Muddlings

Pottery, nonprofits and for-profit consulting. Exploring synergies between the three and ideology specific to each.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Converting PMS Colors to RGB Hex Values




And now for something completely different...

I'm in the process of redesigning a Web site for a client that provided an existing print color palette and requested that we use it as the foundation for the site design.

Having not converted a PMS (Pantone Matching System) palette into a HEX palette before, I searched for, and was able to track down, an easy to use color conversion chart provided by Reed Design in South London, UK... Is it just me, or does the world seem smaller every day?

I hope you find the chart as helpful as I did.

Take care and have a great weekend. pba.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

SEO Test Update - Yahoo!

Note to self: don't talk in your outloud voice around Yahoo! when attempting to improve the search result stature of your site.

I currently have two messages into Yahoo! support requesting information about the rationale for essentially removing the pbapottery home page from it's results for the keywords "stoneware pottery" after being in the top 30 prior to applying relatively minor tweaks and having the site move up to 12th in the results.

The first reference to the site at this point is a secondary page that appears at #247. Several other pages are still performing well within the index for other search criteria, but the Home page appears to have been severely penalized - even with the recent addition of several reputable links. I'm a bit puzzled and quite bothered by the developments, but I'll continue to keep you in the loop with updates as the situation unfolds...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Warren MacKenzie



Just last evening I had the opportunity to listen to an NPR snippet with Warren MacKenzie (thanks to Emily Murphy) which got me thinking about a variety of topics in no particular order...

Senior Seminar at Bethel

I vividly recall a bit of a panic attack when we were told that we'd have to find a visiting artist in our medium to present, or hang out with, the graduating class of studio art majors. I didn't really know any professional potters on a personal level and I was a pretty introverted college student. After visiting MacKenzie's studio and just sitting and yapping with him for awhile as he worked, I decided to ask him if he'd be willing to participate. He said no. Twice.

I'd been stubborn alot longer than I'd been introverted, so I ended up writing him a letter and apparently the third time was the charm... he invited my class of 10-12 students to come out to his home and talk pots. We looked at Hamada tea bowls and listened alot - to stories and to feedback on my own work (he's not a fan - I'm too tight for his tastes - completely understandable considering the ceramic lineage he is a part of and the potters that influenced him).

My only regret is that I wasn't mature enough to really soak the whole thing in to its fullest. I was more wrapped up in the fact that I 'landed' a big name as a visiting artist than the history I was being exposed to.

That fact that I flubbed that evening doesn't diminish the respect that I have for him - he represents a simpler time and a straightforward approach - pricing pieces based on what he would be willing to pay for them, not signing works because it should be about the pot, not about him, leaving the studio door open at all times, and using the honor system in the gallery - leaving an open basket of cash and checks sitting out on the counter next to the self-serve wrapping.

"Purists, Hobbyists, and Art Pots"

Which led me to another thought process surrounding the ongoing debate about what 'real' pottery is. I think my time at his place and publications that focus on earthy, functional works, have always felt me feeling, at best, defensive and, at worst, paranoid about my desire to create vessels more akin to lathe-turned wood bowls than traditional/loosely thrown stoneware.

So what is real pottery? What is good pottery? Who should I be aiming to please? According to MacKenzie's interview, good pots are essentially the ones that resonate with their maker (now, there's a point of view that'll set you free if you've got hangups about your work). If you're a potter with decent throwing skills, you know when a piece is well thrown, trimmed, and glazed - when a piece is properly balanced and feels 'right' in your hands...

Who Are You Aiming to Please

But that question about who you, the maker, should be aiming to please is an interesting one. Just yourself? individual consumers? a gallery? your mentor or instructor? How about your Creator?

What I'm slowly learning is that God places your desires on your heart and that they come to fruition when you listen and are obedient to them. That's no small sentence - when you're listening and being obedient to your maker, the work you create will please, and bring glory to, Him - your most important audience. So, at the end of the day, the opinions of consumers, gallery owners, and even your mentor(s) and instructor(s) pale in comparison to a heavenly point of view.

