Saturday, December 14, 2013

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chrometa Review

Chrometa is a time tracking tool unlike others.


I was reading http://www.openforum.com/articles/6-cloud-tools-for-small-business and saw a mention of a unique-sounding time-tracking tool.



At my first Internet job, my coworker and I quickly recognized the value - make that imperative - for tracking our time to know our real costs if we were ever going to break free of the hourly pay model for building Web sites.  A decade later time tracking has become a habit - it is fun to see how many hours (weeks, month, years of time...) I have logged for my long term clients.

WHAT IT DOES
The description of Chrometa said it would automatically track my computer tasks. No thinking or time required on my part. With those sweet words, I'm in.

WHAT IT COSTS
Free to to try for 30 days and no credit card required. After that it is $19 a month for 3 devices and 3 months of data with two bigger plans beyond that. http://app.chrometa.com/pricing

WHO IT IS FOR
Mac or PC users who need to know how much time they are spending on computing tasks for billing or sanity.

The site home, http://app.chrometa.com/  is a page that does not waste words. There is one sentence "Track Your Time- Without Notes or Timers" and a tag line. There is a video, which is really a slideshow but only 57 seconds long (Yay, I have very few resources to give to 45-minute or more videos). I clicked the "Download" button. It said for Window or Mac and did not ask me for any info, so I downloaded (inbound marketers rejoice) and installed it in under a minute (note: you need a recent version of Java).

Once installed, I registered and agreed to the terms of service. Do the people who write terms of service get massive neglect complexes? Chrometa let me choose the location of the files rather than just putting them into Windows program file obscurity.

The program does not interfere at all with my work, but if I come back from a break, it asks if I want to include a note about what activities I had going on away from my computer.  It felt like an affectionate, helpfully-motivated question. I give it rather vague details and it does not pry.

On my second day I logged in to the site from the shortcut in the taskbar icon and learned how much I love Firefox more than anything else in my Web-based work. Chrome, Skype, Open Office and "Other" followed.



Chrometa has a tab called "TimeStamps". I can actually see how much time I spend on each site in my browser (I know, some of you are thinking "and so can Chrometa", positively if you are into marketing,  negatively if you are into anonymity.)

But wait, there's more. You can assign tasks to projects, clients, or personal and total up the time spent. Very cool.


CONCLUSION
Having spent 6 hours on the computer already today (thanks for the reality check, Chrometa) I am wrapping up this review with a very positive recommendation of Chrometa for anyone who needs but finds it annoying to try to track their time and who spends significant time on their computer.

Download Chrometa's free trial for Mac or Windows: http://app.chrometa.com/welcome

P.S. On day three, I am also finding the breakdown by how much time spent on each web url (see above screenshot) is very enlightening. Am going to knock off spending half an hour composing individual emails!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review: The Lonely Polygamist


The Lonely PolygamistThe Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The irony amuses and the humanity touches me in this story. It is not a fairytale, it is a human tale that takes compassion and life-experience to appreciate. I enjoyed the read and took away some moments and wisdom that stay on my inner bookshelf under "human nature".



View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A is for Apollo Project Management, B is for Basecamp

Apollo is a recently released project management tool, designed to take you where Basecamp has never been before. The interface and functionality of Basecamp never won me over so I gave Apollo a try.



There is a 30-day free trial -- long enough to see if it is something you take to or let sit on your desktop until day 29.  Basic is $23 a month with a generous 18 projects, 5GB storage, unlimited project users, 7 CRM users, 5000 contacts, time tracking and 12 deals.

This is going to appeal right away to the niche that doesn't want to pay $49 for the smallest Basecamp monthly plan. The $48 Apollo plan gives you the same leg room as the Basecamp plan.

I found the user interface immediately friendlier. Overdue items take center stage, navigation is on the left and the lower left has the timers, which I found super-helpful for tracking project time right within my project itself. Another nice feature is the ease with which you can track those tasks that don't belong to any project but fritter away your day. They go under "personal tasks". You can even relate a task to a contact, for those time-draining clients or distractions.

