Wednesday, September 30, 2009

E-learning, cloud computing, distributed work, and telecommuting (Techwatch Radio interview)

E-learning, cloud computing, distributed work, and telecommuting (Techwatch Radio interview): "

I had the pleasure of joining my friends Sam Bushman and Jay Harrison, the hosts of Techwatch Radio, last Saturday on their weekly tech talk show. I’ve been a fairly regular guest on their show over the last 5 years and always enjoy the discussions we have. What I love about their show is that, much like this blog, they take a practical approach to technology and living a digital lifestyle.

The program consists of fast-paced news, callers, guests, and features such as the website of the week and the do’s and dont’s of tech. Sam and Jay focus on balancing technology in your life and letting hi-tech serve you, not own you! Their fun, casual way of simplifying complex issues will help the average person get up-to-speed on the tricks and tools for the times we live in.

Last week I joined them for the second half of the show and we discussed elearning, managing remote workers, the growth of telecommuting, why I’m drinking the Apple Kool-Aid (and switching to a Mac soon), cloud computing, and the shifts involved with successful distributed work. You can listen using the player below and I invite you to comment on this post and share your thoughts on these topics and our discussion.

Techwatch Radio can be heard Saturday mornings from 10-11am ET. You can listen live from anywhere online or download past shows from their RSS feed. I subscribe to their podcast and listen on my iPod Touch so I don’t miss a thing!

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Girls Go Geek with Felicia Day & Kathleen Zuelch

Girls Go Geek with Felicia Day & Kathleen Zuelch: "

For the past couple of months, I’ve been working with my team at to produce and host a series on Xbox LIVE in the U.S. Four weeks after each show “airs” on LIVE, we’re featuring it on our own site called Girls Go Geek. It’s been loads of fun doing this series, mostly because I get a chance to officially geek out with some of the finest ladies in the biz. Check out our first two shows, pasted below for your viewing pleasure. Please feel free to share the episodes, just so we can all get the word out about these amazing ladies.


Should You Use a Localized Domain Name?

Should You Use a Localized Domain Name?: "

I’m regularly asked about local domain names and whether they are worth using on a blog.

My answer usually revolves around the question of ‘what audience are you trying to reach?‘ Let me explain.

When I first secured my own domain name I chose a .au (Australia) domain without really giving much thought to it. I figured as I was an Aussie I might as well include that in the domain and as the .com version of the domain was taken I though it was the next logical step. That was a naive decision and one that I regretted later (although it did have some benefits too).

There were a number of impacts of having a local domain:

  • the blog ranked relatively well in’s results - being an easily identified Aussie site it seemed to get priority when Aussies were searching for terms related to it

  • the blog didn’t rank as well on - .com domains (and other non localised ones) seemed to get ranked higher in other international versions of Google

  • confusion with readers - time and time again I heard from readers that they kept forgetting to add the .au. As a result they ended up on other sites and some gave up on even coming to the site.

Ultimately it was a mistake for me because my goal was to connect with an international audience rather than just and Australian one. I ended up with some good Aussie search traffic which was nice but it could have ranked better internationally which probably cost me traffic.

Take Home Advice: As a result, I generally advise people to go for a local domain name IF they are trying to reach a local audience. If you’re looking to connect with an international audience go for the .com or another non localised domain like .net or .org (.com is my #1 preference though).

The other reason to get a localised version of a domain in addition to the .com is as a defensive move OR if you think you might produce a local version of your blog at some point in the future. Having the local domain means someone else can’t get it and it gives you the option of expanding into local markets (as Gawker blogs have done with some of their more popular blogs).

Do you use a local domain name? What are the advantages or disadvantages from your perspective?

Post from: Blog Tips at ProBlogger.


Should You Use a Localized Domain Name?

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Do You See Your Situation In Any Of These Fascinating Case Studies?

Do You See Your Situation In Any Of These Fascinating Case Studies?: "We’ve got 3 eye-opening interviews to share with you today.
All on the breakthroughs offered by the Simple Writing System. To make more money… to dominate a crowded niche… to start a hot new career… all fueled by a new ability to persuade, influence, and sell.
First up: Case Study #52
Forcing business owners to pay Big Bucks [...]"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

TechWatch Radio 234

TechWatch Radio 234: "TWR20090926 * Twins Tech * Revisiting * e-Learning * Nintendo Wii drops price * Special deal on the older Gamecube. * * GUEST: Phil Montero, *"

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mobile Tech Minutes — Evernote

Mobile Tech Minutes — Evernote: "

Evernote is a true platform agnostic, note taker / collector supreme. It runs on just about every mobile device out there and makes grabbing information a snap. I show the basic operation of the program and demonstrate how it makes it easy to find nuggets of information. Of course, Evernote is cloud-based, so information grabbed anywhere is instantly available on all of the devices you might use. Pay attention to the security aspects Evernote raises for those in the habit of leaving sensitive documents up on the computer screen. I show how I can capture a full page of a document on a computer screen in a second or two, and have a searchable copy of it on every device I use. You may find it unsettling.

