Monthly Archives: March 2009

5 People Who Broke the Rules of Social Media and Succeeded

Written by David Spark

When I was working as a stand-up comic, I was always warned about the rules of performing. In general, the advice was good (e.g. “Don’t be dirty.” “Talk about yourself.” “Play to the crowd.”), adhering to it made one look and sound like everybody else. It didn’t take long to quickly learn that for every guideline and rule of successful stand-up comedy, somebody has broken that rule and made a fortune off of it (e.g. Sam Kinison, Andy Kaufman).

When I left stand-up, I learned that stand-up’s “rule breaking” successes transcended everything, even social media. And like in stand-up, I watched the masses collectively form “the rules,” which manifested itself as an endless stream of top tips, best practices, and expert advice. It all became mind numbing.

Advice only goes so far. The way we really learn is through real experiences. In this piece, I sought out stories of people who listened to the advice of experts, ignored it, did what they wanted to do, and then succeeded. There was only one rule they followed: They were convinced that what they were doing was right.


Rule #1 broken: Do whatever you have to do to keep your job


Mark Horvath was a top TV executive in Hollywood and then lost it all. Out of work and with a home going into foreclosure, Horvath quickly became homeless. With no income or a roof over his head, Horvath still had to do something. So he started Invisiblepeople.tv, a personal first account video blog designed to give homelessness a face and voice.

Horvath eventually got a job at a homeless shelter and began to tweet passionately about the day-to-day madness of homelessness. Read his feed (@hardlynormal) of more than 6,500 updates and you’ll see he’s not the face homeless agencies would want you to see and hear.

invisible.tv image

Repeatedly, Horvath has been told by homeless service agencies and government officials that there are legal consequences to what he’s doing and he should simply stop. The agency has a process to deal with homeless problems and that involves meetings, assignments, and budgets to acquire to make things happen, said Horvath. Having been homeless, Horvath doesn’t think that’s the way to handle the issue. He’s all about exposing problems publicly on Twitter as they’re happening. He doesn’t want to wait for the issue to be brought up in a private meeting.

In an effort to scare Horvath, he’s been warned multiple times, “Be careful, people are watching.” The threats haven’t slowed him down even though he knows he’s going to be laid off in a week with no severance. He believes his efforts have all been successful because he’s been getting the word out on homelessness and got all the homeless agencies up and connected on Twitter.

Horvath has no anger towards his soon to be former employers. “These are not bad people. They are just insecure and don’t really have their priorities straight. It’s not about who has the most effective marketing, it’s ALL about getting people off the streets,” said Horvath, “I’ve lost everything except my laptop, my car and some furniture. A normal person would just be taking care of themselves, a rule breaker puts others before himself.”


Rule #2 broken: You can’t make money on YouTube


Pinny Gniwisch, Founder and EVP marketing for jewelry site Ice.com, was told by experts that nobody had figured out how to make money on YouTube. He simply wouldn’t be able to do it. If he wanted to market his business on YouTube or get celebrities to participate he was going to have to fork over serious marketing dollars.

Gniwisch ignored all that advice and spent only $1,295 to launch a silly YouTube campaign where he interviewed celebrities such as “Three 6 Mafia” and Kevin Sorbo about Mother’s Day and whether they got guilt for not getting a gift as good or better than what they gave the previous year. At the end of the video a woman delivers a call to action, asking viewers to sign up at Ice.com for a chance to win a $10,000 shopping spree.

ice youtube video

The goal of the YouTube campaign was to build up the Ice.com database, and then over the holidays convert those subscribers to buyers. While not tons of traffic, the call to action worked and he got over 6,000 people to sign up for the sweepstakes. And those signups have converted into more than $20,000 in sales.


Rule #3 broken: Top Twitterers have the best advice on how to use Twitter


J.T. O’Donnell is the founder of CAREEREALISM.com, a site for career news and perspective for job seekers and young careerists, ages 18-40. Adding to the list of career services, O’Donnell devised The Twitter Advice Project or T.A.P., which would be a series of experts tweeting advice in response to questions posed by readers (see video). All advice would appear in the @CAREEREALISM Twitter feed and users could easily see all the answers to specific questions.

O’Donnell went out looking for experts to participate in T.A.P. She first approached a few well known Twitter users who told her the idea would never fly because it was impossible to give good career advice in just 140 characters. One said it would be too confusing and it would take up too much time to research and post answers. Another with more than 10,000 followers didn’t want to have to compete with other experts. A third expert thought the conflicting advice from experts would actually frustrate the readers.

careerealism twitter image

J.T. didn’t believe any of them and just kept going. She continued to pitch more Twitter influencers and convinced eight experts that T.A.P. was actually the BEST way to give career advice.

In the first 72 hours of launching T.A.P., @CAREEREALISM gained more than 700 new followers and she’s been flooded with requests from other experts to join the roster.


Rule #4 broken: Always follow Seth Godin’s advice


Becky Blanton is a prolific and seasoned freelance writer who broke all the rules of social media not because she was a heretic, but because she simply didn’t know the rules.

A while back a client asked Blanton to write more like Seth Godin. At the time, Blanton didn’t know who Godin was so she started reading his blog and his books. She then joined Triiibes, Seth Godin’s invitation-only social network, and starting posting a lot. So much so that Seth Godin emailed her personally, saying she was being too personal, posting too much, and that this was not how social media is done. She was shocked and taken aback. All this coming from the master of social media.

happy birthday imageBut for some reason that warning didn’t deter Blanton. She responded to Godin explaining that this is who she is and she’s just going to keep posting this way. Fellow Triiibes members supported her and responded by calling her the Mayor or sometimes the Queen of Triiibes. Eventually, she won over Seth Godin too, who asked everyone to wish Blanton “Happy Birthday,” which resulted in a flood of 273 “Happy Birthday” messages of which Blanton responded to all.

