Elliott Fienberg
also see mrtunes.ca



Alarming Trend: Crappy Emails

I’m noticing an alarming trend in my inbox. Email marketers just trying to flog their latest product or course, and not caring that they have pretty much the most direct connection to me aside from calling or showing up at my doorstep.

It seems as if people think social marketing deserves one set of rules, and email marketing can get a whole other.

In the end the same principles should apply, and hopefully one of them is to remain useful.

Something great from the social space is “80/20 Rule”… 80 percent of all messages should be useful or entertaining, while 20 percent should sell.

I’m seeing people apply these rules to their social profiles, but then it goes out the window once they have me signed up to their list.

Remember: even though you don’t see follower counts and public replies in emails, it’s still a chance to be just as social as twitter or facebook.

You have the best kind of contact with your tribe in this medium… make the most of it!

Some ideas for your email marketing:

  • A genuine anecdote that happened to you lately (works great for leading off the email).
  • A funny photo from around the studio
  • A cool video that you saw lately (related to what you do). Provide a thumbnail to hook them in.
  • Reader poll – provide the results in your next email
  • Trivia – again, provide the results in your next email

The ideas are endless. Just think of anything that might engage your readers.

Should you be set on all your emails having to sell something, at least dress it up in a bit of a sandwich. A company that always does this well is Zipcar. Even if i’m not interested in the promotion, their emails still might bring a smile to my face.




Getting Started with Blogging

My friend told me that he’s interested in starting a blog, but worries about what kind of content he should post.

I would tell you to “just jump in there and start”, but that’s not the most specific advice. One of the main concerns my friend had was, “what is too wide a topic selection?”, so let’s deal with that.

A more serious consultant will likely tell you to keep the focus narrow, but as a potential reader I think that the wider net cast, the better. It’s great to see a real cross-section of people’s interests. That’s something the Tumblr community really excels at.

Don’t get too caught up with these concerns early on. They are just another way that your brain is trying to kill your upcoming projects. You will be more inspired by hitting the “post” button, than you will by carefully auditing your content before starting.

One thing I will recommend though – try to write about 20 posts before launching. This way you will have a much better idea of what you actually like writing about, and it will help you set up the categories that the readers can browse by.




Gmail just doesn't want to display images

This is really frustrating. After the most recent Gmail redesign, i’ve found that most newsletters don’t have images enabled.

It seems like every sender that I had previously approved for displaying images, has been reset to a blank slate status.

Even worse, the first link on the options is to just display the images one time, which is what I seem to always click. I’m sure everyone else is clicking that one too.

Why does this grind my gears? It’s very hard to deliver a nice looking newsletter if no one can see the images.

The iPhone displays images by default, which is great. I just wish Google would display the images to their users more frequently too.

I understand there are security concerns, but if the person is a safe sender or has clicked display images before, they should lock those preferences in.




Why Sound is Better Than Video (According to Soundcloud)

Watch this great speech by Alex Ljung, founder of Soundcloud about how sound will triumph over video online:

While I share a similar vision with him about the need to spread sound across the web, I think he’s wrong here on a few points. But that’s ok, he clearly prepared this talk to spark debate.

Ljung hits the nail on the head about sound’s great strength is that it can be enjoyed while experiencing other things simultaneously. However, i don’t think the best ideas are spread while performing to an audience that is either doing their accounting or cooking a difficult meal.

The best ideas need our full attention, and that’s why music videos and performances can be so powerful.

Listening isn’t Necessarily our Finest Strength

I also don’t think humans are an auditory species, as much as they are visual. Look at how poor our hearing is compared to so many other mammals.

Sure, he points out a great example of how plugging your ears can lessen the effects of a horror movie, more than covering your eyes will. But that’s a very isolated example.

We can detect certain things about a next person by listening to their tone of voice, but they can figure out a lot more by looking at their facial expressions too.

This Shouldn’t be Comparative, but Collaborative

And that’s kind of it right there. It’s not really about sound vs. video, but more the idea that when combined, we subject people to the full message that we try to convey.

For someone like Alex Ljung, there is a need to draw the line between sound and video. His business is to sell you on the benefits of just distributing sound. For everyone else though, there is no need.

Sound is the common denominator. On its own it serves as a fantastic communicator, and combined with video it’s an even better one. All videos need high quality sound.




