Leah Monica

Director of Marketing

5 Favorite Free Stock Photography Resources, Part II

There’s no doubt about it: finding good stock photography can be tough.  And when it isn’t tough, it’s expensive. When I scroll through images on the popular stock house websites looking for images for our blog posts or newsletters and see how much they’re charging for their stuffy, posed, man-in-suit photos I am always aghast. And annoyed. Very, very annoyed.

Thankfully, I’ve come across a few great stock photography websites recently that are completely free. While we still use many of the resources that Andi shared a few years back, the sites below have become my new go-tos. Most, if not all, of these sites are full of royalty and attribution-free photography, meaning you can use, copy, modify, and distribute these photos without the permission of, or reference to, the photographer. Yes, even for commercial use!

  1. Pexels – Built to help designers, bloggers, and just about everyone else find high-quality, free images, Pexels is one of our absolute favorites. They recently launched a free stock video collection as well.
  2. Unsplash – Started as a Tumblr blog where a photographer shared 10 photographs that were leftover from a photo shoot, Unsplash has grown to a collection of over 300,000 photos contributed from over 50,000 photographers. They are all simply stunning (and all free)!
  3. Burst – Powered by Shopify, this free stock site was built to “empower designers, developers, bloggers and entrepreneurs to create stunning websites and marketing campaigns.” There are thousands of stunning stock photos, ripe for the choosing!
  4. Pic Jumbo – When the large stock houses turned down freelance photographer Viktor Hanacek’s photos, he decided to use his coding skills to start his own free stock website. Almost all of the images were shot by him, and while he always welcomes attribution, it’s not required. The only thing you can’t do is redistribute the photos, but if you’d like to, there’s a paid plan available for that purpose.
  5. Foodiesfeed – While this stock site may only be of interest to a limited audience, there are lots of high-res and drool-worthy free food photos on this site.

Remember that over time licensing agreements on these sites may change, so be sure to always, always read the fine print and abide by the rules!

Have you found any other great royalty-free stock photography websites? Please share!

Maria Lima

Manager of Special Projects

Phishing: How They Almost Got Me This Time

Cybercriminals are getting better…and a lot more sneaky.

Face it, I’m totally paranoid. I keep all my logins in a password manager. I use two-factor authentication wherever it’s available. And yet…

I totally almost fell for a phishing attempt a few days ago. At first, second and third views of this email, it seemed totally legit that it came from Apple support.

screenshot of phishing email

My first reaction was wracking my brain to remember when the last time I did any telephone support at Apple. The fact that I could not remember anything more recent than a year or so ago raised red flags.

So instead of taking the “survey,” I Googled and discovered that this was probably phishing. I forwarded the email to Apple’s reportphishing account.

Why this was such a good attempt:

  • Apple branding was on point
  • All the links at the bottom of the email seemed to be right

The sneaky thing that I should’ve checked right away: Hovering over the Survey Link showed that the URL went to c.apple.com. When I checked that domain name against WhoIs I found that it’s registered to a company called capple.com. So, yeah, not Apple.

Moral of the story: It might actually look real – no misspellings, no weird graphics. Be aware and be careful!

Nick Exposito

Marketing & New Business Coordinator

10 Writing “Rules” That Are Okay to Break

Don’t begin a sentence with a “but” or “and”. Don’t ever write in passive voice. Never start a sentence with “because”. How many of you have ever heard these writing “rules” from a teacher or authority figure? My guess is all of you.

I recently attended a writing seminar hosted by Association Media & Publishing (AM&P) and the topic was “Back to the Basics: Writing for Associations.” Leslie O’Flahavan led this fun and interactive workshop, and she gave great insight on why it is okay to go ahead and BREAK all of those writing “rules” and get them out of your head.

Here are the 10 writing rules Leslie says can be broken:

  1. Don’t begin a sentence with “but” or “and”.
  2. Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.
  3. Don’t begin a sentence with “because”.
  4. Don’t write a one-sentence paragraph.
  5. Don’t use contractions in business writing.
  6. Don’t use “they” as a singular pronoun.
  7. Don’t split an infinitive.
  8. Don’t write a fragment.
  9. Don’t begin a sentence with “however” or “therefore”.
  10. Don’t write in passive voice. Ever.

When writing for your organization, all of these rules can be broken. Yes, all of them. Thanks to blogging and social media, a more casual and informal writing tone is now not only accepted but often expected. So live on the wild side and break rules a little bit! Just be careful that u don’t go 2 crazy w/ it. ;)

What other writing “rules” do you think need to be broken from time to time?

