Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Solopreneur Job Tickets with Evernote

It's funny how two things that are great apart don't seem to have a connection until some spark of genius kicks in. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are a great example; peanut butter and chocolate, whoa! 


Yesterday I had a flash of genius when it comes to keeping notes on computer jobs; but this works for any service type job. It would have worked in the past; but not so well as it would today given the improvement in Evernote's mobile apps. This is not so much a technology solution as it is a work flow idea. 
First, I use Evernote to keep track of my notes and other day to day information.
Second, I use Zoho Invoice to keep track of my receivables. 

I used to work at a radio company where we kept track of hours worked and detailed what work we performed in a job ticketing system. So, before we got dispatched, we created a job ticket. We kept paper notes with that ticket number and entered the information into the system for invoicing. The rule was, you don't work unless you have a ticket number. 

Here is where it comes together; it would not take much to do something similar with Evernote and your invoicing service. As a job comes in, you would create a draft invoice for the client. This gives you a job number. Then, you create a note in Evernote with that job number and client name. Record all notes relating to that job. So long as you maintain a consistent naming and tagging convention, tracking your work should be pretty easy. 

The clear advantage of doing all of this is that your work notes are not limited to just text. You can add photos, documents, voice notes, and other files as needed. 
You could have open ticket and closed ticket notebooks in Evernote to keep track of work that is still in progress and work that has been completed. You can tag tickets with some form of client identification. 

This works much better than my current system in that I have been organizing notes by project name or client name, which is rather messy, requiring several notebooks in Evernote. Using a ticketing system, I only need the two notebooks. 
If you do end up with two or more notes with the same ticket number, Evernote allows you to merge them into one. 

If you are working on a big project that has several payments, you can invoice by phase, giving each phase a ticket number.

If you have accounts where you invoice monthly on all your services, you can open up a ticket every month and keep adding notes as you work. 

Where this breaks down, somewhat, is when you have multiple employees. At that point, you have a couple options. Share one Evernote login amongst them so that they can all enter notes into the same, centralized system. Or, have them maintain their own Evernote tickets in their own accounts and then export/import to a central Evernote account for invoicing. 

At the end of it all, if you like, you can even add a picture of the check that pays for the work performed. 

Can't wait to put this into practice. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Starting the New Year With Reset


Blackberries are a source of polyphenol antiox...
Image via Wikipedia


My friend Lebby Salinas introduced me to USANA about a year ago. She would tell me how the shakes helped her transition to a low-glycemic diet, whatever that was. I've ever only know her at her current weight, which is rather thin. It wasn't until I saw her "Before" pictures that I started to pay attention.

I've been progressively gaining weight over the years. It has been slow; but, unrelenting. So, I decided to give it a try. I've been losing weight since Thanksgiving, slowly. While some of the credit is directly due to USANA's Nutrimeal, some is also due to eating better.

I think what has helped tremendously was that Lebby taught me about the Glycemic Index and how different foods rate. So, I've been able to mix and match my daily nutrition with combinations of shakes and food. At this point, she and I don't have to order the Nutrimeal shakes; but, it's good to have them at hand for when we are pressed for time or aren't really too hungry.

After seeing the results of eating better and taking vitamins, I started to talk like Lebby when we first started working together. Recently, she asked me to join her in helping others learn about proper nutrition and exercise to make meaningful changes in peoples' lives. So, we are organizing the McAllen Reset Challenge. It's a 12 week challenge to help participants learn about nutrition, exercise, and even lose a little weight in the process.

Lebby and I both have stories about what a poor diet and lack of exercise can do to your body. Earlier today we talked about how some people are defeated when problems arise, whilst others step into action. While our stories derive from misfortune, it has been a blessing in disguise in that it has motivated us to help others. This is a blessing that can be duplicated by others without the need for them to go through the same misfortunes.

Yes, we are using vanity, in the form of weight loss, to begin teaching others about exercise and nutrition. Don't wait until your health  has deteriorated to the point where you can no longer do anything about. Take some preventive steps today. Join us as we kick off the new year with Reset.


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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Evernote for Android Adds Checkboxes That Work


Image representing Evernote as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase


Earlier this month, Evernote announced their updated Android app, which has some long-requested features that bring it more in sync with the iPhone and iPad versions.

Among the main features are Advanced Search, To-dos, and other updates that make using the app a much better experience.

Advanced Search

The Advanced Search is great in that it allows you to better filter your search results. One problem that I've had with Evernote, lately, is that I get too many search results. That's a problem when you save as much information as I have been. This is something that was missing in previous versions of Evernote for Android. You were only able to perform a brute force search.

Check Boxes

What most excites me is the ability to click on check boxes in Evernote to mark items done. I have struggled with making Evernote my personal organizer given that it contains so much information necessary for my work. In the older Android apps, you could see check box items; but that was all.

While, the current Android app does not allow you to create new check box items, I am at least satisfied that I can mark things done. As far as adding more items, you are still only able to append text to existing notes containing check boxes.

Why Evernote?

I have increasingly relied on Evernote as a central information store. Many people will use their laptop or computer to keep track of information; which I understand completely. My work is information-related, which makes accessing information anywhere a necessity.

I have been experimenting with Springpad as a way of dealing with the To Do items; but, it gets to be a bit much switching from app to app and having duplicate data. Now that I can at least mark things done on Evernote, I am halfway towards my dream of having one inbox to rule them all.