Blanton’s real success came when she entered the Johnny Bunko contest to come up with an inventive piece of career advice. “The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need” is a Manga style comic book that offered six pieces of little known career advice. The author, Daniel Pink, initiated a contest to come up with the seventh career secret. Blanton submitted an entry which was to “Stay Hungry,” meaning never be satisfied with what you’ve got and always strive for more.

The winner of the Johnny Bunko seventh career secret would be determined by who got the most votes. Popular opinion at this time told Blanton to email everyone she knew to vote for her. But she didn’t. Instead, she just let everyone know the contest was happening and to simply vote for the idea they thought was the best. Everyone said she would be committing contest suicide. You’ll drive votes to other people, they said. Blanton didn’t care. She was so committed to the “vote for the best idea” and not “vote for me” that she actually ended up voting for a competitor, Ed Brenegar, whose advice was to “Say ‘Thanks’ every day.”

Blanton’s non-tactics worked. In the end, she got the most votes and won the grand prize which was an all expense paid trip to Oxford, England to attend the TEDGlobal 2009. In addition, Seth Godin gave her props on his blog and second place winner, Ed Brenegar, and her are collaborating on a book together.


Rule #5 broken: Don’t get sloppy and unprofessional when pitching bloggers


Mike McGrath (@mikefj40) was working at a PR agency and engaging in a blogger relations project. Reading up on bloggers and sending pitches about his client’s company, McGrath was purposely trying to target his pitches appropriately. But among the volume of messages he sent out, he accidentally forgot to address one of the messages personally. Within an hour he got a rant from the blogger offended, Steve Borsch, who flamed him for all the ills of public relations.

Instead of firing back at Borsch or blaming him for such a negative attack, McGrath apologized saying he was trying to do the right thing and asked Borsch how he would like to be contacted. Borsch then spent the time to write three thoughtful pages of best practices. The two of them quickly became very appreciative of each other’s thoughtfulness to the issue. Borsch invited McGrath to join his mailing list and the two of them started following each other on Twitter.

Borsch had another similar initial mass mailing incident with another PR firm that didn’t go nearly as well as with McGrath. In that case, Borsch responded to the PR rep by telling her precisely how she should’ve done it, could’ve done it, and that this message was all about her, her client, and throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks rather than reaching out authentically to people like Borsch. “We’re not just a nouveau channel of distribution for your messaging,” Borsch said. Later that day Borsch got a nasty message from the owner of the firm asking him why he was being such a dick. “You made her cry, for Godssake”, he told Borsch.

After McGrath’s email exchange with Borsch, McGrath’s boss reprimanded him for replying to Borsch and was told not to be transparent with either the client or the blogger. McGrath has since left that firm and does independent social media marketing, yet Borsch and him have remained good friends.


Conclusion


I know this comes off as a “Free to Be… You and Me” kind of recommendation, but what I’ve learned from all these stories is the best social media advice one can take is to simply follow your own convictions. It’s also how you become a great stand-up comedian. If you simply give people what they tell you to give, you’ll never rise above the noise. You have to be convinced that what you’re doing is right.

I’m interested to hear more from you though. What social media rules have you broken? How do you filter advice and learn when to accept it and when to ignore it?

David Spark is a veteran tech journalist and founder of Spark Media Solutions, a firm that helps companies build their industry voice through storytelling and social media. His technology report, The Spark Minute, can be heard every day on Green 960 and 910 KNEW in San Francisco.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Sveta

Unemployed? These 10 Websites Should Be Your Best Friends

Written by Mark Sullivan

We found a battery of new sites and services–such as LinkedIn JobsInsider, Recessionwire, and Uberi.com–dedicated to providing the kind of cost-cutting, job-search, and moral-support tools that can be invaluable during lean times.

As the economy continues to suffer, many people are cutting their budgets, looking for work, or preparing a plan of action in case a layoff comes. Fortunately, the Web offers some powerful new tools to help with those tasks. After asking some experts and a number of unemployed friends for recommendations, I put together a list of sites that can truly make a difference, whether you’re conducting or anticipating a job search, or just trying to tighten the purse strings during these bad economic times.

Quicken Online

Quicken Online


If your job does go away, a smart first step is to declare martial law on your budget, paring down or eliminating all but the most essential expenses. I’ve never (seriously) maintained a personal budget, but doing so will likely be one of the new experiences this downturn introduces me to. Since I’m unlikely to cut my broadband connection until I’m literally starving, I looked for a solid (and free) online budgeting tool–one that could pull information from elsewhere on the Web, and that was accessible from anywhere.

I settled on Intuit’s basic and free Quicken Online service. The setup took all of 3 minutes, and before I knew it the service was pulling my income and expense information from the last nine months from my online bank account. The service reads every line item and intelligently applies a category to each (rent, food, entertainment, income, and so on), and then it charts where your money is going and gives you ideas on what you can cut back or eliminate. Quicken miscategorized a few of my entries, but correcting them was a snap. The service also sets up a series of alarms and reminders for when your bills are due, so that you never incur another late charge. You can have the reminders sent to your e-mail or to your cell phone–and yes, there’s an iPhone app. (Also recommended: Mint.)

LinkedIn JobsInsider

LinkedIn JobsInsider


One of the greatest comforts if you are unemployed (or if you’re anticipating that you will be soon) is having a strong network of professional and social friends. Networking on sites such as LinkedIn, which focuses on career-related social networking, can be a powerful way to spread the word that you are looking for work, to advertise your expertise, to get difference-making recommendations from friends, and to find out about job opportunities.

But you already know that. What’s new is that LinkedIn is developing some cool tools to help you while you’re hunting for job opportunities. The company has introduced a downloadable browser add-on called LinkedIn JobsInsider that tells you, in a pane at the left side of your browser window, when you have a LinkedIn contact who might be able to help you with specific jobs you’ve found while searching on job boards (like Monster, for example). Whether you have an “in” with a particular employer can make the difference between expending effort in pursuing the opportunity or spending time looking for something better.

