Are You a #HashtagAddict?

Hashtag search, best hashtag for, best hashtags

Love them or hate them, they’re here to stayHashtag search, best hashtag for, best hashtags

Hashtags are a very interesting topic lately. Some people love them, some people hate them, many are indifferent, and still others don’t really understand them.

One thing is for certain though… they’ve become mainstream. Even non-Twitter users can’t get away from them. You see them on TV shows, news stories, print ads… almost everywhere these days.

Many people think that hashtags are just a part of Twitter, but there are actually quite a few social networks that support them:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • Flickr
  • YouTube
  • Tumblr
  • and several other smaller, lesser known networks.

#hashtag as a “punchline”

Okay, let’s get this one out of the way early… “random punchlines”. It’s common to see people using hashtags for this purpose when trying to be clever or funny. For example: #sotasty, #makingshithappen, #lovethisplace. These tags are basically useless because nobody else is tweeting in those channels, but they do help to get your point across.

That said, there are some popular punchline hashtags that are used all the time, so there’s a constant stream of tweets in them. Examples: #FAIL, #YOLO, #FTW, #ICYMI. If you’re not sure what these mean, send me a note. I’ll fill you in.

I try to avoid using punchline hashtags because I think they’re a waste of 140-character real estate, but sometimes I can’t resist. I do like to include a #Fail now and again, when I feel the need to complain about a company that has let me down.

What are the GOOD uses of #hashtags?

There are many many other GOOD and useful ways that hashtags are being used:

  • Breaking news and current events
  • Corporate conferences and tradeshows
  • Branding of products and services
  • Television shows (SocialTV)
  • Promotion of books, movies, music, and other media
  • General topics of interest
  • Trending topics (local or global)
  • Advocacy groups
  • Social communities (“birds of a feather”)
  • Twitter “Chats” on various topics (#blogchat, etc.)
  • etc, etc, etc.

It is undeniable that hashtags are very useful for finding up-to-the-minute information on a particular topic. They’re great for finding and joining social conversations and communities, expanding your digital reach, and for building your brand.

Why Bother?

As I’ve said, I’m a #HashtagAddict, and I think they’re very useful for 3 major reasons:

  1. They’re a great source of focused and relevant information on a topic.
  2. They help to filter out the noise of random crap on Twitter.
  3. If used properly in your tweets, they help to expand your reach and grow your follower base faster.

Which #hashtags do I follow?

I check in on quite a number of hashtag communities on a regular basis. Here are some of my favorites:

Local:
  • #toronto
  • #BikeTO
Politics and News:
  • #TOpoli
  • #ONpoli
  • #CDNpoli
  • #news
  • #CBCnews

Interests:

  • #craftbeer
  • #wine
  • #f1
  • #photography
  • #bokeh
  • #TFC (the local footy squad)
  • #(insert name of this week’s golf tournament)

Business:

  • #startup
  • #leanstartup
  • #entrepreneur or #entrepreneurship
  • #marketingautomation
  • #marketing
  • #NetSuite
  • #Pardot
  • #ERP
  • #CRM
  • #emailmarketing

Marketing:

  • #smm
  • #socialmedia
  • #b2b

Twitter Chats:

  • #blogchat
  • #smchat
  • #mmchat

What hashtags do you personally find useful or interesting? Please suggest some good ones in the comments area!

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Blackberry vs. iPhone 5 (from a Toddler’s perspective)

Blackberry vs. iPhone 5 (from a Toddler's perspective)

Mom, really?? You’re gonna hand me down your Blackberry rather than getting me an iPhone 5?

Blackberry vs. iPhone 5 (from a Toddler's perspective)

Well… I can type a lot faster on this, so I guess that’s ok.

Blackberry vs. iPhone 5 (from a Toddler's perspective)

But there’s no Angry Birds game!

Blackberry vs. iPhone 5 (from a Toddler's perspective)

Okay, okay… if you’re going take it away, I’ll stop complaining.

Blackberry vs. iPhone 5 (from a Toddler's perspective)

Now… how do I send Tweets from this thing?

The Wonders of Discovery

Photography, depth of field

One thing that I find absolutely amazing about being a Dad is watching my 21-month-old son “discover” new things.