I keep being asked why I like Evernote so much. The short answer is that I can just dump data into Evernote. Other apps require you to fill out fields or jump through hoops so your information can be properly categorized. Evernote doesn't care. Dump it; sort it out later. You can dump text, voice, photos, or documents.

Of course, once you have a chance to sit down and sort it all out, it's nice to use the same app to create actionable items. This is where having working check boxes makes a difference. Now you can create a custom search for undone items and use that as a way of organizing tasks, projects, and other items that need to be tracked.


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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Political Mirror Images

The other day I wrote a blog post in defense of Texas State Rep. Aaron Peña, who also just so happens to employ me part-time. I explained why I thought he would do such a thing.

I've talked with him briefly; but haven't had a chance to really delve into his reasoning. After all, we have work that needs doing even with all the craziness going on.

I've had time to think that he and I would be mirror images. I've been conservative for years. I identify with the Republican party because they are more conservative than the Democrats; but they have some kooky ideas that annoy me.

I think Aaron has been the same way. He identified with Democrats more; but had reservations about a few their kooky ideas. I think he was happy to carry the Democrat banner and could have lived a long, fulfilling life if he had stayed a Democrat.

I was a Republican working with Democrats because Ds pretty much run things here in the Rio Grande Valley. So, if I want to have any real effect, I have to help the Democrat of my choice get elected.

Aaron Peña was a Democrat who had to work with Republicans in the Texas House, who ran things. So, if he wanted to accomplish anything, he had to help the right Republicans achieve their goals.

So, we both have been maneuvering to achieve our aims through opposite parties. Mirror images. I came to realize the irony just the other day.

The similarity ends there. I can bend so far as to support candidates I've come to know personally and think would be good in office, even if they are not Republican.

Whereas Rep. Peña has a responsibility to his constituents, my only responsibility has been to my own conscience. Since I don't answer to anybody, I can stay Republican. However, since Aaron Peña is responsible for representing the people who elected him, he has to bite the bullet and switch parties.

I've given it some thought. I think Aaron would have stayed a Democrat if the party had not screwed up by losing seats in the Texas House, making it next to impossible for him to achieve anything. Especially now that redistricting will affect elections for years to come. The Dems have gone too far left, emboldened by Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. They overreached and marginalized people like Aaron Peña.

There have been calls for the Rep. to have run as a Republican if he wanted to switch parties. That's just silly; just like all the Democrats, he thought the Democrats would maintain or win some House seats back. If the Democrats had announced that they were going to lose twenty some House seats, maybe he would have switched at the primary. But, they didn't announce their losing strategy.

And then, calls that he should resign and run as a Republican in a special election; that's stupid. The whole purpose of him switching parties was so that he could maintain or improve his place in his committees. So, the Democrats think the District is better off with a freshman Democrat with no useful committees than a Republican with membership in choice committees? I just don't see the logic.

Actually, I do. It's just politics. And that's the problem. What Aaron calls the "professional left" are people whose living it is to run campaigns for the party. As they say, to a hammer everything looks like a nail. To a campaigner, everything looks like a campaign. They want to spin EVERYTHING rather than be forthright.

This is what really messes with the Democrats brains. They just can't seem to wrap their minds around it. Aaron switched parties knowing how monumental a challenge reelection would be. They keep threatening it as if he didn't already know. Their whole focus is on the campaign. They keep looking for the angle when the truth is right in front of them.

Even the astroturf "protests" were anticipated to some extent. To these people, protests are just another campaign to organize, right out of the playbook. Obviously, Aaron can't just bend over and take their abuse. It would undermine his status in his new party. He has to fight back a little. In the end it actually helps him in that it allows the Republicans to rally to his defense.

One thing I haven't mentioned to the Rep. is the the Press is not his ally as a Republican. I figure I'll let him learn the hard way so it sinks in. Fox News 7 in Austin has a report that twisted facts. Expect Aaron to be burned a few times before he realizes the bias he was spared as a Democrat. I know I'll get some laughs out of it. :-D

On the other hand, it helps that he's a blogger. The right has excelled in social media because they don't get a fair shake otherwise. In that sense, the lefty bloggers should know better than to try to BS him on the web. Not only is Aaron pretty savvy on web stuff; he's got me to take care of the serious web stuff. So far, I haven't had to step in.

It's going to be interesting. He has taught me much about politics. I suppose it's only fair to teach him about being a Hispanic Republican. Obviously, we'll have some issues where we will have to put a stop to the far right's crazy train. Just like the Democrats have their fringe..., well, that's all that's left; the Republicans have their fringe who have to be restrained from going too far.

If the far right infringes on my Mexican-American lifestyle, I'm going to have to help them find other lines of work. I'm happy to be a Republican up to a point; once they cross they cross the line, I'll turn conservative on them. There are some places government should not go; that includes asking me for papers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Considering Video Blogging

Voice Generational Gap

I was reading an article by Techcruch about how younger people prefer messaging each other over voice. I wasn't quite prepared to dispute the assertion; rightfully so.

After reviewing my own family's mobile usage, it's quite obvious that there is a generational gap in phone calls. Although, it's not quite as expected.

Comparing usage between my teenage daughter, my mother, my wife, and me, there are significant differences.

Here is our October usage:



Me
Voice: 1171
SMS: 4668
Data: 1950 MB

The Mrs.
Voice: 99
SMS: 207
Data: 87 MB

Mom
Voice: 331
SMS: 335

Teenage Daughter
Voice: 48
SMS: 8247

What does all this mean?



I don't know.

Mrs. Mata and I are almost the same age; yet she uses 1/10th my minutes. Ironically, she talks 10 times as much as I do.

