Friday, March 31, 2006
Montastic Works and it's Ultra Easy
Awhile ago, I read about a service called Montastic, which is a website monitoring service. The idea behind something like Montastic is to let you know when your website goes down or is unreachable. That way you can be made aware instantly of the problem, and presumably go and fix it. I can't remember where I read about it, but it struck me as something I might have a use for, so I kept a note about it until recently. As they claim (on their website): "The free website monitoring service that doesn't suck." Ok, let's try it shall we? A couple weeks ago I signed up (easy) and setup the monitoring for a couple sites, including this one (easy again). I set it up so that it would send me an email when one of the sites went down (still easy). The process took about 10 minutes and it was extremely easy. There was some functionality I didn't bother experimenting with, I just wanted to test this thing out. It didn't require any code be added to my sites and the setup was a no-brainer. I almost forgot about it until a couple days ago when I received the following email: ************** Subject: [MONTASTIC] unreachable: http://www.igotnewsforyou.com We thought you wanted to know about this: ### ### Website status: unreachable ### ### Mon Mar 27 17:28:00 CST 2006 ### Name: ### URL: http://www.igotnewsforyou.com ### -- The crew. http://www.montastic.com *************** Of course I wasn't available at the time to deal with it, but 9 minutes later I received another email telling me the site was back up and running. Simple. Easy. And it works. You can't really ask for more than that. There's all kinds of monitoring tools/services out there, some obviously better than others. Montastic is ultra-easy and free (which is hard to argue with). Of course, if your site goes down and it's a mission critical type thing (unlike this blog) then you'll want to respond immediately and try to resolve the problem. In my case this was more out of interest sake. Still, it's nice to know when your site goes down, and when we go live with IGotNewsForYou.com it will be more mission critical, because the website is our lifeline to the business. Give Montastic a try if you're interested in simple website monitoring. P.S. I don't know the Montastic crew, there was no incentive for writing this except to spread the news about something worthwhile. (Although if the people at Montastic and the parent company Metadot want to donate something to our writing contest I won't argue.) (Technorati Tags: montastic, metadot, website monitoring tools)
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Please Stop Wearing Cologne or Perfume on Airplanes
Following up on my post from March 24th, Things You Should NOT Do On An Airplane, I'd like to add the following: Stop wearing overbearing cologne or perfume. Like many of my previous thoughts on this issue, it comes down to courtesy. I just returned from a trip and on the way there the fellow sitting next to me had so much cologne on that I think I saw it eating through his shirt. I was the lucky recipient of a stink headache for a 6-hour flight. On the way back, I had to squeeze past a lady to get to my window seat (I really do prefer the aisle). As soon as I got within a few feet, her perfume infiltrated my nose and nearly shutdown my olfactory sense. Ugh. Luckily, people were shuffling seats a bit, so she went back a row to sit with her daughter, and some guy ended up sitting next to me who didn't stink. Plus, he was able to leave the middle seat empty. Tada. (Technorati Tags: airplanes, cologne, perfume, things you shouldn't do on a plane)
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
More News on Writing Contest Prizes
I've been pounding the proverbial pavement on the hunt for more prizes that we can give away in the IGotNewsForYou.com Writing Contest. If anyone is interested in donating a prize please contact me. Jim Estill is CEO of SYNNEX, a Canadian company that sells about $1,000,000,000 (yes, that's 1 billion) worth of computer products. Jim's an amazing guy with a long history of incredibly successful entrepreneurship. I met Jim (online) through the Carnival of Entrepreneurship, and when I launched the contest he offered up his Time Leadership Audio CD ($19.95 value). As per his blog (which I highly recommend any business folk or entrepreneurs read), the Time Leadership CD is his, "...philosphies and musings on leading SYNNEX Canada, a billion dollar wholesaler of computer equipment. I call it time leadership because of my keen interest in time." So a big thanks to Jim for providing this CD. Lots of people submitting to the contest are budding writers, entrepreneurs trying to break into the writing game, etc. and I think his Time Leadership CD could be a great asset. Plus it's great to have someone that runs a 1 billion dollar company involved with IGotNewsForYou.com. As well, Mark Rayner sent along a bit more detail about the satire books that he donated. Amadeus Net retails for USD $19.95, and The Meanderings of the Emily Chesley Reading Circle retails for $16. In terms of more information on The Meanderings, Mark provided a write-up link. The Meanderings was written by a group called the Emily Chesley Reading Circle, which was "established to further the study of *Emily Chesley*, a long-overlooked Canadian speculative fiction writer of the late-Victorian period, who lived for some time in the London, Ontario region." All cool stuff - thanks again to the people donating prizes, and I hope we'll see more in the collection soon! (Technorati Tags: jim estill, synnex, contest prizes, emily chesley, mark rayner)
Saturday, March 25, 2006
