Monday, November 23, 2009

Questioning the Utility of the iPhone and iPod Touch

One of the main arguments most giddy teenagers use to convince parents to buy them an iPhone or iPod Touch is their actual utility for doing useful stuff (such as accessing Useful Crap (Oh my goodness, what a witty comment!)). Their irksome shrieking voices utter flawlessly planned lines that often breach these confines: "There are apps that'll help me do my homework," and "I can become more organized with calendars and stuff," and "I won't have to be on the computer all day to do stuff," and the always effective "BUT WHY!?!??!?!"
Of course, while it is impossible to combat the latter, you may have some luck using pure logic to clash with the other ones. But let me join their side (because after all, I am somebody who wants $300 crap that I'll probably never really use) for a second. It's true; you'll have to concede that there are apps out there that can help kids do their homework. There are study guides and question-and-answer apps and all the other stuff. There are many calendars and event organizers that can really be of great value. And in fact, it's quite possible that you will be able to re-claim the home computer as yours. This cannot be argued. You can even concede that the iPhone may be one of the most utile machines on the planet. I mean, it's got a phone and a camera and all those apps and a GPS; it's geektastical gold.
But that's not what the real question is. The real question is, how often are your kids actually going to use the goody-two-shoes features? Will they be reading up on the day's economic fluctuations or will they be reading up on the latest developments in the Paris Hilton saga? Will they be communicating ideas with friends about the American Revolutionary War or will they be communicating ideas with friends about the next big party? Will they be busy making an agenda or will they be busy popping touch-screen bubble wrap?
These are all questions that must be considered. Well actually, I'll just tell you the answer and save you the hassle. It's always the second answer. Simple as that. No matter how much they whine, "BUT DADDY!!! I WILLLLL!!!" they won't.
So come the holiday season, don't donate 300 bucks to Steve Jobs' plan to take over the world. You can get a workable MP3 player or even an iPod for $100, $150. Then hey, maybe you'll spend 20 bucks on getting them to remember what those obsolete books were all about.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Breaking News: Facebook Downed by Twitter in Number of Users, Bankruptcy Looming

OK, I'm going to tell you right off the top, Twitter has nowhere near the number of users that Facebook has and it'll be a while before Facebook goes bankrupt but we can dream, can't we? Well the deal is, Facebook is the most popular social networking platform on the web and its reputation is expanding faster than Barack Obama's line-up of misguided, utopian legislation.
Everyone wants a Facebook account because everyone has a Facebook account. The most popular social network generally becomes the even more most popular social network because social networking is a narcissistic popularity device, or euphemistically, connecting with as many people as possible.
Becoming a fan of crunchy looking leaves is obviously an attempt to make yourself look like a joker. At the same time, becoming a fan of Michael Jackson is an obvious attempt to make yourself look cool. And posting your responses to surveys is an obvious attempt to make yourself look frisky and likable and witty.
But when a narcissistic popularity device ceases to function just like every single one will eventually, people stray away to the new big narcissistic popularity device. Think about it, MySpace lost to Facebook because of its complex and less-than-sleek features that made operating a MySpace account, way to hard. Now think about this: Isn't Facebook just following right in MySpace's footsteps?
Facebook started as a humble college social network then expanded to cater to the entire world. It's changed the homepage layout several times to "improve the efficiency". They've added little customization features to the status updates and they've even started giving us recommendations on who we should start talking to more. They've stolen every feature that Twitter made and added them to its interface. They continue to develop because they think it's quite productive; after all, it has gotten them into profitable status.
However, if anything, all this feature-loading is congesting the site and being counter-productive. When you type in "", you don't see a nice, clean-looking page anymore; you see endless updates from every single friend and every single page you've subscribed to in the middle, each with profile pictures and other pictures and comments and "likes" and buttons prompting you to share these updates.
Then you've got more updates plus robotic suggestions and narcissism-extending requests and events and "pokes" on the side. It's gotten so bad that I'm just not looking at anything anymore. I've become a rebel and switched to Twitter.
Twiter barely has a feature and that's the best part. All you are expected to do is make updates on your status, maybe favorite a few tweets and participate in the number sign phenomenon. You're not obliged to check every photo that your friends have posted and watch all those boring ten minute videos. You don't have to bother joining fan clubs or sending people virtual gifts. There aren't applications. All you do is tweet. And that rocks.
Facebook is over-complicating itself and is failing to be that perfect way to inflict our self-centred comments on others. In fact, the internet as a whole is over-complicating itself. Who knows when Internet will be the outdated weirdo medium that radio and television are, and some other grand platform will take over the minds of our children? Who knows?

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Only Youtube FLV Video Converter that's Actually Working for Me

My search for a way to download YouTube videos as keepsakes began in the heart of the Obama Presidential Campaign, during the Democratic National Convention. I'd heard some pretty damn inspiring words on those few few days and I thought it'd be nice to be able to have Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama and the one and only Barack Obama on my MP3 player (which sucks, by the way). So it started with the search query, "online youtube video converter" on Google, which led me to VideoConvertX.
This site worked great for the longest time and in fact, I was very satisfied. However, when I wanted to download Bill Clinton's big speech, I went through the usual process: paste the URL, input my email, wait for the conversion to finish (indicated by email). However, once I received this very convenient email notice and went to click on the link, suddenly, no download thing showed up. I tried it several times after that, but it continued to fail miserably.
Then, one of my friends advised me to try It actually worked fine for a few conversions but then halted abruptly. And by the way, don't even bother trying to go to because the site has been taken down, although it remains at the top of most Google queries for video converters.
And after going through a bunch of sites that failed to meet my relatively loose requirements, I've found one that works. Yes. It's Convert For Me. It does what you want a video converter to do; it converts Youtube videos into several formats that you can save onto your computer or portable device.
And for those of you who skipped right to the URL, you missed a damn epic story.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Finally, An Alternative to Google Trends that Actually Works: Find the Web's Biggest Trends with Surchur

I've always thought that somebody needs to make a site that summarizes the big things happening on the web at any given time. Google Trends is an attempt at this, albeit the fact that it is horrendous. Well, I think I've hit the jackpot with Surchur, the most comprehensive listing of the web's trends.
Surchur calls itself, "The dashboard to right now," and rightfully so. The operators of the site provide hourly updates to "The Realtime Board", a list that aesthetically shows what's hot. There are two lists on this board: Hot topics and Catching fire. Hot topics lists what's hot right now, while Catching fire lists what's rising quickly. Meanwhile, each listing is followed by a ranking of its popularity on Surchur itself, the blogosphere and Twitter in addition to where the listing is most popular (the feared Google Trends, Yahoo! Buzz, Twitter Trends, Technorati, Bing xRank or CNN Popular).
Also accessible is a "surch engine", which lists hot URLs from blogs, social networks, news sites, media sites and product listings. Users can influence these results by making comments or voting on how good the URL is. And at the bottom, Surchur conveniently shows all the top results from other big "web categorizers" such as Digg, Delicious, Google Blog Search and Newsvine.
Plus, all this is packaged in a clean, appealing template that makes everything neat and easy-to-read. So Surchur is the site and check it out, it might interest you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The 5 Irrational Reasons Why You Want to See Michael Jackson's "This is It" in Theatres

Going with the spirit of paying tribute to Michael Jackson, I'm going to tell you the real reasons why you're paying 9 bucks to see "This is It". You're probably thinking, "It's a good movie" or "I love Michael Jackson" and perhaps these reasons to apply to you. Unfortunately though, the vast majority of the 20 million people who will see "This is It" this week don't get to use those. It's sad but true. Here are the 5 real justifications:

5. You think it will help you become like MJ

This is a classic case of people feeling a need to satisfy their sub-concious fantasies of becoming rich, famous and loved. If these things are already part of your goals, you might think that watching "This is It" will make you informed and give you inspiration to "do great things".

4. You need to feel like you were a part of the tragedy

When something big happens during your lifetime, you want to feel like you were right in the centre of it. You want to feel like somebody who genuinely mourned his death and you want to feel involved in his great life and legacy. This is similar to the story of Barack Obama, the first African-American president in United States history. Everybody wanted a piece of campaign merchandise, whether a shirt or a bumper sticker, because they want to be identified as a part of the movement.

