Is my birthday (November 23rd) cool?

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Yesterday was my birthday. I’m 29 years old today. However, something I’ve been thinking about for the majority of my life is this: Is my birthday cool?

Is my birthday considered something cool, as in, are cool people born on my birthday? (Aside from myself, obviously) Did any events of historical significance occur on my birthday? Did something generally amazing happen today?

Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake (Photo credit: Will Clayton)

Today, on my 29th birthday, we’re going to get to the bottom of this.

First, let’s take a look at some of the people who were born on my birthday. A non-exhaustive list is as follows:
Billy The Kid: Infamous Wild West villain. Cool.
Salli Richardson – Wow…she was amazing on Eureka. I’d say it was cool.
Boris Karloff: He played Frankenstein’s creation. Very cool.
Miley Cyrus: She likes to get naked on wrecking balls. Not so cool.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi: She likes to get naked and wreck men’s balls. Also not cool.

I also want to give a special shout out. At long last, I discovered that there is a famous person born on my own birthday in 1984, making her the same age as me. Her name is Amruta Khanvilkar, a Bollywood actress in India. I haven’t seen her work, so jury is out on whether or not it’s cool.

Next, we look at some historical events that happened on my birthday.

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534 BC – Thespis of Icaria becomes the first recorded actor to portray a character onstage. COOL.
1584 – English parliament expels Jesuits (NOT COOL.)
1906 – Joseph Smith, leader of the Mormon Church, convicted of polygamy (HAHAHAHA)
1924 – Edwin Hubble’s scientific discovery that Andromeda, previously believed to be a nebula within our galaxy, is actually another galaxy, and that the Milky Way is only one of many such galaxies in the universe, was first published in a newspaper. ALSO COOL.
1936 – Life magazine is reborn as a photo magazine and enjoys instant success. VERY COOL.
1939 “Wearing distinctive armband, “”Judenstern”" (Jewish star) becomes obligatory for all Jews in Central Poland.” NOT COOL
1960 – Tinseltown dedicated its Walk of Fame at Hollywood Blvd & Vine St (Totally cool…I mean, I try to avoid the place like the plague but hey, it’s the shrine of awesome for Celebrities.)
1963 – “Doctor Who” the long-running British sci-fi series debuts in England (VERY FUCKING COOL!!!! And apparently 11/23 is a sacred day among the Whovians.)
1963 – JFK’s body lay in repose in East Room of White House. (Not cool.)
1980 – 4,800 die in series of earthquakes that devastated southern Italy. (*Not very cool either.)
2004 – World of Warcraft was created, which is still the most popular MMO to date. (Awesomely cool)
2011 – Arab Spring: After 11 months of protests in Yemen, The Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh Signs a deal to transfer power to the vice president, in exchange for legal immunity. (Totally cool….I think.)
2013 – Pop Band One Direction declares day “Global 1D Day.” (WTFBBQ?!?!?! SO NOT COOL)

A few people also died on my birthday, such as the following:

1990 – Roald Dahl (Ouch. But honestly, he wrote James and The Giant Peach, so this is a neutral.)
2012 – Larry Hagman, American actor and director (b. 1931)

FUN FACT: November 23rd is the earliest day that Black Friday can fall on. I myself was born on Black Friday.

At the end of it all, I can now safely conclude that my birthday….is actually pretty cool. Sure there’s some bad parts, but some really cool people were born today (aside from myself, of course) and cool things happened too.

 

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The Citibank iPad App CANNOT deposit checks

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CitiBank Logo

CitiBank Logo (Photo credit: bruceg1001)

So I started messing around with Citibank’s check depositing system. You know the feature: Photograph your check, front and back, then send it off, and Citibank (usually) treats it as if you had come to the branch to deposit, or deposited through an ATM.

I use this all the time on my Android phone, but not on my iPad. I decided a few days ago to try on the Citibank iPad App, except that I couldn’t. No matter what I did, I couldn’t find a way to do so.