Like I said - a bit of a random collection of thoughts. Let's sum it up:

  1. Make any kind of pots you'd like
  2. Sign them anyway you want
  3. Be true to your creator
  4. and wear a mask in the studio if you'd like to maintain proper lung function when you're 81...

Take care. pba. (Joshua 1:9)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Should your Nonprofit be Blogging?

Based on the ability for non-technical resources to publish information, the ability to create archives by topic, and the direct/ongoing connection between writer and reader the medium enables, it's fair to think that more and more nonprofits will be (should be) creating blogs to handle ongoing communication with their key constituencies.

It's not hard to imagine a blog with a section devoted to volunteers (maintained by a non-technical Volunteer Coordinator), a section devoted to the current capital campaign (maintained by a non-technical Admin in the Development office), and a strategic section devoted to the 3-5 year plan for your organization (maintained by your non-technical Executive Director)...

Check out the following links for more information and different points of view on the topic:

This blog started after reading Debbie's primer and represents the initial research that most experts recommend doing prior to taking on a full-time public-facing blog for your organization. My experience thus far is that you really need to have a list of topics stashed away to the side so that you've always got one ready to discuss that is relevant - otherwise you'll end up writing about how your body clock got confused on a Friday morning.

The PBA Pottery blog affords me flexibility of subject matter - which is something to consider as you start defining ways you could leverage tools like this one to meet your audience(s) where they are...

Give the links a read and drop a line to panderson at rhumblinepartners dot com if you have any questions or just want to keep yappin' about the topic...

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Pottery for Preeclampsia





"that which is gone dances in the midst of me"

"i read their stories and find myself transported back to my son's birth to wonder how life would’ve been different had our experience been something other than the near perfect one that it was.

would i still believe in my heavenly father if we had lost our child or if i had lost my wife? its a concept that i can’t fathom.

up to seventy five thousand families experience the unthinkable every year & have their faith shook to the very core by preeclampsia.

thank you for being part of the solution & enabling others to keep the faith. pba."

(the in-process piece pictured and quoted above will be donated to a silent auction supporting the preeclampsia foundation in november of '05.)

contact the foundation directly for more information.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Can't Afford Photoshop? Try the Gimp!

So is it a coincidence when I get two requests for a Photoshop-like product that is priced for the average bear in the same day? I think not.

I took a few minutes tonight to find something that would provide one sister-in-law and one nonprofit with access to photo-editing and resizing capabilities and stumbled upon an Open Source product called "The Gimp" (be sure to download both the runtime environment and the actual application).

First impression is that it's clunkier than Photoshop, but pretty powerful... oh yeah, and it's free.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

SEO Test Update - Google

The first phase of our SEO test for optimizing the PBA Pottery Home page for the keyword phrase "stoneware pottery" is coming to a close a mere 7 days after it began.

The page moved up ~21 positions in Google - currently sitting at position #24 out of 929,000... not a bad improvement considering the minimal investment of time, but still not meeting the goal.

I won't have time to re-rework much in the immediate term, but there'll be a 2nd round of revisions and attempts to create some reciprocal links coming soon...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Have You Been Making Any Pots?




Thought I should actually mention pottery in the PBA Pottery blog this morning... it has been a couple of weeks since I sat down and cranked on any work, but tonight's the night to add to a slowly-but-surely growing collection of greenware awaiting a bisque firing.

There are about 10 specific requests that have been hanging out there for quite some time that I'd like to fulfill (wine coasters, small globes, etc.) - it's amazing how fulfilling a commission request can reenergize and bolster confidence in your craft and it's also amazing how many folks have been placed in my life that care about this facet of who I am. Thanks to each of you for your patience and support.

And, to answer the question.... Yes, I have been makin' a few pots as of late.... thanks for askin'.

What if...

What if you could change the world with your everyday actions?
Who would you choose to impact first?
What is their biggest need?
Why do you think they’ve been placed on your heart?

You already change the world. You just need to figure out whether or not you’re going to be deliberate about it...

Monday, April 18, 2005

SEO Test Update - Yahoo!

Yahoo updated their cache/index within the last 24 hours or so.

Drumroll please... the pbapottery home page went from 39th to 12th in the rankings for the search string "stoneware pottery". Still not quite first page material, so we'll have to take another look at potential tweaks and pursue additional links from relevant sites...