Read our latest analysis piece, 'Mobile Sites Show Little Improvement.' Only on GigaOM Pro.


Lessons Learned On The Road That Benefit A Stay-At-Home Lifestyle

Lessons Learned On The Road That Benefit A Stay-At-Home Lifestyle: "


Image by Topyti

Over the past 9 months, we’ve experienced what it’s like to be living a nomadic lifestyle and then come ‘home’ again to a more settled existence.

Call it reverse lifestyle design if you will but it’s certainly been a unique experience – and one that most nomads and location independent professionals will likely experience at some point in their lives.

With all the excitement of being pregnant, giving birth and coping with a newborn, coming ‘home’ to the UK was a welcome relief (something I didn’t expect myself to feel. Ever) but now we’re starting to get itchy feet again and are seriously planning our first trip as location independent parents, with the babe in tow.

Although much of the advice you’ll read about nomadism, location independence and lifestyle design is focused on the tips, tricks, resources & the mindset you need to become nomadic, being location independent isn’t just about the permanent travelling lifestyle – it’s about having the freedom to choose where, when and how you work and live.

And we’ve learned plenty of things whilst on the road which we’ve found just as beneficial when settled in one place…


I regret very few things in my life so far and of the three that I can think of, two of them are too personal to share here. The one I can share however, is that I truly do regret spending so much money as a corporate rat-racer. I can’t even begin to think what I did with the ridiculous salary I earned as a 25 year old – often twice as much as most of my peers.

All I know is that I left the rat race with very little of it still sitting in my bank. “If only…” is not a phrase you’ll catch me using often but if only I’d saved half that salary, we’d be flying first class everywhere.

Since becoming location independent, we set a weekly food budget in each new destination we visit. This is largely to avoid any careless mishaps or miscalculations with foreign currency but also so we can compare the cost of living in the various places we visit (and report back on them here!).

We’ve continued doing this since being back in the UK this time and what’s eye-opening are the frivolities you purchase without a thought when you have a home base…bits & bobs for the house, clothes, gadgets and stuff that you don’t need. Setting and attempting to stick to a budget, at least gives you pause for thought with every purchase.

Lesson learned: If you’re trying to become location independent, money (or not enough of it) is quite possibly a sticking point for you. Get into good habits right now and set & stick to a budget, if you can. At the very least, always have a clear idea of where your money goes each week and where, if necessary, you can make savings.


When you need to pack everything you own into a 60 litre bag and cart it with you to your next destination, it’s much easier not to purchase superfluous things you see whenever you walk into a shop with pretty things. When you’re on the road, a declutter before you leave each destination is almost a necessity so that everything fits back into your bag.

Since we’ve been back in the UK, we’ve de-cluttered the house three times: twice before the baby and once since the baby was born. No doubt we’ll have another big clear-out before we head off on our first trip again.

This is a great practice to get into, whether you’re nomadic or not, for several reasons:

  • It can make you money if you sell your stuff on ebay

  • It means you’ll have less work to do the next time you decide to pack up & head off

  • It feels great to streamline your stuff

Lesson learned: Get into the habit of clearing out your life regularly; it’s not only great to create physical space, it also helps create mental space and keeps you and your life streamlined and agile.

“I Want That”

Tied in to both the first and second points, since becoming location independent we’ve developed a strong aversion to buying stuff for the sake of it – we’ve pretty much conquered the “I want that” mentality although take me into a gadget shop and it might surface quite quickly again!

We’ve also applied this to having our baby – instead of spending a small fortune buying all equipment known to man-kind before she was born, we opted instead to buy the bare minimum to wait & see what we really needed once she was here.

We’ve caught ourselves falling into the trap of buying stuff for the sake of it a couple of times – and each time, we’ve ended up regretting the purchase a few days later.

Lesson learned: Adopt the habit of questioning yourself whenever you make a purchase. Ask yourself whether it’s really vital that you have whatever it is you want and whether it’s going to make life easier or it’s just something you want for the sake of it. Is it an asset or a liability?

No Mindless TV

More recently, watching almost zero TV has had more to do with our lives being based around a newborn’s schedule than anything else but when we’re overseas we rarely watch TV. We may watch some local programmes to get a flavour for the culture and vibe of a place and we sometimes watch the local news & weather.

Compare this to the average Brit or American who probably spends a good deal of their non-working time watching TV and indeed our own habits before we left the UK. I’m not going to sit on my soapbox and rubbish anyone who enjoys watching TV but it’s more a case of questioning where you spend your time – particularly if you’re currently unhappy with your lot in life.

Lesson learned: TV can be a great way to switch off but there are far more productive and valuable things you can be doing with your time than mindless goggle-boxing. Action rather than inaction is the only thing that’s going to get you to where you want to be. If you don’t do it for yourself, no-one else will.

Business Meetings

One habit we developed whilst on the road was to schedule regular business meetings with ourselves. This helped to set some sort of schedule to our week and kept us focused on the business side of things with all the distractions that our new surroundings often brought.

