Monthly Archives: September 2010

15 Crazy Publicity Stunts

Written by ProspectMX

Any economist will tell you that the world runs on hard work, natural resources and ceaseless innovation. Crafty companies and individuals have discovered that 100% of economists are boring and liars. The world in fact runs on a variety of drugs, broken dreams, and–most important of all–fame. To this end, they have gone out of their way to concoct the most harebrained stunts that rocket them to fame and success. Or infamy and sleaze, but this is pop culture so the line is a fine one.

”Hunting for Bambi”

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In the quest for a PR stunt that would shock, appall and certainly be featured on FOX news, Real Men Outdoor Productions decided to host an “adult paintball” extravaganza. Male participants would go into the arena, shoot as many women as possible, then have the option of…er…”eating” what they killed. In case you can’t see where this is going, the non-PG description is essentially the program was billed as a prostitution ring where first you were allowed to hunt and painfully bruise the hookers.

Just about everyone from women’s groups to conservatives were up in arms over the mixture of prostitution, human cruelty and destroying our childhoods by associating Bambi with sex. The truly ridiculous part of this story is, though Real Men Outdoor Productions initially pitched the concept as a farcical stunt in order to sell pre-existing videos of naked women being hunted by paintballers, society kind of liked the idea and Real Men Outdoor Productions now offers the service for real.

Women on Waves

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In 2001, someone apparently remembered the gambling paradise that is international waters and decided to apply this idea to other less-selfish illegal things. What sort of illegal things? Hows about abortion. The group Women on Waves, which is based in the Netherlands, decided to get a giant ship and sail to Dublin, where abortion is illegal. Once they loaded up the pregnant mothers, they would sail to international waters, where Dutch laws apply on the ship and abortions could be legally performed.

Designed as mostly a publicity stunt to raise awareness of women’s issues, the trip was wildly successful despite uproar from both the Irish and Dutch governments. According to some sources, it was even responsible for shifting public opinion positively in favor of abortion rights. But the crazy thing about international waters is that it’s an area where Women on Waves’ greatest asset (no laws) became its greatest liability. After a successful second voyage to Poland, the Portuguese realized they didn’t have to screw around in these lawless waters and sent a freaking warship out to intercept the yacht.

Cashtomato.com’s Cash Giveaway

You know those hyper-flashy ads for local car dealerships that inevitably have some sort of “I’m GIVING AWAY MONEY” line followed by flashing impact font? Unsurprisingly, these dealerships don’t actually give you money — they first make you buy a car and contract hepatitis C from being within 10 feet of their sales force. This is perhaps an uncharacteristically smart move, as giving out free money often incites riots.

A few years ago, shameless YouTube copy Cashtomato.com decided to take their super-classy name literally, and went with the lazy stunt of giving out cash in bags of tomatoes. While this sounds like all kinds of awesome, Cashtomato was a west-coast company that apparently never had any experience with an actual urban center. As the CEO euphemistically put it, they were overwhelmed by “street people” [read: the homeless] who rioted over the money. So what sort of kings ransom was in these bags that would reduce people to angry rioters? An astounding 29 dollars.

Eichborn Flies

In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, a lot of publicity stunts crash and burn under the weight of their unintended consequences. Most are poorly-conceived, half baked ideas that probably sound so edgy in the board room but don’t exactly pan out in real life. In an idea that falls half into that category and half into the “pretty neat” category, the German publishing house Eichborn (whose logo is a fly) pasted tiny banners to actual flies and released them at the Frankfurt Bookfair.

While this may seem more gross than anything else (not to mention associating your brand with a disgusting insect), Bookfair attendees seemed more charmed with the idea’s whimsy than its vehicle. This is a rare example of a stunt that amused while raising brand awareness. Savor it, because we still have 11 more chances to crush your faith in humanity. Starting with…

The Speidi “Divorce”

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Ah the sacred institution of marriage. To most, it is a holy union filled with love, family and the sacrosanct open bar. To others who take it way too seriously, it is a holy union under imminent attack from buttsex. Still to others with no shame, it is something to be shamelessly manipulated for a few seconds of fame.

Created in 2007 by mad scientists as a vessel for Americans’ excess outrage on slow news days, Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag are well-known for being perhaps the biggest fame whores currently in existence. In 2010 they decided to take this to a new level by filing for divorce. In a testament to how played-out their shtick is, most Americans’ immediate reaction was “I bet they’re doing it for the publicity”, since that is the only reason they had done anything up to that point. Turns out the whole thing was in fact a sham, concocted as a fame and money grab so they could sell a fake-sordid story about the affairs and betrayals that led up to the divorce.

The Olympic Torch

We often think of crazy publicity stunts as being the stuff of modern culture. But there was really no time period immune to grandiose gestures as a means of impressing people without having to actually be better. The Olympic Torch in contrast has, for decades, been a symbol of world unity, of human achievement, of determined perseverance.

Except for that time when it was the symbol of Nazi exceptionalism. Far from being a fixture of the modern games, the torch relay from Athens to the host city wasn’t introduced until the Berlin summer games of 1936. Struggling with one of the most massive inferiority complexes of the 20th century, Hitler was looking for a way to really show the world his Germany’s superiority. While having a team of people run 1,600 miles seems every day to us, back then it was viewed as crazy grandstanding. But like the VW, ethically bankrupt experiments on minorities and jet engines, this Nazi flight of fancy was wildly successful and persists to this day.

Salvador Dali

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Speaking of publicity stunts and fascists, Salvador Dali was perhaps one of the greatest false-hype men in history. His stunts are too numerous to count, running the gamut from employing topless models during gallery showings, to trashing his own art displays to create buzz for his upcoming play. There wasn’t a Dali-related event that Dali wasn’t out doing something ridiculous to promote.

The thing is, Dali was so crazy that it was hard to tell when he was acting, and when he was near death. In one stunt, he entered a lecture flanked by white hounds while dressed in a full old-fashioned diver’s suit. Apparently deciding that oxygen was soooo blase, Dali neglected to make sure there was a way for air to get in to the air-tight suit. As the ambient oxygen in the helmet began to dwindle, Dali started frantically pulling at the helmet which was, at that time, affixed with metal bolts. No one helped him because no one wanted to be the square who fell for Dali’s latest stunt. Dali survived, and repaid the uncaring world by becoming an unapologetic fascist, though biographers are split on whether or not that was just another stunt.

