Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Some Traits of a Successful Online Entrepreneur

The items below represent some common traits among those who find a high level of success online:

> Focused and Goal Driven
Doing today's work today, yet with a long range goal in mind, is essential. Anyone can keep busy, but unless that busy-ness is taking you forward toward your end goals, you may be pushing what you want away from you rather than drawing it toward you. Without long range goals to keep us on track, we are wandering a jungle without a map.

> Decisiveness
Too many "newbies" to business are afraid of making mistakes. They are indecisive at best, and some are almost paralyzed by their fear. They often won't make the simplest of decisions without looking for someone to tell them what to do. This obviously retards their progress and potential.

Successful entrepreneurs are decision makers. They are problem solvers. They are risk takers (calculated risks—not rash, impetuous risks). Rather than waiting for someone to tell them what to do next at every step of the way, an entrepreneur is proactive and researches the problem and possible solutions.
The biggest mistake newbies make (besides not having defined goals) is failing to take sustained action! If you're waiting, you're not doing. If you're not doing, your business isn't being built. If you're not building your business, what are you doing?

> Can-do Mindset
Those who fear failure seldom create significant success. For those with low self-esteem, failures are painful and are to be avoided. This prevents them from taking the kind of calculated risks that drive a business to success.

If your mind is in the wrong place about failure, a failure is thought of as a personal experience. If your mind is in the right place a failure is thought of as a learning experience.
It could be said, the faster you fail the sooner you'll prevail. Entrepreneurs believe in their dreams and don't allow obstacles to defeat them.

> Cool Under Fire
No matter how good you are at what you do, you will be criticized. Some criticisms will have merit, but many will not. The successful entrepreneur needs to be able to handle all criticism with poise and confidence.

Imagine yourself above the fray looking down at it as though it were someone else being criticized instead of you. From this lofty perspective you can respond intelligently rather than react emotionally.

> Self-motivation
Self-motivation and enthusiasm are key elements to entrepreneurial success. Internet marketers like to tout the "Internet lifestyle" in their sales copy, trying to make people believe this business is easy.

I can guarantee you if they are successful at all, they worked a lot harder than they let on to get to a point where their lifestyle is better than the average 9-5 worker. Chances are they worked 60-80 hours a week, including weekends and nights, to become successful. Without self-motivation they’d never make it big.
 Source: Boogie Jack’s Newsletter Nov. 2012

 Merry Christmas to one and all!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Emergency Preparedness Tips

When I was a Boy Scout, one of the motto's learned was to “Be Prepared”.  This motto should be ingrained in every one’s mind. In today’s world there are so many occasions where following this motto can be business or even life saving. In business, the term is more like having a “Plan B” – when the initial plan goes awry, have a fall back plan to insure that you can still meet the bulk of your objectives. In life, with continuous looming threats from natural disasters and even possible terrorist attacks, one can never be prepared enough.

So, obviously prompted by being without electricity for over 60 hours, I want to share with all, information  about emergency preparedness. The goal is certainly not to be alarmist; I hope you'll never need to use this emergency preparedness information.
However, it's not difficult to be prepared -- and since many of these steps are useful for many situations, I thought it appropriate to share these tips with you.  This is not an exhaustive list -- it's simply aimed at getting you thinking in the right direction.

So here are 10 Emergency Preparedness Tips to Help You and Your Family Prepare for Natural Disasters and Even Terrorist Attacks. Most important it is essential that you keep a level head, a calm approach. By definition, many natural disasters and terrorist attack are unpredictable. They occur around the world.

Nonetheless, there are lots of things average citizens can do to protect themselves and their families -- and maybe save lives should something happen. Having some basic information and tools can go a long way toward making you more confident in the event of a disaster in your neighborhood. Here are ten tips to help you and your family prepare for a natural disaster or terrorist attack.


TALK ABOUT IT. A 'head in the sand' attitude is not a good thing if you want to successfully prepare for a natural disaster or terrorist attack. Some natural disasters have warnings -- including evacuation procedures. Many others occur without warning. And we know, now more than ever, that a terrorist attack could happen anywhere, at any time -- so pretending that it only happens in the movies just won't cut it.
You don't need to be morbid. However, if you can talk about the possibility of a natural disaster or terrorist attack as a family or group, you can brainstorm ideas and get everyone thinking of solutions to potential problems. Focus on the types of natural disasters that are most likely to occur where you live. For example, if you live in Florida, be sure to plan for hurricanes and flooding. If you're in California, earthquakes are more likely. However, also plan for unexpected disasters and terrorist attacks.

2. HAVE A PLAN. Create a basic plan as a family with regard to what you will do if a natural disaster or terrorist attack occurs. A basic plan to prepare for terror should include:

- A communication plan
- An agreed-upon meeting place away from your home or work place
- A family member or friend who will act as a neutral contact for all of you, in some other city
- A list of all the important phone numbers you might need for each member of the family
- If you have children in school, you should know what the school emergency preparedness plan is, as well, and they should know yours.