Coming Soon: Articles That Matter

Hello! Just a quick check in to tell you that I have some neat plans for this site. It involves a bunch of new articles and tutorials aimed specifically for people involved in web and music. Naturally we will involve other creative disciplines like video production and writing. I call this creative media.

So, things like how to add audio to your sites with a modern approach, as well as some tips on marketing your music. Some articles will be for the techier types, and others will be for the luddites. Stay tuned!




At Your Convenience

This is kind of funny. As much as we preach to our clients about consistency in maintaining an online presence, it’s so often the case that we sweep our own work under the rug.

In fairness, this specific blog is still a testing ground to see if I need a separate identity away from Mr. Tunes. It looks like they do indeed have to stay separate, but the hard part is keeping two going.

Well this post is kind of fluff if you will. This week someone is looking over my stuff, and I want them to show up and see something recent. At least I can come clean about it, but I know that in every facet of business it’s really hard to stick to a schedule until the ball starts to drop.

And that might be a microcosm for online marketing in itself. Sometimes we ignore technologies that might be useful to us, and then we scramble to figure out how they work.

This to me is the real challenge behind it all. I know if you pool together a great group of people, and work hard at it, you’ll be able to come up with great content. But being able to deliver it consistently is what keeps us up at night.




Tweeting during a crisis

Today is a very grim day in the news, as Japan has been with hit with a horrible earthquake.

As I read through my Twitter stream, I notice a few messages reminding people to turn off their auto-tweets, and sales pitches. I also see a few more devoted to telling us that if we’re going to buy an iPad 2 or attending SXSW, be sure to share some of that money you’re spending with the Red Cross.

This touches on a theme of social media that I’ve observed lately, and that is empathy. Certain messages are viewed as inconsiderate if they’re sent at the wrong time, because they dont respect the situation that others might be in.

It makes me wonder though: if there are no real rules on a service like Twitter, are we lacking empathy if we do chose to carry on with our daily lives in the wake of tragedy?

Or is it a good reflection of society itself: We don’t have specific laws about how to talk to people and socialize, but over time we’ve developed norms that make some behaviours right, and others wrong.




I'm not an expert or anything

I have been blogging a bit more lately on Mr. Tunes, and while i’m writing, I often catch myself trying to add in mini-disclaimers as I go along. They often look like, “i’m not an expert or anything”, or “I am not the authority on this subject”.

Alright bucko, it’s quite apparent that you’re not an expert because you’re publishing this on your dinky little blog, so let’s just ditch the warnings and get our point across.

One more example: I am currently reading a book where in the introduction, the author goes on about how this is his first book and he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to do this. Well by the time the book arrives in my hands, it’s made it through some pretty discerning eyes, so why not ditch the feeble preamble and get on with the show?




Understanding User Experience by visiting retail stores

User Experience (UX) is a hot sector in web design these days. While there are dedicated professionals to just this discipline, some people believe that it should be ingrained into all development positions and no single person has to oversee it.

Although you might’ve been taught that this is a very difficult concept to understand, I think it’s quite self-explanatory. We get a feel for User Experience every time we go shopping in a retail environment. And this time of year, we go shopping a lot.

I noticed some things in the ‘real-world’ this week that I could translate to the web experience.

Here I am referring to basic interactions with staff. I noticed a few were mumbling and almost incoherent to speak with. On the web this would be the equivalent to trying to decipher a fancy font, clicking a button and not being sure if my request is being handled. And in some stores, being difficult is also part of the corporate culture as is the case with some websites.

When I walk into a store, how quickly will I be able to find the good that I set out to purchase? I was on a subway recently, and although they all have maps of the transit system, the one I was on didn’t have the map. I wasn’t sure where the station I was looking for was, and as a result I was quite frustrated and ended up getting off a stop too soon. Something as small as forgetting to put the map on one car was enough to absolutely ruin one user’s experience that day.

How many times have you considered abandoning a purchase because it was taking too long to checkout? Not only does the store need to be ready to accommodate the amount of people coming in (server traffic), they need to be good at ringing customers in and completing purchases quickly. You might think this is limited to people in e-commerce, but across the entire website speed is a huge factor in deciding if this is a good experience or not. Think about your contact form: Are people abandoning it?