This is a great example of the type of iterative progress to expect - make a few changes, give it a few weeks, make a few changes... etc. Patience and deliberate steps appear to be the names of the game...

Googlebot visited for the first time in a little over a week today... we'll see how long it takes to update the cache and index...

Tidbit: Yahoo! returns about 549,000 results for "stoneware pottery", Google about 891,000

Friday, April 15, 2005

Isn't it Saturday?

Ever woke up with your body clock a day off? It took me about an hour this morning to figure out that it is not actually Saturday... I was ready to change into my grubby jeans, head off to Home Depot and paint my 3-yr old's room before it hit me...

WAIT - you've got a Web site to update, project deliverables to produce, and meetings to plan for next week! Thankfully I like my job. It would have been a really nasty morning otherwise...

SEO update. How do you go from 17th to 40th without actually changing anything? Yahoo! still has the pre-updated page in it's cache, but the site actually moved down the rankings this week... stay tuned for updates when the tweaks are finally recognized (i'm takin' bets on when that'll be - my guess = April 24th @ 3:35 a.m.)

Enjoy your weekend... after you're done with today... pba.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Armchair SEO Test

Grab a bowl of popcorn, have a seat in your comfiest chair and follow along at home as we do a test of some of the most commonly communicated search engine optimization methods...

Test 1. Attempt to optimize the PBA Pottery home page for the keywords "stoneware pottery"...

Goal: First-page results status on both Google and Yahoo!

Method:
1. Capture screen shots of current search results placement for searches using the keywords "stoneware pottery" within Google and Yahoo! (the home page was showing up at around 45 and 17, respectively - as of 4/12)

2. Take a quick look at the pages that currently rank near the top of the search results for "stoneware pottery" - paying attention to page title, meta data, and placement of the words "stoneware" and "pottery"

3. Alter the PBA Pottery home page:

  • changed order of keywords for index.htm to start with stoneware and pottery

  • altered description to start with “Stoneware Pottery” – kept original description as second sentence.

  • changed first sentence to a "Heading1" style and included “stoneware” in sentence

  • added an additional instance of “stoneware” within body text

  • added another instance of “pottery” within body text

  • changed one instance of “artist” to “potter”

  • changed order of page title from “Functional & Decorative Stoneware Pottery” to “Stoneware Pottery – Functional & Decorative”


4. Eat popcorn and sit in the comfy chair until Google and Yahoo! update indexes and recache the site.

5. Coming soon... updated results

Outstanding Questions:

  • How well will this update do without taking on a formal linking strategy?
  • Will this blog entry actually end up appearing higher than the pbapottery home page based on the number of times the keywords "stoneware" and "pottery" appear within it?

Stay tuned and thanks for playin'. pba.



Sunday, April 10, 2005

Don't Look Back...

It's not just a great tune by Boston - it's a concept that is currently impacting multiple threads of my life...

The personal thread - I just returned from two days in Bemidji, MN - hangin' out with 'Grandmama' in the hospital as she recovered from a recent surgical procedure. We talked of current events and family history - of our family's tendency to look backward instead of forward - focusing on rehashing the past as opposed to living today and figuring out ways that our lives can impact others in the future.

She emphasized the fact that our lives should be focused on pleasing God, not on pleasing her or the memory of my grandfather and his desire for the family to 'walk the talk' when it comes to our faith and belief systems... She essentially said... Don't look back, look up and look ahead...

The work thread - we've all heard stories about business "giving back" - essentially taking a cut of profits and reinvesting them into the community... well Rhumbline has kicked off a program called "GiveAhead" - where we make the investment first and trust that the relationships we create will result in referral business down the road... The concept didn't take long to stick -- we're already in the midst of our first project and are looking forward to impacting lives through quality Web, Organizational Alignment, and general IT Advisory services and discounted prices for human services nonprofits... stay tuned for more on the topic...

So think about what you're thinkin' about - are you looking back? Are you embracing the future or fearing that you'll reproduce someone else's past? Are you simply reacting to what's around you?

