Tech

SnagIt: One Of The Best And Cheapest Tools I Use

I started blogging life (seriously anyway) as a personal finance blogger. Some of what I learned about living on a shoestring and putting money where it matters have help me run my business in a lean, mean way.

300px-SnagIt_screenshotIf you knew Breaking Even B.A. (That would be Before Alice), you’d understand that, while I had the ability to put together a basic looking and functional website, it was not necessarily going to be the most beautiful thing on the internet. Since she has come on board with her Photoshop skills, ability to understand my specs, and attention to detail, Alice has helped us begin to make truly well designed sites. Yes, I feel like with Alice, I can use the word ‘design’ without cringing.

All this said to say that, in our lean mean company with one Photoshop licence at the moment, Alice gets this licence. Clearly.

But people say, Nicole, you give presentations all the time, you blog. You clearly need the ability to manipulate images somewhat. And to them I answer that I use SnagIt. 

I first got introduced to SnagIt via Ogy, a great colleague who runs another web development business called Ogosense. (How I know Ogy is a long story but a fun one if you ever want to read it.)

We were on a conference call when I saw a flash go by on his shared screen and he started drawing arrows and circles around things in a program on his computer.

“What is that?”

“SnagIt.”

I did the thirty day free trial of the software and bought a license ($50- but look for coupon codes at retailmenot.com or other places like it because there is often some kind of promo going. I got it for $30).

More then being not super expensive like Photoshop, SnagIt has a lot going for it.

1. It’s Mac and PC compatible.

2. You can do basic image editing, like cropping,  resizing, add a watermark, adjust colors etc.

3. You can do extras like blurring text, superimposing your own text, drawing, etc.

4. It allows you to do image screen shots (on PCs this is an issue) and you can do video screen captures if you want to do tutorials.

I am sure I am only understanding tip of the iceberg of what this software can do. But I can honestly say, for most people, SnagIt is probably enough to do the basic image editing and screen capture functions that you need to do as a blogger or someone else who needs to document the internet or your computer.

If you’re on the fence, download a one month trial. And let me know what you think!

Why One Woman Wrote A Whole Book From An iPhone

This morning, I heard a story  on NPR about a woman who got diagnosed with ALS, a slowly degenerative disease that is eventually fatal. She spent the next year of her life living: travel with her family and doing all those other things you say you’ll do before you go.

She also wrote a book. Since at that time she only had movement in one thumb, she had her husband put her iPhobe in her non moving hand and she typed over 80,000 words with her working thumb into the Notes app on her phone (her iPad keyboard she said was too big to navigate).

I wanted to understand a bit how this felt so I typed this blog entry the same way. It was slow and I got the luxury of correcting my spelling errors, etc. on a full sized keyboard when I posted the blog.

It is amazing what the human spirit can do. Rather than seeing her limits, this woman saw her one working thumb and her still working mind and wrote the book she wanted to. Also made me realize there is more than one way to do something, even if one way takes longer and seems tedious. I thought it was the perfect thing to hear on a Sunday morning when I was feeling a bit sorry for myself feeling under the weather. Made me get up and do something with my day!

If you want to read (or hear) the interview too: http://kgou.org/post/living-life-joy-until-i-say-good-bye

Another great story about the same woman: http://thechronicleherald.ca/artslife/930473-her-toughest-assignment-reporter-chronicles-her-last-days

 

What I Learned At The Joomla World Conference

Last week, I got back from San Jose, California where I attended the Joomla World Conference. To those people who are not nerdy about websites, Joomla is one of the largest open source softwares used to create websites today (the other two ‘big’ ones are Drupal and Wordpress). The conference was held at eBay headquarters, which is one of the largest companies in the world that uses Joomla to run its site.

The conference was three packed days of keynote speakers, seminars, and networking from early in the morning until after dinner. The day after the conference and before my plane took off, some of us had time to do a nerdy area tour: lunch at In-n-Out Burger (my first time); tour of Mozilla headquarters; drive-bys of Google and Facebook; and finally a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and some Vietnamese food nearby.

Around 300 people attended the conference. I'm near one of the umbrellas if you can pick me out!

Around 300 people attended the conference. I’m near one of the umbrellas if you can pick me out!

So what were some of the biggest takeaways from the conference? What are some very smart people talking about in terms to what’s next in website development?

