Archive for the ‘General Internet Related’ Category

Internet Explorer 6? It’s Time You Upgrade.

IEiconAre you still using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 to view websites?  If so, it is time you upgrade.  Internet Explorer 6 (also referred to as IE6) is a pretty ancient browser.  I know it doesn’t sound that old, since the newest version is only Internet Explorer 8, but trust me, the number of years between those two versions is more than a handful of fingers to count.

IE6 can not take advantage of many of the newest web technologies – or if they do, the pages will be rendered incorrectly or be buggy in operation.  Security is not as strong as current browsers, leaving you more at risk to hackers and phishing attacks.  The feature set is also lacking, as tabbed browsing didn’t come along until IE7.  What?  Don’t know what tabbed browser windows are?  See how behind the times you are! 😉

If you are an AOL user, note that AOL uses Internet Explorer as the code base for it’s browser.  I’m no AOL expert, but I do believe IE6 is the platform.  So, AOL users, this post is for you too.

Upgrading to a modern browser is easy, so not doing so is only shooting yourself in the foot.  If you have IE6 and love the browser so much you don’t want to part with it, just point your mouse over to http://www.microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/default.aspx to download IE8 for free.  IE is still a good browser, so the newest version will get the job done for you.  However, if you want to live a little and hang with the internet in-crowd, the following browsers are all free to use and are arguably better choices than IE:

Firefox-iconMozilla Firefox – This is THE alternative browser to use and the one with the most market share behind IE.  It is also a fun browser to use with a ton of ways to customize it to suit your needs.  It’s also very easy to import your IE favorites so you don’t lose any of your bookmarks that you built up on IE.

Bottom Line: This has been my primary browser for a few years now.

chromeiconGoogle Chrome – Yep, Google does it all!  Last year Google released Chrome and it is a very worthwhile browser to look into.  It is very spartan in its presentation with only a minimal amount of things to click on.  For me, this took some getting used to, but once I did I found it a refreshing approach.

Bottom Line: The browser has been rock solid in the 6 or so months of daily use I have put on it – I honestly can’t recall it ever crashing or freezing up.

safariiconApple Safari – Even if you are on a PC, you can still use Apple’s Safari browser.  I haven’t used this one as much, but the times I did I found it to be an excellent application that is both usable and high in performance.  Version 4 is the newest version.

Bottom Line: If you like Apple stuff, then this one is a safe recommendation.

FlockiconFlock – Here’s your chance to really be cutting edge cool and start using a browser that most people don’t know about.  Flock is basically a modified Firefox browser than is specifically tailored for social media websites.  You get (most) of the benefits of Firefox (some add-on customizations are not compatible) and a ton of social networking management features to keep you up all night.

Bottom Line: If you spend a lot of time jumping around from website to website while chatting on Twitter and Facebook (as well as a long list of other social media sites), then definitely give Flock a try.

I have at least 3 different browsers open at any given time.   Not that I need more than one, but I like to experiment with what is available.  If forced to pick, right now I’m using Flock most.  But I still don’t have it loaded up with all the customizations that I have done to Firefox.  So, I’ll call it a tie between Flock and Firefox.  A close second is Chrome due to it’s robust nature – it is by far the most stable browser of the bunch from my experiences.  If stability is more important than feature-set, then go with Chrome.

Remember, if you are on AOL, you don’t have to use AOL’s browser – and I recommend you don’t.  You have the same freedom of choice in browsers too.

There are even more choices out there too, but these are the primary ones and they are all excellent alternatives to the out-dated Internet Explorer 6.

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Internet Explorer 8 and Site Compatibility

Microsoft just released Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) last week, and we’re already seeing a lot of incompatibility issues with pre-existing websites.  Microsoft is taking a lot of flak on this newest browser due to them touting it as being a standards compliance browser, but it is actually ranking lower in compliance than all the other major browsers on the scene – Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Apple Safari.

