I’m proud to announce that Audio Footnote is now available! Now you can finally record voice notes while listening to your audiobooks and podcasts on your iPhone or iPod Touch.
A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of seeing Gerald Buckley, founder of Grocio, speak about his experience building his web startup, Grocio at OpenBeta. While the talk was fantastic, I must admit I am more juiced about what his website actually does and how it will help my family and me get by in these tough economic times.
In a nut shell, Grocio let’s you find the best deals in your neighborhood on groceries. It might not sound like a big deal at first. If you’re a coupon clipper or circular reader, you are already up on your game when it comes to saving on your home’s food bills. But if you are not doing these things already or if you are, you might find the task daunting. Grocio takes the footwork out of it and makes finding the best deals wicked easy.
Check out the video below to see a demonstration of how Grocio works and sign up at the website for a free account. Grocio will be launching soon and it could not come at a better time for many Americans.
I also want to mention how amazing it is to me that this startup is coming to fruition in these times. In his talk at OpenBeta, Mr. Buckley mentioned that he first started working on Grocio in 2001. While this would have been a handy site to have have then, given our current economic situation, the site has now become relevent to many more people. To launch the site amidst these conditions seems very smart (or lucky). I would not be surprised in the least to see Grocio appear on the likes of Good Morning America or read about it on sites like Wise Bread in the near future. I’d also like to point out that Grocio is based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a fellow Oklahoman, it excites me to see innovation like this come out of our state. Awesome is spreading.
I’ve been a long-time fan of Lumosity.com. Lumosity’s website features a suite of mind games that can be played quickly over your lunch break to keep your brain in tip-top shape.
Now you can take Lumosity with you via your iPhone or iPod Touch. According to this article at Mashable, Lumosity has released Memory Matrix and Speed Brain in the iTunes App Store. Memory Matrix is free for a limited time while Speed Brain will cost you a buck.
If you’re looking for a little more variety in your mobile brain games, you can also get Brain Challenge [iTunes Link] for the iPhone or iPod Touch. I have not played this on my iPod Touch but I had the old click wheel version and found it to be a very addictive and nicely polished experience.
*WARNING* If you know me, work with me, interact with me on a regular basis and you would rather not hear about my nose hair, see photos of my nose hair or read about how I got rid of my nose hair then you don’t want to read this post. Move along.
A few weeks ago I was on the Art of Manliness forum seeking advice for a nose hair trimmer. Nose hair is something that I’ve gradually noticed becoming a part of my life over the last couple of years, but recently it has become more of an irritation to me because my wife is now noticing it and it bothers her and it has started tickling. This being my first time to deal with the issue of nose hair, I went to my favorite source for all things manly, The Art of Manliness, looking for a solution that did not involve tweezers, scissors or that scary freaking electric hoob-a-joob that I see at the department stores.
Enter Al Dickman and The Bullet, the ultimate nose hair trimmer. Al provided a solution on the forum in the form of a pitch for his product. I was sold in an instant and quickly added it to my holiday wish list. Why did I take to it so quickly without even trying it?
- No batteries
I hate charging my beard trimmer and the idea of having another charger to keep track of or another stinking gadget to fill with batteries is enough for me to want to swallow a whole car battery’s acid and get the whole thing done with. Plus batteries are bad for the environment.
- No plucking
The Bullet’s website claims that plucking can lead to infection. That seemed like a stretch to me, plucking sucks because it hurts and that’s enough for me. Recently, however, my kids have been prescribed some sort of nasal swab for an infection they have in their skin. Now I’m no doctor, but if a doctor thinks swabbing my kids’ nostrils will clear up an infection like that, then there is no way I’m going to dirty things up with gaping hair holes inside my honker.
- Small footprint
This thing is small enough to fit easily in a dopp kit or man purse. Awesome.
- Stainless Steel Construction
I’m a sucker for stainless steel. My beard trimmer feels cheap because it’s made from plastic that creaks every time I take it into my gigantic man-hands. Stainless steel is tough enough for the abuse that I’m sure to bring upon it.
