Thoughts on Jott

I know I saw this elsewhere before, but it hit my radar again thanks to studentlinc via LifeHacker.

The concept is elegant and simple: (1) Call Jott from your phone. (2) Speak a message to “me” (yourself) or to a person on your contact list. (3) Jott converts your spoken message as a text message, and sends it to the recipient’s phone and/or e-mail account.

I really like this idea because I like text messaging, but hate composing a text message (I know, it’s an artform that takes time and paitence, and any 12 year-old punk out there could be the Texting Master to me, the Carpal Tunnel Padawan….).  Using Jott.com, I can speak my message, it gets sent in the format I was after, and I don’t blow 10 minutes of my life.

One issue I did note is that test messages I created to 24 – 28 minutes to get transcribed by the system, and sent out.  Maybe I’m just used to everthing being at “Web speed” – as in, any wait is too long.

I plan on trying Jott out when I’m walking or hiking, since I haven’t figure out how to secure a notepad or laptop to myself when out – but that’s when I do my best thinking.

 lifehacker.com

studentlinc.net

No More Chinese Food

Eating out is over as we now know it. According to the report today by LIBBY QUAID, AP Food and Farm Writer AP Photo/Charles Dharapak (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak), Chinese Restaurant Food Draws Criticism.
Seems that those pesky small business entrepreneur (who this time happen to be the owner/operators of Chinese food restaurants) are really sticking it to the rest of us when it comes to the food on our plates. Apparently, when we are ordering Chinese take out, thinking to ourselves, “Mmmm, delicious and healthy” we are really only getting “Delicious”! Quaid, or someone had the nerve, the audacity to actually do some studies of the nutritional content of the yummy food in those little take out containers.
Low and behold! They are chock full of calories, fat, sodium, (not to mention, taste, fun, memories of romantic meals by the fireplace…oh, sorry 😉 ). And to be fair, the article also mentioned pretty much every other restaurant you could go to is in the same boat. Ironically, what the report didn’t talk about, likely for fear that we’d all mutiny is the ALL YOU CAN EAT buffets.
Honestly, that’s where the problem is. I am a firm believer that you can eat whatever the heck you want as long as there is some moderation. Now, not sure about you, but Friday Night Fights comes on, long week, particularly hard session at the day job, and I’m ready to seriously hurt that (HUGE) order of Chicken Chow Fun (yeah, they really came down on noodles :'( ) and knock down a beer or three!
So the problem comes not from the fact that there is so much fat and sodium in the plate of food they are serving, but the fact that the serving is bigger than the plate! How many times have you heard someone recommend a place to eat that really “gives you your moneys worth”? A lot.
Oh, and those three beers I had with the Chow Fun did very little for my health in two ways:

  1. They were not the no/low calorie (aka, no/low taste) beers! They had some flava!
  2. The effect of the alcohol, whether we want to admit it or not, affects our physical ability to stop the fork to mouth action. Well, it does for me, anyways!

Moderation then seems to be the name of the game. Discipline from the perspective of eating when you are truly hungry. And that’s not easy. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Eat everything on your plate, blah, blah, blah (sorry Mom!) But if your body is telling you to eat. Eat. When you’ve satiated your hunger, stop. Definitely easier said than done.
And if it is Friday Night (or Saturday night) and there’s some good fights on, moderation and discipline are going to be that much harder. But then one or two nights a week are better than 5 or six. Right?

