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GoMiles: Integrated frequent flyer miles management

In the 2009 film, “Up in the Air,” George Clooney’s character crisscrosses the skies with the dream of reaching a milestone: ten million miles flown on American Airlines.  As this blog post so eloquently notes, cynics doubt that such a milestone is physically or logistically possible.  I tend to agree, if only because managing so many miles would have driven Clooney’s character to the psych ward sometime in 1998.

First of all, it is rare that business travelers fly one dedicated airline anymore, much less consistently over the course of decades.  Throw in multiple Web accounts, log-ins, passwords, not to mention expiring miles, confusing redemption rates – tracking the miles becomes nearly impossible.  Make no mistake: “Up in the Air” is firmly rooted in the genre of fiction.

If the film were non-fiction, then we most certainly would have seen a cameo by GoMiles.com.  GoMiles addresses a tremendously real need: it allows you to manage frequent flyer miles, all on one dashboard, quickly and intuitively. And it’s free.

GoMiles Home

In this world of information overload, GoMiles takes varying, disparate streams of information – air, car, hotel, and other accounts – and consolidates it under a “single pane of glass.” More importantly, GoMiles is a proactive platform.  It alerts you when points are due to expire and helps you prevent them from expiring. All the while its search engine helps you decide whether to buy a ticket or redeem miles.  (If only GoMiles reminded you to buy your wife an anniversary gift, then it’d be just like those saucy middle-aged travel agent-women of yore.)

GoMiles’ site is simple: helpful screen shots supplemented by key talking points (“Manage Everything in One Place,” “Earn More Faster”), and a big green button encouraging viewers to try the software for free.  So I did.  I signed up and was promptly asked to add an account (Airlines, Hotels, Cars, or Other).  After being assured that my information was encrypted with the best technology available, I added my Continental OnePass information.  It took a few minutes while GoMiles retrieved the information, then there it was: my name, my current point balance, and latest bonus offers from Continental.

Up until this point, technically, GoMiles is no different than Continental’s page.  But now we see the difference, and the value that GoMiles adds.  For starters, I could translate my points into US domestic round trip coach tickets.  I could also consider deals and bonuses to help me burn miles faster; for example, GoMiles suggested a Continental credit card that yields 25,000 free miles.  I could also search for flights.  Unlike searching for flights within, say, the Continental page, GoMiles pulls up flights from multiple airlines –  eight, to be exact.  I pulled up a Continental flight within my parameters and (sadly) it alerted me I needed 7,000 more miles for said flight.

GoMiles Miles

Most importantly, I could then add additional accounts, using the aforementioned process.  Upon doing so, all my accounts appear on one dashboard.  And that’s where GoMiles’ proactive features are really useful.  For example, as previously noted, GoMiles alerts me when my miles are expiring (fortunately, my Continental ones aren’t.)  The more airlines and accounts one has, the more this feature is critical; after all, what’s your other recourse to manage multiple accounts?  Tracking them yourself in Excel?  Pullleazze!

Ultimately, GoMiles is like a Mint.com for miles – one-stop miles management, which, unlike other competitors out there, is free.  It takes information from multiple platforms and accounts and provides a single, consolidated view, allowing users to seamlessly manage frequent flyer miles. It also takes the power away from occasionally inept travel departments or assistants, and emboldens you, the flyer, to make smarter decisions on how you use your miles.

Which brings me back to Clooney.  No doubt, parts of “Up in the Air” ring true.  For example, his character, who conducts wholesale layoffs for employers unwilling to do it in-house, speaks to the unease percolating throughout working America today.  And the movie’s use of absurd corporate lingo to assuage the laid-off also strikes a chord with anyone who’s ever worked in a stiff, buttoned-down environment.  But effortlessly racking up 10,000,000 frequent flyer miles without a tool like GoMiles to streamline accounts, manage bonus deals, and intelligently redeem points?

Yeah, right.

Our browser is warning us of an untrusted connection. Pulling the links down until the situation can be confirmed as safe.

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LandingAt: Personalized landing pages

It’s always nice to feel at home. Being around people that know you and are easy to be around without putting out too much effort- it’s comfortable. This is what’s great about sites like iGoogle and My Yahoo. They allow you to customize your profile so you can set the content as well and look and feel exactly how you like. You can even customize your Gmail account with the theme of your choosing.

