Archive for March, 2010

Sunbird + Google Calendar = Disaster

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Alcohol and drugs. Drinking and driving. Sex and strangers. All things you shouldn't combine. Today, add Mozilla's Sunbird and Google's Calendar to that list.

I tried Sunbird. An email came in inviting me to a very confidential conference call. I accepted! Sunbird put it in my calendar. Sunbird started doing something wacky, and it looked like emails were going out. I stopped it. I thought it was stopped.

I was sync'ing with Google Calendar since my mobile phone syncs with Google Calendar, and it's a good wireless way to get all my appointments to and from my phone.

I didn't like Sunbird, so I uninstalled it. I now use a Thunderbird add-on that just syncs with Google Calendar. So that completes the triangle. Meeting requests come in as plain emails, and I manually make calendar events.

That was about 2 weeks ago. I found out today that Sunbird somehow decided this confidential meeting was MY event. It got sent to Google Cal as my event, so a Gmail account I don't use at all for anything started sending out invitations, and fielding acceptances and declines.

Obviously, I'm horribly embarrassed. This was a total tech snafu that I couldn't have seen coming. I apologise to everybody involved. It doesn't look like it's happened again since I uninstalled Sunbird.

People, please. Don't mix Sunbird and Google Calendar. Something just isn't natural!!!


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Social Networking, 1930’s Style

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

I've been thinking lately about how anything got done before all this "social networking." I've been thinking about how did people meet the people they ended up marrying. And that brings me back to old-school social networking.

Few of my friends met their spouse in high school or college. Most met them at or through work after college. Typically, it was that their co-worker knew somebody they should meet.

I thought about my grandparents. On one side, Rose met Arthur because he was the hosiery vendor in the department store where she worked behind the jewellery counter. On the other side, I believe Abe met Lee because he was friends with Lee's oldest brother. Lee's oldest brother married one of Lee's friends.

This made me think about what social networking used to be, which was about rippling out circles. Using today's technology, we don't ripple out as much as leap into other circles. And I am at a circle disadvantage. With no siblings to introduce me to anybody, and no traditional work environment, I'm a pebble without a pond!

Based on the idea that some of the best connections are made from who people know personally, my idea is to tell everybody who will listen to me :) what I am looking for in a guy. Statistically speaking, somebody I'm friends with and trust will know someone he or she trusts that fits my description. I'm going to use new media to do old-school social networking.

I hope you'll join my experiment. :)


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Advice to 20-Year-Old Me

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

A super cool person I met at SXSW (who also gave me THE coolest biz card) sent a friendly follow-up email. She is looking to get advice, but asked it in an excellent form.

She asked what advice would I have for 20-year-old me. Oooooooo. OK.

Well, I'm 38 as I type this. When I was 20, I was a senior in college. I was already using the name "As Was" for side consulting, though it didn't become a website design and marketing company until a few years later. I hadn't gotten into the music biz yet.

But I think the question really is about what major mistakes I made that I wish I could go back and warn myself about. The answer to that is easy.

The main mistakes I have made have been in personal relationships. Time after time, I have gotten into long, live-in relationships with bad guys. Just bad. But I saw their potential, and I figured if I took good care of them, that would let that potential shine through. It never happened.

Tip 1: Disconnected, hurting, hurt, abusive, depressive, addictive, wacky guys usually don't grow into anything other than that. 20-yr-old me should know it's OK to walk away from those relationships once I can see how out-of-balance they are, and 20-yr-old me should be better at seeing those signs earlier.

Each of those "Big 3 Relationships" also magically had me as the main breadwinner, in some cases, the ONLY breadwinner. Sometimes my boyfriends worked with/for me. Sometimes they worked for someone else. And at times, they each had no job at all. And I supported them because I thought that's what a loving girlfriend/wife does. I didn't come from money, and I threw every dollar I had at these guys. See above about thinking that taking care of them would make them the better people I "knew" they could be.

Tip 2: 20-yr-old me shouldn't think twice about leaving a guy who's not pulling his weight financially. Sure, we all get into financial problems from time to time. But he should be able to pay his share of the bills, even if he has to sling coffees to do it.

