is where you belong. Hang in there, and good luck with networking.

Categories
People women writing

Rinse, repeat …

Collage with postage stamps

So far, the new WordPress editor is driving me bonkers and is about to get slapped upside the head with my pimp hand after trying to stitch me up via Siri. 

Warning! Rant …

I spent the last four days trying to delete my Instagram account, which I started four days ago. Before that, I was forced to shred my Twitter posts, all 202 of them and delete my account. Long story short, Twitter is Babylon.

I have sworn that I would never use Facebook products ever. I had to go back on my word because I’m not able to travel overseas this year. 

Instagram’s software decided that my photos were professional-looking. I was prompted to upgrade to a professional account and pay for advertising. They then said that I needed a Facebook page (so they can mine my data and sell me ads). I declined because I wasn’t going to sell my artwork anyway, and their analytics are irrelevant. I was planning to post photos from my archives to establish some credentials. I wanted other artists to pay attention to me when I engaged with them. Instead, from the fourth post in, my photos started vanishing. Soon after, I was not allowed to react to stories, or comment on more than four consecutive posts. So I said, I’m done. Four days later, after several thwarted attempts, I finally did it.

I was miserable the whole time.

You have to understand, I study programming and machine learning so I know how algorithms work. I don’t believe that their algorithms are even-handed. Machine learning code requires human input and all of that “the algorithm changes constantly” nonsense you see in tech magazines, is shorthand for “our programmers are constantly re-drafting the code so that people who are not buying advertisements will feel compelled to do that”.  

I had zero followers and was getting suppressed. It is a clear sign that Facebook exists to sell advertisements. They don’t cater to anyone who refuses to add to their bottom line. I don’t have access to their servers, so there is nothing I can do to change their policy to help myself.

Please do not ask me about all of the accounts I visited in stealth mode. Oh, I spied on everybody: neighbours all the way to my former teachers, classmates, childhood friends, crushes, crushes’ crushes, uni friends, colleagues. People are so nice when they don’t know it’s me commenting.

One of my cousins, who is a fashion designer, sent me a lovely welcome audio message to thank me for joining her army of fans. In real life, her husband banned her from talking to me because I told my cousin she should not allow her husband to name himself CEO of her multinational fashion brand, which she started on her own. He has no business training, mind you. He claims on his social media accounts that he is naturally better at business because he’s a dude and men are traditionally the provider. It’s a very long story – and you can read about it at that link. 

I woke up on Sunday morning to a face full of the power couple in an Instagram live stream. Their marriage is amazing and perfect and stuff so they were cohosting a marriage counselling session with a very good-looking celebrity singer couple. I had to intervene after a guest complained that her man wasn’t ready to have children. She joked that her friend told her to take a sample of his you-know-what while he was sleeping. I quickly jumped in the chat to say that it was assault and battery. (If I had a partner kinda sorta joke that they would impregnate me in my sleep, there’d be no discussion about it: that would be the very end. Don’t say hi to me, get lost forever).

Of course the power couples ignored me. Because, they don’t have any knowledge about fundamental human rights. And why would they? They’re not really helping anyone, they’re building a brand.

 

Categories
opinion

Hygiene

Hygiene, or a sense of professional decorum, is important when communicating with readers. In this post, I discuss my personal blogging hygiene. I am not the most appropriate person around here, but I have guidelines for being “professional” even while I’m acting out.

The Emperor’s Nude Hose, courtesy The Daily Mail.

Terminology
There’s a follow button around here but I’m not Yeezus. I prefer to say subscribers or readers. Frankly, no-one is hanging on my every word. Everyone visits willingly and this makes feedback immensely valuable.

Calling cards
Right, so when someone gives some feedback on a post, I never assume they’re in love. They’re not getting carried away in the fantasy of us. In return for their kind support, I don’t suddenly post missives about my happy family life, my husband, wife and three point five children, my happy engagement, my hot muscular boyfriend, my busty girlfriend or announce that I am in fact, gay, asexual or bisexual. I don’t conclude that attention from a blogger means they want, you know, a relationship. Like, for real? That’s whack.

Rapport
To begin with, I try to post things that readers might enjoy. If I invite feedback, I look out for it and respond as soon as I see it. If I have objections to post content, I quietly leave. WordPress is not a bistro, so ordering authors around is not on. Conversations and continued attention are the best ways to develop rapport with other bloggers. Self-adulatory messages along these lines don’t count: “Hello, Good on you for recognising my genius. I’m grateful for every minion…”

Taylor Swift needs eye drops
Humblebrag or brag-brag? I can’t decide.

Command prompts
Showing up on blogs like the Supreme Queen of the Universe and commanding bloggers to “read, like and follow” is poor form. Occasionally, I point bloggers to posts I’ve written but when phrasing my requests, I remember how someone snarled at me, “Obviously you didn’t memorise read my (PhD thesis) proposal.” It had taken him six years, on two scholarships, to write four pages. It was a full two minute read. I promised to never talk to anyone like that.

Assumptions
When someone visits my catalog and exclaims that I’m “strange”, I’m reminded of the recording artist (you’ve never heard of him) to whom I was almost engaged. He had spent his career in the tabloids, on stages and in bathtubs with models in a drug induced haze. He called me, “stuck up” because I said that in our future together on Paradise Island, I would like to spend Sunday mornings watching polo. Think about this for a minute. To what was this person’s assessment of “fun” calibrated? Thank you.

Image credit: Behance

Solidarity
I’m not a judging panelist, but a member of a community. So, when commenting on posts, I’ll say how much I enjoyed reading. I’ll read as if I’m watching my favourite Russian pianist live in concert. I call out from the balcony. Brava! Bella! Then, backstage, I shower her with kisses. I offer the same to you.