How to tweak (digitise) drawings in Inkscape

I’ve been playing with Inkscape, a free open-source image processing tool. For a project I need to draw some cartoonish images and clean them up and I’m learning how to do that thanks to YouTube and Inkscape’s own tutorials.

Note: If you’re using Inkscape on a Mac you may also need to download XQuartz; note that you use the Ctrl key not the Command key in Inkscape. Similar software is Gimp (free) and Adobe Photoshop (not free). I’m also teaching myself to use Scribus, a layout tool, but I mostly use PowerPoint for that at the moment.

Here’s a drawing of a house (biro on white paper) photographed by my iPhone and emailed to myself. Scanning it in would give a much better starting image to work with and drawing it more neatly etc etc but I’m just playing for now.

Screenshot 2019-04-16 17.32.56

Imported into Inkscape by File > Import and OK-ing whatever suggestion it gives

Screenshot 2019-04-16 17.33.21

Once imported ensure it’s selected (click on it if not) and that the arrows are double-headed, then choose Path > Trace Bitmap

Screenshot 2019-04-16 17.35.34

Fiddling about with the settings … (use Update to see how it’s going before using OK to apply)…

Screenshot 2019-04-16 18.17.22

…produces a layer which can be moved away from the main image, resulting in a separate clean black and white image.

 

The resulting image…

Screenshot 2019-04-16 17.38.13

Further tweaking can be done by using the node tool (looks a bit like an archer’s bow between the pointer icon and wave (?) icon in the panel on the left below) and moving the lines about but I’ve not bothered with that for now.

Screenshot 2019-04-16 17.39.42

OK I had a bit of a play around with it. Stretched the E.  (Eeeeee !)

Screenshot 2019-04-16 18.22.58         Screenshot 2019-04-16 18.23.11       Screenshot 2019-04-16 18.23.18

Things I’ve learned after a few hours’ play

I have not been saving images as .svg files (which is, I think, what I am supposed to do) and am. just cheating, copying a screenshot and pasting into my .pptx presentation. I’ve noticed that enlarging the image once in the PowerPoint neans that it looks a bit grainy so I recommend enlarging it in Inkscape by zooming in, taking a screenshot of that and then it will look better.

I’ve also had some fun with the ‘bucket’ tool which fills an area with colour. Also the resizing tool (hold the Ctrl key [Mac users you too, not Command] to enlarge or shrink while keeping the same aspect ratio.

Screenshot 2019-04-19 13.18.52.png

 

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How to know if the link you’re sharing on Twitter will produce an in-tweet image preview

tl;dr – check if the link you’re sharing can produce an inline image preview by running it though Twitter’s Card Validator. If it doesn’t you can cheat by manually uploading or pasting in an image.

The order and type of links in your tweet can affect things: pasting in a link to a tweet always displays that tweet regardless of other links involved or their order but for any two (or more) non-tweet links included in your tweet the last one is displayed. You can prevent a link from displaying an image by converting it to an is.gd shortened link (not bitly though), or override by adding an image to the tweet.

Instagram is a law unto itself and linking your Twitter & Instagram won’t display your Insta posts, you need a third party app for that.

In my previous post, How the order of links in tweets determines which one gets its accompanying image displayed, I played around with the order (in a tweet) of links that either do or don’t produce an inline image preview.

This is what an inline image looks like.

Screenshot 2019-02-17 08.59.42

The picture below the text appears automatically after I shared a link (the link itself becomes hidden and is replaced with the image) to a post on this blog about Instagram images. Instagram doesn’t support Twitter cards so letting Instagram autopost your Insta posts to Twitter doesn’t work in terms of displaying an image, you need a third party app to do that – details in that post I’ve just linked to.

