Category Archives: Personal

Evernote for blog organization and composition

Why I like Evernote

I have been using Evernote for close to two years and regret that I haven’t written a blog post about it sooner. At its most basic, Evernote lets you type notes into their application and access and edit them on any Internet connected device. This simple premise can be expanded to the level of complexity you desire using their organization system of Notebooks (essentially folders) and tags. You can also add images, audio and attach documents.

Reasons to like Evernote

Simple:

  • No save button. Everything is saved automatically, and if you make a mistake, then you can restore a previous version.
  • Add a new note, compose and edit on any Internet connected device.
  • Small foot print. I have never had a device crash using Evernote. It is simple and doesn’t take many resources.

Powerful:

  • Transfers your thoughts to text
  • No pressure
  • Build thoughts up over time
  • Access information anywhere
  • It is heavy on creation vs consumption
  • Ability to search
  • Flexible
  • Integrates with other relevant online services

Add a new note, compose and edit on any device.

I use three primary devices to access the Internet: my desktop, notebook and Android phone. I can start writing in Evernote in the living room, continue working on the same note in the office, and then even add a couple thoughts on my phone while waiting to get my hair cut. Not having to thinking about synching my notes at any time, is a huge benefit. The best tools tend to be reliable, not take too much thought and provide value; Evernote fits all of those.

It is heavy on creation vs consumption.

While you can certainly save other people’s writing to Evernote, I find the majority of my use falls under creation. Whether it is documenting my own thoughts or composing for a web site or blog, I generally find myself creating without distraction in Evernote.

Capture your thoughts and then review them.

One great thing about journaling is being able to look back and see what you were thinking in the past. I did a personal journal from 1999-2003, and I still enjoy reading what I was thinking at that time. I don’t have an official journal anymore, but I do consistently write my thoughts in Evernote. Being able to accurately see what you were thinking about a topic at any given time is a big advantage. My mind often tends to think that however I am thinking now was always the case. A review of my notes, quickly shows that isn’t always the case.

No pressure

When I write in Evernote I am generally writing just for me. At times I am specifically writing with an audience in mind, but the ideas that I put in Evernote are mainly for me, and this takes away a number of writing barriers. Have you ever set down at a blank screen wanting to write up a blog post or organize your thoughts on some idea, and were then overwhelmed with all the steps it would take to get the point of actually publishing? Hopefully for you, you can just start writing and everything flows really well. That isn’t the case for me. The pressure of a blank page can be difficult, but with Evernote I don’t feel any pressure. My history has taught me that I should write down whatever I am thinking at the time, and even if I don’t use this piece of writing right away, I have something to use in the future.

Organization for the disorganized

I am pretty messy. I don’t have a place for everything. My use of Evernote is often the same. I take random notes and don’t always add tags or put them in a certain notebook. Evernote helps me still get value from this disorganized style by having a good search function. When I am ready to put my thoughts together or act on a key piece of information, I can search for keywords on the topic and find my thoughts.

My other routine is taking an hour every month to go through my existing notes and organize them. I start with the most recent notes in my general folder and then drag and drop them in appropriate notebooks or add tags. I currently am adding about 80 notes a month to Evernote, and I can easily organize those in under an hour.

Another way Evernote has helped with my composition process is doing a small amount of editing each time I look at a note. I will read through what I wrote before and look for things to add to already written ideas, but also edit for readability on anything I have already written. This makes the process of article or idea creation systematized and routine.

You have to start somewhere.

Most complex ideas don’t get implemented in one day. I don’t generally wake up one morning and decide today is the day and knock out a whole project. If nothing else, Evernote is a great way to slowly transfer some of your ideas from your mind into text. It can start as a one line idea, that then becomes a paragraph and then maybe an executable plan or blog post; Evernote really makes it easy to get your thoughts down, organize them and then build on them.

Easy to start

Evernote doesn’t ask much of you. You can download their software for almost any device or just access it in a browser.

I know a number of people are now using Evernote. If you use it, I would love to hear your process and/or any tips you would like to share. In the next couple weeks I am going to write about some use cases, and it would be great to include yours.

 

2011

A personal year in review: Success, failure & help from my friends.

