Twas not my plan to make a mocked up book cover, even before breakfast. But so it goes, when the urge worms its way into my cranium. I cannot let go til I try it out.

I woke up to back scroll twitter, finding the eminently sarcastic, funny, insightful, and a large number of standard deviations off the norm Pat Lockley ranting a bit on the difficulty of having to log in to a web site to leave a comment on a post, knowing he’d get no conversation.

Oh uh, neurons activated. Pat tweeting alone… leads me to think of Robert Putnam’s (excellent) book, Bowling Alone.

And so, the Photoshop was opened to produce this:


In my own bit of self amusement, I still maintain a folder on my computer for ds106 stuff like this… and I have not actively participated nor taught it for almost 2 years.


My method for this, of course relies, on Photoshop layers. You cannot do this in MS Paint or some point and click app.

In the last year I have made much more use of layer masks to combine elements, and the Edit -> Paste Special -> Paste Into or Edit -> Paste Special -> Paste Behind. The big thing is that it makes your layers non-destructive- you can always go to the mask layer and paint/fill in black or white to show or hide elements.

Here’s a snapshot of my layers and where they ended up (sorry for all the crossing arrows).

Photoshop layers
Photoshop layers

Comments, from the bottom up:

  • Layer 1: I always make a duplicate of the source layer as a reference, one is hidden. On the copy layer I use the clone tool to wipe out elements by painting in from other parts of the image. I also use it to define selection areas (like the man figure) for things I want to mask.
  • “Cryptic….” Text Layer Try to copy the quote from the original, Times New Roman the lazy choice. I do not bother with getting fonts exact, close enough is good. Here is what I do when trying to redo text- I put it first in as a crazy color, like hot pink (Hi @amyburvall), and play with fonts, size, kerning to match the original text. Then I write my “new and improved” text. Then hide the text layer. Go to the background layer and with clone brush or fill (in this case the blue from the background of the book) to hide the original. Then show my layer, and change the text color (the eye drop tool on the text color palette is the big cheese or the dogs bollocks).
  • Layer 3 is Pat’s avatar, lifted from hist twitter profile. Cat with a hat. Rather than try to get a clean selection, I create a mask based loosely on the head in the original, and work the edges of the mask with a black and white paint brush, to make the edges clean. To match the graphic style of the original, I apply the Cutout Filter (lets you tweak it more than Posterize), which makes the photo look more graphic.
  • Layer 2 I overlaid a screenshot of my Tweetdeck to replace the bowling alley in the original. I thought this was pretty darned clever as a metaphor. The mask was made by starting with a selection of the entire rectangle in the middle, then subtracting out a selection (hold the option key then start selecting using magnetic lasso to subtract). Again the beauty of layer masks are the need not be precise, you can fine tine by painting in the mask layer. Bees Knees.
  • “@patlockley” text layer There goes Robert B. Putnam. In this case, an exact font match is not needed, just something chunk that is serif. I chose the oddly named Haettenschweiler, then just filled the Layer 1 with black to kick out Putnam. Not Metaphorically.
  • “TWEETING” text layer to replace the BOWLING one in the original. The font is Helvetica Neue Condensed- not an exactly match, but again, horseshoe/hand grenade rules apply. I try to get the baseline font size close, fiddle with the tracking (inter-text spacing, +75 here). Here is my secret trick, use the Scale tool on text to stretch it to fit. I got a close enough BOWLING match, filled the background with blue, changed it to TWEETING. To wide. Just squeeze it a bit more. Add a bit of Layer -> Layer Style -> Stroke to get the red boundary and for being extra attentive, a tad bit of Layer -> Layer Style -> Outer Glow to match. I could have done the ALONE over too, but left it there. It kind of signifies the original.
  • “The Collapse” text layer Hah in doing this post I see I forgot to turn this layer on. BINGO! Fixed. It is a mimic of the original text that appears on the book cover over the bowling alley lane, got it to match with the Helvetica Neue Condensed font, rotated and skewed a bit to match. White works better as a text color.
  • Layer 4 – replace the bowling ball with a smart phone. Did a google image search on “mobile phone back png” to find one to use- PNG images always are better for layering. I needed to remove the bowling ball in the Layer 1 image, use the clone brush to paint out with bits of the dudes shirt. Then I did a selection around both of his hands (SHIFT- select to combine separate areas), then used Edit -> Paste Special -> Paste Behind to create a Layer mask that put the phone behind his hands. A bit of rotation and resized… perfect.

If you want to poke around, you can download and open my source file in Photoshop.

Get yer game into Layer Masks! It’s better than sliced bread! More powerful than a steaming pile of clichés!

I like this one. I think Pat does too (not the reason for doing this– WHAT THE HECK IS THE REASON FOR THIS MADNESS?)

And why would I spend another hour+ blogging about it? Yes, some is to share the method a la how we teach ds106, but I see so much these days of the predominance of Mike Caulfied’s Stream Flow. We just toss little bits of whatever into the river of twitter, or tumblr. There’s nothing wrong with that as part of a greater mix of being online, but I see people who represent their public elf as just a stream of retumbled stuff made by other people

And I see this and wonder- where is the context? Why did you share that thing? And what can you deduce from it if you find it 3 years later?

For most people it means nothing. It’s All About the Now, the Stream.

In writing this up, it’s way more for me to mark my own evolution in thought and digital skills, and where the ideas for stuff comes from (one tweet). If all you have is a stream of digital jetsam and flotsam what do you make of it as a larger whole.

And even in writing this up, I found something I forgot to add.

I pass no judgment (well maybe a little) on people who fill their time online with liking, reblogging, retweeting. But to me, that adds up to not much.

So I stay here, doing the blog thing even though Blogs Are Dead and The Web Is Lost.

You go ahead and stream like everyone else. See ya in the future.

Top / Featured Image credits: My own whacked out remix of the cover of Putnam’s book. It’s as clear as sludge (well not to me) whether this is infringement or artistic parody. If you think there are hard and fast rules in this space, well #BeachFrontPropertyAvailableInArizona

The post "Imaginary Bestseller! “Tweeting Alone” (and the making thereof)" was originally pulled charred and crispy from a smoky charred oven at CogDogBlog ( on August 26, 2015.


  • Pat

    Thank you :)
    For the sake of the stream, I went to see Filbert’s grave today, and it felt really weird I was talking to her, I almost took a pic, but thought, probably not going to forget this image in my mind anyways.
    And I wonder that with shared stuff, do you remember the sharing of it, is it integral to something? Or just an aside, an outlier, the smallest trait

    • Alan Levine aka CogDog

      I totally understand the experience, Pat. I cannot say I have any coherent answer. The sharing is not always the memory point, for me it’s the revisiting. There are people who believe our true death is long after out body gives out, it’s when no one tells our story.

      I’ve had plenty of times where the reflex was to take the photo, and making a conscious decision not to– that the mind camera would be good enough. I have a tree out back where Mickey;s collar hangs, above a big rock he liked to sit on. Yeah, I go out there sometimes and just whisper.

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