Tech

Getting Rid Of Spam Cell Phone Calls

I swear if one more person calls to offer me $500,000 for my business, I’m going to scream.

It used to be as cell phone owners, we were free from telemarketing calls. Now none of us are immune.

What can you do to make your phone a telemarketer free refuge? (Non-profits are still allowed to call you, my college certainly does.) Here are a few things you can do.

Download a call blocking app.

It didn’t occur to me an app could do this until one of my friends mentioned it. I have one on my phone and it actually says ‘Spam’ on it when I go to answer!

Here are the call blocker apps for Android and here are the call blocker apps for iPhone. Try the free ones but honestly, to get your life back it’s probably worth a couple bucks.

Ask to be placed on the ‘Do Not Call” list…. or wait until the end of the recording to take yourself off it.

So if you get a real live human on the other end of the line, you can be asked to put on their do not call list. You can also add yourself to the main government list here: https://www.donotcall.gov/

What about robocalls? If you wait until the end of the pitch, you’ll hear a brief “… or press 2 to be placed on our do not call list”. I actually did this about ten times and seem to have gotten a lot less calls.

(Kassie Note: I recently received an automated phone call from a telemarketer about credit cards, and there was no “do not call list” prompt after staying on the line. So I pressed “1” to go through the “talk to a representative” motion, and just asked the person I got on the line to take me off the list. After said representative declared “You are obviously unhappy with your current credit provider” I think he realized his mistake and took me off the list. In other words, it may take a few extra minutes but you can usually find a workaround).

Send spam calls directly to voicemail.

This doesn’t exactly solve the issue but will cut down significantly on your annoyance. Most phones will allow you to send people not in your contacts list directly to voicemail.

Get Google Voice.

We recently switched to Google Voice for Anchorspace calls and it has been great. Voicemails are transcribed, and I get an email when I miss a call. I even get to have a sweet cordless phone on my desk to answer calls (P.S. you can also have these go to your cell phone; I just like that mine don’t). Much like Google is good at filtering email, it’s pretty good at filtering voice spam, too.

Escalate to your phone carrier or the FCC.

Most phone carriers have a process you can go through to get rid of unlawful calls; Verizon’s is here. Remember chances are if you’re getting harassed by a person or company, others are as well. If you aren’t the kind of person who complains on your own behalf, complain for those other people.

The FCC also has a way for you to complain about harassing calls (well, all harassing communications really): https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us

Maybe it’s never occurred to you that you can stop annoying calls to your cell phone, but think about it: if you even save yourself fifteen minutes a week, that’s fifteen minutes you could be doing something else. Take back your time, and your phone.

 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Can Your Phone Do That?

In addition to phone cases that do more, there are lots of accessories and attachments available that can transform your phone into any other tool you may need for your business. I couldn’t cover ALL the possible phone accessories/attachments in one blog post, since there are so many (and you can only really use one or two at a time, otherwise you’d have an Inspector Gadget phone). The following phone related gadgets are practical and affordable, plus their application can mean saving money on an extra piece of equipment.

Car Mount. This is helpful for people who travel a lot for work related purposes, but it can also be useful if you need a mount for pretty much any reason. This mount attaches to many different surfaces, so you can set it up on your window, wall, kitchen counter, and pretty much anywhere else. Think about anytime you’ve been using Google Maps on your phone for directions while trying to drive- not exactly a safe situation unless you have an extra arm. There are several different types of mounts available for different prices, but here is a recent list of 17 to get an idea.

Square Reader: If you’ve ever needed to accept a card payment from a customer on the go or without a retail setup, the Square Reader lets you swipe from your phone. To get the reader, all you have to do is sign up for a Square account and you’ll get the magstripe reader. Although it costs a little extra, you can purchase a Square Chip Reader for $29 that reads both chip cards and the usual stripe. Either way, the processing fee is 2.75% (which, if you consider the convenience factor is a bit of a fair trade). The reader works online and offline, so you don’t have to deal with the hassle of a bad internet/data connection in order to accept payments.

Keyboard. A useful tool for freelancers/people who may not have the budget to purchase a laptop but need to work on the go. Typing on your phone’s keypad is fine for shorter content, but as someone who has to type a lot of longer content, that tiny keyboard gets old fast. Some keyboards can be connected physically or through Bluetooth. Some of these keyboards range from $30-$130, depending on the brand. A couple features to consider- whether or not it comes with a stand (which I’d recommend if you don’t already have one to keep your phone upright while you type), and whether or not you want it to fold (which may be useful if you pack up and go a lot).