Inspired by Gareth M. Skarka, I am doing a quick year in review of my own personal social media and web projects. I hope you can indulge my self focus. Many of the projects never went anywhere, but I learned so much from small tests, little steps, and the generosity of others who shared their knowledge.

January

Started a social media podcast series. I had one interview that went well, but a lack of people to interview and audience development caused me to shift the format to news updates. After two months of doing that, I let the podcast series end in March. One of the great things about this project was that I got to work with Philsquare who I hope to do business with again in 2012.  They do great work.

Started blogging on LLSocial more frequently. And by frequently I mean at best once a month.

Started a GroupMe SMS account as a backup communication system for Lawrence if Twitter and/or the Internet went down. Seven invited people signed up, but thankfully it hasn’t been needed yet. I admit this is another project I started with enthusiasm, but have not worked on since.

February

Blogged about my frustration with a lack of investment opportunities in social media and advised investing in one’s self whether with personal accounts or business projects.

March

Started attending a weekly Sunday morning breakfast organized by Ray Munoz. A number of people joined over the year, and it keeps going strong. You can join us 9:30 AM at Genovese in Lawrence almost every Sunday.

Started researching Twitter names I thought would be good to base a large account around. In the process I secured @free on Twitter.

April

On April 1st, I first posted to @free with a Google April Fool’s offer of “finger warmers” for typing. Google actually delivered them in the mail.

In mid April, I decided to shift @free follower development from a follow-back model and try promoting it with MyLikes.

On April 22nd started the Twitter account @Lblogs to automatically tweet most of the blog posts in Lawrence.

In late April I decided that an SMS text system for @free might make sense.

My one year anniversary working with ITFO Communications. Working on a variety of thought leadership, marketing and social media projects has helped improve my skill sets in a number of meaningful ways.

May

Launched a completely custom SMS text service for @free. While I learned so much from the developement, if I had to do it over again, I would have started smaller and used existing technology.  As it is, this was an expensive project that might be more than I need in terms of local targeting.

June

The one year anniversary of the formation of Social Media Club of Lawrence. I attended most meetings over the previous year and learn so much from everyone who attended and participated.  If I had to point to just one thing that helped me over the past year, it would be the knowledge this group shares every week.

In mid June I started more aggressive development of the @free audience including the use of sponsorships. For more details on this, I am doing a talk about it on Janurary 18th. You can find more details on the Facebook events page.

Predicted that Twitter would need to start doing @ message ads based on keywords users used. While Twitter has yet to attempt to put ads in users @ message sections, they are placing ads in timelines based on keyword usage.

July

Wrote about my early attempts at using Google+ for audience segmentation. While I am no longer particuarlly excited about Google+ due to a lack of users, I used those same principles to launch new Twitter accounts focusing on students as well as iPhone and Android owners.

In late July I considered creating stickers or key fobs for @free users that could help with branding and/or be the basis for contest entries. I abandoned the idea due to cost and more importantly, the realization that the time it would take to do fullfillment wasn’t reasonable or the best use of my time given the early nature of my startup.

In late July we launch the @free website.

August

Begin to explore monetization ideas for @free. At the end of August I ask @free readers what they thought.

Create a Facebook app page with Shortstack apps to promote the @free Facebook page.

September

Suggested a book author topic meeting for Social Media Club of Lawrence. On October 12th we had the meeting.

Put the call out for contributer for new @free accounts. In the process I found my sales lead, Matt, and student lead, Haley.

October

Launched @universifree, @atFreeiPhone and @atFreeAndroid.

Attended a KU Small Business Development Center introductory class on starting a business. I had created several businesses before, but still found the class very helpful. I followed it up with a meeting to brainstorm ideas for @free as well as doing a monetization plan.

Attended a Social IRL conference where I got some good advice from Ben A. Smith.

Decided to list Documentary Films .Net for sale, and wrote up copy for it.

November

Attended, and @free sponsored, a SocialIRL event in St. Louis.

Put a blog post on Documentary Films. Net saying it was for sale.

@free got its first five business sponsors.

Created my first YouTube video to go along with a blog post about Follower Wonk. The video has less than 30 views, but I learn a considerable amount in the process. I am thankful for all the advice I got from Patrick Conroy about video over this past year.