SaleHug.com Responds to My Comments
I wondered if anyone from SaleHug would notice the post I made on March 23rd titled, Salehug.com Doesn't Maximize Value of RSS. Well guess what? Someone noticed, and very quickly. That's kudos #1. Kevin at SaleHug posted a comment on this blog, and if you missed it, here it is: *** Benjamin, thanks for the critique of salehug. You brought up an excellant point - on our homepage we do not bring attention to our RSS feed as some might expect. It was never intentional. We're not driven by advertising. It's an extra bonus but by no means is that the driving force behind Salehhug. About your comment that RSS is a growing trend (it's far beyond trend status now, it's a practical solution to delivering content) - and our feeds are our #1 requested resource, more than our homepage easily. So yea, you'd think we'd have it as a central focus on the site... you'd think ;) Well, we do now. We added the RSS feed icon and text link to our main navigation bar. We're glad you like the salehug concept and I hope you enjoy the content. Again, thanks for taking a look and being critical. (i found your link via technorati) *** Kevin had used Technorati to search for anything being posted about SaleHug, and voila, my post appeared. He responded immediately with a comment on the blog and he emailed me directly. Even though I did criticize SaleHug, his response was friendly and smart. Not only that but if you visit the site, they've put the RSS link much more prominently on the home page. So there's kudos #2. They listened to a customer (me), and they reacted. No one is perfect (except me), and SaleHug took my criticism in stride and made their service better. The 3rd kudos goes to SaleHug for paying attention to the blogosphere. The power that bloggers have is significant; this little blog caused a change on another website, with one little post. Because Kevin at SaleHug was paying attention he was able to respond quickly, improve his service and impress me. Every company should be doing the exact same thing. And paying attention is dead easy, there are a host of services and ways you can track what people are saying about you and your company online: Technorati, Google Blogsearch/Alerts, etc. There's really no excuse for not paying attention. P.S. Kevin is right about RSS -- it's probably beyond being a "trend", and as he points out, it's SaleHug's most popular feature. I think there are still a lot of Internet folk that aren't familiar with RSS but over time I think they will be. (Technorati Tags: using rss, salehug.com, the importance of rss)
Friday, March 24, 2006
Things You Should NOT Do On An Airplane
I don't have to travel that often, but I'm about to embark on two short trips (one to California and one to Alabama), so I need to get organized. While thinking about getting organized (which is really the first step to getting organized) it struck me that on my last trip the fellow sitting next to me (it was a cross-Canada, 5+ hour long flight) broke a few rules that in my book should be obvious. Rules that the flight attendants should mention along with "no smoking" and "keep your seatbelt on". Of course, we know the obvious things that you shouldn't do on an airplane, like use the word bomb or try and light your shoe, but there are other almost as nefarious things that shouldn't be allowed. Here's my list:
- Don't hack up a lung. Honestly, if you're going to be coughing non-stop to the point where it seems like your internal organs are coming up, casually putting a hand over your mouth doesn't cut it. As it stands airplanes (in my opinion) are already germ-infested, but some people feel it's their divine right to cough away like they're on their death bed. The fellow I mentioned above was kind enough at some points to bend over and cough, which is really a whole other story.
- Don't play with yourself. A shift or two, discreetly, is one thing -- let's face it, sitting on a plane for 5 hours isn't that comfortable -- but once it gets to any form of stroking, petting or rubbing, you've gone too far. The airplane is not your bedroom or your car or any other personal space, you're sitting right next to me. Please.
- Don't let your head bob all over the place. Just buy one of those head pillows that can hold your neck and head in place. They're not even that expensive. Sometimes the planes will have some for people, but the no-frill carriers probably don't. Head bobbing isn't the end of the world, but when you've got a 200+ pound fellow sitting next to you and his giant melon keeps falling on your shoulder, you're forced to squish to one side in an already extremely small space. Plus, sometimes you catch the motion of the head jerking out of the corner of your eye and it's a bit startling..."What's that thing jumping out at me? Egads!" You're lucky I don't karate chop your head out of reflex.
- Don't listen to music really loudly. This is just a common courtesy, but do I really need to hear your crappy music blaring out of your headphones? Once again, a plane really isn't a public place like walking down the street, we're all sitting there, we all paid, we're all uncomfortable. Show me some freaking courtesy you heavy metal-listening, vomit-coughing assbad.
- Don't try and strike up a conversation more than two or three times. I picked 2 or 3 times sort of randomly, but if the person next to you is obviously disinterested in talking or is perhaps busy working/reading/sleeping, trying to strike up a conversation is rude and irritating. I'm all for casual conversation, I don't want to come across as a jerk, but I also really don't care that you had a goldfish that just passed away. Sorry.