Most websites don’t have the advantage of their users logging in and creating their own custom profile. People just show up and begin navigating around. According to recent research websites have just eight seconds to secure the attention of their users. Now there’s a way to take advantage of every one of those seconds and make your users feel the most welcome.  LandingAt is a web application that allows you to customize the landing page and user experience of your visitors.

LandingAt Home

The way it works is you sign up for a free account. Then you add a Javascript code snippet to the pages you’d like to be tracked by LandingAt. This is similar to setting up Google Analytics. Once the code is verified you can create profiles that will track segments of your visitors and display custom messages to them.

Profiles consist of a name, rules, content, and tag. The name is how the profile is tracked internally. Rules are filters that are applied to your users. If the users meet the rules’ requirements then the content is displayed. You can create rules based upon referring page, campaign, search terms, time & date, campaign code, location, and frequency of visits. You can add up to one of each rule type per profile.  You can create as many profiles as you like. Being able to dissect your audience to such a granular level gives you many options to filter them by. Once the rules are set up you then add the custom HTML content that will be displayed when users matching those rules visit the page. The final step to connect it all is to add LandingAt’s HTML tag to your page where you’d like the custom content to be displayed.

For example, let’s say you’d like to greet all visitors from Alaska with some banter about their governor and former VP candidate. Just set up a rule that filters on visitors from Alaska, add the YouTube embed code to the content (linked above), and then put the tag where you’d like the video to be displayed. It’s a perfect way to make back country folks feel comfortable. Obviously, my etiquette is a bit lacking at times, but LandingAt’s tool gives you a dynamic and powerful way to welcome users to your site.

LandingAt Profile

LandingAt comes in four packages. The first is free which provides up to 1000 profile hits a month. Then they offer small, medium, and professional packages which give you 5,000, 10,000, and 500,000 profile hits per month, respectively. They range in price from $12 to $49/month. The professional package also comes with advanced features and can be used with an unlimited number of sites.

When dealing with customers it’s the little things that count. Displaying a message from their locale can go a long way- be it a simple greeting, feed from the local news, or an image only they would appreciate. Connecting with your users is important and helps lead to increased sales and more interaction.  Historically welcoming users based upon their point of entry has  been relegated to large sites with the ability and budgets to build the functionality in house. LandingAt makes this incredible functionality a reality for any website owner and gives them the unprecedented ability to personalize their users’ experience.

LandingAt’s server is so slow we aren’t sure they intend to keep the site online anymore. We’ll update the post as the situation develops. For now, we think they’re done.

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AddressTwo: A Simple CRM

Spreadsheets. These simple tools have transformed the business world. Many companies use them to keep track of critical information. Even those that migrate to software solutions still find themselves exporting their data to a spreadsheet to try to make sense of it. I have a friend who works for a large chain department store best known for its patrons. She needed help setting up an Excel macro to dissect tons of information. No matter how much software progresses businesses always seem to come back to spreadsheets.

Regardless of this inevitable fact, migrating to a small business CRM is still the way to go. Ultimately spreadsheets become unwieldy and difficult to read. Important facts can be missed. I’ll personally confess to sometimes writing ‘See Email” when making notes in a spreadsheet. The boxes, although expandable, don’t lend themselves to leaving lengthy notes.

AddressTwo Home

Now there’s a new small business CRM tailored directly to small businesses. It doesn’t have the millions of features required by (or they would have you believe, offered by), the larger CRMs such as SalesForce and Act. Despite their promises, these solutions require training classes, an IT guy, and a lot of effort to set up and maintain. For small operations this is outside of the budget as well as time schedule. Giving businesses the opportunity to migrate away from the spreadsheets they’ve been clinging to is AddressTwo. A simple CRM.

The first thing you have to know about AddressTwo is that it’s first and foremost a contact manager. So almost everything you do begins with the contact. These can be associated with larger accounts if there are multiple people within the company, or they can be set up as individual customers. Every activity with the client can be recorded, such as if you make a call,  need to set up a reminder, or win the sale. First you search on the contact, then you perform the action. To contrast, you don’t star with the tasks tab to create a new task, you start with the contact. This is infinity more intuitive than most other CRM systems. As a not so minor aside, affiliates of AddressTwo are experts in using Drip Marketing techniques to gather more contacts. This is a marketing technique that can be executed with AddressTwo.

Following the same thread, let’s say you’d like to see the entire history of a client. Find the contact you’d like, then click on the account. This brings up all the details associated with the account including contacts and history. Being able to quickly know the status of an account is critical to handling customers. If a client calls you out of the blue oftentimes you don’t know what’s going on with the account. With AddressTwo you can quickly find out the latest status to better understand their issue.