  1. For an inline image to appear the site being linked to must have Twitter cards set up correctly [technical info for web developers].
  2. You can check if any given link will work by plugging it into Twitter’s Card Validator (note that the S in HTTPmay be important so try that first if you’ve copied over an HTTP address).
  3. If (2) doesn’t work and you aren’t able to set up (1) you can always cheat by just uploading an image or pasting in a screenshot of the image you’d like to appear. The link you share won’t disappear (it’ll show up as a clickable link) but hardly anyone will notice this workaround 🙂

If you include links to two or more posts that have Twitter cards working then the last one mentioned in your tweet will have its image preview shown. If you include a Twitter-card link alongside a non-card link then the card link will always show its image and the order of the links doesn’t matter. For an enjoyably pedantic (YMMV) examination of the effect of the order of links have a look at my earlier post: How the order of links in tweets determines which one gets its accompanying image displayed.

Note that if you include in your tweet a link to another tweet (even if included with a link that would normally produce an inline image) it seems that the link to the tweet will always take precedence and show up, regardless of the order you write them in your tweet. In the example below (using my testing account) I’ve reversed the order of two links, one to a post on this blog about getting rid of ‘your friend liked this tweet‘ notifications, the other to a tweet of mine about a Wikipedia page I created.

Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.25.19

How the order of links in tweets determines which one gets its accompanying image displayed

tl;dr – the last link in a tweet is the one that will show up with a media preview if that link has Twitter cards associated with it (eg almost all news sites).

If two links are tweeted but one has cards and the other doesn’t then the order doesn’t matter, the cards link always shows up.

If a tweet includes the link to another tweet then the tweet will always appear (it will look the same as how a quote RT looks) because a linked tweet will override any other link that has media preview capability / Twitter cards. (If two tweet links are shared then the last one shows up)

If you want to override any of this and control what appears in the media preview you can just upload or paste in an image.


Some tweets that have a link included will display the text of the tweet and the text of the link – the whole tweet is just text, with the link in a different colour (often blue, but different profile colours chosen can mean they’ll show in a different colour if you’re on their profile).

This is my test account ‘FriendlyBlocker‘ (set up to test Twitter’s block functions) publishing a tweet which contains only a link to a Wikipedia article I wrote on the nonsense that is CEASE therapy – the link shows up as a link.

Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.03.15
Tweet with a Wikipedia link in it

In a different tweet below I’ve shared a link to a BBC article, and nothing else. The link is nowhere to be seen in the ‘bit where the text would go’. Instead there’s just a clickable picture that takes you to the article. This is because the BBC site has set up Twitter cards so that the shared link automatically pulls the image from the BBC’s website and displays it as a media preview. The link shows up as a picture.

Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.05.25
Tweet with a BBC link in it

 

I’ve occasionally shared more than one link in a tweet and expected one of them to show up as a picture and been a bit surprised when the other one has. I thought I’d investigate what role the order of the links might play, and different types of links. Here are the results of my study into this phenomenon 😉

  1. If one of the links is associated with Twitter Cards and the other one isn’t then the order dosn’t matter at all, the cards one will always be displayed as the image. You can always override this by uploading an image to your tweet, then both links will show as links. (You can upload an image or just Ctrl+V to paste one in).

    Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.13.43
    Two tweets both containing the same two links to Wikipedia article and to this blog. As WordPress blogs have Twitter cards and Wikipedia seems not to, the WP blog post is always displayed as an image and not just as a link.
  2. Where two or more links each having Twitter cards associated with them then the order does matter. From my mildly extensive testing it seems that LAST is where to put the one you want to appear as the image.

    Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.16.52
    Two tweets with two links, with the order of the links reversed. Both links have Twitter cards associated with them and in both cases the second link posted is the one that shows up as an image.
  3. It looks like the link of another tweet included in a tweet (as opposed to retweeting) will override any other link that has a Twitter card.
    Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.25.19
    Two tweets, two links (one of them to another tweet) showing that the order makes no difference and the Twitter card for the tweet is always diplayed.

    Again this could be overridden by including a separate image if you don’t want the text of the tweet to show up and do want the image to show up of the link.

    Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.30.52
    Adding an image overrides the Twitter cards and makes the order of the links irrelevant.

    Note that quote tweeting the tweet and adding a link also doesn’t work, the tweet will override whatever link is added in the quote part.

    Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.33.26
    A quote RT of a tweet, with a link to this blog (which has Twitter cards associated with it) added. The tweet overrides and shows up in the media area.
  4. Just to demonstrate that it’s the LAST position for the link to show up as the image in the media area (where all links have cards associated with them, and none of them is a tweet URL…) here are three links with the order varied, in all cases the link placed last is the one that shows up as the picture.If one of the links is a tweet that’ll override everything else and always show up, regardless of the order.

    This is what I wrote for the three tweets, from top to bottom.

    Link B (BBC) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47242477
    Link C (Buzzfeed) https://www.buzzfeed.com/farrahpenn/cleaning-hacks-that-are-borderline-genius
    Link A (blog) https://howtodotechystuff.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/hate-seeing-other-peoples-likes-on-twitter-some-options-to-try/

    Link A (blog) https://howtodotechystuff.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/hate-seeing-other-peoples-likes-on-twitter-some-options-to-try/
    Link C (Buzzfeed) https://www.buzzfeed.com/farrahpenn/cleaning-hacks-that-are-borderline-genius
    Link B (BBC) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47242477

    Link A (blog) https://howtodotechystuff.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/hate-seeing-other-peoples-likes-on-twitter-some-options-to-try/
    Link B (BBC) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47242477
    Link C (Buzzfeed) https://www.buzzfeed.com/farrahpenn/cleaning-hacks-that-are-borderline-genius

    Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.54.37

  5. And for completists here are tweets containing two links to two other tweets, re-ordered. In both cases the last link is the one that shows up.

    Screenshot 2019-02-16 14.00.40
    https://twitter.com/JoBrodie/status/1077394079955193856
    https://twitter.com/JoBrodie/status/1077393442769174528

    The text of the URL for the tweets is shown above (made as non-clicky links to show the actual link, WordPress automatically converts tweet URLs to an embedded tweet)

 

 

List of resources for finding Public Domain, Creative Commons or otherwise free images

I’ve been using Pixabay for a while ever since a colleague told me about it, it’s amazing. I also came across Pexels and periodically gather other things together. I’ve known about NASA images and CDC PHIL for years and Flickr of course as resources of images but I keep finding more. This excellent blog post (10 Sites for Free Stock Photos (Updated for 2018) by Sean Filidis) lists a whole load of ones I’d not heard of.

I’ve added some extra ones to Sean’s list (mine are asterisked) but you should definitely go and look at Sean’s post because he says a bit more about what each site offers.

Further reading at the end 🙂

  1. * CDC PHIL (Public Health Image Library) – public health image library (example of CDC’s request for acknowledgement “This image is in the public domain and thus free of any copyright restrictions. As a matter of courtesy we request that the content provider be credited and notified in any public or private usage of this image.NB these include medical images and search results may not be suitable for children.
  2. * Creative Commons search
  3. * Flickr Advanced Search – change the ‘Any licence’ option to suit. The obvious white search bar in the middle is, curiously, not the actual search bar despite the cursor arriving there first. The minute you start typing in it the secondary grey search bar at the top will immediately take over, so you might as well write there anyway. I cannot account for it!

    Flickr advanced search showing where to access licence options Screenshot 2018-10-16 14.23.53.png

  4. * Freebies Gallery (formerly Public Photo)
  5. * Google Images (handy tip: use -pinterest in your search, then adjust the licence you want, Tools » Usage rights)

    Google Image search for flowers showing Tools and Usage rights aka License options Screenshot 2018-10-16 14.20.35.png

  6. Gratisography
  7. Morguefile
  8. * NASA – I think almost all US Government department images, when taken as part of publicly-funded work, are free to use though they might like credit too. Here are NASA’s media-use guidelines.
  9. Picjumbo
  10. Pexels
  11. Pikwizard
  12. Pixabay <– I’ve used this one a lot
  13. * Public Domain Review – a collection of collections, eg this lovely one on comets aka Flowers of the Sky.
  14. Rawpixel
  15. Reshot
  16. * Science Museum Group collection – use freely, but only for non-commercial projects. Images are from the Science Museum in London, Railway Museum etc
  17. Stockvault
  18. Unsplash
  19. * Wellcome Collection images – free to use with attribution (credit) but check for individual photos

An * just means I’ve added this resource to Sean’s list (also reordered alphabetically).

