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BoonSpace: Give cash with a personal touch

Did you ever get, say a birthday card, from say, your great-aunt, and opened it only to find you got a gift certificate to Bed, Bath, and Beyond?  “Because I figured you could use a new throw rug,” she said, eyes glimmering with  self-satisfaction/righteousness and Ghandi-like benevolence.  “Thanks,” you mutter, bummed.  In fact, you didn’t even read the card because you were so bummed.  Now, of course, in the annals of hardships, there are far bigger crosses to bear than a gift certificate to BBB.  (Have you seen their new line of waffle makers? To die for!)  But let’s be honest: cash would be nice.  Cash rules.  Cash is king.  As the old saying goes, “Cash talks, gift certificates walk.”

BoonSpace is a wonderful site where any taboo of giving cash is obliterated.  Better yet, you can customize your gift with a degree of imagination and creativity unforeseen by this Web-savvy vet.  Not surprisingly, it’s also one of Facebook’s biggest revenue generators.  And can a gazillion Facebook users be wrong?  Unlikely.

boon

BoonSpace enables people to send money as a gift in a fun, creative way.  You can add an e-card, a photo, audio, animation, or a video – either by uploading one or filming one live using your Webcam.   Essentially this is the closest thing to sitting down with wrapping paper, a card, scotch tape, and a pen and doing the manual work the old fashioned way.  It’s an all-encompassing e-gift package, created in the comfort of your home, and you don’t have to navigate Target and its throngs on the weekends to do it.

So I signed up.  I was taken to a page where I could create my gift.  My choices were: Message Center, Photo Booth, Film Set, Recording Studio, Gift Shop, and Send It!  They were arranged left-to-right, insinuating a chronological process, so I began with Message Center.  Here’s how it went:

  • I entered a gift title (“Enjoy Guam, Great-Aunt Maude!”)
  • I chose the  occasion (“Bon Voyage”) from a robust list, and the preview popped up (bear in mind, the whole time, a convenient “Tutorial” button was nearby.)
  • Then I typed my message (“Here’s hoping Guam’s climate will help minimize the symptoms of your condition!”)
  • Then I could upload a picture, audio file, or video to accompany it.
  • In the Gift Shop, I chose my option (Free Version; others were “Send Money With Gift” and “Virtual $1 Gift Animation,” via PayPal.)
  • Then I previewed it, and then I was done!

The layout is crisp and colorful, so much that I almost felt manipulated to give a gift.  How’d they do that?

OK, two quick suggestions:

  • The home page has a calendar called “Recent New” (e.g. “Jan 11 – 5 Reasons Why Cash is Better Than a Gift Card; you gotta scroll to the bottom.) It’d be cool if they added all those fun and obscure holidays in the calendar to give viewers yet another reason to give money.  Like Administrative Professionals’ Day (April 28th) or Arbor Day (April 30th.)  Or February 9th, the feast day of Saint Apollonia, the patron saint of dentistry (less than a week left, get moving!)
  • Once logged it, it was hard to log out.  That is, I was expecting the option to be next to my glowing-purple log-in name, when in fact it was on the blue navigation bar.  No biggie.

BoonSpace, as I mentioned, partners with PayPal, so, in closing, it’s worth point out the differences between the two.  Rather than fall back on the all-too-easy “Ugly Step-Sister” analogy, I’ll simply say that BoonSpace is like PayPal with lipstick, a nice dress, and a killer sense of humor, wit, and aesthetic sensibility.  She’s a good listener, tips well, and doesn’t crowd you.  She gives you space.  She makes a mean homemade pesto!  PayPal makes me want to file my taxes; BoonSpace makes me want to paint a painting, sing a song, dance a jig.  Don’t get me wrong, PayPal is nice and efficient, but it is what it is – a transactional middleman.  BoonSpace expands upon this concept of giving money – namely, cash – and allows you to add that critical personal touch so sadly and often overlooked in this go-go digital world.  Now if your great aunt only knew how you turn a computer on.  Then you’d be in business.

Oh please don’t do this to us BoonSpace. You left? No note? No goodbye? Just the sad 403 error to inform us of your departure.

Emotify home Sponsored

emotify: Make your content emotionally available

Emotions.  Everyone’s got’em.  In fact, according to my therapist, even I have them.  In this confessional age of social networking sites that I’d rather not mention, blogs, and reality shows, emotions are the currency of our time.  Call it Oprah-i-fication – or Jersey Shore-i-fication? – of our culture.  And while these mediums bombard us with people’s emotions, it’s also bombarding us with content – the blogs, videos, and photos – that deliver someone’s emotions to our screen.  This is why I think emotify is so nifty.  Tired of sifting through content by date, user, or topic?  Well, now you can organize it by emotion.

emotifyhome

Emotify is a service that allows users to submit and vote on content (videos, photos, blog entries, articles) by emotion, helping create an emotional snapshot of the Web. Additionally, Emotify serves as a platform for non-techies to easily create fun and engaging media packages called EmotiPacks – various types of media you’ve “emotionally” tagged.