Some of the main issues we are seeing are issues with Javascript and the handling of modal windows – pop-up windows that are very commonly used for displaying overlaying content on a webpage.

What this means to your website is that you need to check it in IE8 to see if it is working correctly in this new browser.  It also means you might have to make a decision on what version of IE you want your site to be coded for.  As more browsers enter the scene and more versions of those browsers are released, having a site that is 100% compatible with all internet users is not achieveable.

Facebook Faceoff Goes Facedown

Facebook spent this week doing damage control for their over bearing change to their Terms of Service agreement.

Facebook Faces Member Smackdown

Facebook Faces Member Smackdown

Basically, they where stating they changed their terms of service and any content you as a member have posted to the site, whether currently up or previously deleted, belonged to Facebook. There was no advance warning, just an “I’m sorry, it’s ours now”, so even if you didn’t agree with the new terms and quit, you were still out of luck.

So what’s the deal?

Likely it is just a move to protect themselves from lawsuits, in case someone’s content that isn’t supposed to be on Facebook is still cached somewhere in their network.  But others have questioned whether it is a huge power grab of content.  Either way, Facebook’s new terms of service agreement doesn’t add up, and most members concur on this fact.  So much so, that it appears as of this writing that the previous terms of service agreement is back up.

This will be an interesting case study for a while to come on content ownership on social media websites, brand management and the power of a large membership to influence business decisions.

Finding Time to Podcast

With how incredibly fragmented our lives are now days, it is hard to find time to do everything you want and need to do.  I’ve been wanting to integrate podcasting into my schedule but never seem to have the time.  Then it occured to me – I have a nice long drive into work every morning and I have a voice recorder on my cell phone that records to MP3 format.  So, I’ve started my “Brent’s Daily Drive to Work” podcast.  Without adding any additional time to my schedule, I’m adding another tool I can use to communicate with clients.  Here is an embedded player for my podcast:

Brent's Daily Drive to Work Podcast

In addition, some new exciting things will be coming in February in regards to podcasts – so stay tuned!

2009 Will Be the Year of Big Internet Business

Yep, that is my predicition.

In 2009, while our economy continues to slug along, those that do a good job of marketing themselves online will have a very good year.  We’ve all probably heard stories of how a lot of people became rich during the Great Depression – because it is true.  Those that keep their eye on the ball when everyone else is distracted will continue to hit home runs – it won’t be as easy as it was before, but it will still happen.

Markets are shifting right now.  While mainstream for quite some time now, the internet is now starting to subplant other channels of distribution and marketing.  Newspapers are struggling, some either are, or are planning to go to internet-only distribution.  Video, which had the exclusivity of TV delivery, is now more popular than ever online (even traditional TV’s might be hooked up to a PC or Apple TV), Google searches are replacing Yellow Page look-ups, businesses are advertising online with pay-per-click advertising.  While lower than before, the spikes in gas prices over the last few years has more people getting used to the idea of staying at home.  A new generation is growing up not knowing of a world prior to high-speed internet.  Social networking is redefining public relations for major companies and public figures.

There is a fundamental shift that is taking place – while we thought we have already seen the impact of the internet on our lives, we are now realizing that the last 10 years was just a slightly advanced stage in it’s infancy.  A major grow spurt is coming in 2009 and a lot of companies that thought they had a “web presence” are going to get left behind, while a lot of companies that are “plugged in” to the coming changes will reap great rewards.

So, what are the nutshell nuggets of knowledge to pull from all this?

First you can’t be just a “web presence”.  You can’t be “static” online.  You can’t think of a website as the beginning and end of your online efforts.  Sure, it has worked in the past, and in many cases working still.  But at some point it no longer will.