Tung Desem Waringin

As Cashtomato.com proved, giving out cash as a publicity stunt can have particularly riotous results. Indonesian author Tung Desem Waringin decided that violence and desperation weren’t “edgy” enough and decided to add a bit of grinding poverty to the mix. In 2008, this wildly successful author dropped about $10,000 from a plane on to eager fans below. Chaos predictably ensued, with reports of men stealing money from smaller, weaker children

The especially depressing part about this is that Indonesia has a per capita income that hovers around $2,200, give or take. So while $10,000 doesn’t seem like a whole lot to distribute among the presumably thousands of people in attendance, let’s do a little quick math. In the US, the average income is roughly $45,000 which is about 20 times Indonesia. That means that to these desperate people, many of which are living on less than a few dollars a day and struggle to find food and clean water, this man is dropping the equivalent of $200,000 for them to fight over. It’s like the biggest hobo battle ever organized.

The Sex Tape of Paris Hilton (and everyone else)

Remember what Paris Hilton was like before her sex tape was released in 2003? Of course you freaking don’t. She was filthy rich and a frequent presence at swank parties, but no one with an annual income below eight figures knew her. Then her sex tape was released serendipitously right before her TV show The Simple Life was set to begin. Now she’s frequently mentioned in the same breath as famous-for-a-reason people like Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan.

While there is no clear-cut evidence that the tape was specifically released as a publicity stunt, it was released and perhaps the best moment in her entire career and engendered almost instant fame. It’s such a successful device that every fame whore on the planet is releasing a sex tape now. It’s become something of a rite of passage into a brotherhood of terrible people who don’t realize that they’re famous only because they give us someone to hate.

Oprah Car Giveaway


Oprah Gives away Cars
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Everyone remembers the famous Oprah car giveaway, where every member of the audience walked out with a brand new car and a hefty hidden income tax. But quick quiz: what kind of cars were they? What company made them? Did you ever think twice about maybe going out and buying one?

Of course not, because Oprah very savvily realized that everyone would remember that Oprah gave out free cars, not that those cars were actually Pontiacs donated by GM. So now while this publicity stunt is widely considered to have been a stroke of genius that elevated Oprah to Uber-Deity status, Pontiac recently went out of business. It didn’t help that, at the time, the Pontiacs given out on the show weren’t even available for purchase.

Vodafone Streakers

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There’s a common overused phrase in marketing that says that any publicity is good publicity. This is why companies will produce shocking, offensive ads. It’s not because they’re looking to persuade, but because if their brand is on the tip of everyone’s tongue when you need a widget you’ll think of that widget company and their graphic depictions of widget sodomy. There’s an often-ignored addendum to the “any publicity” maxim that reads something like: “incomprehensible publicity is a waste of time and money you douche”.

International telecom Vodafone decided to ignore this advice, paying streakers to run on-field during an Australia-New Zealand soccer match while wearing the Vodafone logo. What sex, soccer or streaking have to to with telecoms is anyone’s guess. Vodafone endured a slew of negative and generally confused press related to the incident. Some speculate that Vodafone was trying to cast itself as the “hip, edgy” telecom (similar to Virgin), in which case they probably could have picked something that’s not a frequent activity of the drunk, fame hungry and mentally unstable.

JMP Creative Houdini

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Magician Jim McCafferty was trying to get his start-up marketing company off the ground back in 1990. Starting with what he knew, this illusionist decided to stage a stunt where he was tied into a straight jacket and locked in a metal cage 300 feet above the stage. After a certain period of time, the metal cage was supposed to detach from its rigging and plunge to the floor.

McCafferty made it out of the straight jacket in time, but the metal cage malfunctioned and it took several precious minutes to get out. In a scene ripped from a movie, McCafferty emerged just as the cage began to drop. He managed to secure himself into a harness that broke his fall, but not before he sustained ropeburn serious enough to land him in the hospital. Marketing experts are split on whether or not the risk involved in the stunt was worth it, since JMP Creative is now a multi-million dollar business.

However all of this is completely moot in light of McCafferty’s sheer ballsiness. Supposedly, immediately after the stunt (when most people thought the close shave was part of the act) a prospective client came to McCafferty and commented on how amazing the show was. McCafferty, who was being loaded into an ambulance at the time after nearly falling to his death, calmly replied “If you think that was good, imagine what I can do for your brand”.

Balloon Boy

Assuming you are older than the age of two, you remember how in 2009 the country was briefly paralyzed over the plight of little Falcon Heene, who had apparently gotten himself into a giant balloon and was now floating helplessly hundreds of feet in the air. Physicists and people with a functional grip of math and reality, immediately began to question how the weight of a small child could have possibly been supported by that balloon. Eventually it came to light that adorable little Falcon had been hiding in the attic, and there was no reason to panic.

The country went back to work, and the Heene family went on several talk shows to discuss the horrendous worry and turmoil. Then adorable little Falcon ran his mouth on Larry King Live and revealed that the whole thing was a publicity stunt designed to net the family a reality show. In a rare show of clarity, the American public chose to ignore the Heene’s afterward instead of giving them the fame they so desired. Well that’s if you don’t count father Richard Heene’s hilarious “proof” of life on mars.

The Death of Superman

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In the early 90s, comic books were beginning to suffer a painful contraction in readership. All the old standby super-heroes were viewed as too old-fashioned, too stuffy and too garish for the modern, disillusioned 90s audience. Superman especially, as the invincible, impossibly noble paragon of America was difficult for a younger audience to relate to. In the age of Nirvana, Superman just seemed too much like everyone’s parents. Everyone agreed that something needed to be done to reboot to medium.

The solution? Kill Superman. What better way to show everyone that your genre has turned a new, edgy, iconoclastic corner than to kill the most invincible, iconic hero in the world? Originally the proposed publicity stunt was to have Superman marry Lois Lane, but (let’s assume) someone smart told everyone to “Screw that, screw that man” and the Death of Superman was…er born. The important caveat to this was that Superman’s death wasn’t just a callow stunt, it was also done really well, so well in fact that Superman creator Jerry Siegel said that he couldn’t have done it better himself. The media blitz that surrounded Superman’s death, combined with the quality comics at its core, reinvigorated DC comics and successfully converted millions of new readers.