- Don't try and sell me something. This ties in with the point made just above, but I'd rather hear about your dead goldfish than have you sell me insurance on a 5-hour plane ride. The trouble is that I have no escape; I can't beat you over the head (they don't like violence on planes apparently), I don't want to break another rule from above like playing my music too loud, and even if I'm obviously ignoring you, I can still hear you. So please, keep your slimy sales to yourself. I'll happily give you my home phone number, I'd rather you call me there.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Taking Urinals to a Whole New Level
Just read Pee Into This at Immutably Me, which is about a company in the Netherlands (I think), that's produced the Kiss Urinal, which basically looks like a giant, open mouth. A mouth urinal. Genius. Here's a picture, if you don't believe me: If it only had the Rolling Stones tongue that came out of it...woah now...that would be something. Too bad the urinal costs 699 euros and they're out of stock, but I have to believe there's a cheaper way of producing specialty urinals like this. The imagination certainly runs wild. Well at least mine does. (Technorati Tags: bathroom mania, urinals, kisses urinal, toilet design)
Salehug.com Doesn't Maximize Value of RSS
Many of the people that read IGotNewsForYou.com just bookmark the site and visit on a semi-regular basis. Others, use the RSS Feed within their RSS/Feed reader, which allows them to get new content from IGotNewsForYou immediately when it's published. There are tons of RSS/Feed Readers out there (I use FeedDemon), some that cost money, many are free. RSS feeds are becoming more and more popular as a way of consuming content. Of course you'll see hundreds of discussions and articles online about how many RSS feeds people subscribe to, the over-abundance of content and the ease with which we now have access to it. A real buzzword is "attention" -- we as people have a certain amount of attention we can give to things, and companies want that attention. And many are using RSS to try and help their cause. One website that hasn't done this well enough, in my opinion, is SaleHug. SaleHug is a "sales blog", where they list sales going on at various stores (online and not). If you're into shopping, it's a great way to get news about sales that might interest you. Cool. And SaleHug does have a newsletter that you can subscribe to, so you can get sales delivered to your email inbox. But what about an RSS feed? Well it's there, but it's tucked away in the bottom corner of the site. The first couple of times I visited SaleHug I didn't even see it. I wanted to get an RSS feed so I didn't have to keep remembering to visit the site regularly. I don't know if SaleHug has deliberately de-emphasized their RSS feed. It might be because they've got a lot of ads (Google Ads and others) on the site, and they want visitors to come to the site and click those ads. With an RSS feed I can bypass those ads cause I just get the content (although they could send ads via the RSS feed too, but that's a different story). Bypassing the ads and just getting the content means I'm using the SaleHug service but they don't have as easy a way of making money off me. Now, having said that, if you dig into the SaleHug site in a bit more detail you'll see the RSS feed more prominently displayed. For example on their About Us page they make a direct reference to and talk about their RSS feed. And if you click on any Current Brand/Store link, say 1-800-Flowers.com, you'll see a little RSS icon right at the very top. Still, the front page of the site is where you'll get most of your traffic, and most people won't dig down; they want what they want right at the outset. If you're going to use RSS (and I recommend you do in many cases particularly anywhere that you're updating content regularly), then display it prominently, hype it, because it's a growing trend, and I don't see it slowing down. (Technorati Tags: salehug.com, importance of rss, feed readers)
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Ugly Rules the Day Online
A coworker of mine who is familiar with the IGotNewsForYou project recently sent me this link: http://www.site-reference.com/articles/Website-Development/The-Surprising-Truth-About-Ugly-Websites.html It's an article about the fact that "ugly" websites are actually quite popular and successful. It makes note of some obvious choices: Craigslist, Ebay and Drudge Report -- but the focus of the article is on an online dating site called Plenty of Fish. I'm sure Plenty of Fish is getting a lot of traffic from this article, but that's fine with me. I've never used an online dating service, but I've heard success stories, so why not right? And as long as you don't get a stinky fish...anyway, I digress. So why does "ugly" work? Well the article claims a few things. For example, it says that ugly sites are often trusted more by your regular consumer online; the person that doesn't trust the super slick site, the non-uber sophisticated consumer that wants to feel like they're dealing with real people and not mega corporations trying to scam their butts. It also talks about the fact that many "ugly" sites (and I continuously seem to be putting ugly in double quotes because ugly is still subjective) are very often easy to use, and ease of use (or function over form) almost always wins the day. It's an interesting story. Apparently Plenty of Fish (which is free to join) makes $10,000/day from AdSense alone (the Google ads you see on their site). I really have a hard time believing that, but even if the number is half that, it's still quite amazing for such an ugly site. While perusing a long-overdue list of blogs that I try and read regularly, I came across the same article with a brief analysis at Escape Velocity. The author of this blog points out that it may not really be that ugly sells, but that ease of use or simplicity can sell. But certainly there are plenty of very fancy/beautiful websites that sell too, so using one example of an "ugly" site and showing that it sells shouldn't cause everyone to redesign their website tomorrow. Still, it does show that it's possible to make money online without having the slickest site around, using the latest technologies. There are millions and millions of people online that don't know what AJAX, CSS or even HTML mean. These people don't necessarily care that your site sings songs and dances jigs; they care about finding what they want, quickly, with minimal hassle, on a site they feel they can trust. I think IGotNewsForYou will provide people with a comfortable, straightforward style. The design isn't what I'd call "ugly", but it's definitely simple. I've used style techniques from sites that I admire, sites that I consider effective. The content is basic, and the steps you need to take in order to get the goods are few and obvious. So let's hope "ugly" does sell, and people tell me "IGotNewsForYou.com is ugly!" (while they're spending money) (Technorati Tags: drudge report, ugly sells, escape velocity, ebay, craigslist)