Responsive design is big but most of our clients aren’t asking for it yet.
Have you ever visited someplace where you ate a new food or saw a cool fashion trend that you tried to bring back home… only to have everyone look at you weird? Currently responsive design is kind of like that for me. Developers all talk about it at conferences and on blogs because it is changing how we think about making a website but most regular people just shrug when I bring it up.

As people who want to keep up with what’s new/cool and also want to serve our clients with services they are actually asking for, when/how do we bring up a new technology like this? Do we wait a couple years until clients start hearing about it and asking questions or do we start educating people about this option now?

After hearing four talks on responsive design at this conference, clients in larger markets are already asking for this technology. Also, there are ways that as the person creating the site, you can communicate with a client about the process without being overwhelming or ridiculous. While the  conference answered some technical questions about responsive design, it was mainly a ‘How do we present this to clients?’ question that I was looking for an answer for… and got here.

Want to know more about responsive design? Here’s what you need to know about it from a business owner’s point of view and if you really want to geek out, check out this video about The Boston Globe’s responsive design development. I embedded a basic video below for a short, basic definition about responsive design if you are less nerdy but curious enough to watch a 60 second video:

Open source software is the way to go since people participate in it and constantly improve it.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the stressing of open source software and open communication within the community.

What does ‘open source’ mean? It means not only having your product available for free but also being very open about your processes. This includes having your source code out in the open and making other things in the company public, including how you do business. This spirit of openness was not always common in the tech community but is becoming increasingly so.

Joomla is open source software. Actually its tagline is ‘Open source matters’. People create websites by taking this free software, installing it on their web server, and modifying it for their uses. From this, people have developed programs that work with Joomla (called ‘extensions’) or build entire Joomla design or support businesses. The Joomla community was very open and collaborative, which is refreshing to see since I myself prefer collaboration to competition.

One of my favorite talks was a keynote by Pascal Finette, the CEO of Mozilla, another open source software. You can visit their offices, they have Monday company meetings that are broadcasted so anyone can attend, and their products are all available for free to download.  In the open source community, instead of being technology consumers, we become participants, which improves the software more quickly and makes it more meaningful to everyone who uses it.

If you want to see what a Pascal Finette keynote is like, check out this video about the participant culture of being online:

In building a website, we can’t just think of ourselves.

Part of when we build a website is thinking about how we’d use it, but that can’t be all. Two presenters drove this point home for me.

One was Tito Alvarez whose talk ‘Lighter Joomla for The Third World’ talked about what challenges the third world has related to website technology and how we can develop websites that meet those challenges. For example he pays about $100/month to have 1/4 of the download speed that I take for granted every day. Helping sites load faster is not just something cool in the first world, it’s something essential for website visitors in the third world.

Cade working on his website. He's awesome and this photo is courtesy of JoomlaShack.

Cade working on his website. He’s awesome and this photo is courtesy of JoomlaShack.

The other speaker was Cade Reynolds, who was the youngest person at the conference (15) and also happened to be a presenter. Cade is a 4H participant from Missouri who, along with other people his age, took a Joomla training over the summer with Dr. Amy Patillo. Both Amy and Cade came to the conference to talk about website building with Joomla.

With both Tito and Cade, it was nice to see that Joomla users weren’t just technology nerds in Silicon Valley. They are a bit more like the rest of us, though probably a little smarter.

On a personal note, Cade gave me hope for our future. If 15 year old boys are half this great, our world is going to be ok when they run it!

Overall, I was impressed not only with what I learned but the kind of people I met. I hope to get to Joomla Day Boston if not another event soon. Thanks to Jeremy Wilken and the rest of the team who organized this great event.

I’d like to thank my client CNP Integrations who funded part of this trip. It was great to meet other people on your team in real life! Thanks!

The Pros And Cons Of Google Apps

I’ve been accused of being a bit of a Google enthusiast. The first stock I ever bought was Google. I use Google Calendar to manage my personal schedule and Gmail to filter my email.

Within the business, we use Google Docs to manage projects, Google Chat to talk to virtual collaborators, and Google Analytics to analyze the website data for our clients.

Google is, however, not infalable. Google can go offline on occasion like it did earlier this summer making tools unavailable. Your Google account could get hacked,wiping out your data. This is why it’s important to back information up (yes even cloud stored stuff needs backup!) and use very strong passwords on your accounts. (Here’s how to backup your Google stuff with a combination of Google Takeout and Thunderbird: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/download-gmail-google-data/)



All Google products, whether it’s a Google Form or a Google Map, allow two ways to share the information:
1) A link to it you can share with other people
2) An embed code where you can stick it on a website.

