Category “EDD”

Customize Photos is Here

Really excited to launch our new CANVAS feature. Take any HD stock photo (over 10,000 on alana.io) and transform it into your own creation. Turn the image into an ad. Turn the image into a poster. Turn the image into an ebook cover. Put the time in your blog, Twitter feed or Facebook feed. Overlay text, graphic or your own personal uploads.

How does this work?

  • Find an image you like (>10,000 free stock image at alana.io)
  • Click Customize
  • Choose Canvas Size / Dimension
  • Click Text to add custom text. Change the image background. Add filters.
  • Click Download (top navigation bar)
  • Share on Twitter, Facebook, Google or Email to yourself

Note that the image will have a watermark that can be removed for a one time fee of $0.99. Everything else, including the image is free.

Enjoy!

 

Bye Bye Email Requirement

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Excited to announce that we’ve finally gotten rid of a super annoying feature: the email ask. In the past, whenever you wanted to download a photo there would be this rather annoying email box that pops up.

Users complained. As they should. And were skeptical, as I would be. I mean why do you need an email address? Am I signing up for spam? What are you going to do with my email address and which fake one should i use?

Now, don’t get us wrong, while we are happy you provided an email, we weren’t planning to do anything with it (outside of sending you a copy of the image you just downloaded). Maybe a newsletter in the somewhat distant future, but we agree that it’s really not something needed.

I’ve mentioned this in earlier blog posts but basically, the reason the email ask box was there is we are using a plugin called Easy Digital Download (EDD). While the plugin works well, it’s not really meant for free downloads. And as it turns out, it was impossible to remove while using EDD. So long story short, we pulled the plug on it. To make the user experience seamless, we’ve replaced it with a button that simply gives what the user wants: an immediate full resolution image download.

So bye bye email requirement. We won’t miss you.

Time is Relative

 

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2015 is gone. Welcome 2016.

So I have this theory that time is relative…to what you do with it. Does it ever seem that time flies by, the older we get? I read a somewhat depressing statistic recently that, by the time your life is 30% over (assume 30 years old if you plan to live to 100) you have run through 90% of all the meaningful relationships in your life.

Doesn’t it feel like time moved slower when we were younger? I know I feel that way. That the four years I spent at the University of Chicago were longer than the subsequent 10 years working. And if you dig even further back, that the two boarding school were even longer. More memorable. More vivid. Today? Blink you eyes and you will turn 90. Don’t believe me? Check out what Helen Moses says in her New York Times article:

Your life goes so quick, all of the sudden I’m 90 years old. I remember when I was 13. I used to come home for lunch every day. And I was going down the hill and I said, Hey, I’m 13 years old already. And here I am, 90. It’s all right.

So how to we stop the torrent of time from sweeping you downstream? How do we fight back? I think you need to actively seeking new and different experiences and challenges and slip them into your every day life. Start a company. Travel. Do a little more every day. Learn to code. Give a talk on something you know nothing about.

Travel’s the easy one. For example, I  just returned from an amazing 5 day trip to Koh Samui in Thailand and then another 5 days in Hong Kong. Only 10 days total. Heck, i’ve been back longer than that and working off my jet lag. Yet as great as it was to come back, the 10 days I was out there were packed with a beautiful wedding, lazy beaches, sea side massages and lots of great ethnic food. Plus catching up with old friends. Experiences that burn the memories deep.

So for all those folks that debate whether school is worth the investment. Of time. And money. When there are worlds to conquer and “great places you will go”. I’ll tell you it is. Yeah, take that Peter Thiel. It is because an “educated life” is like viewing life in high definition. You get to see more. And by the way, you will have the rest of your life to work and make money. Enjoy your youth while you can.

 

 

Apple, You Got Me to Buy…Again.

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Mac, I’m starting to convert. I’ve always been a PC fan. No real reason other than my first computer was a 80386 PC compatible that I lugged everywhere, even onto a plane to my dorm room in Connecticut. Hand carried in a duffel bag. Was heavy. Lots of weird looks. But it was my computer and dammit I was taking it. And it had Doom 2 on it.

