I first found the Note Slate website a few years ago, originally linked to on Kottke.org and thought it was wonderful. Being able to scribble (doodle, write, sketch, take notes) on a device and have that device be able to save or share the document, seemed like a brilliant combination of old and new – a modern way to update note taking.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the actual Note Slate seems to have died in the water a little bit – which is a real shame, and I don’t know the full story behind it (they still have a Facebook page – and that’s how I got this eventual story), but it seems that Sony have picked up the idea.
The major noticeable difference between the Note Slate and Sony’s device seems to be size. Sony’s prototype is A4 size – sporting a 13.3inch screen. With 4Gb of storage and Wi-Fi for note sharing, I’m hoping that this comes to market in time for father’s day 2014.
There’s 4GB of on-board storage (with a microSD slot to increase that) and WiFi, which Sony plans to use for sharing notes with those who didn’t make it to class on time. With WiFi off, the rechargeable battery inside is expected to last for three weeks of solid learning.
Marissa Mayer. She’s the CEO of Yahoo! Hired last July she was charged with the responsibility of making Yahoo! a relevant organisation again. Not an easy task.
Since she joined she’s made a number of seemingly controversial calls – but all of them seem to have been the right thing, despite many (many) people dumping on them at the time.
Photo by Giorgio Montersino – http://flic.kr/p/5HZpNn
In terms of policy / internal Yahoo! stuff, she made headlines after banning employees from working at home. Cue untold handwringing across the inter webs. But really, who could argue with the common sense: she saw that remote workers were not logging in to their accounts often enough, were not being productive enough, and so decided it wasn’t working.
Sure, it’s different for all companies – a lot depends on the nature of the work, the nature of the employees doing the work, and so on – she felt it was the right decision, and the data backed her up. (What was not as widely reported was that paid maternity and paternity leave were increased (16 weeks / 8 weeks), along with a $500 maternity allowance for groceries. )
And now for Tumblr …
Anyway, today she’s in the news following the company’s decision to give the go ahead on the $1.1bn acquisition of Tumblr. Already, such ‘esteemed’ journals as Forbes.com have put together an article on why it will fail as an acquisition. Blimey. Give it a chance.
Tumblr is the big time. It hosts over 100 million blogs. (And many blog owners are reportedly nervous about the Yahoo! acquisition – as Matt Mullenweg, as the creator of Tumblr rival, WordPress points out here).
Acquisition headaches …
One of the reasons for the nerves is Yahoo!’s record of not handling post-acquisition product development very well. Or at all.
Most famously, the acquisition of much loved photo sharing site, Flickr has been difficult to say the least. Bookmarking site Delicio.us was left to whither on the vine (until YouTube founders stepped in) and there have been a few more recent acquisitions that have left a sour taste in the mouth – notably that of Upcoming.org.
What has pleased me most about this Tumblr announcement is the manner in which it was made – with a great deal of humour and humility on Marissa’s personal blog (on Tumblr, natch). The animated GIF that accompanies it deftly nods to previous acquisition difficulties whilst making it plain they intend it to be different this time.
In these simple couple of paragraphs, she neatly deals with everything:
I’m delighted to announce that we’ve reached an agreement to acquire Tumblr!
We promise not to screw it up. Tumblr is incredibly special and has a great thing going. We will operate Tumblr independently. David Karp will remain CEO. The product roadmap, their team, their wit and irreverence will all remain the same as will their mission to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve. Yahoo! will help Tumblr get even better, faster.
Personally, if Marissa Mayer thinks it’s a good idea, we should at least give it a chance to see how it pans out. She seems to have a tremendous amount of guts for the big decision, and a strong belief in what she’s doing. More power to her.
It’s not often you see the words ‘attractive’ and ‘cables’ in the same sentence … but, and my wife is going to be pleased with this, there is an alternative to the ugly cable mess of most home office set ups: an attractive mess of cables.
These great looking cables from Eastern Collective remind me of the ropes my dad has a garage full of – ropes for all his sailing gear. They look lovely.