It's amazing to me how much of a gift an 80-year old woman can be - even while she's going through the scariest experience of the last 30 years of her life. Thanks for the talks, grandmama - I'm glad you're feeling better and that your trademark glisten returned to your eyes before I had to head back to my little fam...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I'd Like 4 Cows and a Chicken.... To Go....

For those small to mid-size nonprofits out there that are looking for creative ways to pull in revenue via the Web, consider productizing your nonprofit services into an online product catalog.

The benefits of doing so are multi-faceted:

  • Users interact with you using the same methods that they already use with for-profit online merchants.
  • Donations become tangible - no more tossing $50 into the perceived abyss of an organization without an understanding of how it will most likely be used.
  • The act of creating a "virtual product catalog" will force you to adopt your potential donor's point of view - a step that is essential for your site's success whether you're selling something or not...
  • The user learns about your services as he/she "shops" in your "product catalog"
  • You open a whole new vehicle for marketing to small-to-mid-sized corporations that are involved with annual gifting for key clients and partners. Who wouldn't rather give temporary care to a kid in need than a box of logo golf balls and a nick-nack?

Check out a great example at Heifer.org - you can make symbolic donations for things like milk-producing animals and poultry. Heifer is clear on their site that all purchases are symbolic and that funds raised will support the overall mission of the organization - you would probably need to do the same...

Much more to talk about regarding tools and marketing approach, but not this morning...

Sunday, April 03, 2005

What's Your Story?

While touring a local nonprofit this Friday, it hit me. The painfully obvious phrase "It's all about the stories" just kept on smackin' me in the forehead. I had been looking for a simple way to communicate to nonprofits about the importance, and practical use of their Web presence and surely this was it.

Just the day before the thought of conducting a seminar about nonprofit marketing and fund-raising while making pottery and drawing the parallel between the two:
  1. For me, pots are all about their ability to communicate a story - not be purely functional vessels that do a day-to-day task. There's nothing wrong with purely functional pottery - there's nothing better than eating off of handmade stoneware - it has the power to turn the mudane into something much more... I just like to think there's more to it...

  2. The Web, as a nonprofit tool, is a fruit from the same tree.

    While there is nothing wrong with for-profit brochureware on the Web (it serves the purpose of communicating the basics of a business and provides a place for traditional feature/benefit sales while also reinforcing an organization's brand and culture), the medium is capable of much more.

    I firmly believe the nonprofit community is responsible for tapping into those capabilities. They're responsible for representing the stories of their clients via their Web presence - enabling their readers to relate and feel something as they surf - provide a new and striking level of understanding - like the stories are connected to real individuals that we they care can't resist caring about.

    In essence, if a site visitor doesn't have the opportunity to feel what they would experience if they were to tour your facility in person, you're robbing visitors of a heart-level understanding of what you're all about - which will ultimately translate in a lost financial opportunity for the organization. The Web is a tool that needs to be directly integrated into your strategic plan - with real goals and real metrics and real marketing support. Placing it on the backburner because of a lack of resources or a lack of understanding simply isn't an option in a marketplace that is witnessing dramatic funding cuts from government sources. As federal and state funds dry up, nonprofits must effectively use the tools at their disposal to reach non-government funding sources.

I don't pretend to understand every in and out of the nonprofit sector (or the Web medium, for that matter), but I understand enough to know that what I experienced in person at this local nonprofit is not represented in the organization's electronic face to the world. What I read online is a brochure, what I saw in person were real-life stories attached to real-life people - that I couldn't help but are about.

I spent about 2 hours after I got home from the tour looking for examples of successful story telling and ended up getting stuck on one nonprofit (Center for Digital Storytelling) who is all about story telling in the electronic medium. Their service won't answer every need, but, if you're someone that naturally draws parallels, you'll undoubtedly apply some of the lessons they teach to your own site or your own communication style as you talk about what you bring to your local community through nonprofit service.

Check out a sample of the curriculum they use in their courses - I'm still absorbing the document myself, but have been impressed with both the material and the examples of individual stories they provide on their site.

So... whether it's trying to make pots communicate more explicitly in order to invite individuals into a conversation, or a Web site that gets creative to communicate about it's clients... at the end of the day, it's all about the stories...