October 20, 2014

Social Media Advice From Middle Schoolers

socialmedia-middleschool300I had the opportunity to talk to middle school kids about social media and staying safe online.  After I was done with my presentation, I asked them for their advice on social media.  You see my husband and I recently agreed to let our oldest son sign up for an Instagram account.  Instagram is a photo sharing site that allows you to upload photos and videos.  He had been asking for a while and it was important to him, so after discussing it we agreed to let him join under the following conditions:

  • We would always have the password.
  • A parent had to approve every picture, follow request, and comment before he posted it to ensure it was appropriate.  This is not a permanent rule but it helps us guide him through different aspects and is helping us get comfortable with him being on social media.
  • If he posts something in appropriate, he loses his Instagram account.
  • If a friend posts something we feel is inappropriate, he can no longer follow that friend.
  • If he sees anything inappropriate, he is to come and talk to us about it.

At the beginning of my talk with the middle school kids, I asked how many of them had cell phones.  Almost every hand immediately shot into the air.  Most had iPhones, the rest had Androids, and one had a flip phone (poor guy, he was immediately mocked by his peers).  I asked what social media apps they used and the majority replied Instagram.  I learned that Facebook is for old people, aka myself, their parents, and grandparents.

I explained that my son had just joined Instagram and asked for their advice on how I can help keep him safe and to be smart with social media.  Their advice was more useful than I expected.

  • Set the account to private
  • Only accept requests from people you know
  • Follow them on Instagram with your own account
  • Don’t post any personal information like your address, phone number, etc.

We were already doing the four listed above, so I was feeling pretty smart at this point.  Then they gave me the following advice and I was blown away by how smart and simple their advice was.

  • Only post pictures of you or your stuff, don’t post pictures of anyone else – Their reasoning was this keeps others from getting upset that you posted a picture of them.
  • Don’t let him follow celebrity accounts, not because of what the celebrity would post but because of what others put in the comments that you don’t want him to see.  – I checked a few celebrity accounts and their advice was spot on.  The comments are not something I am comfortable letting my son see right now.
  • Don’t take pictures in the bathroom – This seems obvious to me but appears to be an issue in middle school.  They thought it was important, so we are going to add it to our list of rules.
  • Follow their friends so you can see what they are posting – I think this is good advice but I’m not sure if I will follow it.  I like the idea of having direct access to what my son is seeing but I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with having his friends follow me.  I think this is a decision each family needs to make for themselves.

Listening to their advice was a good time to bring up The Grandmother Rule.

The Grandmother Rule states, do not post anything online (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that you would not want your grandmother to see.  Yes, it is that simple.

These middle schoolers and my son are navigating brand new territory.  They are the first generation to grow up with social media and we are the first generation of parents trying to manage and moderate our children’s access to, and behavior on, social media.  We can’t look to another generation to see how they handled it.  Its up to us, child and parent, to figure this out together.  I am glad I had the opportunity to ask them for their advice and they were happy to be asked for their advice and to impart their wisdom on an old person like me.

 

From Brainstorm to Project: Trello

One of my favorite activities is brainstorming new things – letting the mind wander, not excluding anything from consideration, just putting things on the table and sorting it all out. For me, it’s the surest path to the right answers for any project worth doing.

How many times have you:

  • Scribbled ideas on a list?
  • Re-ordered or re-prioritized those list items?
  • Started more than one list, and move things from list to list?
  • Made notes on a few of the items?
  • Maybe even put them on Post-It notes, so you could move things around to get a better overall picture of the effort?

I’ve done all of these things. The problem with lists are that they’re too linear and too structured. My OCD tendencies want to keep things in a neat tidy order – which really bogs down the brainstorming process. The Post-It note approach has always been effective, because it helps me to visualize the components in logical “buckets”. The problem with Post-It notes is that after a while, the glue breaks down, and there’s not much room for notes & comments. The other challenge is how project ideas get shared with teammates. These are all barriers to taking a really good brainstorm into something real.