These are just a few things I can think of, and there is a lot of overlap between them. Next time you go shopping, try to think how these things relate to your web site or app.




Doing work after work

When i’m on the way home from work, I usually have a few ideas for things I want to crush when I get home. Sometimes it’s a new blog post, a newsletter edition, a podcast – it’s just something.

After the trip home and dinner, i’m looking at 7 or 8 o’clock, and my enthusiasm for these projects is down the toilet.

I am sure you are in the same boat as me. One thing I keep aiming for is to do some of these projects early in the morning before work, but my late weekends really do throw off my ambitions to become an early riser.

To make matters worse, I turned my desk into a standing one, which is even less motivating even if I sit on the stool.

In the meantime I have found that the best solution is to just type on my netbook while lounging on the couch. That rules out a lot of web development except maybe some scripting stuff, but i’m ok with that.

It’s good to be able to take it easy if you’ve already done a pretty full day of work.




Content strategy through the lens of television

Take a look at the kind of things you post online, and try to figure out what you are most similar to on television. Does your presence resemble something like a news show, or a sitcom? Maybe you are History Channel, or you are A & E Biography?

If you are like me, you have probably never tried to think of yourself or your brand through this lens. Well, consider for a moment how successful this medium has been for about half a century. Not just successful on a financial level, but successful in how long many shows and networks have been functioning for.

If you can identify your content strategy as being similar to a type of show, you can study how it works and borrow ideas from it. Take for example, the news. They format their shows in a certain way: Breaking news at the top, and a fun and interesting story near the end. They will keep teasing you throughout the whole show to stick around for that fun story.

On one news show that I watch called Connect with Mark Kelley on CBC, at the very end of the show he has a segment called “Disconnect” where he showcases what he thought was the goofiest story of the day.

Also consider the careers of TV shows and their creators. Lead anchors are reporting almost the whole year round, and once in a while someone subs in for them. But many of them will work on the same show for decades.

Reality or mystery shows can have periods of real stardom, but some of them only last for a few seasons, if that. The actors are then scrambling for new opportunities, or sometimes not scrambling at all if their show is syndicated for eternity. Sometimes having something that isn’t going to last forever is good to, as you can explore new concepts.

A lot of people who write about content development in the context of blogging will tell you to take a look at magazines for comparison, but it’s important to realize that we can make our own TV show on Youtube, or we can make our own radio broadcast on iTunes. And the beauty of having a blog is that we can mix and match these things – something not possible in the old media channels.

Whatever you think of old media, observe the things that made it tick and figure out how you can repurpose great ideas into new technologies.




Workflowy is neat

I gave Workflowy a shot today. What interests me about it, is often a normal to-do list doesn’t cut it. If I have a project, there are many sub-tasks that need to be completed along the way.

Many productivity programs address this, but their interfaces go really deep. I want something simple, and this Workflowy app seems to offer the best of both worlds. Watch the video above to see just how much brainstorming you can do with it.

It offers an export function which would allow you to print your list, and not much else, which I think is a good thing in software these days. The developers say a mobile app is on the way, but what I really need is a desktop AIR one. Now it will have to battle it out with TeuxDeux!




Paper.li is an amazing new trend

In a marketplace flooded with apps, everyone now and again something truly original pops up.

Paper.li is a new service which takes streams of information from your Twitter account, and compiles the most popular articles into a neat looking, newspaper-style page.

Every day a new edition is released, and it keeps an archive of your older editions. It can automatically update your Twitter status to let people know it’s ready, or you can post it manually.

Unfortunately, every great invention is not free of quirks. The problem with Paper.li at the moment is you can’t select the articles that will be pulled. You can customize ‘who’ it will pull from, but you can’t place whatever you want in there.

This is problematic on two levels. The first is some may argue that this is a lazy form of curating content. This may be true, but you have to look at some of these pages before you criticize the laziness factor – some of them look great and have a ton of useful content in them every day.

So in some way, the algorithm that’s pulling the articles is so good that it kind of offsets some of the complaints you might have about it.

The other problem with it is the fact that you didn’t pick the content can cause a misunderstanding for your viewers. For example, if you manage a Twitter account on behalf of a brand, and every day it’s set to autopost these editions, what happens if a story is pulled that your brand doesn’t support?

