May 082011
 
Money

Money

One thing that has always frustrated me about being a start up is some of the arrogance of it all. A start up can spend a hundred thousand in a year hunting down a hundred thousand dollars of investment money. How you ask? Well let’s say it cost’s about $5,000 for each attempt at getting start up capital. That would be the costs of air travel, cab fare, food, hotel, etc. Let’s break that down for those that are already trying to shoot holes in that theory. To travel to any major city is going to cost about $1,500 for air and hotel if you plan far enough in advance. You can blow through $100 in cab fare easy. Food? Well, unless you really luck out and get a hot dog cart right outside your hotel you are going to spend about $100 a day in food at least. You should figure about three days since you will want to get to the location with enough time to be prepared for something going wrong. So arrive the day before, go to the start up funding event the next day, go out for drinks that night so you can get more face time with those important people, then leave the next morning. If the event lasts a few days this price goes way up. So we are about $2,000 if we use a few cost cutting sites like Orbitz and the like.

Now if you are going to Tech Crunch Disrupt, but are not an actual presenter you need to pay up another $2,000 to be part of “Start Up Alley“. Most events like this will end up charging you in some way. So don’t for a second think that this is the exception. This is pretty standard. Now we are up to $4,000. Add in suit rental, drinks, costs of presentation, some swag to give away at your booth so people remember your company, etc and you can rack up that last $1,000 pretty easy. So there is your $5,000. For those that are more experienced at finding cheaper ways to travel, remember that you will probably need to pay for two people so you come across as a team.

Now I’m sure some can punch holes in this here and there. Sure, split some hairs if it makes you feel better. The truth is that if your start up is truly a new concept or idea people will take a long time to be convinced they should fund it. So you will have to go to tech and start up events a couple times a month. After about a year of this you should be able to get some “Angel” funding. Awesome! Congrats! You just spent $100,000 to get your first $100,000. Silly isn’t it?

Now why do we play this game? Easy. Sites like Tech Crunch and Mashable won’t give you press until you get that funding. Unless you are a major “Venture Capitalist” funded start up, you only get press for getting that funding. The other thing to keep in mind is that if you are doing that many tech and start up events in a year you are getting tons of face time with people you want to have friendships with. So sure it helps your start up to blow through a hundred grand to get a hundred grand, but it seems a bit silly at the same time. Are those relationships worth that expense? Maybe. Will you get as much out of a hundred grand without those relationships? Maybe. But the honest truth is that your start up has to somehow magically come up with that first hundred grand to get that second hundred grand. This is where entrepreneurs like myself want to spend a day every once in awhile just sticking our head in a vice grip and yelling at a close friend to crank it just a little tighter. Not that I’m biter or anything.

If you want to take pitty on me, submit some stories to FanUpRising.com

Feb 112011
 
No Inbox Zero

No Inbox Zero

In the tech world people go all kinds of nuts about how important it is to get to “inbox zero“. The reality is that it doesn’t matter at all. It only matters if you think it matters. It is all about perception. I tell people this and it’s like telling them that going to church is against the bible (which it is, but that is another debate). People have been told this lie so many times that they just can’t see any other way of looking at things. The reality is that it depends on the person. For me it makes zero difference.

Some see emails that are more than a day old as ‘clutter‘. I call it organization. If I get an email from a press agent about a major tour coming, I keep that info there in case I need it. That email contains a ton of info. It tells me first off which of my many contacts is in charge of that event. For the major package tours it can also list the correct contact for each of the bands on that tour. That email can list all the dates on the tour. So if I need to beef up a story about the event all the info is just right there in my inbox. For me that is a stress reliever that it is there. It saves me time. Sure I could look up a contact. Do I look for that contact under what company they work for? That tells me nothing about what artists they are working at that moment. Since press agents work a project for three months, this can change constantly. It would cost me several days per week to keep a database of those contacts and who is working who current. It would also stress me out beyond belief. Honestly I’m not even sure how I would go about it. It’s just easier to keep that email there conveniently waiting for me in case I need it. Once the tour has past my city, and my content from the tour is posted, I usually delete it. But not a second before.

