Google Knows Everything

It was bound to happen. Google officially knows everything. They have indexed more than ONE TRILLION web pages. They announced this stunning bit of information last Friday on their official blog. If they’ve indexed that much, they must know everything, right?

Much is made of Google and the information they bring to your fingertips with just a touch of a key or click of a mouse. But just like a teenager or earlier 20’s college graduate, they’ve got a lot of knowledge but not  a lot of wisdom. “Knowing” lots of stuff and understanding what to do with it is a different matter. Take, for example, the valid complaints of SEO Expert Aaron Wall. In recent blog posts he has complained that ads on his Gmail account have been trying to entice him to date lonely married women because the content of his emails have been about his happy married life as he is a newlywed. Another complaint he had was about a new Google site that, simply because it is a Google property, trumps others sites in search.

I’ve taken to re-using my favorite Spiderman quote “With great power comes great responsibility.” when dealing with this issue. Google has been a tremendous success. They have built a powerful search engine that has changed the way we communicate and get information. They were definitely in the right place in the right time with the right idea. But as they have grown, they have tended to rely to heavily on their content (their knowledge) and not used wisdom to use this content in a manner that is healthy and consistent with copyright ownership.

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Stay Organized and Stay Productive

We’ve been giving and receiving Outlook training this week and it hit me how important it is to stay focused with productivity tools of which Outlook continues to be one of our most important. In an office environment, using Outlook as the front end to an exchange server gives lots of opportunities for sharing schedules, assigning tasks, sharing calendars, and storing emails in public folders so that others in the company can easily access the same information.

Outlook 2007 is a powerful tool whether in a business environment with Exchange server or as a standalone program. The search component in particular is powerful. I have on my Outlook Favorites the search folders Unread Mail and For Followup. You can also add particular category searches that help you to stay connected and keep moving forward. The To-Do bar on the right side of the screen is a handy tool that you can expand or hide to meet your needs but when expanded shows your upcoming schedule and flagged emails.

Another productivity tool that I use in conjunction with Outlook is Jott. I’ve written about Jott previously but it is a great time saver if you’re out and about a lot. I can call Jott to send myself emails, ask for reminders that will come to my phone and email, or send an email to anyone in my address book. Yes, from my phone. So when I’m driving down the road and remember that I need to confirm an appointment via email, I can call (using my hands free bluetooth device of course) and tell Jott to send an email to Ted, letting him know that I’ll be at the breakfast meeting on Friday and Ted will get the email.

Between Outlook, Exchange and Jott, I manage to stay organized and on top of my schedule and keep my productivity high.

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5 Key Web Site Statistics

There are five key web site statistics that every web site owner should pay close attention to:

  1. How many visitors? People used to get all excited about hits but you could easily have 100 hits from one visitor. The number of visitors though (usually tracked by unique IP addresses) gives you a really good idea of whether you’re getting the kind of traffic you need.
  2. What pages are people looking at? If you don’t know what’s popular on your site, you don’t know how to make it better. If a page other than your home page is more popular, you might have managed to get it ranked well in the search engines – another good thing to know.
  3. What search engines are sending people to your site and how many are they sending? With Google fielding around 75% of ALL searches, you typically get the most visits from Google. If you’re not, you can learn why and determine whether that is a good thing or not.
  4. What terms people are searching for when they get to your site? If you sell computers and find that people are searching for hair spray when they click through to your site, you’ve got a problem. If on the other hand, they are searching for motherboard, that is a good thing.
  5. What other sites are linking to your site? Google (and other search engines) love it when other sites are linking to your site. So the more sites that link to you, the better – at least if they’re the right kind of links.

You need to know these statistics to make informed decisions about your site. Do you know these?

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Taming the Inbox: Managing Volumes of Email

I’ve done it! I’ve taken a huge step towards taming my inbox. For years it has had no fewer than 300 messages in it and when busy-ness hits, it regularly balloons to over 1500 messages.

Until now. What is the secret to taming your email? you may ask. The answer is so simple (once you know the answer it always seems simple): Right now, as I write, I have 13 emails in my inbox. Each of them is something that will be dealt with within the next business day and then filed away.

When there were 300+ emails in there, it was so easy to let it balloon up to 400 or 600 or more. With 0 to 20 in there, its very easy to identify what needs to be done, do it and then file it. The biggest thing that worked for me was opening a Word document so that when I started through the laborious process of whittling down 1100 emails to 5, I could jot a note about something that needed to be done.

So, it worked like this: file, file, file, delete, file, delete, delete, oh, I need to call Frank about this one. Hmm should I quit working on filing which isn’t fun or should I call Frank? This time I mastered the urge to bail and made a note to call Frank in the Word Document. Then back to file, delete, file, file, delete, delete, delete.

It took six to eight hours to do this but I finished over the weekend and this has been one of the most productive weeks I’ve ever had and its only Thursday!

So if you are stuck in email purgatory, set aside the time, ignore every distraction, and file, categorize and make notes until you’re down to 0. Right now I’ve got 9 items in my inbox, the oldest of which dates back to 5:20 PM on Tuesday. Ohh, that feels good

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Vista Gets Moving

It’s out! Vista Service Pack 1 has been released. My notebook downloaded and installed it last night from the Windows Update. Since ancient history (at least dating back to Windows 2000) Microsoft users have learned to wait for the first Service Pack to come out before adopting or considering adopting the new OS. Well the time has come.

According to Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, the service pack will (amongst other things):

  • Increase Vista’s stability
  • Make zipping and unzipping faster
  • Make Remote Desktop work faster and better

I’ve been running Vista on my Vista-ready Gateway laptop (duo-core processor) for many months and the thing that has bothered me the most has been how slow it responds. I’m looking forward to seeing if it will be more responsive with the service pack

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Service Pack Time

We haven’t given an update on Microsoft Service Packs in a while but here it is: 

Service Pack 3 for Office 2003 was released a while back. It includes several security upgrades, the most important of which makes it much more difficult for Office files with malicious coding embedded in them to do any harm when you open them. Instead the software essentially converts the file to the latest version (2007) of the document which strips out the malicious code.

