Tuesday, October 19, 2010
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.
Monday, October 18, 2010
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? ça 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".
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.
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.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
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:
Review of Flip Book Providers
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.
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 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...)
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 "firstname.lastname@example.org" to help you avoid this issue: Why is my Gmail username showing in my AdWords account?
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 "email@example.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 "firstname.lastname@example.org".
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.
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.
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:
If you need to call for help, contact Hoi Moon marketing. We will consult, console, make you laugh and support you.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
My hot-tips-from-Portland connection, designer Shona Lepis, sent a link to what looks like a very new CMS so I gave the free trial a whirl.
WEBVANTA CMS for designers - http://www.webvanta.com/
BASIC INFORMATION: Pricing
Appreciate that the pricing was right in the main menu and easy to find.
The pricing table offers a free version. The limitations listed for free were no custom domain, only one "Resource databases" and limited "Custom DB Types". There are helpful pop-ups on each item, but they left me still unsure if I would need the Resources page that would let me add links, events, book....hmm. And custom DB types is also something I am not used to with Word Press, Movable Type, Joomla! and other CMS. (this became clear later as I note below.)
It was nice that the 30-day free trial of the paying versions did not require a credit card, but I took the free version first since there was the option to upgrade if I ran into a limitation.
I could pay an additional fee to have my PSD design imported into my site by Webvanta. Or I can do all the work myself. So there are broad options.
BASIC INFORMATION: Who is this for?
Went back and read the overview about how it was quick to get started and a great tool for designers who don't want to deal with a developer or coding themselves. There was a free Webinar, but when there is a free trial, I never wait to give anything a spin.
There is a comparison to Drupal that seems almost cheeky but not untrue, and from there you can find similar critiques of Joomla! and WordPress too.
Webvanta addresses most of the housekeeping like backups and hosting which is a plus for designers who are better off investing their time in designing. Every server goes down so I did not find the argument about not getting a call when the server goes down that compelling -- since you will get a call anyway when the Webvanta server might have an issue.
I suppose if you use cheap hosting that goes down a lot (I can't even find hosting that goes down a lot these days, cheap or not, from GoDaddy to Media Temple to the $500-a-month we-call-you-every-morning-and-bring-you-coffee-in-bed-but-you-have-to-use-support-tickets-to-get-a-hold-of-us hosts) this might be a good argument. It might be a point that the Webvanta server is not hosting the hacker's choice WordPress installs. That might make them less vulnerable to the recent downtimes of GoDaddy and even Bluehost due to CMS hacking.
Looked at the forum and it looked new, a few reasonable questions and not a lot of frustrated Web professionals trying to find information on how to set up their sites - always a sign I check for before investing time in trying out a new tool.
I played the demo from the home page which talked about freedom from hassles without loss of advantages of CMS and then gives a quick walk through of the control panel.
In the demo of the control panel, I am seeing html code in a template area. Hey, this is looking like Dreamweaver more than Squarespace. But wait, there is a WYSIWYG editor. But wait, there is Webvanta script to learn and you have to know the content in your DB fields, define types and add the code to call to them. Now I am flashing back to Expression Engine, the CMS Campaign Monitor used. At this point I stopped listening and went to the trial to see for myself if I was really going to have to learn another somewhat customized version of html like FaceBook's FBML or something like the confidential language Lasso that was the love child of Mac and Filemaker users.
Later I found if you scroll down below the pricing table you will see additional fees if you don't want to learn the script language, so you are in a way hiring a developer, or it is as if Word Press offered developers on call. Once more, you have broad options with Webvanta to either become adept at the tool or pay what were reasonable going rates not to.
I filled out the sign up form with my name and company name, got an email immediately and logged in to the new system with my chosen subdomain, http://julie.webvanta.com/
TRYING OUT THE DASHBOARD
Whoops, I used my first name for the subdomain but the site name at the top of the dashboard was the name I entered for my company. Could not find where to change my account info like company name or email anywhere.
