Monday, May 11, 2015

Apple #710: Behind the Daily Apple -- Assembly and Images

This is part 3 in a series of posts about how I put together a typical Daily Apple entry.  The first was about how to construct a good search query to search Google for a given topic.  The second entry was about reading through the results and deciding what's a good source and what's not, comparing data among sources and looking for confirmation.  This one will be about putting it all together.  And also finding the images.

I have admittedly dragged my feet on this one.  Because I don't know how to explain to you, "and this is how I assimilate everything I've read and then I turn it all into one coherent thing."  Those of you who teach composition know it is pretty dang difficult to explain and teach this skill to someone else.  Try doing that, but in a typed-up way, and make it highly visual to keep people's short-attention-internet-span-interest.  Here goes.


Finding the right framework is part of the process of constructing a Daily Apple entry.  This part often takes some noodling.
(Image from

I guess what I usually do is I look for a framework that will help me organize or present the information.  Here are some typical frameworks that I might use:
  • A series of questions and answers.  I start by answering the first question that is where each Daily Apple entry begins.  Then something about what I find might lead to another question.  So I'll answer that.  Which then may lead to another question.  So I'll answer that. And so on. For example, in my entry on the Dollar Sign, I tried to answer how that $ came to be our standard symbol. Then I was curious if the symbols for other types of currencies were developed in the same way. So I looked up the Pound, the Yen, and the Euro.

The evolution of the dollar symbol might be similar to the evolution of the entry itself on the Dollar Sign.
(Image of the transformation from Wikimedia)

  • Introducing you to a species. What are the first things you want to know about a particular animal or plant? First, you want to know its name.  Sometimes this is not as straightforward as you might think. Then I would tell you two or three basic things about that species.  
    • If it's a plant or animal that I think most people are unfamiliar with, I would start with the most notable things about them. In the entry on Sea Fans, for example. I started with the name, which turned out to be a little tricky because people disagree about what's a sea fan/Gorgonian and what's not. Then I described them: they're soft corals, they have flexible, bendy skeletons, and they anchor themselves in sand or mud.  From there, I ventured into deeper details, about photosynthetic versus non-photosynthetic sea fans, the different ways they reproduce, and so on.  So I start with the general and work down to the more specific.

Sea Fans of various types.  The fact that there are lots of different types made that the primary thing I talked about, and organizing my description by those types determined the structure of the entry.
(Photo from a German site about marine zoology, with lots of photos, called Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft)

    • If it's something that I think people already know the basics about -- jellyfish, for example.  i skipped all of the typical encyclopedia-type information and went straight to the interesting tidbits. Jellyfish have been on this planet for 650 million years.  Longer than sharks.  Jellyfish are always growing. But they only live 3-6 months.  A group of jellyfish is called a "smack."  And so on.  This is still an introduction, but I want to get you to the good stuff as soon as possible.

Jellyfish. You already know they have a lot of tentacles, and they sting, and yada yada yada, so I skipped all that.
(Photo by the Apple Lady)

  • Sub-categories. Often when I'm researching a topic, I discover a few different collections of facts that I think are interesting.  I group like concepts together, and then I use boldface headers to make it clear where the subcategories are, in case people want to know only about one particular sub-topic.
    • Sometimes I'll decide, in the interests of time or my sanity and yours, only to tell you about one sub-category and leave the rest out of it.  For example, in my entry on Football Penalties, I could have told you about all sorts of sidebar things I discovered, like penalties for not wearing the approved uniform, which I thought were interesting but were a little off-topic.  Or I could have ventured into other types of before-the-snap penalties such as too many men on the field. But I decided to keep focused on motion-related penalties around the time of the snap.  Then I organized them according to penalties that get called against the offense and moved into penalties against the defense.

Football Penalties. I organized this entry by types of penalties, but I confined them to penalties that typically get called at the snap.
(Photo from Illinois Wesleyan University Magazine)

    • Or I might venture into lots of different sub-categories.  In the entry on Ice Cubes, for example, I started with how they were invented. Because without that, we're not talking about ice cubes.  Then I grouped the entry into things that ice does as it freezes -- it expands, warm water freezes faster, it forms ice spiks, how do you make ice cubes that are clear -- and then things ice does as it melts -- when does it melt faster or slower, and it melts from the bottom up.