PETA

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If Salvator Dali’s Dada zombie had sex with an out-of-touch political agenda, the resulting bastard child would be PETA’s plethora of publicity stunts. No other organization short of maybe the Westboro Baptist Church has such a rap sheet of ill-conceived, generally confusing and repulsive publicity stunts. Also they all inexplicably seem to feature naked women.

There’s really nowhere to start when talking about PETA’s history in this area. From comparing the slaughter of animals to the Holocaust to wrapping people in meat packages, there’s no end to their stunts that confuse all but those that share their highly specific viewpoint. In light of the fact that PETA stunts don’t really need explanation to be funny, here’s a long list of crazy that probably stands unrivaled: They tried to rename fish as “Sea Kittens”, as if people wouldn’t eat kittens if they were as delicious as Chilean Sea Bass. They put naked girls in cages to protest animal caging. They put naked girls in sandwich boards to protest the treatment of chickens. They put naked girls in lettuce bikinis to hand out (presumably awful) veggie dogs. They handed out comic books to children of people wearing fur, letting them know that “Mommy is a Murderer”. So generally PETA is determined to combat abuse and objectification of animals through…abuse and objectification of humans?

Bonus: They Won’t Even Know What Hit Them

How to Improve Your Financial IQ

Written by Peri Pakroo

Stop avoiding your numbers–there’s nothing to be afraid of and everything to gain.

Like many things we know are good for us–exercise, getting a good night’s sleep, laying off the French fries–keeping careful track of your business’s finances is one of those must-do tasks to keep your business healthy. Nevertheless, a huge number of business owners neglect their numbers, and their businesses pay the price.

I tend to see two main types of financial blow-off:

  1. Fully neglecting to track income and expenses by letting receipts pile up (or get lost) and failing to enter data into a bookkeeping system.
  2. Doing a decent job of keeping income and expense records up to date, but failing to use the numbers to answer questions about the business’s financial situation.

While I’ve definitely known more than a few business owners guilty of the abject neglect described in item 1 (you know who you are), the second type of financial ignorance is practically an epidemic among owners of small to medium-size businesses. Over and over I hear owners admit sheepishly, “I don’t do enough with the numbers.” If you merely keep up with the basics, you might avoid true financial disaster. But you’ll definitely miss opportunities to thrive if you don’t use your data to make strategic decisions.

Getting Over the Hump

If you’ve had your head in the sand about your business’s finances, take heart: You are not alone (by a long shot). Tons–tons–of successful business owners loathe dealing with numbers. They regard financial management with fear, anxiety, insecurity or some combination of the above. Typically, they say they are simply too busy running the business to deal with tracking income and expenses or analyzing the numbers.

The good news is that affordable bookkeeping software automates most of the work, from tracking account balances to generating sophisticated financial reports, putting essential financial information at your fingertips. If you really hate working with numbers or truly don’t have the time to do so, have a competent employee or outside bookkeeper do the job.

However, as the owner of the business and the person responsible for guiding it, you do need to be in the know about your business’s finances. So if you hire someone to do most of the financial management tasks, make sure you’re in the loop and that you understand what the numbers mean. Don’t be shy about asking for guidance or mentoring from an accountant or bookkeeper. If you feel insecure about your level of financial knowledge, you’re in good company. Just make a sustained effort to learn as you go.

Financial Management in a Nutshell

The trick with bookkeeping is to establish a system early to help you stay organized. By “system” I mean a simple process for organizing your receipts and files, as well as having bookkeeping software set up and configured. With a system in place, you’ll definitely be able to handle most or all of your bookkeeping tasks, even if you’ve never done them before. I typically break financial management down into three broad steps.

1. Keeping and organizing records of expenses and income: Financial management starts with keeping records of all the money the business spends (expenses) and all the money it earns (income). This means carefully keeping and organizing your receipts and expense records (such as bills from the office supply store, invoices from your web-hosting company, and receipts of payments to your employees and freelancers) and your income receipts (such as a cash register tape of your café’s income, check stubs from your client’s payment checks, or your invoices to clients marked “Paid”).

2. Entering this information into bookkeeping software: On some periodic basis–maybe monthly for a small consulting business and daily for a busy café or retail store–you’ll enter the information from your income and expense receipts into a bookkeeping system. More often than not, this will be some sort of financial management software such as QuickBooks or MYOB.

3. Generating financial reports: Finally, with up-to-date information entered into your bookkeeping system, you’ll generate reports such as a profit/loss report or cash-flow projection (described below) to reveal how your business is doing.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Again, setting up a system will make a huge difference when it comes to entering and categorizing data in your bookkeeping software. With your data entered, you’ll be all set to do the important (and actually quite fun) part of financial management: generating reports showing you the financial health (or illness) of your business.

Often, business owners have such poor systems in place they barely manage to get their data entered accurately. It becomes a grueling task–hours spent searching for receipts and trying to decipher poorly documented expense reports–that they stop after the data entry stage and never get around to generating reports. Don’t let this happen to you. Generating reports is key to managing your business’s finances and making strategic decisions.

Financial reports summarize the data in your bookkeeping system to show you different aspects of your business’s financial situation. For example, a profit and loss report compares monthly income to monthly expenses to show whether your business is selling enough products or services to cover costs each month. A cash-flow projection shows similar information, but includes other sources of income such as capital contributions from owners or loans (that is, not just revenue from sales). It also organizes the information slightly differently to show you whether the timing of your income is adequate to pay your bills on time.

The Payoff

By generating reports, you’ll be able to see trends and patterns in your business’s finances and identify profitable opportunities to pursue. You’ll also avoid letting your business simply drift along–or worse, run it into the ground. Here are a just few ways that analyzing your financial reports will help your business:

  • You’ll be able to price goods and services more competitively, pace growth more effectively and trim costs strategically–for example, you might cut back on travel expenses or outsourced services that aren’t helping to generate sufficient income.
  • You may be able to reduce taxes by timing your purchases strategically and claiming all your deductible expenses–things that often escape businesses with disorganized records.
  • You’ll be able to manage your business’s cash flow, ensuring you can pay important bills on time. Cash-flow management is a critical element in every business. When it’s done poorly or not at all, you may find yourself short of cash when it’s time to pay taxes, payroll or other crucial expenses. This is exactly the type of scenario that forces businesses to close up shop for good.