3. You want to have credit as a true fan

Half the people who never liked Michael Jackson's music suddenly started flooding into HMV to buy his CDs and memorabilia. This is because they want to be considered a real, die-hard Michael Jackson fan because that's just the "cool" thing right now. Seeing "This is It" in theatres is something I know people will be boasting for decades to come. They saw the tribute to the king of pop in theatres!

2. You want to feel like you're dong a good deed

It's true. When you go to a funeral of a person you never really knew or liked, one of the factors is that you can feel nice. After all, you're acknowledging and mourning somebody's death; what a nice thing to do! And even better, it's a famous person that everybody likes and maybe I'll even cry in between because that'll really show I care. But really, watching a movie isn't doing a good deed. No lies.

1. Because everybody else is

Ah, good old peer pressure. It's a contributor to virtually any decision we make. No less watching Michael Jackson rehearse for a concert. We need to be able to join in on the conversation at the bar or we think that watching a movie about a musician that some girl likes will give us a few points. I'm sure plenty of people will be scorning at those who didn't watch "This is It" just to feel that warmth inside that they did so they're cooler.

Why GM Will Never Overtake Toyota Unless They Start Making Hovercraft

This is a little mock advertisement I put together to sort of illustrate what I talk about in this post. It's not very professional since it's on a 0-dollar budget but you get basically what it's supposed to get across:

General Motors was a humble little start-up in Flint, Michigan back in 1908. Not even founder William C. Durant could have predicted that it'd climb to such heights. Throughout the 20th century, it gained a reputation in the United States, as maybe the best practical car around. And even as the 21st century dawned, GM still held the lead in annual sales. Nobody could have predicted that it would have fallen this hard back in the glory days of the mid-1900s. However, since the late 80s, disaster had been knocking on the auto giant's door, and finally it grew big enough to shoot GM down.
But after filing for bankruptcy, the company is making an honest effort to re-gain its footing on the automobile market. Determined executives are calling it the "re-invention". But they are still refusing to look up to their Japanese counterparts, not willing to damage their sensitive ego. Let's face it though, GM will never get past Toyota ever again as long as cars are the prime mode of transportation. I think most average Americans have realized the Harvard executives at GM can't seem to grasp it.
However, I don't mean to convey that GM should admit defeat and just shut down. They don't even have to tangibly admit defeat. But they do have to stop trying to be number one and start trying to be number two.
I know that sounds odd to you. But look at the auto sector as a race on a sheet of ice. GM had been gliding along nicely as the leader for almost a century but then suddenly, it slipped and fell. So Toyota and a few other brands retained their pace and sped ahead. Once GM got back up, they were quite far from the lead position. On the other hand, now they're trying to run at full speed to try and catch up. That's not going to work though running to fast on ice is just going to make you fall again. GM just has to maintain a steady sustainable pace that won't make them fall down but allow them to remain a contender. Here's why.
If you took a poll of every American driver, and I'm sure plenty of agencies have already done so, it's most likely that a majority will consider Toyota the leader in fuel efficiency, value, environmental issues, service and practical performance. These are aspects that GM owned for the past few decades but has been taken away from them. However, GM is outraged over this fact and its inflated ego is telling it to try to snatch all these things back. But common sense and the marketing knowledge, that I know they have, is telling them to project themselves as something that Toyota is not, even the opposite. You're probably thinking, "Well, they can't say they damage the environment, are too expensive, are not fuel-efficient at all and make bad cars." I agree, they can't. But what else do analysts talk about and label Toyota when they continuously assert its excellence? They say that Japanese cars are this and Japanese cars are that. That's the key word, Japanese. But I'm not telling GM to start discriminating against the Japanese, I'm saying for them to advertise the fact that they're American and if you're a real American, you'll buy GM.
Now, I'll admit: A lot of people aren't about to buy a car that they think isn't very good just because they think it'll make them a better American. Then again, there are plenty of people who value this image of patriotism. A 4th generation American is going to be very upset if they feel any less American than anybody else; they'll but a GM. How about companies that want to seem genuinely American; they might use GMs for any transportation needs. These demographics aren't going to allow GM to re-gain top spot but they will allow GM to re-gain its status as a successful company. And research has shown that people prefer to buy from successful companies so who knows what will come of a simple step in the other direction?
Nobody can claim that they're more American than GM but there are plenty of companies who can claim that they make better cars. And maybe GM does make better cars but in the end, its about who the consumer thinks makes better cars.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

All the Top News on One Simple Page: Most Emailed News

Surfing around, sometimes when I see an intriguing ad, I'll click on it, and sometimes, it'll lead to something good. This time, I hit the jackpot. Most Emailed News (or the cheesily awesome way of doing it, Most Em@iled News) is a very simple website. In fact, there's really only one page on the entire site. It just compiles all of the most emailed news from the major sources, and puts them all into a less than beautiful but very effective list.
It's got the top 5 most emailed articles or videos from 17 different sources, including the likes of the New York Times, Time Magazine, Digg, BBC, Wired, USA Today and Youtube.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, "Well, that's pretty useless." That's exactly what I thought when I first came across this. But soon enough, you'll realize that not only does this give you the most interesting and relevant news, but it saves you tons of time in contrast to you doing all this manually.
Well, there's not much else to say about Most Emailed News, it's simple, cool and very effective.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Get Invites to the Hottest New Sites with the Original Invite Exchange: Invite Share

When a new and unique website or web service comes out, often, companies will not grant the general public access. Instead, they will employ the invite system, where new users are only allowed in when an existing user sends an invite to them. Unfortunately though, the original invites are generally sent to a list of famous people to raise hype, and so unless you have a circle of famous friends, you aren't going to get many invites very easily. You may be thinking, "Well, why in the world would any company want to do that?" Really, it's quite an effective strategy that is often used by Google to raise hype and test the service.
Still, it's an inconvenience to us humble users, but the good people at TechCrunch have found a way to jump this hurdle, with their new service Invite Share.
As suggested by the name, the concept of this site is simple; different people exchange invites to different sites for everyone's benefit. So when one user happens to get an invite to say, Google's GrandCentral, they can join and then send out invites to other members of Invite Share. And the more invites to GrandCentral he sends out, the higher priority he gets to have when he signs up for an invite to another site. What this means is that when he wants to get invited to a site through Invite Share, he'll "Add his name to the list". This puts his name somewhere on a list of users waiting on an invite, depending on your priority rating.
It seems useful and foolproof, doesn't it? The only problem with this site, as with many others, is the popularity. By this, I mean, there's too much popularity on the receiving end but not enough popularity on the sending end. The waiting lists for some sites get to 1000 users and by the time you get an invite, the service you're waiting for might even be released to the public. However, it's not hard to gain priority; if you've just gotten invited to a private service, throw a party, then, join Invite Share and your priority will skyrocket with every invite you send.
And bear in mind that over 100,000 invitations have already been sent and there are 54 sites you can sign up for, so you pretty much can't go wrong giving Invite Share a try.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dear Steve Jobs, the Mac Will Never Overtake the PC and Here's Why

Apple's Macintosh was touted as a revolution in computing because it boasted a graphical user interface. However, from the beginning, the Mac has been fighting an uphill battle likely due to a poor marketing strategy. But with Steve Jobs' arrival at Apple, the Mac has turned around and has regained some of its market share. It will never take over top spot though and here's why.

5. It just isn't that great

It's true. I know all the humorous Mac vs. PC commercials have gotten you thinking many bizarre things but the Mac just is not that good. You probably think that the Mac never crashes, it's good at handling photos and movies, it's got an easier-to-use interface and just about everything else. However, the PC has things to compete with virtually every aspect the Mac thinks its got going. iPhoto, Apple's ultimately awesome photo software has absolutely nothing on Google's Picasa and Windows Photo Gallery. And iMovie has nothing on Windows Movie Maker. That's not all though, there's tons of excellent freeware on the internet that only work on PC.

4. Abnormal

Most people have used a PC for a majority of their computing. They've gotten used to the simple and surprisingly convenient interface of the friendly PC. But then Mac comes along, decides to take away a button from the mouse, put a weird little bar of icons on the bottom of the screen and tweak just about every little thing the PC has done over the years. While Apple thinks it's being innovative and making everything cooler, consumers are just shaking their heads in confusion. And again, many software and computer games are incompatible for Mac because of its "innovation".