My daughter's mobile minutes mostly derive from phone calls from her mom and me. She definitely prefers SMS.

As for my Mom, most of her SMS is from Twitter to keep up with me; because, we definitely don't talk on the phone much.

So, I was prepared to dive into this blog post with guns blazing; but, as you can see, things within my own household are a bit askew. How does your household measure up?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Trying out Wordpress for Android

The Holy Grail for content distribution, especially for blogging, lies in having a mobile application that allows the user to post from anywhere.

While posting from a mobile phone is cumbersome, it allows for posting from anywhere the inspiration strikes.

It is possible to post to a blog through intermediaries using email. However, imagine posting directly to your blog without the need for a hack. That is tonight's test.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Electronic Pens and Podcasts for Education

I am so excited with the technologies available to the public in general. I wish that most teachers were more technology inclined; because they could really leverage what is available free of charge to make a huge impact on the learning of their students. Two tools in particular would make a huge difference in ensuring that students get the support they need to keep up with their work: podcasts, and electronic pens.

Podcasting in Education

As far as podcasting, I don't propose that teachers sit down to record podcasts in addition to teaching. This would be piling on to an already busy schedule of teaching, grading papers, and filling out countless forms that are required by each grant the school districts decides to get.

I think teachers could ensure that students stay on task if they were to simply record their summaries and/or assignments. For example:
Example History Assignment

This recording could easily be done on Cinch with a quick phone call. School districts could even request a white label version of the technology so that they can add it to the campus website.

Electronic Pens

I have seen electronic pens at the store as I'm shopping around for other items. The whole idea of having electronic versions of notes was interesting; but not compelling enough that I would spend $129 for a pen and then pay for special notebooks needed to make the pens work in their best capability.

However, I saw a Pencast, which completely changed my mind in that regard. Imagine if a student could replay a lecture by a teacher, which includes the audio and writing. Or, if the teacher could provide tutorials on the material to reinforce what was covered in class, it would help students and parents keep up.

Here is an example of a Pencast from Livescribe.


Pencasts don't cost anything other than just continuing to buy the special notebooks that the Livescribe pen needs to make the magic happen. What's even better is that over the years, teachers would have a library of lessons they can use to supplement classroom instruction. So, if we are covering Mesopotamia, we can also link to lectures on the same topic for the last 5 years or so for any assignment. These archives of lectures would be especially handy for math.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Taking Health and Wellness Head-on with USANA

If you've followed my Twitter stream lately, you probably are aware that I have been hinting about my health concerns. For now, my only issue is cholesterol; however, if left unchecked, this can lead to other problems downstream, like heart disease.

This has made me reconsider and take steps to change my lifestyle. I love technology and the Internet; but the truth is, doing this stuff all day is not healthy. Unchecked geeking has a detrimental effect on the body because of its sedentary nature, not to mention the skinny arms and legs from lack of muscles.

Clearly, I have to make a conscious and deliberate change in my life in all aspects like diet, exercise, sleep, and even spiritually. Of course, it helps to have friends and family who also want to improve their lives join me in this quest.

For this reason, I have joined USANA Health Sciences as an Associate. Yes, this means that in addition to talking about social media and fixing computers, I also sell nutritional products. But don't let that put you off. I mainly joined because they have good quality products that even Olympic athletes are comfortable taking.

I am no athlete, mind you. But, as part of a well-rounded approach to wellness, I'm adding USANA products to my daily life. My friends Lebby and Doriz explained to me prior to joining that nobody in the world pays you to become healthy; but, with USANA, I have the opportunity to improve my health with the support of other associates AND earn some lunch money in the process.

More importantly, USANA gives me the opportunity to evangelize the benefits of good health to the people I care about and do business with every day.

Here is a video that gives you an overview of the great company I am joining.

Get Flash Player
Get Adobe Flash� Player



Before closing, I urge you to think about what you are doing to maintain good health and wellness. Proper nutrition, fitness, and overall wellness requires a lot of learning; I recommend finding somebody or somebodies you trust to help guide you in your journey to a better life. It takes time; it takes effort. But, with some determination, you can change your life for the better. Join me on this quest.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Best time so far

I’ve not run in about 16 years. Recently, I figured out a way of running without aggravating old injuries. My best time since resuming was tonight. 1.11 miles in 10:47 minutes. I’ll be happy to reach 8 minutes. At that point, if I think I have more to give, then we’ll set another goal.

Friday, October 08, 2010

I'm Not Going to Discuss Social Media

I'm not going to discuss social media in this post. What can be said has been said a thousand times over by every person who fancies themselves an expert in the field. I won't talk about marketing either. Anything you really need to know about either subject, you can just Google or watch on Youtube.



Here is what I will say. If you need an expert, find out who the experts are. Look at their work.



Are they doing for themselves what they claim they can do for you?



Are you, as a client, getting a one-size-fits-all solution?



Are you being sold a product rather than a tailored solution?



Are you paying for expertise or outsourcing? A big clue is, are they showing you how to fish, or giving you the fish?



Do they help you understand what you're getting into? There's always "more to it than that".



Do they make any attempt to dissuade you? You might be expecting something that can't be delivered by what they offer.



Most importantly, if you don't understand what's going on, take your time. Make sure you understand the basics of what you are doing. A sure way to lose money on an investment is to not know what you're doing. Ask your expert to explain it to you as many times as you need to understand what you are getting in return for your money.



Finally, don't rule out putting some skin in the game. Some things simply cannot be outsourced, especially if your business is complex and technical.