AddressTwo

AddressTwo offers an impressive amount of search and sorting capabilities for a simple CRM. You have the option to create queries or lists. Queries are where you search through the contacts based upon a common criteria. For instance, you head into the office on Monday morning and want a list of all the hottest leads. As all clients are assigned a status, this is perfect for setting up a query. Let’s say a small unrelated subset of your clients all experienced the same problem. We’ll call them, “Clients that installed XP Service Pack 2 and the security features disabled their software.” (Note that this may have some relevance to real life situations.)  Here you can create a list of each client that has this special one time problem so you can readily track and resolve their issues. Being able to quickly search through your data is one of the key reasons people value CRMs.

AddressTwo provides the tools you need to manage your business. It doesn’t overwhelm with so much functionality you’ll never have the time to figure it out, but it provides the depth of features necessary to maintain your business. Beyond contact management it offers a project management tool and campaign manager. The latter is a powerful email manager that allows you to manage your marketing campaigns. Probably the best source of learning about AddressTwo is straight from the people who bring it to you. I’ll note, I’ve seen a lot of intro videos, but this is fully worth your minute and seventeen seconds. If nothing else for the entertainment value. One thing’s for sure, AddressTwo’s simple CRM conveys an understanding of the pain small businesses feel in migrating to contact relationship management systems.

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GeneratePrivacyPolicy: Insta-legalese creator

In today’s world it’s easy to create a website. From purchasing a domain name to putting basic or even moderately complex sites together, it takes very little time at all. It can be online in minutes to a few days. Many websites have the goal of generating income. And oftentimes they collect personal information or monitor their users’ activity. Even if a site isn’t really intended to generate income, as soon as site owners place a few ads, they become a business. They’re selling their advertising space and the attention of their users. The most well known of these providers, Google Adsense, requires sites to include specific privacy policy language to protect Google’s interests.

In Google Adsense’s case they make it easy for you by providing the exact text needed. But who has the time or expertise to create the correct legal language to properly protect their site and interests? Most people copy and paste from the many samples available online. After a few modifications and customizations they slap the text on a privacy policy page and call it a day. Invariably these efforts fall short and leave us open to being exploited by legal loopholes.* There are two ways to seal these loopholes protecting ourselves and our businesses. First you can hire a team of lawyers to understand all the offerings of your site and pay them to meticulously prepare the necessary rhetoric. Or, you can utilize a new tool to quickly prepare the document for you- GeneratePrivacyPolicy.com.

GeneratePrivacyPolicy

GeneratePrivacyPolicy generates a privacy policy for you. You’re given a six step questionnaire. Once completed it displays a custom made privacy policy designed for the specific needs of your site. Most questions are yes/no or check boxes. The types of questions are whether you sell anything or not, if you host ads on the site, or what you’ll do with your users’ contact information. They include all the questions that you wouldn’t otherwise think of.  It’s like having your own custom legal team, through a web application.

The resulting policy comes in three styles- formatted, plain text, and HTML. The language chosen leaves no room for interpretation, with proper legal terminology. It’s editable so you can further customize it to your site’s specific needs.  Once you review and make any updates all that’s left to do is copy the text to the appropriate location within your site.

Privacy Policy wizard

The site requires registration which allows it to keep track of your privacy policies. Premium accounts are free and you’re allowed to create as many privacy policies as you like. This is helpful in the event your site goes through different versions and upgrades. For instance, let’s say your site initially doesn’t use a newsletter but at a later date you add one. In order to update the policy you have the same options as before: Hire an entire law firm to discuss it over lunch, or generate a new policy with GeneratePrivacyPolicy.com.

GeneratePrivacyPolicy creates legalese so that we don’t have to. Its simple interface and step by step personal privacy policy wizard makes it a unique service. Let’s face it. For all the thousands of dollars that can go into a privacy policy, very few will read it. It’s just one of those things sites need to properly disclose how information is used and distributed on the site. With GeneratePrivacyPolicy.com users can get their privacy policy completed in a matter of minutes so they can get back to building and promoting their sites.

* During this review we couldn’t help but notice that SlapStart lacked an appropriate privacy policy. Whoops! We have one now though. Thanks GeneratePrivacyPolicy.com!