The Wonders of Childhood Discovery

Not so sure about water yet…

Whether it be eating peanut butter for the first time, playing with water in its many forms, or “clinking” drinking glasses as if to say, “Cheers!”, there’s new discovery in his life every single day.

Eating Peanut Butter for the First Time

Eating peanut butter for the first time

Cheers!

Cheers!

Click on the link below for a little montage of a toddler “discovering” new things. (many of the images require no caption to understand what’s going through his head…)

View my Flickr photo album => “DISCOVERY”

Dumb Golf My Way

Frustrated golfer

If you’ve ever read any golf books to try and improve your game, no doubt you’ve come across Jack Nicklaus’ book, Golf My Way. It’s an essential read for anyone learning the game of golf.

Dumb Golf My Way

Smart vs. Dumb Golf Decisions

In his book, he talks about making “smart” decisions on the golf course. Needless to say, he’s made his fair share of good decisions in his golf game, having won more Major Championship tournaments than anyone else in the history of the game.

Usually, a smart decision on the golf course means playing a conservative, high-probability shot. Dumb decisions are often caused by being overly aggressive when you need to be conservative, resulting in wasted strokes, lost balls, and rising blood pressure. If you’ve ever swung a golf club, I’m sure you’re well acquainted with the feeling.

Inspiration for “Dumb Golf My Way”

Although I play a fairly good game of golf (7 handicap), I make PLENTY of dumb decisions on the course.

I hate being conservative. I’d much rather be aggressive; you know, risk vs. reward. I get a thrill out of making BIG shots. A good example is going for the green in two on a Par 5, over a huge water hazard, bunkers surrounding the green, swinging as hard as I can to try and reach it.

How to Hit a Par-5 in 2

I’m no statistician, but I figure you have approximately a 0.001% chance of making an Eagle if you’re not on the green in two!

Not smart. Dumb.

I’ve often joked about writing a book entitled, “Dumb Golf My Way”; modeled after Jack Nicklaus’ book but inspired by John Daly, one of the most aggressive golfers ever to play the game.

John Daly

Since I don’t know how to write a book, nor would anyone buy it, I guess a blog post is the better option…

Chapter 1: “Drive for Show. Period.”

There are dozens of clichés in the game of golf, many of them offer very sage advice. Arguably the most memorable one… “Drive for Show. Putt for Dough.” It makes sense. Putting is where the most strokes are saved. Great putters shoot low scores, poor putters struggle to break 100, or 90, 80, or even 70. Good putters make more money/dough than poor putters.

For me… it’s MUCH more fun to crush a drive straight down the middle, 280 to 300 yards, landing in the center of the fairway! The problem is that the driver tends to be an inconsistent club compared to the irons in your bag. It’s hard to hit it straight consistently and when you do screw it up, it’s easy to spray the ball far to the left or right and usually in deep trouble or lost. As the saying goes… “There are plenty of long hitters in the woods!”

Imagine this scenario… what would you do? You’re in the lead in the tournament, you’re in the final group, and you’re standing on the 18th tee, a tough par 4. If you score bogey or better, you win. Do you hit an iron or 3-wood off the tee in order to improve the chances that you’ll land in the fairway?

Heck no! “Drive for Show. Period!”

Not smart. Dumb golf my way.

There are plenty of long hitters in the woods!

Chapter 2: “Practice”

The experts say that practice makes perfect. It’s well known that the pros spend several hours per day on the practice range. Amateur spend far less time than that on the range. I guess that’s why they’re pros and the rest of us are amateurs!

So, given the choice between going to the driving range on a beautiful Saturday or going to the course instead and playing a game with your friends… which do you choose?

“I can practice on the course while I’m playing.”

Not smart. Dumb golf my way.

Practice is essential to improving your golf game

Is practice important for improving your game?

Chapter 3: “Effective Preparation for your Round”

What’s the best way to prepare for a round of golf? Well, for starters:

  • Get lots of sleep the night before
  • Pack your bag the night before so that you don’t forget anything
  • Get to the course early so that you’re not rushed or stressed out
  • Warm up by swinging a club, preferably on the course’s driving range
  • Do a full stretching routine to limber up those stiff muscles
  • Eat a light meal prior to the round
  • Bring your own healthy snacks and a water bottle

This is exactly what I do. NOT!