3. PREPARE AN EMERGENCY KIT. You should have an easily accessible 'kit' with emergency supplies in it. Everyone in the family needs to know where it is located.

The kit should include, at the very least:
- A battery-powered radio
- A notebook and pen
- Extra prescription medications, if possible
- A first aid kit
- Dehydrated or canned foods (and don't forget the can opener!)
- A week's water supply for everyone
- A flashlight, with extra batteries
- A solar blanket or two for each family member
- Duct tape, scissors, soap and bleach

4. TAKE COURSES. If your community offers any kind of emergency preparedness courses at any time, TAKE THEM. At the very least, take a first aid course when you can.

5. MEMORIZE EMERGENCY EXITS. In any buildings that you frequent, learn and memorize where all the emergency exits are located. When you go into unfamiliar buildings, make a point of noticing where the marked exits are.

Plan in advance -- by mentally 'practicing' -- how to get out of a subway or congested public area. This is an important aspect of emergency preparedness.

6. BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. To prepare for terror or a natural disaster at any time, practice paying attention to your surroundings, and think about where you could seek shelter or protection, or hide if you needed to, in the event of an emergency.

This will help you become more aware of your environment wherever you go, and this will serve you well if you need it.

7. FIRE EXTINGUISHERS. Become familiar with different kinds of fire extinguishers and how they work. Practice using them (without pulling the pin) in a hurry.


8. NOTICE YOUR SURROUNDINGS. Should you be caught in a unexpected natural disaster or terror attack, take immediate notice of your surroundings. BREATHE -- and don't panic. (We know that's easier said than done, but we also know you could save your own life with just this one way to prepare for an emergency.)

9. PAY ATTENTION. If you are in any situation, with strangers, and something makes you uneasy -- pay attention. Start moving and leave the situation immediately if you can safely do so.


10. DOING WITHOUT. Be prepared to 'do without' amenities you are familiar with and used to accessing. Be patient.

And here's one more tip for you...

11. HELP WHERE YOU CAN. If your help is needed, offer it. It will take your mind off what's going on around you, help you feel like you're contributing -- and you may even save a life.

Hopefully, these emergency preparedness tips help you be prepared -- and that you never need to use them.

Based in info from scambusters.com 10/31/12

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Four Ds for Decision-Making

I recently read an article from Microsoft that dealt with better managing ones email/inbox. When I read the fourth tip, I felt it was applicable to much more than just email but to almost any query/request that crosses ones desk. So here goes. The "Four Ds for Decision-Making" model (4 Ds) is a valuable tool for processing email, helping you to quickly decide what action to take with each item and how to remove it from your Inbox.  This inbox can be part of your email system or that tray sitting on top of your desk (you remember them, don’t you?)  Anyway, as you read on, think of the inbox in the broader context.

Decide what to do with each and every message

How many times have you opened, reviewed, and closed the same email message or conversation? Those messages are getting lots of attention but very little action. It is better to handle each email message only once before taking action—which means you have to decide what to do with it and where to put it. With the 4 Ds model, you have four choices:
1.                Delete it
2.                Do it
3.                Delegate it
4.                Defer it

Delete it

Generally, you can delete about half of all the email you get. But some of you shudder when you hear the phrase "delete email." You're hesitant to delete messages for fear that you might need them at some point. That's understandable, but ask yourself honestly: What percentage of information that you keep do you actually use?
If you do use a large percentage of what you keep, your method is working. But many of us keep a lot more than we use. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you decide what to delete:
·                          Does the message relate to a meaningful objective you're currently working on? If not, you    can probably delete it. Why keep information that doesn't relate to your main focus?
·                          Does the message contain information you can find elsewhere? If so, delete it.
·                          Does the message contain information that you will refer to within the next six months? If not, delete it.
·                          Does the message contain information that you're required to keep? If not, delete it.

Do it (in less than two minutes)

If you can't delete the email messages, ask yourself, "What specific action do I need to take?" and "Can I do it in less than two minutes?" If you can, just do it. 
There is no point in filing an email or closing an email if you can complete the associated task in less than two minutes. Try it out—see how much mail you can process in less than two minutes. I think you will be extremely surprised and happy with the results. You could file the message, you could respond to the message, or you could make a phone call. You can probably handle about one-third of your email messages in less than two minutes.

Delegate it

If you can't delete it or do it in two minutes or less, can you forward the email to an appropriate team member who can take care of the task?
If you can delegate it (forward it to another team member to handle), do so right away. You should be able to compose and send the delegating message in about two minutes. After you have forwarded the message, delete the original message or move it into your email reference system.

Defer it

If you cannot delete it, do it in less than two minutes, or delegate it, the action required is something that only you can accomplish and that will take more than two minutes. Because this is your dedicated email processing time, you need to defer it and deal with it after you are done processing your email. You’ll probably find that about 20 percent of your email messages have to be deferred.
There are two things you can do to defer a message: Turn it into an actionable task, or turn it into an appointment. You can defer emails that require action by putting them in to a Task or To-Xdo list, or putting then into a calendar for future reference and/or action.