Alex Pineda

Creative Director

The Inflection Point

As I write this, I’m currently watching the live event of Apple’s latest iPhone 8 event. They just announced an update to the Apple TV set top box, with support for 4K, because, according to Tim Cook, “TV is at an “inflection point” with the mainstream adoption of 4K.”

This made me ponder the implication of this term “inflection point”. By definition, in math terms, it’s “a point of a curve at which a change in the direction of curvature occurs.”  In Tim Cook’s reference, it’s when a technology reaches a certain critical mass in terms of how many people use it, hence Apple’s new product.

In larger, cultural terms, an inflection point represents a fundamental change in how people live, do business, communicate.  On the NY Times website, there is a video of all the things the iPhone “destroyed”, in terms of how it disrupted whole industries, and changed how we interact with each other:

The list of disruptions engendered by the rise of mobile technology is enormous, including the taxi industry, alarm clocks, cameras, etc. Every organization is faced with the potential of disruption, with the inflection point. The key is to anticipate this disruption, and embrace it, to evolve, rather than die. History is littered with industries and companies that could not embrace change and fell by the wayside.

Since I’ve been with Matrix Group (1999), there have been a huge number of inflection points, both culturally and technologically. Every time there is a major fundamental change, we’ve had to adapt our design process, business practices, and offerings to clients. From desktop to mobile, cloud computing, content management systems, these new technologies have all had huge impacts on our business, and how we help our clients.

Some of the new potential inflection points include the internet of things, virtual reality, screen less experiences etc.  As a company that designs interactive experiences for our clients, it’s imperative that we stay on top of these changes, embrace these changes, and think about how we can apply these inflection points to help our clients evolve and thrive, and not die.

Janna Marks

Web Producer

9 Tips for Holding a Successful Training Session

Holding a training session can be tough. You have to give your audience all of the information they need in a limited time frame, without overwhelming them or, let’s be honest, putting them to sleep. It can be quite the task and balancing act.

At Matrix Group, we conduct a lot of training. Over the years I’ve held hundreds of trainings and MatrixMaxx product demos. While my sessions aren’t always 100% flawless, I like to think that I’ve gotten pretty good at holding a successful training session.

Recently, I gave some of our staff a training session on giving training sessions. Here are the 9 top tips that I shared with the Matrix Group staff on how to make your training sessions successful:

  1. Know your material – This one may seem obvious, but be well prepared and don’t try to wing it. Make a quick bulleted list for yourself of the key points that you want to cover, and, if you do the same training regularly, it might be worth your time to create a standard presentation template that gets customized for each individual training.
  2. Know the audience’s goals – Ask yourself: What are they trying to get out of this training or demo? What information is the most important and useful to them? Do they want an overview, or a deep dive into one or two areas?
  3. Learn about the organization(s) you are talking to – Ask them questions about how they currently do certain things ahead of time, so you can better prepare. Also, be sure to know about any unique customizations the client(s) may have in place when holding a software training.
  4. Prepare sample data – It often goes a long way for the client to see data like their own. Note a couple of examples that illustrate your points, and populate some sample data where necessary.
  5. Slow down – Don’t be afraid of a little silence and don’t rush through the material. You may know the information like the back of your hand, but your audience doesn’t, so make sure you are giving them enough time to let things sink in.
  6. Practice – A little practice makes a big impact, especially if you are conducting a training on or using new material. Formulate a plan for what information you are going to cover, go over your examples and illustrations and think about what you are going to say for each one, then practice, practice, practice.
  7. Speak clearly – Try to avoid “ums” and “ahs”. The previous two tips will also help you to do this. Also, if you are giving a training remotely, keep in mind that conference phone lines tend to muddle things, so take extra care to enunciate.
  8. Periodically prompt for questions – Before changing topics, ask if there are any questions. This gives the more shy audience members an opportunity to ask questions.
  9. Be clear on who will be taking notes – It can be hard to take notes while also conducting a training, without breaking the flow of your presentation. If you have someone else from your organization helping out with the training, be clear about who will be responsible for note taking ahead of time.

As with anything, practice really does make perfect. But hopefully with these tips you’ll be able to knock any training session out of the park, whether it’s your first or your 50th.

Have any other tips for how to ensure that your training sessions are successful? I’m all ears!