December

Sold Documentary Films .Net to a Danish entertainment content company focusing on films.

Update my LinkedIn profile to reflect some of the changes over the last year.

Tried out a new service, Clarify.FM and as a result got to have a phone call with Dan Martell, one of the Internet marketers I respect most.

Changed my personal Twitter username to @JoshD from @lawrencekslive.

Joined Pinterest and found my collecting impulse reignited.

I know many people limit themselves to one resolution or focus for 2012, but if 2011 has taught me anything, is that I will keep taking next step on current projects, try lots of little experiments and then put the focus on what works and keep building on little wins. 2011 had so many failures (I use that in a good way), but out of those, I am really happy with many small wins that built on themselves.

I used Evernote and PostPost to help with my memory of when and what happen this past year.  I highly recommend both free services.

 

FitBit

How you can exercise, write and communicate more by making it a game.

The word “gamification” is popping up all over the Internet and business world.  The idea is that if you can make a process into a game with rewards and detailed stats, you can make that process more compelling.  If it is more compelling you will keep coming back to it, and then it becomes a habit.

Unsurprisingly, actual games do gamifying best; game makers have years of experience consuming and creating games.  But gamification can apply to a number of different areas.  Social check-in services use the idea of points and badges to keep people using their applications.  SalesForce.com has actually implement game like elements in their software to keep workers focused on getting “next steps” done.  Many web sites employ a progress meter to encourage new users to complete a number of steps so they will explore and gets the most out of a product.

Some would say that if you have to turn something into a game, then it likely isn’t worth doing on its own.  While there might be some truth to that, gamification can actually be used to get people to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t, and those actions can provide real value to themselves and others.

Turning activity and fitness into a game.

FitBit sitting on its charger stand.One area I have explored gamification for my own life is weight loss and exercise.  Experts for years have recommended writing down what you eat, how much you exercise and how much you weigh.  If you are more advanced, they also recommend body fat measurement.  Not surprising if you track these things on a regular basis, they become a great part of your consciousness, and you also see the improvements based on your actions.

It isn’t easy to find time to chart all of these things, so it is great that technology is allowing us to find easier ways to accomplish this.  In terms of activity and sleep, FitBit is a small pager like device that you simply clip to your clothing.  It uses a Wii-like sensor to track your movement throughout the day and even at night.  Your daytime activity is tracked like a pedometer.  So you can see how active you are and how much you moved on any given day.  At night, the FitBit tracks how you sleep, how much you move and can provide suggestions based on the data it accumulates.

Even better, you don’t have to plug the FitBit into your computer every day.  As part of the package you get a wireless receiver that plugs into your computer and whenever the FitBit is in range, it transfers the data.  You do have to charge the FitBit every three to four days, but this is a huge improvement over plugging a device in daily.

We know Foursquare has game elements. How about Twitter?

Example @ mentions (i.e. rewards) from my LLSocial Twitter account.Another area that gamification has been helpful is in social media.  Something doesn’t even have to be designed as a game to create the characteristics of one.

When I first got started using Twitter (my favorite form of social media), I kept using it early on because I kept getting followers.  Some of those followers were undoubtedly bots or completely random, but some of them were real people in my community.  I didn’t know if they were actually reading what I was saying, but this was a tiny bit of positive feedback (a reward if you will) that kept me posting thoughts and links I found interesting.

As I continued to use Twitter, I got additional feedback in the form of @ mentions and retweets.  That meant that at least a few people were actually reading what I was saying and found it useful or interesting enough to take action on.

Twitter isn’t a game per say, but it mimicks a game because it slowly provided rewards based on positive actions.  The rewards built up over time as I read what people I followed posted, engaged them on their content and appreciated when they did the same.

I think Twitter is valuable enough that I would have kept using it without all these little rewards, but I am not 100% on that.  Those who know me well, will tell you that my inquisitive nature makes it so I can jump from idea to idea without following through.  I am happy to say that everything in my life doesn’t have to be a game, and that I have enough discipline to work on projects that aren’t fun.  But having some type of loop that provides positive feedback, is useful for me. This is especially true when accomplishing more difficult and multi-step tasks like weight loss, writing and even exploring unfamiliar situations and applications.

Want to write more? Gamify it.