So I dove in, chock full o’ emotions (is existential angst and emotion?), ready to rumble.  I clicked on the “Get Started” button at the bottom, and was immediately implored to register, which I did. I selected my mood (“Inspiring,” naturally; other choices were Funny, Shocking, Sad, Amazing, Upsetting, Frightening), and began creating my own EmotiPack. I chose an EmotifyPack theme (“Inspiring,” naturally) and was taken to the content portion, where, picking from Videos, Photos, Articles, and Blogs, I could tag each piece of content with the emotion I thought it best represented.

Now when a piece of content gets added, other members can vote on how it made them feel, and  after the vote as made, the content automatically gets stored into my profile. And once a user, such as myself, submits or votes on at least 3 pieces of content, they can officially create an EmotiPack, which can be uniquely titled.  So, you can create and title one called “The NFC Championship,” with video, blogs, and photos from that game (why didn’t Farve just run it?)

Then the other users have their say.  Viewers are asked whether the EmotiPack fulfilled the emotion intended for or not. The votes are tallied up and rank the pack on Emotify accordingly.  The free market in action!  The votes are also sent to the user’s profile, the blue bar indicates that it fulfilled the emotion it was meant to and orange votes did not (see below.) This is a cool because it essentially gauges the emotional zeitgeist of the emotify community. It can also double as a free psychotherapy session; if you’re the only one tagging that photo of a python slowly swallowing a koala “Funny,” some introspection or a call to the counselor may be in order.

graphs2

Having gone through the basics, I must say, this was one of the most user-friendly sites I’ve gone through in a while. It was with me every step of the way, with pop-up windows and instructional guidance.  Only an utter fool would get lost in emotify!  Now for some random observations:

  • The instant I clicked on the site, I was quite intrigued, but mildly baffled.  The “emotion-charged packets” certainly piqued my interest, but a tad bit more context on what they are, if possible, could help.
  • The “Learn More” page was certainly illuminating, namely the video.  But again, perhaps some copy upfront to give me a teaser before I view the video.
  • Kinda splitting hairs here, but as a former (ahem) English major, “frightening” isn’t an emotion per se, as much as an adjective.   Therefore, describing my emotion as “Frightening,” isn’t technically as accurate as “Frightened.” That said, a video can clearly be “Frightening,” but that in and of itself isn’t purely an emotion. Now I feel like someone’s gonna beat me up.

What I like about emotify is its ability to take a static thing – a piece of content – and transpose it into a communicative mechanism – expressing emotions through content.  It’s a new and interesting way to organize the voluminous content washing up on our e-shores, but more than that, I’m also intrigued by the site’s ability to serve as a barometer of culture and society.  What do people consider “frightening?”  What do they consider “amazing?”  And why?  Taken as a whole, are people vibing well based on their EmotiPacks?  (That sentence sounds so sci-fi.)  Or is there a Carter-like malaise going around?  What if they had EmotiPacks in the Great Depression?  Roaring 20s?  Again, the Zeitgeist stuff.  And on an individual level, I suspect avid users will uncover a lot of common ground – and meet cool, like-minded people in the process – but also may be perplexed by such emotional disagreements, which can only trigger further fun and exploration.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if users jerk back in their chairs in gleeful exasperation, exclaiming, “Emotify, to quote Mariah, you got me feeling emotions.

Emotify locked itself in the bathroom and refused to come out. The site’s down. So long dear Emotify.

Sponsored

forwardOn: Share Content The Smart Way

Part of the fun of being plugged into the web and being in touch with new memes and developments, is being able to share the great stuff you find with people who are more casual internet users. It’s sort of like having a friend in the music business who know the great bands before they even release an album. It’s nice to be able to share new, cool stuff you find. In fact, it’s addicting.

The way that most people share interesting content they find on the web is through email, despite the inherent problems. Videos, jokes, pictures, presentations, and such get forwarded around the social network, clogging up inboxes, accidentally spreading viruses, and occasionally perpetuating false information and lending credence to hoaxes and scams (“Well, Gladys would never forward me anything false! I’ll just avoid eating bacon until this whole swine-flu epidemic blows over…”). You might get the same huge video file in your inbox several times because there’s no way for people to know if you’ve already seen the monkey sniff his finger and fall off out of the tree. And if you happen to be using a dial-up connection, well, that’s just too bad.

A better way to share things you like is to have a blog that people can visit, but this comes along with its own set of issues: hosting costs, learning the ins-and-outs of your blogging platform, and, once it’s all set up, you have the issue of actually getting people to visit your blog. It’s worthwhile for many people (which explains the thousands upon thousands of blogs out there on the internet) but most people need a solution that splits the difference between sharing via email and blogging. Those people should check out forwardOn.

forwardon

forwardOn, a free website started in 2008 by a few friends from the Boston area who were sick of the constant email forwards from well-intentioned friends and family, solves the problems with email forwarding. By providing each user with a space where they can post content, forwardOn eliminates the need to forward via email and gives users a repository for comments and ratings. And, depending on the interest garnered by your posted content, you can rack up some pretty sweet rewards.