Second, change the way you think about the internet – almost consider it a parallel universe.  20 years ago, they called the concept “virtual reality”.  It made a lot of buzz but died down as the real world realities of the internet’s limitations at the time softened our vision of this “cyber-space”.  Now we are seeing virtual reality slowly coming about.  Sure, it’s not a funny headset and Tron-like graphics, but the internet is becoming another place that we exist, or more importantly, where your customer’s exist.  They are not just hopping online to do a quick search with a keyword phrase to find your product or service and then signing off, they are living much of their life there.  So, you will need to be “plugged in” to where they are, what they’re doing and how to get their attention.

We are already seeing this shift in our business.  We are not a website development firm anymore, despite my old-habits-die-hard habit of calling us that.  We are actually an interactive agency now.  Developing the site for your web presence is no longer the beginning and end of our involvement.  Throughout 2009 we will be asked to build the “main” site, setup the blogs, create subsites, recommend lead tracking solutions, secure advertising, handle marketing campaigns, develop a social media strategy, manage company brands, oversee public relations, broadcast call-in radio shows, produce video, write copy, record podcasts, program applications, research keywords and provide consultation services.

By being prepared for changes in 2009 as the internet leaves behind it’s infancy, you can be a part of it’s growth spurt.

How I Planned My New Year

My goal for next year is to not have to worry about coming up with goals.

Seriously, it is kinda fun to plan out your new year, but the typical scenario is we have all these great ideas at the beginning of the year and if we stumble upon those ideas and goals at some point later, say around December 15th, we say “oh yeah, remember that goal – forgot all about it.”

So, I have been reassessing my methods and work flows to actually find a way to “stick to it” the whole year through.  Now days there are so many great online tools to help you with your productivity, some of these, such as Toodledo.com and Evernote.com I have discussed on this blog.  Plus, there’s CRM software, blogging tools, online data storage site, social networking applications, browser add-ons, widget applications and on and on.

We use a really nice online CRM tool called Salesforce.com which covers the bulk of my work and customer related tasks, plus we have some extensive in-house produced management applications that handle a lot of our infrastructure.  While Salesforce is web-based and has task-list management like using Toodledo for the speed of managing to-do lists as well as keeping merged lists of both work and personal tasks to do.  While Salesforce has calendaring built in, I still like merging data with my Google calendar.  And I love the concept of Evernote that lets me collect ideas and random content and store it in one location for future use.

But, it’s a new year and time to shake the tree and see what falls out and what stays.

First off, I’m changing the way I’m setting goals for the year.  In the past it was “I want to make this much in sales”, “I want to have this many new customers”, “I want to build this many relationships”, etc.  Now my approach is more incremental.  I’m looking at laying out my year based on what I need to do today or this week as opposed to this year.  This means a whole lot more little chunks of data that all has to be tracked.

First off, Salesforce and our in-house online managaement applications work great – no changes there other than maybe utilizing some of the additional features it offers that I’m not using yet.  But goal tracking for the year with mobile access from my cell phone and integration of personal non-work goals is the big picture here.

I have been using the free version of Toodledo.com but if I really want to track goals for the year, I explored the paid version (starting at $15/yr).  Running the trial version now.  Funny, but the advanced version just isn’t doing it for me and a great all around tool for handling to-do lists (still the best for that) is just not good for what I’m trying to do.

With Evernote, I have been using the free version too, but it is a very different tool and really not setup for goal tracking.  Ironically though, my need for Evernote is growing so I will be upgrading to the paid subscription ($5/month), just not using it for this task at hand.

I have been researching the internet for other options – I can’t tell you how many other online tools I’ve tried – which explains while I’m still in the process of goal setting for 2009 on the 12th day in January.  But I came across a tool called Springpad that is now starting to really win me over.  It is true life management that has features beyond what I was even looking for.  It is a new Beta application that appears to only have been out about 4 months, but it is already at an amazing feature set.  It syncs with Google Calendar, it has an amazing collection of “notepads” that you can setup on your account to manage anything, you can customize it and you can build your own lists.  Plus there are so many template notepads that it really can be called a life management tool.  I’ve been setting up a map of my goals and activities for 2009 with it and so far I’m impressed and it is the leading application I’ve found to handle my goal-mapping needs.  A Twitter exchange with one of the staff members with Springpad assured me a mobile version of the product is due soon – the only drawback I have been able to find with it.