A look at just some of the stats 750 Words provides.In addition to FitBit one additional “product” I would like to share is a website that gamifies writing.  It is called 750 Words.  The basis of this free “game” is that you are asked to write 750 words a day.  Their interface is simple and easy to use.  You get badges for consistently meeting your goals, and like many good games, it provides tons of stats so you can see your progress in great details.

I know I can write without turning it into a game.  But how powerful is it to turn something so important into a daily habit with small rewards thrown in.

If you have written in the past, write now or just want to write more consistently, I recommend checking out 750 Words.  And yes, this blog post was origionally created using 750 Words.

Gamification is a buzz word for good reasons.

Maybe Fitbit and 750 Words aren’t the right fit for you, but if you want to tackle a difficult task or a part of your life where you have had occasional or minimal success in the past, considering typing in to Google what you want to accomplish along with “gamification”.  Games aren’t just kids play if they actually help accomplish your goals.

Do you have examples where a game like system helped you accomplish a goal?  Do you think gamification is meaningful or just another fad?  I would appreciate hearing your thoughts in the comments.

SocialMediaInvestments

How to invest in social media? It certainly isn’t stocks.

When I first started to understanding the value of social media, I wanted to take that knowledge and use it in my investment decisions.

I started doing Google searches such as “Social Media stocks”, “Social Media publicly traded companies” and the like.

I quickly found that there weren’t any pure-play social media stocks.  Even those companies, who owned social media related brands, were the weaker of the social media platforms.  You could buy News Corporation who owns MySpace, but who wants to invest in MySpace, let alone have to invest in all the other News Corp companies.  You could invest in United Online, but then you would be stuck with what I view as a disaster site, Classmates.com.

After a weekend of research, I determined that there wasn’t really any social media investment opportunities in publicly traded stocks.

Today, a year after all that research, nothing has really changed.  In fact things might have gotten worse.  A LinkedIn IPO is in the works, but no definite date has been established.

Startup and Angel Investing

I determined there are two ways to invest in social media companies:  invest in startups and/or have access to secondary markets were non-public companies are traded.  Both of these options require having millions of dollars in personal equity and are out of my league.

Even if you have those funds, investing in startups is difficult.  You have to be connected with the seed capital or angel investor networks.  Prominent mid-sized angel investors are actually having trouble finding things to invest in as so much money is now being invested in startups.  Dozens of articles have been written about a “startup bubble”.

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner is providing startup funding without even considering the business model.  If a company can get into Y-Combinator, a start-up incubator, the company automatically gets $150,000 in funding just for joining the group.  And the terms of the funding are extremely favorable to the company, not the investor.  It is difficult for anyone to compete with that.

When a social media company finally goes public.

So what about when the company finally does go public?  Then the average person with money in their Roth or 401k will be able to have a fair shot?

Not really.  Yesterday, JPMorgan announced they are starting a $500 million to $750 million “Social Media Fund”.  This fund will provide financing to established businesses with additional investments in late stages before they go public.  This type of funding isn’t really even needed by most of these companies. The secondary market and traditional investor funding largely provide what is needed for these businesses.  But they aren’t going to turn down the money.  This type of fund allows large banks and their clients to get access to these companies before they even go public; taking out another layer of value.

Most of the value in social media stocks will be gone by the time any of these companies get to the stock market.  Social media is powerful enough that these companies may continue to do well. Since the hype for social media is justifiably high, it might make sense to get in for the short term on almost any company that has legitimate social media elements.  The demand is there for these investments, so the price will likely continue to rise, irrespective of traditional evaluations.

How you can actually invest in social media.

The takeaway from all of this is that if you want to take advantage of the power of social media, you have to invest in yourself.    If you have an idea for a startup, get working on it.  Build a prototype.  There has never been a time like this where there is so much money willing to be invested in the next social media related product.  Even if it is a niche product, the demand is still there.  You have to be a creator.

If you don’t have a product or business idea, invest your time and money in social media for whatever business or project you are currently working on.  Wall Street will hopefully never find a way to take the value out of your own social media efforts.

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I am hoping that I have just missed some obvious social media stock plays.  If you have any you would like to share, I would love to hear about them in the comments section.  Also if you have thoughts about investing in social media, please feel free to share them.