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Monday, May 06, 2013

The Changing "Face" of Social Media

It came time for me to update my profile picture across the various social media platforms and services that I had now become unable to live without the other day, but from previous experience, there was a nagging doubt of the small bouts of pain-in-the-@$$ that was about to follow. The last time around, like the time before it, and the time before that as well, I don't really remember the experience having improved. It's always a case of doing the research about social media image sizes to have your intended pic in a variety of sizes already so that it doesn't look too radically different after a skewed adjustment, or a murderous crop from one to the other social media service. And if it was pretty bad enough in the days of "profile pics" alone, adding "cover photos" that vary in size from 520x260 pixels for Twitter and the new 2120x1192 pixels for Google+, things just got a lot hairier, to use that expression offhandedly. But all is not lost, and with some easy manipulation thanks to some good original digital photographs (thanks Daya and his Visual Tonality Photography for the awesome originals displayed below), you might just get lucky and end up fluking out a bit to get a cool result. The first few profiles I managed to change were my Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and my consolidated online profile at About.Me, but I will have to make changes to the others, like LinkedIn and VisualCV and Cardcloud pretty soon too.

The Photos
RK Photographing mushroom cluster in resort near Kottayam - Photo by Daya of VisualTonality.comRK photographing Kerala Backwaters scenery at resort near Kottayam - Photo by Daya of VisualTonality.comThe photos that I decided to use for my current set of profile-pic-and-cover-photo combinations were taken by my good friend Daya, when we were out on a working holiday in and around Kottayam, Kerala, at the beginning of this year. I was assisting him in a role we've come to refer to as "Flash Boy", or the dude holding the 'speed light' to use the more appropriate term, as I've been told. Turns out there was a little "Watching the Detectives" action going on too. Grateful for it, I am, but with these images being about 4928x3264 pixels and almost 4MB in size, trying to get any of them to take on any of the social media platforms as is was going to prove to be a nightmare. 

But I wanted to try and get a little creative, mostly because I decided that if people like Facebook and Google+ were going to keep introducing new additions and amendments to their profile page styles, allowing what can only be described as an "obscenely large cover photo" in the case of the latter, then I would try and use these changes to my advantage. So, all I had in front of me was two pictures, and the strange and unique sizes and other file dimensions and type restrictions that each one of these imposed upon me, the "User".

RK's Google+ Profile - Screen Shot
First up, I decided to change the profile picture and to try and tackle the new cover photo size restrictions of Google+. To my pleasant surprise, the larger photo size now allowed me to show more of an image as a cover photo, but the trick was to still figure out how all of this went together well. So, while I started cutting out the square that would serve as my profile picture, I noticed that it would display now as a circle in most places, and as a square of 250x250 pixels. Thankfully, the adjustments with GIMP are relatively easy and painless, so resizing wasn't an issue. But, as you can see, Using more of the lower half of the shot showing my hand with the point-and-shoot Sony camera in it, I ended up having to show the little golf cart that was heading my way on the grounds of this lovely resort we were at as well. This was a problem that I managed to eliminate when I was changing the profile picture and cover photo on my Facebook profile.

RK's Facebook Profile - Screen Shot
With Facebook the profile pic dimensions shrink to 180x180 pixels, and the cover photo is still a mighty odd 815x351 pixels in size. A little more resizing, but with the smaller cover photo, I think it turned out a little better because it got rid of the golf cart in the background. However, looking back on the Google+ profile, the circular profile picture had it's own appeal. I think it was perfect that I happened to be facing in the same direction as my hand with the camera was pointing in, easily flipped on any axis to enhance the effect, something I did briefly consider doing until I decided that the activity seemed to point the user back to my profile picture from a left-to-right and back left again kind of movement of the eyes on the page, so I decided to leave everything pointing in their original direction.