After a simple sign-up process, forwardOn creates a hosted page for you, located at . Instead of forwarding your video/image/joke to your friends’ inboxes, you simply send your message to -redacted email- and the site takes the content of your email and posts it on your page. forwardOn takes care of the formatting and displays content in the appropriate manner, meaning video and audio clips are played in an embedded media player, and files are displayed in a file viewer.

forwardOn translates YouTube links and accepts file attachments and embedded content. You can also login to your page and manually edit each post, which is great if you realize after you sent the email that the subject line (which becomes the post’s title) is not descriptive enough or chock full of spelling errors (as mine frequently are).

One of the best reasons to use forwardOn is because your page acts as a board for comments and ratings, allowing you to have discussions about posted content in which friends, family, and trolls (you know who you are) can all participate. You don’t have to email back and forth or click reply-all, you can simply comment on the page, like you might do with a YouTube video or a blog post. Additionally, all forwardOn users have access to your page as well (with really great finds being put on the forwardOn front page), which helps build a community within the site. To this end, you can also friend other forwardOn users and view/rate/comment on their recent posted content.

A big attraction that I have to forwardOn is the rewards system. In the spirit of sharing, forwardOn shares their ad revenue with the users in the form of points. Depending on how many views your posted content receive, you’re assigned points that can be redeemed for Amazon.com, iTunes, Shell, or MyChoice gift cards. (MyChoice cards can be redeemed at many stores and online retailers). Or if you’re feeling particularly altruistic, you can redeem your points for a donation to the charity of your choice through JustGive.org. This acts as an incentive to post great, funny, timely content, which adds value to forwardOn, which brings them more traffic which, in turn, gets you more points. It’s a great system that benefits everyone and I’m amazed that other hosted content sites don’t try it.

forwardOn provides a free solution that eliminates can be a troublesome problem. It’s not that there aren’t already ways of posting interesting things you find on the internet for people to view, it’s that forwardOn makes it so simple by taking care of formatting and posting for you; all you need to do is send a single email and then point everyone in the direction of your forwardOn page.

forwardOn takes the scams, the hoaxes, the viruses, and the bandwidth-wasting out of sharing content. It’s easy to use and you get a little something in return for sharing content the smart way. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

Sponsored

qmpeople – Not your grandfather’s dating site

Ah, dating Web sites.  Where to begin?  To me, they’re the Bee Gees of the online world – controversial, wildly popular, resilient, frequently transcendent, exquisitely harmonic, sometimes sketchy, and just plain incorrigible. Just when you think they’ve peaked in popularity, they wane, but then come back stronger than ever.  Or your friend will say, “You meet a lot of weirdos on dating sites…but you also do at a bar, so what’s the difference?” And then she ends up meeting a 45-year old divorcee online who’s estranged from his children and has zero body fat.  (Note: I realize Bee Gees analogy kinda fell apart there at the end.)

Key takeaway: dating Web sites, like the Bee Gees, need to re-invent themselves, stay fresh, and change with the times.  Otherwise, they’d become a relic, like the Beau Brummels (no offense, guys.)  And ahead of the curve is qmpeople, a great, Facebook/Yahoo-inspired dating site, which includes chat, video, and other great tools to find Mr./Ms. Right/Zero-Body-Fat.

qm

If qmpeople feels instantly comfortable and easy – like, say, effortless downing a bottle of cheap red wine with your ex-wife in a parked car down by the river – its because it has the same user home page layout of Facebook (that’s still around? Hmm.)  So I registered, and after doing so, it asked if I wanted to invite my friends from Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter (but not my friends at Astrostar; what gives?)  Once registered, I decided to check out the six main apps on the top toolbar, and if I may, I’d like to spend some time on each.  Shall we?

  • Chat – I walked into the chat room like I was walking onto a yacht and saw that a gal named Rushiel was there, shy and a bit introverted, brooding by the electronic veggie dip, as it were.  We exchanged some pleasantries, and I was on my way.
  • Groups – A bunch of groups ranging from the obvious (e.g. “The Beatles) to the Dada -(e.g. “Potatoes.”)  Simply click on the group title, go in, and post your comment.  (Note: I posted “The Bee Gees are better than the Beatles.”)
  • Games – Clicked on that and was taken to a game called “Who Is.”  It was a pixelated picture of…someone.  A blurry, fleshy, orangey mass.  Scott Baio?  Alexander Hamilton?  Saturn?  I won’t spoil it by telling you.  That’d be cheating.
  • Help Me – Here you can throw out questions to the qmpeople community (e.g. “which is the best and easiest way to stop smoking?) and answer accordingly.  If this page feels instantly comfortable and easy – like, say, drinking double-brandy and staring at your watch, which reads 1 am, at a dive bar out past the rail yard, waiting for your ex-wife to show up – it’s because it’s similar to Yahoo Answers.  And like Yahoo Answers, you and give your answers and opinions.  But better yet, you can also donate money to fulfill your friends’ needs – something you can’t do on Yahoo Answers.
  • Video – Here users posted videos, like “Funny Sports Bloopers” – my Achilles Heel! – and someone solving a Rubik’s cube really fast.  You can also click on the user’s name and be taken to their profile.
  • Photos – Pretty self-explanatory; you can also check to see the other photos posted by the user, should one pique your interest.