Use the 4 Ds model every day

Using the 4 Ds model on a daily basis makes it easier to handle a large quantity of email. Our experience shows that, on average, people can process about 100 email messages an hour. If you receive 40 to 100 messages per day, all you need is one hour of uninterrupted email processing time to get through your Inbox. Our statistics show that of the email you receive:
·                          Fifty percent can be deleted or filed.
·                          Thirty percent can be delegated or completed in less than two minutes.
·                          Twenty percent can be deferred to your Task List or Calendar to complete later.
Of course, if you have a backlog of hundreds of messages, it will take time to get to the point where your daily routine keeps you up to date. It's important to get that backlog down, so I would suggest setting blocks of time aside to work through it. Then, you can really enjoy processing your messages every day using the 4 Ds.

Based on the article from Microsoft at Work:  Empty your Inbox: 4 ways to take control of your email”
By Sally McGhee   9/26/12

Friday, September 7, 2012

Microsoft reboots Hotmail, Outlook.com arrives

Microsoft is rebranding of Hotmail as Outlook.com, a move by the company to hold its first-place position in free email while pushing the domain as more of a consumer destination, say analysts.

Late July, Microsoft unveiled Outlook.com, a massive overhaul of Hotmail that features a visual redesign, integration with the SkyDrive cloud-based storage service and free online Office apps, and ties with several social networking sites, from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn. While Microsoft will run Hotmail and Outlook.com side-by-side for an indefinite period, eventually the company will ditch the former, the company said. Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based research firm that only tracks Microsoft's moves, said the shift to Outlook.com illustrates Microsoft's recent focus on consumers. "They're trying to harmonize the value of Hotmail and the Metro design language with the services they already provide," said Miller. "They want to make Hotmail become more of a destination, a place where users spend more time."

Outlook.com, like Hotmail and other free email services such as Google's Gmail, runs advertisements within its browser-based interface. The more time users spend on Outlook.com, the more ads Microsoft can show them. But Microsoft isn't trying to make Outlook.com "stickier" -- a term that describes websites that not only attract users, but keep them there -- using its social media ties.

"I'm not so sure that [social networking] will be the thing that drives people to it, or to use it," said Miller of Outlook.com. "Instead, it will more about how [the service] helps you get things done."

Miller pointed to the integration with SkyDrive and the Office Web Apps -- the in-the-cloud versions of Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Word -- as key to Microsoft's strategy.
Outlook.com provides each user with a free SkyDrive allotment of 7GB, and will open Excel, PowerPoint and Word documents with the online apps. SkyDrive is particularly critical to Outlook.com, as file attachments, including those sent by others, are deposited in the cloud, allowing users to send and receive very large files that might choke an email server or be rejected because of size limitations.
Microsoft's used the Hotmail brand since 1997, when it acquired the service for an estimated $400 million. But the brand is old, said Miller, while others have said the service lacks the panache of Gmail among the technology elite. "Hotmail feels dated, it looks like a Honda from the 1990s," said Miller. But the service, while perceived as old-fashioned, continues to be a major Microsoft success: According to recent data from measurement company comScore, Hotmail led the market with 324 million unique visitors last month, compared to 290 million for Yahoo Mail and Gmail's 277 million.

Microsoft could have made the design and integration changes seen in Outlook.com to Hotmail, and kept the older nameplate and domain, Miller acknowledged. But it didn't. Microsoft did not establish a timetable to retire Hotmail, although it confirmed that at some point those with addresses ending in hotmail.com will be forced to use the new Outlook.com interface. Miller predicted what he thought was a fast move. "Hotmail will continue for time X, whatever X is, but I give it two more years," he said. Within 18 to 24 months, Microsoft will again have a single free online email service.

Users with current Microsoft-provided email addresses and accounts, hotmail.com, live.com and msn.com will automatically be shown the new interface, but can switch back to the traditional look-and-feel if they're dissatisfied.

New email addresses ending in outlook.com are also available, and can be registered at Outlook.com.

Source: July 31, 2012 Computerworld article by Gregg Keizer 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cellphone Sanity