TrelloEnter Trello – a free iOS , Android and web browser application from Fog Creek Software.  Trello gives me the Post-It note model I mentioned above, except it’s on my iPad or in a browser window, with all the flexibility of actually taking the effort from brainstorm to real project.

Take the list I made above, except now I get to do the following:

  • Create an individual board for each of my projects/brainstorms.
  • I can make my board private or public, or make it private and invite specific individuals to participate (like a project team).
  • Within each board, I build lists that contain cards that represent tasks, milestones, events or whatever it is that I’m trying to organize.
  • Each card is like the Post-It Note, with a title, description and a whole lot more. I’ll get back to this.
  • Cards can be rearranged simply by dragging them on the screen – that means rearranging the order in a list, or even moving a card from one list to another.
  • I have unlimited boards, lists and cards (and as a result, no Post-It Note dried-up glue issues).

Back to the cards, which are the heart of the app. Each card represents an idea, task or whatever your singular element is for your board. The great thing about Trello is that each card can be embellished not only with a title and description, but also checklists, attachments, comments, tools for ideation (meaning “vote for this”)

So I created a sample board, for something called App Project:

Trello Board

This board had three lists to start with, I added an additional one (the highly creative List 1). Each list contains various cards. At a quick glance, certain attributes are visible on each card; this is where it gets fun.

The circled items are also shown in the list view; here’s what it looks like when we open the card for “Check hosting information”. At a quick glance, I know there are two attachments, four checklist items (of which one has been completed), two comments and an available description of the card (versus only having a title on the card).

Trello-card1

Across the top of the card, I have a few more options, such as voting for an item:

Trello-card-vote

Setting an optional Due Date for the card (and you’ll receive e-mail notifications of items due/overdue):Trello-card-duedate

Assigning a label to an item (and the label text is customizable at the Board level):

Trello-card-labels

Assign people to the card (if you’re collaborating with others who have been invited to participate in the board:Trello-card-assign

Comments/Activities, Checklists and Attachments can also be added to the card, using the options at the bottom of the card.

Comments are mixed in with the Activities on the card (everything that occurs to a card is logged in the Activities) – which is one of the few things I don’t like about the app. Sometimes it’s hard to find the comments in the mix (as is shown in the example below).

 

Trello-card-activity

Checklists, on the other hand, are really slick – complete with the ability to create more than one checklist within a single card. The completion status of each checklist is shown, in addition to the status of all checklists in the card.

Trello-card-checklist

So let’s say a checklist item ends up being a more complex thing than originally anticipated (which of course never happens) – and now it really should be its own card. Not a problem – there’s an option to convert a single checklist item into a card with one tap. Very nice.

Attachments (at least in iOS) are limited to either images that are stored on your device (the Camera Roll or another album in the Photos app) using the Attach Existing option, or you can take a new picture or video and automatically attach it to the card.

Trello-card-attach

This is where the web browser interface becomes a bit more powerful; not only can I choose other file types to attach, I can grab items from my cloud-based storage services at Google and Dropbox. This is the same card shown in the browser interface:

Trello-card-attach-browser

I was able to add a PDF file, along with a Word document, Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation, all of which sync’d almost instantly to my iPad. I was able to open all of the attachments, however the only one that retained its fidelity (and usefulness) was the PDF. I don’t know that I’d recommend this for swapping files for projects, but rather for attaching supporting items to a card entry. There are a lot better services for file management (like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive or Sky Drive).

For a free product, this is a really impressive set of features. The collaboration tools that are available on top of these features make it extremely powerful. There’s notification to members of the board on just about everything that happens:

  • Somebody adds a card to a list > members get a notification, event is recorded in the activities.
  • Somebody completes a checklist item > members get a notification, event is recorded in the activities.
  • Due date is approaching on a card > assigned people get a notification.

One thing to note about Trello, though, which is probably going to turn a few people off – it needs a live connection to the Internet to be fully functional. There’s no off-line mode, so the boards become Read Only when the device can’t connect to the cloud, with no ability to add or edit cards. Here’s hoping offline support is a feature they’re working on (perhaps for a Premium version, similar to Evernote).