All in all, a very fluid, easy experience; lots of areas an opportunities in which to connect with people.  Having taken the tour, a few questions/suggestions:

  • What is “qm” in qmeople?  That is, if it stands for anything  – Quality Men-People?  Doubt it –  and it’s accentuated a bit more, it could help brand the site better.  Anything to differentiate it from other dating sites or networks would be helpful.
  • I counted three layers of navigation; two should suffice.  For example, on the top layer – the top toolbar – is Video.  Video also re-appears on layer three, in the yellow box.  May be worthwhile to consolidate.
  • I thought the Help Me portion, was, at first, a “help me with the actual qmpeople site” section.  Upon further investigation, I realized it wasn’t the case.  Maybe re-title it “Community” or “Ask a Friend” or “Answers.”

In retrospect, qmpeople is more than a dating site.  It has the principles of a Facebook, traces of Yahoo, games and media, and the pugncious, unflappable spirit of three simple brothers from the Isle of Man.  To this guy, it’s the kind of friendly, fun community where there’s lots of stuff to keep you busy for a long time, but for what it’s worth, dating is also strongly encouraged.  Just like that amazing Presbyterian camp in rural Jersey my friend used to go to in high school, where they did all that crazy stuff in the woods.  So jealous!

Sponsored

Youblisher: Flip through documents all real world-style

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet.  It’s been good to me.  Just thinking back to all the cool Web sites I’ve been to, all the great people who are on it, all the doors it has open for me – I mean, it’s great.  To paraphrase the newly-bleached Sammy Sosa, “The Internet has been very, very good to me.”  That said, there are some things I miss about the analog world.  Long, languid walks in the park.  A nice comfy blanket and a decaf extra-hot mocha soy grande latte, hold-the-Stevia. A delicious steak.  And a good six-beer buzz on a Monday afternoon.  Y’know, the little things.  In fact, it’d be really nice if some of these sensations from the analog world could some how drift into the digital mirror-realm to make things less cold and soul-less.  Enter, stage right, Youblisher.

youblisher

Youblisher is a free tool that makes your pdf documents flippable and quickly loading. Like physically flippable; kinda like in 3D or something.  It is like touching a real document in the real world of blankets, steaks, and brews.  It’s a subtle thing that greatly improves the viewer’s reading experience, and it may, in fact, may make him/her question the nature of reality itself.  Lord knows it did for me.

I immediately clicked on the Free Demo link – the demo document is a sample product guide – and felt a little surge of awe as the pages flipped (and it made the pages-flipping sound too; make sure your speakers are on!)  Better yet, there was no digital coffee that I’d inevitably spill on it.  Immediately sold, I next registered so Youblisher could sprinkle its page-flipping pixie dust on one of my documents.

  • Upon loggin in, I was taken to a nice, clean page where I could Add a New Publication.
  • I uploaded a PDF from my computer and clicked Submit.  In mere moments, my pdf would do that cool page-flipping stuff!
  • I was prompted to add a title, description, tags/keywords, a language (currently on English and Dutch, but whatever), and a document category (e.g. Magazine, Business Report.)

Upon submitting, the document began its journey through the air, to the wireless router down the hall, over the Atlantic and out into the world, where on some distant foreign server the page-flipping fairies would engage in their ritual dark art of overlapping and superimposing the real and imaginary, the digital and analog, like an existential Venn Diagram.  Such mysterious witchcraft takes time: the site alerted me I was #11 in the queue and that my job would ready in approximately 55 minutes (I selected a 28 page PDF.)  But then, all of a sudden – like, two minutes later – it was done!

And it worked!  I flipped and flipped to my heart’s content.  Flip, flip, flip.  Visually, they even laid it out so there was a shadow behind the document, giving it another layer of real-world-ness.  I was also provided a url link of the pdf – posted on Youblisher’s server – as well as a text link, and embedding code.  Man!  All of these things were listed next to a screen-shot of the document itself in the List All Documents portion of the site, shown here:

My "List all publications" page
My “List all publications” page

And that was that.  Done.