Thoughts on SuperDistribution

Fred talks about the concepts of Super Distribution on his blog. A VC Blog Following are some of my reactions to Fred as well as the many intelligent comments left.
My take is that people are always going to have their (mostly warranted) skepticism towards “recommendations” made from those they “know and are close to”. Several (negative?) comments have been made in the specific direction of Amway Corporation, and multi-level distribution systems in general. The interesting aspect of becoming successful within most of these types of “communities” is that the top producers usually burn through their immediate friends and families quickly, and end up finding their “numbers” in an ever expanding network outside of those close to them.
I’d imagine (I would assume, but…) that SuperDistribution systems would fall into similar patterns. Yes, these are easily viewed as “pyramid” structures (note there really is a difference between the “structure” of an organization and a “scheme” to separate you from your money.) Most any company or organization is structured with few people at the top (president, vp, etc.) and many at the bottom (middle managers, workabees, etc.).
Again, I would see the development of SuperDistribution networks being the exact same way. Organizations are going to surface (and whose to say these organizations are not created by the larger retailers out there?) that will support SDnets, and promote them to their customers (users). It really only becomes another marketing/branding channel for the retailer at that point.
“Join the WallyMart SuperDistribution club. Refer your favorite products and when they are purchased from our retail outlets, you’ll get 0.005% credited to your WallyMart account.” Or some such.
It really is close, and not too many steps far removed technologically from what is capable now with all the “saver club cards”, etc.
And you’ll likely not purchase something recommended from someone you “know”. Just doesn’t seem to be human nature (until of course that someone becomes SO that they can “come home again” and those close to them will actually pay heed to what they have to say/recommend.

Twit(ter)?

Here at BG we’re currently developing the “community” features of the site, working on, choosing, and tweaking the internal and third-party applications we feel we need in order to give our readers the best interactive experience.
Many times I have preached “fewest moving parts,” meaning that if there is some functionality we can do with the core CMS rather than loading up a plugin or external application, then we keep it internal. The problem is that there is so much “Web 2.0” stuff out there, we tend to re-define our needs based on new coolness we’re exposed too.
We’re doing our best to keep BG simple and straightforward, and that extends to our interactivity as well. We don’t have to have every bell and whistle.
So, with BG’s challenge of being discriminating of third-party-apps fresh in my mind, I start seeing Twitter hit the radar. It has among its sign-ups a lot of big names, from the net in general, and the Web 2.0 movers/shakers. It keeps popping up in the SxSW articles, where it’s causing buzz.
And, I don’t get why.
Andrew LaVallee at The Wall Street Journal addresses this better: Friends Swap Twitters, and Frustration – WSJ.com. Incidently, I found this article via Slashdot – specifically, via Slashdot’s space on Twitter.
My guess is that Twitter appeals to our inner lazy vouyer – here’s a way to spy on your friends’ comings and goings without having to buy the high-powered binoculars.

Code Like a Girl

Girl Coder This is both an interesting read, as well as a light-hearted jab upon my business partner, with his pristine code, strives for proper Web page validation, and his critiques on my Web development process: Code like a girl. I code like a man.

Flip-a-Site

Flip a Web Site Fixer-upper
Old HouseThis SitePoint article doesn’t really cover anything new – individuals and groups have for years been buying Web sites, bringing in their talented staff to spruce it up, then make it as attractive as possible for sale.
James and I ended up being that talent in such a scenario, and witnessed first-hand the interesting set of priorities and methods. The about page for the site very much read like a real estate listing.
What I took away from this article was the realization that small-time operators could indeed be “flippers” – and could turn even a parked domain-name into a nice profit, as well as seed capital for the next project. The key would be systemization.
Just like there are countless “flip houses for riches” systems out there, there could/should be a “flipping sites” system – formulas for evaluating the value of a site and its existing components (hosting specs, previous performance, existing DB data, userbase, etc.), ways to predict what work needs to go into renovating a Web site, and tips/tricks for getting the right buyer.
It could be argued that such a system, with its myriad of formulas and case studies, might never be comprehensive, or even be futile. But, I’m guessing that just like those house-flipping systems have data for piping, wiring, tile, and carpet calculations, a system could be developed to break a Web business into its elements.
Of course, if this already exists, please share the info.
[UPDATE]
The author of this article, Peter T. Davis, has a link for Site Flipping: http://siteflip.blogspot.com/

BG.com: media company, web site or newspaper?