If you click the link or share button when you are somewhere on Google, it'll let you have a link to share the item on Google or the embed code where you can put the item on a website. Whatever you do, make sure your item is set to 'Public' if you want people to be able to see it!

If you click the link or share button when you are somewhere on Google, it’ll let you have a link to share the item on Google or the embed code where you can put the item on a website. Whatever you do, make sure your item is set to ‘Public’ if you want people to be able to see it!

Linking to the information makes it easy to share but the formatting is out of your control since you are linking to where it lives in the Google cloud.

If you take the embed code and put it on your site, you can sort of customize what it looks like.

You can embed a form, calendar, spreadsheet, Youtube video and more from Google into your website. The material still 'lives' on Google and is just displaying on your site.

You can embed a form, calendar, spreadsheet, Youtube video and more from Google into your website. The material still ‘lives’ on Google and is just displaying on your site.

Pros of Google Apps:

  • If you have not so tech savy people updating your site (but can find their way around Google) this is a nice alternative. Basically anyone with a Google account that you give permission to can update your Google item.
  • Some custom formatting possible (column colors, font sizes) make it possible to match the form more closely to your site than you’d expect
  • Indexed by Google (we can also say this happens on your website too but come on, if you were Google, wouldn’t you give stuff on your own server higher ranking?)
  • Shareable to other Google users. If I want to save your Google Calendar and put it with mine, I just have to click that I want to.

Cons of Google Apps:

  • You need to have a Google account and now, Google will press you a bit for more personal details (Google+) so it can collect demographic info and your online behavior information.
  • Not entirely customizable; still will look like a Google Doc for example.
  • Since the info lives on Google’s server and not on your site, any information in an iFrame is not able to be indexed in site search.



So when would I recommend you use a Google Apps versus a program that works with your site (like a Wordpress Calendar plugin):

1) When multiple people are updating a certain piece of info and you don’t want to give them access to your site. If you have volunteers/staff who have lots of other jobs besides maintaining x part of the website, sometimes not making them learn software can take some of the pressure off.
Ex: Booster Club member updates sports scores and only needs access to that spreadsheet.
You want to create a simple form questionnaire for your organization that your board needs to collaborate on.

2) When the organization is using Google already. It’s easier to use tools if you are already familiar with them.
Ex: Google Apps for Education already installed on the server of the school and used by teachers in the school for curriculum sharing.
Google Apps for Business is installed on the domain and the business is already using online calendars to merge schedules.

3) When you don’t care that it doesn’t exactly ‘match’ your site design or that people can’t search for fields of information with the site search. If you are aware of the limitations and don’t care, that’s ok.
Ex: You are going to put a description of the results as a paragraph on the website anyway in addition to the spreadsheet so people can find it via site search.
You don’t care that the chart menu doesn’t have the exact shade of blue in your logo. Close enough!

In other words, sometimes Google Apps are the right tool to use for the job and sometimes they are not. This is why in developing a site, you (or your developer) will want to know as much information about it as possible, including what kinds of information you want to display and who will be updating what parts of the website.

Google Apps, like many tools online, are a great option for collaborating and sharing information. If the features work for you, you can extend the functionality to your website and if they don’t you have other options!

Early to rise makes you technically wise

7:30 am, Wednesday April 25. You were probably still in your PJs enjoying your morning coffee while 30 MDI business owners were filling their bellies with eggs and their heads with knowledge at the mini-tech boot camp sponsored by the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce. David Charron of Comp-u-sult and Nicole Ouellette of Breaking Even Communications were on hand to give a lively and informative discussion on what you need to know to keep your business current with computer applications and online marketing presence.
David started with key points on how to manage your data and your computer. Wondering what the Cloud is? David explained that the Cloud is just the internet – and it is actually safer and more economical to have your data backed up online with a third party company such as Mozy or Carbonite. The sites are encrypted for protection, and your data is safely stored offsite.

Also discussed was the importance of strong passwords. “Everyone knows about using 3s instead of Es, you need to be more stealthy now.” David recommend using pneumonic that only you will know. “my dog barnaby jones like ice cream cones”  would translate to MDBJLICC.

David talked briefly about how all those pesky software update reminders you get, are actually software companies trying to protect you from malware. Software manufacturers and hackers are constantly leap frogging each other with updates, and if you have the latest software, you computer is the most secure. As well as updating your software, David talked about the importance of maintaining a clean computer – defragging, emptying the garbage, and scanning for viruses will make your computer happier and faster.

