My thoughts on the tools for Thirty Day Challenge ’08

31 Jul

Ed and Dan have introduced some great tools for this years challenge during pre-season and I thought I’d share my thoughts on them so far.

Flock

Flock is a “social media” browser built on the Mozilla engine (the same engine Firefox uses). Part of it’s awesomeness is that *most* firefox extensions will work in Flock. In fact, so far, of all the extensions I use (about 20), I’ve not found one that isn’t compatible. Another great thing about Flock is that a lot of the other tools (like twitter, youtube, facebook, etc) all integrate with the browser which means you can sign in to those accounts automatically. It even integrates with all your Google accounts, including gmail.

One of the coolest things about Flock, is that it makes subscribing to RSS feeds super simple. On any page with a live feed, a little RSS icon will turn orange on your address bar. All you have to do is click that icon and it subscribes to the feed for you. It’ll even remember your favorite feed reader and load it right in.

And the second coolest thing about Flock is the Media Bar. Anytime you land on a page (like flickr, youtube, and the like), that has media like videos and pictures, a bar opens up at the top of the browser window and shows you all of the content on that page. You can subscribe to the content, even! Just like an RSS feed!

Twitter

Twitter is definitely awesome! It’s like a mini conversation hub. You can share thoughts, ideas, links and just about anything else – as long as it’s only 140 characters long. It brings “social” to your desktop and allows you to interact, in real time, with other twitterers all around the world.

Twhirl

I’ve actually been using Twhirl for quite some time (at the prompting of some of my Twitter friends) and at first, I didn’t really like it. But I’ve gotten to where it’s one of those tools I’d rather not be without. Twhirl is simply a desktop client, compatible to both Windows and Mac, that uses Adobe Air as it’s platform and allows you to Twitter from your desktop as opposed to Twitter’s web interface. (You can even use Pownce from Twhirl.) If you Twitter – and you SHOULD – check out Twhirl.

Google Reader

This is one awesome reader! I used to use bloglines and although I liked it, it was lacking function that I found frustrating. I then went to a desktop client for a while until I finally decided to try Google Reader. One of the things I like best is the ability to use what’s called list view. This allows me to see the blog name, the post title and brief snippet of the opening paragraph. It lets me decide if I want to open it up and read it or not. And I’ll tell ya, with over 300 feeds in my reader, it sure makes reading A LOT faster.

And just like gmail, Google Reader has a star system so you can save the ones you like most for easy finding later. It also allows you to organize your feeds by folders. I keep all of my “must reads” in a folder called Favorites and browse it first every day.

You can also set it show only new posts or to show all posts. I love this feature and keep it set on show new that it’s easy to find new stuff and be bogged down by stuff I’ve already read.

If you have the greasemonkey and the stylish extensions installed, you can even view the actual post page form the originating blog. This is great if you want to leave a comment but don’t want to have to go to the blog to actually do it. A very big time saver for me.

Ok . . . this is getting rather long and I’m only half way through the cool tools. So, for your sake, dear reader, I will break this into 2 chunks and post part 2 tomorrow.

~ Annie (lsandrsn on the 30dc forum)

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There’s no charge for awesomeness

28 Jul

The Thirty Day Challenge 2008 has a new tagline – “There’s no charge for awesomeness.” It’s not bad as far as tag lines go, but personally, I think “there’s” should be dropped. 😉 I think in this case, “there’s” is already implied in “no charge for awesomeness.”

“The Thirty Day Challenge – No charge for awesomeness” sounds way cool.

But that’s just my perspective.

Anyway, I can hardly believe it’s already just a matter of days before 30dc 2008 begins – *this* Friday! Wow! Although I’ve kept up with the pre-season stuff, I’m really not ready for it to begin. I mean, we’ve barely just begun having summer around here and August means it’s almost over. That bums me out, quite frankly. Summer with the kids home, the warm weather, fun activities and gardening is just a season I hate seeing come to an end.

If the emails Ed Dale and Dan Raine have been sending out for this years challenge are any indication, 30dc 2008 is going to knock the socks off any previous year, IMHO.

So, other than following pre-season, is there anything you’ve done to get ready for this year?

I decluttered and reorganized my office. Ok . . . well, that’s not entirely true. I *did* truly declutter and reorganize, but not really for the challenge. The fact that I’ll have a nice, clutter-free office this year is just a bonus. I simply got everything in shape because it was driving me nuts! Because my old desk had no drawers, everything was piled on TOP of my desk and it made working difficult at best.

Get ready to fire! (Use <— that link to sign up if you haven’t already.)

~ Annie

Pre-season: Thirty Day Challenge

14 Jul

So, it’s pre-season at the 30dc for 2008 and everyone is busy getting things set up as Ed Dale and Dan Raine instruct. They’re putting out a couple of video “lessons” weekly that so far include using and setting up the Social Browser, Flock, using and setting up Google Reader, StumbleUpon, Twitter and other exciting tools that we’ll be using this year.

I’m enjoying so far and have finally managed to get Flock to not crash every 5 minutes. Have no idea what was happening (other than it seems Flock and Plurk don’t play well together). Flock has some incredibly cool features but there are also some features it’s lacking. Probably the nicest thing about it though, is that since it’s based on the Mozilla engine like Firefox, nearly all FF extensions work with it.

Anyway, not sure how I’m going to keep up with the 30dc this year as we might be moving in August. Just waiting to see how things go over the next few weeks. In any case, I’m going to work on it every chance I get. Hope to see you all there!

Thirty Day Challenge 2008

5 Jun

Well, it’s officially Pre-Season for Thirty Day Challenge 2008 with Ed Dale and Dan Raine. And I’m very excited.

Ed has already shared a couple of things on such as the social web browser, Flock and hinted at other tools we’ll be using this year like Google Reader.

