Uninstall Adobe Flash

Adobe Flash Player Icon

Image via Wikipedia

As a frequent user of multiple browsers, and someone who despises Adobe Flash, I was thrilled the other day when I realized that I could completely uninstall Adobe Flash from my computers. Google Chrome comes with Flash and keeps it updated. While I don’t use Chrome as my primary browser, it’s one of the browsers I use regularly. By leveraging the FlashControl Chrome extension, Flash will only work in Chrome when specifically enabled by clicking. Uninstalling Adobe Flash through the control panel in Windows will not affect the ability to utilize Flash when needed in Chrome; it will simply prevent other browsers from showing Flash content and remove the annoying Adobe Flash update that seems to pop up every couple of weeks. Goodbye Flash cookies. Goodbye annoying websites and Flash ads. Goodbye Adobe updater. Now, when I find the rare instance that I want to use a site that employs Flash, I simply copy the URL, fire up Chrome, paste in my destination and click on the Flash element I wish to enable. It’s safe and secure. It’s much better for privacy since Flash can no longer run in the background and track my movements. It’s one fewer program I have installed.

Posted in Security, software | Tagged , , |

Fractured: Social networks should only provide interface to underlying public data

I love Google+. I’ve been on it for 24 hours now, thanks to my friend John Schultz, and I can safely say it takes the best of what Facebook stole from Twitter and wraps it up in a clean and fresh interface. It lacks the distractions of apps and ads and focuses on the most useful component of any social network: the news feed.

While Google brings some heavy ammunition to bear on the social network problem, we’ve seen in the past that the best idea doesn’t always win. Look at FriendFeed or Cliqset. Both were products that offered interesting approaches, solutions superior to existing offerings. The problem that each suffered was the same. Neither was Facebook. Neither was Twitter.

I have a bunch of friends who are happy with feature phones. They’re lucky if they have a Facebook account so they can post about how much they hate technology. They don’t understand Twitter, much less have an account. They’d rather mock the silliness of the name than spend time trying to understand the value that it brings.

I’m not going to spend time typing the same recycled thoughts that you can read on a thousand different blogs. Google+ reviews abound, most coming to the conclusion that it’s cute and Google is big, but that there isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Google+ is a repackaging, they’ll tell you, of the same now-standard feature sets that originated with Friendster and MySpace.

What I will say is that what was tough before is now becoming impossible. I was already having to carefully meter the attention and time I spent on Facebook and Twitter, never feeling caught up with either service. As Google+ enters the ring, it’s going to be even more difficult.

The answer to the social networking challenge  was syndication, according to myself and others. Since nobody has time to spend all day on social networks, the solution was to post to one and have it syndicate that update to the other networks. I currently have my tweets post to Facebook and my blog. My pictures I send to yFrog end up on my blog and on Twitter and on Facebook. It’s not the best solution, but it’s better than having to post the same content manually to each service.

The problem with syndication is that it fractures the interactions. I’d tweet and get some replies on Twitter. That tweet would simultaneously be posted to my Facebook profile where it would get some comments. The twitter replies were ignorant of the Facebook comments and vice versa, causing a fractured conversation.

We’ve seen the problems of walled gardens. AOL and Compuserve and Prodigy each had proprietary content generated by their respective users. In the end, their models changed, and each began allowing users to access the community content that was the Internet, focusing on providing access and an interface to that community content.

The same decentralization must happen with social content. The posts and pictures and comments that we generate on each service must be accessible to users of other services. I should be able to tweet and have you see it on Facebook. Your comment that you leave on Facebook should be visible on Google+ where someone else should be able to comment.

We’re a long ways away from parity of function between services. It’s coming. It must. When we elect to use a service, it should be because that service provides the most compelling interface to the underlying social layer on the public Internet.

Posted in community, services, theory | Tagged , , , , , , , |

Auction Podcast Episode 22 – Stop with the QR codes

QR codes must be scanned with devices

Hello and welcome to the AuctioneerTech Auction Podcast. Today is Tuesday, 24 May, 2011. My name is Aaron Traffas, and today we’re going to talk about QR codes and Microsoft Tags – the little squares of gobbledygook that, when scanned, take you to a website or display text on your device. We’ll talk about when to use them and, more likely, when not to use them.