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CelebKiller: Get Your Celebrity Gossip Fix

Oscar Wilde once said, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”  And you know who would agree?  Russell Brand, Vivica Fox, the cast of “The Jersey Shore,” and countless other pop-culture (quasi) celebrities whose Warholian 15 minutes of fame are ticking faster than you can say “another Flavor Flav Tweet from rehab?”

We love celebrities, particularly those whose fame can now be attributed to reality shows, run-ins with the law, and general bad behavior.  Unlike the good old days, when celebrities were ephemeral, regal, royal, and distant (think Audrey Hepburn), our reality-show culture has democratized fame (think “The Situation.”)  Anyone can be famous, albeit for 15 minutes, and only because we, the culture at large, make it so.  And celebrity junkies now have a new place to call home – CelebKiller, a one-stop blog that brings you the latest in news, videos, celebrity ludicrousness, and pop culture cat nip.

CelebKiller

CelebKiller is a celebrity news site without filters, bells, or whistles.  Enter the site, and you’ll see a rapid succession of gossip-blurbs, photos, and videos – perfectly digestible for our short-attention-span society.  Like slowing down while passing a car crash, you can’t help but ogle at these tasty morsels: “Is Dr. Dre Gay?” (I have my theories), “Marilyn Manson Wishes you a Merry Christmas” (of course he does), and “Lady Gaga Stalker Ends Backstage London Shows” (I’m shocked to think that Lady Gaga would attract any sort of even remotely demented fan.)

But there’s more to CelebKiller than just news filtering.  The site shines a dim flashlight into some of the more bizarre and gnarly corners of the Web.  It highlights a site called “My Strange Addiction,” where we see, for example, our friend Kesha, who is addicted to…eating toilet paper.  We also get the “best of the best;” for example, Entertainment Weekly’s best albums of the year.  Throughout it all, the wizards behind the CelebKiller curtain provide wry, hilarious, and occasionally scathing commentary. And you can search blog posts via a robust drop-down Category list

Most interestingly, if you, Mr./Mrs. Average Visitor, say, saw Paris Hilton inquisitively leafing through “Gravity’s Rainbow” at the midtown Manhattan Barnes n’ Noble, you can provide the killer scoop to CelebKiller.   Doing so naturally blurs the line between the fan and the celebrity, though it’s not such a novel concept; it’s been happening for decades, albeit in a more structured format.  For example, I remember speaking to a friend who worked at People magazine.  She told me – brace yourselves – that a lot of those photos of celebrities, say, buying milk at the supermarket, or parading around LA half-incognito – are planted intentionally by their publicists.  (She may as well have told me there was no Santa Claus!)

But the reason is obvious: to recall our Oscar Wilde quote, celebrities need their faces in the papers, or online, in perpetuity; otherwise, they may have to, like, get a job or something.  And this is where, for all the paparazzi-sketchiness that inevitably infiltrates the celebrity world, sites like CelebKiller can be a boon for the celebrities themselves: user-generated scoops is good for business.  I mean, the Heidi Montags of the world need all the help they can get keeping their names out there.  (Poor Heidi.)

CelebKiller Home

I’m sure there are college-level courses and psychological theories to explain why we, as a society, are obsessed with celebrity culture.  The Germans have a word for it – schadenfreude, which is “pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.” I mean, if you think you have it bad, just check out the latest exploits of, say, Kate Gosslin.  Not pretty.  There’s also the age-old escapist element, which is particularly acute in these precarious times.  But that’s always been there: as long as there’s been human drama, there’s been the need to find refuge in that fantastical world of celebrity.  It’s human nature, and human nature hasn’t changed; only the technology has.  Of course Oscar Wilde would have Tweeted. Mark Twain would have most certainly YouTubed his book readings.  And Marilyn Monroe would have giddily posted pictures of her most recent Beverly Hills shopping sprees.

Unfortunately for them, they didn’t have technology we’re blessed with, much less CelebKiller, a fun, free, and addictive celebrity news and gossip site that also probes the absurdist back alleys of our collective zeitgeist.  And unfortunately for us, instead of Wilde, Twain, and Marilyn, we’ve got Russell Brand, Vivica Fox, the cast of “The Jersey Shore.”  God help us.

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vldPersonals: Manage love connections

There’s an amazing Onion article (aren’t they all, though?) from 2002 entitled, “18-Year-Old Miraculously Finds Soulmate in Hometown.” It starts like this:

PESHTIGO, WI-In a miracle that defies statistical probability, Corey Muntner, 18, reported Monday that he found his soulmate, Tammy Gaska, right in his very own hometown of Peshtigo, WI.