Clicked on the chat button as it was 9am PST and they were available. The help person answered all my questions and the chat interface was first class, with the important ability to upload files, plus print or email the chat.
Now I am ready to go through the actual page setup. The Getting Started Video is accessible and highly recommended. http://www.webvanta.com/screencast/23656
Watching this, it is quickly evident that this is 1. A serious tool 2. Not going to give you a spiffy-looking site like a Word Press themed site in under an hour (once you've got the famous five-minute install down).
There is a well-filled out user manual: http://support.webvanta.com/reference
I created a new page (do I see the familiar TinyMCE editor?) and saved it. Adding an image was easy and the image went into a library where I could easily re-use it. Somebody has to do a sexy WYSIWYG editor some day. Although in Webvanta, the editor does everything I needed it to do. I see a style drop-down with visualized styles, very good.
Looking into the menu system it was cool to be able to drag-and-drop a new page into the existing hierarchy, but I abandoned the idea of replacing the home page with my new page (looked like it was going to involve modifying template code) and just edited the home page instead. I want to get something up and publish this review and watch a movie tonight.
The second page is a blog page. It was very easy to create the first blog post and fun, it added a little icon image to the post. Although I can tell you could spend endless hours customizing and there is a learning curve -- so you hope the tool will stick around once you are on the easy side of the curve.
I stopped there since setting up a calendar or figuring out if there is a favicon is something for another day.
Here it is: http://julie.webvanta.com/
Webvanta looks to have a lot going for it. It feels good. The friendly and accessible support and thorough documentation can nurture a growing community of users who will spread the word and build the community. Enough designers and Web site providers need to use the service to build word-of-mouth for now. I predict this will happen.
For a graphic designer that never wants to learn code, Webvanta could also support their simply delivering PSD design files, plus learning the front end admin if their clients want to make updates themselves. The only question then is the budget of the client matching the cost of the services, which are reasonable but realistic for a functional site.
For a non-designer developer who also wants to focus on building sites for clients rather than hosting and programming, it would need the additional boon of designers providing themes along the famous Word Press lines, or the help of a designer.
From the Webvanta site, where there are comments and thoughtful replies, this is the best advice:
Webvanta is not intended for people looking for a wysiwyg web design environment. It is intended for designers who are comfortable working in HTML and CSS, but not necessarily in any true programming language.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Long-anticipated Nexus One arrives for French Android developers in Paris. Offered by Google free to all Android developers having gained a certain success with their Android applications. Google is taking an open approach versus Apples controlled approach for development of apps on their OS, Android. For now there is a lot of distance to cover to attain rivalry with the iPhone.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Today I received my Reach Certified Online Identity Strategy logo (below) after taking the online course in March and completing the required test.
Check out the spiffy Reach Branding T.V. site: http://www.personalbranding.tv/
Although I started my tech career by building sites, the goal was always to help businesses succeed. Over the past ten years the technology has matured and the focus has shifted to the message, unleashing a tsumani of Web users forging networks and communities defined by common interests rather than physical location. Everyone is scrambling to keep up with the new opportunities and developments.
The Reach training programs offer a solid foundation in the tools and strategies for helping clients define their brand and then express it online. Kirsten and William are enthusiastic, open and supportive in sharing their expertise on how to succeed with your online brand identity.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I am taking an online identity course from Reach Branding offered by Kirsten Dixson and William Arruda. It is a follow up to the first one a year ago which was very helpful in focusing and moving forward in my work as a web strategist.
This first week covered some fundamental tools, and one is a short quiz to help you assess how strong your own brand is.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
First, I tried the form at the Marin Independent Journal. The form was very simple but let you to upload a photo easily, which was one of the functionalities I had to have.
No credit card required to try. That plus the decent amount of time (14 days for the trial period) enticed me to investigate further.