The calendars are one of the highlights of this system, easy to use as a Google Calendar but Apollo does the work of integrating the calendar and your projects.  With bright colors it makes it easy to see upcoming perfect storms of work and keep them under control.

If you get the impression I enjoyed using this tool, it is correct. There are the features that are not unique, but not missing, such as messaging with attachments, task lists, milestones, assignments. Nice touch is that files from message attachments and files from elsewhere end up all in the project folder.

There is even a feature to import your Basecamp files and Highrise contacts, and the ability to export your data. Clearly aimed at being a nice alternative if Basecamp hasn't been a good fit for you.

I also like DeskAway and PBWorks but my partners and clients had a hard time learning them and abandoned ship eventually.  Apollo offers the friendliest user interface.
http://www.apollohq.com

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The History of Web Exploration

Web exploration is like a space voyage. We started out as little "internauts" in our Netscape shuttles, peering through the windows of our browsers as we passed by complex and fascinating planets (sites). Just like early man, we were Internet nomads. Netscape made us little navigateurs, enabling us to zip around.

Then Google decided to organize the universe, creating Google Search so we could surf more efficiently, like intergalactic space travelers. Firefox, the browser, even came along with wallpaper and add-ons, letting us decorate our little space shuttles.

Recently, a shift in paradigm has become evident. A huge battle is waging for the ownership of our intergalactic souls. Apple wants us to live and travel exclusively on their Iphone, Ipad and Ipod shuttles, video "facetime" chatting only with other Apple shuttle owners and shopping at their Itunes store. Google, who has been the preferred method of travel for cruising the online universe, gives away rival mobile operating systems...and meanwhile there is a mass  immigration to planet Facebook, thus shifting the whole Internet travel paradigm.

With Facebook, instead of being nomadic space travelers, many became planetary agrarians, playing Farmville and naturally, Cityville followed. While we used to travel around, Facebook recreates the sense of sitting on our couch, hanging out with our Facebook friends and "liking" our favorite beer. Facebook's addictive power is in mimicking how people perceive the daily world -- centered in their point of view, networked to family, friends and peers by common interests.

What many of us visitors to planet Facebook find is that once you visit, it’s hard to leave. Many businesses have moved there simply because not to do business there would be the equivalent of not having a storefront at the local mall  in the 70's.

Once landed, you find yourself easily slipping into a mode where you are getting your information from Facebook. I have a feeling Facebook is getting much more for "free" than its users are, and the commercialization is going to be growing by leaps and bounds in 2011 now that the planet has a thriving population.  As one Facebook expert put it, “Web sites are irrelevant; you can now build your shopping cart in Facebook, you can do your business in Facebook"  and you have to do it there, because this is where all your customers are spending their time online.

The Facebook threads entangle the user, and if you journey elsewhere, you may develop symptoms including disorientation and a sense of being cut off from your life source!

Internauts to settlers, what next?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

EYES and FEET

EYESandFEET.com -- just when Online brand management is becoming overwhelming, this might be a potential lifesaver and great service in social media marketing for business.

Eyesandfeet_com

WHO IS IT FOR: Local businesses trying to get into the social media game or trying to better manage/maximize their current social media presence.

WHAT DOES IT DO: Presents, in a stunningly clean and graspable interface, just how visible your local competitors are via a Google Maps birdseye view for starters. Drills down to show their brand presence and activity on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Next, it helps you assess and improve your own social marketing. Whooeeee! The competition is under a "SEE" tab and you manage your own profiles under a "DO" tab. Can EYESandFEET come organize my life as cleanly and simply, please?

HOW DOES IT WORK: Sign up is easy. Provide your location and type of business (as of October, 2010, you will benefit most if you are a restaurant in a major city --but this platform looks like it will grow as fast as it can to meet a demand from all sectors and locations and you can try it out whatever/wherever your business.) I signed up for a San Francisco restaurant since Mendocino, my restaurant business location was not yet listed and I wanted the full experience.





