Saturday, November 22, 2008

I Can Has Cheezberger Tips

I Can Has Cheezbergers has grown beyond a blog of funny lolCat photos into a utility for generating pictorial humor on any subject.

This is not just a matter of fun. If a picture is worth 1000 words, a cleverly captioned picture is worth an entire hour of arguing in plain text. Fair or unfair, that's how humans "reason" and those who master the visual reasoning style have an advantage.

You can start by captioning photos others have posted on a variety of subject matter areas (cats, dogs, news & politics, etc.) Alternatively, you can upload and caption your own photo on any subject in its lolBuilder.

Whatever your choice of materials, here are the Six Tips for building lols that rock!

1. Personalize

Don't be afraid to create specialized humor for a small audience. Why not? It's FREE!

For example, I quickly put together a joke for our Pilates instructor, and sent it to the entire class. They loved it - and (mistakenly) thought I'd worked hard to create it.

We may all want to create the Ultimate Joke that will start the whole world laughing, but lolBuilder makes more modest achievements easy.

2. Punchify!

Your captions must have PUNCH! Humor must be crisp; soggy, wordy, bloated humor is a bowl of cornflakes that sat too long in nonfat milk substitute.

1. Write your caption

2. Cut out the most useless word.

3. If it still makes sense, go to step 2.

4. Put back the last word you removed.

Now you might have shortened it enough ... but don't be shy about skipping step #4.

3. Punctuate

Don't limit yourself to the standard alphabet. Use special characters: @# and all the ASCII artwork you so love, e.g. a well-placed (*)(*) or *I* can be funny.

Sometimes the funniest caption is just "..."

4. Prioritize

This tip applies especially to the "advanced" builder - the one that lets you insert word balloons and thought balloons.

The lolBuilder titles your picture from the FIRST balloon you create, not necessarily the most prominent one. The title is important for attracting visitors, especially via search engine results. Therefore, you should think for a moment what you want the title to be, and ensure it's the content of the first balloon you build.

For example:
I first built this lol with the uppermost balloon first. It ended up with the decidedly unfunny title of "Billionaire Wall-Street Insider".

So I rebuilt it, with the punch line balloon (at the bottom) first.

The lol looks the same, but its page title is now: "Pyromaniac Firemen" - definitely funnier and more likely to stand out of a bunch of search results (...whether you think it's fair is beside the point.)

5. Preview

Always, always, always Preview before Saving.

What is more annoying that to discover misspellings, clever captions sliding off the edge of the photo, and so on? All your work becomes ridiculous.

The preview button lets you resize fonts, re-align and re-write before your boo-boo is immortalized.

(Note: this is for the basic builder only. The Advanced and Poster builders are WYSIWYG and have no preview.)

6. Plagiarize, Pirate and Play!

I cannot emphasize enough that this site is free to use, so you should play around! Think of all the hours or days you might spend on a good game; think of Cheezburger as a game! The reward is the fun you get from crafting humor; as with any game, you have to practice to improve, and make a lot of mistakes before you slay the bosses.

One training tip: Each existing lol has a small link below it: "View All Captions". See what others have done; often they will have had good ideas, but you see how you can improve them with a small change. It's totally o.k. to create a new lol based on previous work (...just don't copy exactly: have some pride!)

I Can Has Cheezburger has the potential to make everyone able to communicate graphically, almost in the same way that the invention of movable type made it possible for everyone to become an author. Where it will lead, who knows?

And who cares? It's fun. Play with it!

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