The entry on Ice Cubes maybe got a little out of hand.  But there were so many interesting things to know!
(Photo of ice cubes from Habimama)

    • The nature of the thing itself often suggests what sort of structure I should use to describe it.
  • If it's a question about an historical event -- when were Escalators invented, for example -- the history provides the structure.  That is, I go chronologically.  First this guy with a beard came up with thus & so, then this other guy with a beard came up with this other thing, and then such & such enormous company bought the technology and now it's everywhere and nobody makes any money off it anymore, so now it's made mostly in China.  (Actually, in the case of escalators, they're now made mostly in Japan.)

The entry on Escalators followed a pretty typical structure for an historical entry -- a chronological description of how the things were invented and improved upon over time.
(Photo from Elevator World)

  • I do a lot of entries about word origins. A.k.a. etymology.  With those, I start with the obvious starting place: the dictionary definition.  I'll give the definitions my own take, summing up or giving examples.  I'll try to find pictures that illustrate the word at hand.  A good example of this is the entry on Jealousy vs. Envy (with Covetousness thrown in as a bonus).  I looked up the definition of envy, gave a little of my own input, then gave you a picture of the Wicked Witch of the West as a personification of envy.  Jealousy took a little more doing because we often use this word inappropriately. So I had to undo what we think it means by providing a little more definition & description of what it does mean.  Plus a couple pictures and even some video.  Finally, I looked up Covetousness, gave you the definition and my take on it, plus a picture of Hannibal Lecter.  Even though it's Buffalo Bill who was really the personification of covetousness gone wrong.  Then I summed it all up in a brief sentence for each term, hoping that would help the definitions to stick with you.

The Wicked Witch of the West, personifying Envy, and thereby assisting in my word origins-type entry.
(Photo sourced from The Pop Culture Divas)

  • Sometimes this type of entry will become more like a historical entry, if the meaning of the word changed over time.  As in my entry on Shampoo

Unless you'd read the entry on Shampoo, you might not know that it originally meant "massage."
(Screenshot from a video showing the entirety of the massage, which begins with a head massage.)


  • [^ note use of header. Key element in structuring an entry.]
  • Once I've got the thing typed up, then I'll search for and insert images.  I always hope that this process will take only about an hour, but it usually takes a really flippin' long time.
  • I scroll down through the entry and look for an image to correspond with some paragraph or statement often enough that an image will be visible somewhere on your screen most of the time. 
  • But if I'm in the midst of some complex explanation that I think is best uninterrupted, I'll wait until the end of the explanation to provide an image, and then I try to choose one that sums things up in some way.
  • I search for images in much the same manner that I search for text, except I use Google Images instead of Google Web.

Today's Google Image search on the word "framework" and the resulting images that come up.  You can see I chose the one in the second row down, second from the right.

  • It gets time-consuming because, first of all, Google Image's interface is cumbersome.  First, you click on the image you want.  Then a larger version of the image in a black box is displayed.  This takes a bit of time.  Then you have to decide whether you want to view just the image in the browser by itself, or go to the page where the image was originally posted.
  • If you choose to go to the page where the image originally appeared, sometimes you discover the page is not there anymore.  So if you used this image, it would disappear from your site pretty quickly.  Better to find something else.
  • Or you discover that the page has all sorts of copyright or do-not-touch notices surrounding the image. So, better look for something else.
  • Also, if the image belongs to a stock photo site, I don't use it.  Because they definitely want money for those images.  If it belongs to a major news source like Getty or the AP, I usually try to find something else.  Though sometimes, there just isn't another image like it.  So I might post it anyway, since this blog is definitely not a for-profit venture.  I don't make any money from this site, no one pays me anything for anything, and the purpose of this blog is for educational purposes.  So I think Fair Use applies.  Still, I don't want to take any unnecessary chances if I don't have to.
  • Usually I like to the image.  I type in the code [left pointybracket]imgsrc[equalssign][space][quotationmark][complete URL][space][slash][right pointybracket].  I think linking to the image is more respectful of the original poster of the image.  Though some people disagree.  Some people really dislike this practice.
  • If I link to an image of, let's say, Don Cornelius's on my site, when you look at my page, the code is going to query Don Cornelius's page to provide the image from that page to mine. This will tax Don Cornelius's server.  Some people get mad about this, and they don't like it that my page is drawing on their server's energy or bandwidth or whatever it is.  It has happened in a couple cases when a page owner has substituted an image I linked to with something extremely rude or obscene and I didn't know about it until a faithful Daily Apple reader alerted me to the fact. 