There’s $14 shipping to the UK … but some of their products are available at fab.com where it might be cheaper.
If you’ve ever wondered why and how some search results have the author picture next to them, you’re not alone.
Google introduced the concept of Authorship a little while ago as a means of establishing the reliability – or authority – of a content source. If an author writes multiple articles for multiple sources, then they gain authority. If their articles appear consistently in search results – and are clicked – that in turn builds their authority.
It’s a good thing – giving more prominence to authors who are more trustworthy, and just better at generating content – but you need to do a little fiddling with code in order to set it up for your blog.
What you need
To set this up, you’re going to need the following:
- a Google Plus+ account
- access to make changes to the header of your website
err, that’s it, actually.
What you need to do
So, go to your Google Plus+ account and make a note of your Google+ link … mine looks like this:
You’re then going to need to add a line of code to the <head> section of your website. You’re going to want to add this:
<link href="https://plus.google.com/105224137510967490959" rel="author" />
This effectively links the content on your site to your Google+ account. You need to then verify that with google – so head back to your Google+ account and go to your profile page. In the ‘about’ section, on the right hand side, there’s a ‘Links’ box and in that a section marked ‘Contributor to ‘. At the bottom of this box, click ‘edit’ and you can add in the websites which hold your authorship link.
Verifying it with Google
The changes may take a few days to show up in search results – so whilst you wait, it’d be good to know you’ve done everything right. Fortunately, google produce a tool just for that purpose … the enticingly named Structured Data Testing Tool. You can use this to enter the address of a URL you’ve just added the author link to, and check the results. If everything has gone to plan, the results will look something like this:
And that’s it … you’re done! Soon enough, search results will start showing up with your photo in them. Like I say, it’s a good thing for authors and searchers alike. So get to it!
Just a quick one … I’ve got stuff to do. But I’m all about the productivity at the moment and wanted to share this great anecdote from Jerry Seinfeld (via lifehacker). Software developer Brad Isaac got some great advice from Jerry Seinfeld:
… He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
I love the visual reminder … and so, my wall now has a big wall calendar on it, with just one red X so far – but, as I continue with my task of writing, I’ll be attempting not to break that chain. Read the whole thing here.
This past week I was away for 2 days on a business trip … the kind where you leave at 4am on a Thursday, and arrive back at about midnight on the Friday. Short, intensive, rewarding and filled with travel. I probably had about 10 hours when I was travelling in one form or another – and I tried my best to use this productively.
Here are some things I learnt in that time:
Reading on my phone:
It is perfectly possible to read an entire e-Book on your phone. That’s quite cool. I have – and always travel with – an Amazon Kindle, which is great. I connect that with my instapaper account and whenever I sync, I get a digest of my entire reading list. Perfect. On this trip though, my kindle was buried at the bottom of my bag, whereas my phone was in my pocket. I had a book on my phone that I wanted to read (on the Kindle App) and so I tucked in. (Outside of my instapaper queue, I also recommend taking a look at Readlists which allows you to create e-books from existing web content you find, as well as creating them from people you can follow)
Photo by yto – http://flic.kr/p/dusMb9
The format was remarkably readable – and whilst this might not be a surprise per se, it is I think quite important. What’s the one device you always have with you? It’s not your laptop or your e-reader. It’s your phone and if people are comfortable using it as a reading device, that has big implications for book publishers and authors.
What’s the ideal length for a book? Does it make a difference whether the book is fiction or non-fiction? How should books be delivered? How do you protect content? My guess is that non-fiction books will be read more often on a phone, that books will get shorter and that they’ll be cheaper to encourage sharing. Perhaps shorter books will be used to increase author reputation so that the author can build a base to better promote other services. I don’t know – but it felt quite important that reading a book on my phone felt so normal.
On a clear, calm day …
… Birmingham airport can actually be quite lovely. You wouldn’t think it was the main airport for England’s second city … it’s small, friendly, with good coffee, and really easy to use (car parks are close, taxi’s are closer, etc.). Handy.