I’m becoming more and more annoyed with people using cell/smartphones at the most inappropriate times. Recently, I was driving down a two-lane road and approached a railroad crossing at the top of a  hill when an oncoming vehicle was precariously riding over the center line. As soon as the driver saw me, she swerved back into her lane,  driving with one hand on the wheel and the other holding her cell phone to her ear. I can not tell you how often I’ve encountered similar driving experiences, where the driver was preoccupied with their cellphones.  Most recently, while attending a summer orchestra performance, sitting across the isle was a person using their iPad/tablet surfing for women’s dresses. After intermission I had the opportunity to change sections of the amphitheater and for the second half of the performance, a young lady was viewing what-ever on a smartphone for the remainder of the performance. Needless to say, the illumination from both devices was extremely annoying and distracting.
A couple of days after the concert, I happened to read an article entitled: “Cellphone Sanity” by Jeff Gelles, a Philadelphia Inquirer Business Columnist. Jeff talks about how most of us are torn by the communications revolution that offers a powerful, connected computer in any pocket or purse. Even more than ordinary cellphones, smartphones have imposed a dramatic change in the rhythms of everyday life. Or threaten to, unless we resist. That's what drew his eye to a public-relations pitch. It came courtesy of a Florida company, CableOrganizer.com, with the title "10 Commandments of Cellphone Use."
This is a list of rules to live by in a world of ubiquitous connectivity. We're the bosses of these things, and we can agree - to the same extent that we accept any common sense of manners - on limits that preserve our peace, quiet, nonelectronic connections, and sanity.  Here is the list:
1. Respect those you're with. Don't check out from live conversation to shoot the breeze, they say. "If you make social plans with someone, they are the first priority and deserve your undivided time and attention." Memo to my family: Dinner at home counts, too.
2. Let voice mail handle nonurgent calls when appropriate. "Voice mail exists for a reason." Let it cover calls during parent-teacher conferences, family meals, and the rest. You get to decide what's urgent, of course. But if everything qualifies, you're not being sufficiently discriminating, or you need to de-stress your life.
3. Set a good example to the younger generation. It's like modeling any polite behavior or teaching "please" and "thank you," and I don't disagree - even if I'll have to aim to do better with my grandkids. The problem is, most adults are still struggling themselves with how to draw these lines.
4. Wait to text, and save a life (yours). This should be obvious - just like "Thou shalt not kill," which is exactly what you're risking, along with your own life.
5. Stash your cell when dining out. Your fellow restaurant patrons - including those sharing your table - don't want "to become a captive audience to a third party cellphone conversation. You can always excuse yourself for a truly urgent call, but remember Commandment 2.
6. Remember when "private time" is in order. There are talking places where running and flushing water are the ordinary background noise, and suggesting you not add your own soundtrack - especially since you have no idea who's on the other side of a stall wall.
7. Keep arguments under wraps. "It's easy to get wrapped up in an argument, but remember that others can't see or hear the hothead on the other end of the line." This goes for office cubicles, too.
8. Mind your manners. Language and stories that others might find offensive are their concern here, so here is a reasonable rule: "If you wouldn't walk through a busy public place with a particular word or comment printed on your T-shirt, don't use it in cellphone conversations when within earshot of strangers."
9. Don't ignore universal quiet zones. This broadens the "don't add your own soundtrack" rule of theaters to other places where quiet should reign, such as houses of worship. "It's imperative to heed the mandate to shut off cell phones completely." Not only so they don't make a notable sound, but also so that intrusive screen light does not distract, both of which are highly disrespectful to those around you.
10. Don't make service personnel wait. This isn't just disrespectful, though that's reason enough to pay heed. Restaurateurs have said that the cumulative effect of cellphone delays is also harming their business. While the waitress waits for you to finish your call, she can't be waiting on anyone else.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Here are some brief notes about various happenings in the technological world we live in:

Blu-ray discs have been around for about six years now, DVDs remain a pretty big presence in the entertainment and storage markets. But that may be changing: Microsoft recently announced that its newest operating system, Windows 8, will drop default DVD playback support. Users who want DVD support must pay for Windows Media Center, find an alternative player, or hope that manufacturers bundle DVD software with computers.

Best Buy
Are brick-and-mortar retailers finally being beaten down by online merchants? It looks that way. In March, big-box retailer Best Buy announced that it will close 50 of its retail stores in an attempt to "think small." Best Buy plans to open 100 smaller mobile stores that will focus on phones, tablets, and e-readers--further proof that the world is becoming increasingly mobile (and that brick-and-mortar stores' days may face additional hard times ahead).

Employers Request Facebook Logins
If you've been in the job market in the past few years, you probably know that many employers check up on the social networking profiles of both potential hires and current employees. But in March we learned that some employers weren't just looking at employees' public profiles--they were actually asking for log-in information, including passwords, so they could snoop even deeper. This controversial policy piqued the interest of lawmakers, and several states have since passed legislation forbidding employers to make such requests.

The controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would have allowed courts to order ISPs to block access to entire Internet domains accused of infringing on copyrighted content, was all the rage in January 2012. The bill rankled the tech community, in particular, and even prompted such websites as Wikipedia and Reddit to black out their services for a day in protest. On January 20, the House Judiciary Committee postponed consideration of the bill--in effect, tabling it Indefinitely.

MAC Flashback
Mac users have finally been knocked off their malware-free pedestal, thanks to Flashback, a Trojan horse that has infected more than 600,000 Apple
computers. The malware exploits a Java vulnerability; and though Apple responded with Java updates and removal tools, the virus still plagues more than 140,000 Macs.

Google Privacy Policy Update
Privacy is always a flop when the tech industry is involved. After all, we can't have an open, sharey Internet without, well, we give up our privacy. The most notable privacy flop so far has been Google's restructuring of its privacy guidelines so that it could unify its users' data across all Google-related services. The company claimed that it was just making things simpler, but the revamp was actually a way for Google to prepare the world for its cloud-based service, Google Drive.