Tip 3: Pre-nup agreements. Don't even live with somebody without a signed agreement of who owns what and where things go if we break up. You have car insurance. You have home or renters insurance. You might have health insurance. This is personal possession insurance. It's like renters but way better.

20-yr-old me should have also lived the dream of throwing out of my life a few other stressful, negative, abusive people. I didn't dump them until I was 34. I'd like to tell 20-yr-old me to waste no time dumping them. :)

And that's really it. I don't feel like I've made many (major) business mistakes. But I know that dating really bad guys has dragged my energy way down. Drains me without me even noticing. Certainly killed my finances. Wasted so many years living with guys who were incapable of love, and only capable of dragging me down. If I hadn't made those choices, my life would be totally different. So that would be my advice to a young person now.


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Are Your Sales Down Right Now?

Monday, March 29th, 2010

A few clients have called me in a panic that their sales have really been down lately. I wanted to try to explain that.

There are a few times a year when it looks like sales just disappear. Those are the times when everybody is on vacation.

Two weeks ago was Spring Break. Airports were packed, families were going in every direction. Now, we have Easter and Passover coming up. I know many people going away this week into next week.

These are likely times when online shopping drops because people are just busy with other things. They're on a cruise ship. They're running around Disney. The kids are out of school, and they have to do something with them.

Year after year, I find that this is a time when online sales drop. Plus, it's tax time. That can keep money in wallets.

So if your sales are down, don't panic unless these holidays and tax time pass, and things are not picking up. Otherwise, it's just a seasonal drop that I tend to see every year.


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When Your Web Design Contradicts Your Message

Monday, March 29th, 2010

A friend showed me a website she was having someone build for her new company. The site has no design except for her logo, which was large and clearly the main feature of the whole home page. The rest of the home page was wordy. I wasn't too impressed. I was even a little concerned.

I then started reading what was on the home page. Her main message was about being vivid, articulate, and distinctive. I know her, and she is. She is all of those things and more. She's an amazing powerhouse!

But her website wasn't any of those things. With all muted colours, and very little design, it wasn't vivid. It might be articulate, but I don't know because I hate reading a lot. :) And it wasn't distinctive. It could have been designed by anybody and be for any company or product. It was quite plain, and seemed sort of "out of a box." I could see her having paid $50 to India for it, or $5,000 to New York City from a company promoting minimalism.

My outside of the box friend deserves an outside of the box website, especially if that's her company message.

This reminds me of some of my silly blog posts about what people write about themselves on online dating sites. Don't tell me you're funny. Write something that's funny. Don't tell me your handsome. Show me pics, and I'll decide that for myself! Saying you're funny if you're not falls flat, and ends up meaningless.

Saying you're vivid and distinctive when your website is plain, cookie cutter, and lacking imagination just falls flat. My friend deserves so much better, and so do you. Make sure your design matches your message. If your message is, "Our amazing and unique company will make you remarkable," then BE remarkable. BE amazing and unique. Don't just tell me you're _____. BE it. Make sure your design reflects, enhances, and delivers your company's message.


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Eating Right Is About Lessons and Logic

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

I saw some of Jamie Oliver's show the other night. And it looks like he may not be able to get small children to not desire pizza for breakfast, now that they have been given it for so long.

The Today Show does lots of weight loss stories. So many stories talk about how their bad eating started as a kid… usually eating unhealthy food. Many of those stories talk about how parents making them clean their plates lead to overeating later in life.

And I wondered… why do I eat well?

This is one area where my parents did a really good job, and thanks to them. And they are no culinary experts. Jeff loves burgers and cookies. Ellen used to boil everything we ate until it was mushy. But they had good ideas about food way back in the 70s when I was growing up.

Ellen was a public school math teacher. She saw kids when they first got to school, and saw that they were pretty dumb. Just not thinking. She asked what they had for breakfast, and time after time, it was sugary cereals. She was convinced they killed brain cells, so we weren't allowed to eat them. We ate Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Puffed Rice, and sometimes to really splash out, Golden Grahams. No Lucky Charms, no Frosted Flakes, no Froot Loops.