My standard approach is to stay up until 1am the night before, leave my house or office late, drive too fast, and get to the course mere minutes before my tee time, taking my very first swings of the club on the first tee.

Not smart. Dumb golf my way.

Golf practice

Who needs to warm up? Just give ‘er!

Chapter 3: “Psychology”

Golf is obviously a game of skill. However, it’s also a huge mental game. I don’t know the exact stats, but in my estimation, the mental side of the game can range anywhere from 50% to 90% of the game, depending on how skilled you are.

Here are some examples of a strong mental game:

  • Playing it purely shot by shot, rather than trying to shoot a particular score
  • Not getting angry when you miss a shot or two, or more
  • Visualizing the shot and picking a specific target on the fairway or green
  • Laser focus and able to put all distractions out of your mind
  • Playing your own game, rather than worrying about your opponents

Sounds easy, right? Yah, right! I play a strong mental game all the time. I never slam my club into the ground when I hit a terrible shot, I never count up my score on the 15th hole and try to birdie the last 3 holes in order to break 80, and I never worry beating my friends.

Not smart. Dumb golf my way.

Frustrated golfer

Golfer Breaking His Clubs — Image by © Scott Barrow/Corbis

Chapter 4: “Club Selection”

How far do you hit your 7-iron? 150 yards? Maybe so, but I’ll bet you a delicious club sandwich that your club distances are calculated from your BEST shot with your 7-iron, not your worst. The problem is… how often do you hit your best shot when standing over the golf ball? Unless you’re playing golf on TV, it’s a very low % of the time. No wonder you often end up in the pond or bunker in front of the green!

Not smart. Dumb golf my way.

Selecting the right golf club

Selecting the right golf club

A Work in Progress

By now you get the idea. I won’t continue to bore you with all the details…

Chapter 5: “Fairway Mulligans: Yes, they’re Allowed.”

Chapter 6: “How to Maintain Your Composure While Hitting 5 Off the Tee”

Chapter 7: “Removing your ball from the green after 4-putting, without taking a deep divot.”

Chapter 8: “Let the Club Do the Work vs. Swing as Hard as You Can”

Chapter 9: “Proper Etiquette: 10 Easy Ways to Distract Your Opponent”

Not Smart. Dumb golf my way…

Did I miss anything? If you have any well-honed strategies for Dumb Golf, let me know in the Comments!

Wooden Sticks Golf Club #17 - Uxbridge, Ontario

Wooden Sticks Golf Club #17 – Uxbridge, Ontario

Wordle: Best. App. Ever.

Word Cloud, Tags, Infographic, Marketing

I don’t remember specifically where I’ve seen these “word clouds” before, but I think I’ve seen them on well designed blogs, infographics, fancy presentations, etc.  I’ve always thought they were such a cool way to show the popularity of tags or words on a website.

My Word Cloud

The word cloud you see above is the snapshot (as of today) for my blog http://www.craigthusiast.com.  Apparently, right now I’m kind of into Photography, Twitter, oh and… Pineapple!

Wordle – Best. App. Ever.

I can’t take credit for this.  A business acquaintance showed me this recently and my jaw dropped.  It’s just so cool.  Check out this best app ever: Wordle

Hit the Create button, and have fun…

Some Ideas for Good Word Clouds:

  • What does your resume say about you?  Use a word cloud to see what themes you’re promoting about yourself.
  • Are you crafting Marketing emails?  Use this tool to determine if that really important primary message of your emails are getting through to  your readers?
  • What about Search Engine Optimization of your website?  A really important aspect of SEO is having pages that are keyword rich on the search terms with which you want to attract visitors to your site.  Are your important website pages keyword rich with the right keywords?

Any Other Cool Ideas?

I’m keen to hear other ideas for good uses of Word Clouds.  If you have a good idea, hit the Leave a Comment link above and share your idea!

Twitter Lists: Make your “Social” Life Easier

How to use Twitter Lists

Is Your Twitter Inbox Overwhelming?

If you’re like me and you follow a lot of people on Twitter, your Home stream (or Twitter inbox, as it were) can be overwhelming.  Kind of like drinking through a firehose, really.