That's all I'm saying.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I'm Not Going to Discuss Social Media

I'm not going to discuss social media in this post. What can be said has been said a thousand times over by every person who fancies themselves an expert in the field. I won't talk about marketing either. Anything you really need to know about either subject, you can just Google or watch on Youtube.

Here is what I will say. If you need an expert, find out who the experts are. Look at their work.

Are they doing for themselves what they claim they can do for you?

Are you, as a client, getting a one-size-fits-all solution?

Are you being sold a product rather than a tailored solution?

Are you paying for expertise or outsourcing? A big clue is, are they showing you how to fish, or giving you the fish?

Do they help you understand what you're getting into? There's always "more to it than that".

Do they make any attempt to dissuade you? You might be expecting something that can't be delivered by what they offer.

Most importantly, if you don't understand what's going on, take your time. Make sure you understand the basics of what you are doing. A sure way to lose money on an investment is to not know what you're doing. Ask your expert to explain it to you as many times as you need to understand what you are getting in return for your money.

Finally, don't rule out putting some skin in the game. Some things simply cannot be outsourced, especially if your business is complex and technical.

That's all I'm saying.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Happy Couple





Wedding Anniversary

Today is our 16th wedding anniversary, I think. We married in 1994. What an experience this has been.



Thanks to my sweety for putting up with my nonsense.


Happy Couple





Wedding Anniversary

Today is our 16th wedding anniversary, I think. We married in 1994. What an experience this has been.

Thanks to my sweety for putting up with my nonsense.

Monday, September 27, 2010

This is my first post on Amplify! So, naturally I'm curious what this does and how it will help me with what I do online. #myfirstpost http://amplify.com/u/ba87
This is my first post on Amplify! So, naturally I'm curious what this does and how it will help me with what I do online. #myfirstpost http://amplify.com/u/ba87

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What is Twitter? An analogy


Motorola's First 2 way radio from 1962
Image by bhenak via Flickr




Twitter is analogous to 2-way radio. Many of the same dynamics that apply to radio communications are also applicable to how Twitter allows its users to communicate. Radio communications gives everybody in the group the ability to listen in. The ambient radio chatter gives all members of the group situational awareness of what is happening throughout the organization.

While radio carries voice communications, Twitter carries text and background awareness of what is happening in the network.
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Friday, September 24, 2010

Teaching Social Media Backwards



I've been to the conferences, unconferences, and workshops. There is a real public desire to learn how to use social media for business and other organizations; but, too much talk about social media puts the cart before the horse.

I think if you learn to create content first, it will naturally lead to the use of social media to help you distribute your work.

First, let's make you interesting; then we'll talk about friending and liking.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Self-licking Ice Cream Cone

Vanilla Ice Cream Cone 8-6-09 3 I could not find an illustration of a self-licking ice cream cone; but the general idea is that a self-licking ice cream cone exists to perpetuate itself.

My friend Dan Mosqueda first mentioned this to me in relation to social media. You'll find that many people involved in social media spend a lot of time talking about social media. So, yes, we spend a great deal of time talking about the very thing that we use to get the word out about...social media. It's a vicious circle.

So, I've been racking my brain trying to think about ways to break the cycle. Dan suggested that we should instead focus on creating content. After all, this is what people look for when they are browsing the web. So, I've been thinking about how to create content so that it relates to social media without getting the ice cream ready to lick itself.

Obviously, now at least, I should probably teach by example. Meaning that instead of talking about social media all the time, I really ought to find topics that I enjoy and simply create content around the topics. So, I'm working on narrowing down some topics to blog and record about.

I expect to be able to inspire some of my friends to produce their own internet content easily and without hesitation. Quite frankly, I learned everything I have about social media because I needed a way to distribute content. So, it's not too much of a stretch to help others create for themselves an urgency to figure out ways to grow their audiences.
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Springpad Is Finally a Viable Personal Organizer for Me


Image representing Spring Partners as depicted...
Image via CrunchBase


Just today, I downloaded the Springpad app on my Android phone. I have been aware of Springpad for some time; but could never really take advantage of it without the option of going mobile. Although I do spend a lot of time in front of a computer, I find that the information I gather while at the computer is most often useful when I'm out and about in the world.

I rely heavily on Evernote because of its flexibility in storing information. I can send all manner of information to Evernote and access it on my mobile. The only downside to Evernote is that it is a blank slate, which also happens to be its strength.

Springpad is handy because it has templates for storing many kinds of information. The available categories make organizing your information that much easier. Evernote, on the other hand, is completely free form, leaving it up to you to create structure, or not. While I love the universality of Evernote, sometimes I need some structure. It also helps that Springpad has some social sharing goodness thrown in.

My favorite feature of Springpad will most likely be Lists. I don't mean so much to-do lists; I have those through Vitalist already. Rather, I will make use of lists of things I might do with my family, like watch a movie, go to the museum, play frisbee, go for a walk. Or, maybe I'll make lists of things I buy often, not the actual shopping list, just a reminder of stuff to put on the list.

Second to that, I think I'll enjoy the Recipes. I've found some good ones. Having recipes handy at the grocery store makes it easy to buy the necessary ingredients.

Some of the other categories really don't appeal much to me; but they must appeal to somebody. I don't foresee using the other categories so much for organizing information; but, I can see using them as another social medium.

I'll be experimenting with Springpad on my phone in the days ahead. I don't expect that it will be my workhorse for organizing myself; but, time will tell.