Finally, if you’re itching to launch your venture and still worried that you have too much to learn in a short time, stop fretting. You don’t need to turn into a financial whiz overnight. In practice, I advise every small-business owner to consult at least once or twice during their startup days with an experienced bookkeeper or accountant (or possibly both) to help the business get started on the right foot. For those of you who feel like total novices when it comes to the money stuff, consulting a professional will help you get over the hump of your financial learning curve. There are also lots of useful organizations such as The Association of Women’s Business Centers and SCORE that can help get you up to speed.


Peri Pakroo is a business and communications consultant, specializing in legal and startup issues for businesses and nonprofits. She is the author of The Women’s Small Business Start-Up Kit .


Bonus:What a Timing!

The REAL “Stuff White People Like”

Written by Christian Rudder

What is it that makes a culture unique? How are whites, blacks, Asians, or whoever different from everybody else? What tastes, interests, and concepts define an ethnic group? And is there any way to make fun of other races in public and get away with it?

These are big questions, and here’s how we answered them.

We selected 526,000 OkCupid users at random and divided them into groups by their (self-stated) race. We then took all these people’s profile essays (280 million words in total!) and isolated the words and phrases that made each racial group’s essays statistically distinct from the others’.

For instance, it turns out that all kinds of people list sushi as one of their favorite foods. But Asians are the only group who also list sashimi; it’s a racial outlier. Similarly, as we shall see, black people are 20 times more likely than everyone else to mention soul food, whereas no foods are distinct for white people, unless you count diet coke.

Using this kind of analysis, we were able find the interests, hobbies, tastes, and self-descriptions that are specially important to each racial group, as determined by the words of the group itself. The information in this article is not our opinion. It’s data, aggregated from the essays of half a million real people.

So here’s the real stuff white people like.

Click on the icons to toggle between men/women.

In general, I won’t comment too much on these lists, because the whole point of this piece is to let the groups speak for themselves, but I have to say that the mind of the white man is the world’s greatest sausagefest. Unless you’re counting Queens of the Stone Age, there is not even one vaguely feminine thing on his list, and as far as broad categories go we have: sweaty guitar rock, bro-on-bro comedies, things with engines, and dystopias.

As for the interests of white women, you have romance novels, some country music, and a broad selection of Good Housekeeping type stuff. It’s also amazing the extent to which their list shows a pastoral or rural self-mythology: bonfires, boating, horseback riding, thunderstorms. I remind you that OkCupid’s user base is almost all in large cities, where to one degree or another, if you find yourself doing much of any of these things, civilization has come to an end.

If I had to choose over-arching themes for white people’s lists, for men, I’d go with “frat house” and for women, “escapism.” Whether one begot the other is a question I’ll leave to the reader.

Stuff black people like.

Hopefully it’s been obvious that the font-size of a phrase indicates the relative frequency with which it appears. So, toggling between black men and black women above, you can see that while soul food is important to both, but it’s really, really important to the women. In fact, soul food and black women is the single strongest phrase/group pair we found.

The above lists also make it clear that, regardless of whether Jesus himself was black, his most vocal followers definitely are. Religious expressions weren’t among the top phrases for any of the other races, but they’re all over the place for black men and (especially) black women, for whom 13 of the top 50 phrases are religious. Black people are more than twice as likely than average to mention their faith in their profiles.

Finally, it’s worth noting that of the four lists we’ve seen so far, black women’s is the only one to explicitly include someone of another race: Justin Timberlake.

Double finally, how bold is it that I am cool is the second most typical phrase for black men?

OkTrends Racial Stereotype #1

In the course of researching this article and, in particular, comparing white guys to black guys, a handy shortcut occurred to me:

If you’re trying to figure out if white dudes like something, put fucking in the middle, and say it out loud. If it sounds totally badass, white dudes probably love it. Let’s see this principle in practice:

Stuff Latinos like.

Music and dancing—merengue, bachata, reggaeton, salsa—are obviously very important to Latinos of both genders. The men have two other fascinating things going on: an interest in telling you about their sense of humor (i’m a funny guy, very funny, outgoing and funny, etc.) and an interest in industrial strength ass-kicking (mma, ufc, boxing, marines, etc.) Basically, if a Latin dude tells you a joke, you should laugh.

OkTrends Racial Stereotype #2

El chiste de knock-knock:

Latinas’ interests are fairly typical for a dating site: you got friends, career, education, movies, music, a few physical details, and, oh yeah…morbid fear. We dug further into I’m terrified of (on their list at #42) and found which words typically came next. It’s mostly insects and “the dark”, though one expert tautologist is “terrified of being scared” and another woman is “terrified of Martians.”

I feel obligated to state, on behalf of white men everywhere: That woman should get a grip. Martians are nothing compared to the Sardaukar.

Stuff Asians like.

As you can see, both Asian men and women choose I’m simple as their go-to self-description. Contrast this to black men’s I am cool and Latinos’ I’m a funny guy. It’s also interesting that Asian men very often mention their specific heritage (taiwan, korea, singapore, vietnam, china) while Asian women don’t.

OkTrends Racial Stereotype #3

Combing through these lists, you can see the different ways women use cosmetics:

  • White women show off their eyes (mascara is #5 on their list).
  • Black women show off their lips (lip gloss, #7).
  • Latinas show off both (mascara, #18 / lip gloss, #22).
  • Asian women, however, show off their practicality (lip balm, #48).

. . .

So far, I’ve gone through racial groups in order of their prominence on OkCupid. For brevity (I know this is the internet), I’ll present the remaining lists without foolish commentary. You can click any of the links to reveal them inline.

Stuff Indians like.

Stuff Middle Easterners like.

Stuff Pacific Islanders like.