I eventually learned that you can’t…but not before I went on a wild goose chase with an incompetent Citbank Online CSR who insisted I was wrong and that the app could deposit checks.

I have the transcript of what happened underneath. Save for a few extra lines where I argued with the CSR some more, it’s all accurate. If you don’t want to read the transcript, here’s what happened in a nutshell:

  • Got a CSR named “Ashley” on Citibank’s website
  • Asked “Ashley” if I could deposit checks with the iPad app.
  • “Ashley” said I could, and gave instructions on how to. (Which were unfollowable because she was thinking about the wrong app.)
  • I informed her I could not see said apps.
  • She told me to call Level 2 support.
  • I then point out all the reviews that say that the app can’t take checks. She says they’re wrong (She’s wrong.)
  • She tells me “Mobile Check Deposit is a free service available on your Citi Mobile app for iPhone, iPad touch and Android devices.” …Take a look at that and tell me what’s wrong with that picture.
  • I eventually give up, Call level 2 support who confirms my suspicions that the app can’t deposit checks and that “Ashley” was totally wrong.

I hope you read this, Citibank. You (And ESPECIALLY) ”Ashley” owe me an apology for the time I wasted.

I posted this so everyone knows that your app can’t take checks. Should you change this and add the feature, I will update this post accordingly.

If you need an iOS check cashing option for Citibank, get the iPhone version. That version DOES allow you to deposit checks.

Chat with Incompetent CSR Rep

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My 10 year journey with WordPress

10 years ago, shortly after my High School graduation, I felt the blogging bug bite me. Now at that point in time, I had a Ujournal, which was basically some other company’s attempt at the LiveJournal software. But I wanted more. I wanted something I could control.

And I wanted something with RSS capabilities. LiveJournal couldn’t accomodate it at the time, neither could most other engines.

Then I discovered a friend of mine running something called b2. The moment I figured out what it was, I fell in love with it. It was slick, it looked professional, and best of all, it had RSS ability. I had to have it.

Later, that program would be changed and take on another name: WordPress.

English: The logo of the blogging software Wor...

Unfortunately, my broke student self was unable to afford decent web hosting, and while free options existed, few of them offered  the requirements to handle WordPress, mainly PHP and MySQL. But I relented, and I eventually ended up finagling free hosting from the Lycos UK version, which offered PHP and MySQL, unlike its US version.

I was familiar with web-based programs, having installed PHPBB several times beforehand, but now I had WordPress, and I found it easy to install as well.

Sadly, I ended up leaving my WordPress install behind, as school had taken over my life. But I continued to desire it, and in 2006, I learned about WordPress.com and immediately signed up. It felt like I had reunited with an old friend, and I immediately took a liking to it.  At that time, I had finally decided to no longer represent myself with pseudonyms and use my real name, so it had my name in the blog as well….my first online site I could truly claim. But I wanted more.

In 2007, as a graduation present to myself, I purchased JTDabbagian.com. I also got web hosting, and with that, my first true self-hosted WordPress installation. Time had changed since the last time I had used it though…Plugins and themes that often took countless hours to install could now be uploaded immediately through FTP and activated. I immediately became obsessed with my installation, constantly updating, tweaking and modifying it. It was heaven.

Then grad school came. I had to neglect my blog and the community I loved for papers, presentations and other stupid things I regret. Seriously, never go to grad school.

In 2009, I had to allow my hosting to expire because I couldn’t pay for it. Losing my WordPress site felt like another blast to my heart in a year filled with blasts to my heart.

But I persevered, and in 2010 restarted another WordPress.com account, after a brief stint with Tumblr. Time passed, and I was able to afford hosting once again in 2011. Shout out to Hostnine. I’ve had minimal problems with them over the last 2 years, and my installation has shined on.

Today, I champion the cause of WordPress. Just last Saturday, I led a group class on how to use it. Next month, I plan to start a paid course. I feel like WordPress is the quickest way to get any small business on the web, and the best way for any blogger to get started. All of my sites run WordPress, and I’m even in talks with developing a website for a campus newspaper that runs WordPress.