I was thoroughly pleased with the whole proceedings; it was – dare I say it – kinda almost fun. And now, in the interests of my unimpeachable integrity, do feel compelled to pass along some relatively cosmetic suggestions:

  • First-time users to the site will see it has two main areas of navigation, labeled “It is 100% Free,” and below that, “3 Easy Steps.”  Beneath each, “Start Now,” which leads visitors to the same Sign Up page.  I’d consider deleting the “Start Now” underneath “It is 100% Free,” and move up “3 Easy Steps” such that there’s only one “Start Now” prompt. Phew.
  • I’d make the “Click Here for a Demo” font bigger, or box it, or color it differently; something to make it stand out a bit more. The demo really sells this tool and the sooner visitors see it, the better.
  • In the Demo portion, on the bottom right of the screen there are icons such as Zoom, Print, etc.  Fairly intuitive stuff, but hover-over labeling would be useful.

In closing, Youpublisher has done the seemingly impossible: it’s merged the digital and analog world to make a modern task – viewing a PDF – feel old and familiar.  Maybe, perhaps, my preconceived ideas of what’s “digital” and “analog,” tangible and intangible, right and wrong, black and white, old and new – heck, time itself…maybe it’s all wrong.  Maybe I don’t know anything.  Maybe, just maybe, reality isn’t even really real.  Hmm.

(Gazes out the window ruminatively.)

Well, on that note, I am hereby taking an indefintate leave of absence SlapStart to study these very issues in a contemplative fashion in the Himalayan foothills of Yumzho Yumco, in the Shannan Prefecture of Tibet.  I shall return when I have suitable answers.  Namaste y’all!

Triyou Sponsored

TriYou: Make lists & get your book/movie/music on

Lists.  I hate’em.  Lists, as we all know, involve chores ranging from the mundane (e.g. get oil change) to the less-than-mundane (pay Vinne, your bookie.)  Either way, chores are generally things I don’t wanna do.  And I hate having to do things I don’t wanna do!  (I hate lists!)  But sometimes lists can be really fun, especially when exchanged with like-minded folks.  Like the time I asked my English grad-student friend to provide a list of books I should read (“what’s wrong with Dan Brown?” I defensively pleaded.)  He e-mailed it to me, I scanned it – it was impressive! – and promptly forgot about it.  Oh well, there’s always Grisham.

What would be really cool is if all my lists were in one spot for these kinds of fun, artistic pursuits.  A place where I could make lists of books, movies, and music, and also interact with people with similar interests.  This may come as a shock to you, but I have found such a place.  It’s called TriYou, and makes me look at lists in a less despondent, existential way, which is nice of them.

triyou

TriYou allows you to create your very own media lists, and after creating them, you can rate them, review them, or even watch videos related to your media. Their search engine allows you to locate your favorite movie, book, or CD, and add them to your media list, which you can then share  with your friends in the comment area. They also have a nifty tool called the TriBar, which lets viewers see what are you reading, watching, or listening to right now.  I mean, what’s not to love?

So I registered and immediately began to create my profile and start listin’.  I was taken to a dashboard with all my categories – lists, photos, friends, notifications, reviews, etc – arranged vertically across the left side of the screen.  So I made a list, using a helpful drop-down box that let me differentiate between Books, Music, and Movies.  You can also search for your favorites, and then simply click on the “Add to List” command, and poof! your list is instantly populated.  Given my exotic tastes, I wanted to test the depth and breadth of TriYou’s search engine, entering my all-time favorites accordingly:

  • Movie: Bull Durham. The ladies are particularly impressed when they hear this (ditto Dumb and Dumber.)
  • Book: Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell.  What a book!
  • Music: Odessa, by the Bee Gees.  The Brothers Gibbs’ masterpiece, a sprawling double-album loosely based on the story of a shipwrecked sailor.  (Hey, you there in the back, stop snickering; don’t think I can’t see you.)

The verdict?  Three for three – all of these timeless, profound classics popped up.  To that end, navigationally speaking, the site was nice and easy.  Some props are due:

  • Thankfully not adhering to “the-more-navigational-tabs-the-better” school of thought, the site has just five: Home, Users, Movies, Music, Books.  Less can be more.
  • The ubiquitous search box on each page – with a cool, coy quote on each page – is a nice touch, goading viewers to participate.
  • In fact, the content’s tenor is fun and entertaining throughout.  Throughout my visit, I picked up references to U2 and Maurice Sendack.
  • The musical and literary tastes of the site are rad too – White Stripes, Nirvana, George Harrison.  That helps.

Now for a few suggestions.

  • The Movies, Music, and Books tabs look great, but a bit more product thumbnails, just to fatten up the page, would look nice.
  • Maybe it was my Internet connection, but the Search function took a bit more time than I was used to.
  • A few of the buttons on the product-specific pages seemed to be dead.

Not some people may ask, “Don’t other sites have lists? Like, say, Amazon?”  Good question, and I’ve never been one to not address an elephant in the room (unless it involves money, religion, or family issues.)  The bottom line is that TriYou’s model is simply more streamlined, more focused.  Their main feature is the lists, rather than selling lots of stuff*.  Art over commerce!  What a concept.