“In fact, one LinkedIn contact can make all the difference in the world,” says Julie Erich, an insurance industry recruiter based in San Francisco. “Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager who has 200 resumes on her desk. She is busy and is looking for ways to reduce that pile to set of solid finalists who will make it to the second round.” The mention of a mutual friend, in the real world or on LinkedIn, can cause the hiring manager to move your resume to the top of the pile, Erich says. “It can get you an interview, [whereas] without that mutual friend you might have been lost in the stack.”

As you might imagine, LinkedIn and sites like it have seen a dramatic uptick in popularity since the economy took a nosepe. A spokesperson told me that LinkedIn has seen a 65 percent increase in recommendations (your friends/contacts saying nice things about you at your profile page) since December 2008. Meanwhile, she says, the number of applicants per job listing on LinkedIn has doubled over the last 6 months, while the number of job listings has plummeted. These days, a new member is signing up with LinkedIn at a rate of one per second.

SimplyHired

SimplyHired


You’ve already heard about the large employment sites, such as CareerBuilder, HotJobs, and Monster. I’m not a big believer in such sites, and I don’t often hear people talking about how wonderful any one of them is. Instead I recommend a relative newcomer called SimplyHired, a startup with financial backing from News Corporation, which owns Fox Networks.

SimplyHired does for (to?) job sites what Kayak does for travel sites: It aggregates job listings from all over the Web, including from the big sites. SimplyHired now lists about 4 million jobs. I did a few sample searches on the site for marketing positions, and saw openings from perhaps ten different job boards, along with postings that came directly from the hiring companies. The listings give the basic information about the opportunity, and then link you out to the listing at the hiring company’s site or at the job board.

I like the fact that SimplyHired takes advantage of the job data it aggregates to benefit its users. For instance, the site mines the data to produce both salary averages and employment trends (the number of opportunities listed month-to-month, for instance) for the type of job you’re looking for. SimplyHired also offers a couple of tools that seem to be more than window dressing. One is a Google Maps mashup where you can plot out various commutes to the same job–pretty useful, since the commute is an obvious factor in deciding whether to pursue a particular job listing.

DesperateDollars

DesperateDollars


DesperateDollars is filled with ideas for making money if you find yourself in really dire straits–things like getting tattoos for money, growing and selling your own food, doing for-pay surveys and secret-shopping assignments, volunteering for paid clinical tests, or donating sperm, blood, or hair. The site isn’t the prettiest thing in the world to look at, but I found the assortment of money-making ideas entertaining, as well as somewhat of a comfort: It’s a reminder that the world doesn’t end if you lose your job. With a little creativity, in times of desperation you can still go out and bring home the bacon.

Free Napkin

FreeNapkin


FreeNapkin is like an eBay for free stuff. The site is a magnet for two types of people: folks looking for an easy way to recycle stuff they don’t need by finding a new home for it, and those who are trying to cut costs by getting used stuff for free instead of going out and buying it. The “givers” post pictures and information about the items they want to dump, and the first FreeNapkin “claimer” to call dibs on the item wins it. The claimer pays the shipping on the item, or picks it up in person (the site filters the donations by city).

People have given away everything from dogs to farm equipment on FreeNapkin. I’ve never donated or claimed anything on FreeNapkin; but judging by the number of listings, the site seems to work well. FreeNapkin is no marvel of fancy Web design, but it gets bonus points for hitting squarely on the need to conserve and reuse things in tough economic times.

Uberi.com

Uberi.com


If your income is threatened or interrupted, putting a tight grip on your outgoing cash is essential. Many deal sites have popped up on the Web in the last year, each with a slightly different product focus and approach. Uberi spends about half its time looking for consumer tech deals (TVs, printers, and the like), and the rest gathering listings for things important to families and small businesses, such as food, paper, and clothing. The deals appear in random order, not categorized, so you must scan through them; the link in each one leads out to the product page at the corresponding retailer’s site.

The site tracks deals at many large retailers such as Amazon and Wal-Mart, which offer discounts on various things every day. Amazon has so many that Uberi presents a “discount table” linking you directly to listings of on-sale products by category and by discount level (10 percent to 90 percent).

If you are the official (or unofficial) purchasing agent for a business or a large household, checking the listings at Uberi to see if they match your needs has the potential to make a real difference when you tally up your costs at the end of the month. (Also recommended: RetailMeNot.)

Meetup

Meetup


The Internet is a great place to start the process of finding a job, but getting hired happens as a result of direct, face-to-face contact with other people. Meetup provides a platform where anyone, regardless of where they live, can find or set up groups of local, like-minded people with specific shared interests or goals.

More and more employment-related groups are forming on Meetup, as a quick group search on the site reveals. I searched Meetup for groups in my neighborhood (using my zip code), and found several nearby. In such groups you can learn about job opportunities that aren’t advertised, about job fairs and other events, and about people inside or outside of the group who can help you (directly or indirectly) get your foot in the door somewhere.

SmartyPig

SmartyPig


With the economy on the wane, Americans are getting serious about saving money again–savings deposits were up 5 percent in January. It’s a good time to consider SmartyPig, a savings Web site backed by a real FDIC-insured bank that attempts to make saving money more fun (and more successful) by adding social networking elements and Web widgets.

Say you’re saving up for a trip, a wedding, or a down payment on a house. You tell the Pig when you want to meet your goal, and the Pig suggests an automatic monthly payment amount that will allow you to reach it. You make payments into your account as you would with any online bank. You can then install a SmartyPig widget at your Facebook or MySpace page; this gets your friends involved, which might make you more feel more accountable to your savings goal. SmartyPig even provides an easy way for your friends to donate cash to your cause.