RK's Twitter Page - Screen Shot
Twitter always seems to have an issue with using large files that are permitted by the social media service, except you don't find out until you have clicked to upload the image of your choice. Also, compared to the last two social media services, Twitter has the additional "background image" that you can also modify to your heart's content. So, I decided I would try and use two different bits of images here and see what resulted. The Twitter profile pic is the smallest at 81x81 pixels, as is the cover photo which is a 520x260-pixel image. But the suggested size of the background image was pretty much "go as big as possible" to account for multiple browser screen resolutions, or 2560x1600 pixels! Sp, I decided to use part of the black-and-white image that Daya had shot, attempting to show the back of my head a little bit more, as evidence of my long hair. However, after uploading it at that resolution and size, you can see how it enlarged the vertical, black-and-white me turned away from the camera. pr with my back to it, rather. I was going to resize and export the background image again,, but I think it turned out well to have an albeit blurry me with a partial side-on but facing away like a sign of looking ahead to the future...or getting crammed into the remaining space in the corner, as the case may be. May try and modify this a little bit more, now that i look at it...

RK's About.Me Profile - Screen Shot
I use my About.Me profile as a consolidated online profile, a single destination where people can see all the links to my social media profiles across various services/platforms. It's a service that I discovered over a year ago, and one that has been most useful to me in terms of pointing someone to a single place with all of my social media profiles. I particularly like the fact that you can use an entire, high-resolution image as the background, as well as the info display box and other elements being totally customizable so that you can place it anywhere you want on the screen so it doesn't get in the way of the background image, or other card elements. I have yet to try out the business cards feature where you can ask for your About.Me profile to be printed on business cards for you, but that is an added feature benefit that they offer all customers. I used the original image that Daya had sent me, and all of the important bits of the picture seem to have centered beautifully without the need for any scrolling, well mostly anyway. It did leave out Daya's watermark on the far left corner, at the bottom just beyond the mushrooms, so that is a potential cause for concern, although resizing it seems to be the easiest way to go about it.

Most recently, About.Me has added a way for your latest blog posts and audio and video to be displayed as part of your profile, should you so choose. Enabling direct links from SoundCloud, Vimeo and YouTube, seems pretty cool because it will enhance your profiles appeal for visitors, giving them multimedia options to view and briefly interact with. Another recent addition or modification I like is the new profile widget that you can embed onto your own website or blog. They have cleaned up the interface and made the fonts look clean and provided enough spacing so as to be more pleasing on the eye than most other "badges". This works very well for my blog, for a number of reasons, and most of all, it rendered perfectly and automatically in the sidebar without me having to select size options and configurations.

Why Are We Who We Are? (
RK's Blog - Why are we who we are? ( - Screen Shot
I've had this blog for a little more than seven years now, and while the frenetic pace of earlier blog posting has greatly diminished, I am still in the attempt to blog more regularly than I have been in the recent past. This screen shot of a post from a few years ago was the last time I attempted to consolidate all the mentions of me online, including several profiles on websites that I don't seem to have registered on myself. Also, it was a bit of a general online presence search results test, just so I would know what came up on Google search when I entered my name and hit enter. Since then, I have had a couple of social media profiles that have taken over on the search result rankings, but there are still a couple of them that I have no clue about. I mainly included this screen shot, not just for the blog, but to display what the About.Me profile widget looks like on the blog. It certainly goes a long way towards making the overall appearance neat and clean, I feel.

So, there you have it, a short and randomly assorted series of online profiles that I have managed to successfully update the images for, starting with some good, high-res images and manipulating the rules that govern profile pics and cover photos to help create simple and interesting combinations that will stand out from the rest. After all, you may be online to be social, but I urge you to be more together than scattered all over the place. Apart from trying to use services like About.Me to help people find all of your online profiles in a single location, it is also important to have fun with your social media, even if it means updating your profile pic once in 3-6 months to remain fresh to your audience. Surely some of you are capable of far more artistic pursuits to help enhance these key visual appeal areas on your social media profiles, but the main point of this post is to encourage you to "have at it," like an old mentor of mine used to say. It's you online, so make it look good, to put it most simply.
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