Generic Stock Photos and Clip Art- Stop the Blandness!

First, a note- I often worry that blogging more about things that bother me rather than fluffier posts about life and marketing will make me look like an old crank. I stopped worrying about that- as long as I’m providing a solution, such posts have value to some people, I hope. So here goes…

Every once in a while as I flip through posts in Google Reader, I am assaulted over and over by images that offend me. By this I do not mean, shocking, inappropriate or obscene images. I do not mean ugly are provocative either. I mean bland. I mean images with only the most tenuous relation to the topic- or an all-too-obvious pun connecting them to the content. I mean… generic stock images and clip art.

For example; If you want to talk about making something more “sexy,” force the analogy with a generic sexy image like the one to the right:

Nothing like covering your intellectual laziness and lack of cleverness by exposing it, right?

Here’s another– the smiling faces that mean to portray a mood, or illustrate a point, but when overused just look fake (because they are). I may be crankier than most, but they put me in a mood not intended by most authors:

Clipart is overused, though at times it can effectively illustrate a point. As with anything trite, however, it loses meaning pretty quickly.

OK, you get the picture. So, what to do? We are not all artists who can draw our own figures. The solution? Think about expressing yourself by finding unusual, compelling, even provocative images in places that others don’t look, or that have an ever-changing supply of content. Look at this one I found through Flickr advanced search:

boring 90541

Boring 90541 by s.alt on Flickr

I love using Flickr, especially as the advanced search lets you look for photos whose owners have given permission, through Creative Commons licensing, to use them royalty free. More importantly, I love using them because it is easier to find unusual photos and graphics that are less fake-looking and not overused. Just sharpen up your keyword-searching skills and you will have an bottomless well of material.

I also applaud using your own photos. If you are like me, they may look less professional, but that can be a point in your favor– people know it is from you, and, as with the Flickr searches, they are photos you picked for a reason, not from some finite set of glossy stock images. If you happen to be a good photographer, all the better. For example, if I wanted to do some silly riff on the 12 Days of Christmas, I have 2 turtle doves ready to go:


I’m not saying don’t use stock images or clip art. Don’t let anybody tell you what to do (don’t let me tell you not to let anybody… never mind). If it fits, you’ll know; use it. If it’s trite, boring, or lazy, it’ll show.

OK, one last image: Who will be the next to use this when complaining about unwanted electronic correspondence?

Not me.

ADDING: Tell me what you think in comments below, and link to examples if you like. I’ll check my comment moderation folder if my spam program gets all uppity.

* By the way, the top image is courtesy of Ike Pigott (Who the Heck is Ike?); the other photos were taken from blogs that did not credit the original sources (huh?) and I’d rather not single out the blogs because by and large they do things I love as well.

Pan-Mass Challenge 2011: This Time it’s Personal

It’s official; I have signed up to ride the 2011 Pan Mass Challenge, a two-day ride to benefit the Dan Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. This will be my 4th year riding. In the past I have simply stated I like to ride and this is a good cause. I don’t like to be part of the story or pull heart strings…

PMC2010 doughaslam kent mitch steve

2010 PMC

However, this year is different. In September, we lost my wife’s father after his long fight with cancer, and since last spring, my father has been fighting cancer as well.

So, this year, my appeal for help is a little more personal. I still enjoy riding, and the PMC is an impressively well-run event, but if the money I help raise means people will get better and better treatment- and perhaps, even helps find a cure- I am more focused on that than ever.

Me! PMC 2009 doughaslam

2009 PMC

People have been generous the last few years, and it comes time for me to ask again– please help by sponsoring my ride- 100% of the funds go directly to Dana Farber– not to administration, salaries or anything but straight to cancer treatment and cure. To sponsor my ride, please got to – and Thank You!

PMC 2008: Wally and Me

2008 PMC

Privacy; Being a Social Media Pro and a Dad

Our son turned thirteen last month.

We decided not to let him get a Facebook account.

Of course, it’s not that simple, is it? As a social media professional, I had eyed this day for some time, wondering if working in social media meant that, of course, I had to have my kid trained and ready to go, right?

Not so fast.

While I am something of an over-sharer in my pursuit to understand social media tools, my enjoyment in using them, and the expansion of my professional/social circles, I’m not as eager to get my child involved as one might think. I do want him to use these tools, use them smart and use them well. just not now.

Does that mean other parents shouldn’t let their young teens on Facebook? No, everyone makes their own rules and their own choices, and several friends have let their kids on at younger ages.

Privacy and safety certainly are concerns. While I’m not as extreme in worrying about such things as my friend Chris Penn, he has some point in this post. I do, however, have my own personal privacy policy. I will expect my son to follow it, and it involves a level of awareness and maturity that frankly isn’t necessary yet.

One of those privacy rules is that I don’t put pictures of my son (or other children) online unless they are behind some sort of password or “friends only” wall, with rare exceptions. How is that going to work if he is on Facebook? I know that as he gets into high school, the local papers covering sports and school and other local activities will make that rule irrelevant, but for now, I’ll teach him to savor some anonymity.

Aside from privacy, there is a practical reason for not letting him on Facebook. Whom will he be talking to? The people he sees in school every day and already texts with? His teammates? He needs to put a compelling case for getting on and using Facebook in order to get on now (if there were a school or other project that involved putting together media or some other collaboration via Facebook, I’d love to help with that). “Daddy’s on Facebook all the time” isn’t enough of a reason (he tried that line of reasoning).

Back to privacy and child protection- there is a troubling aspect to Facebook letting 13 year olds on in the first place. Not sure I’m cool with that in many ways, and not sure I want to support that.

So, we bring this quesiton up again in two years when he enters high school.

How about you? Do you have kids? Are they on Facebook? Why or why not?