Jeff had severe caffeine allergies, so everything in our house was caffeine free. Turns out I have the same allergy. But it means we didn't grow up drinking caffeine in every soda as many kids do now. They always bought supermarket brand caffeine-free soda, and we loved it. Once in a while, we splashed out on Sprite. We were not allowed to drink "fruit punch." I mostly drank milk, my sister mostly drank orange juice. I've never broken a bone and she's rarely had a cold. :)

We had a microwave in the 80s but never bought TV dinners or packaged meals. Jeff kept lots of high quality chop meat in the house. I bought mountains of pasta and (admittedly) boxed mac & cheese all through high school. When I came home from school, I got out a frying pan and pot. I fried up ground beef while boiling water for pasta. I ate mac and cheese with beef in it probably every day for years. I was a tennis player, and never put on a pound.

We didn't have microwave popcorn. Ellen made popcorn in a large pot on the stove with oil. We never ate Cheetos or Doritos. We weren't allowed to eat Beef-a-roni. Who needs to when you can boil your own pasta and pour sauce on it? Jeff showed us what happens to a penny left overnight in cola, and asked us to think about what is going on in our stomachs when we eat certain things. We really understood what they were teaching us, and I can't speak for my sister, but I never ate the things I wasn't supposed to when I wasn't home. It just didn't make sense to eat crap!

We did eat some junk. We loved candy bars… my fave was the $100,000 bar. We ate a lot of Milano cookies. We ate a lot of Baskin Robbins (I'm talking in the 70s and 80s). We liked chocolate pudding.

I was never told to clean my plate. I was never told someone somewhere else was starving. But food was never thrown away. How did we do it?

Easy. If we couldn't finish anything… a glass of milk, a plate of food, food in a restaurant, we were encouraged to put it in the fridge for later. We were told to eat until we were full, and if anything's left, just put it in the fridge and eat it later when you're hungry. It ALWAYS got eaten later, so nothing went to waste. But we were never encouraged to eat past the point of what we felt like eating.

I remember going to my aunt's house. She demanded that we finish our milk before leaving the table. We were like no, we'll put it in the fridge and drink it later. She was like out of her mind telling us we had to finish it right then. We fought her on it, and called in my uncle (Ellen's brother). He was fine with us putting it in the fridge and having it later. We thought our aunt was weird for trying to get us to drink something we were done drinking in that moment.

And why do I love many vegetables?

I think it was because we ate a lot of Chinese food. I loved beef with broccoli, which meant I was getting a lot of broccoli. Snow peas. Random stuff. But it was really tasty, so I didn't grow to hate it. I do hate carrots.

We have to hold parents to higher food standards. Parents have to stop feeding kids what's "easy" since it's pretty much empty calories or over-processed foods that can really hurt kids. There is mounting evidence that high fructose corn syrup can cause obesity and all kinds of problems, even when you have less of it than you might have had sugar in something.

We've tried "convenience food," and it's not working. We're over-filling ourselves with chemicals and things that came off factory lines. And then we wonder why there is so much obesity and disease. These aren't accidents. You have control over this. This is not out of control. Take control, and teach and live healthy eating habits.


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How To Tell What Design Work Is Worth What Money

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

I am getting a bunch of clients asking me to fix designs they JUST bought from so-called eBay designers and experts. Now is a great time to talk about what design is worth what money, and when you're not getting what you paid for.

A seller just came to me with a design he paid $350 for. It was a banner that was bright orange (people respond to bright orange?) with his name and a picture of one pair of shoes. The rest of his design was a cookie-cutter, multi-column layout with heaps of links. Words were spelled wrong. Rules were broken. MANY rules were broken.

And his policies make me want to cry. Typos and incorrect spellings. And this has to be my (least) favourite sentence. "Ok you won the auction we have many options to collect payment to make it easier for our customers to purchase our shoes." I disqualify that as a sentence. That's going to make the seller seem either like he doesn't speak English or like he's unprofessional.