Fast forward and all these year I never had a reason to convert to the  Mac. Or course I started noticing even awhile back that at every tech conference I would be the only PC user. Or one of the few. Not that it really mattered to me since I tend not to care about these things. But the trend was curious. Finally, a couple weeks ago I noticed a Black Friday sale for a 13″ Macbook Air. Usually $999. Discounted to $849 on Amazon. Basically I think they were trying to move inventory before their new refresh. Ok fine, I took the plunge and bought my first Mac.

At first it was bad. Like %$% where the heck are my files bad. But thanks to Youtube and a Command shortcut I installed i’m starting to come around. Jury’s still out…but i’ll let you know.

 

How to Stop Mass Shootings

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Another day, another mass shooting. Incredibly sad. There’s a problem with guns in America. Admit it. You know. But talking about gun control without talking about solutions is a futile game. If you are serious about curbing mass shootings, someone needs to invent a next generation stun gun. Or shock wave. Take your pick.

If you listen to the political rhetoric, you’ll hear alot of inaction when it comes to guns in America. The consensus is that American’s love their guns, whether they are Democrats, Republican or Independents. Taking them away doesn’t seem politically feasible. Typical gridlock, nothing get’s done but let’s keep making money with status quo mentality.

But it’s the wrong argument. People don’t like guns. They like the perceived protection guns provide. Why? Because in a world of not so good second-best options, if you can’t ban guns altogether, the most logical thing is to get a gun yourself. Hell, with all the mass shootings out there, even I, who hates guns, am thinking about what kind of protection I need. 

But back to the solution: yes, technology is still the key to getting out of this mess. To stop mass shooting, you need to create a cheaper, most effective and less lethal form of protection that is as widely accessible as guns are at Walmart. And yes, the government should fund the development of this. The killer punch to stopping mass shootings is to roll out a new product along with increased regulation on guns and penalties for lethal discharge. But the solutions need to go hand in hand. One, without the other, is just more gridlock. So where is our generation’s Elon Musk for Guns? (And yes, Elon did get lots of help from the US government to develop his electric car).

P.S. The problem with Tasers’s is they are perceived as bringing a knife to a gunfight. So you need to change that perception by actually building a better product.

 

 

Project Management using Trello

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Trello, you are my new friend. For those who don’t know, Trello is a card based, visual planning software. That’s free. You can use it to plan a wedding, a party or in my case, the workflow and bug fixes behind the changes and upgrades we have planned for y’all. Ok, I just wanted to say y’all. Haven’t had a chance to say that often, especially here in New York.

Sure, there are alot of other software out there (Asana comes to mind to which I was an early beta user back in the day) but I’m the kind of person that wants to ‘get it’ within the first 10 seconds of seeing something for the first time. If it takes longer than 10 seconds, I usually think ‘why is this so hard to get?’ and then shelve it into the ‘experiment later’ bucket. Or maybe experiment later is probably more correct.

Fortunately, Trello took less than 10 seconds to get. Now I do have a couple of nit picks. First, it would be nice if they had a toggle to go from horizontal lists  to vertical lists. They don’t. Not out of the box as far as I can tell. Why vertical lists? Well, mainly because I originally created a list for each website section I wanted to edit. And I also wanted to keep the “To Do”, “Doing” and “Done” format consistent across the website sections we are working on, instead of having it pushed out to the far right.  I did see an extension in Chrome for that here but then I decided to just group all the changes into one long list and add additional cards below for each website section that needed to be fixed. Humm….maybe they planned it that way? Maybe not.

If none of this makes sense to you, that’s fine. Just play around with it and you’ll know what I mean. Now the good stuff: Trello makes its so much easier to keep track of edits, bug fixes, changes and layouts. I do think adding image attachments to individual checklists items, instead of cards would be a better feature…but hey, why am I complaining? its free.

Enjoy!  Happy Trails. (Yeah, I wanted to say that as well).

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Another year. Another Turkey. Thanksgiving is right around the corner; what are you thankful for? With all the chaos in the world, if things are ‘normal’; that’s good. What we used to do is go around the dining table and ask each person to say what they are thankful for. Great way to quickly get a sense of a person’s priorities or concerns, especially if you haven’t seen them in a year.

By the way, as I mentioned before, my spelling is horrendous. But not anymore! One thing I am thankful for is Grammarly; it’s a free chrome extension that checks for correct grammar. Works in the browser so it catches all my errors, whether in email or even this blog post. Thank you and have a great year!

