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stupid phone


 
If I could do it easily, I would run a poll: “how many of you use a Smartphone vs. a traditional, old-style cell phone?”. I’m sure the vast majority would be using the former. Not that the readers of this blog represent, in my opinion, the phone user demographics properly, but that’s not my point.

 
Well, I’m not. The last time I switched phones was almost two years ago. Back then I intended to migrate to a Blackberry. But when I reached the store, it just seemed unnecessary. All I wanted was a phone with a big keyboard so that it would be easy to write emails and send text messages, which I got (the image above is the type of phone I’m using).

 
I would be lying if I said I regretted this decision. Though as time passed, I kept missing some features that others had. For example, I had no easy way of accessing my email or Twitter: I had to open a browser and type the URLs. I also had no way of uploading photos directly to email, Twitter, Facebook. Nor could I use applications like Foursquare – I’m not sure I would, but I’d definitely give these a try.

 
A few months ago I decided to upgrade: in 2008 all of my urgent emails were work based, so were answered at work. Now that I am self-employed, I really need to answer some emails when I’m away. I already do it if I really have to, but my phone really isn’t designed for this, so it’s not very convenient (purely in terms of interface). In addition, my phone has reached old age: it has an annoying habit of turning off in the middle of conversations – somehow, always when I’m trying to meet someone outdoors – or turn itself on in my pocket and dial random people (if one is reading this: my apologies!). It clearly needs to be retired (possibly even put down. It will be humane, I promise).

 
What are my choices?

 
iPhone: I know most people just looooove iPhones. I respect that. However, I have an iPod touch I’m not using at all. I can’t stand the touch screen interface, I don’t like the navigation interface… I just don’t like it. My iPod sits and gathers dust and I really need to just sell it.

 
Android: I decided I’m not getting one because it’s Google based. They already have too much information about me and the rest of the world, I’m not about to give them more. I imagine a scary scenario: it’s the year 2020 and Google can suspend/ban you from its applications if you go into certain areas: “You’ve been to MICROSOFT’s HEADQUARTERS? No GMAIL FOR YOU!”. Ask any affiliate marketer and they won’t deny that this is a plausible scenario (even if a bit exaggerated). We’ve seen Google at its worst (at least I hope that this is its worst).

 
Palm: I have heard good things about the palm, but when I saw it, it looked too similar to the iPhone for my taste.

 
Blackberry: that was my original choice. I know they are convenient for email management, they do hold the largest share of the Smartphone market, and I like the fact you don’t need to touch the screen on most of them.

 
So a quick summary of my goals:

  1. Get a phone experience that’s better than what I have.
  2. Be able to manage emails/Twitter/Facebook much better than I currently can.
  3. Be able to use apps – and I honestly care which app store, whether the Blackberry app store or Palm’s, etc.

 
Today I went to the store determined to make the transition. I left – pretty disappointed – without making one.

 
I played with all the phones. Most of the touch screen interfaces weren’t so inconvenient as I thought they’d be, so I decided to reconsider those. Some of the Androids had a physical keyboard, so I decided to risk the doomsday scenario I described (I deserve the criticism, I know) and include those as well.

 
Most seemed like good phones. But none, not even a single one, was as good for typing as my old style phone. Even the phones that included a keyboard were too small, or were designed in an inconvenient way.

 
People used to to tell me “Oh, you’ll get used to X’s way of entering text” (usually X was the iPhone). But no, I don’t want to! I don’t want to get used to a bad thing, I want to upgrade! When I switched to my current phone, typing immediately became pleasant and easy – I didn’t have to get “used to it”. Particularly now that I intend to use it for email much more, I don’t want to start hating my (new) phone! Not to mention, switching to a Smartphone increases one’s phone bill (though that’s not and never was the issue).

 
I’ll also state I have carpal tunnel syndrome (well, not exactly – something similar) – as a result of almost 30 years of typing – so typing on a small keyboard is always an unpleasant task for me.

 
I tried one after the other. They all sucked in this respect. I don’t get it: why can’t a single Smartphone manufacturer include in its device a keyboard that opens like mine? I’m not going to get a Smartphone just to be “cool” if it makes my life harder!

 
I started looking at the new models of my existing phone… these definitely improved in two years. But I didn’t feel I could make this decision, staying with a “stupid”, “moronic”, “clueless”, phone (i.e. not a Smartphone) without at least getting more information on the alternatives.

 
Therefore, I wrote this post.

 
Any ideas? I’m hoping someone would say that there is a mythical model, offered by company X, that does exactly what I want. And it’s either too expensive to be sold (I’ll pay the price!), or no one likes it so it’s almost free (even better). If I need to travel to China to get it, I’ll go there. If I need to sacrifice a small goat to the God of mobile phones, I’ll even do that. It is time to move forward. But really move forward.

 
Help?

 

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Social Media 201


 
Before I begin, I’ll diverge a tiny bit: Years ago I used to get quite nervous when I had to do any form of public speaking. While I can’t say this is second nature to me even now, a simple advice given to me by my Ph.D. adviser has really made a big difference. His advice was very (very) simple: “try to enjoy it”. After years of public speaking, I can say: it’s true.