This service is an online database that allows you to create Web forms and database applications without knowing coding. They provide live chat and phone support. (This tells me it can't be cheap but it might be good.) The pricing page was one of the top tabs. If I can't find the pricing I give up quickly, so this was nice. Packages run from $40 to $350 a month with a discount for non-profits and even free personal accounts, plus an enterprise solution. That is a cool range.
Aha! An Information Week pull quote on the left said "Is Caspio the 'Microsoft Access' of the Cloud?" This made it clearer to me what Caspio is and does. Basically, you can migrate your Microsoft Access to the Cloud. (Cloud has become a proper name, by the way.) Credibility was established with signed testimonials and heavy-hitting clients like Dow Jones, UPS and maybe Julie Vetter Web Consulting...
Signed up for the trial, not too much info needed. Got an immediate login via email taking me to a page with an overview video. Oops, did not work, said to try again later. Maybe because I am in Paris. "Hey, it's not my fault." There was a link to online help with a searchable knowledge base so I was not out of luck. Aha, a forum as well. There were polite answers, even to one of the most newbie questions I have seen, "What is this and what does it do?" I had to wonder if they got the account in a gift basket.
Looks like most forum members understand Javscript. Bummer for me. I thought it said fast and without programming. Back in tutorials I see titles like "Table Lookup Filtered by RLS" and "Passing Parameters". Maybe this is optional for power users, but ugh....
(This sent me off on a little procrastinating foray to check out the Hello Kitty line of high tech toys in vogue lately. I have a Hello Kitty USB hub that is friendly with Windows and Mac. Well, except iPads, which are not friendly to Hello Kitty's hub since they have no USB port.)
Back to the tutorials, "Getting started". The video started this time, maybe it wasn't me. I like the techie guy who walks you through it. He tells you how long it will take to make your first form with him and shows you what you will get in the end. A smidgen of Web programming will help, like knowing about not leaving spaces in field names / values ...nevermind, but the narrator is doing a good job explaining technical things at a non-technical level.
I followed along and got my form fields set up including a name, a unique number for each submission, the ability to upload a file, and to send an email to the submitter and to a staff person.
Time for another diversion, checking in on daily food porn from an associate's brilliant site, Paris By Mouth. http://parisbymouth.com/daily-porn-tarte-au-citron-meringuee/
When I returned an email had arrived from a Caspio rep who offered to help me get up and running today. I replied I would take him up on it. Until then, I carried on on my own.
My first form looked just like the one on the Marin IJ. I could not find a preview of the other form styles but you can change even after the form is done and the code is pasted into your Web page by editing the form in your app interface. No need to replace the code, just save and refresh your Web page.
You have the options to embed the form, put it on a stand-alone page, get it in an iframe, and add html headers and footers. Wow, that is pretty spiffy.
I was pleased with the look of the blue style. I was even more pleased with how easy it was to create the code to paste the submission details into a Web page in my admin area as well. The columns are sortable and clicking through to each item's details is an option. Plus you can export the data to put it in a spreadsheet or your internal database (if you know how, heh).
In conclusion, if Caspio can accomodate my needs and budget as well as Dow Jones', I am tickled Hello Kitty pink!
Unless I don't carry on after the free trial, you can see and try out a form below. Caspio says the form, by the nature of it being embedded, should not attract robots. A Captcha field can be added if spam does turn out to be a problem. I wonder if spammers ever hire from some deviant form of Amazon's mechanical turks instead using robots?
Hey it even works in Typepad! Although you have to click on it.
Click here to load this Caspio Online Database app.
P.S. The rep called me the next day and gave me a walk through. Caspio's tools are even more flexible and powerful than I had imagined. In conclusion, I would say (even though with their list of clients it does not need my saying) this is an exciting company, which is playing a role in making the Cloud truly viable. Plus, they are willing to offer packages that work for everyone from individuals and non-profits to mega-corporations, making the Web a tidier, more usable place.
Happy Caspio and bon appetit!