There has been a lot of buzz over the last couple of years, mostly from the tech and marketing industries, around the QR code and its slightly less ugly cousin, the Microsoft Tag. Last month, Google ended it’s QR code initiative for Places, opting instead to focus on near field communications. It was an exciting announcement for me, as I feel that it’ll likely start to decrease the number of QR codes that clutter the world around me. Here’s why this fad is over-hyped and why you shouldn’t use QR codes and Microsoft Tags for marketing.

How often do you find yourself using QR codes? Sure, I’ve done it once or twice, but just to see if it worked and how easy it was. The result of my test was that it indeed works, but it’s a headache. Indeed, just now, it took me over a minute to test the Microsoft Tag used later in this post. The argument in favor of the codes is that they make it easier for users with QR code-reading devices to get to your website. However, the logic falls over when you think about someone viewing the marketing who doesn’t have such a device or, more likely, isn’t going to have the time to stop, take out a device, spend the 15 seconds or more to find and load the app, get a focus on the image, and use it to spin the wheel to see where he will be taken. It’s rare that I see a QR code that specifies the destination. In this regard, it’s kind of like sending HTML email – the user sees a bunch of junk you’ve presented him but lacks the incentive to click “show as HTML” because he’s unsure of the content or simply doesn’t care enough to suit up and participate in your game.

I’ve written about branding before, and it was the subject of episode 21 of the AuctioneerTech Auction Podcast. The most important branding your company has is your domain name. The call to action on modern auction marketing isn’t come to the auction like it was in the 1990s and before. The call to action today is come to our website.  QR codes don’t convey your brand. They don’t help drill an image of your website’s URL into the mind of the viewer. I’ve seen vehicles with company magnets with nothing but a QR code. Let’s just say I wasn’t encouraged to take out my phone.

Real estate
No, not real property – real estate is jargon for the amount of area an element consumes on a screen, a web page, or marketing materials. QR codes take up a fair amount of real estate that would be much better used as white space or filled with whatever you’re trying to market – like your website.

Microsoft Tag

Image by hawaii via Flickr

QR codes are ugly. While the Microsoft Tag is certainly prettier and there are ways to make QR codes more attractive, you’re still dealing with the skinniest kid at fat camp. After making them beautiful, you’ve still got a box, taking up space, with a bunch of gobbledygook in the middle of it that does nothing to convey your brand.

Why are QR codes so popular? The press has over-hyped the importance. Like the possibility of using social media for business, most small business owners are jumping aboard this bandwagon without regard for the appropriateness of the medium. They’re trusting that this new-fangled thing will transform their bottom lines. There is a similar parallel between the social media fad and the QR code fad. Businesses are spending a ton of money to build these tools at the expense of much more important aspects of their branding. Businesses are adding their Facebook vanity URLs – sometimes above their websites – to marketing. I’ve written before about how much more important your website is than social media. Likewise, conveying your website – hopefully an easy-to-remember and short .com address – is the most important thing you can do in your marketing materials, certainly much more important than taking up space with a QR code that few people will use anyway.

Another reason QR codes are sometimes used is for deep linking. Like a lazy web designer uses a sitemap to fix poor navigation, some QR codes take you deep within a site to a specific page instead of to the home page of the site. It’s possible that this is an appropriate use for QR codes, and I’ll address that possibility in a moment, but most of the time this use isn’t as valuable as other approaches to getting a viewer to a specific location. If you’re trying to take the viewer to a specific page on your website, the most appropriate way is to make the page short and memorable. If you’re doing a charity auction for the Boys and Girls Foundation and your website is abcauction.com, rather than using a QR code that doesn’t specify a destination and, as such, offers no incentive to remember a domain or specific page, use the space to advertise abcauction.com/boysandgirls – it’s easy to read, easy to remember, and I believe it will generate a much more valuable response.

Is there a time when QR codes are appropriately used? QR codes are utilitarian tools, not marketing methods, and I believe that we auctioneers can find an appropriate home for QR codes or Microsoft Tags on our item tags or stickers. When we have an item that’s listed within an auction on our site, it’s likely that we have some kind of tag or sticker that has the item’s number. An appropriate use of a QR code or Microsoft Tag would be to include one on that sticker that links directly to the item (not the auction) on our website. Make sure you specify what the code will do, like printing “View this item on abcauction.com” – it’s succinct and also conveys your brand along with the QR code.