This morning was the first time I was able to fully appreciate what Joseph has been telling me for many moons now: he sees Boldly Going Enterprises as a “media publishing company”. My thought was usually “What the hell IS that? Are we going to be producing news shows, printing a daily/weekly newspaper, or broadcasting live/recorded radio shows?
The cause of this morning’s “Ah ha” moment? Yesterday I bookmarked 37Signals
Newspaper and Web Design
from my feed subscription to Signal vs. Noise weblog (you REALLY want to subscribe to this feed!)
From there I head over to Best Front Design Best Front Design . But the concepts of why this was interesting, other than seeing cool things didn’t register at first. Slowly, as my journey took me through the BFD site (I’ll admint it; I kept expanding the acronym in my mind 😉 ), the brains and brawn powering BFD: another site called Brass Tacks Design.
The concepts behind Brass Tacks Design really grabbed me this morning, giving my a fuller appreciation for “media companies” in general, newspapers more closely, and design specifically. Obviously, they are about design. They apply sound design (and specifically, “re-design”) to enabling classic newspaper businesses compete in this online world of “get your news now”.
Newspaper Next Brass Tack Designs, by Alan Jacobson opened my eyes to just how tough it must be in the world of daily/weekly publications. His rendering of the 96 page report Newspaper Next: The Transformation Project down to ten bullet points is a vital and concise list that I feel not only applies to how the newspaper industry is going to save itself, but could as easily be applied to online companies, like Boldly Going Enterprises.
So this journey brings me to a better understanding of why Joseph sees BGE as a “media company” more than merely a website blogging about an interesting idea or two; more than an online outlet for a hard copy publication. Our vision is to use the “disruptive innovations” that apparently are rocking newspapers. We are already in the process of creating an abundance of content in our 8 core Boldly Going Attributes that will attract more Contributors, who will bring even more interesting and unique perspectives to you.
In my next “Are You Effective?” post or two, I plan on delving a bit deeper into Jacobson’s ten point summary of Newspaper Next’s report, and how we plan on using those concepts and variations of them to propel our business towards success.
How are you and your companies, online and off, using these concepts to better position yourselves for success? And if you’re not, why not?

How I Make Money from Blogs – My Top Earners

How I Make Money from Blogs – My Top Earners
Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net provides readers a lot of transparency – he is very open about his revenue from blogging, what his top streams are, etc.
I have read a “self-help” book (or two, or three), and researched a “success-building” program (or four, or five). One of my gripes with the personal narratives within them is that they send a “I did and you can to” message out with little-to-no metric as to just how successful they are.
From Mr. Rowse and his site, you can get a feel for what he had to do to get what he has, and what he has to do on a daily basis. It’s very energizing to see that level of reality, and does a lot more for me then “I’m great, and here’s sort of how you can be great too….”

SF Gate Defines 'Are You Mobile?' for Us

Where neo-nomads’ ideas percolate / New ‘bedouins’ transform a laptop, cell phone and coffeehouse into their office
If you’re wondering what ‘Are You Mobile?’ is all about, this post from the SF Gate exemplifies the spirit and the details behind Boldly Going’s vision of mobility.
James and I developed our definition of what “Boldly Going” is based on our mutual interests and annoyances in mind. One of our interests is traveling, and one our annoyances is being the idea of being confined to somebody else’s “ideal workspace.”
With consumer electronics evolving the way they have, there is little reason why people cannot conduct their Web development, consulting, design, and other careers, from anywhere they choose. Phone? Cellular. Computer? Laptop. Internet? Wi-Fi. For a lot of careers, not much more equipment is needed.
On a personal note, I had been thinking up some marketing ideas related to the motifs of bedouins. I take this as a lesson to jump on my own ideas faster, so I can say “they so copied me!”