We both have fun projects to work on, so it never really feels like work – but that doesn’t mean we don’t take it seriously and to do that requires us to maintain focus on our strategies and regularly review what’s been happening.

As many work-from-home entrepreneurs will recognise, sometimes it’s easier to do things like this when you’re not actually at home; it means you set & stick to a scheduled time and don’t let it just fall by the wayside as something that can wait.

Lesson learned: Setting regular review meetings of your business is a valuable practice to adopt; not only does it provide you with a schedule to stick to, it gives you a regular opportunity to review what’s been working and what’s not, so you can adjust your approach accordingly.

Related posts:

  1. 7 Lessons We’ve Learned About Running A Location Independent Business Around The World
  2. The Early Christmas Present That’s Taught Us A Few Lessons About The Location Independent Lifestyle
  3. Experience The Location Independent Lifestyle From The Comfort Of Your Own Home


Thirteen Steps to Write and Publish a Free Ebook In Thirteen Hours

Thirteen Steps to Write and Publish a Free Ebook In Thirteen Hours: "

Have you ever considered producing an ebook for your blog readers? In this comprehensive post Ali Hale breaks down the process of how to do it.

There’s never enough time. In an ideal world, you’d be posting to your blog frequently, writing great guest posts, building relationships with other bloggers, and responding to every single comment … and all that’s more than you can manage. You might have considered writing an ebook as a companion to your blog, but you just can’t find the time or the energy for it.

You already know all the reasons to do it: you’ve downloaded your share of free ebooks from other blogs, and you’ve seen that:

  • Free ebooks can be used as what Sonia Simone calls “cookie content”, to entice newsletter sign-ups

  • Free ebooks can be a great traffic draw: they get twittered about and linked to

  • Just having a free ebook available on your site will subtly shift readers’ perceptions: they’ll see you as one of the “big guys” of the blogging world

But, of course, an ebook is harder to create than a blog post. A 25-page ebook is 4,000 words or more; you have to edit and proof-read carefully (once people are emailing that ebook to one another, you can’t fix that embarrassing typo or broken link); you’ll need PDF and ebook cover software if you want it to look professional; you have to launch it with a bang…

Writing an ebook isn’t an easy undertaking, and it’s something a lot of bloggers never do. That’s why, if you do write a high-quality free ebook, you’re going to stand out.

Here’s how I wrote, published and launched my free ebook in just thirteen hours and how you could do the same. My time broke down like this:

  • Writing an outline: 30 minutes

  • First draft of content: 4 hours

  • Adding some graphics: 1 hour 30 mins (mostly my boyfriend’s work!)

  • Redrafting and editing, inserting all links: 3 hours

  • Appendix of resources: 1 hour

  • Creating a cover: 1 hour 30 mins

  • Converting to pdf: almost instant!

  • Final proof-read and link-checking: 15 minutes

  • Launching and spreading the word: 1 hour 15 minutes

I spread the tasks above across four days: I’m a freelancer so my schedule’s quite flexible, but I do have to do a bit of paying work once in a while!

And here’s your 13-step guide to doing the same:

Step 1: Get an Idea

You need a clear concept for your ebook. An ebook isn’t a blog post – but it’s not a blog either: don’t make it a general overview of your niche (especially if it’s quite broad). Pick one category from your blog, or a topic which would make a series of blog posts.

I’d wanted to create a free ebook for a while, but it was one of those things I thought I’d get around to “when I have a bit more time”. Then I came up with an idea for a mini-series of two linked posts (Reframing Work #1: Ditching Drudgery and the Conventional View of “Work” and Reframing Work #2: Min Hours, Max Cash – or Do What You Love?) which would lead very naturally to the ebook (Quit Your Day Job). I decided I was going to go ahead and launch it, a week after the first post in the series. This led to…

Step 2: Tell Your Readers

Tell your readers that you’ll be bringing out a free ebook in a week or two weeks’ time. It’s amazing how a deadline – and public accountability – can motivate you!

You might want to make the announcement in a post, on Twitter, or to your newsletter list. Communicate a sense of excitement: tell readers you have a “treat” or “goodies” coming up. This is part of the pre-launch process of getting a buzz going. I personally find the word “freebie” can have a bit of a connotation of something cheap and rubbishy – but you might think differently!

Step 3: Write the Outline

If you write long blog posts, you might already be in the habit of outlining before you begin. With an ebook, this is crucial: you don’t want to write for hours only to find you’ve wandered far off-topic. Neither do you want to sit staring at a blank screen, wondering what you’re going to say next.

Open up a blank document or sit down with a piece of paper and write an outline before you go any further with your ebook. Everyone has different ways of doing this, but one which works well for me is:

  • Spend five minutes mind-mapping: write down your ebook’s title or theme in the centre of a piece of paper, then jot down all the points that come to mind

  • Eliminate any points which are too broad for the ebook’s scope. Order the rest in a logical sequence (I just jot a number next to each)

  • Type or write out the list in order. These are your subsections or chapters in the ebook.