*Note: I did swing by Amazon – just like the old days – and I couldn’t intuitively find lists anywhere, at least at first.  I felt really overwhelmed – even, dare I say, listless (get it?) – and the next thing I knew I almost mistakenly bought a $125 box set of Gheorghe Zamfir, the King of the Pan Flute.  Close call!

Startup

SellBizToday: Harnessing social networks to buy & sell businesses

It’s no secret that the economy is still a mess.  Thousands upon thousands of articles have been written on the “Great Recession” and luckily for you all, I won’t go there.  No bad vibes here at SlapStart.  Instead, what I’d like to do is focus on the positive; on people who are tapping the seemingly limitless potential of the Internet (and social networking sites in particular) to provide relief to struggling businesses, and in turn, kick-start a recovery that is tantalizingly – notice the optimism! – around the corner.

Enter SellBizToday, a rapidly growing business-for-sale-service on the Internet that is re-defining the scope of traditional service-marketing to embrace the social networking explosion.  Simply put: using these new technologies, struggling businesses now have a platform to tap a previously-unimaginable pool of would-be buyers and brokers.

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From a navigational perspective, the site is clean and efficient.  Sellers (for a fee) can Sell their Business, while would-be buyers can register for free to Buy a Business.  Owners can also Sell a Franchise and Find Brokers by location.  Brokers themselves can sign-up, as can Franchises.  Would-be buyers can search their database of businesses by Listing Type (Assets Only, For Sale by Broker, For Sale by Owner, and Franchise Resale) and Location.  They can also search by Business Type (e.g. Retail: Pet Stores) and by Price Range.  And that, essentially, is all there is too it.  Simple.

But what really makes SellBizToday sing is its back-end architecture and marketing strategy; namely, it’s heavy investment in social networks.   According to a recent press release, SellBizToday is “the only business and franchise for sale listing website that advertises its members business listings and services on social networks. SellBizToday not only has informational profiles set up on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and other social media sites, it also utilizes many pay per click campaigns to drive thousands of unique visitors to their member’s business listings.”

And that’s the beauty SellBizToday’s flexible model: now, it can be used as a lifeline for struggling businesses looking for a buyer while also serving as an indispensible tool for entrepreneurs and bargain-hunters looking to invest during lean times.  And when – again, notice the optimism – happy economic times return and buyers have more money in their pockets, the platform can act as a pivotal driver in economic growth and expansion.  Consider it the silver lining in today’s financial storm-cloud and the Grand Marshall at tomorrow’s capitalist parade.  Bring a chair, it’s gonna be great!

SellBizToday has come and it has gone. Forgotten by most, but revered and remembered by us.

Sponsored

Niceletter: Compose Letters, Get The Job, Impress Your Friends

Even though I still read real books and mark my events on a paper calendar, I tend to view sending and receiving a real paper letter as a somewhat antiquated practice. I have nearly all of my monthly services (cable, electricity, phone) sending my bills to my email account rather than wasting paper and my friends and relatives either call or email as well. On the rare occasion that I get a letter that’s not junk mail, it’s usually a legal matter or a letter from the government, both of which aren’t generally something I greet happily.

So it’s no wonder that my letter-writing skills are pathetic. Sure, I send thank-you notes out every year after Christmas and my birthday, but I think the last time I wrote a real letter was over a decade ago. If forced (at gunpoint) to write a letter today, I’d have no idea where to start. Do I put the date in the upper-left or upper-right? Do I put my own address before or after the recipient’s address? And aside from the structural rules to which I’m oblivious, there’s the matter of the content itself. What does one put into a condolence letter? What goes into a cover letter? I know I was taught these things at some point, but I haven’t got a clue now.

niceletter

Niceletter is a great starting point when you need to write a letter the right way. It’s a simple, straight-forward site that takes the guesswork out of formatting a letter. Users can also browse a number of helpful letter templates to get them going in the right direction in regards to content. Niceletter not only has templates in English, but also in French, Spanish, and Italian and there is no sign-up process; simply go to the site and begin creating your letter.

A user starts off by either selecting the letter generator (an all-purpose letter template) or by selecting a sample letter template. The template is laid out in form fields that the user simply fills in with the correct information like names, addresses, and content. In the case of the sample letter templates, the user edits content that has already been provided in order to customize the letter for their needs. Once the letter is complete, the user chooses to generate the letter as a Microsoft Word-compatible rich-text format or as a PDF, and that’s it. The generated letters can be copied into an email or printed out. The whole process is very quick and easy.

While browsing through the templates, I came across many that would be useful to young adults trying to make a good impression. There are several thank-you letters for sending after a job interview, a letter of recommendation template, and even a formal letter of apology in case things go wrong. The resume/job application cover letter templates cover a wide variety of career fields: electrician, hotel management, fashion designer, and IT, to name just a few. The tone of the letters are appropriate for each field and are written for graduate students and seasoned professionals alike.