I must admit so far, though, that Flock is cool, even if it is a bit annoying. For example, downloads are slower on Flock than I on my preferred browser, Firefox (which I’ve been using for years) and it has crashed on me over the past 3-4 days more times than Firefox beta 3 has since I began using it a few months ago.

That said, I do like the tools within Flock.

Anyway, Thirty Day Challenge officially launches August 1st and pre-season started June 1st. I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already done so. You will learn a lot!

Make it a great day!

~ Annie

iPhone – how I wish for thee . . .

5 Jun

I’ve been drooling over an iPhone since Apple announced them several long months ago but just haven’t been able to reconcile the price with my frugal mind. So, I don’t have one.

But I *do* WANT one!

And Ashley Morgan over at UpstartBlogger is giving some away. Three, to be exact, and yes, quite frankly – this post is my attempt at securing one.

So . . . go forth . . . and win an iPhone! Just make sure you leave one for me. 😉

~ Annie

PS – I apologize for the seriously LONG absence over here. With the 30DC starting up again (pre-season going on Right NOW), I’ll be here regularly again. See you soon!

Marketing 101: Part 1

24 Mar

Welcome back!

I’ve spent the last few days going over some of the stuff I’d saved from last years 30 Day Challenge and remembered some great gems. I posted some of my favorites over on Annie Anderson | Blog so I won’t rehash them here but I do want to talk about marketing.

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that your business is “only as good as your marketing” and I would agree with that. I mean, how in world are your customers going to find you otherwise? Sure, there’s word of mouth or viral marketing but how do you get that point in your business does “go viral?”

Well, the short answer is that you have to have something so spectacular or so unusual or so rememberable or whatever that it spreads like wildfire. How often does that happen? Probably not much. But it can happen. The question then is, how do we make it happen?

I’ve noticed several websites in recent weeks that are using tools to get you tell to your friends and family when you sign up. This is also what hotmail did when they launched – tell your friends and family your new email address and in that message, there was a link so they could get one too. Pretty soon it seemed like everyone had a hotmail email address. Google did something similar with gmail originally as well. They gave you “invites” so you could invite your friends and family to try gmail and you could only get a gmail account if someone invited you. It worked like a charm also.

wildfire-small.jpgSo that’s one way – create a wildfire by asking your customers to tell everyone they know and making it super easy for them to do so.

But marketing is much more than getting your customers to be your billboards and spokespeople. A well rounded marketing campaign will include other advertising mediums as well such as print (newspapers, press releases, flyers) and a direct mail campaign. Now, these things might be slightly different for online and offline businesses but advertising, no matter the business, is essential to your bottom line.

As a direct response copywriter, I can tell you it’s the life-blood of your existence. Without some form of advertising, you’ll sink. I’ve seen so many people come to me when their business is failing and they tell me they have no idea why. When I ask them about their marketing and advertising, what they often tell me is something like “I can’t afford it/can’t afford much” and that tells me it’s either too small to be effective or non-existent. More often than not, it’s the latter – non-existent.

You know, there’s not reason to not advertise. Excuses like “I can’t afford it” are lame and useless. Your business budget should always include marketing and advertising. Take some of every dollar and put it towards advertising. And there are many free ways to advertise, too (maybe we’ll talk about that next week).

Most of it you can do on a simple budget in any case. You don’t need a million dollar budget to market effectively. Just like Microsoft and Google used the viral “tell a friend” tool to spread hotmail and gmail, you can use simple techniques like that to get word out about what you do.

Make advertising a part of your business routine. Use Google AdSense, use Craigslist.org, use your business cards – but do something. Don’t just sit there and languish because nothing is happening.

Find a way to start a wildfire.

See you again soon!
~ Annie

Restarting!

18 Mar

Alright – let’s get this blog restarted, shall we? 😉

You might remember way back in September or October last year I announced I was heading back to school. I wanted to learn new design stuff that occurred in graphics since I had originally gone to college.

Well, it’s been going good. I’ve gotten through Fall and Winter quarters with great grades and have learned quite a bit. A lot of it has been basic stuff like Perspective, Drawing, Art History and the like but I think it’s been productive. My plan is to take Spring and Summer quarters off now and then return in the Fall. I think that will allow me to do everything I need to do without neglecting something. 😉 Like this place!

So, expect to see a lot more happening here again. My tentative schedule for this blog is as follows:

Monday – Marketing. I’ll post marketing concepts I’ve learned or am learning, things I’ve tried and tested, and whatever is related to marketing in general.

Tuesday – Web Stuff. I hate it when I write something cryptic to myself, expecting I’ll remember all the details later and then don’t. But I think what I had in mind here was stuff like links and what-not from around the web that I’ve found interesting. (At least, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!)

Wednesday – Projects. Updates and insights on projects I’m working on. These might be writing or design or school or household or family or marketing or anything, really.

Thursday – Cool Stuff. This will be programs, web-based stuff (like Bloglines or something), software that I’m using or hope to try. I previously did a series on this blog about some of the tools I use like Adium (chat client for Mac), MarsEdit (blog posting app for Mac) and such and I’ll continue those with this topic.

Friday – Money. Ways to make money, investing, budgeting, money tips for small business and all things related to the topic of money.

Saturday/Sunday – Weekends will be mix-up days. I’ll post something from the other categories that I don’t want to put off until the next week. Or maybe I’ll just post something fun. Who knows? I guess you’ll just have to wait and see!

Let me know if you have suggestions, comments, thoughts, ideas. What would you like to see outlined here? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Also, check out my website for some new posts about current projects and of course info on writing, real estate and design. You’ll find that stuff at AnnieAndersonBlog.com.

Until tomorrow,
Annie