Well that’s it for episode 22. Did I miss something? Am I wrong about something? I know there are some QR code fans out there who will object to at least something in this episode. My motto is that if you agree with everything I say, you haven’t paid attention. Please leave comments on the transcription for this episode on auctioneertech.com. It’s much better than replying on Facebook or Twitter – remember, it’s all about unification of the brand.

You’ve been listening to the Auction Podcast from AuctioneerTech. If you have suggestions, questions or comments, or are interested in being a guest, please let me know by going to www.auctioneertech.com/feedback and leaving a message. You can also post public comments about this or any other episode, as well as find show transcriptions, on the Auction Podcast page of auctioneertech.com.

Thank you for listening, now go sell something.

Posted in advertising, Podcasts

The standing desk

Standing desks are all the rage. I recently acquired a 30″ Apple Cinema Display and a couple of Yamaha near field monitors from the auction, so I figured now is my opportunity to overhaul my workspace and try a standing desk. Here’s how I approached the project.

Here’s my original sit-down workspace that was the starting point.

I began by building a frame from 2×4 studs.

Next, I put it on legs.

The top was built from two 4′ x 8′ sheets, one of plywood and the other of a thin, pressed, composite wood that would serve as a finished surface.

I wanted a shelf about 18″ high for the battery backup, computer, printer and additional storage.

Once the structure’s base was complete, I put the monitors in place to measure for the rear supports.

With the two side computer monitors mounted, and while I waited on the special adapter to mount the Apple display, I built shelves to support the quite-heavy near field Yamaha monitors on the right and left, and added a top shelf on the right to support my HP tablet dock.

Standing desk

The final touch was adding the top shelf on the left.

Here’s the view from the right.

Here’s the final project.

Standing desk

Someday I’d like to build some additional shelving on the left, but I get the feeling this project is something that’ll never be considered complete. I’ve been standing for the last week or two, and have found an improvement in posture and it sure feels good.

Posted in hardware, theory | Tagged , |

LikeBids launches today, offers chance to win items by tweeting and liking

I wrote about LikeBids a couple weeks go before I really knew what it was. It was speculated to be an auction-style site where users could bid on real items by performing actions within their social graphs. It looks like that prediction was pretty close, yet not quite accurate. It seems that one’s ability to win is related less to one’s own actions and more on the subsequent actions of the social graph. Here’s their promo video from likebids.com.

Sounds interesting. I’m looking forward to trying it out. Here’s the presser.

First Social Auction Website Makes Popularity Profitable
LikeBids.com Announces “You Feeling Lucky, Punk?” St. Patrick’s Day Launch

New York. New York, February 26, 2011 – The first social media auction website, LikeBids.com, announces “You Feeling Lucky, Punk?” launch event to be held on March 17, 2011 to mark the release of the beta version of the site. It will be the first day users will be able to log on to compete for prizes by sharing custom auction links to earn bid collateral through “likes” and “tweets.”

LikeBids.com is the first social media auction website, that allows users to win the products they love by promoting them to their friends via social media networks. By providing users a unique gaming experience, the chance to win prizes just by telling their friends about them, LikeBids.com has replaced currency with social media collateral with “likes” and “tweets.”

For participating product companies, LikeBids.com creates the missing bridge between e-commerce and social media marketing: providing a powerful incentive to get social media users actively promoting brands.  LikeBids.com offers product companies exponential exposure, and the chance to remove the limitations in reach social media marketing currently contain. Likebids.com is not creating another social media marketing forum : it is the engine that will drive business through the social media channels.

LikeBids.com offers product companies exponential exposure, and the unique opportunity to make the “friends” of their brand their own social media marketing team,” said co-founder Jennifer Cannavo Calise. “Yet at the same time, we are constantly rewarding users for their active participation by offering free prizes and discounts.”

About LikeBids.com
Founded in 2010, LikeBids.com is the first social auction website that allows users to win prizes completely free just for promoting a product auction link. LikeBids.com was founded to give all social media network users the opportunity to win the prizes they may not be able to purchase. By actively involving the users in promoting brands, LikeBids.com removes the annoyance of advertising, and empowers users to be rewarded for actively participating in increasing brand awareness. Although only one winner will emerge to win the prize, LikeBids.com offers all participates a discount code (when a minimum share quota is reached) to help everyone afford what they want most!


Posted in announcements, services, theory | Tagged |