1. What terms mean and how you can use images

Images that are labelled as Public Domain (or CC0) can be used for any purpose including commercial and you don’t need to credit the person who took it (but it’s still nice if you do) or pay for it. Creative Commons-labelled images have different ‘levels’ of how they can be used – they don’t cost money but you may have to credit the author, and you may not be able to use them on commercial projects. Some image repositories (like Pixabay) share images that can be used under a very relaxed license but also include a tip jar so that you can ping the author the equivalent of a cup of coffee.

See also Best practices for (Creative Commons) attribution

2. Embedding images into blog posts (for example)

Obviously if you’re printing a brochure you’d need to be able to download a high-res image and attribute as appropriate (or not needed if CC0, or no attribution requested).

Flickr, for example, generally takes care of attribution itself.

  1. Autoembedding from link: For a WordPress.com blog like this one simply pasting the link into the post will result in the image appearing, already linking back to its page on Flickr for people to find out who took it.
  2. Embed code: For Blogger.com sites this auto-embedding doesn’t work so for things like that you’d use the embed code. The code carries attribution info and a link back so is just another way of doing (1)
  3. Downloading: You can save a copy of the image then upload to your site – doing this means it will no longer carry any info about author attribution (beyond the filename, unless you change it). You would need to add a caption or find some other way of referencing it appropriately.

3. Further reading

Occasional workaround for reading US websites which are skittish about EU visitors, GDPR and cookies

tl;dr version
Search for the URL itself, read the cached copy.

Audio version of this post:

Recently there has been a spate of American news sites returning a page that says the content isn’t available to me since I’m in the UK / EU and, because I’m subject to some unspecified horror to do with the GDPR and cookies, the website is worried about me seeing it and hopes I might just go away.

About 90 per cent of the time this problem is rapidly solved by searching for and reading Google’s cache of the page. The appearance may be a little different but the text is usually there and perfectly readable. Here’s an example of how to do this.

Yesterday I wanted to read the awful story about a young black woman who died after it was assumed she’d not be able to pay for the ambulance service that she needed. Her mother had found her slumped in the bath after she’d collapsed with a suspected stroke. She’d given birth via C section a few days before.

Here’s the address I clicked on (via a tweet)

https://www.wpbf.com/article/mom-of-woman-who-died-claims-medics-assumed-daughter-couldn-t-afford-ambulance-ride/22558170

On clicking the link the page said

Screenshot 2018-07-28 11.04.50.png
Fig 1. “Sorry, this content is not available in your region.”

Try this – it doesnt always work though
The next stage is to copy that address / URL (the wpbf.com bit next to the green padlock) – the quickest way to do that is to put the cursor into that address bar, it should automatically select the URL but if not Ctrl+A will do that. Then Ctrl+C to copy and open a new tab with your preferred search engine and paste (Ctrl+V) into the search bar and search [see also: handy keyboard shortcuts]

Screenshot 2018-07-28 11.04.21.png
Fig 2. Search results returned after searching for the web address / URL itself

Ignore the top stories option. You might just about be able to make out a tiny little green arrowhead pointing downwards to the right of the green URL for this search result. That’s where Google hides the cache of its pages. Here’s a close-up.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-21-24-12
Fig 3. Where to find cached copies of pages, if available

Clicking on the green arrow will bring up a menu saying ‘Cached’ and clicking on that usually, but not always, bring up the page you want – it did in this case too.

Screenshot 2018-07-28 11.30.21
Fig 4. In this instance the cached copy was available and readable

The entire text is visible but for copyright reasons I’ll leave it at that. Here’s the link if you want to read it yourself, it’s a sobering read.

This is a very useful and more widely applicable trick
There are other cases (*cough*) where content isn’t shown to you, for all sorts of un-GDPR related reasons. It is nearly always worth checking the cached version first before either admitting defeat, asking a friend for a copy or reading a different newspaper’s story.