Facebook IPO
Facebook went public on May 18, 2012, with the price of a share initially set at $38. The company was valued at $104 billion--quite a bit for a company whose 2011 revenue just topped $3.7 billion--so it might not be surprising that the Facebook IPO sort of...flopped. At this writing, a little more than two weeks later, Facebook shares were trading at $26.90, down $11.10 from the opening price.

Based on info from Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, PC World, June 05, 2012

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


227 years ago...on July 4th, 1776
This great nation, the United States of America,
In a struggle for what was right and free,
Was proudly born...
May we celebrate that precious freedom
For which our forbears fought so bravely...
The freedom that is inherent
In the Stars and Stripes, our revered flag...
Celebrate Freedom
This Fourth of July!

Monday, June 4, 2012

10 Rules to Protect Yourself from Scams

Here are just a few "golden rules" that would pretty much guarantee you won't get caught in a scam?  it's important to point out that sometimes, by following these rules, you may end up rejecting perfectly honest approaches and opportunities. But the aim is to keep out of trouble. And, if you observe these rules to protect yourself from scams, adding just a dash of common sense, you'll almost certainly do that. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Don't buy or invest in something that seems too good to be true.

It's one of the oldest tricks in the book -- offering a bogus bargain that seems irresistible. Sadly, these days, you can't even trust someone you believe you should -- whether that's a "friend," a relative or an investment adviser.  They may be up to no good or they may have been hoodwinked themselves. Exception: A seller you know well.

2. Don't accept that someone is who they say they are.

Don't allow someone, whom you didn't request or invite, to come into your home. Even if someone phones to arrange a visit, always find or check their number independently. Or if someone on our doorstep says it's an emergency -- like the need for a bathroom visit or to make an urgent call -- don't let them in. Wherever you encounter them, remember that an introduction, or a business or identity card proves nothing. Nor does a vehicle with a name on it. Or a phone call that sounds like it comes from someone you know.

3. Don't spend money upfront to get or earn money.

This applies, for example, to lotteries, other supposed competition wins or inheritances, and people claiming they want to share money they won or found.  Don't pay in advance for debt restructuring, job "opportunities" or promises of tax savings. Don't pay upfront for training "kits" or supplies for work-from-home programs unless you know, absolutely that they work.

4. Don't buy (or rent) from someone you don't know or haven't checked out.

This may seem harsh but it's especially important when making an online purchase.  There are so many phony websites, door-to-door traders, contractors, directories, home rentals, etc. It's a simple matter to check them out in the phone book or by doing a Google, Yahoo! or Bing online search on the company name.  Seek references. What do others say about them?

5. Protect your confidential information.

Don't give it out in response to an inquiry you didn't initiate.  Use services like PayPal, one-off credit card numbers (from your card provider) and prepaid debit cards to limit your exposure to card fraud.  When buying online, check for "https" in the address line. If that "s" is not there, don't give any information and don't buy.  And leave your Social Security card and unneeded credit/store cards at home.

6. Don't make hasty decisions.

No matter how persuasive an offer seems or how much a rep insists you need to agree on a deal now to get a discount, don't do it!  Never agree to buy something on the spot, especially at your front door or in response to a telemarketing call.  An honest person would allow you time to think over an offer. An exception might be an advertised limited-time offer, but even some of these are phony.

7. Only donate to charities you know or have checked out.

Don't give money to panhandlers or doorstep collectors. Don't donate to store collection boxes or "tin-rattlers" unless you know for sure their cause is genuine. We encourage you to donate to charities but send your money directly to them, and then only after checking them out.

8. Use reputable security software on your PC and keep it up to date.

Opt for products with "Internet Security" or similar wording rather than straight anti-virus programs -- and preferably ones that integrate with your web browser. Regularly check that you're using the latest version and that it automatically updates its malware definitions.  Ignore pop-ups and other warnings that your machine is infected that don't come from this program. And never pay more money in response to such warnings.

9. Don't click on links and attachments in unsolicited, unchecked messages or social networks.

You can't trust the sender or poster, even if you know them. We're sure you'll be tempted to do so sometimes but if you absolutely want to avoid all risks, just don't.  Otherwise, if you really must, or it's something like an e-card greeting, write to the sender and confirm they sent it before doing anything else.

10. Don't wire cash.

Unless you're sending money to someone you know, don't use electronic cash transfer services. And never send partial refunds from "overpayment" or "secret shopper" checks you received.

