Monday, 12 May 2014

Tarantula Nebula Star Forming Gas Cloud Sculpture Gallery Wrap Canvas

A gorgeous best-selling design. Click to customize or personalize. How would it look with your name or monogram on it - why not have a look-see right now?

tagged with: billowing interstellar gas clouds, awesome hubble images, tarantula nebula, large magellanic cloud, star forming activity, young hot stars, star nurseries, triggering star formation, hrbstslr tnlmcsfr, hrfptraz

Galaxies, Stars and Nebulae series An awesome mobile phone shell featuring the Tarantula Nebula of the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way, our galactic home. This Hubble image shows old stars from the distant past and rich, interstellar gas clouds feeding the formation of new ones. The most massive and hottest stars are intense, high-energy radiation sources and this pushes away what remains of the gas and dust, compressing and sculpting it. As the whorls and eddies clump and stretch it, gravity takes over and the birth of the next generation of new stars is triggered.

more items with this image
more items in the Galaxies, Stars and Nebulae series

image code: tnlmcsfr

Image credit: NASA, the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI) and ESA

»visit the HightonRidley store for more designs and products like this

Puppy Dog Birthday Party Invitation

Cute Alert!

How can you resist this cute puppy design? Maybe you'd like to see your name or initials on it? Click to customize and personalize...

tagged with: birthday, party, kids, party animals, dogs, puppy, puppies, paw, photo, pink

Invite your child's friends to their next birthday party with this customizable Dog Puppy Birthday Party Invitation. Features cute puppy dogs and a photo of your child. Some elements by License #41088

»visit the eventfulcards store for more designs and products like this
The Zazzle Promise: We promise 100% satisfaction. If you don't absolutely love it, we'll take it back!

Oh, so very tee hee!

Fun and Random

Oh, so very tee hee!
I'd get one, but, well, you know....

+Alex Charlton - I'm surprised you didn't think of this first!


Matt Mastracci originally shared:


 » see original post

Finding Readers: From Seed to Sequoia – Growing Your Blog One Reader At a Time

Blogging with purpose

original post »

From Seed to Sequoia

Today we welcome DJ from SteamFeed to our Finding Readers series. This post is chock-full of things you can do today to build your traffic – and have fun while you’re doing it! 

My guess is a portion of you won’t like this article. Growing your blog one reader at a time sounds lame, I know. We live in a world of instant gratification. It seems like any task nowadays can be completed successfully in just 15 minutes or 5 easy steps. Building a blog, a real blog, doesn’t work that way. Sorry for the hard truth but your Facebook friends weren’t going to tell you, especially Aunt Ruth.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”

Yes, I pulled out that ridiculous saying because of how insanely simple, yet helpful, advice it is. Your blog will not be an overnight success. Building your blog’s foundation requires some significant work if you want it to stand the test of time.

If you implement and follow these concepts today I promise that within 12 months you’ll see the readership of your blog increase significantly. I know this because I’m writing from experience. We took SteamFeed from a brand new blog to 100,000 views/month in just one year, and we haven’t dropped below that mark since.


In this article we’ll focus not only growing your readership but retaining them as well.


Building your network is vital. Im not talking about your likes and followers here. I’m talking about real people who engage with you in regards to your blog on a regular basis (these could be people whom consistently share your blog posts, leave thoughtful comments, or maybe they respond to you when you ask a question in your newsletter).

These are the people you need more of. Nurture them. Ignore them, and they’ll eventually move on and your blog will stay as stagnant as the day you published your first “hello world” article.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Visit the profile page of a new reader once a day and learn something about them. Use this information to build your relationship with them. Remember that real relationships, people who will buy from you someday, are built over time when you’ve earned their trust.


When you’re first starting out finding new readers can be difficult, so when you do come across them make sure you get organized to keep track of them. Try the following:

  • Follow them on social networks. Create lists, circles, or groups.
  • Use your gmail as a CRM
  • Go old school and bust out your excel sheet

Make sure you’re checking in with them from time to time. If you learn something about them that you believe they find value in then make note of that. If they’re a blogger themselves make sure you share their content, if appropriate, and/or comment on their content. Do what you can to give value in that relationship.

note: At some point it simply won’t be possible or viable to keep track of every single reader. However, if you’ve built your foundation correctly then the organic growth will come naturally. This doesn’t mean you give up on the relationships you’ve nurtured but it may mean you need to be more picky in the future with the ones you maintain.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: The more organized you are, the easier it will be to retain your readers. Whatever system you go with keep it simple and practical.