Sure, the article mocks good ol’ fashioned small-town values, but also speaks to the omnipresent “soulmate industry.”  Namely, how hard it is, apparently, to find one. (Note: a “soul-mate,” in literal or scientific terms, doesn’t exist; the actual word, in fact, was invented and trademarked by Hallmark in 1932.)  Perhaps this is why in an uneasy economic climate, online dating continues to thrive.  And it’s all very fortuitous, because for anyone who wants a piece of the online dating/soulmate-pie, they now have a powerful and flexible tool at their disposal: vldPersonals.

vldPersonals

vldPersonals is an automated online dating and social networking software solution. It enables you to create a fully functioning and captivating dating or social website with many of the advanced features found on other major sites. vldPersonals’ suite brings to bear an impressive set of functionality: it’s customizable and brandable, allows users to upload all kinds of media content, and enables messaging between users.  It’s easy and the customer support is included in their personal and commercial licenses.  Better yet, you can also try it free. So I did.

I clicked on a sample template and was immediately impressed.  All of the basics were included: member login, a search tool, thumbnails of members, and news feeds.  In fact, it even let me log in as administrator, which I did (go ahead and try it: username is admin; password is demo.)  The administrative dashboard was very intuitive.  The left side of the screen enabled me to manage content: members, pictures, music, videos, and events, while the “quick stats” feature displayed joined members, number of log-ins, uploaded pictures, and other pieces of information that quickly morphed into website crack: enticing bits of data to endlessly and manically pour over.

The “Manage Members” section was also useful, as administrators will likely spend a good deal of time here.  The page lists each user by username, and allows you to view their profile online, edit their information, and if they’re very naughty, delete them.  All in all, a seamless and user-friendly experience.  In fact, with a little bit of focus, luck, and TLC, I’d imagine one could get a site up and running within a few hours.  It’s that simple.

vldPersonals Admin Dashboard

In fact, after surfing around the Administration panel for a while, something dawned on me.  Namely, the inherent beauty of this platform, and of sites built around user-generated content.  And the beauty is this: after a period of upfront development facilitated by vldPersonals’ flexible and intuitive tools, there is relatively little to be done, content-wise, for an administrator of a dating site.  Think about it: you set up the framework, provide users with tools to communicate, brag about themselves, upload content, and interact, and your role as the administrator is (again, relatively) limited to, say, managing users, and, to the extent you want to, writing blog posts (which, of course, vldPersonals enables.)  At least grant me this: there’s a lot less day-to-day work to do compared to, say, a blogger who needs to write 4,000 words every day or an e-commerce site that has to wade through countless orders every day. Because for a dating site, your users are happily providing the content.  In other words, if the template and tools are powerful – and with vldPersonals’, they are – the site can take on a life of its own.  Throw in some online ads and you’re really cooking with fire.  Not a bad model, eh?

Which brings me to my final point.  While online dating continues to grow unabated, this package is particularly valuable for developers seeking to build niche or targeted dating sites.  The list of such sites is seemingly endless; there’s sites out there for Trekkies, punks (food for thought: is looking for your soulmate online, using a computer manufactured by Microsoft or Apple – both corporations, mind you – truly “punk?”), women in jail, and lovers of Ayn Rand.  Prior to vldPersonals, it would be costly and time-consuming to build a customized dating site from scratch.  Not anymore.  With vldPersonals, you can sleep happily at night knowing with just a little effort, you were able to play Cupid, bringing together lonely souls who now can enjoy a lifetime of deep fulfillment, spiritual happiness, and no more hassling from their doting, smothering mothers.  And you might even make some money in the process.

After all, you know what they say about true love and money: they’re inseparable.

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IdentyMe: The best foot forward

Business cards are the goofiest things. 98% of the time you hand them out to people who will never contact you. Exchanging them however, is a venerated ritual people still go through during business meetings. Most often this is unnecessary as our contact information is much more readily transferred online. A physical business card requires that you keep track of it and then enter the information manually. They’re really kind of pesky and annoying.

A new site, IdentyMe, offers a dynamic online business card service that helps further make the offline cards obsolete. It provides far above your basic contact information. You can create an entire portfolio representing your skills, talents, and interests. On top of that, IdentyMe lets you connect with other users and can be used for networking and building professional contacts.