Sidenote: reading level

Since we were parsing all this text anyway, we thought it would be cool to do some basic reading-level analysis on what people had written about themselves. We used the Coleman-Liau Index, and when we partitioned the essays by the race of the writers, we found this:

Before anyone gets too charged-up about this, we also ran reading level by religion and found this:

Is there a Comic Sans version of the Bible? There really should be. We subdivided this chart further, by how serious each person was about their beliefs:

Note that for each of the faith-based belief systems I’ve listed, the people who are the least serious about them write at the highest level. On the other hand, the people who are most serious about not having faith (i.e. the “very serious” agnostics and atheists) score higher than any religious groups.

. . .

We’ll be revisiting race later this month, with a statistical investigation of interracial dating, and we’re almost finished with the article on (bi-)sexuality we promised last time. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Till next time,

Christian

Max Shron and Aditya Mukerjee contributed additional research to this post.

Bonus: I miss you.

9 Websites Stuck in the 1990’s

Written by Dan Martell

In the past ten years, the Internet has changed so drastically – so completely – that it’s hard to remember what a vastly different place it was in the 1990’s. The web was new and exciting back then, and everyone from businessmen to high-school tinkerers were compelled to put websites together and become a part of this growing trend. Not surprisingly, the designs they produced were brutally bad by today’s standards, yet despite graphical and technical changes in web design, there are still some businesses operating from remarkably outdated pages. These are sites that time forgot, and as the Internet speeds past them, they stand as a testament to a strange world not-so-long ago – the Internet of the 1990’s.

IdeaAction Media Productions

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In 1999, this all-flash design would have been top notch, but today it just looks painfully dated. Though IdeaAction appears to have something to do with advertising, it is hard to tell exactly what because their descriptive paragraphs fly on and off screen too fast to read. Topping it all off, the entire video loops over mere seconds after their contact information is displayed, forcing anyone who might want to give them a call to watch the terrible production over and over again.

ABBC Breeders

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Complete with Pink Floyd midi music playing in the background, the American Beauty Border Collies Breeders website is like taking a time machine back to the Internet of 1998. Simply viewing the tasteless layout and tacky animated GIF images that litter the page will make you remember a time when GeoCities and AngelFire were the primary website building utilities, and everyone who knew how to use copy and paste commands could create a homepage. The only essential 90’s web artifact missing from ABBC Breeders is some old fashioned flaming text.

Utah Ski Rentals

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Animated backgrounds were a big part of the Internet in the 1990’s. Once designers realized they didn’t need to stick to the solid color page that worked so well for so long, it seemed that readability began taking a back-seat to animation and pizzaz. Soon, every website on the net started converting to annoying graphic backgrounds that made reading the actual text on the page a strenuous and tiresome activity. Utah Ski Rentals is unable to move on from this Internet dark age, still boasting a snowing background, randomly placed buttons, and scrolling text banners.

Dokimos

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Speaking of horrendously annoying backgrounds, Dokimos takes the cake as the most unbearable. Featuring a scrolling rainbow of bright colors behind biblical scripture, the religious-themed website is impossible to look at for more than several seconds without being driven away, or even worse, going into an epileptic fit. Further dating the website to the 90’s is the presence of a guestbook, one of the oldest forms of commenting a web page. Not surprisingly, the first comment in the guestbook is from 1999.

Arngren

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Arngren is a gadget sales site with an infuriatingly confusing layout. Looking like something that was thrown together in Microsoft Frontpage ‘98, the site scatters disconnected technology items for sale all across its main page with utter disregard to organization or ease of use. Look closely at the top of the page and you’ll see another component of every website to exist in 1990s, the long retired visual hit counter.

Cobra Strike Trading Solutions

(source)

CobraStrike is an awfully fierce name for such a timid website. Looking more like a pretty Microsoft Word document than a complete site, the trading firm says little about what it does, choosing instead to boast about profits and put a big, clip-art like picture of a cobra up for all to see. Signs of 90’s influence include the lifeless solid background color, the pasted in images that clash with the page, and the single page layout.

Party Tent City

(source)

Here’s a website that would have shamed even Expages designers in the 90’s. Massive text runs into small text, some of it is italicized, some of it is highlighted, and images and videos are randomly pasted in without formatting. The lack of any sort of navigation makes the whole site look like something a middle school web-hobbyist in 98 might have come up with.

DP Graph

(source)

At least the designers at DP Graph were kind enough to place their text inside of a white box and not directly on top of their multi-colored spinning background so that we don’t have to squint and highlight to read it. Still – it’s 2010, can’t we leave the tiled animated background in the 90’s along with the words “phat” and “da bomb?” The bottom of the page says that it was created in 1997, and we can safely assume it hasn’t been touched since.

Smith and Goldsmith Inc

(source)

Still operating off the Homestead web design and hosting suite (another online design suite popular in the late 90’s), Smith and Goldsmith Inc round out our list with a design that features all the tells of a true 90’s page. First of all, the background is a tacky, tiled graphic – a common choice of amateur designers from the 90’s. Scrolling text banners interrupt the flow of the page to scream messages at you, text flows into images, images flow into images, and a visual hit counter proudly boasts the number of visitors. Last but not least, the site makes use of the ultra-popular side button navigation, a fad not seen on the web past the early 2000’s.

Thumbnail image source is here

Bonus:  Oh god, twitter.

10 Best Time Travel Movies and Shows

Written by furiousfanboys

Time travel is by far one of the most popular subjects in science fiction and has almost always been found in the genre in books, movies, and TV shows. Below we’ve chosen the ten best movies or shows that used time travel as their basis.

Back to the Future

The Back to the Future trilogy is one of the most popular scifi series ever and for good reason. It combined time travel and science fiction with comedy and produced three of the most entertaining movies ever made. This year the first movie celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Quantum Leap

Watching Quantum Leap you’re struck by how they just don’t make shows like it anymore. Its strong moral tone of Sam leaping through time to fix wrongs hits a depth of science fiction storytelling not seen since the original Twilight Zone or Star Trek in the 60s. It’s a show that ended way to soon and should have ended better than it did.

Frequency

If you’ve ever seen Frequency, you owe yourself to check it out. Part Back to the Future, part Field of Dreams; it’s a unique and really good time travel story where a son is able to talk to his dead father over a radio and change the course of his own history.

Time After Time

One of the best time travel movies ever, and a very strong inspiration for Spielberg and Zemeckis when making Back to the Future. You’ll even see some things that Back to the Future lifted directly from the movie (compare H.G. Wells to Doc Brown when they each try to open their time machine). In the movie H.G. Wells chases Jack the Ripper to modern day San Francisco.