Soon after posting that The Bullet would be a welcome addition to my stocking, Al contacted me about sending me one in return for writing this review and reporting back to the chaps at the forum on my experience. I used the Bullet the night I received it. Here are my first impressions:
- This thing is crazy small
It was much smaller than I had imagined it being. I could probably just store the trimmer inside my nose for easy access when I need it.
- It’s solidly built
For the size that it is, it feels heavy. Not so heavy that it is cumbersome. Just heavy enough to let you know that what you are holding is a finely crafted, well machined tool for grooming. There are only three parts to The Bullet; the bottom cylinder which contains the blade slides into the top cylinder which acts as a guard to keep you from cutting yourself. The two cylinders are kept together with a single screw.
- I had no idea how to use it
I admit I was intimidated at first. What if I cut myself? What if I damage something in there? What if it gets lost in my nose? Fortunately The Bullet comes with documentation that explains how to use it and clean it.
After getting acquainted with my new nose hair trimmer I nervously positioned myself in front of the mirror and prepared myself for an experience completely alien to me. The Bullet works by holding the top cylinder with one hand and twisting the bottom cylinder back and forth to engage the blades. The movement was very smooth thanks to a small amount of lube between the cylinders.
I quickly found out that you can’t just stick it in and twist to get the job done. No. To properly trim my nose hair required a bit more thought. I found the best results were had when I gently placed the blade guards against the skin of my nostrils and then turned the cylinders. After a short amount of practice I had succeeded in removing most of the offensive hair creeping out of my nose. The documentation warned me not to expect a cleanly shorn nose which makes sense since the whole point of nose hair is to keep you from breathing in saw dust or whatever else might be in the air.
When I finished using the bullet I brushed out the hair using my badger brush but a tooth brush will work too. The only maintenance it will ever need is a bit more lubrication later on. Easy work.
After showing the results to my wife, I felt confident that The Bullet had done it’s job. It was painless and will become easier the more I use it, which will be more and more often as I get older. But that’s okay, the craftsmanship displayed in The Bullet will insure that it is with me until I croak or become so old that I don’t give a crap about nose hair. And in the case that I lose it, I know I can replace it for only $35. Not a bad price for something that once you start using it you’ll never stop.
No batteries! No plucking, scissors or electric motors in your nose! Small size. Well constructed. Easy to maintain and clean. Well priced.
Small enough to lose (but it comes with a case). More expensive than what you can get at a department store. May take some practice (but doesn’t everything?).
Where to buy: www.thebullet.tv
Last Thursday I demoed StopForwarding.Us at OpenBeta, a technology “un-conference” held in Oklahoma City. The event drew a crowd of 120 designers, developers and entrepreneurs from the state of Oklahoma into one venue where they could share ideas, demo their projects and discuss future collaboration not to mention mingle.
My demo drew many visitors with a ton of tallents. I hope to get to know them better and possibly draw on them for the future development of StopForwarding.Us and other projects.
My biggest surprise of the evening and one that I am proud of is that StopForwarding.Us received the award for “Most Enterprise Potential.” I’m glad that there are others out there who see potential in the service the site provides and am flattered that I was chosen for the award. Part of the prize is that I get to take StopForwarding.Us to the Innotech show floor next week! If you are in town and you’re a fan of the site or you’ve been sending me hate mail and would like to put a knife in my ribs, please stop by!
My thanks to all who stopped by and said hi, the pannel who awarded me and Derrick Parkhurst for putting the event together!
About a year ago I was looking for a website that would let me politely and anonymously ask a coworker to stop forwarding political and religious email. Not finding one, I decided to create one.
As with most of my personal projects, I decided to take a stab at monetizing the website. After all, if I am using my time and money to provide a service, why not try to make a few bucks as well? Shortly after having the idea, I quickly developed a site that provided the service I had in mind and StopForwarding.Us was born.