3. Impractical

Even most Applers admit that Microsoft Office is a much more effective system than Apple's iWork. The thing is that most people don't want to "create a beautiful document"; they want to create a professional document. So Office beats iWork; that basically wipes out students and business people as potential customers. And what does that leave? I mean, for most people, the prime use of a computer isn't just to play around creating little songs with GarageBand or fiddling with the cool features of iPhoto.

2. No reputation

When you see a guy holding a MacBook, you think "young, creative, eccentric", which might be good for an artist or an actor. And I'll admit, if you're an artist, a Mac will probably cater to your needs more effectively than a PC. However, a great majority of people want to get that professional look holding a smart HP laptop. And if you're trying to close a deal and invite a potential client into your office full of Macs, they're probably going to think, "This is pretty fishy, I don't know if I want to do business with this sort of an odd person."

1. Price

This is without doubt, the one thing that's hindering the Mac from having success. If I can get one of the average, sorta OK Macs for $1000 and I can get a PC with tons of storage, a bunch of RAM, a 20" monitor and a touch screen for just as much money, I'd probably opt for the PC. In addition, with the economic downturn, people aren't going to throw $1000 away at something just because it's cool. On the other hand, maybe these same people will buy a thousand-dollar PC because PCs don't have a reputation for being unreasonably expensive.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Top 5 Google Services That You Didn't Know About

Following my list of the top Yahoo! services that nobody knew about, some readers asked me to do a similar thing for Google's services. Of course, Google has become the more prominent of the two so it was quite a bit harder selecting services that were both good and unknown from their repertoire. But with a bit of work, I've come up with the top 5 Google services that you didn't know about.

5. Knol

Google Knol has really not risen to prominence; it's just not a unique idea. Basically, users write "knols", instructional articles about any topic and anybody can read these. Still, it's a pretty good resource for how-to because generally, the articles are quite a bit more detailed and authors know more about the topics they write about.

4. Google Scholar

Google Scholar is good for anybody doing extensive research into a particular topic. Simply type in a search term, and it will return only a list of "scholarly" results, which include books and essays by notable authors. The only problem is that you have to pay to access most of the scholarly articles.

3. GOOG-411

GOOG-411 is one of the many services that Google doesn't make a penny offering. That's because it's a free phone directory of businesses around your area, very convenient if you're on the go and need to find a business without internet. Just dial the toll free number, 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) and you will be prompted to say your location and the business type you want to reach (maybe "Toronto" and "book store"). After that, you'll hear a bunch of listings of book stores around your area.

2. Google Health

Google Health is a product that allows you to create your own health profile for you and your doctor to access when it's needed. Here, you can list everything related to your health, from medications to allergies to test results to insurance to immunizations. In addition, you can find doctors around your area and use other online health services as well. This is very useful for anyone who has any health problems at all.

1. Google Books

Google Books is an absolutely comprehensive database of essentially every book you'll ever want to read. But there's more to it than just the pure number; each book result is overflowing with details. There will of course be the number of pages, publishers, publishing date, author and reviews. But that's just half of it. Also included in many listings are a preview of what's inside, related books, popular passages from the book as well as links to where you can buy the full version.

Honorable Mention:

Google Transit

I couldn't include this in the main list because it can't really qualify as a complete service yet, but keep an eye on Google Transit. Basically, it uses the public transit maps of different cities or regions to generate routes for you to take to get to your destination. So you can see why this would be such a useful service. And it's expanding quickly as well; it already has the transit maps of numerous municipalities throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. So soon, you'll even be using Google to help you find public transit. Neat, huh?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Useful Crap's YouTube Premier!

Yes. It's finally here. Useful Crap, the tech blog for the rest of us has created a YouTube Video. It will truly show you why people who aren't geeks need technology too. But I won't explain to you, I'll let Gary the gangster do the talking!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Your Very Own Back-to-School Checklist: What to Buy Before School Starts

I've seen lists on what you have to do before school starts and I've breezed through a few that list a few writing utencils but stop at that. But never have a come across a simple list of every single school supply you might possibly want to bring. This is what I've tried to create here:


Pencil crayons
Permanent markers

Writing Accessories

Mechanical pencil refills/lead
Pencil sharpener


Blank paper
Construction paper
Graph paper
Index cards
Lined paper
Post-it notes


(Portable) hole punchers
Adhesive labels
File folders
Locker organizers
Paper clips
Report covers


Cell phones


Math set


Computer monitor wipes
New clothes
Paper weights
USB sticks

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back-to-School Special: Top 7 Tips to Saving Money on School Supplies

As the summer winds down, every parent needs to do some back to school shopping. However, budgets have definitely tightened with the economic crisis and now, more than ever, you have to worry about every dollar you spend, even on school necessities. Here are some tips on how to save money while doing back-to-school shopping.

7. Buy in bulk

While 40 pencils might cost you $2, 10 might cost you $1. Obviously, you're constantly trying to get the most stuff for each dollar. Hence, common sense would tell us to buy the 40. On the other hand, some people just think about the dollar amount and get uneasy when spending more. But think about it. Do you really think that your child (that clumsy little kid) will be able to hold onto 1 pencil for even a week, let alone a whole month? And besides, even if you don't need all 40 pencils to get through the year, you've still got next year...

6. Look for coupons

You may be skeptical that Staples or Target will be giving out coupons but get your hopes up because perhaps these two particular stores aren't giving anything. But trust me, there will be at least one store that will and when you miss that $10 discount, you can't say I didn't tell you. Anyway, the best coupon site around has to be RetailMeNot, which is loaded with good deals and has an excellent interface.

5. Don't buy what they don't need

Sure, it'd be nice to have a customizable stamp maker or a label printer or a pack of blue staples but there's not need to splurge on school supplies. Just buy the basics; pencils, pens, erasers, a glue stick, a ruler, a calculator. They don't need white-out or tape to carry with them to school or an electronic dictionary. You know they'll barely use any of these items.

4. Get them to use their old stuff

Maybe their binder has a few scratches and has a bit of dirt on it but get your child to use old stuff again. Pencils that haven't run out of lead and erasers that are only half-used can still be packed into a bag for next year.

3. Don't waste

You have to teach them not to waste anything that they have. Staples can't be used to draw a picture and you can't use full bristol board as scrap paper. Have a scrap paper bin and a few old things that they can play around with.

2. Compare prices

This can be done quickly with Google Product Search. Just type in what you want and it'll return the most relevant results with prices and retailers conveniently included. Also, you can organize the items by price, then go to the cheapest retailer for each thing.

1. Don't worry about brands

Maybe they'll want the best clothes, but hopefully, your child won't care about the brand of his pencil. And you won't be cheated in quality either; most school supplies are around the same, whether generic or "luxury".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why Band Hero Will Rock Harder Than You Could Ever Imagine

Adam Levine Headlines Band Hero, The Next Instalment in the Guitar Hero Series
Many rockers are awaiting the arrival of the next instalment in the Guitar Hero Series, Guitar Hero 5, which is scheduled for launch this fall. However, feeding off its hype is a very different-natured game, which will also be launched this fall by Activision. The new title, Band Hero, is getting plenty of attention because of its appeal towards teen pop junkies, with a line-up of top-40 tracks. Here's exactly why Band Hero won't be that gimmicky little game the Guitar Hero super-fans are claiming it will be:

Pop is Popular

You can say what you want about how the top 40 songs are all badly formed techno garbage but the definition of top 40 is that they are more popular than not top 40 songs. Therefore, more people know these songs and like these songs. And one of the major holes in Guitar Hero was that, while everyone enjoyed the interactive gameplay, they would have appreciated a few songs they knew as part of the line-up. Band Hero will fill that hole.

Teen Audience

With teens, when something gets hot, it'll spread like wildfire. Just look at Hannah Montana and The Jonas Brothers. And there isn't much of a doubt that with pop sensations like Taylor Swift and Adam Levine headlining Band Hero, that the game will take off. I mean, look at 17 Again featuring Zac Efron; it's not like the movie was any good, it's just that it incorporated something that the younger generation already adored. The same concept will work with Band Hero.