  • Jot down at least two bullet points for each section, or a couple of sentences: these are the main points you’re going to make. Sometimes, you’ll want subheadings within each section.

  • If you think of a great idea for a graphic, or a resource (book, blog, etc) to recommend, write that down here too.

It might sound complicated, but if you sit down for an uninterrupted half-hour, you can easily get a complete outline written.

Once you’ve got a list of sections and subsections, think about roughly how long each will need to be. Aim for a total of around 4,000 words: this is about right for a 25-page ebook set in a large font: I like 14 pt Calibri (Word 2007) or 11 pt Verdana.

Step 4: Draft the Content

This step is the one which many bloggers find daunting – writing enough words to fill an ebook. If it seems overwhelming, try thinking about your ebook as a series of linked blog posts (with each subheading starting off a new post). Your outline really helps here, because it breaks writing your ebook into manageable chunks.

And these four tips should help too:

First: Get Rid of Distractions

It’s crucial that you avoid distractions while you’re writing. That means keeping away from emails, Twitter and Facebook till you’re done. You don’t need to write the whole ebook in one go – but try to give yourself a block of at least two hours to work on it, or set yourself the goal of drafting a certain number of sections.

If your family or housemates are likely to interrupt you, try heading off to a coffee shop or library for a few hours.

If you find it hard to concentrate, try using a full screen text program (I like Dark Room), or switch off your internet connection!

Second: Don’t Edit As You Write

This is your first draft, so forget any worries about the quality of your writing. Don’t keep editing sentences to try to make them perfect – just move on. You can come back and rewrite later: your current task is simply to get a complete draft down.

Third: Don’t Stop to Look Things Up

Don’t stop to look up links, quotes or statistics that you want to include. Just make a note to yourself in the body of the text. I tend to enclose these in square brackets [like this]. Stopping part-way through a paragraph or sentence breaks your flow … and it’s very easy to start looking up one quote and get distracted!

Fourth: Don’t Format While Drafting

Your finished ebook is going to be a visual masterpiece, with a cover page, section headings, subsection headings, bold text, italic text, lists, maybe tables and specially-formatted blockquotes…

Your first draft, however, should have few or none of these. It’s easy to get distracted with formatting, and it’s also inefficient to format before all the text’s written – you’ll find yourself changing a lot of things around.

Keep your formatting to a bare minimum while you’re drafting. You might find it useful to format headers and subheaders (make sure you know how to use styles in Word – don’t edit each header separately) – but the rest can wait.

Step 5: Add Any Graphics

Once the draft is complete, add any graphics that you want to include in your ebook. The type of graphics you use will depend on the topic of your ebook, but you might want to consider:

  • Charts to show statistics in a visual, instant way

  • Diagrams to explain complex concepts

  • Illustrations or photographs to complement the text

  • Small graphics to highlight tips, warnings or quotes

Don’t make the mistake of just using pictures to break up the text. If you use a large font size and use design elements well (just as you would in a blog post), then you don’t need to stuff your ebook with pictures. Graphics used for the sake of it don’t add much to the reading experience, and finding or creating suitable images can use up a lot of your time.

When you’re looking for graphics, be mindful of copyright laws. If you’re using images from Flickr licensed under Creative Commons, make sure you credit and link to the owner in the ebook. If you have a small budget for the ebook, you might consider buying stock photos from istockphoto or fotolia.

You should get your graphics in place at this stage because you may want to change around some of the text to explain or to tie in with the images you’ve chosen.

Step 6: Redraft and Edit Your Text

You’ve got your first draft done – the hardest part’s over. Now it’s time to revise, edit and polish your ebook until it shines!

As with the first draft, you need to find some uninterrupted time and space for this: it’s all too easy to make mistakes or forget to remove those “[notes to self]” when you’re getting interrupted.

It also helps if you follow a step-by-step method, working on one aspect of the redrafting and editing throughout the whole document, rather than trying to perfect each page as you go along.

My process for redrafting and editing is as follows:

  • Edit for Structure

  • Edit to Add Quotes, Examples and Links

  • Edit for Flow and Tone

First: Edit for Structure

Your first round of edits deal with the “big picture”: making sure that your chapters or sections are in the right order and cover all the points you wanted to make. Start at page one and read, fairly quickly, through the whole ebook. Look out for:

  • Sections which would work better in a different order

  • Places where you’ve repeated yourself in two different sections

  • Sections which are too short (you may need to expand and give more detail)

  • Sections which are too long (cut any waffle!)

Second: Edit to Add Quotes, Examples and Links

Once you’ve got the broad structure right, you can decide where best to enter quotes and examples. This will depend on the format of your ebook, but some things you may want to consider are:

  • Using an example, quote, tips box or case study to break up a long section of text

  • Creating a pattern: eg. opening or ending each section with a quote or case study

  • Putting all the links at the end of each sections for easy reference (even if you also link in the body of the text)

You may find that you need to move around a few sentences or paragraphs in order to make the quote, example or case study work well.