It’s very hard to say to your users, “sorry it’s automated”. These kinds of technology seem second-nature to a lot people who are using them day to day, but this whole automated newspaper might not make sense to certain people. An offensive article is an offensive article.

The big takeaway of all this for me is that people seem to really enjoy using this service – either they like how it visually interprets a stream that is text-based like Twitter, or they like how it’s automatically helping you post and retweet other people’s ideas. Whatever it is you can borrow ideas here for your own initiatives online.

Bottom line: This is a great app, and I think it’s going to open the floodgates for many similar technologies to enter. I just think they need to make a way for you to edit the editions before it goes live, and this company will have an absolute hit on their hands!

Have you tried Paper.li? What do you think of it?




How to Test Ideas

I have been doing a lot of research lately into “Test-Driven Development”. It’s pretty much what the title says, doing solid research on something before committing a lot of resources to it.

The best part about this process is it focuses your decisions on what your users actually need, rather than on what you think they need.

You can apply this to almost any entrepreneurial or creative endeavour, but here are a few ways you can start to test an idea before taking action on it.

All of these ideas depend on analytics tools, and for this I use Google Analytics because it’s free and very robust. There are plenty of others around though, however Google Analytics has a lot of resources supporting it. If you have never used it before, my first advice is making sure the tracking code is installed on your website so you can start harvesting basic data.


Over at Mr. Tunes, I’m always coming up with ideas for new blogs and products in the music market. But my time is limited, and my budget is pretty close to zero for this kind of thing. However, the core of the site is a blog, so I’m able to see what topics garner more attention than others.

Using the blog as a test can be difficult though, because you really have to syndicate posts at the right time in order to get maximum viewers – this goes for email and social networks. Nonetheless overtime you can can really see what people like by noticing what posts are more popular than others.


This isn’t the official term, but there’s certainly a trend lately where an entrepreneur will make a ‘fake’ website, or sometimes called a landing page, which just outlines a product concept. It will say “coming soon” and can have a box where people can submit their email address if they want to be notified when the product is ready.

The next step would be to either advertise the site or optimize its search engine ranking, and then evaluate how many people click on the ad, or even better, submit their address for more info.

Another form of this decoy or placebo could be placing a banner on your site that advertises some sort of idea, and seeing how many people click. If you are going to track something small like a banner, you’ll want to attach an analytics tracking code to the end of it. Make these with the Google URL Builder.

Site Search

Does your site have a search box? If not you should get one on there at your earliest convenience. The reason is you can track what people have searched for. Even better, this data can be integrated into your Google Analytics. Paying attention to this data can give you insight into what is missing from your website, what is hard to find, or maybe give you some ideas about products you can develop next.

The oldest method of researching what people want is getting out and talking to people, as well as sending out surveys, but keep in mind that you might not be getting the most honest feedback using traditional methods.

Keep your ear to the ground using some of the ideas listed above and try to give your users what they want.




Sleep Log

This is what my life has come to. It has been said many times that if you want to fix something, you have to keep track of it.

That’s why a lot of people track their spending diligently, and eating. One of my big problems is sleep. I want to wake up earlier every morning so I have a few minutes to do a few of my own tasks (maybe even workout one day), and also so I can leave for work on time without having to feel flustered.

I believe that having a strong morning can payoff spades throughout the day. I have seen a few iPhone apps that are able to track anything, but I thought it would be best to just start out with a spreadsheet. I know this won’t last very long though, because what can be more boring than logging your bedtime into a spreadsheet every night!




Everyone has to get their hands dirty

I was talking to some friends this weekend who are moving into jobs in social media. As you can imagine, the idea of this kind of work gives people butterflies in their stomach.

On one hand it’s exciting to think that you can apply the skills you’ve learned socializing online towards having a career. On the other hand, it’s the Wild West and there isn’t really a formula you can stick to on this.

I will say that I am no expert in this regard. I am learning every day along with the rest of you. As a result, I can leave you with this insight.

There is way too much of a mentality going around that says “I don’t have time for this”. That gets extended by passing off the work to someone who is savvy with the tools. The problem with this: The people who are the core of a company or organization have the knowledge and opinions that need to be syndicated.