Suited for Novices

It's more satisfying when you're getting 100% on expert than when you get booed off the stage for your lack of ability, even on easy. Hence, the novice crowd who don't actually play guitar or drums, will be able to enjoy the simpler sets of notes instead of desperately mashing buttons.
With this, Band Hero is touted as the family-friendly Guitar Hero, with it's "E-10+" ESRB rating. But I don't believe that for a second since most hits these days are ... inexplicably unappealing to the older generation.

Even Rockers Can't Resist

Maybe DJ Hero (which is also coming out in the fall, no jokes), is going a bit to far but even the Metallica lovers will probably just say, "Hey, what the heck? It's made by the guys at Guitar Hero so it can't be that bad." And how about them game collectors; there's nobody easier to get money from than a hardcore game collector.

With all this, I'm not saying Band Hero will actually be of good quality. I'm saying that it will be popular and everyone will buy it.

Find Ways to Stay Active When School Starts: Find Sports Now

With America's obesity rate rising, somebody had an simple but excellent idea to solve a growing problem. FindSportsNow is the web's largest directory for recreational sporting activities throughout the United States.
People running sports can post the activities as advertisements or listings and those looking for them can find these activities. Listing is free and a good source of advertising so there's no reason users wouldn't want to post.
And for the people who want to get playing, the advantage is obvious. You don't have to spend hours doing Google searches just to find that everything you got wasn't in your city. Just select your state, city and look for the sport you want and you're all set. Listings provide you with the age group, gender, location, description, website, contact information as well as a few photos.
But if the sport you want isn't listed when you search, simply subscribe to the RSS feed for that sport and you'll be notified when a listing does come up. Definitely pretty convenient for if you don't have very much time.
However, the site may not be absolutely overloaded with listings right now, but with the digital age engulfing us, no longer will we use supermarket bulletin boards; instead, we'll be using FindSportsNow.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Online Lost and Found Listings at The Found Bin: Practical?

Everyone loses things. Sometimes its just a pen and sometimes it's a laptop or a diamond ring. But imagine, if a few clicks could get you that item right back, for free. That's the aim of The Found Bin, the internet's largest lost and found directory.
After you sign up, The Found Bin enables you to search among thousands of listings of lost or found items and animals. You can search the directory by specifying the make, manufacturer, color, serial number and even location.
Or if you can't find it when you look at first, you can post the details about your item to increase the chances of re-uniting with it.
But is this idea really practical? I mean, what are the chances that the person who found your item happens to be part of the handful of users that The Found Bin has. And in addition, look yourselves in the mirror (that's right, I'm Canadian) and ask yourselves, is America really nice enough to return your item, especially if it's of value. Plus, does anyone want to spend time broadcasting what they've found for someone (who might just be fake) to claim? Not likely.
But this definitely earns an honorable mention for a good idea. Maybe one day, the world will become a peaceful, collaborative place where everyone will join a huge community of losing and finding and returning items. Maybe one day. But for now, an online lost an found may not work as well as planned.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Top 5 Yahoo! Services that You Didn't Know About

By probably 2003 the world had gone through a major change in web tastes. Yahoo! had been the largest player in the search engine market for a number of years but by that time, Internet users had totally shifted their eyes to Google. And Google has been enjoying unprecedented success with a business model that is defined by simplicity and innovation. No longer would Yahoo!, MSN and AOL's model based on the sheer number of services, be effective.
However, the sheer numbers still are very important and Yahoo! shows us that just because it has way too many, doesn't mean it doesn't have quite a few good ones. Of course, everyone knows that Yahoo! has many great services; there's Yahoo! Answers, Fantasy Sports, Delicious, Flickr, Finance, Calendar, Mail and Search. These pages are legitimately better than most or all of their competitors.
But there are several notable services that linger in obscurity and do not enjoy the same popularity. Not many people will even have a clue that these existed, but they do, and they're quite good too.

5. Yahoo! Food

Yahoo! Food is a part of "Shine", a service mainly targeting women. But really, Yahoo! Food is good for anyone who enjoys food, especially the amateur (and maybe even professional) chefs. This service offers plenty of good recipes as well as videos regarding the tasty subject and a few articles as well. Overall, Yahoo! Food has to rank as one of the better guides on the web.

4. Yahoo! Entertainment

Yahoo! Entertainment encompasses Music, Movies, TV and "omg!" (a gossip site). And what can I say; this has to be the best all-in-one guide to entertainment out there. For Music, you get you're radio, Top 100 Charts and some news too. For Movies, you get reviews, summaries, gossip and more news. For TV, there's the must-watch shows, reviews, TV guides and a bit more news. Omg! is well, pure gossip. Maybe just all the normal stuff but when its all combined into one site and added to by the skillful developers on Yahoo!'s team, the final product is that much better.

3. Yahoo! Autos

If you're buying a new car or just have a love for vehicles, this is the site to go to. Spotlighted by strong new and used car search engines, Yahoo! Autos also includes an in-depth research guide to buying a new vehicle, useful finance tips and calculators as well as a guide to car maintenance.

2. Yahoo! Real Estate

Yahoo! Real Estate has everything you need for purchasing a new home. They can help you buy a home or sell a home, with finance guides, home listings, information on the best neighbourhoods to live in and a few specific guides too.

1. Yahoo! Local

Yahoo! Local is basically a guide to everything situated around you. This service lists literally every business, service or event that you want to find. Whether it's a barber, a mechanic or a restaurant, Yahoo! Local can find the ones nearest to you, complete with reviews and contact information. Of course, every listing is categorized neatly for easy search.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why Everyone Loves to Hack Websites and Software (But Mostly Google)

Let's face it, everybody's wanted to hack a website at one point in their life. Being able to take advantage of a page's flaws just seems so awesome. I mean, wouldn't it feel good to be able to hack such a huge site such as Google. But this isn't some random coincidence that everyone wants to hack; it's psychology.
Hacking seems extremely cool because you are able to feel like you're in control and you've triumphed and have the upper hand. This is especially true during an economic crisis where everyone's only experiencing loss and loss and loss. And this rule even works if what you've just pulled off was just a little trick that doesn't actually do much.
But also, it's a lot like get-rich-quick schemes (or what I like to call online jobs); you have this little feeling in your heart that this might just result in something absolutely incredible that will change your life. Of course, usually, this doesn't happen but easy routes to success never grow old.
And this isn't just some hunch that I have. It's backed up by solid numbers: On the trusty Google Trends (which displays traffic for major search terms in the Google system), lists the term "hack google" with more search traffic than "Mississauga", the sixth largest city in Canada. But here's an interesting stat; 8 of the top 10 countries in searching for "hack google" are part of Asia, with Indonesia taking top spot. This translates to English being a mere fourth in the languages that "hack google" is searched in.
Now, site owners are relatively smart ;) and they've really exploited the fact that people love to hack. People are labelling virtually every tiny little manipulation as a "hack", this Blogger-related site being a testament.
So people, stop hacking!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why Twitter is Better than Facebook: How the New Kid is Beating Facebook in Social Networking

The old MySpace and the barely considered Friendster and Hi5 all loom in the background as Facebook takes the spotlight in the social network hierarchy. And for at least another 5 years, the web giant, currently valued at over $6 billion isn't about to take a supporting role (but it seems very ready to take a pay cut).
Still, there is a pesky new kid on the block; but by no means is it a scrawny little midget. Twitter is the real deal and the bright blue birds are making a charge for supremacy (I wish I could say the same about those Toronto Blue Jays). And one day, I believe, Twitter will be the dominating force; here's why:


Every day, people are getting more and more picky about where they waste their time. And the economic crisis doesn't help much either. This is where Facebook's support of videos, photos, notes, apps and everything I haven't yet listed might come back to bite it. Facebook's got a whole bunch of things you constantly have to keep up with while on Twitter, you're not an outlier if you only update your tweets.


Now, it's really tough to explain this phenomenon but if you do try it, Twitter is much more addictive. One major factor, I think, is its simplicity. But another thing is that on Twitter, you want to post anything creative that you're thinking at any given time while on Facebook, you try to connect over little games and comment on each other's photos. And especially with the mobile age dawning, Twitter's model is a better long-term plan.


