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Spring Cleaning (with Some Help from Disney)

18 April

My mom was relentless about spring cleaning. When April vacation rolled around, every corner of our house was turned out, scrubbed, inspected, and returned (unless we rearranged the living room that year). I lived with the hope that woodland creatures would pour into our house and dust the furniture with their tails or help with the laundry.

They never did.

Woodland_cleaning

Pretty sure this is exploiting cheap labor, Snow White.

April vacation was probably my least favorite. But as an adult, I appreciate the lesson, and thought I’d share a bit of Kathy’s wisdom about spring cleaning, with the help of Disney.

1. Do I even need this?

As you go through your space, take some time and reassess what you really need. Mom always accused me of being a pack-rat (a.k.a. hoarder, like my girl Ariel). Although I preferred to think of it as possessing powerful gathering instincts, Mom had a point. Useless clutter build up around my room, and if left unchecked, I would have had a collection of “stuff” that put the Little Mermaid’s to shame. 

Little_Mermaid_Hoarder

Face it, Ariel. You have a problem.

The awesome part about this step is that it can be a preemptive measure. When shopping, I use a little trick my mom taught me. Sometimes, there’s a shirt or dress that I try on, but can’t determine my level of commitment to the purchase. Mom chimes in with “Will you wear it seven times?” This number changes based on a) the item in question and b) how much it costs, but the point is to have some system in place. Sometimes, you have to ask, “Will this thingamabob serve its purpose, or sit in my closet collecting dust?” If you aren’t going to wear it seven times, put it back on the rack. This article from MoneyNing offers other tips for determining what you need in your life (bonus points for saving money).

Technology Takeaway: Are there errant files on your computer? Plugins on your WordPress website you aren’t using? Delete, purge, and enjoy the extra space!

2. Upkeep 

One of the reasons why the annual spring cleaning of my youth seemed so daunting was because most of what we cleaned hadn’t been touched for…about a year. It’s amazing how disgusting an area can become when neglected.

You may have a vague awareness that things are starting to slip, and anxiety about cleaning it accumulates to the point where part of your brain shuts off and you forget the area exists. Or, like the Beast, you’ve constructed this shame-cave of neglect and become a hyper-aggressive jerk to your house-guests.

 

Even the roomba isn't allowed in the West Wing.

Even the Roomba isn’t allowed in the West Wing.

The good news: It doesn’t have to be this bad! The bad news: Chores. As previously mentioned, you cannot get woodland creatures to clean your house. But, there are great tools online for cleaning, whether you’re tackling some hard to reach places  or searching for an app to remind you to do chores. Plus, you can always invest in a Roomba.

Technology Takeaway: Do you have automated backups on your computer? Have you not updated your website software in awhile? Set aside an appointment with yourself quarterly, even if only 30 minutes, to tackle those technology chores before they become unmanageable.

3. Letting Go

Part of the spring cleaning process involves throwing out old belongings. As a child , by this point I developed a strong sentimental attachment to everything, and tried to convince Mom that separation from any object in my room would cause deep emotional scarring. On my laptop, I currently keep hundreds of terrible pictures, homework assignments from high school and college, and old PDF files that I never read in the first place.  It’s the same with that shirt I’ve had for six years but never wear…because, that one day I wore it was a really awesome day.

Frozen_Meme

Those shoes are being held together by super glue and fond memories. It’s time to move on.

There comes a point, either during spring cleaning or life in general, when you’re faced with letting go of something that you still value. But, a one-legged Barbie doll with a mullet or shoes that have begun disintegrating probably don’t have a place in your life anymore. And that’s okay. If you’re struggling to take that last step, you can always look to Elsa for encouragement.

Technology Takeaway: Did you start that Tumblr blog two years ago and know you will never update it? Look at those aspirational technology tasks you’ve taken up (and things that are no longer a part of who you are) and let them go. Just because you used to have a Myspace account, doesn’t mean you have to ever log in again.

These days, I’m by no means thrilled about spring cleaning. I still need a carrot (or pint of ice cream) dangling in front of me as a motivator, and still harbor some resentment that I can’t whistle and summon woodland creatures to do my chores (thanks for nothing, Bambi). Spring is all about starting fresh, and I suppose that’s as good a reason as any to roll up my sleeves and start cleaning.