The role of someone who manages this part of your brand should be more focused shaping the flow of information from the people in that core. They can also serve a great use for doing the work of responding to people, posting links that are relevant, or making comments on blogs.

So what needs to change? The first thing is kill that social media policy that forbids the use of facebook and twitter during work hours. I know this is very common in most offices today.

Why is ok to ban these website to all the employees, and make some exceptions for people who are in charge of updating the networks? With a policy like that, how can you reneg in a year’s time when you realize that you have to ask your employees to help participate online?

Everyone has to get their hands dirty in this, otherwise you’ve left a very key part of your success in the hands of a glorified monkey.




The Missing Piece to the Transit Puzzle

As we approach our municipal election here in Toronto very shortly, one of the “hot button” topics is certainly the transit system. These debates also include the roads too, as drivers are annoyed with being stuck in gridlock, and many streets are unsafe for cyclists.

I find it strange that as we move more and more into an “information economy”, and less of one that is production based, why do all these debates involve building more, and not figuring out how to get less people on them?

I believe the main problem at work here is that traditional companies don’t believe in the power of telecommuting. I am certain that many HR departments think that people who work from home are in their pajamas all day watching Dexter.

However, people who telecommute can be far more efficient than those who are planted at a desk since there are less interuptions, and they don’t add to more interuptions for others.

So aside from basic productivity, there are clear benefits to having less people in the office all the time. The main one is there is less overhead in regards to operating costs surrounding real estate, maintenance, and other utilities. But it’s also amazing for the environment!

I think it’s about time that municipal governments start campaigning to encourage this type of working arrangement. They could offer tax incentives for companies that support this, and maybe these financial perks can be augmented by any green initiatives already in place.

The politicians could also work with the telecommunication companies who are already robbing us blind to offer low costs for employees to be wired up at home. Another thing they can try is helping to subsidize webcams.

I know you think this is kind of crazy, but look how much money it will cost to build new roads and expand the public transit system. And the more we build, the more damage we do to the environment.

Another type of working arrangement that can help with the gridlock problem is encouraging Results Only Work Environments (aka ROWE). This is a new wave of management philosophy which dictates that employees should be held accountable to acheiving certain goals rather than being accountable for sitting at their desk for eight hours a day.

In other words, you don’t have any set hours (depending on the arrangement), just as long as you get the work done. We all know that most people who work a full day, aren’t getting a full day’s worth of work done. So companies like Best Buy are adopting these kinds of strategies with great success.

Not making everyone work at the exact same time would definitely help ease the amount of traffic and commuter stress everyone is facing.

And lastly, the trend of coworking can also yeild positive change for our cities. If a few people work for a company that’s located far away, yet happen to live relatively near each other, they can work together in a ‘satellite’ office which would be shared with members of other companies and organizations.

This pairs up people by similar kinds of work and location, and has the added benefit of bringing people together who might not often converse because they work at separate companies.

In Toronto, the Centre for Social Innovation is pioneering this shift in the non-profit world, and they are just about to open a second location in downtown Toronto. I’m sure there are many other offices of this sort which might cator to people in different areas of work.

As you can see, there are some very exciting changes that we can embrace, rather than focus solely on building more roads and spending more money.

But first the attitudes of people working in Human Resources needs to shift in order to accomodate these trends. This has to be pushed along by our local politicians.




Making a gift out of iApps

Here’s a cool gift idea: I was looking up yoga on iTunes and saw a billion apps and podcasts. I realized this is the same case for many things like cooking or golf.

A common gift in “the old days” would’ve been an iPod. Maybe you would stack it with some music before giving it to the recipient. But with the amount of apps and videos available for this platform, ┬áit would be cool to spend a bit of extra time and money to really shop around for the good add-ons in the iTunes store.

This will make it really fun and informative out of the box for the recipient. Kind of like classic mixtapes meets modern gadgetery!




Don't up the length of your Youtube videos

I was kind of surprised to see last week that Youtube’s decision to increase the time limit of their videos to 15 minutes was the headline on a local newspaper. Aren’t headlines supposed to be used for really important news items?

Anyways, just a quick tip here: people are tempted to post long videos to Youtube. Try filming yourself talking about a subject, and you will see how simple it is to ramble on for five minutes easily. But i’m going to tell you why should be trying to avoid this behaviour.