Dongles. Need to connect your phone to a projector? Certain dongles (the funny name for certain cords that connect your phone to another device) can hook you up. This Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter will connect your phone to a projector or any compatible AV device. For Samsung users, this HDMI cable will also do the trick. It’s also a great way to do movie night (not really a business application, but a fun idea nevertheless).

Selfie Stick. Don’t knock it till you try it. Selfie sticks are not the magic wand of narcissistic millennials, they can also have a business application. You can use them to get a better vantage point for a picture, recording live videos, and more. (Additional ideas for using a selfie stick include self defense and feeding your pets). Selfie Sticks may seem like a frivolous phone accessory for your business, but you’d be surprised at how handy they can actually be.

Are there any practical phone accessories you’ve found helpful that got neglected in this post? Let us know! We love hearing about useful tech stuff 🙂

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

The Mighty Macro

OK, so here’s a secret. I’m a trekkie. Have been ever since my family borrowed Star Trek III on VHS from the library, circa 1985. If you looked at my Christmas tree last month, you would see it festooned with ornaments resembling Star Trek starships (nothing says “Seasons Greetings” like a miniature Klingon Bird of Prey!).

Speaking of the holidays, I got a cool little gift from my wife — a clip-on macro lens for my iPhone’s camera. I immediately started taking shots of the aforementioned tree ornaments. But then I thought about how helpful this little lens would be for product shots, and how they’re a great affordable option for shooting product on a budget.

The beauty of Macro photography is how it allows your clients or customers to see product details that would otherwise be difficult to capture using a standard smartphone lens.

A macro lens for a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera will run you a cool $300 on the low-end. That’s on top of the cost of the camera itself, which can range from $500 to the thousands. And then you have to learn how to use the setup.

For entrepreneurs with a limited budget and even more limited time, however, consider dropping a few bucks on this cool little lens you can clip onto most any smartphone.

Woodworkers- want to emphasize that loving detail in a hand-carved reliquary, or maybe you want to accentuate the natural beauty of wood grain? Snap a photo using your macro lens and upload it directly to your website or Facebook page.

Bakers- want to show off your artistic skills in molding fondant onto a custom cake? Macro lens.

Florists- want to post an Instagram pic of the details of a really cool arrangement? Macro lens.

PHOTO OF GUITAR HEADSTOCK W/REGULAR LENS (NOTE THE TUNING PEGS):

CLOSE-UP OF HEADSTOCK’S TUNING PEG WITH A MACRO LENS:

Tips and tricks

  • Clip the macro lens attachment over your camera’s built-in lens and start experimenting with different angles. Shoot overhead, high, low, etc.
  • Make sure your product is in the best possible shape, polished and dusted if applicable. Macro is all about detail, and so any imperfections your product may have are gonna pop.
  • Word to the wise: any object placed in front of your camera’s lens — even a transparent object like another, clear lens — reduces the amount of light the image sensor receives. This in turn means your camera needs fire at a slower shutter speed to allow more light. So be sure you’re shooting in a well-lit area to improve the clarity of your photo.
  • Also, think about investing in a mini-tripod to attach to your phone. This will help reduce camera-shake and result in better-focused photos.
  • If you get a kit with multiple smart phone lenses, try the macro lens with a wide angle lens for even more flexibility in your product shoots. These were taken with a combo wide angle and macro:

Finally, have fun with it, because macro lenses open a new world of angles and possibilities!

Social Media Addict’s Gift Guide (Inaugural Edition)

No doubt, there’s a special person in your life who spends most of their time with their face 3 inches from their phone, wiling away the day on Snapchat and Instagram, or on Hoolie’s vast array of apps.

This holiday, what do you get for the person who has everything, because “everything” is on their phone and/or tablet? You could get them a GooglePlay or iTunes gift card. Perhaps you want for them something tangible, something physical, but something that still speaks to the giftee’s dire social media addiction. Most importantly, you want to give them something that’s not a selfie stick (now available in bargain bins everywhere!).

With that in mind, we present the 2016 Somewhat Snarky Social Media Addict’s Gift Guide:

Social Media Frame Cut Out
$8.99 on Etsy

This made to order digital file is perfect for those with big things happening in 2017, like a wedding, birth, vacation, or prison sentencing. Simply frame your selfie with this, uh, frame, post it online, and be prepared for a barrage of “Inception” jokes! Sorry, this is a digital file only, so it’s up to you to print it, cut it out, and mount it.

Like a Boss Social Media Humor Poster
98 cents plus s/h on Amazon

Perfect for: Bosses; Mark Zuckerberg; Fans of Facebook; Fans of dated Andy Samberg references.

 

Social Media Wedding Wooden Hashtag Sign
$27 on Etsy

It’s a wedding sign. Made of wood. Featuring trademarked social media icons along with your own custom hashtag. I don’t get it but hey, if this your thing, more power to you, I guess.