Third: Edit for Flow and Tone

Rewrite any sentences which sound clumsy or which are ambiguous. You might like to try reading your ebook aloud: this often highlights any over-long or complicated sentences!

This is also a good point to check that you’ve used a consistent tone of voice throughout your ebook. Did you start off chatty but then drop into a more formal style? If you’re not a naturally humorous writer, make sure that any jokes or puns you’ve included really are funny.

Step 7: Format Your Ebook

Now that the text is complete, go through and get everything into the right format. Set all your headers and subheaders, making sure that you use the “Styles and Formatting” feature of Word (or your chosen word processing program). Don’t set the font size and style each heading manually. It’s not only inefficient, it stops you making an automatic table of contents – more on that in a moment!

(You might want to read up on Styles and Formatting, if you’re not sure how to use this feature.)

Choose a modern, easy-to-read font for your text and for your headings. Make both text and headings quite large – bigger than you’d use in a document for work or school. As I mentioned in Step 3, I like 14 pt Calibri (Word 2007) or 11 pt Verdana.

As well as formatting your section headings, you’ll also want to use some of the formatting options that you’re familiar with from blogging. This might include:

  • Using bold to emphasise key points, and italics for emphasised words

  • Setting out quotes in a different style (eg. indented, or in a box) from the main text

  • Using a magazine-style “pull box” for quick tips

  • Breaking some paragraphs into lists, to help keep the reader’s attention

You’ll also want to put a header or footer on each page with, at the very least, the page number. Consider including the title of the ebook in the header/footer on each page (in case readers print it out). You could also put your name, your copyright notice, or the URL of your blog.

Note that if you’re including a cover (and I recommend that you do), you can tell Word to use a different header and footer on the first page.

Step 8: Add a Table of Contents and Appendix

An easy way to make your ebook instantly stand out from the crowd is to add a table of contents and/or an appendix. Professional ebooks (and paper books!) have these – so why shouldn’t yours?

Table of Contents

If you’ve used Word’s Styles and Formatting feature to set up your headers, it’s really easy to add a table of contents. Just insert a new page at the start of your ebook, and (in Word 2007), go to the “References” tab, then click “Table of Contents” on the far left.

Word will automatically lay out the table with the headings, subheadings and page numbers. If you change the ebook after creating the table of contents, simply right-click on it and “update”. This is the table of contents from my ebook:



In my ebook, I wanted to supply some ideas for further reading at the end. These didn’t fit with the body of the text, so I created an appendix.

Depending on your ebook’s subject, your appendix could be:

  • A quick tutorial on something which some of your readers will understand but others won’t (you don’t want to put this in the middle of your ebook as those who “get it” will start skipping)

  • A list of recommended resources, like websites, blogs, books, products, services…

  • A “cheat sheet” for readers to print out – popular in technical fields

  • A list of notes and references for each section – often in more scientific books

Creating an appendix is simply a matter of starting a new page and putting the header “Appendix” (or, if you want multiple appendices, “Appendix 1”, “Appendix 2” etc.)

Step 9: Create Your Front Cover – And a Graphic

All the hard work of writing and formatting the text is done: here’s the fun part – creating your ebook cover!

I’d recommend spending a couple of dollars when creating your cover. Look through istockphoto or fotolia for a great, eye-catching image. Ideally, you want something without too much detail (as you’ll be using a thumbnail of the cover pic on your blog, to advertise the ebook).

I’m no designer, and it took me some time to make a cover that didn’t look hopelessly amateur! You might want to enlist a friend with a good eye for design, though some quick tips are:

  • Use a big, clear font for the title of your ebook

  • Consider having a subtitle or strapline in a smaller font

  • Stick to just two or three colours

  • Come up with a few designs or layouts and pick the one you like best

Once you’ve put your cover in as the first page as your ebook, take a screenshot and save it as a .jpg. If you can afford to spend a bit more (currently $27), I highly recommend a piece of software called eCover Software Pro, which I’ve reviewed here. It allows you to “drop” that image onto a book-shaped template, so that it looks something like this:


It’s very straightforward and intuitive to use, and it’s a powerful way to send readers the signal that you’re a serious problogger.

Step 10: Convert Your Ebook to a PDF

When I first started creating ebooks, I tried out a lot of different free options for turning Word documents into PDF files. The problem was, they didn’t keep links unless the links were written out as a full URL – so would remain as a link, but Aliventures wouldn’t! This also meant that they didn’t keep in the links that “jump” the reader from the contents page to the entry that they’ve clicked on.

A few months ago, I bought version 8 of Adobe’s Acrobat software – which cost over $100. I realised that spending hours trying to put the links back in manually each time would cost me a lot more, in the long term. It is a big outlay when you’re starting out as a ProBlogger, so I’d recommend doing what I did – look on ebay for a slightly older version of Adobe (as I write this, 9 is the current version, so look for 8 or 7). This will be just as good for your purposes, and will cost a bit less than the latest.