I’ve been using Twitter for just about 3 years now.  At first, I started out as a consumer of information, more than a publisher.  Since I like to learn, I found a wealth of information in the Twitterverse on many topics that I’m interested in.

So, I started following a lot of people.  It wasn’t long before my Twitter inbox became overwhelming.

Then I Discovered Twitter Lists

When I figured out that you can have up to 20 “Lists” in your Twitter account, my Twitter inbox became much more under control.

Now, I rarely actually look at my Home stream.  I’m constantly flipping between lists, depending on what I feel like reading.  And, every single new Tweep that I follow… I immediately add them into 1 of my 20 lists.

Very organized of me, I know. 😉

Wondering What Lists to Setup?

If you’re interested, here are my lists: http://bit.ly/L54afM   You should be able to see the actual tweets that are being published by the people I follow in each of the lists.

Some days when I’m feeling thirsty I might want to see what people are saying about Beer or Wine.

Some days I feel like seeing what people are saying about my favourite sports on TV.

Sometimes I just feel like looking at amazing pictures from Photographers I follow.

Other days, when I’m feeling keen, I like to read up on the latest in Sales, Marketing, or Business.

I also use Twitter as my source for News.  I love how you can read the very latest developments in a news topic from people right at the scene.

I also have a few “Private” lists that you can’t see.  One of them is a list of close friends and acquaintances, whose tweets I don’t want to miss in a sea of other tweets.  I call that list “CantMiss-P”.

There’s also a list called, “CantMiss-W”.  I use that one to keep a shortlist stream of tweets that I cannot miss in my professional life.

Make your “Social” Life Easier

So, if you want to make Twitter a more enjoyable and useful experience for yourself, try Lists.

If you’re already using Lists, what are some other good ones I might want to try? (comments welcome…)

Photography Technique: Bokeh

Example of Bokeh photography

What the heck is Bokeh?

Aside from being one of my favourite words to say, Bokeh (pronounced boke-uh) in photography is the blur, or aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image. The term originates from the Japanese words boke which means “blur” or “haze”, and the word boke-aji which means “blur quality”. Bokeh occurs in the parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field. Refer to my recent post on depth of field to learn more.

When photographers intentionally use a shallow depth of field to create prominent out-of-focus areas in an image, bokeh can often appear around small highlights such as reflections or light sources in either the foreground or background of the scene.

Here’s an example of bokeh in a pair of recent pictures I snapped: (click on the image for full-size view)

Image #1: no bokeh, but good shallow depth of field

Image #2: BOKEH!

Good vs. Bad Bokeh

If the blur of an image is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and augments the overall image, it’s considered “good bokeh”. However, if the blur in an image is unpleasant or detracts from the quality of the image, it’s considered “bad bokeh”.

There are several variables that can affect the quality of your bokeh, but the biggest influence is the shape of the aperture when the image is shot. It’s because the shape of the bokeh in an image tends to look like the shape of the aperture that is passing light through.

In low-end or mid-range lenses, when the aperture opening (or f-stop) is set to less than the maximum opening, the shape of the aperture becomes a polygon rather than a circle. In some high-end lenses, there are more blades that move in and out to shape the aperture opening, so it appears closer to a circle than polygon when less than fully opened.

Five and Seven-Bladed Camera Aperture Openings

Five and Seven-Bladed Aperture Openings (credit: tested.com)

Equipment You Need

I’ve been experimenting with my new camera lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. It takes really great pictures for such an affordable lens ($150). Until very recently, I had no idea how important the f-stop was to the quality of images you capture. You can spend more money to get an f/1.4, and even more to get an f/1.2. The lower the f-stop number, the better. Among other qualities, small f-stop lenses have larger and higher quality apertures. Thankfully, my f/1.8 lens was cheap, but it delivers excellent quality pictures, nonetheless.

Here’s a basic pricing comparison (as of today):

  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II – approx. $150
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM – approx. $500
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L – approx. $1,800

Great Example of Bokeh

Normally, I would only post my own work, but in this case I can’t resist borrowing from (and crediting) others. Here are a couple of other great examples of bokeh that I’ve seen:

Good example of bokeh in photography

Christmas bokeh
(credit: Wikipedia)

Example of Bokeh photography

“Day Fifty Five” by Jnap

Example of bokeh photography

“A Cup of Bokeh, please?” by Shermeee

Example of bokeh photography

“The Fingers of Summer” by Ryan Brenizer

So, now that you know how to do it, go out and take some “bokeh-licious” photos!