Recessionwire.com

Recessionwire


Here’s a cool new site that falls under the “moral support” heading. Recessionwire was founded by three journalists–a couple of Conde Naste Portfolio online editors and a freelancer–who found themselves, uh, underemployed. The three decided to vent their frustration by starting what they termed a “user’s guide to the recession.”

The site offers news and analysis on the economy (“Recession Briefing”), perspectives, work (or out-of-work) advice, spending tips (“Recession Concessions”), inspiration (spotlights on people who see opportunity in this economy), and insights.

While the site offers a lot of serious news and information, perhaps its best quality is its ability to give you a laugh or two during rough times. Recessionwire takes a decidedly humorous and irreverent approach to the economy and its effects on people. Here’s a quick excerpt from Joe the Trader’s blog: “The jury may still be out on broad societal shifts, but the public quickly volunteered to be judge, jury, and executioner for the Wall Street fat cats. Even in the halcyon days of 2006, Wall Street guys were called douchebags.”

Wise Bread

Wise Bread


Wise Bread is just one of a whole new wave of frugality sites. It’s essentially a group of blogs with a discussion forum attached. The blogs cover ideas and advice on personal finance, career, frugal buying, green living, and ways to do everyday things more easily and cheaply (“lifehacks”). For instance, when I checked today I saw a blog about how the bailout package might affect your mortgage, a piece on cutting down your use of plastic bags, and a bit titled “Beware the Pretty Things: Four Reasons I’m Keeping My Ugly, Old Stuff“. Every day the site features deals from around the Web, as well as advice from an expert on retirement planning and other money matters.

While the site offers many creative ways to simplify your lifestyle and save money, it also makes a big deal out of finding ways to keep some of the luxuries you enjoy, by paying less for them. That makes sense to me; simply removing all the fun things from your life can make you feel morally defeated by your financial woes.

More than anything, I like the cumulative message of Wise Bread–that there is nothing wrong (and a lot right) with living within your means. At a time when debt, both personal and institutional, is wreaking so much havoc on so many people’s budgets, it seems appropriate to ditch the idea that buying new and on credit is the proper thing to do, and that those “pretty things” we think we want will lead to happiness.

Whether you are employed, underemployed, or unemployed, I hope you will check out some of these ten sites. All have something to offer regardless of your employment status, even if it’s just a quick laugh or a little inspiration. And, as always, I invite you to let me know about sites that have helped you manage money, find a job, or keep your mind right during these hard economic times.

Top 10 Instant Sound Effect Sites

Collected by Jason Clarke

Instant Rimshot
The classic, and likely original site in the genre. Load this site up before you tell a joke, and hit the button to punctuate your punch line.

Sad Trombone
Created in response to Instant Rimshot, sad trombone is useful when delivering bad news. “Honey, I accidentally drove the car into the garage door…” insert sad trombone sound here. Your significant other will be laughing so hard they won’t mind the bad news.

Instant Crickets
An alternative that is probably good to have open alongside Instant Rimshot when telling a joke. Use Instant Crickets when your joke doesn’t go over well at all. This site is particularly useful in corporate meetings when telling politically incorrect jokes.

Emergency Yodel
When everything seems to be getting you down, you can always rely on your Emergency Yodel button. Yodels are like hugs, making everything just a little bit better. Maybe when my aunt Beatrice comes to town again she’ll accept a yodel instead of a hug? (insert Instant Crickets sound here)

Bom Bom Bom Bom Wooooo
The sad horns sound effect from a well-known television game show where you attempt to guess the prices of everyday products. In my opinion, a better sound than Sad Trombone.

Swanee Whistle
Basically just a down/up slide whistle sound. In some ways by itself it’s more sad than a sad trombone. Not sure how you’d use it, since it’s not all that festive sounding.

Epic Oneliner
David Caruso’s acting skills are legendary, so why not punctuate your day with sunglasses and his serious mug?

Khaaan
Beware, clicking this link will open a full-screen image of William Shatner’s face. You have been warned.

Mister Nice Hands
Bad taste alert – this is a pull-my-finger page.

Instant Tumbleweed
Another one that seems to have no real purpose. I guess you look at it when you’re feeling lonely?

additional:

Nelson Haha
Perfect for that moment when your office mate makes a ridiculously obvious suggestion, or spills coffee all over themself.

Bruce Lee Like Strength Without Ever Going to a Gym

Written by Jonathan Mead

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee was a paragon of cool and an icon of the ultimate bad-ass. Not only were his martial arts skills incredible, but he had such an impressive physique that even bodybuilders in the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger admired him.

What’s more impressive is that Bruce trained his body without ever stepping into a gym and with very little use of weights or machines.

Here are just a few of Lee’s physical feats:

  • Performed one-hand push-ups using only the thumb and index finger.
  • Could hold an elevated v-sit position for 30 minutes or longer.
  • Could throw grains of rice up into the air and then catch them in mid-flight using chopsticks.
  • Could break wooden boards 6 inches (15 cm) thick.
  • Performed 50 reps of one-arm chin-ups.

While you may not get to Bruce Lee’s level overnight, you can start getting in shape without the use of a lot of fancy (and expensive) equipment. You can do it from the comfort of your own home, in a space as large as a bathroom.

Part of the reason I started training without a gym was because I began training in Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee’s method of martial arts). But I also got tired of paying monthly gym dues. At the time, I was looking for things I could cut out of my monthly budget to save a little extra money.

I thought about getting rid of my gym membership altogether, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my health or physical fitness. So I found another way. For months, I haven’t had a gym membership, yet I’m getting stronger and faster than I’ve ever been in my life.

You don’t have to buy lots of weights or machines, either. The most expensive equipment you’ll need (a simple doorway pull-up bar) will cost no more than $35.00.