Toy_story

If your childhood toys resemble these, NEVER get rid of them.

How Is Twitter Any Different Than Facebook

11 April

Facebook’s recent change of only showing your posts organically (ie not having to pay) to between 1-2% of people who like your page is exactly why I have always suggested that it’s important to not put all your social media eggs in one basket.

“I’ll just use Facebook. I mean, I don’t even get Twitter.” said several clients.

And years later, they still ask, “So, can you explain Twitter to me?” They are probably wondering how this website can keep going on years later when they don’t ‘get’ it.

I have a friend who owns a brewery getting on Twitter for this very reason: Facebook restricts who sees what he puts out there, Twitter doesn’t.

So besides ‘Facebook has failed us’ you might wonder why else people use Twitter. Here are a few you might care about.

Less people on Facebook see your stuff... because Facebook wants to make some money off you. Totally geek out here: http://moz.com/blog/facebook-algorithm-change

Less people on Facebook see your stuff… because Facebook wants to make some money off you. Totally geek out here: http://moz.com/blog/facebook-algorithm-change

See what’s trending in real time.
Gone are the days where we have to wait until the 6 o’clock news to get an idea of what’s going on in our community and around the world. By following hashtags, I can see at a glance that Snooki might be in #barharbor (actually seemed to be just JWoww) or what people are talking about related to #politics.

Try listening in on conversations in real life or elsewhere online. It’s either difficult or considered kind of rude. On Twitter, listening is neither of these things.

Follow and talk to celebrities.
While most celebrities have PR people handling their Facebook pages, lots of celebrities and other VIPs have their own Twitter accounts. You can see Martha Stewart unfiltered for example or publicly reply to @kimkardashian.

These and other Martha gems here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/alannaokun/martha-stewarts-17-best-tweets-ever

These and other Martha gems here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/alannaokun/martha-stewarts-17-best-tweets-ever

Keep in touch with the press.
You know what news reporters are? Busy and kind of overworked. But if they won’t friend you on Facebook because you’re some creep they don’t know and get hundreds of emails a day they don’t respond to, how are you supposed to be friendly with them?

That’s right Twitter. Stop just sending people press releases, make friends with them.

Hop in on a conversation then hop off.
Ever heard some insane conversation and, while you didn’t necessarily want to invest in carrying it on, you’d like to say your idea then jet? On Twitter, you can totally do this, whether you were a conversation originator or not. And so long as you aren’t saying any rude, this behavior in and of itself is not considered rude.

Because think about it, if you didn’t want people to say anything, would you be publicly broadcasting it? Probably not. People post stuff so other people say something. So say something if you want.

Organize people into lists.
Yes you can do this on Facebook too but it somehow seems much easier to do this on Twitter.

People, while they do post some personal stuff on Twitter, it is somehow much less annoying then on Facebook. Maybe it has to do with photos being linked (so I don’t have to see pics of my friend’s kid’s first poop) or maybe it’s the whole putting people in lists thing but I somehow don’t mind seeing that my friend checked into the burrito place when I don’t have to see the badly photographed burrito. Maybe text takes up less memory energy?  Note: If someone has any actual scientific information on this, let me know! This is just my idea and what I’ve heard others say but I’d love to back it up with a source or two!

Listen, Twitter is not nearly my favorite network. And in terms of getting us new customers Facebook and Pinterest are better… right now. All that said, I get some valuable information and have built real relationships (business and fun) using Twitter. And if you want to sit on the sidelines and keep missing the fun, that’s your business.

Now please excuse me while I discuss the merits of Rosalie’s versus Finelli’s pizza with a tourist visiting Bar Harbor.

Living the Dream: How to Avoid Getting Burnt Out

08 April

(For optimal experience, listen to “Eye of the Tiger” while reading this post).