Additionally, there are a few letter templates that come pre-addressed to celebrities and important figures such as Queen Elizabeth II, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Gordon Brown. If you’re feeling truly whimsical, there is even a letter to Santa Claus and one very humorous letter template directed at a particularly popular actor right now, Robert Pattinson, famous for playing a vampire in the Twilight films.

With the tough job market out there, it pays for applicants to put their best foot forward. Anything that can give a qualified job candidate an edge over other equally-qualified applicants is highly valuable. You don’t want to give a tired human resources worker a reason to throw your resume away and sometimes the difference between ending up in the “maybe” pile and the “no” pile can be as trivial as having a nice, formatted cover letter to go with your resume.

A service like Niceletter can help you stand out as well-mannered, capable, and professional and it’s completely free to use. Niceletter is already a great resource for young professionals and hopefully we’ll see the website continue to grow.

Translationzilla Sponsored

Translationzilla: Learning languages shouldn’t be this fun

When people ask me about my mixed and exotic heritage (at least twice a month), they inevitably ask, “Oh, so do you speak Ukrainian?  Or Italian?  Or Albanian?”  And invariably, I say something to the extent of, “Well, I know how to say ‘thank you’ and ‘I love you,’ in Ukrainian, but more than that, I know how to say a handful of vulgar profanities involving farm animals in Italian.”  And it’s true – don’t get me angry, lest the inner, feisty Jersey-Italian comes out.  It’s not pretty.  It’s gross, actually.

In fact, it bums me out to have such a limited – and barbaric – handle of these languages from the motherland.  But aside from hanging out with the distant, unrefined Italian side of the family (they tend to jump into swimming pools fully clothed and with a cigarette in their mouth) how could I improve my language skills in a fun and competitive way?  Oh, Translationzilla, where have you been all my life?

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Translationzilla lets you compare your language skills with your friends and other language enthusiasts, and it currently supports English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and Italian.  Ahhh che è meraviglioso!

As a first-time user, I clicked on the FAQ page.  The page was simply laid out with five questions, each with short, effective responses.  They are:

  • What is rank status? – zilla points measure your skill for a particular language pair and difficulty level. They are calculated based on your accuracy and the speed of translation.  As your average zilla points per game increases, your skills improve and your rank status increases. Everybody starts with the rank status “Bum!”
  • What are badges? – If you reach a certain number of zilla points for a particular test you can earn bronze, silver or gold badges.
  • What are zilla points? – zilla points measure your skill for a particular language pair and difficulty level. They are calculated based on your accuracy and the speed of translation.
  • How does it work? – As registered user you take timed translation tests, and compare the resulting score with other friends and language enthusiasts.
  • What is translationzilla?Translationzilla lets you compare your language skills with your friends and other language enthusiasts.

Sufficiently prepped – yet still woefully lacking any skill whatsoever in Italian – I threw caution to the wind and went to the Game page.

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On this screen, I could choose my level (Beginner 1), and my translation options.  I chose from English to Spanish (yes, I chickened out; and, in my defense, I do know a bit of Spanish from a stint “working” on a “fishing boat” in Nicaragua in the mid 80s.)   And for those interested in the rules, you can read up on them as well.  The game was totally fun.  It spit out a bunch of simple nouns rapid-fire style (e.g. body, sky, beef) and I had to type in the translation in Spanish.  And the clock was ticking!  My scores?  Not so not.  My “zilla points” was a feeble 34.5, and what’s worse was that I didn’t even earn a badge. Translationzilla was there at the bottom on the page, staring at me.  Judging me.  Dios mio.  Did I mention it was totally fun?

A sucker for punishment, I checked out some more advanced levels, recognizing this could be a wonderful educational tool for children and adults alike.  I wanted to get beyond simple nouns and into the dangerous, exotic world of grammar, sentences, and verb tenses.  Well, the fine folks at Translationzilla were a step ahead of me.  There was actually a level called Kids. Since I consider my emotional development to be on the level of a 9-year old, I gave it a shot.  And boy, was I not kidding!  My zilla points were 175, I earned a silver badge, and Translationzilla himself gave me the thumb’s up!  He likes me!  He really likes me!silv

Registering is fun too (and free.)  By doing so, you can see all the top-ranked participants, a newsfeed of notable developments (e.g. “User A has earned a silver badge!” or “Mike S. learned an Italian word that doesn’t slander an entire village’s family!”   You can also track your badges and own rank.

Now about the site design.  It’s clean and crisp, without any clutter.  And I love Translationzilla himself.  (TZ to his Mesozoic friends.)  Kind of like Godzilla-meets-a-crocodile-with-a-love-for-languages.  He’s adorable, yet in his eyes is a very, very vague trace of menace that no one can really take seriously because you soon realize it’s not menace, but mischief.  He’s like a reptilian linguistic James Dean.  And in an age when such visuals are important for branding (think of the ubiquitous Twitter bird-thing), he’s a great asset, especially in targeting children.  He also does weddings, birthday parties, and bar mitzvahs.