That is just one example of why I keep some emails in my inbox. I could write an entire book on the reasons not to delete things from my inbox, but the point is that there are plenty of good reasons. The stress created by removing those items is way higher than the stress relieved (none) from being at inbox zero. About a year ago I worked like hell to get to inbox zero. It really sucked. It was pure hell and caused a ton of problems for me. How good did it feel? It felt like I had climbed a mountain to move a pebble one inch. How hard should you work at climbing a mountain to move a pebble one inch?

I don’t care how hip or cool some of you think it is to get to inbox zero. I’m not doing it. It doesn’t work for me. Get it through your head that not everyone is the same. Not everyone’s use of email is the same. Maybe I get more email than you? Maybe the industry I work for creates situations where it is a very bad thing to just delete email. I’m sure that some have jobs where getting to inbox zero might just take an extra hour or so. I’m sure some of you have jobs where deleting that email won’t create major stressful situations for you. Good for you. What do you want, a gold star? It doesn’t work for everyone. For some it would be a major undertaking and then create major issues.

So I said that achieving inbox zero was like climbing a huge mountain so you can move a pebble an inch. What I left out was that the pebble was keeping that volcano from erupting. Good job dumbass. Enjoy the lava bath.

Jan 172011
 

Top Ten Reasons You Should Post A YouTube Music Video On Facebook

So everyone knows that my favorite pet peeve right now is people who post 20-30 YouTube music videos a day. Seriously people, there is no need to post a link to every single You Tube music video you listen to or watch. You do not work for MTV and you are not a video DJ. The worst are the ones that post the same songs every single day. Copy and paste is anti-social in my book.

Now the robo response (knee jerk response that requires no thinking) is to say “Would you rather people post what they are eating?” Of course not. I would rather they put some effort into it. I also despise those auto posts that provide you with something funny so you don’t have to think. I want something from your head. I want to know what you are thinking. I want to know the things you have achieved that day. I want to know what obstacles you are overcoming. Facebook is like anything else. The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. Use your imagination people!

Now there are legit reasons to post YouTube videos. Here is my top ten list of legit reasons to post a YouTube music video on your Facebook profile. Enjoy?

10. Your band did a cover of a song a few nights ago and you want to get some feedback from people other than your IRL friends.

9. A band you love that most people are not aware of releases a new music video.

8. You just re-discovered a song by a band most of your friends don’t even know about.

7. A really bad cover band makes fools of themselves

6. Any band releases a new music video. After a day assume you are late to the game and others have already seen it. You re-posting it makes you look like a noob and just annoys people.

5. The song helps make a point you are trying to get across.

4. It’s a new spin on an old theme. Such as one of those misinterpreted lyrics videos. Sure it’s a song we have all heard a million times, but the reason you are posting it is for the humor of the wrong lyrics.

3. It’s newsworthy. If a band member dies, you are letting others know you will be at the show, etc.

2. You are in the band. If you are in the band this is called self promotion. When it comes to being a whore for the stuff you yourself create (or are a part of in some way) my rules and tolerance are massively lenient.

1. You heard this drives Mark Carras freakin’ nuts and it’s really fun to poke him with a stick and watch him overreact.

Dec 162010
 

Top Ten Things Squarespace.com Really Needs

Squarespace

Squarespace

Let me be clear about this. I post this top ten list because I believe in the service and want it to improve.  Think of this as my Christmas Wish list more than anything. It is NOT meant to bash the company in any way! I subscribe to the biggest package they offer because their product solves some very important issues for me that no one else does. But despite the really great things they offer that keep me as a customer, there are a few things they need to do to keep their site growing beyond geeks like me that are willing to beat the living hell out of their CMS to make it work. Right now if you use Squarespace get your gloves on, because you will have to box with your website for awhile. These are the reasons why.

To check out Squarespace go to http://www.squarespace.com/ They are a great company. This is just my Christmas wish list. Santa? I don’t want coal again this year…please?

1. Phone Support
This is so damn important I cannot make a big enough deal about this. Charge a customer $50 for a month of phone support, but at least give the option!

