Exciting Social Media

twitter baby on the way

If you’ve not been aware of the viral growth of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, then this was the week to change all that.  It started with the news that the Pope now has a Twitter account @Pontifex and even though he has not tweeted he has more than half a million Twitter followers. Continue reading

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Make Your Website Multinational

This article is contributed by Kay Winders.

The Internet is a great unifier, allowing you to market your brand to people around the world. Anyone anywhere can access your content so long as they have an Internet connection. Continue reading

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Free online courses for web entrepreneurs

This article is contributed by Katheryn Rivas.

Most web entrepreneurs set out on their own to start an online business, but there’s nothing wrong with a little help along the way. Aside from the conventional wisdom you might hear from seasoned industry veterans and web entrepreneurs, there’s actually a lot to learn about business online.

Specifically, a budding entrepreneur could profit from the many free online courses in business and financial management that abound on the Internet. Here I’m not talking about “business courses” that amount to nothing more than a brief PowerPoint presentation on leadership. There are a number of well-respected colleges and universities that offer free (!) online courses in some seriously complex subjects. With a free business education at your fingertips, what do you have to lose in trying them out? The best that could happen is that you become a savvier entrepreneur.

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Free Marketing Tips For Internet Startups

This article is contributed by Sam Peters.

When you’re starting an online business, you probably have no shortage of ideas, motivation, and grand plans for the future of your enterprise. But there is one notable area where you likely have a short supply: finances. Unless you have personal reserves or an already-set collection of investors, there’s a good chance that your ideas will have to initially be implemented with a tight budget in mind.

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Google Docs and Charities

Given the challenging environment for charities, with ever more charities and reduced donations by donors, any charity must always be on the lookout for ways of improving efficiency.

Free is good

In consequence, any charity must look at any supports that are available to help them to do their work more effectively.  If the gift horse is free it’s very tempting to not check the teeth too carefully.  However any of these gift horses must be fed since it takes up the time of staff and volunteers.  You must always be careful to monitor the benefits received versus the human effort involved in achieving those benefits.

One of the most effective operational supports by far and on which Google is investing major effort is only now becoming more visible.  That’s Google Docs and many charities are finding it a real boon.

If It Ain’t Broke …

Adopting a new way of doing things involves change. It’s very natural reaction to wish to avoid change, particularly if something seems to be working fine.  Why take the risk that something may go wrong.  Even if the new approach will be slightly better, why invest all the effort in learning a new system.

In this case, the new approach is not just slightly better: it’s dramatically better.  Of course many of us have invested huge amounts of time and money to have Microsoft operating systems and Office programme suites sitting inside our computers.  In many cases we are skilled in using them to achieve remarkable results.  How can much simpler systems allow us to achieve those same remarkable results?

Even if you know this must be wrong, I encourage you to keep an open mind while you try the new approach.  Luckily you don’t have to go through some long training program to get up to speed.  You don’t need to read the instructions.  Just muddle through and you’ll surprise yourself.  Simpler can be better.

Google Docs is Cloud Computing

If you have not heard the term before, Google Docs is an example of Cloud Computing.   All that any user of such a system needs is a simple computer that has access to the Internet.  That can even be a smart phone like an iPhone.  All the hard work is done on servers owned by the provider of the Cloud Computing system.

If you find this somewhat daunting, then remember this same approach is being used in some of the most under-developed regions of the globe.  Cloud computing works well in India.  Farmers may use the cheapest of cell phones to check the best way of managing their crops through software that is installed on the central government computers.

Any review of what is happening in India will quickly show that we are dealing here with something that will dramatically change the way organizations operate. The article, How Cloud Computing is Changing Corporate Strategy, spells out the huge potential of this technology.

Cloud Computing is Software As A Service

Another term you may hear is Software As A Service, often shortened to SAAS.  No longer do you need to buy costly software and install this on your own hard drive in your laptop or desktop computer.  You connect via the Internet with a computer owned and operated by the SAAS provider which runs the software.  If there are any updates of the software, that is done automatically on those distant servers.  There is no additional cost to the user to be using the latest version at all times.  Any output files you create are held within your secure storage area on the SAAS provider’s server.

What Google Docs Offers

In effect Google Docs gives you an Open Source version of software equivalent to what you might normally buy under the brand name of Microsoft Office.  It allows you to handle documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, images, etc. and the capabilities of the software are growing all the time.

In addition, Google Docs can  hold all files created in what it calls collections, which are equivalent to folders.  There are excellent search facilities for all files in these collections, as you might expect.  You can also upload files if you wish.  This means that you can create on the storage space allotted to your Google account (up to 1 Gb for free) a repository of all the important files that you might normally have scattered around your computer hard disk.

The beauty of this is that you can access your Google Docs account and work on your files from any computer with a browser.  You are not limited to your own desktop or laptop computer.

When working on a file wherever you may be, the file is automatically and frequently saved as you make revisions.  This does not mean that you lose earlier versions of your file since the complete history of all revisions you (or your collaborators) have made is readily to hand.