If you’re a business and want to use this for collaborative project management, there’s a Business Class version of the tool (that’s not free, but still pretty cheap) that provides some more robust board management options for administrators. However, it’s by no means necessary to have Business Class in order to take advantage of nearly all of the functionality that Trello offers.

For the really nerdy types, who want to find a way to create integration with Trello, there’s even a new API that facilitates data exchange to and from other tools. (I’m not going to lie, this kinds of stuff excites me.) Or, if all you want to do is download the contents of your boards, there’s an export option (but it’s limited to JSON file format – if you don’t know what that is, as your favorite web site developer).

If you want to learn more about it, take a look at the tour on the Trello website. Better yet, download the app and take it for a spin with your next project effort -whether it’s planning a family event, organizing a swim meet, planning the school carnival or simply brainstorming ideas for your next work effort. It’s a very interesting tool, and you can’t beat the price.

 

Computer Shopping – Summer/Fall 2013 Edition

Yes, I know, we’ve been quiet. There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes at Beyond The Defaults, preventing us from posting much. Starting with this post, we hope to get back into a little better routine – so we’ll start off this mini re-boot of the site with something that I’ve been asked at least twice a week for the last month:  computer shopping.

Image: Apple.com

The usual line of questioning has three basic parts: Do I get a desktop or a laptop, should I get a Windows machine or what about a Mac, and should I just get a tablet device instead of a computer?

I’ll cut to the chase:  buy a laptop, get a Mac, and you might want to get a tablet too.

Too simple, I know. And for most people, that’s nowhere near enough information to spring for the extra cost of a Mac, let alone a Mac and maybe an iPad to complete the set. So here’s the longer answer.

Buy A Laptop

Desktop machines are getting less expensive all the time, but it’s not necessarily because they can be made and sold more cost-effectively; it’s because most people simply don’t want desktop machines anymore. They’re big, they require furniture and space, and most of all, they’re not mobile. I’ll use my wife as an example – who four years ago said no to an offer of a laptop in favor of the desktop. Two years ago, she lamented that she has to go to her office all the time to use the computer and that “it sure would be nice if I could be able to do this at the kitchen table, or the front porch, or…” Today, she’s using a laptop and I don’t think it could be wrestled away from her. If you’re looking for a computer for that soon-to-be college student (or current high school junior or senior), portability is a “must have” feature.

It’s not just the portability that makes it a consideration. The price of laptops has finally reached the point where they rival desktop machines – a reasonably powered Windows laptop that will meet the needs of most people can be found for around $400. So for a premium of perhaps $100, your computer can go wherever you go.

Buy a Mac

This is where it gets sticky for a lot of people – because a Windows laptop can be purchased for much less than a MacBook Air. That $400 price tag is for a Windows-based machine, probably running Windows 8. The entry point for a MacBook Air (11″ with 128GB of storage) is $999. I’d recommend the new 13″ model, which starts at $1099.

So what do you get for the premium?

  • A great machine that “just works” right out of the box. When you design the operating system to run exactly with the hardware on which it’s installed, it just works much more seamlessly.
  • One of the best laptop screens you will ever stare at for hours on end. Yes, it’s that nice.
  • Tremendous support from Apple, whether it’s via the phone or at an Apple Retail Store. Their customer support is second to none.
  • Something that’s not Windows 8, which by all accounts is a very confusing and disappointing version of Windows. I’ve tried it, and I just plain don’t like it. If it’s confusing for me to use, that’s not a good omen for most people with whom I worked on computer issues.
  • Software that by all accounts is much less expensive to purchase and is much easier to install if you’re getting it from the App Store.
  • A lot of “built-in” software to manage the things that most people use (Preview, Mail, Notes, Reminders), and a few things that are just cool add-ins (iMovie, iPhoto, Garage Band).