I have used almost every blogging engine under the sun: LiveJournal, Blogger, Nucleus, MovableType, Vox and a few others to name a few. But every time, I found myself longing for WordPress. Even now, as RSS is considered a dying technology, I still consider it to be the greatest blogging engine ever developed.

Today marks WordPress’s 10-year-anniversary, and I want to celebrate. Because of all the web-based technologies I can think of, WordPress is one of, if not my top favorite of the bunch.

I know I haven’t been there for all of WordPress’s turning points, but I’m grateful for the software, and I’m grateful to Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little for this little Cafelog spinoff. Here’s hoping for another great 10 years, WordPress!

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Why you need yourname@yourdomain.com as an email address

email

email (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

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You’d think that an email address with one’s own domain would be website management 101, but so many people don’t do it that it’s terrifying.

Just last week, I saw a plumber with an advertisement for his site on his truck, but it invited people to contact him at his Gmail account on there as well! I’ve met many a “Social Media Consultant” that asks people to email them at their Hotmail account (and a few that only have a Facebook page, but that’s another post), and (GASP) I’ve even still seen the occasional @Aol.com email being dished out!

Even if you don’t have a business, you should still have your own domain and email! If you’re looking for a job, it says many things about you if you have your own email address, even if you don’t have a site.

You need a professional email address

It’s basic professionalism to not have an email like cutegal4u@aohell.com or goodwithguns@pmail.net, but people don’t seem to realize that a professional name linked with a regular email provider isn’t good enough anymore. I mean really, who still uses Hotmail? Nobody, that’s who.

And it’s not like it’s expensive, either. Most hosting management utilities such as cPanel allow you to create email addresses for your domains from within the program, and all you need to do is pick the name and enter a password.

Don’t want a new account, yet still want an email from your domain? You can make it an email forwarder! Any email this address receives is instead sent to another email address. So if you’re to set in Gmail to leave, you can simply have yourname@yourdomain.com forward all of your email to that Gmail account, and let Google’s labels and spamchecks keep on flowing.

You really don’t have an excuse, so get started now!

Reviewing like a rock star – Mack Collier’s Think Like a Rockstar

Rockstar
Many of my readers may know Mack Collier as the host of #blogchat, one of, if not the biggest Twitter Chat in the social network. However, Mack has recently written and published a book about his experiences in brand management and social media marketing.

In Think Like a Rock Star, Mack Collier offers a bridge between the world of rock stars and fans, and the world of business and customers. He argues that businesses and brands shouldn’t focus so much on getting new customers, but rather focusing on making current customers fans of the brand. In doing so, Mack states that these customers will become fans, or brand advocates, telling others to purchase products and services from the brand. Mack offers several strategies for turning these customers into loyal fans.

Bear in mind that Mack uses the term “Rock Star” loosely. Many of the people he provides as examples are not musicians or performers of the rock genre. For the purposes of this review, I will be using this loose interpretation as well.

Mack gives out several examples of what rock stars have done for their fans, such as when Jewel offered a free concert for people who were subscribed to her fan club’s email list, so long as they chose the venue and organized the concert. He also points out examples such as Lady GaGa’s references to her Little Monsters, or who could be considered her greatest fans.

What I like

One concern I had for this book going into is was concerning the actual customer base of the business. Specifically, what happens if you’re a business that does not have a strong customer base, such as a brand new business, or a business that isn’t doing very well. Thankfully, Mack has indeed offered advice to those businesses. Without spoiling his advice, I’ve learned that there’s more than one way to reach out to people in a niche to make them loyal brand advocates, even if they have never heard of your brand.

The example stories are also really interesting. You hear how Dell created ways for its customers to check back with the company, and offered rewards to its brand ambassadors such as 30 minutes with Michael Dell. We also hear about Maker’s Mark, a kind of bourbon that was relatively unknown until it recruited brand ambassadors to spread its bourbon across the country. Mack then explains how brands can take these ideas and put them to use themselves.

