Joel Spolsky of Joel On Software and Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror fame were recently discussing ‘why podcast’ in the second episode of their stackoverflow.com podcast (yes the conversation’s already turned meta – it must be a software thing). 🙂
My ears perked up when I heard Joel talking about the benefits and differences of the podcasting medium as oppose to the printed word. His points are the exact reasons why I developed Text2Go. In fact I could almost use it verbatim as marketing material for Text2Go.
You can listen to the relevant excerpt here or visit stackoverflow.com to listen to the entire series of podcasts. Stackoverflow.com is going to be a programmer’s Q&A site done right. Free, no ads, high signal to noise ratio. It’s an ambitious project but if anyone has a chance of pulling it off, these two guys do. Good luck!
Today I thought I’d feature three Text2Go users to illustrate that there’s no ‘typical’ Text2Go user.
1. The first is TJ Etherton, an enthusiastic coin collector, who has created iKollect.com, a free, online inventory management system that’s tailored specifically for cataloguing collectables, such as coins, model trains, etc. TJ has a great blog where he discusses productivity experiments (Jott, Text2Go) and his plan to monetize iKollect.com so he can achieve the goal of quitting his day job by the end of the year. I really hope TJ reaches his goal, as it’s also my primary goal, although I haven’t been brave enough to set a deadline on this yet. It’s not that I hate my day job, it’s more that I’ve got so many ideas for Text2Go that I’d love to be able to work on it full time. The lifestyle is also very appealing – working from home, being completely responsible for success or failure and the ability to structure your day around your family.
Now I don’t claim to know anything about coin collecting or inventory management but one obvious approach to monetizing iKollect.com is to offer a premium service that would have some associated charges. The trick is to offer enough value that existing and new members would be willing to pay for it. One possible service would be integration with eBay. This service would allow collectors to quickly list items from their collection on eBay. As items are bought and sold, they could be automatically added/removed from iKollect. Another useful service would be to automatically watch eBay listings for items that are similar to those in a collectors’ existing inventory that they may wish to purchase. I’d imagine this could work something like Amazon’s book recommendations.
Good luck TJ! I’ll be following your progress with interest.
2. Brad Isaacs. Brad has a very popular goal-setting and productivity blog called Persistence Unlimited. Just the name is an inspiration to me. As I constantly juggle an overwhelming number of tasks each day, ‘persistence unlimited’ is a useful mantra to keep me heading towards my goals. Brad is also a software developer and author of the ‘Achieve-IT’ goal setting software.
3. Jenna Sweeney. Jenna is the President of CramerSweeny Instructional Design. She has a very interesting blog on Corporate Training and e-Learning. Forget dull Powerpoint presentations. Modern corporate training is now being delivered through virtual online worlds, such as Second-Life. I’ll certainly have to look up Jenna, when Tumbywood Software becomes a large corporation and I need some interesting ways of delivering training to my minions highly valued staff 🙂
You’re cutting it fine this morning. You’ve indulged in one extra press of the snooze button but you figure with a bit of luck at the lights and some nifty driving you can make up the time on the road. Things start out well. You’re through 3 sets of lights in a row. You’re across the level crossing before the train. Now down the freeway onramp and – slam on the brakes. Gridlock – no, no, no! Now you’re never going to make that meeting ‘first thing’ with senior management.
If you’re constantly frustrated by all those rude and inconsiderate drivers that are clogging up the roads today, here’s a few simple tips to turn your daily commute into a time of peace, contemplation and even productivity.
1. Allow plenty of time – If your chances of arriving on time require the ‘perfect run’ then you’re going to be late and frustrated more often than not. Trying to achieve the perfect run is like gambling. It will happen occasional and the feeling is sweet when it does but on average the house always wins. Instead allow extra time for the unexpected. If you do get a dream run then you can always use the extra time at your destination. The job interview is the classic example when you never want to be late. I always add at least an extra half hour to my estimated travel time. This gives me plenty of time to find the place, park the car, and some spare time to find a cafe and enjoy a coffee before walking into the office exactly 5 minutes before the interview.
2. Flexible arrival time – Never schedule a meeting ‘first thing’ or anything else that requires you to be in the office at a set time. If you don’t have a customer facing role, it shouldn’t matter when you arrive as long as you put in the agreed hours. Discuss this with your boss ahead of time and make it clear that you have a life outside work, things happen and you need to be flexible.
3. Avoid peak times – Peak hour traffic is the heaviest and I can’t remember when it was just an hour. However by restructing your day a little you can avoid the heaviest times. One useful technique is to organise activities near your place of work. For example join a gym near your office and go before work. It’s often easier to find the motivation to get up early to avoid the traffic if you’ve got something pleasant to do before starting work. Another option is to go for a run, walk or do some shopping during your lunch break. You want to be able to bring forward or push back your start and end times. What you don’t want to do is to start early and leave late.
