The Crazy Chick’s Cool Junk Drawer

Yes, I’ve got a lot of junk in my trunk. Now that THAT joke is out of the way, I want to share with you some of the essential goodies I have come across in my travels as a cartoonist on the interwebs. If you’re only just stepping into the webcomics world, you should probably dive into industry staples like WordPress/Comicpress, Twitter, Facebook Fan Pages, and buy the “How to Make Webcomics” book by the HalfPixel Crew. However, once you’ve “leveled up”, tracking down the other details that fit your needs.. like plugins, widgets, video software, even iPhone apps… becomes important. I find myself asking (on twitter of course) what others use, and answering a ton of the same type of questions myself. So, here I’d like to open my junk drawer for you to peek inside. (no jokes!) What I have may not be the best on the market, but it works for me.. so maybe it’ll work for you.

WebcamMax Video Software

For a quick $25, this video software allowed me to record my computer screen to show my drawing/inking/coloring process. The Digital Techniques series here at the Alliance was recorded with this software and my Ustream Show (now on hiatus) was also done the same way. The handy little application also offers the ability to insert text, pictures, or even flash animations.

As a sidenote, I also use (free) Windows Live Movie Maker to further edit my videos… add music, adjust the speed, and add transition effects.

 

WP Survey And Quiz Tool

Once in a while, it’s good to get feedback from your readers. After all, for a lot of us, they are what keep us inspired to stick to a deadline, post on time, and whose comments make those long nights worthwhile. Heck, they may even pay you for a book! A good way to collect feedback is to set up an easy survey, and I used the WP Survey and Quiz plugin tool. The interface is self-explanatory, and after a simple code entry to a page or blog post, you’re survey is up and ready to go! The results are collected within wordpress, and you can review the single or the total results at any time. As Antoine noted in his first “Learning From Experience” post, it’s good to have a strong archive of material before you start asking for feedback, keep this mind. It’s awfully hard to critique 3 comics… that’s when YOU need to make some decisions and map out what your comic is all about, before asking the world to do so.

 

Tweet Blender

Putting your twitter feed on your website is a gold standard nowadays.. but which of the 25,304 widgets/plugins do you use? (okay, exaggerating, but there’s a TON of ’em). This plugin was introduced to me by Comicpress Guru “Frumph”, so I know it’s pure gold. Tweet Blender is a streamlined, pretty, easy to use, customizable plugin for wordpress.. and you can just toss it right in your sidebar. And there’s SO much you can include, or not include, you virtually design it yourself. Perfecto.

 

 

 

More for Twitter… Tweet Old Post Plugin

This is a pretty neat little plugin, provided you don’t abuse it. Anything automated in twitter is a slippery slope. I learned my lesson with automated DM’s upon new follows. No one likes that… and it’s hard to disguise the fact that it’s automated. So, keeping that in mind, Tweet Old Post is a plugin that will randomly tweet a post from your archive, with its title. This is great for gag-a-day comics with BIG archives, where the title of the comic could grab someone’s eye and BAM- you lock in a new reader. You can add in a phrase to use along with your archive link, even tack on hashtags that apply to your comic! The trick is nailing down how many hours in between tweets works… because people will start unfollowing you like mad if that number is too low. I’m doing okay with “8 hour intervals”.

 

Square: Awesomeness for your iPhone

I have to credit this find to Brad Guigar of Evil Inc., as he was the one who introduced me to it at the last Philly Comic Con. Props to Brad. Square is an app, that goes along with a tiny device which plugs into the headset jack, which allows you to take credit cards.. at, say.. conventions! The app is free. The credit card reader is free. The SHIPPING is even free. The “catch” even though it’s not much in my opinion, is that they take 2.75% per swipe. Heck, I’ll take 2.75% less, if I still make a book sale I may not otherwise been able to! Wouldn’t you?

 

RSS Footer: Pretty-ify your RSS Feed.