The Time Machine (1960)

Forget the bad remake. The 1960 George Pal Time Machine is the best. You get creepy Morlocks here. No super intelligent talking ones.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Vastly superior to its sequel, the original Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure has become something of a cult classic over the years. Despite Keanu being a big star now, we’d kill to see a third movie more along the lines of the first. SAN DIMAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RULES!

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

The most fun of all Trek films, by far. It’s a lighthearted romp after the serious life and death stories the previous movies dealt with. The mission to bring George and Gracie back to the 23rd Century is a classic scifi story that appeals to more than just Trek fans. “Hello, computer…”

Primer

You may not have seen Primer, but it’s worth tracking down. It was an extremely low budget time travel movie, with some unique ideas on how time travel could work.

Lost

Despite your feelings on how it ended, Lost was one of the better shows to deal with time travel. Most of the fourth and fifth seasons dealt with that as one of the major elements of the story.

Doctor Who

You can’t talk about time travel in scifi without mentioning the ol’ Time Lord himself.

Bonus: In all the years… why didn’t I think of this sooner?

BlackBerry Facts You’ll Be Surprised To Know

The BlackBerry brand has been synonymous with smartphones for close to a decade now. But while millions of people around the world own, use and are maybe even addicted to the devices, only a select few are familiar with the history of the BlackBerry and Research In Motion, or RIM, the company that actually makes the devices. This infographic put together by the team at Cell Phones.Org, details much of the BlackBerry’s and RIM’s history right up to the release of the new Blackberry Torch 9800, which just hit the scene a couple of weeks ago. Interesting stuff, but we’d hazard a guess that more than 53% of BlackBerry users check their phones while on the throne. And for everyone’s sake, the 37% of you checking in while driving—put the darn phone down!
16 Interesting Facts about BlackBerry
Via: Cell Phones

Bonus: One childs most exciting day


7 Traits of Real Men

Written by mocha dad

Photo by: Photofinish2009 via Flickr

Men were made to be bold, strong, leaders. However, our society has attempted to repress these traits. If you look at the way men (especially dads) are portrayed on TV, you’d think we were all a bunch of irresponsible, befuddled, nincompoops, who can only function with the help of a “smart” female partner, friend, or spouse.

Consequently, many boys are confused and have no idea what it takes to be a real man. They seek inappropriate role models and emulate the bad behavior that they see on a regular basis.

It is our duty as men, fathers, and responsible citizens to counter these negative images and raise a new generation of men who are respectful, loving, and willing to contribute to society in a positive way.

If we are to achieve this goal, we must start with improving ourselves. I started my journey towards self-improvement after my daughter’s birth. The greatest compliment that a father can get from his daughter is “I want to marry someone just like you.” That kind of pressure forces you to examine your life and look for ways to improve.

Over the years, I’ve discovered seven traits that real men possess:

  1. Integrity – Integrity is more than being honest. It’s a lifestyle set on striving towards moral excellence. Real men say what they mean and mean what they say. They are the same person whether or not others are watching. They are trustworthy, dependable, and unwavering.
  2. Compassion – Compassion is sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. In other words, you feel compelled to help someone who is hurting. Men aren’t often viewed as being compassionate, but it is a trait that helps us to become more connected to the people around us. Real men turn their compassion into service and work to make the world a better place.
  3. ConfidenceReal men are confident. Many people confuse confidence with arrogance and self-centeredness. Real men know the difference. Confidence is about being self-assured and self-aware. Confident men have faith in their abilities and knowledge. They don’t need to tear others down in order to build themselves up. They earn people’s trust with their radiant, inner strength. When a they walk into the room, everyone takes notice.
  4. Self-control – Hardly a day goes by without a news report about some high-profile man who has been destroyed by sex, money, and/or drugs. Too many men lack self-control, but it is the foundation of a virtuous life. Self-control starts with focus and ridding yourself of distractions. Doing this isn’t easy because temptations lurk around every corner. Real men are able to tame their desires and channel that energy into positive pursuits.
  5. Perseverance – Perseverance is the product of self-control. It is courageous resistance against difficult circumstances. Perseverance is only developed through trials. Real men endure the trials and emerge stronger. They never give up.
  6. Bravery – Bravery is the courage to do what is right regardless of the circumstances. Nothing is ever accomplished with an attitude of passivity. Real men stand up in the face of adversity.
  7. Humility – Today’s breed of young men loves to let everyone know how much swagger they have. They thump their chests and proclaim to the world, “I’m a Big Deal. Look at me!” Real men understand the value of being humble and letting someone else’s light shine. They realize that humility is more endearing than self-importance. Humility indicates that you are ridding yourself of the poison of self-centeredness. Besides, humility softens the blow when someone knocks you off your pedestal.

Acquiring all of these traits takes time and dedication. However, our society would benefit greatly if all men strove to possess them.

Stay Strong,

Question: In your opnion, what traits should a real man possess?


Bonus: so true…..

5 big-budget sci-fi films that actually got their science right

Written by Phil Plait

5 big-budget sci-fi films that actually got their science right

Phil Plait is an astronomer and major sci-fi geek. He writes the Bad Astronomy Blog for Discover Magazine and is also the host of the Discovery Channel’s science show “Phil Plait’s Bad Universe.” You can follow him on Twitter at @BadAstronomer.


My old friends know better than to go see movies with me. Sure, I always yell at the screen when a movie spaceship make a “whooshing” noise when it flies past, but at least I don’t throw popcorn: At a prorated 10 cents or so per kernel, it’s simply not cost-effective. But at my best I still mutter under my breath, and sometimes even take notes for my blog.

Such is the life of an evil-hearted nerd scientist critic of science fiction movies.

Still, it’s not all bad. As rare as good stuff in movies can be, maybe it’s time to recognize it. I love a challenge, so let’s take a look: What movies got their science right?

(insert cricket noise)

No, seriously, a lot of movies really do. Well, some do. OK, a few do. Let’s start off with an easy one, like…


2001: A Space Odyssey

centrifuge.jpg

Ask any astronomer what movie comes closest to getting it all right, and they won’t hesitate: 2001. The obvious anachronism may make this one a teensy bit harder — Pan Am went out of business decades before the titular date, and the Space Station is hardly a giant spinning wheel in orbit — but a lot of the actual science is good.