Oh my gosh, I picked Don Cornelius's name out of the blue.  I completely forgot that he shot himself.  Well, this is the image of the foundation that his son started in order to provide awareness, prevention, and support for those contemplating suicide and for those who love them. I've linked to this image from that site.
(Image from the Don Cornelius Foundation)

  • Another option is to copy the image and upload it to my site. This seems to me to be much more like stealing.  I'm copying the file to my hard drive and uploading the copied file to my web page.  Conversely, in linking to the image, I'm letting you keep that actual file, and I'm only making a connection to it.
  • The downside to linking to images as opposed to copying them is you get "link rot." The site that hosted the image changes or goes away, so then the image can't be displayed.  Well, them's the breaks, I think.  Sometimes I go through old pages and update them with new images, but that takes time.
  • Whether linked to or more rarely copied, I usually reduce the size of the image somewhat.  I figure if I'm going to provide a version of someone else's image, it ought to be a little less optimal than the original.  Usually the full size version is to big for the blog's frame, but even so, I usually reduce the size a smidge.
  • I also always give a credit beneath the caption with a link to the page where I found the image.  I provide a deep link to the exact page if I can, rather than to the site's home page as many people do.  I do this so that if someone wants to see that image in its full-size glory, or in its original context, they can.  Or maybe they want to see what other images this site or person has; the link allows a reader to go there.  Or in some cases I'm linking to an image on a shopping website, so the link allows the reader to go to the page where that product is being sold.
  • In some cases, I took the picture.  I credit myself: Photo by the Apple Lady. 

Sunset in Sarasota Bay. I took this photo.
(Photo by the Apple Lady)
  • As you might imagine, this business of searching for images, linking to them, typing the caption, formatting the size of the image and the size of the caption is time-consuming.
  • But sometimes in the process of looking for images and looking at the page where the image is posted, I discover new facts.  I might learn something that my textual search didn't turn up, or I might discover a clarification of something I didn't understand and was going to omit.  So sometimes I have to go back and revise the text I already typed up.  In a few rare cases, I've had to re-write half the entry, based on information I found this way.
  • So it is worth the time to add images.  The real reason I've learned the value of images is that, with the exception of a few die-hard regular readers, the majority of the traffic that comes to my site arrives here thanks to an image search. I think this is because I usually provide descriptive captions beneath the images, and Google uses captions as key terms in their image search process.  I like to think my content is witty and engaging, but really, most people only come here for the pictures.
  • What's even more disheartening is that most "strangers" who come to the Daily Apple -- and this is the vast majority of the traffic here -- only stay for about 1 second. 

  • Every once in a while, a new visitor will come here from the results of a Google search, check out the Daily Apple page they were brought to, and then they'll look around at a few other pages. They might click on a link to one or two Ripe Apples, or they might click on a Subject category in the right frame and browse there for a bit.  I especially enjoy those visits.
  • The visits that are really the most gratifying are those when someone comes to a Daily Apple page, stays for a good 10 or 15 minutes, clicks on one of the Sources at the bottom of each entry, and then comes back.  To me, that says the reader has been fully engaged--enough to want to know more about some aspect of the entry, and enough to want to come back.  Those are the ones I consider A+ visits.
  • Of the visits from strangers, that is.  The other kind of A+ visits are those from people who are regular readers, who check this here Daily Apple regularly.  Regularly enough to ask me a question.  Regularly enough to want to know how this thing gets put together.  
  • To you my, my faithful Daily Apple Reader, I thank you for reading.  I thank you for asking questions. Never stop doing either one.
  • Love, Your Apple Lady

(Photo from Chauncey's in the UK)

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