From the Stomach Flu to the Indie Virus
Still catching up on my blog reading (but nicely recovered from the stomach flu), I read a post titled, Viral Blogging over at Buzzoodle Buzz Marketing. It's about an online experiment in viral blog marketing called "The Indie Virus". If my research is correct it was started by the fellow at Pearsonified. The idea is simple -- post a link or two or more on your site to blogs that you enjoy and think others would enjoy. The key is that you should link to blogs that aren't the uber-popular ones (the ones that already get lots of traffic and have lots of links). As well, you need to make sure the link is titled The Indie Virus. This is how the originator of the experiment can try and track the number of links created over time. To date, I don't believe anyone has linked to this blog with the Indie Virus, so I am as of yet untouched and not in need of any virtual antiobiotics. But, I'm hoping through a bit of linking to infect others that have great blogs and deserve attention. The Liberal government of Canada has just announced details of their leadership race and a couple people have thrown in their hat. If that's not a reason to send over the Indie Virus to a political blog about the Liberals (well-written, sarcastic, satirical and fun), I don't know what is. And for a good time, why not catch The Indie Virus from stand-up comic and blogger, Tina Dupuy. I've never seen one of Tina's shows (not sure she's visited Canada before to do any shows), but her blog is funny and worth reading. I had hoped she would contribute to IGotNewsForYou but her schedule is too busy it looks like! Maybe a wee virus will change her mind! Come on Tina! So there you go. I've infected a couple of blogs that I enjoy and may the spread of the Indie Virus be infinite, and help some lesser known blogs get some attention. (Technorati Tags: indie virus, tina dupuy, pearsonified, viral marketing)
WeSmirch Besmirches Celebrities
Awhile ago I read about a website called WeSmirch.com over at Techcrunch. WeSmirch.com is a news aggregator for celebrity news and gossip, plucking the most popular stories from around the web and putting them into a simple, easy to read interface. If you're into celebrity gossip (and we know you are), this is a great place to get your news. It also strikes me as a good place for IGotNewsForYou writers to pick up on juicy tidbits of celebrity hoohah, twisting the tales of the famous into hilarious, fake news stories. We all have our sources right? I don't know what WeSmirch's business model is, since there doesn't seem to be any revenue-generating things on the site currently. Maybe there isn't a business model. I'm sort of surprised we're not seeing Google Ads on the site, but I do like the fact that they've kept them off; it keeps the site as simple and clean as possible. On a side note -- did you know that Oprah has boycotted Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie from appearing on her show together out of friendship to Jennifer Aniston? You didn't know that? Well now you do. (Technorati Tags: wesmirch, techcrunch, celebrity gossip, news aggregator)
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Two Great Prizes Donated Already to the Fake News Writing Contest
It took less than a day and two people stepped up with prizes. That's great, and I hope more will come! Mark A. Rayner of the skwib fame has donated 2 books -- Amadeus Net and The Meanderings of the Emily Chesley Reading Circle. Amadeus Net is about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart being alive in 2028 and in love. Say what now Mark? Yup, that's right. Wolfgang is alive, in love and apparently the book starts off with the musical master going into a sex change clinic to have his "sprouter" snipped off. No, I'm not lying. Check out all the details at Mark Rayner's website. The second book, for which I currently have less information (but am awaiting it from Mark) is a collection of Victorian satire put together by Mark and others. Victorian satire certainly sounds interesting (ok, maybe bizarre), so I'm looking forward to more information, and then I'll pass it on. Mark's a funny guy (just read his blog, the skwib), so I'm sure these books are worthwhile. Now if we could only get him to contribute to IGotNewsForYou! The second person that stepped forward is Jeff Turner, the fellow behind Blogbeat, a blog performance/stats tool. In a nutshell, all bloggers are obsessed with knowing who is reading their blog, when, how often, what they're reading, etc. It's pretty amazing to see people coming out from the woodwork, doing crazy searches, finding links from other sites and reading your words. Blogbeat helps you track all of that in a very easy to understand interface. I've been using it for a couple of months and while I've stopped obsessing over stats every 5 minutes, it's still a great tool to really understand the nature of your visitors and traffic. Blogbeat is easy to setup, it shouldn't take anyone more than a few minutes, even if you're not a tech savvy person. A yearly subscription to Blogbeat currently costs USD $24, it's a great price for a cool application, and I know Jeff is working like a madman to constantly improve it. And, the best part is that Jeff's offered a 1-year FREE subscription to Blogbeat for the winner of our IGotNewsForYou Fake News Writing Contest. I know a lot of the contributors to the first contest run their own blogs, so I think this prize will interest you. Thank you to Jeff and Mark - your donations are appreciated and we look forward to more in the very near future! (Technorati Tags: blogbeat, mark rayner, writing contest)
Monday, March 20, 2006
Want to Donate a Prize, Get Some Buzz?