Bruce Lee was a big proponent of holistic or total fitness.His workouts included strength, speed, endurance, and flexibility training.

Here’s just a few of the ways you can start getting stronger, faster and more toned without ever stepping into a gym:

  1. Calisthenics. There are so many different bodyweight exercises out there, but we’ll start with the basics. For the lower body: lunges and squats are a good start. For upper body: pull-ups, push-ups, and shoulder press ups. For your core: crunches, chops, and reverse crunches will get you going. What’s great about bodyweight exercises is that they build functional strength. They’re natural movements you would use in real life situations like sports, self-defense, gardening, or doing chores. Plus when you do bodyweight exercises, you force your body to use more supporting and balancing muscles than you would on machines. For more bodyweight exercises check out these great resources: The Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Training: 100 Killer Resources and for an awesome list of bodyweight exercises with illustrations check out Combat Fitness. Bonus: Top 10 Best Bodyweight Exercises for Advanced and Beginners.
  2. Isometric exercises. These are basic bodyweight exercises, but where you hold your body in a static position. Examples of these are the frog sit, v-sit, horse stance, hanging from a pull-up bar, and the plank. Calisthenic exercises will improve muscle strength over a range of motion, but isometric exercises are great for joint and stabilizing strength.
  3. Range of motion and flexibility. The best exercise I’ve found for range of motion and flexibility is yoga. The best thing about yoga is that no equipment is required and you can find tons of free resources online for yoga routines. Check out Anmol Mehta’s Yoga Illustrations to get you started.
  4. Balance. Balance is the ability to keep your equilibrium when your center of gravity is thrown off-balance. There are many ways you can practice balance every day (we won’t get into tight rope walking here). When you’re putting on your shoes or getting dressed, do it on one foot. Walk on the curb and try to walk in a straight line without stumbling. Or if you’re really ambitious, there’s always pogo sticking and unicycling.
  5. Dynamic exercise. Dynamic exercise is anything where you’re not performing routine after routine. Things are in flux and constantly changing. You’re moving in more natural movements, rather than continuous repetition of fixed patterns. I recently started doing Jeet Kune Do in the park every weekend. It’s a great way to get a good work out and learn self defense. Not to mention, practicing martial arts tends to make you inspired to further pursue and achieve higher levels of physical fitness. If you’re not into martial arts, you can always pick up a sport like tennis, handball, basketball, or take dance classes. Do whatever you’re naturally drawn to. Or if you struggle with seeing fitness as an enjoyable activity, you might consider getting a Wii Fit.

There’s a lot of other opportunities for exercise that don’t include a gym that I haven’t listed here. Hiking, jogging, skiing, yardwork… The list could go on. Just use your imagination. Make it fun and change it up. That’s the great thing about exercising without a gym, there’s so much to choose from.

On a side note, I will, however, say that for me, it took a lot more discipline to work out from home. It was easy for me to just go to the gym. Once I’m there, there’s not a lot else I can do other than work out. But at home, there’s always distraction, always other things you can do besides working out (like laying on the couch or surfing the internet). For me, practicing martial arts inspires me to be physically fit. While you might not have this problem, I thought it only fair to be upfront about this issue.

The other motivator for me to work out from home — besides saving money — was the variety of workouts. There’s just so many more options with bodyweight exercises than machines. You can always do something to further challenge yourself. If push-ups are a breeze, you can try doing them on your fingers or in a close grip (with a medicine ball). If pull-ups become too easy, train for a one arm pull-up (insanely difficult).

Attaining Bruce Lee like fitness isn’t just about doing the types workouts he did and eating the same diet. What made Bruce so great was his natural curiosity and drive to constantly explore and learn more about fitness and personal growth. (His personal library contained over 2,000 books!)

Tap into your own curiosity and make fitness enjoyable. Challenge yourself to new levels of fitness. Go beyond what you think you can do.

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee

Photo courtesy of CK Image Gallery

5 Ways That You’ll Know the Recession is Over

Written by Jim Hu

Record layoffs! Consumer confidence is in the tank! The Dow is trading at its lowest level since 1997!

Scared yet? It seems like everything we read about the economy is either bad or getting worse. The measurements of economic health reveal a patient that requires a stint in the I.C.U. and some time to heal. Luckily, the prognosis isn’t terminal. The American economy is resilient, and since the 1960’s economic growth phases have dwarfed periods of recessions. So if you believe in history, what goes down eventually goes up. The big question is when.

“I think we’ve got at least another 12 months to go,” says Jim Howell, an economics professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. “If we finish by the end of 2010, that would be a good outcome.”

The problem and solution for the economy revolves around lending and spending. Lending is the lifeblood of the economy, and today the credit markets have slowed due to fears that borrowers won’t pay them back. Without credit, businesses cut back on spending and lay-off workers. Consumers who lose their paycheck stop shopping, forego buying new cars and put their vacations on hold.

Stopping this cycle involves some intervention and some psychological assurances. Forces such as the $787 billion stimulus package are attempts to get the economy flowing again. But the turnaround can’t happen until businesses and consumers feel confident enough to spend.

“When people get a better feeling that we’ve hit bottom… then they’ll change their behavior slowly,” says Howell.

In the meantime, Howell is looking for signs that we’re on the road to recovery. While that day may not arrive for many months, here are his five leading indicators:

1. Bank nationalization

Over the past few weeks, Howell has “reluctantly” endorsed bank nationalization as the solution to thaw out the credit market. He’s not a fan of nationalization, but he does believe drastic measures are needed to fix the system. Before you jump to conclusions and call Howell a socialist, remember that he sees bank nationalization as a temporary and necessary solution not a permanent panacea to the problems of capitalism.

“I want government to take over the banks and throw out all the bankers,” says Howell. “Get rid of all the bad loans and clean up the banks. Then sell them to people who meet some criteria about being reasonably honest.”