Last but definitely not least, Twitter is more personalized than its counterpart. Facebook prompts you for a little passive bio and maybe a few "What are you doings?". On the contrary, Twitter's model is based on any thoughts, not just what you're doing; this includes insights, interesting quotes, jokes, anythings. Of course, you can do this all on Facebook too but Twitter is more friendly towards random thoughts.
In addition, on Facebook, you have friends ... well, just to raise your friend count (500 friends guarantees you a spot in the Hall of Fame). However, with Twitter, you only start following somebody, either if you actually know them or if you're truly interested in what they say.

These three important aspects are the things that will give Twitter a slight edge over Facebook.

P.S. I just got Twitter so last I checked, I had 1 follower. You can follow me at:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why Facebook Will Never Turn a Profit

Facebook started out roughly five years ago as a social networking site for college kids. Then it expanded to high schools. Now, it's open for everyone, nearly everywhere to join. Today, it has well over 250 million users, using the network in 50 different languages for many different purposes.
Facebook is universally considered a good site, if not one of the best on the Internet. Still, after turning five years old a month ago, Facebook still has never turned a profit. Don't get me wrong, revenues are soaring; Mark Zuckerberg, the genius behind Facebook, projected that earnings would rise 70% this year. On the other hand, the cost of running a social network is not small either. The talent that Facebook must attract, the development it must constantly undergo and the fact that they have to store every photo, video, note and action from every user, even after they delete their account, all contribute to unyielding costs.
They've tried many different advertising models, each to no avail and the number of experiments going on right now is innumerable.
The general problem is that whenever they make an attempt to introduce new advertising, users revolt and create groups that run somewhere along the lines of "I Hate the New Facebook!" or "I Will Not Pay to Use Facebook". And if you don't have users on your side, advertisers sure as heck aren't going to want to give you their money either.
In addition, the developers of this site have made it so lovely and convenient and useful and awesome that barely anyone even focuses on the few ads on the side. And for good reason too; the ads that are normally scattered around the network include mostly the likes of, "I need a man: Install the Zoosk application and meet girls like me!", "Start a Mafia Family" and "Cariacature yourself!". Obviously, these don't cater to the great majority of the population in the world with an IQ over 1.24.
Oh, but what if they reduce costs? Then, there's the same problem, user dissatisfaction. Facebookers are very demanding people; they've been spoiled to an incurable extent. As soon as they even feel like something's worse off than it was before (which basically means any change to the site), the temper tantrums start flooding in. Of course, regular improvements are part of the appetites of the pickiest as well (so basically, you have to improve the site, without changing it...).
All in all, unless they start charging us to use the site, Facebook will collapse just like its rivals.

How To Be as Likable and Charismatic as Barack Obama

This is a really simple process to making yourself just as president-like as Barack Obama. I guarantee you that this will change your life for the better. This is the one rule that Dale Carnegie forgot when he was writing his book (maybe because Obama wasn't born yet).
Trust me, you really, really need this.
OK, fine. Maybe getting custom Obama-rized image of yourself isn't exactly going to help you succeed in life (or maybe it is, who knows?), but still, it will change your life for the better... if only slightly.
So you remember the amazingly designed Obama posters that featured a close-up of his face- with a look of hope- plastered in red, beige and blue. Well now, you can have your own personalized version of the Obama poster with your face in place of the president's (that's right, you get to replace Obama!). Just head over to, scroll down, and click the huge "Get Started" button for your amazing transformation. From there, you can select from 5 different themes, the Obama theme, the Free Iran theme and a few others.
If you pick one of the first two, you can either choose to use a photo, or take a picture with your webcam (I recommend the webcam). After that, enter the text you want to have on the bottom (Hope, Change, Progress, or just enter your own). You can also adjust the balance of colours meaning that you can select the amount of blue, red and beige that fills your face. Finally, just click the "Take Snapshot" button, and you'll have to do a quick registration at their website and you'll be able to retrieve your snapshot soon after.
So Obama's incredible secrets have finally been revealed. Have a better life, with

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why You Can't Get Paid For Blogging: The "Pay-Per-Post" System Explained

After disappointing results with the pay-per-click system, I started searching for a more surefire way to make a few cents blogging. That's when I came across PayPerPost, the site that claims to pay its army of bloggers to make posts on behalf of advertisers.
Now, this might sound like the first paragraph to one of my posts that would recommend a site, software or item to you. However, it's quite the contrary. It's just a euphemistic introduction to a post that will delve into the flawed paid-to-blog system.
Pay-Per-Post claims to have fooled 265,000 innocent bloggers into joining their forces. Let's hope that you don't become one of the disappointed people crawling out of their ranks. On the other hand, I am not going to apply the label of "total scam" on this site because Izea, the parent company seems like a bunch of good people have apparently made ads for a few big companies. Still, I will apply the label of "unsatisfying waste of time" and this is why.
To begin with, considering blogging your job takes the joy out of it; and as I've said before you can't create a successful blog without liking it. If you blog for pay, you make it a duty and therefore enforce pressure on yourself to keep doing it. Plus, the topics you'll start writing on will become forced and who likes raving about a brand of chocolate cake that tastes like cement?
And trust me, readers can tell when you're being forced to make a post; first of all, because of the fact that you have to announce that it is a sponsored post and second because you'll lose all your personality in any paid-for post. You may be thinking, "Well, they'll still like to read my blog." But the truth is, that nobody likes to read something that is a blatant attempt to sell something, which the writer is getting cash out of no matter how useful or charming. Thus, you might be seeing your readership tumbling rapidly after you start writing fake posts.
Also, there are strict guidelines that regulate your sponsored posts once you join and if you don't follow, you don't get paid. These include mandatory photos, average tacks, Google ranks, Technorati ranks, Alexa ranks, regions, blog hosts and more.
But even when you do loyally abide by these rules, you'll probably never get paid more than a few dimes for each post, that is if you get paid at all.
And if you were to take a look at PayPerPost's website, you'll quickly realize that it follows virtually all the rule of a spam site. The cheesy graphics, the made-up testimonials, the brilliant colours, the fake photos of users etc. etc. etc.
But not only does this apply to PayPerPost, this applies to pretty much all paid-to-blog sites. And for that matter, it applies to pretty much all work-at-home sites.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Comparing America's Top 2 News Magazines: Time and Newsweek Broken Down

These two covers, both taken from the same week, tell a whole lot about this battle.

Time Magazine, the often quoted, well-respected news magazine that just about every businessperson reads. And Newsweek, the not-so-often quoted, not-so-respected, often forgotten, but still considerably well-read news magazine. In this sort of a battle, we almost always, automatically say that Time is quite a bit better than Newsweek. However, don't be so quick; Useful Crap has formulated 7 criteria to evaluate the quality of news of these two prominent United States magazines. This means that how well-designed the magazine is, how good the paper feels, how cluttered the site is, how appealing the logo is and how affordable the subscription is, don't count towards determining who's better in this examination. So let's get started:

1. Conciseness

While Time's articles extend on and on and on, Newsweek's rarely exceed two pages. You may say that detail is a good thing but sometimes, you simply want to get to the point and I often find myself taking a peak at how many pages are left to read in some of Time's articles while I know Newsweek can pack quite a bit into the few paragraphs that are used. In addition, Time has a habit of burying the lead; in other words, making people wait to find the main point while Newsweek is much more succinct. So if conciseness is the game then Newsweek takes the cake.

Time: 0 Newsweek: 1

A somewhat surprising start; let's see if Newsweek will hold on.

2. The Intrigue Factor

There isn't much of a question of who wins in this battle. Although Newsweek makes a decent case for itself with a few small special reports, a new "Conventional Wisdom" poll and a highlight on opinion-based pieces, Time easily triumphs. The latter produces plenty of lengthy specials all pleasantly titled as well as articles that are more fascinating in the nature of the topic (who doesn't want to read about Bush and Cheney's last days?) and the always entertaining Best and Worst Lists

Time: 1 Newsweek: 1

One of these magazines will really make a run for it now. Let's see which one.

3. Importance of News

Ah, what else can be faulted of Newsweek but it's notorious track record of reporting more on insignificant side-news than anything else. These days, while Time spits out articles regarding stem cells and Obama's health care plan, Newsweek is lulling on why Britney Spears is good for you. So what can I say, when you're closely affiliated with CNN, the most trusted name in news (as Time Magazine is), who can fault you one what you cover?