Working in a compressed time frame:
Two of the most productive blocks of time I had on the whole trip were working on the plane. I flew from Belfast to Birmingham (and back, obviously) which – when you allow for the time when you have to shut down your computer – allowed for about 35 minutes work time each way. Knowing that I had only 35 minutes really helped my focus.
This isn’t new – but it was nice to see put it into action. It has been best articulated as a method known as The Pomodoro Technique.
It is a time management method created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s that helps you accomplish what you want to do by transforming time into a valuable ally. Why is it so popular? Because it is easy to use, and most of all, because it works! – getting started
How you travel:
If at all possible, at the end of a long day of meetings … see if you can arrange a lift home in style. This was my ride …
Pretty sweet! I’m doing some work for the company that makes the gear boxes for these beauties (the Morgan 3-Wheeler) and, well, before you can really market something you have to believe in the product … on the upside: incredible fun, looks great; on the downside: midges.
In which there’s a couple of good free resources: guide to google analytics, and a beginners guide to sales, I switch email client (again), and apologise for anything I’ve ever said when I was hungry.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a round up of useful or interesting things I’ve found online; still, there’s no time like the present:
Free (as in £0.00) guide to using Google Analytics on your eCommerce website. Covers basic set up, the most important reports to run and how to get the most out of your dashboard. It’s entry level, for sure – but it’s comprehensive and contains some really useful tips, including setting up conversions, goals and ‘funnel visualisation’.
In a similar ‘here’s a simple guide to something we all need’ vein. The people who make Stride App (a CRM aimed at micro / small businesses) and Ecquire (which does something similar-ish, I think, but I couldn’t easily discern what from their website and so gave up in frustration) have put together this beginners guide to sales. Again, nothing revolutionary, but a really good grounding in what sales is, how to go about it, and how it’s really the core of everything we do (especially as a micro-business like myself). Good stuff – and had me looking out an article I wrote last year: I am not a web designer.
I’ll totally be needing some of these:
I’m getting to grips with my to-do’s a bit better these days, and this approach has helped. Acknowledging that I can do 1 big thing, 3 medium things, and 5 small things each day. Simple but effective.
On which subject … I’ve taken a new approach to managing my email. Previously, I switched to Sparrow App, (writing about how pleased with myself I was) but development ceased when they sold up to Google a while back. (Good for them, I say … but it left thousands of fee paying devotees somewhat in the lurch). Recently, after a brief flirtation with Postbox, I switched back to good ol’ Mac Mail – thanks in no small part to this article.
I still abhor the idea of using my mail as a storage facility or insurance policy – and so I need to process email efficiently as it comes in. Using a few keyboard shortcuts, mail quickly gets flagged as either needing a reply, needing follow up, and ‘today’ – for task based emails that need to be done, y’know, today. It’s simple but effective, and keeps me out of email as much as possible.
(for gmail users, this great little script from Merlin Mann allows you to compose an email without actually opening your inbox. Distraction free writing). I’m rambling now, but I first came across Merlin in this article from 2005 – Kick Procrastination’s Ass.
Okay, I think that’s it for now.
Disclaimer: my life has not actually been saved by LinkedIn. A man called Steve once saved my life by grabbing hold of me just as I was about to walk out in front of a car (thanks Steve!).
A couple of months ago a server I have hosted with MediaTemple fell over. It had been attacked by a fairly persistent hacker – a basic denial of service attack, where heaps of traffic is sent your way in the anticipation that your server will crash and people will not be able to access the websites on that server. From (the ever reliable …) Wikipedia:
an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users. Although the means to carry out, motives for, and targets of a DoS attack may vary, it generally consists of efforts to temporarily or indefinitely interrupt or suspend services of a host connected to the Internet
So. Really, I’ve been hosting websites for the better part of 10 years and this is the first time I’ve had such a problem – honestly, I tried to count myself as lucky in that regard. However, when you’re going through it you don’t feel lucky. I had maybe a dozen clients hosted on that server – some in the US, some in Ireland and some in the UK … so I was getting understandably frantic calls from a variety of time zones.