SNORT SCORE:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rapportive: rich contact profiles instead of ads in Gmail

RAPPORTIVE is my favorite new tool and in my top ten for 2010. It really got me excited. Simple, brilliant and with an immediate impact on my productivity and efficacity. ReadWriteWeb said: "Fantastic and takes about 2 minutes to set up".


WHAT IT IS: Rapportive is a free add-on for your browser (so far Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Mailplane...Mailplane? ├ža alors! another new thing to try) that will immediately replace the ads on the right of your Gmail box with the social profile of your email contact!!!!! Wow.


WHAT IT DOES: For example, a new software company CEO emails me. I see all the public info associated with his email/name on the right side of Gmail: his thumbnail photo, job title, his latest tweets, that he has a profile on Linked In, Facebook, Skype....I can add a private note like "doesn't like lunch meetings".


Rapportive


Is that too cool or what?


Have been using this for a couple of weeks and can't imagine Gmail without it now. You can also see your OWN profile when you hover over your email. For me, this is like having a pocket mirror in your bag.

TIP: hover over any email address in Gmail and Google will round up all the info available on that address and display it for you as well.


FEATURES:  Rapportive is just getting going, but you can already do additional useful things like edit your own profile, establish "rapport" with others by quickly connecting to them on their other networks inside your workflow. This is a team of hot developers, it feels like intelligent architecture and methodology. They are listening and let you suggest or vote on improvements and are clearly invested in providing a useful product.


Bravo!


P.S. on the state of your OWN profile, this is very useful for keeping an eye on your own image and how it is appearing to the rest of the world. I caught some my own inane tweets and am actually learning to Tweet better thanks to this pocket mirror.


  Rapportive_jv_gmail_profile



Friday, September 10, 2010

Cool tool from Forrester Research

Forrester's Social Technographics® classifies consumers into six overlapping levels of participation. To find out what the types mean, visit http://www.forrester.com/empowered/ladder2010




Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Flip Books. Hey, I want to make a flipping book!

Some predict the digital age will wipe out print books. For a fresh point of view that challenges this assumption, see Books in the age of the iPad by Craig Mod.


Two clients are integrating digital publishing, one for books and one for employee manuals and the flipping pages effect came up. Apple put the spotlight on this feature with the iPad's page-turner (heh). A little history: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/01/apple-tablet-ebook/


What is it?  Flip books create the sensation you are reading a paper book by turning pages rather than scrolling through content online. My partner gets confused these days from swapping between her iPad and hardcovers -- she occaisionally taps a book on the upper right corner and wonders why it won't turn the page.


Flip books in action
Product catalog
- includes table of contents, bookmarks, email, download, print
Glossy Magazine - embedded hotlinks, video, social sharing
Educational Book - add your own notes, bookmarks, highlight


Who is this for? If you publish brochures, catalogs, manuals, magazines, adding a flip book can make it more enjoyable, sexier and more useful with the ability for visitors to add their own notes, share and download the content.


If you are a book publisher (or  have decided to take advantage of digital technology to become one) getting into digital means understanding the formats and how to produce them. Start with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_e-book_formats  Next, Google "ebook publishing services" and "ebook publishing software". Adobe seems to be in the process of creating a comprehensive service http://www.adobe.com/digitalpublishing/


Have a story you always wanted to tell? These three articles are for you:
http://venturebeat.com/2010/03/28/self-published-electronic-books-to-make-it-to-apples-ipad/
http://www.smashwords.com/
http://www.kobobooks.com/


Review of Flip Book Providers 


Virtual_Paper _Online_Publishing 


Virtual Paper


The first provider had very nice glossy magazines in the showcase and a well-branded name: Virtual Paper Online Publishing Platform.


Check out Mlle Figaro magazine. Click on the table of contents items to go to a page.  Very slick.  There is a 14-day free trial, and to publish one book (which you can embed on your site as well as their hosting it for a year) is only $119 a year at this writing. Such a deal!