2. Everything on the front page
So if you have several sections of the site, but want all those sections to have their new content featured on the front of the site you have two really lame options. One is to post it by hand as a blog. That’s right, you have to make a post to let people know you have a post within the same site. The other option is their “change tracker” that only give people an ugly plus sign next to each article instead of some cool thumbnail. Of course you could always just let one section be the front and let all of your other content be buried. So I guess there are 3 really lame options. They need an option to have the front page just flow with everything except forums.

3. Polls
They have all kinds of great features you can add with a simple click. Why not polls? It is a glaring hole in their arsenal of click to add features.

4. Modern forums
They have forums, but they will remind everyone of the early 90′s guestbooks. This is a hot new service and their forums look like something from two decades ago.

5. Rate This Post
Just like polls, I know this puts more pressure on the database, but this is the world we live in and they need to provide an option to allow readers to rate the article.

6. Android App
They have a really great iPhone app, but nothing for Android. With Android being the fastest growing smart phone operating system this is a major over sight. Are they iPhone fanboys who can’t see that their precious phone is not as hot as it once was? Have both guys. Don’t let your fanboy passion get in the way of business. You need to have both.

7. Email
How can they host a website but not host the email accounts connected to that website? Everyone from Go Daddy to Media Temple offer this. Out of all of the missing items this one confuses me the most.

8. Live Chat
Ok, I mean this in two ways. One, there should be a live chat room I can jump into for support. It would also be nice if one could have that as one of the website services we could add for our readers. I love my readers and I would love to chat with them when they are online at the same time I am. Mostly it would just be nice to enter into a chat with a tech support person. It would avoid a ton of the back and forth confusion I end up in with them through the nightmarish “support Ticket” system.

9. Instant Sponsor Button
Now they have a way to add a Squarespace button to your site, but they offer no reason why I would want to do that. What about some sort of affiliate program guys? Why not offer me “X” amount off my bill for each customer I bring you? This could save your higher traffic customers some money as well as quickly expand your business.

10. Less condescending attitude
Seriously. There have been many times when I tried to get the people to help me with something and got a “RTFM” attitude back. I have several times sent the url of the page I had a question about and had them send me back the same URL as the answer to my question. Pretty much saying, “What are you stupid that you can’t see the obvious answer here?” They have an amazing product so far, but the support is the worst of any service I have ever used.

Again, I love the product and this is not meant to bash Squarespace. This is more like a customer begging for a few improvements. As a customer I feel like they are the Squarespace gods on high looking down on us lowly customers. It shouldn’t be that way. As a customer I should feel a little bit better communication with them as a company. I feel like unless you are Leo Laporte there is no way to get an audience with them for anything. This attitude will destroy their company if they don’t take care of it soon. Programmers and developers should not be who gives support. I think this may be the problem. Programmers and developers do not speak human. They speak programmer. Can I get a human please?

Dec 142010
 

Top Three Tech Terms The Music Industry Gets Wrong

BadMusic

BadMusic

So I have to confess something. I worked on this post for months. In fact most of the posts I put on this site are things that I have been working on for months. That is why I find it so frustrating when someone gets offended because they think the post is something that they JUST posted to Facebook or Twitter.  However you can also think of it this way. What was getting under my skin several months ago is still current. It is still being done!  That just proves how out of control the problem I am talking about is. So this was originally supposed to be a “Top Ten List” because people eat that stuff up. Everyone loves top ten lists. So I tried as hard as I could to come up with ten. I just couldn’t. Shocking as it seems there is only three basic terms the music industry (or at least my contacts) get wrong on a regular basis. The problem is that they get them wrong so often and so badly that it seems that there are hundreds of things they are embarrassing themselves with.   Now keep in mind that these are not all the things they mess up on when technology is concerned. This is only the terms they use incorrectly.


1. Viral
What is the root word here people? It comes from the word virus. Way too often a press agent will send out a press release of the band’s “viral video”. Meaning that any video online used to market the band is viral. WRONG! The video might “Go Viral”, but you can’t announce that right out the gate. That’s like having a Mission Accomplished banner behind a president years before anything was accomplished. When it spreads like a virus and has had millions of views, then it has “gone viral”. You look like some old grandpa that doesn’t get the inner webs when you say other wise.