I thought the 1st contest we did was a pretty big success. The winner, Nancy Breitman, selected and was sent the Season 6 DVD of Seinfeld, and we got some great stories and generated a lot of interest in IGotNewsForYou. So now, I'd like to try it again with a 2nd contest. But this time, instead of offering some obvious prizes, I'm hoping there are people out there interested in donating some more interesting prizes, maybe some bigger prizes, maybe some more unique prizes. In exchange you receive our eternal gratitude and some attention for yourself, your business, product, service, etc. So, anyone want to donate a prize? The contest is now running live. I won't be promoting it too much just yet (except for this post) but as soon as I've secured at least 2 or 3 prizes I will do as much as I can to promote the contest and get even more attention for it than the 1st one. All we need are some prizes. If you're interested in donating a prize, please contact me via email at email@example.com. I'm looking forward to people's ideas and offers! And of course to all you writers out there: send in your story submissions! (But if you haven't submitted before, please go to the contest page first to read the samples and the guidelines for submissions.) (Technorati Tags: writing contest, donated prizes, satire writing contest, humor)
Stomach Flu Crash Diet
I'm still recovering from the stomach bug (virus or otherwise) that hit me last week. I haven't eaten a ton (ok, not totally true: I over ate like a monster on Saturday night), and my energy levels aren't 100%. Still, I weighed myself a few days ago (when the flu was rather more prevalent, along with its unpleasant symptoms - see: visiting the toilet every 10 minutes) and discovered that I had lost a ton of weight! I don't weigh myself frequently, but I'd say I waffle between 175-180 on any given day (certain holidays boost that number of course). But a few days ago I was 165. Even if I had lost a few pounds before the stomach bug hit, that's bloody close to 10 pounds lost in a handful of days. Talk about your uber crash diet. I've weighed myself every day since, assuming the weight would fly back on -- my wife said, "All you lost was water weight." So I'm drinking water, eating a touch more, but I'm still around 166-168 pounds. So now I'm thinking, "Maybe I can stay under 170?" (A personal goal of mine for some time, with little to no effort put towards it, of course.) Then today as I was thinking about the svelte new me, I thought about what a great crash diet the stomach flu really is. Sure it's painful and rather gross (assuming you don't enjoy vomiting and crapping yourself senseless), but you get to spend a couple days off work, you have no interest in food, you can get yourself off any food crutches (coffee, chocolate at night) and you lose weight. I'm sure people have thought about this before... But then I thought -- ya know, it was my kid that gave me this stomach flu -- he's sick quite a bit from daycare and just from being a messy kid that eats his own snot. Could I market that? Could I bottle "kid germs" or maybe setup a booth at the local mall and have the kid sneeze and cough and wipe his boogers on people for a small, nomimal fee? They get sick, they lose weight, and I pocket the dough. Sure, it's exploitation of the little one, but we've setup an RESP and we do house the brat, how much more does he want? And if you don't lose weight while sick, at least you probably get a couple days off. That's more than any other crash diet or fad diet can offer. What else does Atkins offer? What about the insane "grapefruit diet"? Exactly... (Technorati Tags: stomach flu, crash diets)
Friday, March 17, 2006
Driving in an Icebox
I had thought about this awhile ago, and then it slipped my mind until today. I left work to head home and it was cold, colder than it has been in awhile. I got into the car (2 year old Mazda 3), which had been sitting outside all day, and it was cold. So it's cold outside, the car is cold, and since I'm still not 100% recovering from an absurdly powerful stomach flu of some kind, I'm cold. I wanted to blast the heat, but of course if you do that you just blast yourself with cold air. Are we seeing a pattern here? Right. The cold. My problem here, and this isn't something I had ever really thought about, is the speed at which my car warms up to the point of being comfortable. My drive home took about 25 minutes; by the time I got home, the car was warm. That's not acceptable. My previous car (a Honda CRV) used to get Sahara hot in about 20 seconds. It was amazing, and I took it for granted. Now, I'm stuck with an icebox. My entire car ride home, every day in the winter, is cold. So the next time I buy a car, I'm going to ask the salesperson, "How quickly does the car get hot?" I want my ass to be on fire. And I want to test it too. I'll probably get a new car in a couple years, probably during the winter, and you can be sure I'm going to check this carefully. I don't know if anyone ever uses "the speed at which a car heats up" as a criteria for making a purchasing decision. Screw horsepower, gadgets, color and price. When will my freaking fingers defrost? If you sell cars in Canada (except Vancouver where it almost never gets cold), then your car should heat up in a couple minutes, end of story. I have no idea what's wrong with my car, maybe it's broken, but it's always been like that, and I just think it's something that probably wasn't that significantly considered. Once you're past the stupid "zoom zoom" commercials, crash testing (admittedly important), and naming gray something like "sizzling silver" (or God knows what), I guess there's not much time left to check if the heaters actually work. (Technorati Tags: mazda, cars, honda)