So here are the questions I hear most often:

  • Is the Mac hard to use? Is it that different? The answers are no and no – especially if you’re faced with having to figure out Windows 8. I’ll go back to the example of my wife with the new laptop. She’s not at all a technical person, and she made the leap to Mac in a matter of just a few hours. Was it foreign to start with? Yes. But the more you use it, the easier (and more intuitive) it will be.
  • What about things like Microsoft Office – does it run on a Mac? There is a version of Office for the Mac, but I read and hear that it’s buggy and crash-prone. As is usually the case, there are home/student and business versions of it, and to get Outlook you need to get the business version of it (which is more expensive). One option is use VMWare Fusion, which lets you run Windows inside of OS X (as something called a virtual machine). That’s what I use in my work, where Windows-based software is my only option. Office for Mac is anywhere between $110 (home/student edition) to $195 (home/business edition).
  • I don’t need Outlook, but I do need something for spreadsheets and documents – what are my options? If you don’t need Outlook and are simply looking for substitute tools for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, look at these:
    • Pages, Numbers and Keynote – this is what makes up Apple’s iWork suite. They’re good tools, can be purchased independently (you don’t have to buy the whole suite). $20 per title.
    • Apache OpenOffice v4.0 – Native Mac, Windows and Linux versions for word processing, spreadsheets, presentation tools and a few other utilities. A very functional and powerful package, at a very attractive price: free to download and install.
    • LibreOffice – A derivative of the OpenOffice package, also offering word processing, spreadsheets, presentation tools with some different twists in how it does some things. Also a very functional and powerful package, at the same very attractive price: free to download and install.
  • Do they get viruses? This is always a loaded question. Any machine can be infected with a virus – laptop, desktop, tablet or smartphone; some machines and platforms are more attractive targets – in this context, Windows and Android. The sheer volume of users of these platforms make it more financially profitable for the “bad people” to target those populations, so their efforts are spent there. And while Apple is quite often bashed for being a “closed system”, one of the benefits of this is there are far fewer avenues the “bad people” have to exploit the Apple operating systems. There are anti-virus solutions for the Mac, but most users I know don’t run one.

Tablets Are Not Laptop Replacements (at least not entirely)

I’ve written before that tablets are not laptop replacements (see Laptop vs. Tablet 11/2011). My thinking hasn’t changed much on that front, but I have softened a little bit on it. Can a tablet do what a laptop can do? The answer to that is no, but if you don’t need all of the laptop power and features, it just might be enough for you. There are Bluetooth keyboards and cases available now that can make using an iPad a lot like a laptop experience, but here’s the catch: by the time you fully accessorize your tablet, you’re very close to MacBook Air pricing – close enough to say for just a little bit more money, you’re going to get a whole lot more computing power (and at least double the storage, a bigger screen, more memory and great software options) for the money.

I have both a laptop (MacBook Pro 15″) and an iPad – and I use them both quite often, depending on the need/situation. If I had an Air, I might not be as inclined to reach for my iPad, since the Air doesn’t weigh that much more or is that much larger than the iPad. for what it’s worth.

Now That You’re Going Shopping…

For just about anyone who follows us here at Beyond The Defaults, this configuration (and a few options I’ll throw in for good measure) should meet the majority of needs:

MacBook Air – Get the 13″, put 256GB of storage in it ($1,299), and if you’re a power user or technical/photographic/videographic type of user, bump the RAM/disk up to 8GB/512GB ($1,699).

One thing to note about the Air – there’s no physical media slot other than an SD card – meaning no DVD player/burner. If you really think you need that option, consider an external SuperDrive ($79) or look at the MacBook Pro (which does have a drive). If the MacBook Pro is your choice, don’t buy now – wait a few months. Something tells me there’s going to be a refresh on that line of machine that will bring to the table a different processor and much better battery life.