Commenting on Dougal's Customer Service Story

I’m on the Left Coast, and Mediacom is right in league with the level of customer service that Dougal Dougal Campbell Presents Geek Ramblings
is describing. And to show you what trained monkeys we (customers) are to them, I’ll elaborate.
Just prior to the new year, I had returned home from being on the road for about 10 weeks or so. After a few days I noticed the internet connection (provided by Mediacom along with cable TV services) would go out on average once per day. Not the cable mind you, as I always have streaming smooth Jazz in the background being fed by Music Choice via the cable TV service.
So, immediately I’ve trouble shot it to just their Internet service provision, right? But given my history with them from a tech customer service perspective, I’m not going to call. In the past, I’ll call them, get caught up in their audio tex system, and when/if someone finally answers the Internet connection is back up and running.
The way this intermittent challenge is presenting itself, I figure that by the time someone does take me off of hold, I am going to have service again, and they’ll not be showing any challenges in the system. So, I don’t call them.
This goes on for days. Then weeks, and finally after almost two months, I decide that I’ve had enough, and call them up. You know exactly what happened, don’t you? Right, I received a busy signal. But I was determined. I called back exactly 23 times (I was going to get through damn it!). I received 23 busy signal tones. I gave up :'(
Of course during this time the connection came back up, so I was able to get some work done. During a conversation with Joseph, where he unmercifully “welcomed me to the Internet Age (right after my connection allowed me to get back online and chat with him) we started talking about this “mystery”. One of the take aways from that chat was that it sounded like there might be something that was power cycling and thus causing the continual intermittent nature of the connection going off.
On the very next occasion, like the next day or so, when the connection went out again, I called. This time I was through on the very first dialing. Cool! Plus I only waited like 6 minutes for them to get to my place in the hold queue. So far so good.
(And just a note, when you do get through, and are waiting on hold, they have already required you to enter your phone number or 16 digit account number to enable their system to check for any “outages” in your area. Of course, there were none; I’ve never had the system tell me there was an outage in my area. Go figure!)
When Ralphy, or whatever his name was got on the line he proceeded to go through his check list with me. Now if you are reading this as an individual that has any sort of technical experience and expertise, you know just how painful this process can be. The reality, however is that you have to let them do it, else you’ll get ZERO help, and probably have your account flagged as “KNOW IT ALL: Beware!”. I’m pretty sure that tag is on every account I have that I’ve ever had to call in on, but I digress.
We’ve now gone through the check list. I’ve attempted to subtly insert into the conversation at various points that I am smart; I know what the hell I’m doing; I’ve troubleshot everything on my end to prove this challenge is theirs (ISP’s) and not mine. They should understand that while I am using the connection to feed my internal network that I’ve already subverted my normal operating set up by feeding directly into my computer, yada, yada, yada.
Of course, the previous paragraph is all moot when the cable company’s modem isn’t lighting with proper sequences, indicating I am not online with them.
Okay, back to the story. So Ralphy does his signal strength tests, and asks me if I have the line split. “No more than the installer set my house up with.” Which wasn’t exactly true, I’m splitting all over the place, but I have line boosters in place to minimize signal degradation in the room that has the television and the cable modem drawing off the same feed from the wall. And he’d already tested the signal to the modem telling me that the line loss was acceptable. Hooray for me!
In the course of our conversation, I mentioned to him that this has been gong on for nearly two months. I mentioned that it seemed to me that some device in their system might not be functioning correctly. It seemed like it was going on and off, etc. Ralphy’s prompt reply was that everything was in fine working order in the system and that their was likely a challenge with the line quality. He would have to set an appointment to have a tech come out and take some on site signal readings.
Great 😐
I even went to the terminal box on the side of the house, and determined which line ran from there into my office. I direct connected (no splitting) the line from the pole to that office line, and took my television off the splitter in my office, directly connecting to the modem. No other outlet in the house had a live feed. None. Just right from the pole to my cable modem to my computer, as I removed my internal router from the system.
That worked for a while, until THEIR system went down again, and I had to just chuckle. The appointment had been set for the following Monday (the call to them had occurred on a Thursday). On Friday, I get a call from someone other than Ralphy but from Mediacom. They were informing me that my appointment had been canceled as they had discovered there was a bad local modem in the system which they had promptly replaced!
Imagine that. When I casually mentioned to non-Ralphy that I had suggested this in my prior call, he of course put the blame on Ralphy as being new, inexperienced, etc. Whatever.
Since that time, I’ve re-wired the cable back to normal in the house. I’ve got the tv and cable modem the way they are supposed to be, but have since found challenges with the way they are serving DNS to me. I know this cause I’ve gone through two internal routers and have had to run directly off their modem since whatever changes they’ve made is not allowing me to use openDNS.com’s services anymore on my routers. And in the month or so since they apparently replaced some piece of equipment, their service has only gone down about 10 times or so. Sux still, but better than every day, sometimes twice a day!
~James
Go Boldly!