Time: 2 Newsweek: 1

Hey, don't rule good ol' Newsweek out yet.

4. Range/Variety

This has to be the most obvious one. One glance at the link bars on the top of both Time and Newsweek's websites and you'll see what you need to know. Time has sections regarding the U.S., World, Politics, Biz and Tech, Health and Science, Entertainment, Travel as well as People. On the other hand, Newsweek shies in comparison, with only the first five. But that's not the whole story. Newsweek essentially limits itself to those five topics while just peering at Time's homepage will show you that right beside each other are three articles: "Puppies Behind Bars", "Apollo 11's Next Giant Leap", and "Asia's Easy Money Bubble Fueling New Bubbles".

Time: 3 Newsweek: 1

Just like its parent company's (The Washington Post) neighbourhood baseball team, Newsweek is losing again.

5. Quality of Journalism

Despite Time's massive workforce that pumps out the most-read articles day after day, you have to give credit to Newsweek for its efforts. With a smaller workforce, Newsweek actually has recruited some of the better journalists who are dwelling in the shadows. If you actually decide to tune into Newsweek for a little while, you'll probably find their more opinion-based articles a lot more stimulating and entertaining, even if they concern generally petty subjects. Time's articles are packed with hard facts that are tough to remember but Newsweek might actually be fun to read. Not to mention the conciseness.

Time: 3 Newsweek: 2

6. Graphics

This is really tough one; but the final question that it came down to was: "Do photos truly contribute to the insights of the actual article?" And I say, no. Time Magazine not only includes good articles but some of the best photos out there as well. They make news beautiful. But of course, that doesn't count. Time does come out with cool graphics and this might be controversial, but I think that Newsweek wins this battle. "News/Week" a bar at the bottom of every Newsweek page is one of the most useful and innovative things I've seen on a website. It's quite simple but very effective, highlighting the most important articles in every section for every day in a convenient interface. Many other little things put Newsweek ahead in this department as well.

Time: 3 Newsweek: 3

7. Depth

So it all boils down to this. The depth. But there's really no contest here, unfortunately. While Newsweek is concise and easy-to-read, Time is a lot more in-depth. Simply compare the number of special reports and you'll see. Compare the number of videos, the number of photos, the number of pages in each article. And you'll see how much more detail-oriented Time is.

Time: 4 Newsweek: 3

So it was a good battle, but in the end, the victor was the more popular and more powerful, Time Magazine. Even after its complete re-invention, Newsweek falls short in a number of key categories. Time has brute force on its side with the amount of money it is able to spend on its quality. Newsweek doesn't have this privelege. And CNN is a good asset as well while the general mission of Time Magazine seems to be quite a bit better.
Still, they are both insightful news magazines and it may even take other factors to decide on your preference.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Subscribe to All of Your Favorite RSS Feeds- By Email: Feed My Inbox

RSS feeds have never been my thing. I have a knack for forgetting about them and hence, never bothering to check, even though I might like the site I'm subscribed to. Many people just haven't really developed a routine for checking their RSS, despite decent efforts.
This is the idea behind Feed My Inbox, an innovative website that allows you to get email updates on what's happening in any RSS feed. If you're saying to yourself, "Well, what's the point of that? It takes the same amount of time to check your email as it does to check RSS," then this probably isn't the tool for you. This is a tool for people who just can't seem to get used to delving into their RSS feeds every day.
On the other hand, most internet users have developed a routine for checking their email regularly. Feed My Inbox is perfect for people who prefer email over RSS.
When you enter their homepage, you'll see a simple interface; there will be a form asking you to enter the web page that you'd like to subscribe to as well as, obviously, your email address.
As soon as you press "Submit", you'll be sent a confirmation email that has simple instructions: Either click on the first link to be officially subscribed to your desired feed or click on the second link to be unsubscribed.
However, if multiple feeds are found on the page you specified, you will be prompted to select the ones you would like to subscribe to using a checklist. Then, click "Confirm", and you will be sent the same confirmation email.
Subsequent to clicking the confirmation link, you will receive any updates to the feed you subscribed to, by email.
In addition, if you want to be able to manage your feeds in a neater way, you can create an account with Feed My Inbox.
Also, if you manage a website or blog, you can create an easily accessible form that allows visitors to quickly subscribe to your RSS feed by email. (You can subscribe to my blog by email, through Feedburner's widget on the left.)
And if you're hungry for even more convenience, this page provides a "Bookmarklet", which is a link you can add to your bookmarks and click whenever you are on a website that you want to subscribe to by email. This will take you right to the Feed My Inbox confirmation without any entering URLs or email addresses.
Wow, that's a lot of features for such a small service. And that's the magic of Feed My Inbox, the site that lets you convert RSS to email.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Top 8 Things on the Internet That Can Start Your Day Off Right

The daily routine for many people involves waking up, driving to work, getting Starbucks, and then logging onto the computer. There, they first turn to their spam and might even take a peek at a few before emptying it promptly. After that, it's business as usual. Maybe angry letters from customers or a boss.
But it's a lot easier to start with something a bit more, say, idle. And since so many people seem to love to start with email already, I'll focus on email-related things.

8. Sudoku/Word Games

I'm not personally a huge fan of these, but obviously many people are because newspapers make quite a percentage of their money with these. But you don't have to go to a newspaper for these as many sites offer free puzzles sent by email. A good way to sharpen up before a meeting.

7. Word of the day

Amusing and educational, the perfect combination for a good day-starter (and it's not too fattening either). But not everybody loves a cool word. I sure do though; it's a great way to expand your vocabulary, have something to talk about at lunch and kill some time. has an excellent Word of the Day Newsletter if you're interested.

6. Photoblogs/Artwork

If you just wondered to yourself, "Photoblogs, that's a pretty good idea. Why is this all the way at number 6?" then this is probably a good thing for you. However, of course, this really isn't everybody's cup of coffee, so I can't put it at number one. But I personally like photoblogs, and subscribe to the Daily Dose of Imagery. If you want to access a whole lot of other photoblogs, is likely a good idea. And I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to find a decent site that specializes in art either.

5. Good blogs

Maybe a decent sports blog, something about politics or even a personal blog; it just has to be a topic that you're interested in and that you enjoy reading. If the blog doesn't use Feedburner's email subscription tool like mine :D, then you could either take the easy path by using the RSS that is likely included (if not, read this) or use this.

4. Interesting fact or something to ponder

Another source of small talk, or something to laugh about early in the morning while you enjoy Dunkin' (or however you refer to it in the States), Starbucks or Timmy's (if you live in Canada or are an ultra-cool American).

3. Good news

Good news can cheer you up and comes in a quick and easy bundle from the good folks at the Good News Network. Here's the link to subscription. Basically, the Network broadcasts only happy news on pretty much any subject that CNN will cover (CNN takes the bad parts, the Network takes the good). And this is especially good in these times.

2. Joke of the day

This is a classic day-starter and has been around for quite awhile and is still pretty popular. And for good reason; we can all use a hearty laugh before a big day of getting grilled at a question session. Just be sure to go to my link for clean jokes or you might see a pretty noticeable pink slip on your desk a few days from now.