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Maybe I'm wrong about social media

Saturday, August 28, 2010

If an RSS feed falls in the forest


Barton Creek is flowing
Image by shainelee via Flickr



If an RSS feed falls in the forest of millions of websites, and nobody mentions it, does it mean nobody noticed?

This is a bit of a late post, insofar as Internet speed is concerned. It's so last week. Well known tech guy, Leo Laporte, had a bit of a meltdown after realizing that his Google Buzz had not been updating (http://leoville.com/buzz-kill) his twitter with his latest posts.

This caused Leo to question whether his social media presence is all in vain; because nobody noticed or mentioned it to him.

This, in turn, has caused others to question how valuable social media is in terms of reaching audiences.

Just to give you some perspective, Leo Laporte is a one-man media machine. He does the following:



  • Live broadcast radio show The Tech Guy (techguylabs.com).

  • Podcasts: This Week in Tech, iPad Today, This Week in Google, Windows Weekly, MacBreak Weekly, Security Now, net@night, Daily Giz Wiz, Munchcast

  • Blogs at leoville.com

  • Live video streaming.

Leo is on every imaginable social media website. All of them carry his content to his audiences. His blog alone has more than 223,000 subscribers. Many of those subscribers also subscribe to him through other services like Twitter, Facebook, Jaiku, identi.ca, Youtube, Justin.tv, and you get the idea. The point is, for his fans, Leo is available everywhere they turn.

If one of his channels drops off the map, it doesn't mean that nobody cared. In his case, it means that his other means of reaching out picked up the slack.

Leo Laporte is EVERYWHERE. His thousands of fans don't need Twitter updates to know about his latest broadcasts. We subscribe directly to his feeds.

Now, for somebody who is just starting out in social media, and relying entirely on Facebook or Twitter to reach their audience, it may seem like, "if nobody noticed Leo Laporte's content wasn't posting, nobody will notice mine."

You are right, but not the way you think.

If you are just starting out, firstly, you haven't an audience to notice such a thing. If you are starting off without an audience, you can't have negative subscribers, fortunately.

Secondly, once you do have an audience, they'll know where to find you. You do have a website, right? If you don't have a website and rely entirely on outside social media to interact with your audience, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Don't let Leo's experience make you think nobody is listening. One thing I learned early on is that there are a large number of people who consume your content; but don't interact. You could go for months and years without having known they were there, except in your website stats; but they like your work.

A vast majority of people will not interact with you. One thing that many of the big names in social media do is post their mobile numbers on their websites. They will tell you that they hardly get phone calls from their audiences. I've experimented with that as well, putting my phone number as my website subtitle. I've had two calls in 3 years, of which I'm aware. Most people are happy to remain anonymous.

I see my web stats. I have an audience. But most prefer consumption to interaction. Leo has a larger audience; but if you scale my stats up, you might see that a majority of Leo's audiences consume more than they interact too.

There are plenty of cases with hard data to show that people are listening on social media. But, you can't expect your audience to do your job of monitoring your content distribution for you. For all they know, a dropped channel was intentional. They won't take the time to notify you of something you may have done on purpose.





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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Editorial Calendar

Part of the problem I face is that I blog whenever it strikes me. To develop an audience, however, you need to be consistent. I have not.

I am working on an editorial calendar. I have several “projects” that require updates.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Creating an Editorial Calendar for Your Social Media Presence


A calendar like a clock
Image via Wikipedia


Magazines, especially the ones that print once per month, have pretty much laid out what their content will be from month to month far in advance. It takes a great deal of work to write the articles, hire the models, shoot the photos, design the layout, and all that. Unlike your blog, on which you can basically pound out an update whenever you feel inspired, magazines require a great deal of lead time. So, they have editorial calendars.

We are not talking about personal blogs where you talk about your cats and pet peeves. If your blogging has a business purpose of some sort, then this is whom I intend to reach. Trying to come up with something creative and original every day or every week can be difficult. It is especially so without a plan in place.

I realize it sounds contradictory to say that you need to have a plan in place so you can be creative. It really does help. Many times, when we don't know what to write about, it is because there are too many options. If you narrow it down to certain topics or even points far in advance, it gives you time to formulate your blog post. This way, when the time comes for you to sit down to write, it just flows out of you. You know what needs to be said, it's just a matter of saying it creatively.

Even if your editorial calendar does not change too much from year to year, there are many ways to say the same thing. The value in this is that stated one way, you may reach certain parts of your audience; stated another way, your content will reach another part of your audience. You can vary the tone, style, relate it to a recent experience, and so many other options.

Planning ahead can keep your social media message on track; but furthermore, gives your creativity some direction. Yes, we all have days in which we don't particularly feel inspired. This can be overcome by not having to make things up out of thin air, through an editorial calendar.

So, how do you get one started? The easiest way is to create a spreadsheet with months and days ahead. Start filling in the blanks with ideas. You can be as granular as planning every single day. Or, you may want to give each day of the week a theme. Some people even give a theme to the whole month.

Whatever your preference, having a plan can help you churn out content consistently and at high quality.


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Monday, August 02, 2010

Finally Settling on an eBook Reader for the Family

The debate whether to get a Nook or a Kindle has been somewhat settled in our home. My wife decided to go for a Nook, which complements our lifestyle, given that we visit Barnes and Noble frequently. The free coffees, exclusive content when visiting a store, and other considerations of the hardware make the Nook a more family friendly option.

Now the question, or questions, are whether to get a Kindle in addition to the Nook, or to make a complete commitment and get another Nook.