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Where Has the Time Gone? Work, More Work and the Stomach Flu
My last post was on March 8th. Methinks the blog feels abandoned. I felt its quiet beckon in my ear...I think my dad's just been snoozing. So where have I been? Well work is kicking me in the proverbial rear end. On top of that I've got IGotNewsForYou work to contend with, and as we get closer to launching in April things get all the more hectic. "You mean, the website isn't finished?" my curling-obsessed father asks. Um, no. "What about all the stories?" Nope. "And what about the e-commerce side of things?" Not even close my friend. At this point my father falls off the couch, chips peppering the carpet like little salty grenades. Ok, so we've woken him up... Truth be told work is hectic (and I was traveling for about a week), and IGotNewsForYou is hectic too. Combine those and that leaves precious little time for the blog. Plus, I got the dreaded stomach flu. Now according to some un-scientific research (i.e. talking to people), the stomach flu has ravaged clear across the United States and Canada. Who knows how far it's spread this winter, but even in warmer places like California...that's right...the dreaded stomach flu. 24-48 hours of wretching, and all manner of nastiness. I won't make you suffer through a description; if you've already met the dreaded stomach flu, then you know what I'm talking about. Interestingly, through my un-scientific research, I received some interesting suggestions for remedies including flat diet cola with plain crackers, and room temperature water. One person suggested I hit myself over the head with a hammer (but I suspect they just didn't like me.) I think everyone has their own home-based remedy for things like the stomach flu. I survived after 1 day of nothing whatsoever on apple juice. I'm now back to eating solid food (cross your fingers, will you?) Still, the stomach flu keeps you pretty wonked out for a few days so it's going to take a few more days to recover full strength, but IGotNewsForYou will carry on. And as soon as my dad cleans up the carpet full of potato chips, I'm sure he'll lend a hand too and post something. (Truth be told, he has been helping, it's just too easy to make fun of someone that likes curling and falls asleep standing up. Gotta love him.) (Technorati Tags: stomach flu, home remedies)
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Niche Card Markets Opening Up; Good Sign For IGotNewsForYou
From Immutably Me I read a blurb about Brenda Guiden, who, unable to find suitable cards to send people she knows in prison, decided to start her own business. The business is called Prison Expressions, and while the general quality of the site and the cards themselves might not terribly impress, according to the stories floating around the Internet, Brenda's doing quite well, thank you very much. First, I have to say kudos to Brenda. I did try and email her, but haven't heard back (at the time of writing this blog post). Her idea is unique, amazing and bizarre, and from the sounds of it, successful too. Second, I can't help but think that this sort of thing is a good sign for IGotNewsForYou. We're not offering a niche product from the perspective of who would be an appropriate recipient, but our idea is rather specialized and not something you're going to find at the local card store. The existence of Prison Expressions tells me people are looking for something new in the world of cards. Or maybe it's just that there's a lot of people in prison. Or both. Third, I can't help but wonder what other niche card markets might start to open up or in fact be created (since I would venture to guess Brenda's venture is the first of its kind) as we start to see little businesses like Prison Expressions and IGotNewsForYou pop up. What about cards specifically for politicians? (I guess they call that "hate mail", nevermind.) One of the IGotNewsForYou guys mentioned that "divorce cards" are becoming popular. I guess you send a card to your friend after they get divorced. I guess depending on how it went, the cards could be rather different. How about: "Congratz on dumping that fat cow!". Or, "Sorry to hear your sugar daddy's left ya." What about: "That guy had a small penis, you're better off without him." Or, being the sentimental type, you might send a divorce card that says, "I really feel your pain. Getting divorced sucks. I'm sorry." *sniff sniff* Anyway, good luck Brenda. I hope you'll respond to my email so we can start a dialogue. Who knows, maybe there's a partnership opportunity? Together we could be a more interesting purchase for Yahoo! (Technorati Tags: prison expressions, cards for prisoners, e-cards, gift cards)
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
The Different Buying Habits of Men and Women