1. Quotations

Many like motivational quotes but sometimes a bit of pure insight can do you some good as well. There are motivational quote feeds galore out there and many other quote feeds as well. But the secret is to subscribe to this quotation feed, part of what I consider to be the most professional and complete quotation site on the web, ThinkExist.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The One Magic Rule to Blogging Success

A lot of different websites give a lot of different tips that you can follow in order to reach a level of success in blogging. There's the always common SEO techniques, social networks, guest bloggers, commenting on other blogs and the likes. However, none of these pieces of advice really capture the essence of a good idea that has turned sour.
Blogging is not about having the top spot on Google or about driving 500,000 people to your site each day. It's really a life lesson just like a lot of things. That's right, bloggging is a life lesson. And the life lesson is that you have to enjoy what you're doing.
The blog has been over-glamourized for about a half-decade now. It's been called everything from the thinking man's memo to the way to the future. Everybody basically has a blog and some passionate bloggers spend hours and hours on each of their ten blogs.
That number sums up to over 200 million weblogs worldwide. That's a lot. If each of these blogs had only 25 posts (a pretty conservative estimate), you'd have to sit on26,455,026 flights from New York to Los Angeles, reading non-stop, to be able to get through all these.
So attaining fame by this means isn't exactly the best path. And it sure as heck isn't the easiest. You're not getting very many visits to your blog before at least 3 years. It's not impossible to have fantastical post that would suddenly surge to the top of Google and give you 1 million hits on your first day, but it doesn't happen often. (And trust me, I've dreamed of this many times before.)
Sometimes you just unwillingly follow the "10 Tips for Immediate Blog Traffic" but find that even doing this takes time. You have to implement a lot of things, from meta tags to a Digg counter to even subscription by email. Then, you've gotta promote, which often takes away a lot of your life. You have to act as the annoying telemarketer always adding links into your email signatures and forum signatures and everything else. And you can't forget learning internet codes, which takes days and days and you still only know the basics. You have to design all the graphics, add little widgets. In fact, I even have a checklist of all the things I need to do to a blog before I make my first post.
And the posting is the hardest. Many sites tell you to have a regular "Tuesday Ramble" or "Noon Hour Laurel" or something of the sort. Trust me, it's not easy doing that. I've never even made an attempt because that's just too much of a commitment.

On the other hand, you can do all of this. It's not hard. In fact, it's easy. But there's one condition. You have to love to blog. You have to love to go after research and make up exciting leads and struggle through the first few years. You have to love to see the results of all your codework and listen to criticism and delete spammy comments. Customizing and creating labels and titles have to be your things.
It's not something just anybody can stay with until the end. But if you keep doing all this, for three years. I guarantee you that you will have a successful blog. Blogging isn't rocket science, it's just a grueling process. It's not like inventing a new gadget or writing a poem. Blogging is about passion, not intelligence or literary skills.
I'll admit, you're only 1 of about 10 visitors I get every day. But maybe this will be my magic post. Never say never.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

7 Alternative Uses for Youtube: Finding the Useful Side of The Video-Sharing Site

Let's face it. Too many of us are spending way too much time on YouTube searching up the latest uselessly silly but somehow trendy videos by NigaHiga or whoever else. Sometimes it is a good dose of entertainment but when you get hooked, spending an hour or even half an hour every day on this video-sharing site, then you have a problem. YouTube should be a utility and not a time-waster so here are 7 good alternative uses for YouTube.

7. Product reviews

Reading a long, grueling product review just to pick out a few important points for 10 minutes is gruesome. On the other hand, watching a 10-minute video on the pros and cons of a product is less so. Trusted media sites and everyday people alike post videos on their favorite and least favorite things, often profane but often useful as well.

6. Getting caught up in the world

If you missed Obama's historic inauguration address, millions tuned into YouTube to watch clips of it in relatively high quality. They weren't captivated by the live moment but it's still nice to know a few good lines from the speech. There are tons of other speeches, news conferences and sporting event highlights displayed on the famed video site.

5. Expressing opinions

Here's my video on staying in Iraq and the dilemma surrounding the Iraq war. Here's another one, a prepared speech on brand name obsession, our adoration of the Abercrombies, Hollisters, American Eagles and Aeropostales. YouTube is a useful way to vent emotions and give honest opinions and insight, receiving public reaction that you could not get from just telling a few friends. Plus, you might get your four minutes of fame.

4. Instruction/Advice

Seminars are constantly posted up that might offer you some life-changing words of wisdom that you'll be able to credit YouTube for. Then there are other simple instructional videos on everyday things, from turning off a calculator to cooling a coke to making your own karaoke tracks.

3. Audio player

If you don't want to listen to radio, don't have an MP3 player, and don't have any tracks stored on your computer, then YouTube is the best option as an audio player. Just type in virtually any song and it's bound to be on YouTube. Most people like it for it's convenience and how easy it is to share music. You can just paste a link and people will be able to hear what you're hearing.

2. Promotion

Organizers might promote their event, start-up bands might promote their CDs, aspiring authors could promote their writing and publishers can promote their websites. Overall, YouTube is a great way to get publicity because no matter what, you are going to get at least 50 views within a month to pretty much any video. That's 100 more eyes on you.

1. Research

There's a lot of intriguing stuff that surprisingly never gets the millions of views that the stupid stuff gets. For a debate, I watched a few videos on gun control. And you can find videos posted by news agency, advocacy groups, companies and more on any issue. But that's not all. YouTube can be Wikipedia in videos and that's what I envision.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Top 6 Biggest Branding Mistakes and Failures: The Products Whose (Marketing) Fails to Impress

There are probably plenty of worse jobs that companies have done but this is what I've come up with. This list only includes products that are still in existence and those that launched in recent history. That means New Coke and the McPizza don't count although they definitely would make the all-time list.

6. Mitsubishi Elevators

Trailing Otis, Kone and several other companies in the elevator industry, Mitsubishi itself has been a massive failure. Its televisions have almost no market share while barely anyone knows about a random food and textiles division. Simply put, Mitsubishi does not stand out with any distinctive color like Ferrari, sound like the Ford Taurus or smell like Mercedes. And that's just its cars. But has anyone ever seen and recognized and applauded a Mitsubishi Elevator? The entire corporation has simply developed a reputation of substandard quality and no uniqueness or innovation, led by a badly trailing automobile division.

5. Microsoft Zune

I have complimented this device on its quality and I still think that it's a good device but from the start, it was destined for failure. After a hyped launch, the "iPod-killer" sputtered throughout its duration on the market at prices nearly the same as the iPod. A confusing interface, lack of unique features and little online capability, the Zune just doesn't have the charm that iPods do. The Zune doesn't even have a variation of the cover flow or genius playlist generator while online features are incredibly poor. Basically, Microsoft, renowned for its no-nonsense Windows operating system, has no right to market share in the MP3 player market, which demands innovation.

4. Samsung Instinct

Don't mess with Apple. The Samsung Instinct never even had the hype that the Zune had and was and still is regarded as an iPhone spinoff. I've never personally tried this device but can tell that its appeal is not anything compared the notorious Apple iPhone. Samsung just came too late in the touch screen world and is facing not-so-great sales as a consequence.

3. Dunlop Sport

Although a good tire manufacturer, Dunlop Sport is a mistake. Athletes are considerably picky about their brands and I know I wouldn't buy tennis balls or golf drivers made by a tire company. Dunlop has never been a leading innovator in any of its sports departments, trailing Wilson and Head in tennis, is a leader in the relatively small squash market, is not even considered as a player in the badminton market, which is the same with golf.

2. Reebok Reebok

In an athletic wear market dominated by Nike and Adidas, Reebok comes in at a lowly third. In the shadow of these two foes, Reebok has a good hockey division and has an adequate share in fan merchandise in the NFL but every other sport puts this brand out of the equation. Little to no media marketing, massively overpriced items, lower quality and simply the shadow of the two giants has not helped the company.

1. GM Pontiac

Have you ever heard of If you've been reading my blog, you have but if you haven't then you probably don't have a clue what I'm talking about. Well, you've probably heard of Pontiac. So why has CalorieLab overtaken Pontiac in daily web reach (website visitors), according to web research company Alexa? Because nobody cares about the sinking division of a sinking GM anymore. GM doesn't even care about Pontiac, which is not included in its four-division focus. This is because what does Pontiac have that's unique? Nothing. It was lauded as the new car company like Saturn. It isn't true American like Chevrolet. It isn't luxury like Cadillac. And it isn't fuel efficient like Toyota.

Do you see the similarities of all these? They all don't have any unique features and they all live in the shadows of a big-name, big-brand player in their market. This is exactly what you shouldn't do. Just some advice.