For the exceptionally patient
At the bottom of Fig 2 there’s a paragraph of text beneath the green URL and the green padlock. Google can nearly always read the page (whether there’s a cached version or not) even if you can’t. If you search for a phrase that appears there (put it in ” ” marks when searching) then Google will show that phrase in the search results, often in context which means it may show other bits of surrounding text. Frankly it takes ages but it may be possible (I’ve done it to uncover and reference a quote for work once) to work your way through very slowly and uncover a large portion or even the entirety of the otherwise hidden text.

Further reading
Google cache (& other search engines): finding deleted pages or seeing your words on the page in colour (this blog)

Troubleshooting Twitter: how to find answers to common questions

Screenshot 2018-06-28 00.18.42

I see a lot of the same queries about Twitter crop up frequently on the #TwitterHelp hashtag, most of which have already been answered on Twitter’s own help site.

For example how to change your city for Twitter trends | uploading a video | finding out why your tweets are missing, or aren’t showing in search | how to unlock or recover a suspended account (where this is possible) … and so on

If you’re looking for an answer to a particular Twitter-related query or are trying to troubleshoot something then this post should point you in some helpful directions.

1. Searching on Google and other search engines
If I know a solution or have some suggestions I’ll try and answer. If I need to check something first I usually type in some relevant search terms, the word Twitter and occasionally site:help.twitter.com into my preferred search engine (it’s Google). That last one searches for mentions of whatever I’m trying to find in Twitter’s help files. If I omit that then the search will cover any website (including this one) as lots of people write ‘how to’ blog posts about Twitter.

2. Searching on Twitter itself
There’s a high chance that someone else will have asked / answered your query. If you can’t log in for any reason you can still search at https://twitter.com/search-home or https://twitter.com/search-advanced. The #TwitterHelp hashtag might help too.

3. Searching Quora
You can visit Quora itself and search there or just add Quora to search engine searches, for example https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=site:quora.com+twitter+video

4. For more technical stuff look at Twitter developers’ forums
https://developer.twitter.com/, https://developer.twitter.com/en/community and https://twittercommunity.com/

5. All the other pages you can play with on Twitter

Found by searching for site:*.twitter.com on Google

 

The “from:user” search workaround for seeing a blocker’s tweets (while still logged in) has stopped working

Updated 11 July 2018: still seems to work OK on https://dabr.eu

There are a lot of people making misleading (and occasionally illegal) health claims on Twitter. When you challenge them they often block you. This has happened to me (and many other skeptic bloggers, scientists, healthcare professionals etc), and my early efforts at finding out how to monitor such accounts and tweets is a large part of why I now have this blog about how Twitter appears to work!

Of course being blocked has never stopped anyone from reading a blocker’s tweets as you can always just log out (or use a spare account, or an incognito window) to view anyone’s tweets, as long as the blocker’s account is public.

One disadvantage of being logged out, particularly if you use desktop Twitter, is that you can see only their broadcast tweets and not their ‘Tweets and replies‘ tab. To get around that the search string   »from:username«   had, until yesterday, been a simple workaround while logged in as the blocked account, on desktop or the official mobile app.

As of yesterday it no longer works while logged in as the blocked account – I don’t know if that’s a glitch or a permanent change to Twitter’s search function but for now it looks like your options for viewing tweets from someone who’s blocked you are as follows

  • Log out and use the  »from:username«  search style to view replies as well as broadcast tweets
  • As above in an incognito window (for Twitter searching purposes the two are logiclly the same)
  • Log into a spare account and you can either use the above search strategy or just visit their page (assuming they’ve not blocked your spare account)
  • Use Dabr.co.uk – you can even log in (for the time being, it might change) – as of early July the page seems to be down but https://dabr.eu is still up
  • Try other non-official phone apps too…

You can also search  »to:username«  to see tweets sent to that account if you like.

To see the tweets of someone whom you’ve blocked is as it always was – visit their profile and click on the ‘View tweets’ button.