The truth is the more you post the faster your blog will grow. However, and this is a big however, if you post so frequently that the quality of your posts are just regurgitated boring rubbish you’ll do damage to your readership instead of growing it. Don’t post just to post. If it takes you an extra day or two to really create something of value, then hold off and do it right.

Also, posting consistently gives you a certain amount of credibility. It gives the reader a sense of security that they’re not going to start enjoying your content then all of a sudden you disappear on them. It’s sort of like when you start getting into a new TV show then it gets cancelled after the first season. Nobody likes that.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Set a schedule for yourself. Now stick to it. It won’t be easy but being disciplined about writing is important. If you flake for a week or two your readers will take notice.


Email capture can be an incredibly powerful tool if used correctly (we use OptinMonster). Creating a powerful email list is one of the best ways to nurture those relationships you’ve worked so hard to gain. Whatever program you decide to use just get started on one because collecting emails from day one just makes sense. Also, add a newsletter to your once-a-month to-do list. Take the time to make the newsletter personal, but make sure it’s chock full of awesome for your readers.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: 1. Grow your email list by creating a high quality ebook and offering it for free to your subscribers. 2. If appropriate, ask questions in your newsletter and see who responds. Create separate lists for these people to better track them. From time to time you can send them a first look at a new website design, added features, contest giveaways, or a preview of your latest ebook.


I can’t stress enough the importance of a great image. There is so much content on the internet right now that you need something eye-popping and vibrant to catch people’s attention. I personally love using PicMonkey, Canva, and Photoshop to help me add that little something extra to my articles.

People Love To Share Beautiful Content!

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Make sure you have the right to use someone’s image if you didn’t create it yourself, and definitely give proper credit to them. If you really like an image and you’re not sure if you’re allowed to use it, then try getting in touch with the owner of the image and tell them how much you like it and what you plan on doing with it. You never know where that connection may lead.

Guest Blogging

This is what I’m doing right now. I know that ProBlogger has a great community and a strong readership. I also know it produces high quality content that I love to read and I want my blog to be associated with that. I’m also hoping a number of people who read this article will check out SteamFeed and become a reader of my site as well. People love great content. They just don’t always know how to find it.

Magic Formula: Create a way for people to find you. Create great content so they stay. Repeat.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Don’t guest blog for just any old site. You should really focus on writing for sites that are in your niche. This is most likely where your readers will be too, and this is where your area of expertise is most likely in anyway. Also, make sure the site is credible. If they’ll just accept anyone to post on their site then you may want to think twice about associating yourself with them.


Start with a great headline for your blog posts. It’s worth your time to put some extra thought into it.

On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your title, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece. -CopyBlogger

Did you just spend hours creating the perfect blog post? Now be honest. How long did you spend marketing that blog post? If you’re going to take the time to create an amazing piece of content then get out there and let the world know about it. You don’t want it to just sit there and become irrelevant over time.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Try syndicating your content to sites like Huffington Post, Social Media Today, and Business2Community. This will help get some eyeballs to your blog.

Top 3 Takeaways

1. Focus on the quality of your content and your relationships above all else.

2. Have a plan and stay organized to effectively and efficiently grow your blog.

3. Growing your blog will take time. If you’re in it for the long run then make your decisions based on long term vision.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

Finding Readers: From Seed to Sequoia – Growing Your Blog One Reader At a Time

Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

Finding Readers: From Seed to Sequoia – Growing Your Blog One Reader At a Time

Peculiar Abstract Sandcastles by ‘Sandcastle Matt’

Fun and Random

Peculiar Abstract Sandcastles by Sandcastle Matt sand

Peculiar Abstract Sandcastles by Sandcastle Matt sand

Peculiar Abstract Sandcastles by Sandcastle Matt sand

Peculiar Abstract Sandcastles by Sandcastle Matt sand

Peculiar Abstract Sandcastles by Sandcastle Matt sand

Peculiar Abstract Sandcastles by Sandcastle Matt sand

No these aren’t the homes of mutant sea creatures or geographic oddities forged from centuries of tidal currents, they’re sandcastles built by a Massachusetts man who goes by Sandcastlematt. Using found objects like vines, plywood, and other junk he creates a sturdy framework to which he applies the classic drip method sandcastle technique resulting in these strange temorary structures that look like contemporary land art pieces.