Why Testimonials Don't Convince Buyers (Anymore)

Testimonials are now officially useless. But they did have a few years of glory back when these little devices were the big thing that was used to sway buyers into trusting a product. However, since then, the dawn of a new type of testimonial has come to town.
The self-testimonial has become a pretty prominent non-factor in the market of scammer websites. Joe Walker isn't a satisfied customer. Cindy Johnson sure isn't either. They're all invented by some coward who thinks he's cool making fake testimonials. And he is anything but cool because some dumb page filled with these dumb things does anything but convince at least adequately intelligent people to make any purchases.
The rare income that these scammers to get is the few people who are too tempted by the small possibility that they could lose 50 pounds in a month on a guided weight loss program that costs $50. Or maybe its a work-at-home program that costs $20 to get started.
But the vast majority of people have simply stopped going to the testimonial parts of websites. If there's a testimonials page, I advise you to immediately close the window in which there will probably be a series of other pop-ups that activate right when you do this.
The plain truth is that companies or web businesses that have seriously established themselves as a brand that can be trusted, don't need testimonials to re-inforce anything.
This is the same with television testimonials. The multicultural actors dressed in business suits, with no facial expression are more lame attempts at making you think that they are real people.
Here's a perfect example of testimonials obviously created by make-up laiden actors who barely know what they're working for. Trust me, it doesn't just happen that they all look like either weightlifters or half-genuine football dads with their goatees and everything.
It's all stupid and it's all crap. Please. Don't ever fall for a testimonial.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

PicApp: An Innovation in Free Images for Blogs

While reading about copyright issues with blogs, I encountered a mentioned website, so I decided to check it out. PicApp offers free images that can be publicly displayed or published on a blog for free (that means you don't have to pay).
The homepage will list the steps: Find an appropriate picture for your blog by typing in search terms as well as selecting from either the editorial (mostly celebrity) photography or stock photography (flowers, grass etc.); then, select it and embed it and your done.
First off, the library of images is updated constantly with a huge number of photos of virtually everyone who has made some type of a name for themself whether it be Adam Levine, prominent singer for Maroon 5, or Guillermo Quiroz, obscure minor league baseball catcher. Sporting events, concerts, political things, film festivals are all covered comprehensively. Food has some good listings and you'll even find results for specific lakes and mountains. However, one complaint that I do have is the fact that say, logos, a particular brand of pencil sharpener or a small business in Maine is not listed. But they're only human. They can't obtain rights to everything and the thousands or millions of photos that they do offer for free publication do make for an incredible resource.
In addition to this, once you've selected something, publishing it is easy. Click on your favorite image and a box will come up showing a preview, listing the HTML code for embedding and even letting you share the photo with others.
On the other hand, it seems that web designers have tried much too hard on the interface. It's painfully slow in virtually every process.
But in an expensive world, it's nice to know that you don't have to pay for a good image.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Micrsoft Windows Vista's Windows Speech Recognition: What Hasn't Been Said About the Voice Recognition Program

There was a fair amount of hype surrounding the Windows Speech Recognition that comes standard with Windows Vista. However, this quickly died after several tests gone wrong and poor reviews galore, broadcasted across the web and on multiple television channels.
People have grown addicted to posting YouTube videos criticizing Microsoft's speech recognition engine. We've seen them speak quite clearly into a decent microphone and watch random words pop up on the screen, time and again. Clearly, it sucks when speech recognition programs don't work and your boss asks you what you mean by "fast pendulum unholy compact unicycle".
But, clearly, we all know the advantages of speech recognition engines and uses of them when they're accurate.
And I'm here to tell you that Windows Vista's standard Windows Speech Recognition software works. If you're an Apple fanboy, you're probably pretty pissed off just at the fact that I complimented Microsoft. But it is true (and by the way, I don't really like Apple).
Of course, it is not 100% effective and doesn't work miracles. After all, it isn't ObamaWare, it's software from Microsoft and you know it's going to have its flaws. In addition to that, it's a free speech recognition software as long as you purchase Windows Vista. You don't hear the phrase "free speech recognition software" very often so be very grateful of Microsoft's contribution.
Obviously, if you want to go ahead and throw $300 at Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking, widely known as the best speech-to-text program out there, you can, and you will get results. But if you'd rather spend that $300 on something else, just stick with Microsoft's version.
An introduction of it for those who haven't tried it is that they'll run you through a training program that picks up your voice's characteristics for improved accuracy. This is after they do a quick configuration of your microphone. This training program will tell you all the little quirks and is incredibly easy to understand from a Microsoft thing. You can open applications, click on web links and of course type with full functionality with Windows Speech Recognition, something most other freeware can't brag about.
And then you're off and running: You say start listening to get it to start working and stop listening to get it to pause for a little while. It's pretty simple.
And as long as you're in a considerably quiet room you're good.
When you see all those videos showing the software's flaws, ignore them. They just have crappy microphones. Personally, I use a headset microphone, the "Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000", which works like a charm. But when I don't want to wear that, I find that a RocketFish desktop microphone is great too.
YouTube users who waste their time making dumb videos showcasing Microsoft's errors aren't the smartest people in our population. Don't listen to them. Windows Speech Recognition is fine. So I say, keep dictating (you'd understand if you had the program).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Re-Birth of Newsweek: Newsweek, America's Second Biggest News Magazine has Evolved

Newsweek: Now vs. Then

Newsweek has changed. For the better. The little things and the big things alike; they've added stuff, taken away stuff, modified stuff, all with a new aim to be a new magazine with a new direction of making it in a tough economy with creativity and intuitiveness. Without a doubt, it's the right step but even with the total and utter and complete makeover, it'll be tough to find success as a print publication looking for market share in these tough times.

How Newsweek Has Changed

The little things

If you ask anyone at the company, they'll probably say it's the little things that make or break a magazine. Well, Newsweek has re-made its little things into one big masterpiece. They've improved the site design, staying with the same colors and fonts but employing them in a more appealing way.
They've improved the interface with easy navigation and more convenience; the blogs are right at the top, they've put in an "In the Know" section that highlights important articles from other news agencies, they have a "News/Week" bar that shows the important stories from each day on an interactive space.
They've supplemented to the cool factor with a quote bar. But there a much bigger things as well.

The big things

Everything that you could possibly need is now at your fingertips with Newsweek's evolution. The Newsweek Newswire, although only for the featured stories, adds insight from other sources, from Wikitravel to the the Moscow Times to the New Yorker while Newsweekopedia provides a full collection of all Newsweek articles on every topic from economic stimulus to crime. And this is literally every topic ever mentioned in a Newsweek article. In addition, direct links to related stories, related Newsweekopedia topics, the best Wikipedia article and web search results from Live Search provide all you need to become a Newsweekian expert on anything.
Moreover, the weekly magazine is involves readers more, which is necessary because don't we all love being involved with the rise of video games and other interactive activities? You can be involved in a new and improved daily poll section called "Serious Fun". Plus, if you have a Twitter account, your comments on Newsweek's tweets will be played for the whole world to see. They've also intergrated their own digg-like rating tool that comes standard with each of the articles that allows you to find the best articles on Newsweek. The number of "Recommendations" is proudly displayed beside every article while the number of comments is also broadcasted.

And everything they're doing is a huge mission "to create a forum for a continuous – and continuously worthwhile – conversation about key events and issues."

Is it Going to Help?

Every company out there is cash-starved. They have to cut spending in every department. This includes marketing. What does this mean for Newsweek and every other print publication, TV show, website and outdoor signage provider (I don't know what they're actually called)? It means that they can't sell enough ad space unless they lower the prices to the point where they can no longer make profit.
As you know, none of these media companies rely on the $0.50 per issue subscriber rate or even the $5 per issue at newsstands. They rely on the advertisers. Unfortunately, a great majority of advertisers are not going to have any more marketing budget until we're out of this economic crisis. Hence, the basis of this new Newsweek is to fight for what the companies can give up for advertising. Don't get me wrong, it is still a pretty huge trade but while internet ads are popping up everywhere, print publications' share of the cashflow is shrinking.
Still, it is unquestionable that this huge makeover is going to help Newsweek obtain more advertisers than they had last week but the real mystery is whether the magazine will even be able to survive and thrive, with these additional advertisers. Ad rates are lowered and they still have less advertisers than before, despite the fact that their print publication market share has not changed by much. The print publication market is simply shrinking.

On the other hand, back to positives, Newsweek is still a strong news magazine. This is why reader response is better than ever. Instead of the 2-3 "I agrees" on Facebook, they're getting 9-10 detailed responses to big articles. Their Twitter page is doing even better and the new self-integrated recommendations system is beginning to catch on.
At the same time, Google search volume doesn't seem to be seeing much of an improvement although Newsweek is neck-and-neck in terms of volume with its closest competitor, Time Magazine.

And even if it doesn't work out accordingly for Newsweek, let's hope it survives because it's a great read and never fails to fascinate.