Both readers have computer versions and Android versions, which evens the playing field in terms of access anywhere. In fact, we technically don't need a reader at all, except that reading a book on your phone is murder on your battery and not as cozy on the computer as it is reading in bed.

So, let's discuss the first question, whether to buy a Kindle or not. Now that we have the Kindle's main competitor in our household, it weighs heavily on the decision. Getting another device means that we would have electronic books in one account or the other. Not a major disaster. In terms of adaptability, there may be a situation in which Amazon has an exclusive on a book not available to Barnes and Noble. And there are such situations. There are some books on social media that are only on Kindle, not Nook.

Yet, even if we do not purchase the Kindle, we could still read said exclusive book on our phones or on the computer. So, the reasoning is a bit weak there.

The next hurdle is, is it justifiable to have more than one eBook reader at home? There are some clear advantages to getting a second reader in the home, eventually. We are budget conscious, so we're not going to splurge on two devices right away. Maybe down the road. We are a family of readers, so one device isn't going to cut it.

If we were to get a second Nook, it would be for the ability to share our library. This presents a question of whether we should get an account per device, as sharing books is possible on the Nook; or, if we would be better served by sharing one account for the whole family.

Sharing one account for our whole library has the advantage that it doesn't matter which reader we choose, our books would be there. We could use one of the Nooks, a phone, or the computers. The same reasoning applies if you put all your chips on the Kindle. One account for the household rather than an account per person.

The problem with this is that purchases are tied into one account. So, whomever's credit card is listed for default payment can expect to bear the brunt of purchases. If you share one financial account, this might not be so bad. Agreeing on a purchase would go a long way towards curbing impulse buys, not to mention that it would bring family expenses under better control.

If you have separate Nook  or Kindle accounts, then the library tends to be more of a personal library than a family library. There is nothing wrong with having a personal library; but it basically means that there will be times when you can't use your own ebook reader. That is, of course, if you're not single. In that case, knock yourself out.

So, in the course of writing this blog post; I came to realize that I'm better off sharing an account with the family. There is no cost savings beyond the purchase price of the reader. What makes it worthwhile to me is that it is much easier to share books with my family. It's the family library. One purchase benefits 5 people.

Of course, this makes me wonder how such libraries will continue on beyond the lifespan of the account holder? Does somebody take over the account, or does the license to the books lapse with the account holder's life? Interesting question, which is beyond this post's scope.


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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kindle and Nook For Android Brings Back Reading Whole Books


Barnes and Noble Nook eBook Readers
Image by Wesley Fryer via Flickr


Amazon and Barnes and Noble recently released Android versions of their Kindle and Nook readers. These have been a long-awaited apps on my part. I have not been able to read an entire book in years. This is mainly because I already carry a laptop and my notebooks. Carrying a book in addition is more cumbersome. Recently I finally read a fiction book. It has been years since I've read fiction.

I do not own a Kindle. Mrs. Mata recently purchased a Nook. I could never plop down the courage to buy one or the other. I'm more of a freemium kind of guy. I like to try it before I buy it. I tried the Kindle and Nook on my PC. This didn't really work for me. When I'm at the computer, I feel the urge to work or do stuff, not read. Of course, computer monitors are also not that great for reading either.

The biggest advantage to owning a reader, I imagine, is the portability. It is portability that makes Kindle and Nook apps for Android useful for me. I already carry the laptop, mobile phone, and other gadgets with me every day. A reader, like a book, would just be another item to carry. This problem is eliminated now that I can purchase and read books on my phone.

Adding to the portability is that your last read page gets updated on all your reader devices. That is really cool.

Now that I've experienced reading a book on my Android, I am more inclined to save up for a Kindle or Nook. I would most likely leave my reader at home for reading around the house. Having the ability to carry my books anywhere, even without the device, really makes the whole experience worth it for me. I'm a great fan of Evernote for the same ability to access notes and information anywhere.

Yes, reading books on my phone's tiny screen is not ideal. But, it does give me an option for those times when I have a few minutes to read here and there. Furthermore, I can now stop buying dead tree versions of books, which overpopulate my home.

I have not yet decided whether to go with the Amazon or Barnes and Noble reader. They both offer similar features and convenience. My wife opted for the Nook. So, really my choice is whether we want compatibility or an additional device in our home. I'll write another post on my considerations later.


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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The eBook Reader Debate


Amazon Kindle e-book reader being held by my g...
Image via Wikipedia


My family is probably not alone in the debate as to which electronic book reader to buy. The two in question are the Kindle by Amazon, and the Nook by Barnes and Noble. It is a tough choice for us because of the completely different experiences we have in shopping for books. To put it plainly, we prefer the online shopping experience with Amazon; and, we spend a lot of time at our local Barnes and Noble book stores where we buy books off the shelves. While it makes sense to combine our physical and virtual shopping, the fact is that Barnes and Noble's website really isn't as cool as Amazon's. So, that is really our main cause of debate. We prefer the Amazon website over Barnes and Noble's.

To be fair, we are not comparing apples to apples. BN is a book store. Amazon sells books amongst many different things that aren't even tangentially related to books. So, Amazon gives more variety in what you can buy. This makes Amazon better at fulfilling multiple needs in one visit. However, none of those items apply when discussing eBooks.

I have talked to others regarding a preference for readers. Thoughts vary based on shopping preferences. For example, geek friends prefer the Nook because it runs on Android. This means you can hack it to do things that it probably was not intended to do. What really interests me is that the Nook reader makes Google Books useful.