2. Download/Stream
If the band has a new song up on MySpace it is not “up for download”. Instead say “Streaming now for free at their MySpace!” A download means the fans can end up with an MP3 they can play when offline. Try not to confuse the two so often. It makes you sound like an idiot.

3. Leaked
As in “The Fartknockers just leaked their latest single. If it comes from an official source it is not a leak. The label cannot leak something. Someone at the label can leak it without permission, but those people get fired don’t they?

Dec 132010
 

I Wish I Could Block You People By Keyword!


Facebook

Facebook

You Are Not A Video Jockey!
Don’t you wish there was a way to just block all those posts where people think they are some sort of Video YouTube DJ? Do these people think everyone is just sitting around waiting for them to post music links? You do not work for a video channel, you are not that important, so just stop it! I understand if the music video is somehow news worthy. If it is a brand new video and you are a press agent trying to get the word out cool. I even understand the people that post some rare video most have probably never seen or didn’t know about. Of course there is no problem with posting video footage of the concert you went to just last night. I understand that. What I am talking about is the people that flood Facebook with non-stop YouTube music videos. If 99% of your posts like that do not have any comments there might be a reason. No one cares. If Facebook had a way to somehow block by subject that would be great. Then I could block my friends with delusions of grandeur that think they are some video jockey without blocking them from the conversation and networking that I follow them for in the first place.

It’s Not Just About YouTube!
Now keep in mind I am not just talking about the music videos. What about the endless sports posts where someone posts crap like “Wow that was a great touch down” assuming that all their Facebook friends from around the world are watching the same game and have a clue what the hell they are talking about. Same thing goes for the ones that react to some lame reality show they are watching. Of course the worst ones could not be blocked since they give no reference as to what the hell they are watching. I mean what keywords do they watch for if all the twit says is something like “Oh I hate her, they should kick her off the show.” Not everyone is watching the same thing, so make sure and give us a clue as to what the hell you are talking about. Then when Facebook does offer us a chance to block by subject or keyword we can block the posts we don’t care about but still keep in touch.

I Even Want You To Be Able To Block Me!
The truth is that everyone is annoying at some point. I know that many of my real world friends get annoyed when I post music industry stuff. There is no way I can stop doing that entirely. So it would be great if the people that follow me and hate that crap could block that but not block everything I post. I know the automated answer is always “Well block them if you don’t like what they post.” Ok moron, try to pay attention. I do like SOME of what they post and that is why I follow them. However, everyone is annoying at some point. This includes myself. So I think blocking posts by keyword or subject would help my feed as well as the feed or the people that follow me. I am talking about wanting people to automatically block the posts I make so that only the parts of me you care about show. Blocking by keyword would make our friends and family much less likely to drive us to drink. In this stressful holiday season we have enough reasons to drink. So get on it Facebook!

Dec 072010
 

My Top Ten Favorite Android Apps

Android Apps

Android Apps

I am noticing that people are picking up Droid phones like crazy recently. Maybe it is because of the holidays or maybe it is because of Droid users like me that can’t stop praising the phones. I am pretty sure that many will get Droid phones for Christmas as well. Either way I am getting lots of questions about what the best apps are to download for the regular user. I really don’t care about the ultra-tech users. They have proven to me time and time again that they don’t have a clue what the average user wants or needs. When I was telling them that people wanted bigger phones, all they could say was that bigger phones would be like carrying around a brick. Brick this, brick that, but how do we watch all this great media that is getting shoved in our faces? Well, notice how much bigger screens have got over the past couple of years? Now there is already talk about devices that are somewhere between a phone and a “pad” type device. Meaning a phone with a screen twice the size of a Droid 2 or your standard iPhone device! So ignore the stuck up technorati. They don’t know their head from their ass and are nothing more than a useless echo chamber most of the time. This top ten list is for the everyday mobile phone user. If this helps you please send it to a friend. I have no ads and my only payment is watching my stats go up if you people like what I write.

10. Twitter Official App
This app would rate way higher if they got rid of the location crap. Or at least made it less annoying for those that don’t want that feature.

9. TasKiller
It’s a red icon. I tried the Green icon version once before and it just didn’t work very well. This red guy however works great. I read somewhere that the green one is called “Advanced Task Killer” and this one is called “TasKiller”. I hope that helps you find the right one.