What could be improved

One thing to take into consideration is audience. Who are you writing for? Are you writing for a businessperson interested in social media? Or an experienced consultant looking for another way to manage a project? Could I use this book as an argument to a superior to start a branding campaign?  These are things I’d like to see clarified, as I’m not quite sure who Mack intended this book for, someone starting out in social media, or an experienced consultant? Or maybe the CEO of a company.   (Although it is clear that the book was written for the fans of the brand.)

Bear in mind that marketing people may need to make a case to give its customers/fans the trust required to perform many of the things Mack says they can do. I’d like to see a section with a case for giving trust to the customers to form customer panels, as it may take a lot of convincing for executives to allow it to happen.

If I were Mack, I’d get started on a workbook to complement Think Like a Rock Star. This can help brands figure out things like customer advisory boards faster, and help put pen to paper when it comes to a plan. That way, when the brand has questions, they can simply refer to the content they filled out.

The bottom line

Think Like a Rock Star earns my recommendation for businesses that already have a decent amount of customers. If you need that one little push to make your brand a household name, this is the book for you. In terms of expertise, this is not a beginner’s social media book; you may wish to pursue another book to teach you the basics of social media.

And if you don’t trust your customers, or you’re not willing to consider it, don’t pick this book up at all. Also, give serious thought as to how your customers view you, because chances are they don’t trust you either.

Think Like a Rockstar gets four stars out of 5.

Disclaimer

The writer of this post received a copy of Think Like a Rock Star for free in exchange for writing a review on Amazon.com as well as promotion on his social networks. This review on his own site is of his free volition. Furthermore, no request for bias was given, either directly or informally; this review and any other concerning the book is the 100% true opinion of the author. Also, affiliate links are present in this review.

There’s a stigma associated with being a Freelancer…Overcome it!

There’s a stigma associated with being a Freelancer. While it’s considered a goal by many employees to strike out into the freelance world, some freelancers are actually seeking jobs as employees for stability.

However, these same freelancers often find themselves rejected merely for the fact that they are freelancers. Here’s some of the main reasons why that is, and how to overcome them.

Lack of Verifiable Job History

Working from Home

Working from Home (Photo credit: edgeplot)

Because freelancers handle a number of clients over a small period, and most of those clients are one-off, it can be hard to show you are capable of a stable job.

Instead, focus in your resume and cover letter of some of the long-term things you have done for clients. Alternatively, if you performed a major achievement for a client, be sure to write it down on your resume, and include it in your portfolio. And always make sure your portfolio is up-to-date.

Lack of Verifiable Experience

Sure, you can handle social media, copywriting, SEO, design, and development, all while

My Work Bag

My Work Bag (Photo credit: pennuja)

discussing the literary merit of The Hunger Games over a game of chess with Big Blue. But where’s the proof? If you haven’t worked with one consistent company over the years, this might be an issue.

The best way to overcome this problem is to write case studies on some of your freelance projects. These studies detail

Dependability

One of the greatest advantages of being a freelancer is the ability to move from one client to another. Since you’re not an employee, you don’t need to worry about office politics or drama, and you can pull out at anytime you wish.

Reliable Drugs

Reliable Drugs (Photo credit: grahamc99)

But that permeability can backfire on you as well. Because you’re not as attached to the company as a full employee would be, employers believe you may not be as motivated to sick around as a regular worker would. Freelancers also may have multiple clients too, which puts a damper on the idea of you fully committing to a company. Lastly, because companies are inconsistent on their freelancer needs, they end up simply coming and going, disrupting the way work is done around the office.

To counteract this, offer assurance that you will fulfill all ends of the contract, and point to cases where you did just that. If need be, offer a clause where you forfeit part of the fee if you have to leave the service of the client. You can also do a free test service, but be wary of that; some less-than-legitimate employers will steal your work.

References

ALWAYS ask your clients if they can be references. I like to do this after I’ve been with them for a month (Less time of course for smaller projects,) but each reference helps employers know that you know what you’re talking about, and that you are dependable.  Be sure that you use references that are easy for prospective employers to research, as it makes it easier to prove you worked for them.