"That rhymed. Unintentional" Hot Rod, 2007

“That rhymed. Unintentional” Hot Rod, 2007

Setting goals for yourself is awesome, and reaching them is one of the most rewarding experiences of all time. But what about that middle part? The part with all the hard work, the blood, sweat, and tears? It’s the part that can make or break a goal. Only 1 out of every 8 people who make New Years resolutions actually keep them, and that seems like a sad statistic. For instance, last year I spontaneously decided to run my first marathon. Although the goal was met, it took a lot out of me, and I pretty much never wanted to run again. I left the experience thinking, “That wasn’t even worth it.

Hard work is required to reach your goal (whatever it may be). But, it doesn’t need to be an excruciating process. Here are five things to keep in mind that will hopefully keep you from burning out or abandoning ship:

Check Yourself: Ask yourself, “Why am I really doing this?” Is it a lifelong goal? A matter of pushing your limits, an opportunity for growth? Are you trying to impress someone? Personally, I’m more likely to reach a goal if I’m doing it for me. Don’t get me wrong, having a support system and outside motivation helps exponentially. Unfortunately, my support system can’t hover around in the morning when I’m having a hard time extracting myself from a warm-ish bed to run through whatever Mother Nature decided to dish out for the day. I remind myself, “Hey, I could just stay right here. No one is making me go for a run.” And, it’s that thought that propels me out the door.

Look Up: While taking it one day at a time has its benefits, if you keep your head down and barrel through one day after another, you may lose sight of a few things. Your thinking may become more geared toward short-term results for a long-term goal. This article from The Simple Dollar discusses how this phenomenon manifests in terms of financial goals. You probably won’t notice the small changes that happen day by day. Remember to look up once in awhile, just for a dose of perspective. You may be surprised at how far you’ve come.

Realistic Goals in Reasonable Time Frames: I tend to set arbitrary goals for myself that involve going from 0 to 60 in 0.2 seconds. This equals setting myself up for failure. Deciding on a whim that tomorrow, I will bench 300 pounds, will only result in disappointment and probably some sort of horrific injury (especially since I only work my glamour muscles). This tragic hypothetical experience will prevent me from ever wanting to lift again. When you’re mapping out a goal, keep it real. It will look different for some people. For instance, I would be delusional if I made a goal to become a billionaire by 2015. However, this may be in the realm of possibility for you. And if so, we should be friends.

Encourage Others: Karma is a real thing. You get what you put in.  Offer your help, support and good vibes to others, and most importantly, mean it. If you aren’t genuine…it doesn’t count. When you take the time to do this, it feels good, and it may actually help boost your own chance at success.Plus, in the grand scheme of things, we’re all just spinning on a rock around a huge ball of fire and no one knows what tomorrow will bring. We might as well help each other out.

Chill Out: No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, sometimes you may need to take a step back. Hey, we all need a break once in awhile. If you find yourself overdoing or overthinking, it’s time to chill for a bit. Focus on something else for a while, or reflect and maybe tweak your plan. When you come back to it, you can hit the ground running. While upsetting, my six month hiatus from running last year was probably necessary. Something I formerly enjoyed warped into a source of frustration and resentment. Running and I found ourselves in a passionless relationship, and secretly wanted to smother the other with a pillow in the middle of the night. After a break, I had a new attitude. I started approaching running, and everything else in my life, with ideas covered in this post. So far, so good.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way- so, just keep that will alive. Whatever your dream, don’t stop believin’. (Yeah, that’s right. I went there).

 

Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA) Website Launch

04 April

We recently launched the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA for short) new website. This group preserves the basketmaking traditions of the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes. They not only ensure the tradition continues through teaching basketmaking, they also provide economic opportunities for artists helping them market their products, supporting work being sold in galleries, and holding several annual markets that gather the artists together.

Their old website was three basic HTML pages that were difficult to make changes to. In order to best support MIBA, the website was reconstructed with a few things in mind.

First, the custom directory of artists allows visitors to either search for a specific artist (by name, location, basket style, and more), or browse artists by scrolling through the list. Each artist has a headshot and a biography, including their basketmaking techniques and artistic preference.  To avoid prioritizing one artist over another, the list automatically randomizes when the artist directory loads, giving equal exposure to all.