8. Last.fm
I know that Pandora is more popular in the United States. Maybe it’s better, maybe not, but Last.fm works for me and I love it. So I never gave Pandora a chance to be honest. If you are a fan of music, no matter the style, you must try one of these services. Unlike traditional radio type services it learns. The more you play with it, the better it gets at guessing what you like. Even someone as picky about music as I am finds it great. This thing can even tell the difference between true thrash and modern thrash (which is just death metal with slower riffs). I don’t know of even too many Thrash fans that can tell the difference anymore, but this thing can!

7. Angry Birds
Some may find it shocking that this one is so low on my top ten list, but honestly I think it is a bit over hyped. It’s fun, but after a few fun levels it turns into something for hardcore gamers only. Some levels take me days to get past and that is just plain boring watching the same screen over and over again.

6. Facebook Official App
It is a little buggy at times and will only let you go back so far, but other than that I have had no problems.

5. AK Notepad
Just like with the windows desktop verion of Notepad, what I like about this is that it has pretty much zero features. It’s just a place to spew notes. It works so well I am using it to write an entire book. It’s a fiction novel. I write it when I’m on the toilet. Seriously.

4. Softick Freecell
Just a stupid card game, but I like it. There are some annoying ones I tried before I found this one so be careful.

3. Paper Toss
Just like with Angry Birds this is a stupid game that takes no thought. Great mindless fun.

2. iMobsters
I know what you are thinking. “I thought Mark hated games like this?” Wong. I love games like this. I just didn’t want it on my Facebook. That along with Zynga (the company behind the most popular Facebook based social games) being caught in so many scams makes me stay clear of anything they touch. Now the iMobsters app for Android has had many problems. For months after it was released you couldn’t even get past the log in screen to register or play at all. Then Android users got the snot beat out of them because of buggy behavior and slower response times compared to iPhone users. All these problems seem to be fixed now though and the game is fun. If you have tried the game before on Android and got pissed off and removed it, give it another try.

1. The Official Google Reader App
I have tried them all. Even the much praised “News Rob” version and they all failed miserably in my opinion. Then came the official Google Reader app and all was right with the world. This is now my favorite app of all time. It is the most intuitive app I have seen so far. There was no learning curve at all. I knew how to use it without reading any directions or fighting through any frustrations. I just knew how to operate it right from the second it was installed. It’s just that damn good.

Dec 032010
 

I Avoided Spam By Following This One Weird Old Rule

gypsy

gypsy

We have all heard about that line “If it’s too good to be true it probably is.” I am amazed that despite how many people have heard about this saying, spam still stays alive. Not just the kind of spam that ends up filling our inbox, but also ads that just seem a little shady. The reason these kinds of ads don’t die is that they work. Who is stupid enough to keep this kind of bad marketing alive?

If you are one of the people that need Viagra, get it from your local pharmacy. Otherwise you don’t know what is in it. Pretty much every time there is a shady reason why their Viagra is cheaper. Either they are trying to get your info to sell it, selling you a “watered down” version of the drug, or selling you something harmful that looks like Viagra. It’s dangerous and you people need to stop it. You are helping keep that horrid industry alive. Just talk to your doctor and get it from your pharmacy.

The thing you all have to keep in mind is that these people don’t need that much response to make a profit and keep their evil business alive. If they send out a million emails and get one response it is a good day for those bad guys. Yes, the ones that buy ad space on our favorite websites have to have a better response, but they are obviously getting it if I keep seeing these kinds of ads. Stop falling for these ads people! If it seems too good to be true it is. Don’t even click on the ad. You are helping the bad guys.

So the ads I hint at above are interesting. To be honest it is very smart marketing. It tells the person that this is going to be simple. People are lazy and they love easy. But you have to ask yourself, if it is just one simple thing how come we are not hearing it elsewhere? Even if you are one of those extremely paranoid people that thinks your doctor is in on some wild conspiracy, this one simple thing would have been heard from elsewhere. Since the ad claims that it is an old rule. They tell you it is old information. So how about I bust this site by telling you one simple rule I know instead? Proper diet and exercise. Not some fad diet, but eating right. Eating as healthy as you can, staying away from HFCS, sugar, fatty foods, and fake sugars. If you keep it to 2,000 calories and exercise two hours a day you will loose weight. The truth is never easy. I know this but yet I’m still fat. Yet I don’t fall for ads like this because they seem shady to me.