My plan for making money on the site was to offer email related wares through a Cafe Press store, ads via Google AdSense and a donation button. After about six months of no sales at the store, I decided to cut my costs and downgrade the store to include one design (to date I have sold one shirt). After a year and some lucky breaks in the press, my AdSense account has finally made it past the $100 threshold which is necessary for Google to cut a check. Finally, I have made $3 thanks to the donation button (two of those donations came from friends).
A few months before being featured on a few well known blogs (Download Squad, Lifehacker & Kim Komando), I had written off the site as a fun but ultimately fruitless (revenue wise) project. A few more months, press inquiries, friendly and hateful emails later I have gained some insights and learned some lessons which I will outline below. Oh yeah, if you’re a hater looking for some sort of white flag or an apology for my site, you may me disappointed.
People Like Being Served
Up until the launch of StopForwarding.Us, all the projects I have been involved with were centered around hustling some sort of wares (mostly Cafe Press stuff). This business model, while so far producing far more revenue, has generated little in the way of buzz and user loyalty. StopForwarding.us, however has received more traffic than all my other sites combined, has gotten mentions in big media outlets, has a large user base and even has a modest following on Facebook. I recently read a post at Get Rich Slowly that I think pegs the reason for the buzz and user loyalty down. I enocurage you to read the entire post. The post wraps up saying:
Success as an entrepreneur isn’t about you — it’s about helping others achieve goals you care about.
While stopping bad email etiquette may seem trivial, it is a goal that I care about and by providing a service where like-minded individuals can attempt to accomplish the same goal, I have created a service with social benefit. T-shirts and mouse pads provide little social benefit.
The cool thing about the Internet is that people say stuff that they would never say to one’s face. While this is often seen as a negative thing, it also alows for a very honest and blunt opinion. I get a modest amount of hate mail from people who really dislike the site and me. At first this shocked me. I was surprised by how many people could learn that I am a money grubbing, cowardly, unemployed piece of whale excrement just from the fact that I had built a website. At first I started to compose lengthy emails which defended my integrity in a polite and mature manner. But before sending the first of my responses out, I decided to reply with simply:
I am sorry you were offended.
Even this proved to be a mistake as it only opened the door for another email. So I decided to delete the hate mail I got (I kept the particularly funny ones) and not respond. The positive emails I kept and responded to warmly. Here are some thoughts on humility I have had as a result of the negative response to the site:
- do not expect everyone to approve what you do or create: you will have to defend your work and position
- there is a possibility that some people do not like you: omg really?
- shake them haters off: who gives a crap what some stranger on the other end of a wire thinks of you?
In addition to the negative email I have received, I have gotten much more positive emails. These emails included thanks for offering the service, ideas for improving and even monetizing the service, offers to translate into different languages, and more. These emails meant a lot to me and seemed to come just when I needed to read them most. It encouraged me to continue developing the site and gave me hope that common decency still exists on the world.
Always have a scalability plan
Perhaps my biggest mistake when creating StopForwarding.Us was not seeing the potential for growth and utility. As a result, I had no plan to scale and improve the service. Now I am in a position that leaves me with a lot of traffic while I frantically put together the next version of the site. If I actually had a plan in place, even if I did not immediately act on it when the site launched, at least at this point a new version could be in the works instead of just being planned. This would allow me to hang on to more of the users that I am getting from buzz.
Google pays slowly
I like Google. I use as many of their products as I can. They keep things simple. It’s a little scary that they are so huge and that I place so much trust in them, still, I like them. AdSense, however, is a raw deal. Good hustle for Google, bad business for me. I’ve given AdSense over 200k impressions and have only made about $200. It took me over a year to get there and that is from traffic to three different sites (StopForwarding.Us included). If advertising is any part of a future business model of mine, I will likely cut Google out.