As with any service pack there are lots of other fixes and updates and the Service Pack also consolidates several other security updates that have been released separately. There are also several tweaks intended to improve performance and stability.

If you’re still using Office XP or earlier or Windows 2000 or earlier, shame on you. Those programs are so outdated you’re losing functionality and productivity. You should upgrade immediately to a newer version.

Which brings us to Office 2007. No service pack has been released yet. I think 2007 is worth upgrading to already but it is a memory hog. Make sure you have plenty of CPU and RAM. And speaking of needing a lot of CPU and RAM, what about Vista? Still no service pack on it either, though Microsoft says it will be out in the first quarter of ’08. They have released the beta version to testers so that’s a good sign. I do NOT recommend upgrading to Vista until the SP is ready. If you’re buying a new computer though, give it some serious thought.

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Wiki What?

If you are on the web at all (and you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't), you've probably come across some kind of wiki. Know what a wiki is? Almost sounds like it has something to do with witchcraft but it doesn't.

A wiki is a web site that allows lots of different people to contribute to the content. Apparently the name comes from the Hawaiian "wiki wiki" which means quick. Probably the most well-known wiki can be found at www.wikipedia.org, the online "encyclopedia" of our times. You can learn quite a lot about the world at wikipedia because literally 1000s of folks have contributed articles and updates to articles on the site. They've got more than 2 million articles in English and a couple of million more in other languages.

Wikipedia, though, is not perfect. There are constant minor scandals about how bios of political candidates have been hacked and just today there was an article in the www.pennlive.com web site about how wikipedia falsely reported that the 2012 G8 summit would be held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I would disagree however with the Harrisburg spokesman who said "You can't believe anything you see on Wikipedia".

There are some tremendous resources on history, geography, science, math and more to be found on Wikipedia. My recommendation is if you're quoting wikipedia on anything that could be remotely controversial, that you make sure you have other sources that also back up what you're saying.

Other wikis to check out include www.memoryarchive.org, en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page (open source books), www.wikia.com/wiki/Wikia (wikis on just about anything).

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Newsletter Programs

How do you stay in touch with your clients? Using email newsletters is a great way to do that. Many of the articles in this blog end up becoming a part of our monthly newsletter. There are a wide variety of newsletter programs out there that allow you to do this kind of “touching” of  your customers.

EduCyber uses and hosts phpList for our business customers. We are also planning to implement another program in the coming months and will have more information as we get closer. Both allow us to customize the interface for our customers and tie them seamlessly into the web site.

Some of our colleagues use the Constant Contact program and like the way you can manage your list and send out to people without a lot of hassle or need for technical knowledge. It starts out at $15 / month but when you get to over 500 people the cost goes up to $30 / month. That seems a bit pricey but if you are reaching your customers and you have 501 people on your list, that works out to $0.167 per person that you send (and that’s if its just once a month that you’re sending a message, do it twice a month and the cost is just over 8 cents per person which isn’t bad).

Another colleague just strongly recommended Aweber. If you sign up for this service for a year, the cost is only $179.40 which is $14.95 / month and you get unlimited users and messages. The reason he liked it so well is the autoresponder feature which lets him set up automatic messages to go out at set intervals after someone signs up.

What other newsletter management or email marketing services or programs are out there? Let us know about what  you’re using.

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Email Management, Time Management

Email can quickly become the great time stealer. When you ought to be finishing a proposal or checking your financials or starting that presentation, do you ever find that you are instead taking a peek at your emails? And then finding that the peek has turned into 90 minutes? In business we often deal with interruptions to the flow. A phone call might interrupt a meeting or a client might call in the middle of your preparation time. But when you’re at your desk and ready to work, the call of the email can be insidious, luring you away from productivity.

What can you do to stay on top of email while also staying productive? Here are a few tips:

  1. Use spam filters so you won’t be distracted by junk
  2. Create rules in your email so that mail is routed to the appropriate folder. This will help you prioritize your email time so you are most effective. Messages in the Customers folder might receive higher priority than subscriptions to your sports web site, for example.
  3. Set time blocks for you to respond to email and STICK WITH the time limits. If you need to deal with email first thing in the morning, then set aside a 30 minute block to deal with urgent messages at the beginning of the day. When 30 minutes are up, move on. Then perhaps right before or right after lunch you can set aside another block of time to catch up with emails. Depending on the volume of email, you might need one more time block in the afternoon, perhaps right before quitting time.

For many of us, communicating via email is an integral part of our jobs and the ability to quickly communicate with others is essential to getting and keeping clients. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t stay on top of email AND focus on the other parts of the business as needed. Try these tips or modify them to your needs and see if you aren’t more productive.

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Real Passwords

PC Magazine has posted the list of the 10 most common passwords. Is your password on the list? We hope not. What do you think about having a 6 – 8 character password? Some people really struggle with creating a password of this length, coming up with complex patterns like q2!%vSDv. But can you remember something like that? We continue to advocate creating long but easy to remember passwords.

For example, start with a simple sentence: I like to waterski in the summer. That makes 33 characters – a good length. Now we make a few transformations. We change the l (el)to 1 (one). W e change one of the i’s to an exclamation point (!). And we change one random letter from lower case to upper case. The end result is: I 1ike to watersk! in the sumMer. It’s easy to remember. I’m no mathematician but I believe that is something like 94 possibilities for each of 33 characters which makes an astronomically large number to try to crack.

What do you think? Is this a good password or not?

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