I'm sure there's a truckload of sales and marketing data out there based on polls, focus groups, hocus-pocus groups, research studies, academic think tanks, etc. comparing magazine purchasing habits and readership across gender lines. Recently I was sitting in a mall food court making a huge dent in a chocolate croissant, contemplating my lack of curling skills, when I noticed the magazine stand just ten feet away from me. The women's magazines must outnumber the men's by at least 10 to 1. Can we deduce anything of value from this observation? Do men read novels, dictionaries, phone books and lavatory walls, or do they prefer newspapers or or online information? Are men simply morons and don't read at all? I can't believe that! Maybe they hate spending the money it costs to buy a typically over-priced magazine? To be truthful, there are a few men's magazines -- some computer ones, audio, car, health and business, and of course, a number of girlie mags, but compared to what's available for the ladies, there really ain't much. I pointed out this little observation to the IGotNewsForYou gang and suggested that in case they hadn't noticed, men and women are quite different (a couple of them apparently hadn't noticed, which is a whole other story). I wondered outloud how many men buy traditional greeting cards on their own, that is, not when told by their significant others to get down to the mall and buy a get-well card for Aunt Bertha. What about e-cards? Do men send these? Do they like receiving them? I really have no clue. Well, to be fair, I hate shopping for gift cards, but I do have to do it on occasion. And I've sent the odd e-card but never found any that were particularly brilliant. IGotNewsForYou is something like an e-card or a magazine or a newspaper page. It is also a unique, clever and very funny gift idea. Will the majority of our IGotNewsForYou page creators be men or will the ladies get into it? What about the recipients? Will the majority be male or female? Will it split fairly evenly across the genders? I guess time will tell. We have an idea from our own, unscientific research, but it's still going to be something we are extremely interested in and watch carefully. Right now I have an hour or two to kill before the wife comes home from shopping...I wonder what's on the tube. (Technorati Tags: gift cards, e-cards, buying habits)
Monday, March 06, 2006
And the First Ever IGotNewsForYou Writing Contest Award Goes To...
It took a bit longer than expected to iron out all the details, but we're very pleased to announce that Nancy Breitman is our winner! (Balloons are falling from the ceiling and trumpets are blaring.) She submitted 2 stories, both of which were very funny, one of which won the contest. We titled it, "Widows for Dummies". Without further ado here it is: *** Montreal - Dr. Suzie Pallister recently reported on what lures husbands away from the bedroom and into their own private Internet world. Dr. Pallister investigated 2,000 couples and found wives often complained about their husband's inability to fulfill their manly duties. "I could be standing naked beside him with sparklers sticking out of every orifice and he wouldn't be able to tear himself away from online pinball," was a common complaint. Microsoft Marriage Counselor, Mike Yoskovitz believes these problems are due to male arousal issues and offered some helpful hints. "Replace your perfume with that stuff he uses to clean his keyboard," said Yoskovitz. "And try making that computer humming noise when he comes to bed…it might turn him on". When the wives asked Dr. Pallister about her personal bedroom results, she replied, "If only it was as easy as 'point and click' for him to make me '.com'!" *** Any story that has "sparklers sticking out of every orifice" is a winner in my books. So congratulations to Nancy for winning! It wasn't an easy decision, many of the submissions we got were very funny, and since humor is rather subjective, we bounced back and forth on what was really the funniest. Still...sparklers...in every orifice...of a woman...anyone getting a mental image? There were a number of other top contenders, and here they are: From Tommy at http://www.almostaverage.com we got: *** Dallas, Texas - The winner of last week’s Sun Bowl Open has been disqualified as a result of the Professional Bowling Association’s new drug policy. "When we implemented the program we never expected to catch anyone violating the policy," said Bob Stephens, spokesman for the PBA. Al Wilson, winner of the tour's last four tournaments, has been suspended indefinitely. His fellow competitors have been suspecting him for some time now. "All he ever drinks is water," said one of his rivals. "I had to bowl 4 rounds to get to the finals; at 3 beers a go, that's a 12 pack. It's not fair bowling against him like that." Stephens chimed in, "This is bowling, we can’t have people competing sober." It looks like the suspension had the anticipated impact. Wilson's final statement at the press conference was, "If they let me back on tour, I promise you’ll never see me sober again." *** This one really spoke to my father, Mike Yoskovitz, who as you all know is an avid curler. It seems, from this story at least, that curling and bowling aren't too different. Mark Garrison, the very first person to submit stories to the contest, sent in a few submissions that we quite enjoyed as well. Here's one (it was later edited for length, but here's the