In addition to the directory, there is a more personal-get to ‘know’ the artist/who you’re supporting experience. This is done several ways including large format photos on information pages and a link to artist videos in the sidebar, where users can browse a collection of artist videos curated by the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine.

Artist_Directory

Like any non-profit organization, MIBA depends on donations from outside sources, so we added a feature that allows the site to accept donations via credit card. The donation page is a simple, straightforward form. In general, this makes the process easier for the donor (and hopefully, leads to more donations!). 

Navigating the MIBA site has become simple with the new layout. There are multiple ways to reach the various content on the site. For instance, the Markets page can be reached through the menu, the search bar, and in the featured section. Why is this important? By giving people multiple ways to get to MIBA’s most important information, people will easily find the information they’re looking for. When people have to jump through hoops to get the information they want from a site, they’ll most likely get frustrated and leave.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 11.40.45 AM

 

Another trick that helps direct navigation is the three buttons on the sidebar of the website. These buttons have a couple benefits. First, since there are only three buttons to choose from, visitors aren’t overwhelmed with too many choices. Second, the images are small enough not to distract from the main page, but large enough for attention. These buttons, including ‘Where to Buy Baskets’ and ‘Donate’ direct website visitors to these important resources in a visual way.

And lastly, the entire site is designed responsively, meaning it looks great on any device, and loads in a little over 2 seconds. Through Google Analytics, we see over 140 people visited the new site the first day and we got this email from Theresa Secord, the executive director of the organization, the day after launch:

We are getting great reviews on our website and the announcement of the launch went viral on our FaceBook page…was viewed 5,802 times, shared 77 times!! and we gained nearly 100 new likes, putting us well over 1,000 friends for the MIBA FB page, from all over the world.

We congratulate Theresa, Jennifer, and all the MIBA board and artists on their new site!

I Pity the Fool: A Brief History of Pranks on the Internet

01 April

Sasquatch_Foo

Before diving into this list, I’m going to disclose a little fun fact: I am incredibly gullible. The spirit of April Fool’s Day lives within me throughout the year. It’s exhausting, and I’m probably developing some deep-seeded trust issues.

In order to feel better about believing my friend’s hair dye changes based on external temperatures (I mean, why would you even lie about that?!), this post is  dedicated to people who betrayed by the internet.

1. Shark Attacking Dude on a Helicopter: Considered the first ever internet prank, this involved the melding of two pictures: one, a shark leaping out of the water, and two, a picture of helicopter training near the Golden Gate Bridge. The combined picture was circulated as National Geographic’s “Photograph of the Year.”

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 10.27.14 AM

Seems legit.

2. Fake NASA Letter: Last fall, a man from the U.K. posted a letter he received from NASA in response to a drawing entitled “A Breakthrough in Awesome Space Rockets, Now Give Me Some Money.” While hilarious, the letter was not written by NASA (turns out, this man has a portfolio of these letters, including Cadbury and the Guinness Book of World Records).

nasa_letter

3. Savetoby.com: Perhaps the darkest hoax on the list. Owners of the bunny named Toby threatened to kill and eat him, unless the people of the web gave him $50,000 by Easter of 2005. In spite of the rabbit recipe posts and some explicit threats made by Toby’s owner, when Easter rolled around, the deadline was bumped up to a later date. The whole ordeal caused quite an uproar, but Toby was spared (because…it was a joke).

save_toby

4. Pitbull: As part of a contest for energy strips he sponsors, Pitbull agreed to perform a concert in the town with the Wal-Mart whose Facebook page got the most new likes by mid-July. However, two men decided that sending Pitbull to Kodiak, Alaska would be funny, and probably beneficial to society. So, they set up a campaign encouraging thousands of internet users to “Like” the Kodiak Wal-Mart’s Facebook page. Pitbull followed through with the concert, but he brought the two men responsible along for the long flight to Kodiak.

Pitbull_takes_Alaska

At least he isn’t singing

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 10.43.47 AM

5. Diane from 7A: Elan Gale (a producer on The Bachelor) live-tweeted an unpleasant interaction with a woman he shared a flight with on Thanksgiving. Diane was an obnoxious flyer, so Elan felt justified in writing rude notes to her (even though she maybe had cancer). Except, she doesn’t exist. In the throes of travel boredom, Elan created this elaborate ordeal and was sufficiently entertained for the remainder of the flight.