Don’t give up
If there is one thing I’ve learned from StopForwarding.Us, it’s that one should not give up too quickly. Six months into this project with no sales of shirts, mugs or mouse pads and only a couple bucks in my AdSense account, I came close to pulling the plug. If I had, then I would have never had the opportunity to learn what I have so far. I’d also have lost the opportunity to network and collaborate with developers on a new and improved version of the site that improves upon my initial idea and ultimately provides a more valuable service.
In the future, I hope to apply some of these lessons to new projects. In the mean time, I hope you found them insightful and that they come in handy in your future. Stay tuned for the next version of StopForwarding.Us!
I’m always on the hunt for ways to save money and make passive income. That’s why BigCrumbs.com appealed so much to me. What is BigCrumbs.com? It’s a cash back program that let’s you earn cash rewards on the stuff you purchase online already. Here’s how it works:
- Sign in to your BigCrumbs.com account
- Choose one of 337 familiar online stores like Walmart, Office Depot or even eBay
- Shop and check out!
That’s it. In a few days you’ll have received credit for your purchase. Once a month your account’s balance will be deposited into your PayPal account!
In addition to the cash back benefit of the site, BigCrumbs.com also features special offers throughout the year that may help you save more! I’ve also had success pairing my savings from BigCrumbs.com with coupon codes from RetailMeNot.com.
BigCrumbs.com also has a referral program that can up your earning potential. (Full disclosure: I am a part of that program and the links in this article reflect that.)
In the past three months I’ve been paid $45 from BigCrumbs.com. If you do any shopping online or are trying to save a few bucks in today’s economic environment, take a look and please, mention my referral name “granata”.
A few weeks ago my family packed up the mini-van for a trip to Florida. We spent hours upon hours on the road with our three young kids (ages 2, 3 and 4) in the back seats. The longest day of driving spanned 15 hours. There are some obvious tips for traveling with kids such as:
- Bring a portable DVD player and movies
- Pack a lot of snacks (freeze juice boxes to help keep things cold)
- Schedule your departure and arrival times to take advantage of sleeping kids
But there is one tip, passed down from my mother (who knows about traveling with a whole mess of kids) that kept the kiddos entertained and peace in the van for much of the trip. Here’s what you do (you’ll repeat these steps for each kid):
- Get some brown paper lunch bags. You will need one for each hour of your road time.
- Number (and name if you have multiple kids) each bag from 1 to the last hour of of your trip. A four hour trip gets four bags numbered 1 through 4.
- Now, go to the dollar store and get some cheap toys, craft items, etc. Then head to the grocery store for some healthy snacks like raisins, dried veggies (corn is great), and maybe a sweat treat or two.
- Fill your bags. Place one snack/treat and one toy or craft item in each bag.
- Pack your bags with the rest of your things and get on the road. After the first hour has passed on the road (or before if your kid is getting agitated) hand out the first bag. At the second hour mark, hand out another bag, rinse and repeat.
This trick worked wonders for us! The kids really enjoyed opening each bag to find something new to play with and snack on. Tantrums and whining were rare and it was a lot of fun. Here’s some ideas for your bags:
- Dried fruit
- Dried veggies
- Gelatin snack
- Fruit snacks
- Candy (in moderation)
- Pencil and paper for drawing
- Action figure or doll
- Toy cars
- Pipe cleaners (make things with them)
- Beads, string, yarn, etc.
- Childrens’ book
If you have any other ides or suggestions for what can go in these bags or if you have your own secret for keeping kids calm in the car, I’d love to hear it in the comments section!
A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Gabe of the God’s Mac podcast. That episode is now available via their website or iTunes. Gabe and I chat about the tools I use for my graphic design work, the journey to my day job at a mega-church, as well as my t-shirt shop at birddoctor.biz and stopforwarding.us.
If you can sit through all my “uhs” and “ums” (so shamefull) you might learn something interesting.
The God’s Mac podcast offers a unique blend of Christian and Mac cultures. Each episode covers Mac related news, interviews with Christians who use Macs and a devotional. Go subscribe now!