Even though you can read entire books through Google, their online reader is lousy. You can't bookmark or annotate. It's basically reading an online PDF that you can't download or use. The Nook allows you to download and read these books in a much easier way than on your computer screen. The Nook also allows you to lend books to others, which is an awesome thing. This brings the whole ebook reading experience closer to the real thing.

Besides the online shopping issue, I personally like the Kindle better because it doesn't have that stupid little touchscreen at the bottom. I'm a geek; I can't figure out how to navigate the damned thing. Kindle, on the other hand, is just intuitive.

I've talked to another friend who owns a Nook. He is very happy with the Nook. He likes the ability to download Google Books, enjoys the ability to lend books, and is very pleased with the product, overall. However, he and his wife will probably be a 2 ebook reader home. They are going to get a Kindle too; they simply are more in tune with Amazon than with Barnes and Noble, even though, like me, they have the advantage of visiting local stores.

I think our home will probably also be a dual ebook reader home too. If you look at the raw numbers, my family buys a crapload of books from Barnes and Noble stores. But their website sucks. I HAD TO RESEARCH how to find Google Books on their site. We'll buy the Nook because we are already good customers and can get cool offers when visiting the store with the device. But, having experienced neither, it was a tough choice for us to make up our mind which to get first.

I'm currently trying the Android apps for both. Right out of the gate, I like the Nook app better than the Kindle app. They both offer the same functionality; I just think that the Nook app does a good job of animating page turns. But, in all honesty, they are both equal in terms of ease of use and functionality.

It might seem strange that such a debate would become an issue within a household. Our family consists of readers. We have books everywhere. Quite honestly, we are running out of room to put books in our little apartment. It is, therefore, important that we select an electronic platform for our books. Whichever we choose will likely be our ebook reader of choice for life. Whatever the savings of buying electronic books; we are not going to buy the same books twice. So, it is important for us to choose the one that will carry us for decades. So, we probably will have one of each reader at the outset.


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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Shoeboxed is Sensible Outsourcing

From Stock

Shoeboxed.com is undoubtedly the most useful outsource service I have found to date. In terms of value, Shoeboxed is one of the best investments a freelance/work at home person can make to keep track of finances. It would take me longer to do what they do; and, I would not earn money doing it.

I signed up for Shoeboxed.com around the turn of the year as a way of tracking my expenses for the new tax year. I have tried other ways of tracking expenses: by text message, by instant message, by voice message, by evernote, and you name it. They all fail me because I forget to use them.

I considered scanning my own receipts. So, I signed up for the free version where you scan and upload your receipts to the Shoeboxed website. This did not work out so well either. First, I haven't a self-feeding scanner that can scan skinny receipts. Secondly, I never made the time to scan the pile of receipts I gathered. In retrospect, if I were inclined to organize my records, I would do it daily, come hell or high water, never mind my paltry excuses. But I don't. So, when the end of the year comes around, I end up scrambling and breaking my head trying to organize my records.

A month ago, I got a call from Shoeboxed offering me a 1 month free trial of the service. Prior to this, I had considered the possibility of subscribing to the service. I came to accept that I could use a hand in scanning and organizing my receipts; but I only my business receipts, which are not quite as many as my personal receipts. However, I ran into a snag. The Lite version leaves it up to you to buy your own envelopes and stamps to mail your receipts to Shoeboxed. I spent time shopping for envelopes and stamps. I realized that for only $10 more per month, I could avoid the hassle. I emailed my Shoeboxed rep to up my trial subscription to the next level.

Within a few days, I received self addressed, prepaid envelopes to mail in receipts. I stuffed the first and sent away. Within days, they arrived and showed up in my Shoeboxed account, scanned, categorized, and organized. All I had to do was verify and adjust the few odd purchases. I can definitely do this.

So, for $20/month, all I have to do is dump receipts into an envelope I keep in the car, mail it in once a week, or so, and then categorize the few oddball purchases I made. The brunt of the work is done by Shoeboxed.

The amount of work I would have spent scanning, organizing, looking for stamps and envelopes is gone. Even if I only look at my account once per year, the time savings is well worth it. This is time that can be spent relaxing or working hard for the money. You've probably heard that you should work ON your business, not IN your business. Shoeboxed is what they're talking about. Outsource the administrative; focus on generating income.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Social Media in a Disaster

I love social media. Make no mistake about it. However, one of the greatest examples of the limitations of social media is the use of these networks during a disaster. There are some glaring shortcomings when using social media to get your message out to the public.

Limited Audience

The biggest challenge to using social media to push information to the public is that not everybody is on facebook, twitter, myspace, or whatever network you choose. There are some people who live long productive lives without bothering with social networks. There are a bunch more who check their networks on occasion rather than daily. The vast majority are simply on a different network. You can't reach that many people.

Access During a Disaster

Modern living is highly dependent on electricity. In the event of a destructive hurricane, earthquake, or other event that knocks out power indefinitely, it is likely that many people will be unable to receive disaster updates. After all, batteries don't last forever. Even if you have a laptop you can plug into your vehicle for power, how will you get Internet when power is out? Theoretically, if you are in a disaster area, you are the most in need of information rather than people safely outside the area, right?

Limited Sphere of Influence

Not everybody has a million friends on social media. Plenty of people are content to have a few dozen friends. Even then, it's just a few dozen friends, which may not include the Press.

How Social Media Can Help In Disasters

Social media is most useful when people rebroadcast updates to their own circles of friends prior to a disaster. Obviously, this only works when you know a disaster is coming, like a hurricane or giant meteor. This way, people are able to inform their friends and family with the latest. Let's repeat that it does not reach everybody; but, you can always use the telephone too.