Home IdentyMe

Without further ado, I dove in and set up my own card. I must warn you- it looks far better than the business cards of yore. After recovering from the knock down style (of which there are many themes to choose from), you’ll notice five sections- Home, Portfolio, Resume, Social, and Contacts. Home contains basic intro information. This includes description, email contact, business URL, interests, and a link to download this info in vCard format. Portfolio is an image gallery. It’s entirely up to the user on how to use this. If they’re a designer they could readily import their best images. If a model then photos of their particularly good looking selves. If a computer nerd, then captioned pictures of Star Trek characters. The Resume tab has two options. You can either enter your resume into IdentyMe’s system or upload the document and people will in turn be able to download it. Some of the fields are industry, occupation, languages, rate, and skills. The Social tab is where your online social networking home pages are listed. Anything from Facebook to Friendster, AOL, to Twitter can be added here. This allows people to connect with you on whatever level is most convenient for them. Finally, the Contacts page contains your address, your general contact info, and also instant messenger handles. At the bottom is an embedded contact form so people can get in touch with you directly through IdentyMe’s website if none of the other options are preferred.

IdentyMe comes in three packages. The most basic is free. This offers all the described functionality and includes up to 100 images and 10 social profiles. By upgrading to their Plus or Maximum plans you get more images, profiles, and the option to include videos. The plans are $5 and $20 per month, respectively.

My IdentyMe Profile

There are many advanced features that range from helpful to amazing. First is the ability to use a custom domain. Apparently you don’t have to host your business card on IdentyMe’s site; you can include it in your own URL. This is an incredibly helpful tool (or is that amazingly helpful?), since it will fit right in with an existing profile page. Next is you can readily set up Google Analytics with your account to track the number of views. In stark contrast, when you hand out business cards you have no idea where they end up. Here you can see if people are actually looking at the information. The granularity of privacy can be customized as well. For each piece of publicly displayed information you can select who you’d like to be able to view it. Fro example you can indicate if you’d like your phone number displayed to the whole world, just those in your contact list, only yourself, or set up a custom display. Still in development is the IdentyMe app for your mobile phone. Widgets have recently been released so you can embed your virtual card anywhere on the web such as blogs or on forums.

IdentyMe is a new and powerful tool for managing both your personal online business card and your online contacts. Its attractive themes are suitable for any industry and help you stand out and be remembered. The ease with which it can be set up makes it a simple way to give your online persona a complete face lift. It could help you get that new job or contract, and help impress all your business associates. Every advantage counts in the business world. IdentyMe’s virtual business cards help set you apart.

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Ad Dynamo: Online ads for the rest of us

I lost interest in math once I reached upper division classes. Differential equations, Linear Algebra- anything in that realm failed to hold my interest. I figured some types of computations were best left for those who genuinely cared. I recall one piece of mildly useful information from all my math classes though. Asymptotes. Asymptotes are lines such that the distance between a curve and the line approach zero as they trend to infinity. (Thanks Wikipedia!)

One place we see curves in real life are profit projection graphs. Invariably some person with a suit drums up a stock issue graph showing how profits will continually rise at an ever increasing rate. If they can successfully persuade the board that the curve will in fact increase then they can continue to wreak havoc upon the lives of their employees for another quarter. It’s all about the curve.

Ad Dynamo Home

One surefire way to ensure your profits approach zero is to rely on Google Adsense for revenue. It gives you the false impression that money is on the way. To be sure, people pay real tender to Google’s Adwords program. Unfortunately Google happens to notice it passing through their accounts and helps save you from the plague of wealth and privilege. They take nearly all of it. Effectively, they turn the X axis on your revenue graph into the asymptote of your profits. That is, profits approach zero such that they become indistinguishable with it. Somebody’s got to pay for all the non profit generating services Google provides, I suppose.

The reality is Google’s Adwords/Adsense program is likely their largest source of income. It’s also their largest vulnerability. Few publishers make money with their ads thus leaving the door wide open for competitors who might be a bit more generous. Waltzing right through this door is Ad Dynamo, offering a clean (and honest) 50% of the profits gained when publishers host their ads.

Ad Dynamo is a pay per click ad service for web and mobile devices. They connect advertisers with publishers on a keyword based system. For publishers you can select from a number of ad sizes, both image and/or text. Colors can be selected. Sites can be included and excluded based upon preferences.