2. Confidence in the stock market

Right now the bears are leading the pack and the bulls are on the retreat. Investors are licking their wounds and are skittish to bet on the market. When big investors restore their confidence in the market, you can bet that’s an indicator the tide is turning.

“If you see people with lots of money beginning to dabble in the stock market again, that’s a good sign.”

3. Small businesses

Think small. While lots of attention is focused on large industries such as the automotive industry or the retail sector during a recession, it is actually the viability of small business that can be one of the most important barometers of the health of the overall economy. Just check out main street. Are local businesses closing down? Is your favorite restaurant struggling to fill its tables? A turnaround may be happening “when you see them beginning to pull down their ‘for sale’ signs and begin to advertise,” says Howell.

4. Jobs for college graduates

Yes, unemployment rates are the highest they’ve been in 15 years and every day brings news of another company laying off workers. But the real test of the strength of the job market is whether businesses are recruiting college graduates into their first job. When that happens, you’ll know that they have moved beyond survival mode and are investing in long-term growth.

5. Value of the dollar

How’s the dollar doing against foreign currencies? If it goes up, it probably means the world is beginning to believe that our economy is changing for the better. And if they believe it, then we should too. The world markets are not always right, but “they’re probably right four out of six,” Howell says.

For more of Jim Hu’s writing, visit gloomtoboom

One clue to the cyclical nature of boom and bust can be found in this chart, which indicates how long previous recessions have lasted. While no one is suggesting we just wait it out and strong measures are clearly indicated, we can all take some comfort in the knowledge that time is on our side when it comes to ending the recession.

The Top 100 Best Fonts Of All Time

Written by Jacob Cass

Image

Based on a German website, these are the top 100 best fonts of all time.

To say the least, ranking fonts is an obviously hard task… how does one measure aesthetic quality, the benefit of an item, its value to humanity and so fourth?

Well, in this particular German publication, the judges ranked the fonts by their objective and various other weighted measurements:

  • FontShop Sales Figures: 40%
  • Historical Value/Meaning: 30%
  • Aesthetic Qualities: 30%

It is also worth noting that this evaluation consisted exclusively of licensed or commercial fonts only. Free fonts or operating system fonts were not considered, nor were fonts integral to standard software (i.e. Arial, Verdana, etc.). Font variations, which over the centuries have been individually interpreted by various Foundries, were uniquely evaluated as a class and the best variant was entered into the main judging process.

Below is a preview of the top 33 fonts and beneath this image you can find the full list of the 100 best fonts.

33-best-fonts

Top 100 Best Fonts Of All Time

Below you will find the full list of the best 100 fonts along with the designer & the year in which they were designed.