http://www.springpadit.com

Evernote – A Handy Tool to Stay Productive

evernotelogo

If you are like me you have notes in a million different places, a voice recorder when on the go (that you always forget when you need), a gazillion internet bookmarks, a stack of scribbled note pads and folders in and out of your “My Documents” folder and on 12 different color coded thumb drives.  That is not counting the older CD and DVD backups of your computer’s last hard drive as well as the various external hard drives that are hiding somewhere behind that tangled mess of of network cables.

Now there is one place to put all your ideas where you won’t forget them – Evernote.  Evernote organizes all of you ideas in one central location online so you can access them anywhere.  And when you’re inbetween computer access, you can use your mobile phone to access your Evernote account, take and upload photos, make and upload a new voice memo as well as send a text note.

Organize your ideas into folders, search by keyword tags, convert photos of text documents into searchable text, take snapshots of web pages you want to remember for later, geo-code the information you gather and so much more.  I gather a lot of ideas for work in Evernote.  I tend to also take photos of things using my mobile phone via Evernote, I tag it, give it a description, assign it to a folder – it is then automatically uploaded to my Evernote account where I can access it later.

Give it a try to see if it works for you: www.evernote.com

Alert! Alert! Somebody Said This About You…

You have spent a lot of time building and protecting your reputation, but do you know what your online reputation is?  Do you know what others are saying about you – good or bad?

There is a number of tools out their that let you find out what others are saying.  At a minimum, be familiar with our old friend Google.  Sure, you probably have already Google’d yourself, or your company name, right?  But have you setup a Google Alert (or two)?

Google Alerts are part of the overall Google services that they offer.  How it works is you type in any search term you want to be kept up to date about – such as your name or company.  Then, each time Google tracks a new web page with your keyword term or terms, it kicks an email to you with a summary and link to the page so you can see first hand.  Very handy as it is a set it and forget it service.

What is Twitter – A Brief Introduction

Twitter.com is a fast growing website in the sea of social media websites.  I’ll be honest in that I didn’t pay it too much attention until more recently – always thought of it as instant message type of service were teenagers talk about who they have a crush on or what they ate for breakfast.  But to keep up the current trends I have been using it more recently and setup a business related account – “netsourcebrent” is my Twitter handle.

For the most part, it doesn’t gel with my type of communication on a business level, but I am seeing more of the value in it.  It is a quick and dirty way to get news about your company out to a large number of people.  Of course, the trick is getting a large number of people to follow you that might actually be interested in what you do or sell.  I’m not looking at Twitter so much now as a place to make sales – I just don’t see lead conversions happening there.  But it definitely has some serious networking potential that can help with establishing creditability.

The hardest part about it is learning to speak and act “Twitter”.  It is kind of like walking into a room full of people and just talking out loud until you generate interest from someone.  But if you don’t talk to anyone, then most definitely no one will talk to you.

As I Twitter more, I’ll share tips and tricks that I pick up.

Now Serving Warm and Fuzzies – CharityNavigator.org

Call it getting good Karma or just being nice – nothing makes you feel more warm and fuzzy than giving time or money to a charity.  But, how do you know how much of that money actually goes to the cause in question?  How do you know if they really do what they say they do?

Charity Navigator - Section of Home Page

Charity Navigator - Section of Home Page

Go to CharityNavigator.org and find out the full scope on the charity you are thinking of donating to.  They have a large database of charities and can tell you how much of every dollar you give is actually put to use vs. getting eaten up by management and fund raising expenses.  They rank each charity and provide a ton of useful data.  You can even use them as a charity search engine to find new charities to donate to.  Give it a try.

Just a portion of the data available for each charity ranked

Just a portion of the data available for each charity ranked