Ad Dynamo Publishers Dashboard

For Advertisers the service is even more attractive. They set up ads, enter the keywords they’d like to target, and then enter a maximum bid for each keyword. They can geo target their ads, selecting countries or regions that they’ll be displayed. If a user comes to a site that represents their keywords then their ad will be displayed. The bidding system is internal, behind the scenes. If two ads have competing keywords then the one with the highest bid will be displayed. Most often it’s not displayed at the full price though. Presumably, it’s displayed at just slightly higher than the second highest bid’s price. The advertiser isn’t charged until their ads are clicked and people arrive at their site. Advertisers can set a maximum amount of money to spend each day.

The publishers have advanced solutions available as well. The publishers plus program comes with search advertising which displays ads relevant to searched keywords. It has ad feeds which gives access to Ad Dynamo’s advertisng via automated feeds. And they have Ad Dynamo’s premium marketplace. Ad Dynamo + is available to select publishers, and those who have proven they provide quality clicks and targeted users. This opens the doors to greatly increasing profits and serving ads from top advertisers.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Google and enjoy using their services. The pricing model of their Adsense program however, turns every site that isn’t gynormous into just a hobby. It’s time for that to change. It’s time to try a new pay for click ad service.

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FilterPlay: Products explore, with filters galore

Buying electronics can be fun. It can also be a headache. I remember looking for a digital camera before a long trip. The options were dizzying. There’s zoom, optical zoom, video, screen size, and then the custom battery trap. Ultimately I selected the Cannon PowerShot, which happily takes AA batteries. Many people are not so lucky. They end up with printers that can only make it through 52 pages prior to cartridge replacement. No shortage of colorful language has been uttered by new owners of digital devices when they learn they purchased a lemon.

Finding the best camera or TV for your value is important. Some people want all the bells and whistles. Others want just the functionality that they’ll use. Some of us go with whatever won’t be too confusing. Sorting through the many options can take days or weeks trying to find exactly the right functionality and quality for the price. Or it can take just a few minutes. FilterPlay is a site that gives you unprecedented insight into the various options when purchasing electronic products. You can filter based upon the attributes specific to that product to quickly narrow down your search.

Behold, the Cannon PowerShot!

FilterPlay is a comparison shopping site that contains all the information you need to make educated decisions on your purchases. It has summaries of the features, images, details, and reviews from its users. Finally it contains prices from online retailers with direct links to purchase. The categories available are Appliances, Audio, Cameras and Camcorders, Computers, Health and Personal Care, Musical Instruments, Office, TV & Video, and most importantly, Video Games.

Let’s say you want to watch the Packers run the worst two minute drill in recent history on a larger, crisper TV. You can navigate to the compare tvs page and check out the reviews on the best brands of flat screens tvs. They can be sorted by bestselling, best price, and rating, amongst other options. Notably, you can select maximum resolution which is key to getting the clearest view of Sunday night football rookie flubs. The filters are the crux of FilterPlay’s service. By default the products are returned in order of popularity. By selecting filters specific to that product type you can view only the results most interesting to you. Particularly helpful is the price filter which provides an interactive bar graph slider (say that three times fast)! The graph shows the distribution range of the number of products offered at each price. The min and max sliders affect which results are returned. Also, not only are products reviewed, but attributes as well. So you can get feedback on how important various features are. This handy demo video explains their service in greater detail.

(Video was removed.)

To contribute to the ratings and reviews you need to register for an account. Here FilterPlay makes a brilliant design decision that many a website should follow. Google, Facebook, AOL, Yahoo, OpenID, myOpenID, all offer the ability to authenticate with their system instead of building your own. FilterPlay offers each of those options so you can register with any of those accounts. Nobody needs yet another user registration to remember. If you happen to have been living on a boat in recent years resisting all technological advances, they include a link to register for an OpenID account which is the most generic of the options.

FilterPlay is the new way to research electronic purchases online. The ease with which attributes can be filtered narrows your search almost instantly. Since they are equally affiliated with all providers there’s no preference or bias given to products or brand. They round out their offering with product info and user feedback, so you can get the complete picture prior to purchase. With FilterPlay comparison shopping is easier than ever so you can make quicker and better purchasing decisions.

FilterPlay is currently in Time Out. They’ve pulled the site down with a promise to return. We’re taking their word for it. Will update when we learn more.

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Go Pretty: Connecting You with Beauty Experts

One of the great perks of working here at Slapstart is that every now and then you have to step outside yourself.  You have to assume a challenge, a new role, get out of your comfort zone.  Like a regal Shakespearean actor of yore, you have to don a new persona and stand in strange and foreign shoes.