1. Helvetica [1957 – Max Miedinger]

2. Garamond [1530 – Claude Garamond]

3. Frutiger [1977 – Adrian Frutiger]

4. Bodoni [1970 – Giambattista Bodoni]

5. Futura [1927 – Paul Renner]

6. Times [1931 – Stanley Morison]

7. Akzidenz Grotesk [1966 – G nter Gerhard Lange]

8. Officina [1990 – Erik Spiekermann]

9. Gill Sans [1930 – Eric Gill]

10. Univers [1954 – Adrian Frutiger]

11. Optima [1954 – Hermann Zapf]

12. Franklin Gothic [1903 – Morris Fuller Benton]

13. Bembo [1496 – Francesco Griffo]

14. Interstate [1993 – Tobias Frere-Jones]

15. Thesis [1994 – Lucas de Groot]

16. Rockwell [1934 – Frank H. Pierpont]

17. Walbaum [1800 – Justus Walbaum]

18. Meta [1991 – Erik Spiekermann]

19. Trinit [1982 – Bram De Does]

20. Din [1926 – Ludwig Goller]

21. Matrix [1986 – Zuzana Licko]

22. OCR [1965 – American Type Founders]

23. Avant Garde [1968 – Herb Lubalin]

24. Lucida [1985 – Chris Holmes / Charles Bigelow]

25. Sabon [1964 – Jan Tschichold]

26. Zapfino [1998 – Hermann Zapf]

27. Letter Gothic [1956 – Roger Roberson]

28. Stone [1987 – Summer Stone]

29. Arnhem [1998 – Fred Smeijers]

30. Minion [1990 – Robert Slimbach]

31. Myriad [1992 – Twombly & Slimbach]

32. Rotis [1988 – Olt Aicher]

33. Eurostile [1962 – Aldo Novarese]

34. Scala [1991 – Martin Majoor]

35. Syntax [1968 – Hans Eduard Meier]

36. Joanna [1930 – Eric Gill]

37. Fleishmann [1997 – Erhard Kaiser]

38. Palatino [1950 – Hermann Zapf]

39. Baskerville [1754 – John Baskerville]

40. Fedra [2002 – Peter Bil’ak]

41. Gotham [2000 – Tobias Frere-Jones]

42. Lexicon [1992 – Bram De Does]

43. Hands [1991 – Letterror]

44. Metro [1929 – W. A. Dwiggins]

45. Didot [1799 – Firmin Didot]

46. Formata [1984 – Bernd M llenst dt]

47. Caslon [1725 – William Caslon]

48. Cooper Black [1920 – Oswald B. Cooper]

49. Peignot [1937 – A. M. Cassandre]

50. Bell Gothic [1938 – Chauncey H. Griffith]

51. Antique Olive [1962 – Roger Excoffon]

52. Wilhelm Klngspor Gotisch [1926 – Rudolf Koch]

53. Info [1996 – Erik Spiekermann]

54. Dax [1995 – Hans Reichel]

55. Proforma [1988 – Petr van Blokland]

56. Today Sans [1988 – Volker K ster]

57. Prokyon [2002 – Erhard Kaiser]

58. Trade Gothic [1948 – Jackson Burke]

59. Swift [1987 – Gerald Unger]

60. Copperplate Gothic [1901 – Frederic W. Goudy]

61. Blur [1992 – Neville Brody]

62. Base [1995 – Zuzana Licko]

63. Bell Centennial [1978 – Matthew Carter]

64. News Gothic [1908 – Morris Fuller Benton]

65. Avenir [1988 – Adrian Frutiger]

66. Bernhard Modern [1937 – Lucian Bernhard]

67. Amplitude [2003 – Christian Schwartz]

68. Trixie [1991 – Erik van Blokland]

69. Quadraat [1992 – Fred Smeijers]

70. Neutraface [2002 – Christian Schwartz]

71. Nobel [1929 – Sjoerd de Roos]

72. Industria [1990 – Neville Brody]

73. Bickham Script [1997 – Richard Lipton]

74. Bank Gothic [1930 – Morris Fuller Benton]

75. Corporate ASE [1989 – Kurt Weidemann]

76. Fago [2000 – Ole Schafer]

77. Trajan [1989 – Carol Twombly]

78. Kabel [1927 – Rudolf Koch]

79. House Gothic 23 [1995 – Tal Leming]

80. Kosmik [1993 – Letterror]

81. Caecilia [1990 – Peter Matthias Noordzij]

82. Mrs Eaves [1996 – Zuzana Licko]

83. Corpid [1997 – Lucas de Groot]

84. Miller [1997 – Matthew Carter]

85. Souvenir [1914 – Morris Fuller Benton]

86. Instant Types [1992 – Just van Rossum]

87. Clarendon [1845 – Benjamin Fox]

88. Triplex [1989 – Zuzana Licko]

89. Benguiat [1989 – Ed Benguiat]

90. Zapf Renaissance [1984 – Hermann Zapf]

91. Filosofia [1996 – Zuzana Licko]

92. Chalet [1996 – House Industries]

93. Quay Sans [1990 – David Quay]

94. C zanne [1995 – Michael Want, James Grieshaber]

95. Reporter [1938 – Carlos Winkow]

96. Legacy [1992 – Ronald Arnholm]

97. Agenda [1993 – Greg Thompson]

98. Bello [2004 – Underware]

99. Dalliance [2000 – Frank Heine]

100. Mistral [1953 – Roger Excoffon]

Further Resources:

So what other fonts should be included in this? What fonts shouldn’t be in this list? Vent your spleen below.

Why Men Should Rethink Drinking Beer

Headline: “There’s trouble brewing, guys”
Byline: “Bavarian men might want to rethink their annual Oktoberfest revels in light of a new study”

“You have to hope that this study is flawed, but the evidence seems irrefutable. Several months ago, scientists at Europe’s annual human reproduction conference suggested that the results of a recent analysis revealed the presence of female hormones in beer, and suggested that men should take a look at their beer consumption. The theory is that drinking beer turns men into women.

To test the theory, 100 men were each fed six pints of beer within a one hour period. It was then observed that 100% of the men gained weight, talked excessivly without making sense, became overly emotional, couldn’t drive, failed to think rationally, argued over nothing, had to sit down while urinating, couldn’t perform sexually, and refused to apologize when wrong.

No further testing is planned.”

Nabcom

Astrophotography: 13 Awesome Backyard Astronomy Photos

Collected by lightstalking

Backyard astronomy photography is probably one of the most difficult types of photography that can be undertaken by the amateur photographer. It is also one of the most equipment intensive and expensive types of photography.

Luckily for us, some amateur photographers still take the time to equip and train themselves and so are able to show us remarkable work like the astronomy photos below. But it is not an easy thing to do this type of photography. In fact a quick look at the Flickr pools available to photographers of astronomical images quickly shows that this niche requires a lot of dedication and practice – not many images turn out as well as those below!

Below we have found 13 stunning examples of astrophotography (astronomy photos) taken by backyard astronomers – of stars and galaxies, that we think are some of the most beautiful examples of what can be done with a telescope, camera and some know-how from anyone’s backyard. Please feel free to link to any other examples of great backyard astronomy photography in the comments.

Horsehead and Flame

[The Horsehead and Flame Nebulae. Taken with a SBIG ST-L-4K 3 CCD Camera.]

3266637281 36d16a848e Astrophotography: 13 Awesome Backyard Astronomy Photos

[The Andromeda Nebula. Taken with a Canon EOS 20da]

3250076648 fe293c6c29 Astrophotography: 13 Awesome Backyard Astronomy Photos

[The Heart Nebula. Taken on a Canon 400d] Astrophotography: 13 Awesome Backyard Astronomy Photos

3153432657 eec9ebd571 Astrophotography: 13 Awesome Backyard Astronomy Photos

[The Horsehead Nubula. Taken on a Canon 350D]

3252261310 cbfbd40c7c Astrophotography: 13 Awesome Backyard Astronomy Photos

[Orion_01-09C-1. Taken on a Canon EOS 30D]

3189531858 cc64394c1a Astrophotography: 13 Awesome Backyard Astronomy Photos

[The Great Orion Nebula (M42). Taken with a Pentax K200D]

2255822083 e7208a0888 Astrophotography: 13 Awesome Backyard Astronomy Photos

[The Great Orion Nebula. Taken with a Pentax *ist DL DSLR.]

3242132874 66c4c59ff4 Astrophotography: 13 Awesome Backyard Astronomy Photos

[The Rosetta Nebula. Taken with a Canon 350D]

3227773708 a610949bda Astrophotography: 13 Awesome Backyard Astronomy Photos

[The Jellyfish Nebula. Taken with a SBIG STL-4020M]

3167997625 f12de5b0b6 Astrophotography: 13 Awesome Backyard Astronomy Photos

[The Sculptor Galaxy. Take with a Canon 400D]

The Pinwheel Galaxy M101

[The Pinwheel Galaxy. Taken on a CGE1100 telescope equipped with Hyperstar (F/2) with an Orion DSCI II Imager]

Trifid Nebula (NGC6514).