You could also see if your workplace or college has Adobe Acrobat. Or ask on Twitter to see if a willing friend can convert it for you! (You’re welcome to send me a Tweet if I can lend a hand.)

The best free option I’ve used was pdf995, so if all else fails, give that a try!

Note: If you have Word 2007, you can use the “Publish as PDF” feature. I’ve not used this myself (since I have Adobe Acrobat) so I can’t vouch for how good it is or whether it will include all links. If anyone knows, do tell us in the comments!

Step 11: Final Proof-Read and Link Check

Once you’ve got your PDF file, go through and do one last check for typos. Try not to get tempted to do much editing at this stage … you could carry on tweaking for ever. Just check for anything that’s obviously wrong.

This is a good point to double-check that all the links are working – just in case anything hasn’t converted properly, or in case you put a link in wrong.

Step 12: Publish and Publicise

Publishing the ebook on your blog is easy, compared with all the work of creating it! You can either upload it using your blog software’s “upload” function (go to Media->Add New in Wordpress), or you can use an FTP program to do so.

Create a new post telling people about your ebook, using the cover image that you created (either with eCover Software Pro or as a “flat” looking image).

Then get the word out! Tweet about it, ask for retweets, send emails to blogger friends – though do make sure your ebook will be on-topic for their blog. You might even consider writing a press release to send to your local paper.

I decided to run a competition in connection with the free ebook launch, which helped to gather retweets and a bit of a “buzz”.

Step 13: Relax!

Finally, give yourself a well-earned break! Your ebook’s out there, and your blog’s getting a lot of new visitors. Get yourself a glass of wine, a beer or a mug of great coffee … and start thinking about your next ebook.

As well as writing ebooks, Ali Hale writes a blog on “getting more from life” at you can get her twice-weekly posts straight to your feed reader.

Post from: Blog Tips at ProBlogger.


Thirteen Steps to Write and Publish a Free Ebook In Thirteen Hours

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Balancing Content, Polish & Study

Balancing Content, Polish & Study: "

After having had another week off work to get myself back into the swing of things after a hectic two weeks in Florida, it’s back to work today! Whilst re-familiarising myself with where I was in my software project I noticed a small dilemma that also relates to blogging or pretty much any other online activity.

The Meaty Content

With any work there is always some kind of activity which is the most important ‘meat’ of the work. For a piece of software its developing the features of that software, for a blog it’s writing the posts, for an ebook business its writing the content of the book and so on. This activity is always something to spend a lot of time on because without it, you have no business.

Software that doesn’t do anything is not software, a blog with no posts is just a dead blog and a book with no words is, well, non existent :-) For any kind of business its important that you figure out what the meaty content is and prioritise your work around that. Often this work is harder to do than other stuff and so it can be easy to procrastinate and avoid it by keeping yourself busy with other less important work. However there is a time and a place for that too.

Adding the Polish

If you’ve ever started a blog, did you fall into the trap of spending an age fidding with your theme and plugins before actually getting any posts written? This is a common pitfall and is really just a way of procrastinating. However saying that, the polish to any business is still a necessary activity in the vast majority of cases.

Whilst a blog, software or ebook doesn’t really need to look good in order to do its job, it really does help – especially if you plan to make money from what you are producing. I don’t think there’s any doubt that this polish work needs to get done, the question is when should you do it?

It’s this question in my software project that prompted me to write this post today. Before I stopped work for my holiday I had completed the functionality of a specific chunk of work which I was pleased with. It works but it doesn’t look pretty. I am not done though as I still have another couple of important features to implement so I have the dilemma – do I continue working on those new features which need to get done before I can release or do I stop and polish up what I have done already?

With any work that is somewhat ongoing such as web software or a blog, you’ll soon find that you’re never really done with the content so it can be hard to know when to polish. If the work is more finite such as a book then the decision is clearer – you can get the first draft of your book written before you even think about polishing it up.

What I’ve decided to do is alternate to some extent. Now that I’ve completed a major chunk of work I’ll take a break from development to add some polish but I won’t try and do everything as that can be a never-ending job in itself. Once I’ve added a little polish I’ll develop another specific feature and then stop to polish and so on. For a blogger I would suggest concentrating on post content for the most part but setting aside some time every now and then to just polish things up the blog and keep doing this on a regular basis.

Keeping up Your Skills

With most online businesses there is some kind of learning curve at the beginning and then there is ongoing study. Obviously if you are starting something you have never done before then you need to invest in a period of study before you can really get any work done at all. In my case, I needed to learn the PHP language and a few web technologies – this took much longer than I anticipated.

If you’re starting a blog you might want to learn about blogging first but with anything like this, there is usually an inexhaustible supply of free information out there and its easy to get so caught up in the reading and studying that you never actually get anything done. I remember when I first started this business 2 years ago, and I broke down where my time was going I realised I was doing this very thing.