So today I will delve into a heretofore unexplored world.  A world of hair, makeup, clothes, and nails.  A world of glamour, fashion, and mystique.  Specifically, I’ll be talking about Go Pretty, a fantastic resource that provides instant access to makeup artists, hairstylists, and other beauty professionals such as manicurists, estheticians, and cosmetic doctors.  So those “foreign shoes” I’ll be stepping into?  Well, for today, they’re heels.

Go Pretty

Go Pretty’s value proposition is unique, powerful, and democratizing: by acting as a middle(woman?), it connects visitors to a vast and impressive pool of beauty experts.  Go Pretty is a “beauty broker,” providing access to beauty expertise (known as Beauty Pro members) to the many, rather than the enlightened few, and at no cost to users.  After all, why should celebrities and high-end agencies have all the access to the best the beauty world has to offer?

So I dove into the site.  The home page has a helpful virtual tour, a slide show of featured work by Beauty Pro members, blog posts, and an intuitive set of subpages.  On the “From the Founder” page we learn how Go Pretty was born to fill a void. The founder, Tracy Saunders, saw amazing stylists in magazines, but couldn’t access them.  She shook her head, sighed, and shrugged her shoulders.  Then she started Go Pretty.  I imagine her problem is pretty common among Go Pretty’s targeted audience, and this backstory goes a long way to personalize the site and its mission.

The “hook,” meanwhile, is the impressive pool of Beauty Pros there for the taking.  For first-time visitors, this must be like (diamond 18k white) gold.  Go Pretty’s “Find a Beauty Expert” page lists them all and includes their location.  By clicking on a Pro, like Phung Huynh (a manicurist) or Lazarus Jean-Baptiste (a makeup artist; I think he’s a big deal!), you can check their impeccable credentials and connect with them via the site or Facebook or Twitter.  And seriously, “impeccable” is an understatement: these are the world-class stylists and beauticians, now accessible to Go Pretty clients.

And once you understand how Go Pretty works for their Beauty Pros, you can see why so many esteemed stylists have signed up: from PR engagement to advertising to search engine optimization, they combine traditional and cutting edge methods to create a buzz and attract clients to the site. They advertise in print, network with concierges, invest in PR, and heavily leverage Facebook and Twitter.  So it’s safe to say that a visitor even remotely attuned to the world of fashion and style will be instantly frothing – as unglamorous as that may look – over this unprecedented pool of talent.  And upon seeing that network, any non-Go Pretty beautician or stylist should want to instantly join this elite company.  Don’t want to be left holding the (make-up) bag!

I assumed the role as end-user and signed up. Upon entering basic info, you can select the “type” of member you are, and whether you’re an individual Client or a type of Beauty Pro (e.g. Manicurist, Yoga Instructor, Hair, Holistic Health Instructor – notice the interesting variety, by the way?)  Beauty Pros can select whether they’re available to travel to client location, and can enter their own URL and photo.  Once you’re signed up, you can invite friends, add content, add photos, and tweak your profile.  And then the real fun begins.

Go Pretty’s model is a win-win for both parties.  It enables clients – again, sign-up is free – to shop around for beauty services, providing them with access to a huge pool of experts, beauticians, manicurists, and the like.  And as previously illustrated, for the Beauty Pros – for whom the first 30 days are free – it’s a boon for business: by joining, your once-small client pool can grow exponentially overnight.

We tend to think of the world of beauty as mystifying, stratified, and impenetrable.  That fantastic hairdresser in Vogue?  Pretty cool, but let’s be real: none of us are Natalie Portman (though Lord knows I’ve tried.)  Or the fact that you live a busy life and don’t have the time to shop around for a better manicurist, yoga instructor, or esthetician?  Oh well, guess you’ll have to stick with what you got.  No longer.  With Go Pretty, throw those misconceptions out the window.  The site opens doors to whole new worlds of stylists, beauticians, and experts: the possibilities are endless.  In fact, the value here is so obvious that even I – let’s be honest, a pretty unglamorous dude* – get it. And if this dude can get it, I’m sure many, many other women will.

*Actually, I did have my curly hair chemically straightened back in college.  As with most college experiences, it was a time of radical experimentation.

Go Pretty learned the one thing that all internet entrepreneurs learn. The web doesn’t always attract those at the height of the aesthetically pleasing ladder. Thus, we suspect it found itself neglected amidst pools of video game playing teenagers. We shall miss Go Pretty and the beauty she shared with us.