Extra things to include in the budget:

If you’re going to get a tablet, I think there are two devices to consider: the iPad (particularly if you’re invested in the iOS ecosystem with an iPhone) or the Google (Asus) Nexus 7. Both are very good, very functional devices. I reviewed the Nexus 7 (along with the iPad Mini) last November; the new Nexus 7 has been available for about a week now, and it’s a retina quality screen in a smaller footprint than the iPad Retina. It’s also a lot less expensive at a $229 entry point, and can be found in all the usual places (Amazon, Staples, etc.). If you’ve never considered an Android device in the past, this is one worth checking out – it’s a very high quality piece of equipment.

If you’re thinking iPad, you might sit tight as Apple is due for new hardware announcements most likely late September/early October. All indicators are that new iPhones/iPads are on the menu (along with a few other things). I don’t know about you, but if I purchased a new device now only to see it upgraded in a few months, I don’t think I’d be very happy.

I realize that this is a very “slanted” post – I’m not going to lie, I like Apple gear. It’s because I don’t have the time to be fiddling with my machine to get certain things to work – it needs to just work when I turn it on – and that’s been my experience with every Apple device I’ve owned.

Happy shopping!

Have a question I didn’t answer? Have a different opinion or want to share your recommendations? Join in the discussion by leaving a comment.

 

Evernote Password Reset

EvernoteOn March 2, 2013 the Evernote team released a statement that their security team detected suspicious activity on their servers.  As you can see in part of their statement below, usernames, Evernote email addresses, and encrypted passwords were accessed.  However, your Evernote passwords are encrypted and are secure.  Encrypted passwords are stored in a way that they are unreadable unless you have the proper key to decode it.  The individuals trying to access the Evernote information did not have the encryption key, which means they could not see your password.

The investigation has shown, however, that the individual(s) responsible were able to gain access to Evernote user information, which includes usernames, email addresses associated with Evernote accounts and encrypted passwords. Even though this information was accessed, the passwords stored by Evernote are protected by one-way encryption. (In technical terms, they are hashed and salted.)

As a security precaution, Evernote is requiring all users to reset their passwords.  If you’ve tried to access Evernote on your smartphone or computer, you may have noticed you are being prompted to enter your password.  If you haven’t reset your Evernote password yet, you will be required to before you can access your account again.  Log into the Evernote website to reset your password.  You will also want to update all of your Evernote apps on all devices.

While our password encryption measures are robust, we are taking additional steps to ensure that your personal data remains secure. This means that, in an abundance of caution, we are requiring all users to reset their Evernote account passwords. Please create a new password by signing into your account on evernote.com.

Keep the tips in the Manage Your Passwords post Sam wrote in mind when you create your new password.  Find something that is easy for you to remember but is something only you would know.  Try not to use words in the dictionary or the names of your kids or pets as someone might easily guess them.  Using a combination of upper and lower case letters and add special characters when possible.

This is an unfortunate situation but I think Evernote made the right decision to have everyone reset their passwords.  I feel comfortable leaving my information with Evernote.  Having your information stored in the cloud makes it very easy to access your information wherever you are and on multiple devices.  But situations like this are a risk that you take when you use the cloud and its why its so important to always use strong passwords.

 

Mashable: Why Being Young Doesn’t Make You a Social Media Expert

Being a kid is tough.  Add learning how to navigate social media and build an online presence, something most parents are still trying to figure out for themselves, and being a kid just got significantly harder.  (Throw in the hormones of being a teenager and it just went from bad to worse.)

That’s why this article on Mashable, Why Being Young Doesn’t Make You a Social Media Expert, really resonated with me.  The author makes the case that you wouldn’t let your teenager drive a car without any training so why would she let them on the Internet without instructions.  She also has some great tips on how to setup social media rules for your kids.

So please, talk to your kids and help them navigate the online world.  It might look like they know what they are doing, but they are figuring it out as they go just like you are.

 

Related Articles

My Son Grounded Me From Facebook

Internet Safety for Kids: Teach. Rinse. Repeat.