 

Hacker News Server Melt

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So yesterday was interesting. To say the least. On whim I submitted Alana.io to YC’s Hacker News (one of my daily go-to sites) with the super user friendly title “New cc0 stock photo site” (sarcasm alert). Didn’t think much about it as there are probably millions of submissions every day. Went to grab a cup of coffee but then noticed my Google Analytics real time screen spiking. I quickly checked Hacker News again and saw we had quickly climbed to the first page! Awe…some?

Now, I’m sure we’ve all heard stories about how, as a website gets written up in Techcrunch for example, the site goes dark because the servers can’t handle it. Now, I used to imagine people running around screaming, trails of server smoke, electrical fires with alarms blazing in the background….well reality is (fortunately) slightly less dramatic. The site did slow down and even go offline for a short while (and a user was nice enough to send a screenshot) but all in all things quickly snapped back and we were back in business. Or fun. Or whatever you want to call it. So, overall I think my old, long time server actually held out pretty well under pressure. Server melt due to excessive concurrent users? Check that off my bucket list.

I did notice a few comments questioning the requirement for email addresses when downloading a photo. Its a totally fair question and one I want to clarify. The email does not automatically subscribe you to spam or any kind of mailing list. The email is there to send you the photo, by email. In retrospect it does seems like an overkill but may make more sense when you see the add-ons we have planned in the future. The main reason though is, when I was deciding how to get a MVP up quickly, I went with WordPress as a back end + Easy Digital Download to host content on Amazon S3. They had a cool “Free Download” plugin which seemed like a good idea at the time but unfortunately has a built in emails box.

I realize now how odd it might seem to folks so we are working on putting another popup box in place that will allow users to select “Download immediately” or “Send to email” (at which time the photo will be emailed to you).

I hope this clarifies things a bit. Please be patient. We are lean team (But hiring! Reach out at info@alana.io). Overall the feedback was great, super exciting and we really appreciate the votes. Thanks!

 

 

Speed, Speed and more Speed

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Speed and more speed. When you run a stock photo site you should be nuts about trying to optimize your page load time. Yeah, I learned the hard way when my initial average page load times ran about 12 seconds.

Now i’m no expert at this stuff but was able to tap into a couple cool resources:

  • Cache everything under the sun. I’ve tried W3 Cache, didn’t like it and just tried WP-Rocket. Now don’t get me wrong, i was a little leery of paying $39 for a cache plugin when there so many options for free. I’ll save you time. They rock. Totally worth it
  • Re-size Your images! So we use Amazon EC2 to host the big files but you should still resize images for the thumbnails.
  • Measure performance. Sites I use to measure performance: Pingdom and GtMetrix and WebPageTest.org.  Now there are probably a ton more tools out there, but why overthink it? Basically the goal is to try to keep site load time under 2-3 seconds. You can ignore the rest of the metrics. So its pretty well known that you start losing people around 3 second load time. And eventually I’ll shoot for getting things under 1 second (but its tough with my current server setup). Anyways, coming from 12 seconds its a big improvement.
  • You Host Matters. I have a pretty bizarre story about my hosting company. I’ve been using Hostmonster for the past 10 years with little to no issues. When I started hitting some of their soft limits, I was told to check out their sister company, Bluehost. New, fast cloud service? Sounds awesome. How do I sign up? Well, it pretty much went downhill from there; what was supposed to be a ‘couple hour’ migration turned into a week. Then I wasn’t able to add any content to my site because they wouldn’t let me customize the server time outs limits (something I could do previously). Hours and hours of tech support and frustration later, I went back to Hostmonster. Lesson? Newer and more expensive isn’t always the best option.
  • Check out your local meetups: big shout out to New York Web Performance Group. These guys are great; I went to one of their performance sessions, paid a couple bucks and ended up being the only person there. Loved it. Had two experts spend two hours working with me on my site. They even fed me pizza which is doubly cool.

 

 

 

25 High Definition Images a Day

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So we are back! We ran into some server issues earlier and now we are back to uploading 25 new images a day; all high definition and all free. Use the photos for whatever purpose you want. They are all licensed under Creative Common 0 license (CC0), which you can learn more about here.

Rain is finally gone. Great day today.

 

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