Most Youtube videos are very boring, unless the personality in them is extremely engaging. When we watch any video content, we are used to a style that came from movies and television. Look at either of these formats, and notice how quickly the images change from scene to scene. It’s every few seconds! With that in mind, you can understand why a video that doesn’t cut scenes often will put people to sleep fast.

Now creating a video with lots of different scenes on your own is tricky. Not only do you have to find the footage but you’ll have to edit it. So i’m recommending to you that if you want to get your message across in video format, but can’t prepare all those clips, then aim to make your video less than two minutes. Yes you heard me! You will aim for two minutes and then stretch it to three.

Chris Brogan is great with this in his videos. He could go on for ten or fifteen minutes because he has so many great ideas, but he keeps these vids really short and to the point.




First few days with Kobo

Just wanted to report back since I had mentioned a few days ago that I grabbed the Kobo e-reader.

For starters, I am making great progress through the first book. It is extremely convenient and easy to read on the subway. The weight is fantastic.

The button being on the right side is as I predicted, a good place when i’m holding on to a subway pole with my stronger left arm. But other than that I don’t like the placement.

I can see the temptation to buy a case, but going with the idea that this is kind of disposable technology, I think having a case makes it more of an inconvenience to use when i’m travelling around. I’ll see how quickly and noticably the screen gets scratched.

The e-reader is very slow to boot up. When I was showing it to my dad who’s an avid reader of history, he was able to call it “crap” before the thing finished doing half of its boot cycle. When I showed him a bit more of the device though he thought it was pretty neat.

This kind of e-reader, is absolutely horrible for non-fiction. After I read these books, one of the main benefits of having them in digital format is supposed to be ease of reference. If it’s packed away in a box somewhere I don’t have to bother getting it out. But on the Kobo you wouldn’t be able to navigate to a passage you need that easily. Even the desktop program appears to be just as difficult to navigate.

I am going to assume that one of the main difficulties here is that in this technology, books don’t have specific page numbers. As you increase or decrease the text size, the entire layout of the book gets altered.

Based on my early observations, the e-reader has some serious benefits, so I’m going to keep plowing away with it. I don’t think I would return it in favour of the Sony model, but I would consider the Kindle.




Just grabbed a Kobo

I was thinking about getting an e-reader for a while now, and lately the curiosity of having one of these things was really starting to bother me.

I know a lot of people are going through the same denial that was going around when mp3s were getting big, and I would be no exception. But lately reading non-fiction has been a big part of my work, and I thought it was worthwhile to explore this.

I had narrowed it down to the Kobo and the Sony PRS-300, and even worse I found out that the Amazon Kindle went down to $190, sitting in the price range of all these devices.

Decisions, Decisions

I heard that the Kindle was the best, but what really turned me off was the locked nature of the device. Amazon probably offers great prices on their e-books, but still this was enough to deter me from getting it. It’s something that often bothers me about the iPhone, and I don’t want to invest in more of these things.

My initial concerns about getting the Kobo were: it’s slow, there’s a giant blue button on the front (D-Pad), the page goes black in between turns, and that it’s designed for right-handed people (i’m a south-paw).

The Sony one looked like a great alternative, but it’s a $30 more expensive, heavier, smaller, and not made by a Canadian company. I am not concerned about the sturdiness of these devices because I have found that when it comes to these kinds of things I have a pretty good track record of not dropping them.

I have to be honest that many of these factors were only known about because I read them online and talked to some people. I feel like if I didn’t know about these things, that none of them would be an issue. But one of the best comments I read was that you have to put these into perspective: for the pricetag, if it doesn’t turn out to be perfect, you’re not breaking the bank.

The first Indigo location I went to did not have the device in black, and i’m glad I tried another store because I was pleasantly surprised to see that on the black model that giant blue button turns to grey and is barely noticable. That was a big problem taken care of right there!

How is the Kobo?

The unboxing of this one was kind of neat. There is an outer box which you see, and then you pull out an inner box, as if you’re taking a book off a shelf. Then that box opens up, like a book. I thought this was really clever packaging.

The device comes with a small booklet to get you started, and the Kobo desktop program actually downloads when you plug in the device. I have never seen this behaviour with any of my usb audio equipment.