Talking Tech With Your Kids – The Grandmother Rule

WSJ: Web Profiles Haunt Students

8 Words from my 5 year old that changed social media forever

 

 

Google Maps for iOS

Just on the off chance you didn’t know – a new Google Maps app is now available in the App Store.

And yes, it’s free.

The timing couldn’t be better, in light of the recent report that Apple Maps almost killed a few people in Australia.

While Apple’s maps are pretty, the app’s accuracy has been a big question mark since its release. Google has been doing maps for a long time, and they’re really good at it. So if you’ve been holding off on upgrading your iPhone to iOS6, now you can feel comfortable doing it without the fear of losing a good mapping solution.

Go get the Google Maps app, because you can’t beat the price.

 

Facebook Changes Privacy Controls… Again

Facebook recently changed your privacy controls, again, and now is a good time to check to make sure your privacy settings are where you want them to be.  If you have kids or older parents on Facebook, this is a good learning opportunity for them too that having a digital presence means periodically checking to make sure you are putting your best digital foot forward.

The first check is your Privacy Settings.  In the upper-right corner, click on the arrow next to Home and select Privacy Settings.

When I first opened the Privacy Settings page, I saw that my setting was on Public.  I never post publicly on Facebook (that’s what I use Twitter for), so I changed the setting back to Friends.  This option hides my posts from anyone I’m not friends with on Facebook.

The second step is to see how your profile looks to others.  To do that, go to your profile and and click on the cog icon next to Activity Log and select View As.

I use this option to see how my Facebook profile looks to people I’m not Facebook friends with.  This option showed me that I had been publicly posting on Facebook for the past month or two.  It is not my intention to publicly share posts and photos on Facebook, I want to keep my Facebook information secured to friends only.

Make sure you scroll all the way down the page when using this option so you can see everything.  You can also type in a name at the top if you want to see how your profile looks to someone else.

The third step was to change the public posts back to being visible by friends only.  There are two ways to do this.  The first is you could go through each post and change the option.  This option is time consuming (depending on the number of posts) and you could potentially miss something.  The second option is to use the “Limit the Audience for Past Posts” in Privacy Settings.  I prefer the second option as its easier and takes care of everything with one click.

Click the “Manage Past Post Visibility” link and you will be prompted to confirm the action.  This action will go through all of your past posts and set the visibility to whatever your default is.  In step 1, I changed my default to Friends so using this action will change the visibility of all posts to Friends.  If my default was Public, then this action would change anything I had previously hidden to Friends to Public.

Changing your privacy settings isn’t hard to do.  Remembering to periodically check your privacy settings is the hard part.  For me, I don’t check them on a regular basis unless I read an article that Facebook changed the settings again.

If my child was older and on Facebook, I would check his settings on a regular basis.  Like us, he will be figuring out how to navigate Facebook as he goes and he will probably make some mistakes.  By keeping his Privacy Settings secured, hopefully that will minimize the damage and help him get a job or scholarship.  Remember, your child’s online presence could come back to haunt him one day if not properly managed.

Did you check your Facebook Privacy Settings?  Did you have to change anything?  Are your kids online?  If yes, how do you help them manage their Facebook Privacy Settings?  Let us know in the comments!

For more information on the new Privacy changes, I recommend you check out this article Facebook’s Privacy Evolution Crawls Another Step Out of the Ooze.  It has an image of what the new Privacy option looks like and information about the Activity Log, a feature I haven’t checked out yet.

Other Related Links:

 

Is Texting Killing Our Communication Skills?

The text message turned 20 years old this week (hard to believe, I know). It has evolved from being something very few had and used on their mobile devices to now being a staple in millions of daily lives. Unfortunately, it’s evolved and grown at a cost – it’s caused the use of language to devolve terribly, as this article link I posted to our Facebook page would suggest.

While texting someone is quite often convenient and effective, it really is degrading many people’s communications skills. Trying to fit a complete thought into 160 characters (140 for Twitter) is challenging. That’s a big reason I like iMessage (and BlackBerry Messenger before it) so much, as there are no per-message limits. It allows me to complete a thought correctly.