Is that worth the money? $350 is not a lot to pay for design. That may be in your budget. But is what you're getting really worth it?

How can I tell if I'm getting what I'm paying for?

That depends on your expectations. Most designers are selling you a header, a banner of some sort. In most cases, that's going to be your name or logo, and usually a collage… one or more pictures of what you sell, stuck next to each other. And in most cases, that's really all that's going on with respect to design. You are often not getting anything else designed, and you'll typically get whatever layout they do for all their eBay or website clients.

If that is what you want, you can probably get that very inexpensively by finding college kids or workers overseas. If you don't require people who are eBay experts, website experts, marketing experts, etc…, and if you're not concerned with branding yourself, marketing, or standing out from other sellers, then this amount of "design" is good enough. You can pay VERY little for it, and if it's what you want, you will be happy.

To me, that's not design. Putting your name or logo in a banner isn't really design. Making a collage of some things you sell isn't really design. To me, design is coming up with something artistic or new or innovative, or even coming up with something that really projects your company's mood and personality. You have a company image, whether you know it or not. Design is your chance to project that image. And to me, a banner with a name and collage doesn't cut it.

What about the big companies?

Some designers tell you to copy competitors or big companies. When I look at really big companies like Sony, Best Buy, and Chipotle (owned by McDonalds), they are using design all over the page to give you a feeling about something. They don't stop at the top. They are using warm colours, friendly faces, or recurring themes. Not everything is about a line at the top with buttons.

Big companies are changing how they do website design. And they care about design. They'll work for months on this stuff, and have focus groups reporting what they think. Look at what they come up with. Do they come up with a bland banner and collage, and then a white page with columns and endless words? Does SONY just show a bunch of their products next to each other?

Take a page from what big companies are doing. If something really plain is right for you, you can get it for $50. If you care about branding, marketing, being memorable in a good way, and projecting an image, then you need something better. Of course, I recommend us. :) We've been doing design and marketing for online sellers since 1995.


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Social Networking: How Many People Connect Deeply?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

I’ve been having an interesting email back-and-forth with someone I’m trying to get to speak at the next RocketPlace event (3 & 4 August, totally online!). The guy wasn’t sure he can do it, and then emailed me last night that he’s not sure it’s worth it to him because he only wants to speak where he can get more clients for his business.

I have read that given today’s social media technology, something I say can quickly spread to 3,000 people… between who reads my blog, twitter, Facebook, text messages, emails, and then who tells THEIR friends. 3,000 sounds weird, but it’s possible. I have nearly 400 FB friends. Around 1000 people follow me on Twitter. I have hundreds of LinkedIn contacts. People stumble on this blog.

Even though something I post may be pushed to around 2000 people, let’s use low numbers for our example. Let’s say that something I post “deeply” reaches 100 people (5%), who get excited and want to share what I said. And let’s say each of those 100 people reach 20 people, who are really excited about what they see. That’s 2000 people who felt “deeply” connected to something I said… not counting people who became aware of it but didn’t go bonkers over it.

Based on the tweets and other posts I see from my network, I know that when people hear a speaker they like, they spread the word. And I know that when my friends post something I find interesting or exciting, I post it… which means it now ripples out to my whole audience and network. All within minutes.

So this guy has the chance to connect with my conference audience multiplied by 3,000. Maybe 2,000. But still heaps of people.

That’s how I see it when I am speaking or being interviewed. Hey, the people listening may not need me, but chances are, they know someone who does. And if they like me, they’re going to make that recommendation. I want that recommendation! So I take pretty much every speaking opportunity that comes my way. Why not ripple out everything I can? Why not take the opportunity to proudly say that certain events or shows wanted me to speak?!

The interesting thing about that is that he has decided not only that
NOBODY in the audience will ever hire him, but that nobody in the
audience KNOWS ANYBODY who will ever hire him.
As he emailed me, he only wants to speak where he’ll get more clients for his business. Maybe he is psychic!