Two final points:

Oftentimes scammers target children, seniors or other vulnerable people. If you have such people in your family, do everything you can to make them aware of the risks, and to protect them.
Second, you can avoid most scams just by being a natural skeptic. Start from the position that what you're being told or offered, or the web page you landed on, might be a scam; that way, you'll actually spot most of them. Then, assume that the more a person tries to convince you it's a great deal, the more likely it is a scam!
As was said, some of these rules might seem a little harsh and you might want to temper them with a little bit of common sense. But be warned: The more you do, the more likely you are to become a scam victim.
To truly protect yourself from scams, play it safe!
Adapted from Scambusters.org article #492 5/16/12 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Facebook Stores Closed

Last April, Gamestop Corp. opened a store on Facebook to generate sales among the 3.5 million-plus customers who’d declared themselves “fans” of the video game retailer. Six months later, the store was quietly shuttered. Gamestop has company. Over the past year, Gap Inc., J.C. Penney Co. and Nordstrom (JWN) Inc. have all opened and closed storefronts on social networking site. Facebook, which filed for an initial public offering in February, has sought to be a top shopping destination for its 845 million members. The stores’ quick failure shows that the Menlo Park, CA-based social network doesn’t drive commerce and casts doubt on its value for retailers, said Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A year ago, investors hailed so-called F-commerce as the next big thing, speculating that the company had potential to threaten Amazon.com Inc. and PayPal Inc. Facebook is the most-visited website in the world. Some people thought that persuading visitors to shop would be easy, Mulpuru said. David Fisch, Facebook’s director of business development, said in June that the site would make shopping online, previously a solitary experience, more social.

Facebook planned to profit from retailers buying ads to drive traffic to their on-site stores. Business consultant Booz& Co. predicted in January 2011 that physical goods sold through social commerce would balloon to $30 billion from $5 billion by 2015, with Facebook contributing a majority of sales. Even as some businesses shut storefronts, many companies continue to devote advertising dollars to the social network. Facebook’s sales surged 55 percent to $1.13 billion in the fourth quarter. The company aims to use e-commerce more as a way of getting users to stay longer than as a way to boost revenue, said Krista Garcia, an analyst at EMarketer Inc. in New York.

Customers had no incentive to shop at Gamestop ’s Facebook store rather than the company’s regular website because purchasing online is already convenient, said Ashley Sheetz, who is the Grapevine, Texas-based company’s vice president of marketing and strategy. “We just didn’t get the return on investment we needed from the Facebook market, so we shut it down pretty quickly,”Sheetz said in a telephone interview. “For us, it’s been a way we communicate with customers on deals, not a place to sell.” Gap , which has 5.6 million Facebook fans from its namesake, Banana Republic and Old Navy pages, opened and discontinued a storefront last year, said a company spokeswoman. The San Francisco-based company also discovered customers preferred shopping on its own sites, she said. “We will continue to evaluate if this is something we want to bring back in the future,” Nunan said in an emailed statement. Nordstrom tested ways to make shopping “seamless through Facebook” and decided on a broader social media focus, Colin Johnson, a spokesman, said. J.C. Penney featured assortments in a Facebook “shop” tab beginning in 2010, and took it down in December 2011, a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

Wade Gerten, chief executive officer of social media developer 8thBridge, previously known as Alvenda, opened a Facebook store for the florist 1-800-FLOWERS. Minneapolis-based Gerten went on to develop commerce strategies for Delta Air Lines Inc. Diane Von Furstenberg Studio LP and denim-maker Seven for all Mankind. Cracks in the model showed quickly, Gerten said in a telephone interview. Clients “have taken a different approach,” shutting stores or scaling back their offerings. “It was basically just another place to shop for all the stuff already available on the retailer websites,” Gerten said.“I give so-called F-commerce an ‘F.’”

adapted from Bloomberg article by Ashley Lutz - Feb 22, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tips for Designing Visually Appealing Websites

Here are some tips and tricks for designing the most visually appealing website:

1) Plan Your Site: Before turning on your computer, consider the layout, page structure and how users will move from one page to another (navigation). Then, sketch out your site on paper.

2) Understand Your Audience: Knowing your audience will help set the tone for your content and layout, as you identify what visitors will be looking for on your site. It's also important to consider popular web browsers and your visitor's screen resolution size so that they see your site the way you intended; you can find this data in most site analytics tools. If you're not sure how wide to make your site, 960px is a great place to start.

3) Allow for Easy Navigation: Since people often read from left to right and top to bottom, the upper left-hand corner of your site is the first place your visitors will look. Place your navigation buttons here and keep them consistent, along with font and color choices, for easy reading and fluid movement from page to page.

4) Choose a Color Scheme: If you're designing your site around an image, try uploading it to a color palette tool, like DeGraeve.com's, for example, for complementary color suggestions. Be sure to remain consistent with your design patterns, and stick to no more than three font types and colors.

5) Use High Quality Photos: In order to give your site a more professional appearance, all images should be clear, focused, and of high resolution. An alternative to taking your own photos is buying them from istockphoto.com; at about five-dollars an image it's an inexpensive way to visually take your website to the next level.

6) Test Your Site, Then Test Again: When you've created or redesigned your site, ask friends and family to test it for you. They may find things you've missed, or point out areas of confusion.

When paired with quality content, executing these tips appropriately will help retain first-time visitors and transform them into youe website regulars.

Based on a Dot5Hosting newsletter 3-9-12

Friday, March 2, 2012


I’m sure that you have seen the term “cloud computing” in the news a lot lately. Maybe you’ve heard of Apple’s newly launched iCloud service, which stores your digital photos, music, videos, and documents on Web-connected computers. Amazon, Microsoft, and Google offer cloud-based services, too. And upstart providers including Box, Carbonite, and Dropbox provide file-sharing and backup services in the mysterious world of the cloud.