Social Network Shower Curtain
$14.95 on Amazon

According to the description, “(t)here’s a little ‘window’ for your face so it looks like a profile picture on a social networking site.” That is, if your profile picture was taken while you were in the shower, which raises all sorts of questions about your bathroom habits. Again, we won’t judge.

“Not Everything That Pops Into Your Head Needs to End Up on Social Media” Coffee Mug
$21.99 on Amazon

Recommended as a friendly, morning reminder for a oversharing teens, racist uncles, or anyone you know who can post six Instagram photos in 24 hours. 

Selfie Photo Album
$12 on Amazon

For that special narcissist in your life. You could also get them a mirror from the dollar store and save some scratch. The ideal companion to the theoretical photo album, “Meals I’ve Ordered, Photographed and Posted on Instagram.”

Sterling Silver At Sign Cufflinks
$65.99 (marked down from $220) on CuffLinks.com

Description: “Quite literally a sign of the times, the @ Symbol is ubiquitous with the media age thanks to email and Twitter. Constructed of .925 sterling silver, with an engravable backing, this set is ideal for any tech-wiz. Cufflinks by Ravi Ratan.” Fatal flaw: most tech wizes prefer to wear quasi-ironical T-shirts featuring Ninja Turtles rather than formal shirts, thus negating the need to link their cuffs.

Tech Greeting Cards
$3.50/card or $24.99 for 1o pack

(Full disclosure: this is our Etsy store.) Getting a card in the mail is amazing so give your favorite techy person a pack of cards they can send offline to their friends. Sentiments include ‘Let’s leave our phones at home and see what kind of trouble we can get into’ and ‘You speak excellent emoji’ and three others.

In other words, you have plenty off offline options to get your online friends and family. Are there any ridiculous social media gifts we forgot? Leave a comment with your recommendation(s) below!

Volunteer Organization: Three Ways To Do It Online

ivolunteerastributeI was approached recently by a non-profit about volunteer management. This seems like something you should be able to do online, right? (Or maybe that’s just how I think.)
If we break down the volunteer management process, we can see it comprises a few things. Some of these are mandatory (ex: signing on volunteers), some are extras (ex: letting volunteers self schedule).
Need:
  • volunteer sign up (collecting appropriate information about the volunteer in this process)
  • scheduling/matching volunteers for activities (this could be done by a coordinator or by the volunteers themselves, if activities/schedule was available to them)

Would be Nice:

  • searching for volunteers (allowing organization or individuals to search volunteers, ideally not just online for everyone to see to protect volunteer privacy!)
  • volunteer orientation (what should they know? do they have to sign something? onboarding process communicated or ideally fully enacted online)
  • contacting volunteers (this should be easy and possibly be able to be done as the full volunteer group for large scale communications)
We have a couple approaches to any project, including this one.

Option 1: Handle the absolute needs only with an easy solution people already kind of get.

In the example of a volunteer management, making a Google Form whose responses fed into a spreadsheet that only volunteer matchers could see is not exactly an elegant solution but technically meets the needs. Here’s an example form: https://docs.google.com/a/breakingeveninc.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd3sGh-U_0d2orvk_7zdVEijR2GIhF4VOST96LYUmfIRMgnmg/viewform?hl=en&formkey=dDl6U2RIdDAtak9IN3RwQzlselpFaEE6MA (Of course we can’t see the spreadsheet of responses because we don’t own the form but it exists.)
The pros are that this is dead simple. The cons are it would make the coordinator and anyone else doing volunteer matching/scheduling look through a spreadsheet to find people. Option 1 usually involves manual labor on someone’s part as it’s only a partial tech solution.

Option 2: Code something custom for yourself and be ready to do some planning.

If we were doing this on a Wordpress website for example, we’d probably use a combination Gravity Forms + Custom Searchable Fields. To let multiple people find their own volunteers, we’d have to password protect or otherwise make the search area private.
The closest thing I could find to this (thanks to Matt Baya for it actually) is the http://changingmaine.org/ website where they have a list off different non-profits that is searchable in multiple fields (location, type, etc.). If you modified this to have it list people with tags for different skills it would work something like what you are talking about.

Pros of anything custom is it typically works with what you already have to do exactly what you need it to do. Custom basically equals perfect for you.
Cons would be it would cost. Custom also means time and time means money. If you were going to use something across multiple schools or districts, sharing that cost with them could lower the price (but it also means your perfect solution also has to be theirs, which means more planning/conversations.)

Option 3: Find a third party solution and be ready for trial and error.