4. Check traffic reports – This is only useful for avoiding the major incidents. Most daily traffic reports say the same thing ‘ traffic is at a crawl but about normal for this time of the day’. When there’s a major accident, beware the alternate route. If a 6 lane freeway is crawling on a good day, imagine what happens when that same traffic is forced onto a 2 lane arterial with traffic lights every 100 metres. The only thing to do in these situations is to wait it out. Work late, go and see a movie, go out to dinner. Anything is better than spending 3 hours in your car to travel 20 kms.
5. Don’t expect commercial radio to entertain you – Commercial radio would have you believe that sitting in your car listening to the ‘freshest’, ‘most varied’ music mix with the crazy breakfast and drive teams is the best time you’ll have all week. The reality is that you’ll spend 10 minutes per hour listening to ads, 10 minutes being told how cool, fresh, plays more music the radio station is, 5 minutes on the totally original, wacky new competition they’re running next month where you can win $200 if you can ‘beat this bomb thingy’ and 5 minutes listening to innane banter between ‘the crew’. That leaves 30 minutes per hour for music, half of which you won’t like.
The answer is to load up your iPod or MP3 player with your own music. Many car radios have an AUX in or even dedicated iPod docks. However I’ve found that plain old earbuds also work well in the car. They cut out a little of road noise but not so much that you won’t hear a warning honk or siren.
6. If you’re running late phone ahead – No matter how much planning you do there are going to be times when you get stuck in traffic and are going to be late. Always phone ahead or send a txt to let those who are expecting you that you’re going to be late. If it’s a loved who’s one expecting you, they may start to worry. In all cases it lets people change their plans.
Go With The Flow
7. Adopt the right frame of mind – this is primarily about lowering your expections of others’ driving behaviour. People are going to cut you off, drive dangerously, push into queues, not give an inch when you’re trying to merge and abuse you whenever they’re in the wrong. Expect it and ignore it. Rise above it and do not get drawn into a confrontation. Be courteous at all times and allow yourself a little smirk of satisfaction when their Karma ends up in a nose to tail.
8. Never try to beat the traffic – You see it all the time. The driver who is constantly tailgating in heavy traffic. Continously changing lanes on the freeway to gain a place or two. Using the emergency lane when they think there’s no cops around. Forcing their way into a lane at the last second. It’s dangerous and it requires a lot of effort. For what – to cut 3-4% off your travel time. Fighting traffic is like paddling downstream – you will expend a lot of energy for little additional gain. Instead, just go with the flow.
9. Expend minimum effort – If you drive conservatively you will expend minimal mental effort and you won’t get stressed. Change lanes early. Maintain a safe following distance. Use the same route. Drive smoothly and you’ll get the added benefit of saving on fuel. Do it well and you’ll slip into auto-pilot mode. This will free your mind so you can put it to more productive uses.
One of the greatest frustrations of being stuck in traffic during your daily commute is the fact that it’s a complete and utter waste of time. You can eliminate this frustration by becoming productive while behind the wheel.
10. Thinking time – Once you’ve achieved you zen-like driving state you will be able to do some serious thinking. Plan your upcoming day, or review your day on the way home. Think through some ideas for a new blog post. Work on a problem at work. Think through a DIY project for the weekend. The possibilities are endless. If you have a family, as you draw closer to home at the end of the day, you may want to spend a little time preparing for the onslaught that greets you when you walk through the door.
11. Listen to audio books – There are a huge range of non-fiction and fiction available in audio book format. For example you can buy the entire Harry Potter collection on CDs. I’d recommend ripping them to MP3 so you don’t have to fiddle around swapping discs while driving.
12. Use Text to speech – There are a number of text to speech applications around that allow you to turn blog posts, news, magazines, eBooks, etc that are specific to your interest into MP3 files that you can listen to on your iPod or MP3 player. This allows you to keep up with your professional reading or indulge in your love for science fiction, etc. Because commuting time is regarded as dead time, you won’t feel guilty in doing it either.
13. Use a voice recorder – Record notes, ideas, etc on a voice recorder. The best ones for use in the car automatically activate on your voice, so you can keep your hands on the wheel. For an example of what can be done, a professional speaker wrote an entire book using her voice recorder.
14. Tune into the radio for news – Nothing does news better than a non-commercial radio station. Tune in on the hour or half hour, get up to date and then switch off again. Don’t rely on it to keep you occupied for the entire trip. There’s nothing worse than listening to the same news half an hour later.