If you have a decent knowledge of html coding, or have software that can hold your hand along the way, you can add extra goodies to the bottom of your RSS feed to help direct readers to your website with this plugin. It’s a simple plugin that gives you a text box for any code, images, or plain text, you wish to enter. Also great for an extra Project Wonderful ad. I had some issues with tables, so a good rule of thumb is to keep it simple.

Also, I use the “AddToAny” plugin for the sharing options in my feed, as well as at the bottom of my posts.

Both of these also show up in Feedburner emails to subscribers.

 

Yoono – Social Networks all in One Place.

 

Yay! This is one of my ultimate FAVORITE finds! I have babbled about it on the Workshop Podcast here, and I’m happy to share it again. Let me preface this by saying I DO like TweetDeck. It is the best and most in-depth twitter application out there. But I found switching from Firefox to Tweetdeck annoying. For a while I was using an igoogle widget for twitter, but it lacked in many areas and was finicky. What I needed was an in-depth twitter app, that allowed me to easily switch between 4 different twitter accounts, see my lists, and didn’t make me jump to the main twitter site constantly.

Then, I found Yoono, and my life changed forever. Okay, not really, but I was happy. Not only did it give me all this for twitter, but I could also jump between facebook, linkedin, google buzz, AIM, GTalk, and more. And it’s all in a collapsible sidebar in Firefox. Something really efficient about Yoono, is that you can update multiple statuses at once.. by checking off networks from one status update text box. I used to sync my facebook and twitter statuses, but I found there’s a lot that I tweet that my FB friends couldn’t care less about, so I killed the the sync. I use it at home (PC and Mac) and at work as well.

I do have some minor complaints… as I do with anything I’m passionate about. First, the iPhone app seriously lags, so I stick to Echofon and the regular Facebook apps on my iPhone. Next, there’s no way to delete your tweet from Yoono… that’d be nice to fix. Very petty, you also can’t undo a retweet. Finally, and this is more about twitter itself than Yoono, but, the lack of ability to easily see the NATIVE retweets you receive is frustrating as hell for me. I want to thank everyone, but only the “with added comment” retweets show up unless I go digging on twitter’s main site. Just sayin’. That bugs me.

All in all I highly recommend Yoono, if TweetDeck seems like too much to handle. I find Yoono is an in-between for TweetDeck and a super-striped-down widget.

 

Listal – Collect Your Favs!



Movies I’m into at Listal

 

Now this one is just for fun. I’m often curious about my fellow cartoonists’ OTHER interests: what movies do they like? Music? What video games do they play, or what books are on their nightstand? Okay, that sounds stalker-ish, but the point is- I’m curious about them as PEOPLE. I stumbled on Listal, a database of books, TV shows, movies, video games and more, where the users can collect their favorites… and then make a neat little flash display box for their websites. Me and my love of organization and collecting, I was hooked. You can view my collections on my “Stuff I Like” page! Now, show me yours! (just setting myself up for more jokes, I know)


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Since we’re all in this sharing mood, how about you list a favorite “find” that’s helped you in your webcomic travels in a comment below! I’d love to hear about it!

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17 Comments

  1. There are so many useful things in this post that I am practically foaming at the mouth thinking about how I could implement half of them. It also reminded me that I have a ‘forever’ license for WebcamMax, which I just reinstalled.

    I think the most helpful thing I’ve ever really come across for webcomics are:

    1) Photoshop actions. These are generally hard to link, unless you’ve uploaded them somewhere for other people to download, which I totally have.

    This action separates line art from the white background if you scan your pictures, with no white artifacts around the lines.

    This one makes flatting easy and convenient without having to mess with the bpelt plugin.

    2) Chris Whal has a blog where he has made a ton of custom brushes and photoshop custom shapes for word balloons available. They’re all really awesome, and all free.

    There are others, but i can’t for the life of me think of them right now. 🙁

    • Thanks Ran! I agree with you on photoshop actions! They’re great time-savers and come in handy… I’ll take a look at those links you posted.

      Finding good resources for swatches, brushes, fonts and vector art is key as well… vecteezy, blambot, vectorportal are some of my favs.

  2. Love this post. I am going to search down many of them later and see what I can do with them. Esp the RSS reader. I would love to make mine more engaging.