My First Book

It comes loaded with 100 classic books, but since the navigation of your book titles inside the menu looks very minimal, I am likely going to hide or remove them (I know a firmware update can do this). The first book I bought was Drive: The Suprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. I had to pay for it using Visa which was a little annoying, but then again I know of many other companies that refuse to accept Paypal too.

I hope they can tap into Interac Online like their partner Indigo is doing. Another good option would be to not bill right away so we can maybe amass some credit. I am going to research any other payment alternatives because I don’t like using Visa for this stuff.

Thumbing through

I spent an hour reading through the book and so far, it’s ok. The black page wipe isn’t bothering me too much, but I realized early on that diagrams don’t carry over. This is a little disappointment because I read a lot of business books, and I know many of them have some basic images and tables in them. If I load up Kobo on my iPhone I can locate the page and see the images, but that just sucks.

I can’t decide if the placement of the button is very bad for me, or if it doesn’t matter. I can imagine that when i’m on the subway I will likely use my stronger arm to hang onto to the poles, but when i’m sitting around idle i’d likely want to use my dominant hand to turn the digital pages.

The speed is a little sluggish as we all know, but it’s not too bad. There’s something about that which is almost charming in an age when so many gadgets zip around so fast.

It’s Good Enough

I can’t comment too much more on the device cause this is really a first look at it, but I would like to leave you with an interesting observation I have about the Kobo. It strikes me as a device with “good enough” technology. I first found this term in an article from Wired Magazine, about how there is a shift towards creating very functional devices that just do what it says on the box, and nothing more.

The most popular example of this right now is the Flip video camera. You just hit the red button on it, and that’s about all you can do. As a result, these devices cost less. I think good enough technology works for me in this case. Especially since if a reader cost too much money, I wouldn’t get any savings over purchasing print media.

I just wanted an e-reader and i didn’t want one that plays mp3s, has a keyboard or even a touch screen. Sure it would be nice if you could take notes on the book as you go along, or maybe some other navigational features that the other devices have, but in this case I wanted to keep the price down because i’m antipicating eventually I will need a cool tablet too (dare i say iPad!).

I will keep trying it out, and if I find some of the things above are bothering me too much I will return it. Overall this digital reading technology is pretty exciting!

Did you get a Kobo too? What do you think?




Some Lessons I've Learned

I’m rounding the corner on two projects that have gone on very long, and the end is very much in site. This is giving me a chance to reflect on what i’m doing right and what i’ve done horribly wrong.

Estimating can prevent Escalating

I would say from all the websites i’ve worked on, just about every project has had some mis-estimations of how long they’d take, and how much they’d cost. This is obviously normal since you can’t know these things without working on a lot of projects. It’s also stuff that no one can teach you in school!

When I used to work on soundtracks, I had no concept of being over-budget or anything – I just worked myself into the pavement and no one heard a peep from me (except in the files I delivered, zing!).

Know what you’re doing

So what is it that i’ve learned? Well just one thing i’ve learned is I need to sell products above and beyond services. I’m not referring to educational or reference material (although i’m very interested in this side of things), what i’m talking about is having a much clearer picture of what exactly i’m doing.

I think of the examples set by certain professions that have been aroud much longer. If you go to get your hair cut there is a list of services the staff provide, and even though they can be customized as per the client’s needs, there is a very clear picture of what to expect before you begin asking for a chop. And in most parts of town, you can’t pay a barber to give you a perm (zing!).

Closing in on what people need

I am looking to hone in on some very specific technologies that I think people will want and need for their art or their business. The problem is though, we all need projects that stretch our comfort zone a little. This is maybe where I got into trouble, by stretching a little too much.

I can say though that it all happened for good reason. I would venture to think that it is very rare for a developer or designer to always be working on projects that are a perfect fit. But that’s sort of our responsibility when we start something- we need the restraint to turn down work.

Have you been learning any similar lessons this year with managing projects that have gone a awry?

What will you do to improve the work you’re doing?




Why Auditory?

Why is this site called Auditory Media? There actually isn’t much content about sound and music planned for it specifically. The project is more about web development and social media than anything else, but the way I got here was through my love for music.