Another way that social media can help with a disaster is by organizing aid to the affected area afterwards. There is limited use for social media for people at the scene. Recovery efforts require manpower and resources, neither of which travels through the Internet. However, those organizing a response are able to connect and make things happen to bring both to the affected area.

That brings me to the final thought on the use of social media. It is all good and well that you want to raise awareness. Sadly, today's populace wants to be told what to do and how to do it. We are slowly evolving to a nanny state where we look to others for direction. Awareness is not good enough. Your social media message should include instructions. Ask people to donate. Instruct people to evacuate. Let people know that you have space at your shelter. Tell people to stock up on supplies. Social media falls short in that it typically consists of "raising awareness". Put some action items in your social media campaign. Don't forget to instruct your audience to share that knowledge and instructions with their neighbors. Like political campaigns, disaster preparation and response depends highly on fieldwork. Connect and mobilize.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

You're Self-Employed Even If You Have a Job

I was reading a brief blog post by Seth Godin in which he states that you're already self-employed. This is something that I have understood for many years, even when I succumb to my own insecurities by getting a 9 to 5 job. Given today's economy, it may have occurred to many people that there is no job security. Therefore, as an employee of somebody else, it is incumbent upon you to always be on the lookout and have your resume ready for action.

Why You Must Go

Employers only really need a few star players on their team. Either you are the star player or you are there as a fringe benefit to the star player. The concept to take away is that the vast majority of us are merely adequate at our jobs; we are there to give the star performers some breathing room to achieve great things. In tough economic times, the star player is needed more than ever; and, given limited resources, it makes you expendable.

Another reason you must go is cashflow. Businesses are not there to provide jobs; they are there to profit. Many things are possible when companies profit: stockholder dividends, charitable donations, sponsorships, and, yes, jobs. Jobs are a consequence of profit. Without profit, there can't be jobs; because, YOU, my friend will not tolerate working for free. On the flip side of that, keeping you on with the company during slow economic times means the company is at risk of going under. If this keeps up long enough, that means that everybody in the company, including you, will eventually be out looking for jobs. Expecting a job during a slow business cycle is akin to getting money for simply showing up.

Even After All That

Even after having said all that, it is conceivable that you can have a long career and move up the corporate ladder. That just means that you are a star player and the company made extra efforts to keep you on the team. Even so, as a star player, you could have had any job you wanted at other companies. This is quite the opposite of the average employee who has no job safety; the average Joe is self-employed through no fault of his own. The star player is self-employed if he wishes to make something of himself. If you're a real badass, your employer will bend over backwards to keep you on board. This is precisely why you are self-employed; you can leverage better deals when offers from other companies come in.

You're Better Off Being Self-Employed Anyway

I'm not saying that you should run off and file your DBA today. You can be self-employed in mindset. Simply knowing that you perform some output and receive some income in exchange. Your employers are interchangeable in your personal economic engine. Employer A's dollars are just as green as Employer B's. Being willing to fire your boss is very empowering because it frees you up to find bigger and better opportunities. Furthermore, if you are still able and willing to work, you don't really need a 9 to 5 job; you can usually generate some income on your own. You don't need to keep a job that simply isn't performing to your standards; fire it. It's not personal; it's business.

How Self-Employed Fare Well

Many of my freelance friends have had an economic boom during these days of layoffs and downsizing. It's not that there isn't work that needs to be done; rather, companies can't afford to pay steady paychecks for occasional jobs that require their skills. So, they offered to do contract work for their old jobs. This freed them up to do contract work for other companies too. Rather than rely on one source of income, they have multiple sources that can sustain them.

Get a Leg Up On the Next Economic Boom

As a freelancer, you interview for jobs every day. When the jobs come back, you'll have much better practice than those who were waiting for full employment. I think part of that comfort comes with the knowledge that you don't really need the job; you have work regardless. Not only will you be more comfortable with interviewing, you will still have relevant industry knowledge from continuing to do the work while your competition remained jobless. Simply having the mindset that you are self-employed, and the willingness to walk the talk if necessary, can go a long way in raising your confidence and making you more resilient than your co-workers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why I Think Google Wave Has No Storage Limit

This blog post is written on Google Wave. RSS readers click here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Best is the Enemy of Google Wave

You can read this blog post on Google Wave here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Google Wave for Domain Groups

This probably applies to a few of you who have decided to move your Intranet to Google Apps. You can set up Google Wave for your domain so that you can use your email address as your Google Wave login and even set up groups. The best example I can give is if you have whatchamacallit.com as your company domain. If your address is bob@whatchamacallit.com, you can Wave with other whatchamacallit.com users using that email address.

If you have signed up with Google Wave in the past, you know that whatever email address you use gets a user name and @googlewave.com appended to it. You might even get a Google user account created for you. Not so with Google Apps accounts.

The really cool part about having a Google Apps domain account is that your admin can create groups. So, let's say that you create team1@whatchamacallit.com as a group within the company. You can then add team1@whatchamacallit.com as a contact within your Wave. This connects you to the entire team without having to add everybody individually. This is similar to the connection between Google Wave and Google Groups. Very handy.

The Google Wave Blog has a post on Waving with Groups that can lead you in the right direction. Just remember that Wave treats domain groups just like email groups.

Monday, June 14, 2010

T-Mobile myTouch 3G to Receive Android 2.2 Update

Blog post written on a Google Wave. Click to read and interact.

Google Wave for Government Work

This blog post is written in Google Wave.