There’s no sound in space, for example. Without air, there’s nothing to transmit the sound waves, and the movie shows space as deadly silent.

A classic scene has astronaut Frank Poole jogging around the circular centrifuge, and that’s on the money. Without gravity astronauts have all sorts of trouble, including serious health issues, such as muscle and permanent bone density loss. A spinning centrifuge would simulate gravity and mitigate a lot of those issues.

My favorite bit in the movie is that lack of stars in the exterior shots. If you were out in space and looking at a bright object like a sunlit spaceship, your eyes would adapt to that brightness level. Stars are pretty faint, and would be very hard to see!

And here’s one you might not have thought of (and I’ll risk geek blasphemy for saying it): Interplanetary travel is boring. A trip even to the moon takes three days. Mars is six months, and Jupiter would take years. Space is big and empty, so for 99 percent of the time there would be nothing to do. 2001 shows that beautifully by being boring. I mean, by showing that boredom!


Deep Impact

In 1998, two blockbusters came out about impacts: Armageddon, and Deep Impact. Armageddon was one of the worst movies in the history of humanity, if the not the universe in its entirety, so I’ll leave it alone (it does have one thing right: It’s about asteroids, and asteroids exist. Other than that …).

Deep Impact, on the other hand, got a lot right. The comet was discovered by an amateur astronomer (which was still common in the ’90s, though less now, with robotic surveys scanning the heavens much more efficiently). In the flick, a nuke only managed to split the comet into two pieces; in reality that’s likely to be what would happen to a fragile comet nucleus. The impact scene (damn! I forgot to say “spoiler alert!”) is wonderfully accurate, with the actual moment of collision and subsequent tsunami beautifully detailed and terrifying. Even the scenes filmed at the comet itself were good; the lack of gravity makes it impossible to land a ship, for example, so they tether themselves to it.

It was attention to that kind of detail that made my geeky inner (OK, outer) astronomer sing.


Contact

contact.jpg

I have my suspicions that when we make first contact with aliens, it won’t be when they land their flying saucers on the White House lawn. That whole “space is big” thing really is a problem, and it’s a whole lot worse when the distances are measured in quadrillions of miles.

In Contact we find aliens because they beam an intense radio signal to us (though points are taken off for Jodie Foster’s character using headphones; computers are a wee bit better at detection than humans). That makes sense: A radio wave is easy to send, it travels at light speed, and you can encode a lot of information into it. So right off the bat, the movie has it right.

Not only that, but it also shows astronomers as, y’know, people, instead of cardboard caricatures, as usually done. Foster’s character actually — gasp — has a sex life!

Even the depiction of faster-than-light travel is consistent and well done. But none of this is surprising: The script was penned by Carl Sagan himself, an astronomer and brilliant writer. If you haven’t seen this flick, then stop reading my dorky stuff and go get it! Also, read the book Contact. If the last page doesn’t give you chills, you’re not a bona fide nerd.


Star Trek

star-trek.jpg

Yes, the 2009 Trek reboot that pissed off a bazillion fans, who were appalled that suddenly their franchise could be made appealing to a broad audience. Still, despite all the debauching of science usually performed by Trek, there was one sequence made of win: Early on, when the Kelvin is attacked, we see explosions and running crewmen and lots of yelling and screaming. Suddenly, amidst the hullabaloo, a hull breach opens up and a crewmember is blown into space. We follow her out the hole, and suddenly all the noise is cut off.

Like 2001, this is a good depiction of space. Without air, there’s no noise. And the movie wins a second kudo from me because it was used dramatically: The sudden cessation of noise punctuates that death scene for the poor, unnamed crewperson, making it that much more chilling. Of course, that saves her from the awful science later in the movie as Vulcan collapses into a black hole (and don’t even get me started on “red matter”).


The Fountain

fountain.jpg

This wasn’t a blockbuster, but it was still a beautifully told tale of love, life, death and rebirth. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that this is, to my knowledge, the only movie that has ever used supernovae correctly.

When a massive star explodes at the end of its life, all the heavy elements it’s created (like iron, calcium and so on) are blown out into space, where they can merge with gas clouds. These clouds then collapse to form other stars, planets … and you. The iron in your blood and the calcium in your bones were literally forged in the hearts of ancient supernovae. When a star dies, it gives life to others … and that theme is used perfectly in the movie. It’s a metaphor for rebirth, but it’s also used in that way by the movie quite literally. Astrophysics as poetry! Awesome.


I could go on and on, but after this it’s a state of diminishing returns. I know there’s more good stuff out there on display in small doses in lots of movies. And I just bet you have more examples in your own movie collection. So tell me: What flicks do you hold up as a shining example of Science and Reality?

Bonus: No, it’s totally cool. See…

25 Websites to Download Free Stock Photo for Your Projects

Collected by DzineBlog

If you are searching for free stock photo databases, there are quite a few sites on the web that do that, and even at high quality: there are sites that are made by artists or designers for other artists and promote sharing their creations, there are also others which have a double policy, offering both photos for sale and for free, in distinct sections, and there are also sites which offer exposure to new talented photographers who are willing to collaborate.

In any case, there are huge resources of free stock photos on the internet and this article means to help you get to some of the best sources available online at the moment.

So check them out- among all these links you are bound to find what you are looking for!

1. Stock Xchng – The Leading Free Stock Photography Site

A famous and very reliable free stock photo site, with a huge gallery containing over 350.000 quality stock photos by more than 30.000 photographers! You can find any picture you need: wallpapers for your desktop, illustration for your blog, pictures for website design and so on. It is also a place where you can share your photos and get exposure. It also has a forum where you exchange ideas with other photographers or artists! You have to register in order to download pictures but it is a very quick and safe procedure.

2. Dreamstime – Free Stock Images Section

Another huge stock photo database, where you can search among more than 9 million images is Dreamstime. Here the policy is different, as the site offers photos both free and for sale – in different packages. You have several options: you can take photos from the free section just by registering or you can buy high-resolution stock images with very low prices. If you are a photographer you can sell your stock images and get 30-60% from each sale you make.