Sharing Google Docs

There are several advantages in working in Google Docs, rather than working on files held on your own computer’s hard disk.  Here we will discuss the single most important of these: sharing files with collaborators.

Remember the traditional way of working on files where you wish to involve other collaborators.  You prepare a Word file or an Excel file and then send an e-mail with the Word or Excel file as an attachment to all your collaborators.  In rare cases, this may be designated as spam to certain recipients and their spam filters may mean they are unaware that a message and file was sent to them.  If the file is large and they are using Office Outlook or Outlook Express, then this may tie up their computer some time while the file is downloaded.

If all goes well, each collaborator must review what was sent and react without knowing what the other collaborators may be thinking. If each sends back their comments on what is proposed, then these must all be combined.  A combined file must then be resent to all collaborators.

The alternative approach with Google Docs is that you prepare a single file in Google Docs and you provide a web link to that single file in an e-mail message to all your collaborators.  The file can be any of the allowable formats including equivalent files to Word or Excel files.

Each collaborator can be given the right to edit it or to merely view the document.  If they have the right to edit, they can also just add a comment if they wish at some point in the document.  They could also add highlighting to a section of the document, where they feel further thought may be appropriate.

At any given point in time there is only one file ‘in play’.  If two collaborators open the file at the same time, then each will be aware of any amendments the other is doing as they occur.  Any other collaborator who comes along later will have the benefit of seeing what these suggested amendments are.

Next Steps

If this overview has whetted your appetite, then you may wish to read an upcoming article that describes in greater detail the advantages of using Google Docs.

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Cloud Computing Takes To The Road

Image representing VMware as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

If you have missed out on cloud computing, then one application of this may be coming to a city near you. Perhaps without realizing it, you may be using a cloud computing application such as Google Docs. Many may also be using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system such as that provided by SalesForce.com which is also on the cloud.

Now you can see some further cloud computing applications when VMware Takes Virtualization on the Road With VMware Express.

VMware, Inc., the global leader in virtualization solutions from the desktop through the datacenter and to the cloud, today announced that VMware Express will hit the road this week. VMware Express is a state-of-the-art mobile datacenter, demo lab and briefing center designed to bring desktop virtualization and cloud computing solutions from VMware directly to customers and partners across the United States and Canada. VMware Express Virtualization Tour 2010 will stop in 150 cities and is sponsored by AMD, Cisco, Dell, EMC, MDS Micro, NetApp and Xsigo.

VMware desktop and server virtualization solutions decouple business-critical applications from the underlying hardware and provide unprecedented flexibility and reliability. VMware backup systems are available to ensure complete security and robustness.

The Vsphere brings you your own private cloud with datacenter virtualization. Through this, you can optimize IT service delivery and deliver the highest levels of application service agreements with the lowest total cost per application. You can get up to speed on this by following some of the Vmware vsphere training videos that are available.

To give you a full grounding in all these applications, Vmware training courses can expand your horizons on what is possible. As you might say, the sky’s the limit.

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Authentic Souvenirs For Sale

Australian luge

As we all catch our breath after the highly successful Vancouver Winter Olympics, it is natural to think of ways of remembering those exciting days. One way is to buy a memento that will make a lasting souvenir in the years to come.

Authentic souvenirs can be difficult to verify particularly if you are buying at a distance. Any help you can get is very welcome. You might do worse than check out these tips to insure you’re buying authentic Olympic souvenirs.

Thousands are scrambling to get a piece of Olympic history without going to Vancouver. From mittens to pins the race is on to snatch up a piece of the winter games. More than 1,700 Olympic collectibles are currently on eBay and Craigslist.

These range from the ordinary to the obscure. One Australian Olympian sold her luge suit on eBay to raise money for the family of the athlete from Georgia killed during a luge test run.

It is important to get authentication for such souvenirs often with documentation that carries a signature. You can also use a credit card so you can dispute the charge if you do get a fake.

When buying souvenirs from another country, it is always best to buy from sources that the locals use. That means that to buy Australian souvenir gifts, you will always be more confident if you know that you are dealing direct with an Australian souvenir gift store. Authentic souvenirs are the very best way to acquire gifts that will have lasting value. Buying where discriminating Aussies make their purchases is your very best assurance.

Silent Auctions Move Online

The Silent Auction / Pub Night combination like that being run by VTEA can be a most useful contributor to the funding of the charity. Folk get together for an enjoyable evening and at the same time the charity gets a useful influx of cash. Depending on the value of the items being auctioned, the contribution for the charity can be very significant.

Now Jon Carson, CEO of online auction platform cMarket, suggests that, as with so many other events, the Internet is changing the way things get done. He suggests that the time for Silent Auctions is over and that Online Auctions Provide Greater Convenience and Fundraising Potential.

Although he acknowledges that live auctions are alive and doing fine, he believes that silent auctions are broken. He cites a number of reasons for this but the biggest killer in his opinion is the lack of “competitive arousal,” a condition that Carson describes as “when things get silly before the auction closes.