Sure, I want more clients too, but I know there is value to marketing, visibility, and awareness. I have never seen anybody in my network posting about this guy… which means they may not know about him… which means this could be his chance to get exposure to heaps of people who don’t know who he is. I wanted him to speak for a half hour. How much exposure or new clients would he have to get for a half hour of speaking from him home or office computer to be worth it?

Given what this guy does, I think people WOULD spread the word about him, and someone WOULD hire him. But he’s pre-decided that hundreds of thousands of people won’t be interested in what he does. 

If he doesn’t want the gig, I’ll find another speaker. :) He’s not the only guy who knows a few things about this topic. I can give someone else the exposure.


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As Was Special Discount Offer

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

April is a special time around As Was as it's the company's birthday. Started in April 1995, this April marks the start of our 16th year in business. You read that right! As Was has been working with online sellers for over 15 years. And we're never had to do anything weird like change our name or go into bankruptcy. We haven't gone through a pile of investors and random CEOs. Gosh, some companies who think they compete with us sure are weird.

We've been consistently innovating and offering our clients the best marketing-focused design on the planet. :) To celebrate with you, every year, around our "birthday," we offer a discount. It's discount time again!

Anybody signing a new As Was contract for at least $1000 USD between 22 March 2010 and 15 April 2010 will get 10% off their contract amount. We'll still supply 110% of the usual attention, advice, help, and personal care that we do on every project.

You know you love us. You know you want to work with us. Now, it's a little easier to pay for it! Jump in before mid-April to take advantage of this discount.

And Happy Birthday, As Was!

Learn more at http://www.aswas.com, and also check out the perfect ratings we have from our clients.


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Facebook: To Friend or Not To Friend?

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

I need some advice about Facebook. First, the back story.

I have twitter accounts for business, and one for personal stuff. I use LinkedIn for biz and expanding my network. I'm picky about who I add there since not everybody I know should be exposed to my network. I use Facebook for personal stuff, and I have a Facebook "fan page" for business.

Once upon a time, I added anybody who offered to friend me on Facebook. The thinking was very 2008… that you just want as many people in your "social network" as possible. When I decided to separate the biz and the personal, and use Facebook for my personal stuff, I created a Facebook friend group. I put into it the people I don't really know, and wouldn't want to see lots of personal pictures and posts/updates. Again, I use Facebook for personal stuff and connecting with friends, so I am posting things of a personal nature there.

I put over 200 people into this restricted friend group, and invited them to my As Was fan page. With an online stalker and some bad ex-boyfriends, anything that's personal for me needs to stay in my control as much as possible. And since I don't know those 200+ people, I've "hidden" many of them in the Facebook news feed. I'm more interested in the updates from the people I know. That's logical. :)

Nobody Cares!

So when people I don't know friend me, I send them a message saying Facebook is just for friends, and if they are interested in what I have to say about eBay and online selling, please join my biz fan page. Many are writing back "never mind"… they were only adding me because we have friends in common, and Facebook suggested adding me.

So you weren't interested in what I have to say??! You're just adding me because Facebook suggested it? That just doesn't make sense to me. I remember when Facebook was about only connecting with friends and people you KNEW.

I understand that this is not very Facebook-y of me… to friend people and then hide them and hide my stuff from them. And that's why I decided to just msg people who friend me (who I don't know), and suggest that they follow my fan page. But it's also not very Facebook-y for people to add people they don't know and don't care about. That doesn't make a lot of sense!

Some social media guru is going to say that's wrong. It's wrong because it's about connecting with people, and someone being a fan of my page is one-way. They are reading what I'm writing, and I may not be reading what they write.

OK, but I've decided that Facebook is personal for me. I'm unlikely to get business from Facebook. I live alone, and have friends all over the world. Facebook has become a good tool to keep in touch with those friends. This is my personal zone. I will not be applying the recommendations of social media gurus because I don't care how many friends I have. I'd rather have 100 people I trust than 500 people I don't know.

So what's your advice? Do I add every friend just to rack up friends? Do I do what I'm doing now, where I don't add strangers and direct them to my biz fan page? What do you suggest for someone trying to make Facebook a personal social world?


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