One of Matt’s sandcastles recently made the rounds in a viral meme suggesting his work was the result of lightning striking sand, but Scientific American debunked it. See more of his castles right here.

 » see original post

Zazzle Product Sets - New to the Zaps Toolkit

There's been a lot of talk on the Zazzle forum about their recently new 'Collections' feature and how they're a good idea but not great in practice.

Project "My Zazzle Set"

That set me thinking on whether I could do a set / collections feature for Zaps. I like a challenge and that's what I've been working on for the last couple of weeks.

What I planned for

I sketched out in my mind the things it should do:
  • Objective: create a pipe for the Zaps toolkit that would allow the creation of  a collection of 4 items, drawn from Zazzle's RSS feeds and featuring different actual products each time.
  • Output: A single feed item comprising 4 products, using a fluid design
  • Product selection: By Zazzle's product type codes and a query phrase
  • Scheduling: Usual Zaps scheduling

The journey

The main difficulty was in finding a way to combine information from more than one input feed item into just one output feed item. Once that was conquered, the rest was fairly plain sailing with some difficult bits.

The main obstacle to progress was that Zazzle's feed mechanism wasn't working correctly when drawing from a store. No warning, nothing on the forum to indicate there was a problem.

I thought that the weird results I was getting lay in what I was doing and it had me going round and round in circles for a couple of days (expletives censored!)

Thanks to +DigitalDreambuilder (right one?) for saving my sanity by replying to my forum posting about it. DDB confirmed things are presently out of kilter when using a storename in a Zazzle feed request, but Market Place pulls are ok.

What I achieved

Here's a blog post created using it (I visited the last two links, hence their difference in appearance)

A blog post produced automatically by My Zazzle Set

I managed most of what I sketched out above:
  • As planned, it produces a collection of 4 products drawn from Zazzle and output as a single feed item
  • Product selection: as planned
  • Scheduling: As per Zaps with the exception of not being able to emit twice per day (but see later).
    This is a result of a timeout which limits the pool of available products (the 'ferris wheel' from which products are emitted, with the wheel clicking round one position each day)
  • There is one cool bonus aspect, introduced to allow you to test things out. This test mode forces the ferris wheel to click round one stop every hour rather than every day and it emits regardless of the run hour or minutes you set.
    • You see the results on the config screen when you run the pipe, no matter the time
    • With this test mode you can set up a recipe to email yourself with the results. After a few hours, you'll see if you're getting what you expected. Once you are you're set to go :)

Here's the config screen showing all the options:

My Zazzle Set configuration screen

I over-achieved in one area. As I worked on the html for the final output, I thought it would be a good idea to have different layouts. Right now there are two variations, one that displays the images and a caption for the collection. The other variation includes linked titles of the products under the caption.

The 'template' html for the one with the titles is:
<div style="width:100%;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;margin-bottom:0px;text-align:center;"><a rel="nofollow" href="#link0"><img src="#image0" alt="#title0" style="width:23%;" title="#title0"/></a><a rel="nofollow" href="#link1"><img src="#image1" alt="#title1" style="width:23%;" title="#title1"/></a><a rel="nofollow" href="#link2"><img src="#image2" alt="#title2" style="width:23%;" title="#title2"/></a><a rel="nofollow" href="#link3"><img src="#image3" alt="#title3" style="width:23%;" title="#title3"/></a><div style="margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;width:100%;text-align:center;">#msc</div><br><a rel="nofollow" href="#link0">#title0</a><br><a rel="nofollow" href="#link1">#title1</a><br><a rel="nofollow" href="#link2">#title2</a><br><a rel="nofollow" href="#link3">#title3</a><br></div>
All those #link0, #title0 etc are replaced with those of each product. I think the only un-obvious one is #msc which stands for My Set Caption

If you'd like to have a go at designing another template, I'd love to see it :) Put it in the comments and any I like I'll see about incorporating :)

So that's what I've been up to, what's been keeping you busy?

comments, likes, +1s, tweets are always welcome! :)