Clearly, a live auction still has this last-minute frenzy built in, as bidders pay rapt attention and vie to get their bids in while in direct competition with one another. A silent auction, however, dilutes the frenzy; conversation, entertainment, and food compete for attention with the items up for bid. “The clipboard doesn’t exactly get up and follow you around the room,” Carson says.

The online auction changes this, allowing charities, colleges and universities to tap into their unique resources, target a wide range of bidders, and use tools that eliminate the need to lug items for bidding to and from the event venue.

The Internet removes the barriers of time and geography. This is particularly important for higher education, because alumni are dispersed. With the Internet a fund-raising auction can reach a much larger audience of alumni, including those who could not travel to a silent auction event and those who could not make it because of time constraints and/or scheduling difficulties.

Obviously, the fundraising potential of an event increases dramatically if one can target bidders in several different time zones and walks of life, rather than simply those who can attend an on-site event.

It seems quite clear that as with so many other events and processes, the online version of the auction brings many advantages over silent auctions and even over live auctions and all at a reduced cost. That’s an unbeatable combination.

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Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime Or A Minute

Image representing Seth Godin as depicted in C...
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http://www.prestonlee.com/archives/67

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Gab Goldenberg feels that Seth Is Wrong On Paid vs Free Journalism.  I am not clear on his reasons for saying that since I feel that Seth Godin would agree with much of what Gab has written.  For example Gab lists the reasons journalists used to get paid were that:

  1. They didn’t mostly leverage the branding that broad distribution got you. Only syndicated columnists typically did well enough to have book deals and speaking gigs that made them any decent money. This was wasted branding, imho.
  2. They covered stuff that most people would find it a chore to write up, like municipal politics (Oh no, they’re moving trash day to Sunday!) or that others were not vying to report and for which there was thus no competition (eg Watergate).

He goes on that nowadays, newspapers are mistakenly filling their pages with wire content. This commodifies them. As suggested previously, the path to saving newspapers is more journalism, not less! More research, less rehash!

It all sounds like the same hymn sheet to me.  Perhaps the title was to catch the eye just as that of Seth Godin’s was with Malcolm is wrong.  Seth Godin starts off as follows:

I’ve never written those three words before, but he’s never disagreed with Chris Anderson before, so there you go.  Free is the name of Chris’s new book, and it’s going to be wildly misunderstood and widely argued about.

The Malcolm referred to is Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, and someone who is always worth listening to. Seth Godin too is a little wide ranging in his diatribe but his final paragraph is the real meat:

Neatness is for historians. For a long time, all the markets for attention-based goods are going to be messy, which means that there are going to be huge opportunities for people (like you?) able to get that most precious asset (our attention) for free. At least for a while.

Indeed I think messy will now describe the Information space for ever.  There is essentially zero cost and zero barriers for anyone who wishes to add to this Tower of Babel. Two factors will dictate whether anyone can make money out of this. 

  1. Some (authors) will do it because they can stand out from the crowd and gain a following.
  2. Others (search engines) will make money because they can highlight what others may wish to find. 

Unfortunately for so many others who cannot get anyone’s attention, they will waste their sweetness on the desert air.

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Latest Gmail Phishing Very Tough To Spot – Watch Out

If Phishing is a new term to you then please read this post. Wikipedia will tell you that “phishing is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.” Often it may look like a message from your bank, or it could be Paypal or eBay. The phisher does not know whether you really have an account, but tries everyone in the hope that some may fall from it.

Here is one of the best phishing exploits I have seen. I have now twice received a message apparently from Google within the past three days that read as follows:

phishing Gmail message

When you click on the link, then you see the familiar Google Gmail Welcome page. 

Phishing Gmail Welcome Page

Except that this is not the regular Google page.  If you look up at the address field, you will find the URL is on the domain, Phishing website .

Checking WhoIs for this page you will find that the administrative contact is the following person.

Phishing Administrative Contact

Undoubtedly if I had keyed in my Gmail username and password, that gentleman would have had access to my Gmail account and could do whatever he wished with it.  Needless to say I immediately changed the password, in case he had already been there.

This is a particularly difficult one to spot, so it is important to be extra vigilant.  Google has some good information about Messages asking for personal information.  It also provides more detailed information about Suspicious results and strange behavior: Phishing attacks in other words.

You can forward such phishing Gmail messages to phishing@google.com and can send the Phishing URL to the Google Phishing team using their Phishing Report.  Google also provides a link to Stopbadware.org, where you can learn more about malware that can infect your computer.

Some phishing attacks are not too difficult to spot, often including spelling mistakes and somewhat curious links.  This particular current Gmail phishing incident is highly professional and the only clue is that URL address when you click on the apparent Google link. 

Please spread the word rapidly.  If you are on Twitter, then please ReTweet the message below.

Pl.RT: Important Alert: Latest Gmail phishing exploit is very tough to spot: http://su.pr/5SFqGS : pass it on.

Undoubtedly many people will be taken in.

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