Now how about some global navigation comments?

  • On the home page navigation bar, moving left to right, “Game” is first, followed by “Home” to the right.  I’d switch’em, putting “Home” flushed left.  We read left-to-right, and for me, it makes a bit more intuitive sense to have “Home” as the first option.
  • Similarly, on the FAQ page I’d re-order the questions so that “What is translationzilla?” – currently at the bottom – is at the top and “How does it work?” is second.  Makes a bit more intuitive sense as subsequent questions are a bit more specific and proprietary in nature (e.g. “What is rank status?,” “What are badges?”)
  • Regarding the game, after my dismal showing – no badge!  – I was curious as to what questions I got right, and those I got wrong.  As a guest – I wasn’t registered – I could not see those results.  And when I did register – unless I was missing something – I could not see the correct answers either.  I feel this would be a great addition.

So quote me on this: Translationzilla will be a hit with the kids.  It’s fun, simple, entertaining, and easy-to-use.  Translationzilla himself is a patient teacher.  Like Yoda, like Mr. Miyagi. (Can a merchandising juggernaut be far behind?  Translationzilla backpacks?  Pillow cases?  Lunch boxes?  Can openers?)  But after spending some time on the site, I realized Translationvilla is for everyone: college students (especially) and adults who simply want to improve their language skills without a lot of bells and whistles.  As an (emotional under-developed) adult myself, Translationzilla certainly spoke to me.  Better yet, it inspired me.  I now realize there’s more to the Italian language than vulgar slang, grotesque hand guestures, and crude references to centuries-old Old-Country vendettas.  Heck, if Translationzilla can erase decades of ignorance and ameliorate generations of bitterness and your-great-grandfather-stole-my-goat grievences, just imagine what it can do for you.

Personera Sponsored

Personera: Personalized Print Calendars Made From Your Facebook Content

As much as we humans have worked to put as many aspects of our lives onto the Internet as we possibly can, there are still some things we like to keep in the real world. Many people still prefer to do their banking in person rather than online, even though you can do almost everything online that a human bank teller can. Others still prefer to rent movies from mom-and-pop movie rental stores rather than through cheaper Internet services. And there’s a large portion of the population, myself included, who prefer the tactile sensation of reading a real book over reading an e-book.

For reasons I can’t quite explain, I still write important dates and events I need to remember down on a paper calendar rather than use one of literally thousands of available digital calendar/day-planner programs out there. I could use the Google calendar program that very neatly integrates with my Gmail, which I check continuously throughout the day, but I don’t. I like being able to see my whole month planned out with just a quick glance at the calendar hanging on my fridge. I know for a fact that quite a few of my friends – people who, like me, are connected at the hip to their Twitter accounts – do the same thing.

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Well, now those people (like me) who enjoy the feel of a paper calendar can integrate their online life back into their real one with a custom calendar from Personera. Personera allows users to design and order printed calendars personalized with their Facebook content. Personera will scour Facebook for uploaded or tagged pictures and will fill in friends’ birthdays and other special events. Then, for $24.95 (discount coupons available if you know where to look), they’ll ship the calendar to your door, for free, anywhere in the world.

You can sign into Personera using Facebook Connect and, once you’re in, you’ll see how easy and fun they make creating your calendar. The interface is slick without being intimidating and intuitive enough for anyone to figure out.

There are quite a few calendar customization options available: you choose the theme, the special events, holidays and birthdays you want included, and what pictures you’d like to see and where you want to see them. You can dedicate certain months to special people by only including their pictures on that month’s page. You can even, if you wanted to take the time, put season-appropriate pictures on certain months (pictures of friends and family going skiing in December, pictures of you at the beach in July, etc.). Alternately, you can just let Personera fill in the calendar with pictures and events for you. In short, you can make the calendar look just how you want it to look.

Personera’s aim is to make the offline world as personalized and relevant as the online one. The result is a great gift idea for yourself, your friends, or perhaps for people who aren’t on Facebook regularly like your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older friends. (Just make sure you omit that picture of you doing body-shots at Senõr Frog’s. You know the one.) You can buy vouchers for other people to make their own calendars, and even request a voucher from Mom or Dad by entering their email address in the appropriate area.

If you’re wondering about the calendar quality, well, don’t. It’s top-notch. The printing is crisp and the pictures come out photo-quality. It’s a professionally-made calendar; it’s just got all of your photos and important dates in there.

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Many times when reviewing a product or service, I see online businesses that start out with a great idea but lose something in the execution. When a good idea has to go through several rounds of criticism and approvals, the end result occasionally lacks the spirit and freshness of the original idea. Not so with Personera. The idea is original, the execution is flawless, and they don’t skimp on quality one bit. What’s more, I was given a heads-up by a Personera founder that the company will be branching out into other personalized products soon.

As a gift idea for yourself or for family and friends who are hooked on the web but still use a paper calendar, you can’t go wrong with a custom calendar from Personera.