The idea with a third party solution is that someone else has already solved your problem and will sell you the solution to yours. Everything I’ve found related to volunteer management is software trying to do lots of other things (donor relations! events calendars! etc.) That said, I did just find this: http://theschoolvolunteer.com/take-tour/ and there may be more like it. (Of course, they aren’t saying pricing here but digging around online it says $0.16/user not sure if that means per volunteer or per month or what. It does have good reviews though.)

In many cases, we can transform the phrase ‘third party solution’ into ‘awkward sales call to find out how much it really costs and what it really does’. You may have to try a few things before you find a third party solution that works for your project.

I’ll stand by what I said and I could take this three option approach to almost any tech problem. You either go basic so you can deploy something quickly and at least partially fix a problem; do something custom and have lots of talks about feelings; or find something that already exists and is ‘good enough’. Depending on your timeframe, budget, and internal politics, the right approach may become apparent to you.

We’ll see what they decide about volunteer management but it’s nice to know they (and you!) have some options on that front.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Take Note: Tips on Having (and Keeping) Your Ideas

Do you know someone who always has an idea for something? When you talk to them, it seems like their mind is going a mile a minute, while you have maybe half an idea a day, wondering how this person can be “on” all the time. I’m generally cyclic, going through periodic idea spells and no-idea spells, which seems to be the norm. In the no-idea spells, I tend to notice the idea people more, and find myself wondering how they do what they do. As it turns out, it’s partially a gift, and partially a practice.

You might have heard of James Altucher’s “10 Ideas a Day” exercise. It’s similar to a gratitude journal, where you sit down every morning and write down ten ideas, if not more. The theory is the “idea muscle” is one that can atrophy, like any other muscle, when it’s not used. Although the explanation felt a bit aggressive for my taste, I’m all for becoming an idea person. Ten ideas a day, how hard can that be? (I tried it this morning, and similar to this article explaining the experience, I “started sweating” around number 4).

Altucher’s idea exercise is great for carving out some time to get your brain moving, but realistically, our brains aren’t going to limit idea-generation to this small piece of the day. Whenever I have a brilliant idea for something, it arrives at a super inconvenient time, and I fall into the trap of “Oh, I’ll totally remember this later- it’s so amazing, how could I forget it?” But…then I do.

Those of us who have been burned by this experience enough times will find ways to avoid this happening again. Others might be blessed with being idea machines, so the loss of one idea doesn’t feel as tragic. Here are some of the best tips I’ve had for jotting down these ideas (with and without technology):

  1. ALWAYS write it down. Whatever your idea is, make sure you get it out of your head to a more tangible place (paper, phone, etc). I’d say 87% of the time, unless I write it down, I only remember having an awesome idea, but not the idea itself. It’s pretty frustrating. To avoid this, there are a few things you can do, depending on your personal preferences. If you are a pen and paper person, one idea is to always keep a notepad close by. If you’re more of a phone person, there are all kinds of apps you can use to keep track of ideas. If you just want to jot down the idea and nothing else, the Notes app that comes with most phones is an easy way to jot things down and have them saved for later. But, if you want to get into some high-end note taking, apps like Papyrus, Evernote, and more let you dictate, add pictures, and share your notes with others. And, most of them are free!
  2. Be Consistent. One of my issues is being super inconsistent about where I put them. Then, when I need to find something again, I’m scrambling around because “it could be in one of six places.” Whatever time you might have saved writing down your idea gets lost trying to track it down again. This article recommends not only keeping your notes in a consistent place, but separating them by types for a higher level of efficiency. This might mean having an app on your phone totally dedicated to business related notes/ideas, while jotting down notes for a screenplay in a notebook you carry around. No matter what system you choose, the key is to be consistent across the board.
  3. Make sure it’s decipherable. Not your handwriting, although it’s a good first step. Sometimes, if we’re in a huge rush, we jot down a few words and carry on our way. Later, when we revisit them, it looks like complete gibberish. Losing an idea this way is arguably more heartbreaking, because you’ve actually put some effort into saving the idea. Avoiding this type of heartbreak involves finding the line between writing too much and too little. Allow yourself the time to write down as much as you think you’ll need to jog your memory.
It really only has to make sense to you...

It really only has to make sense to you…

4. Revisit. Don’t leave your ideas to sit around collecting dust. At the end of the week/month/whatever interval you choose, go back and look over what you’ve written down. More on organizing notes will come in a later blog post, but in revisiting your notes you’re sorting out ideas you might actually want to take action on at some point later on. After all, what’s the point of writing all these ideas down if you aren’t going to see one or two of them through?

Whether you consider yourself an idea person or not, writing down your ideas when you have them, be consistent and clear, and go back and look them over every now and then. What are some ways that you’ve found to get notes from in your head onto paper?

This month’s theme is all about notes, stay tuned for future posts throughout the month!

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.
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