Archive for October, 2010

Open Source Gift Registry

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Seems like people are starting to talk about Christmas already. I know I’ve started thinking about it a bit. Man I love this time of year. All the Holidays right in a row.

Anyway, many people struggle with the challenge of having a list of things that they’d like for Christmas, but then you don’t know if multiple people are going to buy you the same thing. That’s right, then you get 2 of the same thing and 1 person sometimes feels bad if their gift is a lesser model than the other one.

Today I found an open source project that tries to solve this problem. It’s called PHP Gift Registry. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think I’m going to give it a try. Could be interesting to see how it goes.

Basically, you can make a list of things that you’d like (which I like since I always forget things that I want so I need to make a list when I think of them). Then, people can either Reserve or Purchase an item on the list. However, the person that created the list can’t see who else bought it. Only other people can see that info. Pretty slick.

Of course, the entrepreneur in me wondered why we hadn’t seen this type of software out there in mass where people could use it and not have to have the skills to host it themselves. Plus, the affiliate sales you could make from a list like this would be awesome. Not to mention the marketing data that you’d have at your fingertips. If done right, this could do really well.

Personally though, I’d probably want to convert it to a BuddyPress plugin so that then you’d get all the social elements of it. Plus, you could use the invite plugins to make the thing grow virally. Seems like a great extension of the BuddyPress Group API to me.

From Hobby to Full Time Blogger: Lessons Learned from 5 Years of Blogging

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Today I did a presentation at Las Vegas WordCamp called “From Hobby to Full Time Blogger: Lessons Learned from 5 Years of Blogging.” Looking at people’s comments on Twitter, it seems like people generally liked my presentation. I’m not sure how much you will get from the slides below, because as one person mentioned on Twitter: I do presentations the right way where the slides just hit the main points. I don’t ever just read the slides off to people. Either way, check it out. I had a lot of fun presenting my story.

User Experience Design

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

I just got finished reading this article about user experience design and what should and shouldn’t be the claims of someone who does user experience design. It’s a fascinating read for anyone that is working to design webpages.

When I tell people that I work on websites for a living, it’s regularly followed with some referral to someone who wants a website created. It always makes me laugh a little inside. I really don’t like doing websites for other people. I’ve occasionally done them, but they’re definitely the exception and not the rule. What’s funny is that most people don’t realize the different ways to make money on the internet.

So, yes, I am a web designer and I do create websites, but I mostly like to create my own websites. Why? That sounds like a good future post. I’ll save it for then. Although, one aspect of that answer has to do with user experience design.

To create a usable website it’s not a one time shot. Unfortunately, far too many people make this mistake. The key to building a usable website and one that becomes very popular is to constantly be building, modifying, tweaking, adding, improving, etc etc etc the website. Plus, all of these changes and additions are done as you fanatically evaluate the results of the changes you made.

Notice the use of the terms fanatic and constant. If I’m working on someone else’s website, it’s MUCH MUCH harder to be fanatic about their project and constantly changing what needs to be changed. However, I’m in love with my own projects and so the hours just pass and I barely realize where they’ve gone. This passion and love of the work is what makes for a great user experience design.

That’s not to say that there aren’t other people that can work on other people’s projects and enjoy it. There are people out there. However, the best user experience designers are the ones that are completely passionate about a project. If there’s no passion, you might as well go outsource a freelance web designer on eLance to create you a website. They’re great (and inexpensive) at creating websites, but it takes real passion to create a meaningful user experience.

Gmail Canned Responses and Email Signatures

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

UPDATE: Now Gmail (or Google Apps) will do a signature on a per email basis. So, if you get an email to your account john@xyz.com you can have one signature and another one for john@lmn.com. Even better than the Canned Response solution below.

I’d been looking for a way to have a regular signature for my google apps (basically gmail) email accounts. See, the thing is that I have a dozen or so domains all going to one email address. So, I respond from all of my various personalities (or maybe I should call them online profiles) from one account.

Gmail recently launched an email signature feature that would be specific to the domain that I’m emailing with. I was really excited about this, but I hated the way it was implemented. First, I don’t ALWAYS want the email signature to be there. Sometimes I just want to have my name. It’s far too formal to have the full signature for some of my emails. Second, I hated how the email signature was at the very bottom of the email. I wanted the email at the end of what I wrote instead of being after the long list of “quoted” reply messages that might be there.

Third, It added a — before the signature. I didn’t like that. Mostly because I like to have it say Thanks, before my signature. Although, I don’t want the signature to add that. I have this quirk that I like to add the Thanks, myself to the signature. I see it as my little reminder to be thankful for the people involved in my life. Plus, sometimes Thanks doesn’t make sense.

For a little while I’d been using the signature and I’d go to the bottom and copy and paste the signature up to where I like it. You can imagine how painful that is.

Today for some reason it just clicked. There was something I’d seen before, but never used called “Canned Responses.” I’d considered using them for some responses to comments on my blog that I seem to write too much. However, I realized that Canned Responses is the type of email signatures I really want.

I created a number of email signatures and Canned Responses works just the way I want. It only adds the signature if I choose the Canned Response and it adds it in the location that I want it added. Why didn’t I think of it earlier. Sweet!

WordPress Cron Developer Plugin

Monday, October 11th, 2010

I’m really shortly going to be diving head first into the WordPress cron (wp-cron) features. I need to schedule some emails to be sent at various intervals. Cron is awesome when it works and you set it up correctly, but it’s definitely one of those things that you need to test to make sure it’s working the way you think it should work. Otherwise, you can get all sorts of crazy results.