The representative emailed me back with answers to my questions within a working day.


Requirements: You have to provide your content in PDF format. They will convert it to HTML web pages with Flash.  Oh no! Steve Jobs does not like Flash anymore.  It is okay, the content is visible (but not flipping) for iPhone and iPad users and is also SEO friendly.


What's special about this one?  Ideal for commercial magazines and publications. Beautiful presention, designed to be seductive and shared.  Navigate through content via a table of contents that displays a screenshot of each page. In other words, image-media-rich content.


I did not dive into the 14-day trial but will add the results here if I do.


Flip Viewer


The second well-referenced site was Flip Viewer, another on-line flip book publishing service.  Not as slick, but they offer a Flip Book for $99 a year with hosting, or again, the option to add the book to your own site. You can also download and put the book on CD's, USB keys and your computer. A cool feature was the ability to add notes and a text table of contents in addition to the thumbnail navigation.


What's special about this one?  I liked the Grammar lesson book because it demonstrates bookmarks and a nifty yellow highlighter. This is very user-friendly for training or educational materials. 


I did not dive into the 7-day trial but will report back if I do.


Flipping Book aka Page-Flip.com


Flipping Book is a Web 2.0 friendly software provider who has publishing software you download, plus plugins for WordPress and Joomla! CMS.  The software price is competitive with the online services starting at $199.


Although only basic technical skills are needed, for power users there is an extension for Adobe Flash (but you would have to know how to use Flash, and that is like having a commercial pilot's license). Dreamweaver and I are closer than my nearest relative, but I can just barely change an image in Flash.


The demo kitchen catalog has a pretty display of thumbnail or chapters 


Being a big Joomla! fan, I downloaded the Joomla! component and installed it. Now to make the book. You need to translate your pages to .jpg or Flash files (.swf). Flipping Book provided the great tip to use a free tool to convert PDF to SWF - awesome!  Works on Linux - more awesome! We love you SWFTOOLS.


Following the How-To, I had my first book converted from .doc to .pdf (via Adobe Photoshop) and from PDF to .swf (with SWFTOOLS), uploaded to the site, ordered the pages,created a book and linked to it from the menu in a flash...  You can also use any image file, like .jpg if you want to skip the Flash part. But then the PDF has to be opened in Photoshop and each page saved separately as a .jpg in the right size. Beware: 
you have create a .jpg in two sizes if you want a small book and a zoom. So budget time depending on the amount of pages to produce.


What's special about this one? The plugins for Joomla! and WordPress make this a convenient way to add a flip book to your blog or site. The site provides more details about the benefits and differences between using their software and the online services.


Conclusion:  Flip book technology has matured to a point where it is not too difficult or expensive to add a smoothly-functioning, user-friendly version to your own digital offerings.


 



Monday, September 6, 2010

Google How Do I?

Google Accounts Hell...p 


That was one of the alternative titles that came to mind while composing this post. Today is the 3rd day I've tried to coordinate the various accounts and services I have gone to Google for. The main culprits in this post are Adwords, Gmail, Android and Google Apps for your group. But there is also Picasa, Google Buzz, Blogspot, Feedburner, YouTube, Google Maps, iGoogle, Custom Search, Calendar, Webmaster Tools, Voice, Mobile...  Yes, I find all these Google tools pretty fab or I would not be using them, but there are some pitfalls to look out for that can waste a lot of time. Here I am -- the sky is blue, the weather is fair in  Paris, the afternoon is fading, and I'm still in front of this computer...ugh.  At this rate will I ever get outside or fulfill the long-held dream of organizing the sock drawer or winter clothes before winter arrives?


Who is this article for?  Others who might try to get their Google offspring all playing together nicely. If you have no accounts with Google but intend to set some up, these tips might prevent headaches. (looks like I will be adding links to this article from now on...)