When I was in university, my friend Alexander volunteered to help make a website for my solo music project, called Mr. Tunes. It was in Flash, and it wasn’t possible to update without asking Alex for help. But he already did such a great job and I didn’t want to bother him for more of his time. This trait of not wanting to bother people has been a mixed blessing as you’ll see.

So the site stuck around for a while, but right after university I headed out to Vancouver to study sound design at the Vancouver Film School. It was out there that I was pressed to update my site because eventually i’d be looking for work, and it was at this time that I decided to bite the bullet and start learning it on my own.

The first program I used was called SwishMax, which was a Flash-clone (it’s still around). If you thought that asking someone to update a site for you was a pain, this was punishment. Flash in general is not very conducive to sites that need to be updated every day.

Almost a year later I somehow found these things called Content Management Systems. I really have no memory of what was going on at the time, but I assume blogging was becoming big because I found Wordpress.

I tried working on a theme, and I wasn’t happy with it. Then I found Drupal, and man was this ever complicated. With Drupal, at least at the time, if you were thinking about making a basic website you would start to wonder if you were making a science research portal.

In the Drupal forum, someone recommended Textpattern for people who wanted nice control over the content but wanted something lighter . This thing fit like a glove for me.

Not too long after I rebuilt mrtunes.ca as a blog with Textpattern. And then not too long after that someone asked me to build a website for them. So this story is long and convoluted, and i’ve walked you through a few different technologies up until now.

But what is the moral of the story? I got into web development as a way to help promote my work as a musician and sound designer. But somewhere along the way I became enthralled with web development. The two passions are now running side-by-side as a team. Without music I wouldn’t have gotten into development, and without development I wouldn’t be able to continue to work on the music that I want to work on. Some people call this harmony!

I am at a point now where i’m trying my hardest to find a clear intersection of these two worlds. With the demise of MySpace and the rise of Bandcamp and Soundcloud, I am constantly plotting some sort of concept to contribute to the music world with my web skills.

But in the meantime i’m happy to work on pretty much any kind of website. Oh and I am getting back into Wordpress by the way (kind of kicking and screaming though).

p.s. Alex has gone on to make a really cool site called Penzu. Check it out!




Load it up!

A new blog can be really daunting. Especially if you’re new to this kind of thing. One of the big goals I have for this site is to walk you through a lot of the decisions I make when developing and launching a site. For example, in my first post, I mentioned the debate I was having about using Posterous.

After working on many sites for other people (I don’t want to say the C-word), I have been able to see where some of the toughest challenges arise. One of the biggest ones has to be the blank canvas blog, like this one.

It’s daunting, yes, but even worse this is often where a new blog fails. You don’t get the instant gratification of your link getting shared, you likely don’t have many commenters, and now you’re wondering if you even needed a blog in the first place.

The best way to get around it is to just write. Load the blog up with posts so that when you start to promote it, it doesn’t look empty and sad.

I have a few of hurdles that i’m dealing with as I launch this site, and I can’t wait to share with you how I deal with them. Stay tuned!




We Are Live

Hello and I welcome you to my new blog. Man, I really hate saying that word! I always wonder if there’s an alternative to blogging because the name of the activity is so bad.

Anyways, i’ll be using this site to discuss things like web development, design, strategy, video production and more. My main goal here is to teach and empower you to be independant and in-control of all these technologies that are floating around us, indundating our daily lives.

Just a note about this website – a few months ago I was kind of set on running this with the service called Posterous. It’s kind of a shiny new object these days in the blogging world as it lets you post anything using just email. It’s really cool – you can attach an audio file or pictures to your message and it will set up the right widgets in your post once it goes live automatically.

I was excited to move ahead with this choice – I even mapped the domain in anticipation. But when I sat down to create my theme, I totally freaked out.

These niche blogging tools are fantastic for certain projects when you have a cut and dry goal to accomplish, and you’re pretty certain things aren’t going to stray away from that too far.

Something like the People of Walmart or Awkward Family photos comes to mind when I think about rolling with one of these sites.

But when you set up a site to function as a core part of your life, like I plan on this one being, you need to have more control and more options.

I create the majority of my sites with Textpattern, and I wasn’t prepared to leave it behind on this site. Especially since I would like to devote many posts to teaching you how it works. If you’re looking for an alternative to Wordpress, this is what I recommend.