3. Stockvault.Net Free Stock Photos And Free Images

Here you can download free stock images without any registration necessary. They have a very big collection of high quality stock photos both free and for sale, in separate sections again.

4. PhotoXpress – Royalty Free Subscription Images and Pictures

It’s a site with a huge collection of stock photos, either free or for sale. You can download for free 1 photo per day if you sign up, 5 photos per day if you join PhotoXpress on Facebook and 10 photos per day if you offer your personal information. It could be a continuing resource if you agree to these terms!

5. Everystockphoto – Free Stock Photos From Different Sites

This site checks out at the same time several other free stock photo sites and offers you the results for your search coming from all of them combined. It is a huge resource and you will save a lot of time by using it!

Everystockphoto - Free Stock Photos From Different Sites

6. Free Stock Photos Bank

Similar to Stock Xchng, here graphic designers can choose from a huge collection of high quality photos which are completely free. No registration needed! Just hit download and you’ll get the high resolution image that you need!

Free Stock Photos Bank

7. Free Digital Photos – Free Stock Photos

In this case there is a different policy: you can download for free the pictures from the huge stock photo collection available here, at a medium resolution, on the condition that you promote them on your site (by providing a link to the source of the picture you choose to publish) It seems like a fair trade to me! If you want a very high resolution you can buy them at a very affordable price.

Free Digital Photos - Free Stock Photos

8. Morguefile – Free Photos For Creatives By Creatives

It is a site where creatives can share and exchange their work. You can easily download any picture you wish without any authentification needed. If you wish, you can add to the collection of photos as well! They are generally photos provided by very talented photographers!

Morguefile - Free Photos For Creatives By Creatives

9. 5000 Free Stock Photos

Here you can choose from a collection of 5000 free stock photos and 8000 cliparts that are completely free to download without registration. It’s quick and simple!

5000 Free Stock Photos

10. Unprofound – A Public Domain Stock Photo Collaboration

This site was created by a graphic designer and other collaborating creatives who were bothered by the fact that it was very difficult to find quality, free to use photos on the internet for using in their graphic creations. So they took their cameras and made their own high quality collection of photos and then they generously decided to offer it for free to any other designer out there who might happen to need it. If you wish, you can make a donation to the site – it would be a nice way of saying thanks!

Unprofound - A Public Domain Stock Photo Collaboration

11. Freerangestock – Totally Free Stock Photography And Textures!

It is another site that has a huge collection of high quality stock photos. Here you just need to sign up, and then you can download as many pictures as you want, at a very high resolution. If you wish, you can contribute with your own photos as well!

Freerangestock - Totally Free Stock Photography And Textures!

12. Lomography – Free Photos

In this case, you will find a site that specializes in art photography, with a retro look, and using old cameras that give a special color effect to all the pictures. You can search the database and you’ll also get information about the type of camera or film that was used! Unfortunately, the pictures are not at a very high resolution, but you can contact the artist that created them and discuss with him/her if you need a high quality picture. Of course, you are free to join the club too, if you are fond of creating such pictures and if you wish, you can even order yourself a very good old camera from the site!

Lomography - Free Photos

13. Imagebase – Free Images Public Domain

It is a site with a very big collection of free downloadable pictures sorted on different sections.(No registration is needed).They are high quality pictures created by a graphic designer who has traveled a lot with his camera by his side. You can check his portfolio too.

Imagebase - Free Images Public Domain

14. PixelPerfect – Free Stock Photos Section

This is a site where you ca download photos and digital art for free with no registration needed. The site also promotes the creators of the photos and offers you the possibility to communicate with them, if you wish, or comment on their art.

PixelPerfect - Free Stock Photos Section

15. Cepolina Photos – Free Photo

On this site you will find a wonderful collection of high resolution pictures on nature, geography and traveling mostly, but not only. Again, no registration needed but you should credit the site on your website.

Cepolina Photos - Free Photo

16. PhotoRack – Stock Photos and Free Images

Another site with a very big collection of pictures that you can download for free without any registration. The images are very well structured on subjects so it’s easy to find what you need.

PhotoRack - Stock Photos and Free Images

17. Abstract Influence – Image Portal

A huge collection of photos available for download for free- at medium and high resolution! Quick and easy: no registration necessary!

Abstract Influence - Image Portal

18. FreeMediaGoo – Free Stock Photos, Background and Web Images

Here you will find not only free stock photos but also free audio or free flash but unfortunately you don’t have a big range of choice. You could give it a try, though.

FreeMediaGoo - Free Stock Photos, Background and Web Images

19. FreePixels – Free Stock Photos

This is a collection of 4000 stock photos at high resolution and very high quality that you can download for free and without login.

FreePixels - Free Stock Photos

20. ImageAfter – 25k+ Free Textures And Images

You’re completely free to use the 25 000 stock photos and textures available on this site for personal or commercial use. No identification needed.

ImageAfter - 25k+ Free Textures And Images

21. FreeImages – Free Stock Photos

Another collection of free stock photos of medium or high resolution that you can download as long as you provide a link to the site when you use them.

FreeImages - Free Stock Photos

22. InterArtCenter – Free Clip Art Gallery and Images

A special feature of this site is that beside high quality stock photos it also has 3D cliparts, 3D wallpapers, 3Dmodels, and Flash animations to download for free. No registration is needed again!

InterArtCenter - Free Clip Art Gallery and Images

23. Openphoto – More Than 14K Images

A site with a huge collection of 15 000 free stock photos

Openphoto - More Than 14K Images

24. Photorogue – Original Photos by Request

This is a site based on a very creative idea- but only at its beginning at the moment. We’ll mention it for the cool idea: the creators of of the site considered the situation when a graphic designer searches desperately for a certain picture and doesn’t manage to find it and they thought about reversing the process. This time it is the designer who requests the exact picture that he/she needs and a volunteer photographer will try to obtain it. After that, the picture will be available for everyone to see and download for free.

Photorogue - Original Photos by Request

25. Woophy – Free Photos

A site with a huge collection of high quality stock photos that also shows you the place on the world map where the picture was taken! You are free to download them for personal use but they are copyrighted by photographer and cannot be used for commercial purposes unless he/she agrees with that.

Woophy - Free Photos