Your turn: What are some ideas you have to overcoming the freelancer stigma? 

This post is an entry into a writing contest being hosted by Emily Suess. writers' week writing contest

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What Tim Cook’s apology means for Apple’s Future

Last Friday, Tim Cook made Apple history…or iHistory, if you care to refer to it as that.

Apple Maps, one of the new features of iOS 6, has been universally panned as inferior to the Google Maps app found in previous versions of iOS. Users cite numerous inconsistencies and issues with the turn-by-turn directions. Overall, it sucks as a project, and it’s been the laughingstock of the tech industry. Apple users were ticked, and rightfully so.

But on this Friday, Tim Cook did something Apple had never done: He apologized for the poor quality of Apple Maps.

Steve Jobs never apologized. He would go to great lengths to not apologize for something Apple did, even when it was clearly Apple’s fault. Steve Jobs would run three marathons in a row while pushing a stroller with all 14 of Octomom’s kids before he would apologize to the public, or to anyone in general. When the iPhone 4 was released, and it was shown that a design flaw with the iPhone caused the antenna to lower the signal, Jobs offered an alternative, but never once did he apologize for it, or any other product.

By Apologizing, Cook shows that there are parts of him that are not similar to iGod. He has admitted that Apple Maps is an inferior product. Yes Virginia, Apple can mess up once or twice. Remember the Newton?

Now a lot of people are thinking that this is a sign that Apple is starting to go on the downturn. I disagree. I think it is a sign that Apple’s new captain is displaying a sense of maturity that his predecessor never had. It’s obvious that he’s demonstrating to the public that he is not iGod, but he’s also showing that Apple is becoming a more friendly culture. Less self-centered and more willing to do good.

Whether Apple’s newfound maturity develops or not depends entirely on the consistency Cook shows with his own personality. If Cook goes back to the usual borderline rudeness and ambition that iGod had, it will seriously hurt Apple. But if he continues to demonstrate vulnerability and maturity, Apple may start shedding some of the elitism that Jobs inadvertently developed.

At the very least, Tim needs to fix up Apple Maps, or at least give every iOS user a free Thomas Guide.

Review: Facebook All-In-One for Dummies

Despite countless efforts by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook still remains a mystery to some people. Its interface can be quite complex for certain people to understand. Fortunately, help has arrived as one of the many venerable For Dummies books: Facebook All-In-One for Dummies, by Phyllis Khare and Andrea Vahl.

Summary

This Dummies book is actually six mini-books in one. Each one covers a completely different part of facebook, ranging from basic operation of the site to running Facebook ads. In effect, this book casts out a wide audience net, from the clueless newbie to the social media manager. One envisions grandparents and technophobes falling in love with this book.

What I like

This book aims to be a comprehensive introduction to Facebook for almost everyone, from the casual user to the business professional. For the most part (Except for one part below) the instructions for use are very comprehensive, and are easy enough for even the most inexperienced social media newbie to follow along with. And because of the wide net cast, there’s something for just about everyone. Clueless people will love how all the info on learning Facebook is present in one big book.

What could be improved

After reading this book, I really feel like the section on programming with Facebook should have been left out. There was very little detail in the mini-book on how to program for Facebook, and several links to tutorials and instructions on how to work it in its place. This is almost to be expected, considering that a book on programming for ANYTHING, from BASIC to FORTRAN to Facebook, is in itself a massive book. The mini-book only skims the surface of what can be done with things such as FBML (Which I don’t think is even used anymore) or writing apps in general. I think work should have been put on the other parts of the book instead.

The bottom line

I’d recommend this book for two types of people: People who are absolutely new to Facebook, and people who are absolutely new to MARKETING with Facebook. Even then, I feel this book skims the surface of the potential of Facebook (Which considering it is “For Dummies” is a given,) and once you grasp the basic concepts offered by this book, you should move on to other books that are more specialized, such as photos for Facebook, its API, ads, etc. Still, for something that essentially gives you a basic ground in Facebook, I’d consider this a good stepping stone.