On the other hand, another mistake that people make is that they learn what they need to get started but then they just stop learning. This is a mistake, especially with an online business, because things change – technology changes, new sites, tools and trends come and go, and if you don’t keep up you’ll find yourself left behind. It’s always a good idea to keep yourself up to date using whatever sources are relevant to your work whether that’s a few blogs, an industry magazine (PHP Architect magazine and some blogs in my case), podcasts or whatever.

Balancing It All Out

Personally I find that the meaty content work is the hardest, and requires the most concentration and enthusiasm. It’s not easy for me to start developing something new and challenging at 4pm on a Friday afternoon but I can quite easily catch up on a few blogs at that time. There’s always some work that’s easier than others and always some times or days when you are more or less motivated than others.

Always set aside time for your most important work and do that work when you are at your best but also allow time for other work so that you don’t neglect the other little details.


Do You Really Know How To Use StumbleUpon?

Do You Really Know How To Use StumbleUpon?: "

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Social networking – a shift in the way we communicate

Social networking – a shift in the way we communicate: "

Let’s face it you can’t read an article anywhere these days without someone mentioning social media, social networking, Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook. These tools not only affect the way we connect to each other as people but also how we share information and communicate.

Businesses of all size have now adopted the use of social media from large corporations and small businesses to solo-preneurs and freelancers. Much in the way desktop publishing and blogs put the power to spread information in the hands of the masses – social media has provided unprecedented ways for us to connect and network with one another. Check out this eye-opening video I found on YouTube that shares some amazing stats about the social media revolution.

One of the common myths we often dispel with virtual teamwork is that using technology makes relationships less personal and you can’t build trust or get to know people who you rarely or never see. I don’t agree – using these tools like Twitter and Facebook allows you to connect (or re-connect) with people, stay in touch, and get to know each other.

I’m amazed at some of the amazing people I’ve met through Twitter. Through a simple series of short message I get insight into their thoughts, views, work, and life. By the time we talk on the phone, via Skype, or meet in person I feel like I know them already and our conversations are richer for it. Without geographical boundaries I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with people from the UK, Finland, India, and all across the US. You can now work and make friends with people all across the globe – what a powerful and freeing experience that is!

If one understands the way social networks can deliver value, they have the opportunity to do more for themselves than ever before. What used to be a fairly linear world, one with ladders to climb rank, and lines to wait in for limited resources, are now built of vast and flexible networks, some loose and some rigid. Our social networks, both the old-fashioned type in real life, as well as the new constructs created by social software, give us the ability to do amazing things for ourselves and for others.

- Chris Brogan, Author of Trust Agents and Social Media Expert

Social networking has changed the playing field of business and you can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. If you haven’t jumped into the social networking fray – what are you waiting for? You don’t have to use them all but pick one and give it a try. This is no fad – although different services may come and go over time there’s no denying the point this video makes so clearly – it’s a new world and this is the way people meet and connect today. Whether you’re a person with a thirst for community and want to build your tribe or you’re looking to increase brand exposure and connect with potential customers, social networking knows no boundaries!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook


Friday, September 11, 2009

Social Marketing Trend: Mom Blogs

I found this interesting post about trends, advertising and mom bloggers from NewspaperGirl.

I hope you find it as informative as I did.


Smiles :o)


Social Marketing Trend: Mom Blogs: "

This post on social marketing appeared in the American Express Small Business Forum where I write for Small Business Trends each month.

“Working for trade is genius, especially in this economy” Nate Bagely, OrangeSoda

I was recently part of a social media retreat that included sponsors like Sorel and Frito-Lay. We had guides take us fly fishing and horseback riding. Brands donated products for us to try. All in the hopes that we would blog about them.

When I go to these events, I can instantly tell if a company understands the impact of this group. If they do, we’re treated like royalty. Otherwise, they think of us as a group of moms who have nothing better to do than try to get something for free. The fly fishing outfitters didn’t get it and so there won’t be reviews at all, or at least not glowing reviews.

Bigger brands often see the value of engaging bloggers. But for many small businesses working with bloggers is new and unknown. Yet it can be an effective marketing tool. At OrangeSoda we’ve helped businesses navigate this by helping them identify local bloggers. If you find and treat them well, the relationship can be beneficial. You get exposure to their readers (in the form of links, search engine results, product photos and video, etc). They get free product for themselves and their readers.

For the women who blog and who have a decent following, interacting with brands has become part of blogging. Recently, it has gotten the attention of the FTC. BlogHer, one of the foremost blogging conferences for women just wrapped up last month. One of the most popular sessions at BlogHer was about endorsements and testimonials from bloggers. There was a lot of debate over the ethics of reviewing products or recommending them after being wined and dined by advertisers who hoped for good reviews.

The FTC is reviewing their guidelines for endorsements and testimonials and may pass a new version later this summer that includes policing bloggers. It’s quite ominous.