15. Don’t talk on your mobile phone – This is your time. Don’t be interrupted. It’s also dangerous. More so than talking to someone in the passenger seat next to you. An interesting study showed that passengers were less of a distraction to a driver than someone at the other end of a phone. The reason being, as the passengers could also see the current driving conditions, they would naturally pause conversation when they felt the driver needed full concentration to negotiate a dangerous situation.
Well I did and here’s why I think it was well worth it.
How to Generate Traffic to Your Website is written by Stephane Grenier, founder of LandlordMax Software Inc, a small software company (or microISV) that develops software to help investors and property managers, manage their property portfolios.
The book is based on Stephane’s experiences over the last few years of marketing and promoting his software company online. This makes the content highly relevant to myself, as I strive to improve the marketing of my own software product Text2Go. I found the examples and statistics quoted in the book fascinating.
The material would also be relevant to anyone starting a small online business, not just a software business. I’m sure the issues are the same. Limited time, little to no marketing budget and 100 tasks all competing for your attention.
Stephane covers an impression range of traffic generation techniques in his book, the highlights being SEO, content generation, freebies, blogging, Google Adwords, press releases and social networking.
I found each topic was covered to just the right level of detail. As you can imagine, separate books could easily be written about each of the above topics. However when running a small business you don’t have the time to become an expert on every possible online marketing strategy. Stephane provides enough information on each topic to get results. Each of the major topics also includes excellent references to more indepth sources of information.
Stephanes writing style is clear and easy to follow. The writing is illustrated with plenty of interesting graphs and screenshots.
One of the highlights of the book for me was the sense of balance and perspective that is shown. For example, it’s possible to endlessly tweak your Adwords campaigns or your onsite SEO. However, Stephane repeatly emphases the point that you need to look at the ROI of your time. I also think the fact that he’s not advocating a single traffic generation technique means that he’s not afraid of recommending you weigh up each technique when deciding on how to make your next improvement. One really useful tip he makes is to play to your strengths. For example if you write great content for your blog and you enjoy it, then do more of that rather than trying to become an expert in another technique such as Google Adwords.
The other highlight was an emphasis on persistence. It’s very easy to say that getting an article on the front page of Digg will generate a lot of traffic to your site (so much so that Stephane spends a fair bit of time on how best to prepare your server for the onslaught). However getting on the front page of Digg is not easy and won’t happen the first time you try. It was nice to hear Stephane candidly recount his own experiences, stressing that it takes time and persistence.
In conclusion, How to Generate Traffic to Your Website contains a wealth of really useful information that’s well organised and clearly presented. I can wholeheartedly recommend it to other small online software and non-software business owners. At $28.95 (or a couple of hundred Google PPCs) the ROI will be very quick.
I have recently started a campaign to find out a bit about my Text2Go users and how they are making use of Text2Go. This third story is from Matthew, who was brave enough to be one of my very first beta testers. Matthew has provided a wealth of excellent feedback and support since then, so it’s with great pleasure that I publish his story here.
Text2Go has become part of my daily life. I use it on my morning commute to listen to blogs and articles that I otherwise would have spent time reading later in the day. I found Text2Go while searching the web for just such a program though at the time I didn’t even know if one existed. My wife and I work in cities about 75 miles apart and had decided to move to her town since she typically puts in more hours then me. I’m a graphic designer for a large international technology company which allows me to work from home a couple days at week so the move was kind of a no brainier. However, this meant that I would now be spending just under two and a half hours in my car on days I do have to commute. I knew there must be a way to make better use of my time and started to brainstorm different ideas for things I could accomplish on my drive. One thought I had was that I could convert some of the reading I do every day to spoken audio files on my iPod and that’s when I found Text2Go. It was still in its beta stage so I tried it out and found that the program was easy to use and the voices were realistic and easy to listen to.
Now my routine involves converting daily scripture readings and reflections to my iPod in the morning while I get ready for work and then listening to them on my drive in. For my drive home I’ll often convert blog articles and comments on my favorite sports team, the Minnesota Twins, or other articles I find that look interesting but are too long for a quick read. The end result is that I actually look forward to my drive and am able to spend more time away from my computer when at home. My commute doesn’t seem that long anymore and quite frankly I think I’d miss it if I changed jobs to one closer to home.
Even on the days I’m at home I’ll use Text2Go to have the computer read web pages to me while I’m busy doing other things. I also use it to proof important emails which really helps avoiding leaving words out of sentences or typing a word twice. All in all I find that Text2Go is one of the most used and useful programs on my computer and I’m very glad that I found it. Give it a try and you won’t be disappointed.
Thank you very much Matthew for taking the time to share your story. If you would like to share your experience, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.