Jeff Grabill at TEDxLansingED: Texting Is Good For Us

“I do know that if I put something like ‘Texting is good for us’ in the title of a talk, I am guaranteed an audience.”

The quote above is Jeff Grabill’s explanation for the title of his recent Ted Talk – and spoiler alert – he doesn’t actually say if texting is good for us. He does, however, offer an insightful look at the power of networks and writing education.

Speaking engagingly and intelligently for almost 12 minutes is a uniquely difficult (and anxiety ridden) task. “[T]he situation was challenging. [...] I had to try to be interesting, engaging, and absolutely on time in a speech situation that was basically live TV … and without my typical memory aids.” explains Grabill.

As a rhetorician, however, Grabill was uniquely prepared:

“To prepare, then, I relied on my rhetorical training (Ta da!). Specifically, I created a memory palace, a very old technique for recalling a speech. It isn’t memorizing the speech, but in a classic memory palace, you imagine rooms of a house/palace and what you will say in each room. During the talk, one simply “walks through the palace.” Another take on the memory palace can be found in this season’s Sherlock.

Jeff’s recommended TED Talks:

Subtle Patterns & Transparent Textures

Patterns and textures are fantastic ways to add a little depth to any project, but they can become overwhelming. From this problem comes a simple solution: subtlepatterns.com. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and with a library 377 patterns strong (and growing) there’s sure to be something to your taste.

Plus, the website is absurdly easy to use, allowing whole-page previews of each pattern and one click downloads straight from the browsing list.

BONUS:

If you want even more room to play with texture and pattern, check out transparenttextures.com, a project by Mike Hearn. Transparent textures takes directly from subtlepatterns.com and converts the patterns into even more easily usable transparent versions. The similar whole-page preview function even has a color picker so you can see the pattern in any color before you download.

And the cherry on top? The entire gallery for both sites is situated under a creative commons license – giving you full freedom to create without stepping into the tangles of an intellectual property lawsuit.

Free Fonts You Can Actually Use

free fonts gif

Free fonts are awesome, but it’s so easy to end up with a computer full of fonts you’ve only used once. To avoid this trap, it’s preferable to stick to high quality, versatile font families with full character sets and multiple weights. With this in mind, check out the free fonts below, handpicked with an eye for usability. They are ordered in terms of license – at the top you’ll find fonts you can use even for commercial projects, where the strictly personal use families are at the bottom.

Bebas Neue

A tall, clean sans-serif display face that has been called “The Helvetica of Free Fonts”.

  • free for personal AND commercial
  • multiple weights
  • all caps

Simplifica

Another tall sans-serif with a bit of a sci-fi vibe, great legibility, and a ton of glyphs.

  • free for personal AND commercial
  • upper & lowercase sets with full punctuation

Odin Rounded

A super-round, super-versatile display with a HUGE glyph set and stylistic alternates for a varied look.

  • free for personal AND commercial
  • multiple weights (and italics)
  • upper & lowercase sets with full punctuation
  • stylistic alternates (more…)

Use Reddit to Get Free Stuff

Companies and individuals offer to give out freebies online every day, but it can be pretty impossible to be at the right place at the right time. Luckily, you can find a lot of this free stuff using reddit. The site is organized into “subreddits” which serve as categorization for particular communities. The larger reddit community can be kind of love-it-or-hate-it, but certain subreddits can be a great tool in finding good deals. Subreddits dedicated to free stuff essentially become a giant crowdsourced gallery of links to cool offers.

Finding these subreddits themselves can be tricky at times, so I’ve provided a few below:

Some communities are more active than others, but you can easily find the best content on any subreddit by clicking the word “top” on the navigation bar and adjusting for time scale (top this month, top this year, top all time).

top all time on reddit

 

Books Without the Burden

Books are expensive; textbooks are outrageously expensive. And heavy. So even if you’re a die-hard print lover, this list of free books available online can ease your burden (both financially and physically).

The first and most obvious is the heavy hitter: Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg runs off of donations and impressively manages to provide over 42,000 high quality free e-books, and most are available in multiple file formats.

For textbooks, we have textbookrevolution.org. The site can be a bit annoying to navigate – broken links scattered through the navigation become frustrating quickly. On the bright side though, textbookrevolution has over 1000 free textbooks available on a variety of subjects. There’s also en.wikibooks.org, an open source/open collection of informational books that utilizes the familiar wiki structure to crowdsource the content.

Finally, if you’re looking for a beach read to throw on your kindle, there’s publicbookshelf.com. Public Bookshelf has a community built around romance novels, and as such some of their top hits include Sense and Sensibility, Princess Zara, and a fictional biography of Jane Austen.

The full list at justenglish has 103 entries separated into even more categories, like foreign language novels, poetry, and even illustrated children’s books.

Imagination Library

80% of preschool and after-school programs serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for their children (Source). These same children often go without age-appropriate books available at home as well. This can set them up at a disadvantage from their very first moments in the education system.

Dolly Parton is out to change that. Imagination Library is her project, founded in 1996. Families who sign up can receive one age-appropriate book each month, starting at age 5. Imagination Library serves families in America, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

If you know a child that could use an opportunity like this, point their parents this way and pass on the #weekoffree love to those who need it most.

Trial by Fire

Being controversial on purpose won’t get you invited to a lot of parties, but it might make you a better writer.

Defending your ideas can be terrifying; most people instinctively avoid confrontation. But debate sharpens both your ideas and your rhetoric. Early rhetoricians studied the subject for the express purpose of speaking in the public forum. They knew that ideas forged in the fire of controversy naturally become stronger – or, if they aren’t strong in the first place, burn out. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A weak idea that burns out is almost always a learning experience.

For some tips on how to actually go about raising some hell, check out this article at copybot.

 

Perfectionist Mode: ENGAGE

Sometimes “good enough” just isn’t quite good enough, and that search box really does need to move 3px to the left. Unluckily for perfectionists everywhere, it can be hard to communicate to peers, higher-ups, and engineers just how important 3px can be.

It is for those unlucky perfectionists that Braden Kowitz wrote this article at the Google Ventures blog. Kowitz outlines the language disconnect, specifically focusing on the point where engineers and designers find friction: implementation.

Kowtiz suggests an understanding, flexible approach. Batch up the work into a fix-it day the way bugs are often batched. Polish as you go, instead of expecting perfection upfront. And finally, do the engineers a favor and stay away from customization icebergs (custom tasks where there is a deceptively large amount of back-end work to keep up with).