THE TIPS


Google Accounts | Gmail & Adwords | Gmail & Android | Google Apps and Google Accounts | Google Apps and Google Voice


Google Accounts. https://www.google.com/accounts  -- The mother of most of your Google services (but they might not necessarily have the same father).


TIP: You can create a Google Account in order to use many Google services. 


Decide if you are, as my brilliant friend Larry Butcher said:  "the kind of person who likes to take two things and put them together, or who likes to take one thing and pull it apart."


One account for everything or not? If it is better to keep your personal and business life apart create an account for each. Create the one you need now and don't use it for services that fall into the other domain. For example, say you create a business account for Adwords using your name and later you create a YouTube account for your goofy home videos. You may want one unified identity online, or you may want to limit your audiences. Do you feel compelled to try total transparency? If you are someone who behaves the same in front of your boss and your childhood friends in physical reality, sure, go for it in virtual reality.


My advice: better to divide and conquer with Google; entanglements are hard to break off.


Names. For two accounts, create your business account with your business name (unless your name is your brand; then use a nickname for the personal account). It is not recommended to take Google up on the invitation to create a Gmail account for your new Google account. For your business, use your business email like "rob@bobalot.com" to help you avoid this issue: Why is my Gmail username showing in my AdWords account?


Gmail & Adwords


If you create an Adwords account, or are invited to login to someone else's, Google will warn you that you must have a Google Account to login.  Many people make the mistake of thinking a Google Account means a Gmail account. This is NOT true.  You can login with the business email for the Google Account you created above.


TIP: if you already have an Adwords account, or ever did, even in a past life, the email you used with it can not be associated with any other Adwords account. Even if you closed the Adwords account, even if you did not create it but some friend who is out of business and retired to Tahiti just put your name on it as a user, it will never give up hoping you might come back someday and it will never release your email.  If your primary email is trapped in a co-dependent relationship with Adwords, my advice is to create a forwarding only email for the new connection that describes what it is, like "adwords2@bobalot.com". In the Adwords > forum > lost souls topic, you can see "adwords 2, 3, 4..." and "adwords-delete-me@" to overcome this.


DANGER, DANGER: If you have to use forwarding emails to deal with your split personality and the invitation email for your new Google account is forwarded to your main inbox, copy the acceptance link to another browser or you may inadvertently associate Adwords to the wrong email account. The next thing you know you will be creating "please-release-me-set-me-free@bobalot.com".


Gmail & Android


Yay, I got an Android phone and I like it. In order to download Apps from the market, you have to use your... you guessed it, Google Account.  I put in my main email and downloaded apps.  My phone started beeping every 30 seconds. I had to clear the little envelope constantly.  I had entered my main Account, duh!  This account gets hundreds of emails a day.  Now I'd done it. I suppose you could create filters and groups, but sometimes you don't want your main account on your phone.  It can be next to impossible to remove or change your Google account without losing all your information and starting from scratch again. Here is help for anyone who has gone down the same path.


How to remove your Google Account from Android


Google Apps and Google Accounts


If you are a small business and use Google Apps to manage sharing documents, calendar and set up emails you might think the emails created in Google Apps would be recognized as Google Accounts but they are not.  Even if you create a Google Accout with your Apps email, they are still not linked (at this writing). I was a little hesitant to make an email I created via Google Apps the arbiter of a Google Account that would manage financial transactions in Adwords simply because if I stop using Apps the email will go away. So, once again, using the Google Account you set up with your business email is the better choice.


Google lets you  merge these accounts as of August, 2010, but with warnings.


What's the Difference Between Google Accounts and Google Apps?


Google's explanation of the difference between Accounts and Apps before the transition to allowing merging - Accounts Help http://ow.ly/2Ayt1


How merging Apps and Accounts works (a user's experience with good information)


Some additional helpful information about Google integration:


Google Voice and Google Apps


How to transfer Google Voice to your Google Apps account


If you need to call for help, contact Hoi Moon marketing. We will consult, console, make you laugh and support you.