Both Nicole and David then discussed ways to manage your files and information in a way that you and your co-workers have easy access to information. Google Apps is an easy, free, software bundle – available on any web browser, that you can share and co-author documents, spreadsheets, calendars, and more. Google Drive is now combining the features of Google Apps and File Share servers like dropbox: for more details, this is an excellent article: http://www.mercurynews.com/larry-magid/ci_20488331/magid-taking-google-drive-spin

After this discussion of computer and data sources, Nicole stepped up to talk about how to reach customers who are savvy to the internet, and interest them in your business. Traditionally business spend big dollars advertising on television and print media, but with the internet you can reach more of your target audience, and for less money.

Nicole talked about the importance of having a mobile section of your website. People over 50 are the highest growing market for smartphones, and 50% of American adults have already have one. In an area like Mount Desert Island – which largely depends on tourist dollars – making your website accessible to potential customers who are traveling and depending on their smartphones, is certainly going to help your business.

Facebook as a marketing tool was discussed at length. As Nicole pointed out – your website is a static location that depends on people taking the initiative to visit it. A Facebook page allows your business to interact with people on a daily or weekly basis, depending on how often you post updates. Nicole recommends no more than 3 posts a week for business since more information could overwhelm fans.

She also explained the difference between a personal Facebook profile and a business page. Facebook business pages offer a great opportunity for you to access data about your customers  such as age, location, and common interests. A Facebook page also offers your business another opportunity to show up in a google search. Win win win.

Nicole then talked about the new Facebook Timeline, and gave a quick tour of what it has to offer including designing the cover image (the large scale photo on the top); customizing the display of applications installed on the Facebook page; creating milestones that illustrate the history of your company, and being able to ‘pin’ important news to the top of your page and have it remain for up to a week.

She then spoke about some new social media kids on the block, Fiverr, Pinterest, Kickstarter, and Google+. She pointed out that right now Google and Facebook are the A game, but things change very quickly and it’s important to keep up with the ever-changing world of online networking.

To close the meeting, a brand new Kindle Fire was raffled off, and awarded to Sheila Ward from the Inn at Bay Ledge.

By 9 am everyone was happily sipping coffee and congratulating themselves on how smart they were for learning how to use technology more effectively in their business and personal lives.

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This Week From The Interwebs: Texts From Hilary, Corgis, and Things To Buy For One Billion Dollars

I think I’m going to start a semi regular feature called ‘This Week From The Interwebs’. I see so much fun stuff online (‘interwebs’ being a funny, old-timey way of saying the internet) that I can’t share it all so here’s a repository for things I find interesting, in hopes maybe you think they are interesting too.

Here’s the song and video I can’t get out of my head, first and foremost:

You’re welcome for that. And in other news:

Texts From Hilary
This Tumblr blog was all the rage the last week or so. Inspired by an image of Hilary Clinton texting, it’s fake correspondence via text between Hilary and other famous people, some political (Barack Obama, Joe Biden) and some not so political (Ryan Gosling, Mark Zuckerberg). Whether you like Hilary or not, it’s pretty funny. This week, they’ve shut the blog down since they actually got a text message from Secretary Clinton herself. If you want to know how to say goodbye on a blog, the last post is a pretty fun and classy exit.
http://textsfromhillaryclinton.tumblr.com/

Apps From Social Media Breakfast Bangor
So I recently gave an ‘Appy Hour’ talk at the Jesup Library is Bar Harbor and the day after, I got this great link with more apps that I’d never even heard of. If you want to do more with your smartphone or tablet, here are some cool things you can do:
http://www.smbbangor.org/smbbgr11-app-show-and-tell

Youtube Is Now Letting Everyone Monetize Videos
It used to be Youtube only partnered with channels that got a lot of traffic but now, you too can have ads with your video that could potentially generate revenue for you.
http://mashable.com/2012/04/13/youtube-opens-partner-program/

Facebook buys Instagram for $1 Billion
A twelve person company dividing up $1 billion. Not bad math any way you do it. I just can’t quite believe the size of this deal (though the baseball deal this week was bigger, wasn’t it?)
http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/04/09/facebook-buys-instagram-for-1-billion/

33 Animals That Are Extremely Disappointed In You
This may be the funniest thing I’ve seen all week. Scroll to the end of the post (worth it) and you will understand my not-so-secret dream to have a pack of corgis follow me around all day.
http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/animals-who-are-extremely-disappointed-in-you 

Have a good weekend, on and off the interwebs!

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