So what is “the cloud,” exactly? And can you trust online storage providers with gigabytes (GB) of your personal contacts, health and financial records, and maybe even your collection of unfinished Elizabethan love sonnets?

A little background is necessary to answer that question. First, the cloud isn’t literally up in the sky. Instead, it consists of a massive farm of “servers,” or computers. The name derives from the fact that data and software are all delivered as a service over the Internet rather than as a product that sits in your hard drive. Cloud technology isn’t new. Businesses and governments have warehoused information on Internet-connected servers for years. The big shift taking place now is that consumers are getting our heads in the clouds as well.
This change is possible because of the exponential increase in Internet speed. With the high-speed broadband to the home via cable, DSL, and fiber optic services, as well as speedy 3G and 4G cellular for mobile phones and tablets; you no longer need files to be near you to access them.
The beauty of this technological advance is that you can get stuff down from the cloud from anywhere. Want to hear a song that’s not in your phone’s meager storage? Punch in your password and there it is. Same with your tax information, email, and those Elizabethan-style poems. Another benefit—your files are easy to recover, even if your phone, tablet, or laptop is lost or stolen. And some cloud services automatically transfer, or sync, files between your various digital devices including phones and PCs.

Take iCloud, for instance. It not only backs up your files to Apple’s massive farm of servers, the service also directs digital media to other Apple devices you own, provided they’re running either OS X Lion (on a Mac) or iOS 5 (iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch) software. For example, let’s say you own an iPhone and an iPad. When you buy an ebook from Apple, iCloud automatically sends a copy of the book to each device.
As you would imagine, there’s a price tag for such benefits. Apple users start with 5 GB of free storage. That could fill up quickly. Extra capacity costs $20 for 10 GB, $40 for 20 GB, or $100 for 50 GB per year. Other cloud providers offer free storage, too. Online retailer Amazon provides 5 GB, and Microsoft’s SkyDrive offers a more generous 25 GB. Dropbox, a popular cloud service that automatically syncs files between digital devices—including Mac and Windows PCs as well as many smartphones and tablets—offers 2 GB. Box, a Dropbox competitor, gives you 5 GB. Of course, you can always buy more storage if you need it. And Carbonite, an online backup service, warehouses an unlimited amount of your data for a flat fee of $59 per year.

BUT, can cloud providers prevent data-stealing hackers and other ne’er-do-wells from accessing your files?  All of these services use strong, industry-standard encryption to encode your data, a security measure that makes your files incomprehensible to any snoops trying to access them. Of course, your account is password-protected, too.

Cloud company workers can’t access your data. As you might expect (and hope), cloud vendors take privacy very seriously. If they suffer a major security breach, their customers will flee. The bottom line: Yes, cloud storage is safe, provided you warehouse your sensitive information with a reputable firm.

The future is indeed cloudy — and that’s good news.

Adapted from an article by J. Bertolucci in the Saturday Evening Post 1-2/2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Creating Strong Passwords

To create a strong password, you should use a string of text that mixes numbers, letters that are both lowercase and uppercase, and special characters. It should be eight characters, preferably many more. A lot more. The characters should be random, and not follow from words, alphabetically, or from your keyboard layout.

So how do you make such a password?

1) Spell a word backwards. (Example: Turn "New York" into "kroywen.")
2) Use l33t speak: Substitute numbers for certain letters. (Example: Turn "kroywen" into "kr0yw3n.")
3) Randomly throw in some capital letters. (Example: Turn "kr0yw3n" into "Kr0yw3n.")
4) Don't forget the special character. (Example: Turn "Kr0yw3n" into "Kr0yw3^.")

You don't have to go for the obvious and use "0" for "o," or "@" for "a," or "3" for "e," either. As long as your replacement makes sense to you, that's all that matters. A "^" for an "n" makes sense to me.

Other Tips
Choose something simple to remember as a password, but whenever you type it, put your fingers on the wrong keys—maybe one key to the left or right. Then a password like "kroywen" becomes "jeitqwb" or "ltpuerm." This is only going to work for non-perfectionist touch-typists. And skip this tip if you type passwords on your phone; you'll only sprain a thumb trying to be inaccurate instead of letting the inaccuracy flow naturally.

Another option is to pick a pattern on the keyboard and type based on that. For example, a counter-clockwise spin around the letter d could result in "rewsxcvf." Throw in some random caps and numbers to really lock it down.

Perhaps the easiest thing to remember is an acronym from a phrase of your choice. "We didn't start the fire, it was always burning" becomes "wdstfiwab" based on the first letters of each word.

Remember, the longer the password, the stronger it is. Always. Something more than 15 characters is very difficult to remember, but it'll be a breeze with a mnemonic.