If you think it might be shady just assume it is. Almost every time you will be right. So please everyone please remember this one simple weird old rule. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. You are more safe to assume it is. Stop spam by being smarter!

Nov 302010
 

Things I’d like to see from Google’s URL shortener

Google Overlords

Google Overlords

Not long ago I made a post about the top ten reasons I liked this service, so consider this as my follow up. To see that article CLICK HERE. Ever since Google launched their own URL shotener I have been pretty loyal to it. But there are a few things that it is missing to really squash the competition and not let this become another Google Wave.  Some of these are very serious, some of them are pipe dreams, and one is just me being a smart ass. You guess which is which.

1. A Search
Let me search for a url I’ve already shortened in case I need to use it again.

2. Public Stats
Let me post my stats on my site in case I want to brag.

3. Custom URL
This is the one thing all their competitors have and they don’t. Let me make up my own shortened URL ending.

4. Deep Analytics
With a click of a button I should be able to see the top links within the month, week, day, or hour. I should be able to see what source gave me the most traffic as well.

5. Some Google Live Love
Imagine if there was integration with Google’s live search results. It would be nice if we could see a live feed of when our shortned url’s were sent out on services like Twitter as they do with regular Google search.

6. Per Website Separation
So currently everything is in one big messy bucket of puke. It would be nice if it could be separated by the website. Otherwise any analytics are pretty much useless.

7. Share
Just like I can share a Google Doc or Google analytics I would like to share the Google url shortener accounts, especially if they can be specific to one website.

8.  Share Widget
Give me some code I can put onto every page of my site (side menu or footer) that gives people the shortned url they can use to share the article.

9.  Make It A Game
Everything on the web is a game now it seems, so why shouldn’t a URL shortening service? Imagine having a chart on the side of your site that shows who has spread around your shortened urls?

10. Breakfast
Yes, Google. I would like my eggs over easy, my toast dark brown (but not burnt), my juice freshly squeezed, and a slice of ham on the side. Thanks. I figure Google seems to be able to pull off everything else so why not my damn breakfast? Come on Google, get on it!

Nov 292010
 

Are Search Engines A Dying Service?

Socia lMedia

Socia lMedia

So this last week I was looking at my search analytics and saw something interesting. Facebook had sent me about 300 unique visits over the past week. Google had sent me about 100 unique visits. Are people no longer finding things through the traditional search engine? Or is that more of a difference between things being tossed up in front of you by people you connect to on social networks as opposed to having a specific item you are searching for? Let’s face it, most people only add a “friend” on Facebook if they have the same interests. So if they follow me there is a really good chance that the content I post on my Facebook is going to be something they will be interested in.

Many people in social media discount Stumble Upon, but many times they send my site way more traffic than even Facebook does. Facebook sends my site traffic on a more dependable basis, but when Stumble Upon kicks in I get a pretty good day long spike. So why do so many in social media dismiss it? Maybe the experts are full of crap? Maybe we should try everything and see what connects with our target audience the best and damn what works for everyone else?

So maybe this is a question of “Which Is Better For Driving Traffic” instead of “Are Search Engines Dying”? One is clearly better for driving traffic than the other, but is this a true threat to search engines? I know it used to be that if you didn’t exist on Google that your site pretty much didn’t exist. Now it seems that if you work hard enough on Social Networking it could mean 10 times more traffic than a search engine will ever bring you.

So what does this mean for SEO? Why should you care about your search engine optimization if search engines are only bringing in ten percent of your traffic? Or maybe this is just my experience? I want to know what other people are experiencing. What brings you in the most traffic? Is it networking, search engines, or just your regular readers coming back? Facebook was around 300, but all of my networking brought me in about 1,000 unique visitors within the past week. Is this an anomaly or is this a pattern?

Consider this post more about asking questions. I want to know if others have experienced the same thing. Where does your traffic come from?