So, I was really happy today when I came across this WordPress plugin, Core Control, that shows you the various Cron tasks that have been scheduled by WordPress. I think this is going to be very helpful as I test out the cron tasks my plugin will create.

Internet Entrepreneurship in Las Vegas

Friday, October 8th, 2010

I first moved to Las Vegas a little over 5 years ago. I’d heard good things about living in Las Vegas and to be honest I moved here to be close to family. Luckily family has moved away and so it’s just my wife and our family again and we like it that way. Although, that’s a topic of another blog post.

I must admit that I didn’t move to Las Vegas because I was an internet entrepreneur and Las Vegas is the perfect place to be an entrepreneur. Obviously, if i wanted to do that I would have just moved to Silicon Valley. Although, I’m not a fan of that area, so I’d probably move to the next best thing: Boston (and yes, I know there are a few other decent places as well). In fact, a couple years back I was really close to picking up my family and moving to Boston with a contest called YouBeTheVC to be a full time internet entrepreneur working the forever long hours in a very expensive place and wondering how exactly I was going to feed my family.

To be honest, it actually sounded really exciting to me. I’ve been to Boston a few times and LOVED it there. I hate the cost of everything, but I would have loved to be in that are and be part of what seems to be a much larger internet startup scene. Well, I didn’t win the contest (Thankfully since it turned out to be kind of a sham) and so I stayed in Las Vegas. Long story short, I kept building my blogs and learning about internet startup companies while I was in Las Vegas (you can see my full blog story at Word Camp Las Vegas in a couple weeks).

Now I’m working full time on the idea I was planning to build in Boston, Giving Sports Fundraising. However, I’m not in Boston, I’m in Las Vegas.

In the 5 years I’ve lived in Las Vegas, I’ve done quite a bit of networking. Let’s just say that I haven’t had many chances to associate with other internet entrepreneurs. I started thinking about this when I read Brad Feld’s blog post about creating a startup community in Boulder. It was cool to hear him talk about what’s happened in Boulder with internet startup companies. I wish that the same thing would happen in Las Vegas.

I’ve actually met quite a few entrepreneurs here in Las Vegas. Just not that many internet entrepreneurs. I wonder what could be done to change that. Especially since I really don’t have any immediate plans to leave Las Vegas. I never thought I’d admit it, but honestly my family and I are quite happy right here.

Life and Perspective

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Life is really all about perspective. It’s really quite amazing how your perspective changes over time. For example, I remember when I used to get all sorts of pumped when my blog topped 100 pageviews in a day. That was HUGE for me at the time. Now, getting 5k pageviews is disappointing. What changed? My perspective.

The same is true for income on my blogs. $10 use to be a great day for my Google Ads. In fact, I remember how excited I was when I was finally able to get a check (or EFT) from Google Adsense every month. See, you have to make $100 in a month to get a check. I called it date money at the time and I really enjoyed the extra income.

Plus, my wife thought I was pretty cool to be making money on the internet. Now, it’s funny to compare how much I make in a day compared to when I first started. Kind of makes me laugh, but my perspective has changed.

I still LOVE people’s faces when they ask me what I do and I say blogging. Obviously, it’s a bit more complex than that, but at the end of the day I feed my family thanks to blogging. So, I can sit back and really enjoy people’s astonishment that not only can you make money blogging, but that you can make enough money blogging to actually feed a family of 5 (my wife stays home with the kids).

Of course, so far I’ve only talked about my successes. The opposite is also very true. If my pageviews drop to a certain level I get pretty disappointed. Sure, there still 100 times better than when I started, but that perspective doesn’t seem to matter as much as the new perspective that I’ve created.

Is this a problem? Not really. Unless you let it overwhelm your life. It’s just funny how perspectives can change so quickly. It’s kind of like time. Does it go fast or slow?

Good Backups Make Happy IT People

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Backups are such a pain. Mostly because you don’t ever need them until you need them and then you just hope that they work. Of course, they also hit you at a time when you’re least expecting them. You can be completely consistent checking and verifying your backups and then the week you decide to not test it (or just plain get busy and don’t do it) is the week that you end up needing it for real.

Luckily, I’m writing this post without an experience to share in this regard. Although, I am in an evening where I’m going through and adding some more backups to my various blogs. I’d say I do a reasonably good job with backups considering the data that I’m working with, but I could always do better.

The good part for bloggers is that there are a lot of plugins out there to help you with your backup needs. wp-db-backup is my favorite. Simple and just straight up works. It doesn’t get the files which is annoying on some sites, but most of my sites are content anyway, so for me it’s all about the DB backup.

Add the email backup it provides with gmail’s filters and space and it’s a pretty sweet backup solution.

Lean Startups Tools and Services List

Monday, October 4th, 2010

I prefer to call myself a boot strapped entrepreneur, but the in vogue term these days is to call it a Lean Startup. I’m sure some people would love to debate the definition of the two terms, but I’ve never found debates around terminology very beneficial.

Call it what you may, I was interested to see this list of Lean Startup Tools and Services. I use a number of the services on the list, but it’s always great to learn about new services and tools that can be used. Not to mention ones I’d wanted to check out and never taken the time. DropBox is one of those services that I’ve wanted to check out. So, I’m going to go and do that now. If I like it, I’m sure you’ll hear more about it.