“If the plans are approved, the
FTC will actively go after bloggers who fail to disclose if they’re being compensated for their words. The FTC could then order violators to stop and pay restitution to consumers, or even sic the Justice Department on them for civil penalties. While penalties for failure to disclose financial interest have existed in the past, the FTC is broadening the scope of the media it is actively reviewing to cover blogs and bloggers. It may have been watching before, but now it’s prepared to pounce.”

BlogHer released a survey of almost 3,000 women (here’s the
link to the PDF) and found that women are more than twice as likely to go to blogs versus social network sites to seek information, advice and recommendations. And the BlogHer sponsored posts section is one of the most popular.

Why are bloggers so coveted by brands? Bloggers in the study were online the most, were the most active in social media, identify themselves as being leading edge, and are the most tech savvy. They are the smallest segment with the largest reach.

Some cry that blogging is dead, but it’s far from it. While women use social media, it’s more for building relationships and keeping in touch. They go to blogs to get opinions on products. From the survey: Women are 50 percent more likely to turn to social networking sites as a means of keeping in touch with friends and family (75%), and go to blogs to seek product reviews. In other words, generally speaking people trust the opinions of these bloggers.

“Of the 42 million women engaged in social media weekly, 55 percent of women participate in some form of blogging activity; 75 percent participate in social networks such as Facebook or MySpace and 20 percent use Twitter.”

Blogs and social networks are displacing other forms of media and entertainment where businesses traditionally advertise: “As a result of this increased activity, the 2009 study found that women online are now more than ever before spending less time engaging in traditional media activities like watching TV (30%), listening to the radio (31%), and reading magazines (36%) or the newspaper (39%).”

For any business, you want to be where you have the biggest influence. Blogging is an ideal fit for many. In essence it’s a trade. And “working for trade is genius, especially in this economy” Nate Bagely, SEO analyst at OrangeSoda.

You don’t need to have a blog to reach customers through blogging. You just need to engage with bloggers by finding ones who are a fit for your products or services and then approaching them about ways you could work together. More bloggers are being proactive and asking advertisers for products. Either way, it’s an inexpensive form of marketing – but if you do it, be sure to ask bloggers to disclose that the resulting posts were sponsored.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Designing a narrative with index cards

Designing a narrative with index cards: "

Working on the workshop, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

I recently got an email from a teacher who wanted to know how she could help her students develop better presentations. I've been meaning to write down my method for awhile now and rather than write one email I thought I'd put it into a blog post.

When I develop presentations I like to use index cards to sort through ideas. Sometimes I use a bottom-up approach, sorting and sifting through myriad ideas until the best ones float to the top. Other times I use a top-down approach, starting with the audience and their interests, and building a structure underneath that. More often it’s a combination of the two approaches – I start top-down, with an audience and what I think will interest them. Then I start to develop ideas, but those ideas lead to other ideas and soon I have too many thoughts, after which I need to do some bottom-up sifting to let the best ideas emerge.

The image above is the sorting exercise I went through to develop a workshop I gave in Toronto in 2006. The approach borrows heavily from the card sorting method used in software design.


This is best when you know who you’re presenting to and what they want to know. If you don’t know where to start this is probably the best way to begin.

1. Start by thinking about your target audience and what they are interested in. It helps to imagine a real person that you know that fits the profile.

2. Now, brainstorm a list of questions that you think they might be likely to ask you about the topic in question. Write down one question per index card.

3. Now, try to sort the questions into a sequence that makes sense. Probably this means the most basic questions (such as “What is it?”) at the beginning, and the more action-oriented questions (Such as “how can I apply it?”) toward the end. Now you can look at the questions and see if they form a meaningful sequence that, say, introduces a topic, develops it, and reaches a conclusion. At this point you should have a sequence of cards running from left to right.

4. Now, under each question card, you can start to develop your “answer” cards – slides that will answer the question.


This is best when you have a lot of ideas to sort through but don’t know how to weave them together yet. If you know what you want to talk about you might want to start here.

1. Write down as many ideas on a topic as you can – all the elements that might be useful as part of a presentation. Write down one thought or idea per index card. I often like to sketch on the card as well, thinking about how I might illustrate the concept.

2. Sort the cards into piles that represent ideas that “feel like they belong together.”

3. Name each pile and create a “title card” for each group. Each title card now represents a group of related ideas that might form a section of your presentation.

4. Now, try to arrange the title cards into a meaningful sequence – put the cards into a row. This forms the basis of the narrative thread.

5. Under each title card, you can now create a “column” of index cards with the ideas that form the main points for each section.

6. Now, identify gaps in the story, eliminate redundancies and irrelevant information, and go from there.

As I said, usually I work with a hybrid of the two approaches. It’s much like a conversation, where one person’s thoughts influence the next person’s ideas. Moving back and forth between what the audience wants to hear (the “top”) and what I want to say (the “bottom”) helps me develop a synthesis that integrates my most valuable knowledge with what people are really interested in hearing.

I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts on this approach, and I’d love to hear about your experiences using this or similar approaches in your work. So be a mensch and leave a comment!