original): *** In a surprise victory today, John Anthony of Green Bay Wisconsin walked away with the $10,000,000 grand prize in the Wisconsin Lottery. Two people matched the winning numbers to last night's drawing and they were forced to enter a no holds barred death match in the Lottery Commission parking lot to decide a winner. "With the present state of the economy, we simply cannot afford to have two winners" said Lottery Commission Executive Mark Garrison. "This is the best way for two strong Wisconsonians to see who gets all the money," continued Mr. Garrison. John Anthony won the death match by suffocating Elaine Woodson with his enormous man breasts. "YES! I'm rich! I'm rich! Now I can go get that man breast liposuction surgery I've always wanted," stated John Anthony. When asked why the Lottery Commission didn't just split the winnings like they always have in the past, Mark Garrison calmly walked away while quietly repeating, "crap, crap, crap". *** That last line just cracks me up. And while man breasts are something I may have to deal with as I get older (and I shudder at the thought), they're still pretty funny. Charlie from http://www.wherethehellwasi.com sent in a story that had a great premise, and so it deserved some attention as well: *** AirTroductions, a New York company specializing in pre-flight introductions, aiming to pair flight passengers up to make the flying experience more congenial, hit a snag yesterday when client Harry Watson of Redondo Beach, CA couldn't be matched. With anyone. As a show of good faith, AirTroductions employee Fred Lassiter sat next to Watson on his scheduled cross-country flight. Upon arrival on the East Coast, an exhausted Lassiter said, "I never realized how smart our computers were. Maybe next time he can take the train." *** And finally, Nancy Breitman came through with a second story that merited some attention as one of the funniest: *** Marijuana scientist, Dr. Mike Yoskovitz, whose extensive experience studying and testing the popular drug, has revealed promising evidence indicating that the drug should be legalized for relationship therapy. When personally tested, Dr. Yoskovitz found that marijuana's effects on the male and female brains led them to react more effectively to common conflicts with their significant others. "I've never felt more relaxed about my relationship with, uh...uh...Barbara," remarked Dr. Yoskovitz. "Every time we start to argue about anything, we quickly wind up laughing and talking about nachos. It's great! And money problems don't ignite fiery arguments either. If we ever need extra cash, we can just sell some of our "prescribed medicine" to the kids in the park and it's 'Hello, fine dining'!" Dr. Yoskovitz's research will soon branch out to studying if prescription beer can make significant others more attractive. *** It still makes me laugh when I read the line about the guy not remembering his wife's name. It's just classic, and funny. So there you have it folks. Long anticipated and hopefully worth the wait. All of these contributions are great and we received many more that were funny as well. Many of those will make an appearance in IGotNewsForYou.com when it goes live. As you can see, the range of stories is quite amazing, and I think that will be a significant part of IGotNewsForYou's appeal; there should be something for (almost) everyone. Raunchy. Play on words. Plain old ridiculous. You name it, and we should have a good amount of humor for it. I'd like to once again thank everyone that submitted stories to the contest - hopefully in the next few days (if I can get my act together), we'll be announcing another contest to keep the submissions rolling. Now, on to the post-IGotNewsForYou Writing Contest parties! (Technorati Tags: writing contest, satire, humor)
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Writing Contest is Over, Winner Expected Soon
Amazing how time flies...just over a month ago we put up a fake news/satire writing contest, did some promotion, and the result now is well over 30 contributors submitting about 40-50 stories. Not too shabby at all, and I want to thank everyone that contributed to the contest. Each contributor is going to receive a 1-year subscription to IGotNewsForYou for FREE. Yup, 100%, absolutely, no restrictions apply, free. It's our way of saying "thank you", and we hope everyone will enjoy the service and send pages out to friends, family, coworkers, co-conspirators and others. We're now in the midst of reviewing all of the submissions and a decision on the winner is expected soon. Not that I want to take away the spotlight from the Oscars, but I will most likely announce the winner tonight. I am certain Entertainment Tonight and a host of other entertainment/gossip-related shows will provide the appropriate coverage. Sorry, Oscars... The winner of the contest will get to choose 1 of 4 comedy DVDs we've selected (see: http://www.igotnewsforyou.com/contest.html) and it will be shipped to him/her directly. And what about new contests you ask? I think we'll continue running them - this one has been a success, and I hope with a bit more promotion we can encourage more people to submit stories, generate awareness/buzz for IGotNewsForYou and have a good time all around. Again, thanks to everyone...and stay tuned... (Technorati Tags: writing contest, fake news, satire)