Thankfully, the web host themselves were really helpful – they increased my resources flexibly so that I could at least work on the server whilst we resolved the problem. But the real help came from the LinkedIn community.
The first thing I did was posted a question on LinkedIn to all server managers – asking how best to tell whether the security of the server had been compromised. Then, as a follow up question, how I could detect and prevent such attacks in the future.
Within 20 minutes I had half a dozen really helpful sysadmin’s helping me with the problem – and ended up with a good few software recommendations that I was able to install on the server within an hour or so.
Good stuff. A problem that was really stressful was dealt with calmly by system professionals – using me as their willing conduit! I made some great contacts there and can’t recommend the LinkedIn community enough.
Some of the solutions I looked at (I implemented 2 of these):
I love pretty much all the writing of Kurt Vonnegut; I think he was a tremendous writer who always had something interesting to say. I stumbled across this blog post today which contains much wisdom from the man himself, as concerns writing. Including these gems:
“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”
“Start as close to the end as possible.”
I particularly like this last one. Too often in stories – or in web projects, come to think of it – there is a ton of stuff you don’t need to get done, that you don’t need to put yourself through. A story has an end point … a bunch of necessary stuff needs to happen to get to that point, but by being strict in determining what is necessary, and what isn’t, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache.
I’ve a sudden desire to re-read Breakfast of Champions this weekend.
Last night I gave a short, one hour look at the crazy world of Search Engine Optimisation to the Belfast Entrepreneurs Network. It was a nice, informal little event that I enjoyed very much. In the talk there were a bunch of links / resources that I brought up that I wanted to collect here – both for attendees and anyone else who might find them useful.
Top of the list – I find these guys to be the most authoritative, insightful and straightforward of all search engine people. They talk sense in plain language and offer great, actionable tips. They’re a software provider – and their SEO software is extremely valuable – but you don’t need to purchase anything to benefit from their vast knowledge. A must read.
This is a google doc that you can use to find recent content online that is related to your chosen keywords. Type into a cell on the spreadsheet your keyword, and the spreadsheet searches google news, reddit, twitter, etc. and returns a list of recent stories. Find out what is being talked about in your industry – and use it to fuel ideas for your own content generation. This is a seriously useful tool for anyone regularly generating content (which should be all of us).
Still stuck for content? Try this list of 88 content creation ideas … there’s bound to be something to tickle your fancy.
Obvious, but useful. The google keyword tool can help you ascertain competition for your keywords – helping you identify additional keywords you’ve maybe not thought of, as well as helping you determine gaps in your existing keyword strategy. If you can find phrases that are high volume, low competition – you may have identified a gap you can exploit.
Google Trends shows you the search volume for a key term over a period of time. Use it to compare a few different terms to see what’s on the rise, what’s declining – and use that to better determine where to spend your time in content creation.
Two good tools for analysing back links – seeing anchor text, linking domains, number of back links, etc – both for you and your competitors: ahrefs.com and opensiteexplorer.org. The second is a tool from SEOMoz.org. They both give you a certain amount of info for free – but to get the full weight of knowledge, you need to pay. Have a look though – if you’re thinking of spending good time and money on SEO, I’d recommend these tools.
From the horses mouth
Matt Cutts is the friendly face of google search help for web masters … the video I mentioned in my presentation – where Matt talks about social signals being used in Google search – is this one. For 3 minutes, it’s worth a look. He has a YouTube channel here which is useful if you’ve ever wondered how google does something, or why they do something … he answers good questions each week on what signals google is using, how it reacts to certain situations, and so on. Useful stuff.
And actually, I’ve just spent 10 minutes watching this: SEO for startups which would be useful for everyone in the room last night!
So, that’s it – hope that the presentation was useful. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to ask.