Photography Technique: Shallow Depth of Field

Example of bokeh photography

In photography, Depth of Field (DOF) is essentially the Depth of Focus. It’s the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in the scene that appear acceptably sharp in the image. A shallow DOF tends to focus your attention on the primary subject of the image while effectively hiding from view the less important objects in the foreground or background. Alternatively, a large or deep DOF keeps most or all of the image in focus, allowing the viewer to see all objects in the frame.

Depth of field

Depth of Field / Depth of Focus (credit: Wikipedia)

Shallow vs. Deep DOF; Which to Choose?

Depending on your camera, you may have no choice. Inexpensive cameras typically take all photos with a deep DOF, and the images usually have all the objects in the scene in focus.

Shallow DOF photos are typically used in portrait or artistic photography, while deep DOF photos are typically used in applications such as landscape photography, where the scene requires everything in the frame to be in focus.

To achieve shallow DOF, you need either a lens with a small f-stop, a telephoto zoom, or a macro lens. A small f-stop lens (e.g. f/1.8 vs. f/5.6) has a large aperture, or opening, which focuses light more acutely on the optical sensor, causing objects in the foreground and background to be out of focus. You might be asking, “Why does a larger aperture cause a shallow depth of field? I won’t bore everyone with the details, but if you’re interested here’s a good forum conversation with a drawing that does a good job of explaining the physics.

Equipment I Use

Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T2i ($600 approx.)

Lens: Canon Prime 50mm f1.8 ($150 approx.)

Examples of Shallow DOF: (click on images)

Depth of Field

Eat, Drink, and Be Irish

Wine bottles

Good red wine from Beringer Vineyards, Napa Valley

Photography Technique: Depth of Field

The barrel cave, O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery, Napa Valley

Photography Technique: Depth of Field

Table art

Reflections

Magnolia

The Boy

Learning to Walk in the Sand

Recipe: Chili-Cinnamon Pork with Pineapple

Pork Recipe

I call this recipe, “a taste sensation”.  Normally I’m not a fan of fruit in an entree, but that’s not the case with this one… the sweet, sour, and spicy flavours in this meal are like a party in your mouth!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large pork tenderloin, about 1 lb
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups pineapple juice
  • 1 tsp hot red chili flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups pineapple (peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
  • 1 green onion, chopped finely

Instructions:

  1. Slice pork tenderloin into pieces about 1/2″ thick.
  2. Combine cinnamon with salt in a small bowl, then sprinkle on both sides of meat.
  3. In a large non-stick frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Stir-fry pork in oil until lightly browned, approx. 2 minutes per side.
  5. Transfer meat to plate, leaving juice in pan.
  6. Add pineapple juice and chili flakes to pan.
  7. Bring to a boil and reduce liquid to about 1/2-cup (about 10 minutes).
  8. Return meat to pan along with juices, and add pineapple.
  9. Boil gently, stirring frequently, until pineapple is slight softened and meat is warmed through (about 3-4 minutes).
  10. Sprinkle with green onion, and serve over basmati rice.

WARNING: this dish is “sneaky” hot/spicy.  I really enjoy spicy food and this is one that I would call, “medium to medium-hot”.  That said, my wife can’t deal with really hot food, but she likes this dish.  It’s not going to turn your lips numb, but it should make you sit up and take notice.

Enjoy the taste sensation!

Recipe: Grainy-Mustard Marinade for Beef

This is a great marinade for beef.  I typically use it for beef tenderloin or london broil flank steak.  I’m sure it could be used for sirloin or striploin steaks as well, but I prefer my steaks sans marinade.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp grainy dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp dried summer savory
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • These amounts make enough marinade for 1-2 lbs of beef

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together oil, mustard, vinegar, summer savory, water, and salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Pour marinade into a large ziplock bag
  3. Add beef to the bag and mix well to make sure the beef is well covered by marinade
  4. Chill in refrigerator for as long as you can. (1 hour to 1-2 days)
  5. Enjoy…