And as previously stated, if you want to start writing apps for Facebook, this is not the book for you. There are plenty that are better and more suited for learning FB’s API.

Facebook All-In-One for Dummies is available from Amazon.com. Click this Affiliate link for more information.

Could the Samsung Note be Android’s answer to the iPod Touch?

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

For many people, the iPhone is the best phone money can buy. For those who can’t commit to the contract or the fees, however, the iPod Touch is the next best thing (I myself have one.)

The iTouch has almost everything the iPhone has, save for a few features such as GPS and Siri, but it’s perfect for someone who wants iOS but doesn’t need a new phone.

 Is there an android equivalent?

Turns out there is. It’s called the Samsung Galaxy Player. It has most of the same features the iTouch has, including GPS, but it hasn’t been updated in over a year, made obvious by the fact that it only supports Android 2.3.5. Woefully inadequate considering we’re now well into version 4.1, aka Jelly Bean.

But what if there was something even better suited for the role? One that also had no phone capabilities but was equally powerful, if not moreso. I believe I have the answer:

Samsung Note Alternative iPod Touch

The Samsung Note is an oddity among Samsung’s phones. It seems to only fill one small little niche in the world of smartphones due to its unusual size and stylus needs, but it does it well. But, I argue that because it’s essentially a halfway point between a phone and a tablet, it would make a PERFECT counter to the iPod Touch!

 

Without the phone end of the device, the Samsung Note could be used by people who want a decent Android-based toy that isn’t attached to a contract, expensive data plan, or is a normal phone. And since it’s not part of the recent Apple V. Samsung lawsuit, it’s immune to the patent claims!

Think about it. The Note has a bigger screen, small width, HD camera, GPS and the like. The only thing Samsung would have to do is take out the phone end of things, and reduce the price of the player by about $100 or so to compensate. People would then finally have a decent alternative to the iPod Touch, and the Samsung Note finally gets to fulfill its destiny.

Do you think the Note would make a good alternative to the iTouch, or should it be a device similar to the Galaxy? Or something else entirely?

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Are content aggregator tools really that useful?

This post is in response to this week’s Blogchat topic: Getting blog and social content organized. 

I’m always a big fan of trying out new things. I was one of the first with a Gmail account, a Vox account (Back when Six Apart mattered,) Google+ and a few other services but over the years, there seems to be one type of service I can never seem to get behind: Self-Content aggregators. I speak of course of Blogchat’s new sponsor: Overblog.

Don’t get me wrong, some content aggregators are awesome. I love Storify and Listly, but they serve different purposes. They allow me to pull content related to a topic or idea, but they do not have to be MY content only. Overblog, on the other hand, only works with your stuff.

Now, I haven’t made an opinion of Overblog and its specific features yet, but I’ve used many other tools that do similar things to it. It’s similar enough to Storify and List.ly in that you can take content from other parts of the Internet and place it into one area for all to view, but it instead works on a live scale; it takes from several of your sources and combined them all on one page.

Isn’t your blog supposed to do that?

Overblog’s service is itself a smart idea, but I fear that it’s a service better served by one’s own blog. On your blog, you can usually integrate Facebook/Twitter/etc into the site (Even in ways that AREN’T annoying!) Plus, unless you’re on a non-self hosted blog, you have complete control over the way it looks.

Another problem is that the hits that would go to your blog would instead go to Overblog. Wouldn’t you rather your own page get those hits?

Not enough eggs in the basket

If you don’t wish to utilize all the tools, you can’t use Overblog to its potential. I do not use Facebook for networking purposes; it is a private network for me. Also, I RARELY use foursquare since I don’t like the idea of people knowing exactly where I am at all hours…plus I have a sorry BlackBerry phone that makes it difficult to use, period. Neither of these content sources will be aggregated onto Overblog. In fact, the only two I can think of are Twitter and my blog, possibly LinkedIn as well.

And if I don’t use all the tools, users may as well just look at each social network I use separately.