[The Triffid Nebula. Taken on a CGE1100 telescope equipped with Hyperstar (F/2) with an Orion DSCI II Imager]

Andromeda Galaxy

[The Andromeda Galaxy. Taken with a SBIG ST-L-4K 3 CCD Camera]

Other Astronomy Image Photography Resources:

10 Features That Will Make Twitter Better

Written by Jacob Gube

Twitter‘s popularity has skyrocketed in the recent months. Usage statistics states that most people who use Twitter interact with the application via the web rather than a third-party client such as TweetDeck or twitterfeed.

Twitter’s web interface is simple and intuitive but lacks a few features that can make it much better. In this article, you’ll read about 10 excellent user interface features that can enhance the Twitter web experience.

1. Enable grouping of friends and followers

Grouping of friends

Figure 1 shows tabs that you can use to quickly see tweets in a particular group.

Twitter’s increasing popularity has gotten many people on board and using the web application. With the growing number of active users comes the need for following more people.

The ability to create groups (or categories) of Twitter users that you follow can reduce the noise in your Twitter feed and can help you immediately see updates from particular groups of users.

For example, having a group for “co-workers” or “local tweeters” can help you quickly see what your co-workers are saying or find up-to-the-minute information on local events such as traffic accidents.

2. Auto Complete in Tweets

An example showing the auto complete feature when typing a username.

Figure 2 shows an auto complete dialog box appears when you type the @ symbol.

Auto complete is an interaction design pattern that involves displaying a list of suggestions as the user types in text. Auto complete can speed up the process of sending a tweet directed to a particular user using the @username format.

It will also help in times where you’re having trouble spelling someone’s username.

Another application of the auto complete feature is for suggesting #hashtags (keywords associated with a tweet) to make keyword-tagging of tweets easier.

3. Text links in tweets

Allowing text hyperlinks in tweets.

With a 140 character limit, it’s often difficult to have links in a tweet without robbing yourself out of precious characters. By allowing users to tweet hyperlinked text, not only will it give them a little bit more room for including additional characters, but will also make Twitter feeds look cleaner.

4. Tweets-threading

Twitter is a great source of information and is a wonderful forum for discussing various topics. Unfortunately, the current user interface doesn’t allow you to easily view a conversation between two or more people.

A screen shot of threaded tweets.

Figure 3 show how threaded comments could look.

Coupled with the “reply to” feature in the current user interface, threaded tweets can give users the chance to participate in (or follow along with) conversations taking place in several Twitter feeds.

Threaded tweets can also serve as a means for people to find other Twitter users that are interested in similar subjects of conversation.

5. Allow Tweets directed to a group of people (“group tweet”)

Group-tweeting.

Figure 4 shows a possible syntax for tweets directed to a group of users using a double @ synax.

With companies and communities joining in on the fun, the ability to tweet to a group of Twitter users offers a convenient way of specifically targeting a set of people. For example, if you wanted to tweet to your co-workers, the syntax could be:

@@friends I'll be a little late for our lunch date, start ordering without me.  

The double @ serves to differentiate a tweet directed to a single user from one that’s directed to a group of users.

6. Display meta data through hover tooltips

Tooltips example.

A tooltip is an effective graphical user interface element that allows users to view more information when they hover or click on a text or object of interest without having to leave the current web page. They enable information-gathering with fewer clicks and fewer pages to visit.

One way tooltips can be helpful is in seeing the bio information of a Twitter user when you hover over their username on your Twitter feed. If you see a username mentioned in an interesting Twitter update, simply hover over the name to see more information about the user that was mentioned.

7. Use the sidebar more effectively to display information

Using the side bar of Twitter more effectively.

Figure 5 shows a “Recent @Replies” and “Popular #hashtags” section on the side bar.

Twitter can utilize the right sidebar more effectively by showing relevant information and statistics. For example, a “Most Recent Replies” section or a “Most Used #hashtags” section can be very helpful in showcasing the latest activities and the hottest topics.

8. Add a page that displays tweets mentioning your username

Add a page showing tweets in which the user is mentioned.

Twitter users (me included) like seeing their names mentioned. Currently, only @replies (tweets that begin with @username) can be seen in the @Replies page. A nice optional feature would be to have a page that lists tweets where your username is mentioned or where a particular tweet of yours is re-tweeted (example: “RT @username”).

A less self-centered benefit for this feature is the opportunity to find people who are interested in what you have to say, enough that they update their own Twitter feed with a tweet of yours, or to see what types of your tweets are popular amongst people who follow you.

9. Highlight specific users, deemphasize others in feed

Highlight specific users.

Figure 6 shows the first tweet as being highlighted, and the second tweet being deemphasized. The third tweet is how tweets normally look like in the current interface.

Users who follow many people run into the trouble of Twitter feed overload where there’s just too much going on and too many tweets to read. The ability to mark favorite Twitter users, as well as deemphasize users that you don’t care much about (but still want to follow for some reason), can give users better visual queues on what to pay attention to first when perusing one’s Twitter feed.

10. Add a Built-in URL shortener

Example interface of built-in URL shortener on Twitter.

With Twitter’s current user interface, hyperlinks are counted towards your 140 character count limit even if it gets reduced in length by a URL-shortening service like TinyURL.com after you hit the “Update” button.

One way to allow users to enter more text – without having to go to another website just to shorten URL’s – is to have a built-in URL-shortening feature. This would not only save user’s some time, but also eliminates the need to rely on other websites to perform an action that should really be handled within the system.

Got more ideas?

If you have more ideas on how Twitter’s user interface can be improved, please contribute to the discussion in the comments.

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