Third-Party Passwords
If you don't trust yourself to create an unbreakable password, there are plenty of tools that will make one for you. The PC Tools Secure Password Generator, for example, makes one based on your criteria: how long, include (or don't) mixed case, numbers, punctuation, similar character replacement, etc. It even provides a phonetic pronunciation guide that you use as your mantra while typing the password, for example:

MA7ApUp# is MIKE - ALPHA - seven - ALPHA - papa - UNIFORM - papa – hash

Password Testing
If you're worried that your password of choice isn't strong enough, check it at How Secure is My Password?. The site will even tell you how long the average PC would take to crack it. For example, cracking "kroywen" would take 13 minutes, "kr0yw3n" would take about 2 hours, "Kr0yw3^" 15 days, and "MA7ApUp#" about 3 years.

You can tell from these results that mixing capital and small letters are better for strength and more characters (eight instead of seven) also make a huge difference. Adding a single capital letter to the end of "Kr0yw3^," such as "Kr0yw3nZ," boosts the crack time to 3 years. Throw another special character in ("Kr0yw3^Z!") and it jumps to 237 years.

The Right Advice is Wrong
Some experts will tell you to do a couple of things that go against conventional password wisdom. And the reasons are simple: productivity.

For example, I read a treatise on why you should write down your passwords, especially if you actually go the distance and use a unique string of characters for every log in. The amount of time you could lose trying to remember each password whenever you have to type it in may not be worth it. Just try to keep the list somewhere that's not readily accessible, such as in your wallet. A desk drawer at work is not optimal for keeping out snooping co-workers.

Related advice from a Microsoft researcher says that having multiple passwords is also not worth the effort. Or, more specifically, the indirect costs of the effort of tracking them all. That's right, that big list of passwords I just said to put in your pocket? Maybe it's not worth it.

Of course, all such worries are moot if you follow the advice above and create super-seekrit-strong passwords that you can easily remember.

Inspired by article in PCMAG by Eric Griffith 11/29/11

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

10 Silliest Tech Company Names Of 2011

Tech companies have created some of the strangest and funniest company and product names in business. Here's the most recent evidence that this trend is only accelerating.

When you hear the word "blekko" what comes to mind? Personally, it makes me think of the sound a little kid makes when confronted with vegetables on a dinner plate (broccoli! Blekko!!). But Blekko.com is actually an interesting new beta search engine that lets users define groups of sites in order to focus search results and cut down on unhelpful links.


Fluxx, from fluxxlabs, is a cloud-based business management platform designed to help businesses manage all of the data that is generated today, which sounds pretty useful. But flux is also what they used to call dysentery, and I'm not sure I'd like for my business to be associated with a terrible disease. Or perhaps it will make you think of the famous flux capacitor in the geek-favorite movie, Back To the Future.


Ever see those videos of people who can use their feet to eat dinner? It's simultaneously fascinating and disgusting and is, unfortunately, the image that pops up when I see the name Footfeed. Footfeed is a startup designed to consolidate all of the services like Foursquare and Facebook that encourage people to check into locations. For example, Footfeed makes it possible to let multiple services know that you've checked into that new cool restaurant. Just remember to keep your shoes on while eating.


It used to be that characters who walked around saying "gimme" were portrayed as spoiled jerks, such as Veruka Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Today, someone who walks around saying "gimme, gimme" ends up getting his own reality TV show. Gimme! is a startup company that is offering a new twist on mobile coupons, making it possible to get cash-back discounts and bonuses on purchases and have them delivered to a personal PayPal account.


I think I know where the name Gnip came from. It's Ping backwards, and it kind of makes sense for a company that provides data integration for real time social media feeds from services like Twitter and Facebook. I just can't wait until Gnip integrates with a company called Gnop. And then a friend of mine can use that. And while I'm gnipping, my friend will be gnopping.


As a company name, gwabbit fits more in the straight silly but not that embarrassing category of names. The product is an award-winning app to ease contact management in Outlook and Blackberry. But I did witness an occasion where an executive was recommending it to a colleague, who laughed upon hearing the name.


If you're a fan of Olympic gymnastics, you've probably seen clips of legendary coach Bela Karolyi exhorting his young charges on during training: "Work hard, poosh." Well, that is actually kind of the idea behind Poosh. This startup lets users signup to get regular motivational messages from athletes.


When I saw the product name "Unrabble," I assumed it was something cities would use to clear out Occupy Wall Street camps. "This will get rid of those pesky protesters. Activate Unrabble! Bwahahaha!" Actually, Unrabble is a human resources product designed to help businesses evaluate potential hires.


This is my award winner for goofiest company/product name of the year. Isn't the WinoBot a character in Futurama? WinoBot is a mobile app, but it isn't designed to help find which stores have the lowest prices on Night Train. What the app does do is help you pick the best wine based on the wine list available at a given restaurant. Which actually sounds pretty useful, despite the name.


In the Saturday Night Live skit Boston Teens, which featured Rachel Dratch and Jimmy Fallon, Dratch played Zazu, a partying, often drinking girl with a strong Boston accent. Zazu is a mobile personal information app that wakes you up with all of the information for your upcoming day. Not sure if it can be configured to wake you up by yelling "Nomahhh!!"

Source: Informationweek Jim Rapoza 11/30/2011