    • Thanks Bearman! Just keep in mind you’ll have to know some HTML/CSS to do anything dynamic with your footer. It was quite tricky, and tables really confuse the plugin. Literally, all the plugin is, is a text field for you to add in code (like, say, Project Wonderful ads)…. but you may have to troubleshoot what you add.

      Good luck!

      • Keep in mind that RSS feed readers are not always web browsers (eg news.google.com, various ipod/ipad/iphone/android apps ) so you should avoid putting anything that will be unreadable should the html tags be stripped out. The html has to be in proper xml syntax or the rss feed becomes completely unreadable.

        By default, Frumph’s current Comicpress and Easel themes use div+css (sometimes in ways that are difficult not to break,) so layout tables should be completely avoided to prevent breakage.

        As I mentioned on Twitter, div+CSS needs to be thought of as nesting box containers. One of the things the comicpress theme uses extensively is the “float.” IMO it’s not being used the way it’s supposed to (it’s purpose is to float a container so text flows around it.) The more correct way to position objects so they stay put is to use position:absolute or position:relative css and then specifically let the browser position the containers without “popping” as they load. This becomes more difficult if you have content that changes the size of the containers, which IMO is why all the float and clear’s are in the comicpress theme. The theme is meant to be generic enough to work out of the box and never edit the underlying php files.

        But if you want your site to look different from all the other CP themed sites, you have to edit more than just the css. There are also ways of making the CP theme have less “popping” if your comic is always the same dimensions.

        One plugin everyone needs to use if they’re using wordpress at all is a caching plugin. If you aren’t comfortable configuring plugins, use the SuperCache plugin and try for the “mod_rewrite” mode. If you can use this mode, the php won’t be touched at all until you update a page, or a new comment is posted. If you’re more comfortable tweaking things, the W3 Total Cache plugin is a bit more aggressive. Either way, the less php is touched, the faster the site appears to readers, even if the underlying php configuration is inefficient (eg on oversold shared hosting or shared VPS systems.) It’s an easy way to put off upgrading your hosting environment.

        • I understood everything you said Dawn and almost nothing you said Kisai. haha.

          Maybe I’ll wait for someone to write an RSS feed plug in for me. haha

  3. Now this is a useful article!

    Ok, here’s my question. Something I’ve been looking around for and like the “tweets on your page” plugin, there’s a zillion to chose from so I have been hesitant to install any of them yet. What I’m looking for is a plugin that adds a checkbox my your comment form that allows commenters to subscribe to comment updates for any given post. I’ve used firebug to inspect other webcomic pages that have plugins like this and I haven’t been able to determine which one they use. I know a lot of webcomics out there have it so someone has to be able to recommend one.

  4. Thanks a bunch for the article, Dawn! That tweet old post plug-in is a good find! I just yesterday plugged it into my previous comic that has a pretty big archive.. (it ran nearly five years) and it’s better than just selecting them at random by hand to get people to look at my older work.

    • It definitely brings in some hits… especially if you give your comics fun attention-grabbing titles. If they’re just titled with numbers, that may not work as well. Sometimes I’ll even get new comments on the old comics! It may confuse some people though.. who think it’s a new post, and the old topic may not work as well currently.

      I do suggest using it sparingly.. people don’t like feeling as though they are being spammed, even if they like your comic.

      • The plan is to use it sparingly… the old comic is one I’ve essentially ended, and my focus is mostly on promoting the new one. I have the number of hours set pretty high so hopefully I’m not spamming anybody with it. As my new comic accumulates more pages, I’ll probably stop tweeting the old comic.

  5. Been eyeballing that Square thingamajig…the only thing holding me back is not having an iphone, as I could use it for the clients I have that use my business and constantly ask if I accept credit cards. Sure, I could use my ipad, but it is wifi only…excuse me, do you take credit cards? Sure, let’s find a wifi hotspot and I’ll be happy to swipe your card…lol

  6. Pingback: Webcomic Alliance - The Crazy Chick’s Cool Junk Drawer (Part 2)

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