For others, though, text messaging is their primary mode of communication and shortcut phrases are a way of life. The problem is, it’s hard to read. In some cases, I’ve asked people to call me, rather than look for my “decoder ring” to decipher their messages.

I try to use proper grammar/punctuation in my text messages, at least when auto correct doesn’t try to “help” me. If I can’t make it work, it’s time for e-mail or a phone call. Following that plan ensures that I’m presenting myself and my thoughts in the best way possible.

So, do you pay attention to grammar/spelling, or are you a “decoder-ring” type of texter? Let us know here – looking forward to the conversation.

Image Credit Link

 

GMail Tip – Reply With (some) History

GMailWant to reply to someone, but include only a portion of the text from the sender’s message?

It’s a built-in feature of GMail – check out this article from Gizmodo that outlines the ridiculously easy steps to use it.

The Best Secret Gmail Feature Is Hiding In Plain Sight

 

5 Tips For Creating Holiday Photo Gifts

The holidays are officially here and I’m a big fan of creating photo gifts for my parents and in-laws.  They love getting pictures of us, especially my 8 year old stepson, and I can do all the work from the comfort of my recliner and it ships directly to my house.

I’ve been making photo gifts for over 5 years now and here are my tips for making holiday photo gifts.  I’ve used Snapfish for years so my photo history is there and its the same service my friends use, so I can use their pictures as well.  Shutterfly is another great service and like Snapfish, is free to use.  There are many more sites you can use but I’m not going to list them all here.  Ask around and see what your friends use or try Snapfish or Shutterfly to get started.

  1. Start uploading pictures early – Ideally, after you take the pictures you would move them from the camera and then upload them to your photo service.  That never happens for me so when I finally get around to downloading the 500+ photos I took on a recent trip to Charleston, SC I made sure to upload them to Snapfish once they were on my computer.  Being diligent about uploading your pictures to your preferred service makes it much easier to create your photo gifts later.
  2. Get pictures from family & friends – I have a habit of taking pictures but never being in pictures.  I also don’t remember to bring my camera with me everywhere I go, so I rely on others to help me fill in the gaps.  I can pull pictures from my friends’ Facebook and Snapfish account and hopefully, fingers crossed, they will have a picture of my family and me I can use for the calendar I make for my mother-in-law.
  3. Sign up for emails from your photo service – This time of year, you should never pay full price for photos or photo gifts.  I receive a new coupon code every couple of days from Snapfish and I bought 3 photo books for the price of 1 just last week.  I’m a girl on a budget and I will take all the deals I can get my hands on.  If you aren’t interested in receiving emails, just do a quick search for coupon codes for your photo service before you check out to get a coupon code.
  4. Buy in bulk and start a tradition – Last year I made 1 book of all the pictures from the 3 sports my stepson played and ordered 3 copies, one for each in-law and one for my stepson.   Everyone loved it and I’m told my mother-in-law carried it around for weeks showing it off to her friends.  And my stepson loved seeing his pictures in a book that was made just for him.  I also give my mother-in-law a photo calendar every year.  She looks forward to receiving it, they use it throughout the year, and its an easy gift to make for her.
  5. Start early – The hardest lesson for me to learn has been to start early.  I’ve always waited until the last minute and it adds more stress to an already stressful holiday season and then I cross my fingers and hope the gifts arrive on time.  There is no reason to stress myself out this way.  Its much easier to create a photo gift when you aren’t staying up late trying to get it ready in order to use a coupon or meet a shipping deadline.  I also use the Pomodoro Technique to break up the work into smaller time blocks.

I love having photos of my loved one out and I think photo gifts are more personal than a scarf or tie.  And since I’m terrible at printing and distributing photos the rest of the year, this makes up for it.  (I didn’t pass out the kindergarten pictures until halfway through 1st grade.)

Do you make photo gifts?  What service do you use?  What are your favorite photo gifts?  I really like picture books and stationary but I’m thinking about getting a few photo canvases.

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