6. @LennayKay Lives On: Manti Te’o's  fake girlfriend’s Twitter account came back from the dead a month or so after the whole “catfishing” incident. The Twittersphere imploded (sort of) as people tried to figure out how @LennayKay rose from her virtual ashes. Well, it turns out that once a Twitter account has been deleted, it can be picked up again. Someone saw an opportunity, and went for it.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 10.44.38 AM

 

 

7. T. Swift Concert for the Deaf: Similar to the Pitbull in Alaska incident, an online contest through VH1 to have Taylor Swift perform at a school was hijacked by website 4chan. The winner was Horace Mann’s School for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired. She didn’t perform at this school (since the contest was ruined), but she did donate some money  (after all, they were victims of the prank, too). Why do people gotta be so mean?

8. Death Star Petition: The White House’s site “We the People” allows citizens to present petitions online, and if it can get over 25,000 signatures, it will receive a response. One petition that reached the 25,000 mark called for the construction of  a Death Star. The petition was rejected, but Paul Shawcross (Chief of Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management & Budget) wrote a detailed and entertaining response riddled with Star Wars references.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 10.53.27 AM

 

dub-the-dew9. “Dub the Dew”: The story of an fun, innocent PR campaign gone terribly wrong, because people just can’t help themselves. Mountain Dew  developed a new drink, and issued a “name our drink” challenge to promote it. The general public had a great time with this contest at the expense of Mountain Dew, and their new drink (pretty sure its name wasn’t drawn from the submission pool). This serves as a cautionary tale for putting this type of contest out into the internet: don’t let people name your stuff unless you are really ok with whatever they name it.

 

10. Twerk on Fire: Remember when everyone was talking about twerking? A dance that you either loved or hated, but maybe didn’t understand. A video came out in the fall of 2013 of a girl twerking, and falling onto a candle, thus proving that twerking is a health hazard. Jimmy Kimmel later revealed an extended version of the video, revealing that the whole thing was a hoax that doubled as an anti-twerking PSA.

Happy April Fools, and remember: just because you saw it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. Although, that Sasquatch video is pretty convincing…

Why Too Many Choices Are Paralyzing Your Customers

28 March

When I was showing Kassie around our Google Analytics the other day, I couldn’t believe what happened when I drilled down into the data. Over 50% of people are leaving off the homepage. Here’s what it looks like:

homepage

Holy crap, people have no idea where to click. I mean really neither do I. Too many choices!

When you overwhelm people with choice, it turns out you overwhelm them period (there’s a paper all about it from Stanford and a book on the subject that came out recently.)

Here are some fun facts about choice:

  • Americans make 70 different choices a day on average.
  • 77% of people with nine options used an elimination strategy while only 21% used an elimination strategy when given three options to make a decision.

Not only do people not like a lot of choice but things like sleep and food effect the decisions that are made.  Check out this graph that seems nuts but actually makes a ton of sense (click on it  or here for the original source and full article):

1394664403-stop-making-bad-decisions-now

In other words, the more choices you give people, the more paralyzed they become and the poorer their decisions. These poorer decisions are increased when health and other conditions are not ideal.

So when you wonder why someone isn’t buying what you’re selling; isn’t going beyond a certain page of your website; isn’t making that choice, you may want to ask yourself if you are giving people too many choices… or if maybe they just all need to go eat an apple. ;)

There are some amazing articles I’ve read on this topic recently. Here are some worth checking out if you are also interested in this topic:

Mequoda’s indepth article about how Scientific American’s four subscription offerings could work better with less choices

Here’s an article summarizing why people don’t like so many choices and how it effects your website visitors. 

A Globe and Mail piece with some examples about how improving customer service (versus giving more choices) actually increased revenue.

Here’s a TED talk about how to make decisions more easily (you know, in case you need that sort of thing).

An article from Fast Company about how to make better decisions.

Now please excuse myself while I take 10 of the average American’s 90 decisions a day off the homepage of my website.