 
I give the same advice to people who are interviewing for jobs. It might sound a bit surprising, but when I used to interview for positions myself (before becoming self employed) 95% of the time I genuinely enjoyed my job interviews – after all, it gives an opportunity to speak about myself and my accomplishments – so what’s not to like? Probably as a result, I used to be very good at job interviews. I believe the same kind of logic applies for public speaking. When one talks about a subject he or she is an expert about and likes it, the passion comes through and people get it.

 
Ok, back on track. Social Media 201: What a blast! Hard to summarize these three+ intense days.

 
This conference originated from the mastermind calls of a group I’m a member of. We have weekly calls, though since we work on joint projects, sometimes we form subgroups and talk twice or even three times a week. We’re a pretty big group and we’re spread out all over the US. As you may imagine, speaking so often with a group of people whom you share both your professional and technical experiences as well as personal lives brought us together, and we have all become close friends even though most of us have never met in person.

 

From left to right: Bille Baty, Darren Williger, Udi Schlessinger (me), Mike Whitmore and Eric Weaver

From left to right: Bille Baty, Darren Williger, Udi Schlessinger (me), Mike Whitmore and Eric Weaver



 
Social Media 201 included several of us: myself, Darren Williger, Bille Baty and Mike Whitmore, who co-organized the event with Joe Kennedy. It was more than exciting to finally meet my close friends in person – and in fact, it felt like we already know each other. Even “fate” made it more excited: Mike picked me and Bille, we came out of the elevator exactly when Joe and Darren came out of another elevator… the timing could not have been better.

 
So, to me, and I believe everyone else, the speakers dinner on the first day was fantastic. Even though the food was great, it was the company that really mattered.

 
The next day we rented a recording studio. Our goal was to create professional videos that can be used in group projects as well as by each of us for his/her own products. Since I’ve never been in a professional studio (green screen and all), and in fact, kind of avoid doing videos since I never like the way I come off, to me this was a very new experience. However, this was a LOT of fun.

 
A professional recording studio

A professional recording studio



 
Darren and me

Darren and me



 
Darren and Kris talk about dating (in Social Media!)

Darren and Kris talk about dating (in Social Media!)



 
We took turns interviewing each other. Not sure which background I want for my interview with Darren – which was as serious as we get (we never get serious!) – perhaps the Matrix’s scrolling green code. Trust me, it’ll fit well with what we discussed (the future of advertising in the context of the increase in mobile devices: Smartphones, iPads, etc).

 
Social Media 201 at Microsoft Headquarters

Social Media 201 at Microsoft Headquarters



 
The next day was the main event: Social Media 201. The conference was sponsored by Microsoft and Comcast in addition to several other companies, and took place at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond. Since I’ve known Microsoft and used their products since the mid 80s, it was exhilarating visiting MS HQ. I certainly hope it’s not the last time!

 
The conference itself was superb. Obviously, the main theme was social media and how small to medium businesses can leverage it to their advantage, and do so correctly. Eric Weaver gave a fantastic keynote speech. Jeff Dance, Kris Ruby and Bille Baty shared their expertise on various aspects of this process. Darren Williger gave an amazing keynote speech about the future of social media (check out the site he made for this topic).

 
My talk about SEO for Small Businesses

My talk about SEO for Small Businesses


My talk was about SEO for small businesses: how small businesses can improve their positioning on all search engines. Although this is not exactly Social Media, considering the target audience, we felt this fit right in – and in fact, someone tweeted at some point “how come no one mentioned SEO so far? – only to have me talk afterwards.

 
I think it went very well: many people approached me during the break, quoted me in tweets, and sent email to let me know they liked it. In addition, I really enjoyed giving my talk, which might be a reason why it went so well. My favorite tweet about my talk was “Dude’s hip hop” – since I used the phrase “it’s all about the Benjamins” as a reference to getting more business :)

 
SeattleWineGal and Kris

SeattleWineGal and Kris


After this was done, we went to a tweetup organized by SeattleWineGal, Seattle’s female answer to Gary V :) This was great, and I got to meet a lot of great people.

 
And then it was all done. After a few days of bonding with good friends who became much closer in this time, I have to say I was quite sad to say goodbye. Darren Williger is a walking, amazingly funny, personification of energy. Bille Baty is a legend – just being next to him makes a person wiser. I didn’t know Kris Ruby until before but she’s fun, smart – and our group will be much enhanced by her joining.

 
This may sound a bit melodramatic, but that’s how it feels. Fantastic 3 1/2 days.

 
Here are a number of websites and blogs that mentioned Social Media 201. It got rave reviews!

http://www.techflash.com/seattle/2010/04/guest_post_social_media_201.html

http://seattledesigner.blogspot.com/2010/04/business-card-is-still-currency-in.html

http://eco-maven.com/2010/04/20/a-social-media-freshman-in-the-sophomore-trenches%E2%80%A6-sm201-conference/

 

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Seattle


 
I’m off to Social Media 201 which takes place in Seattle. I’m going to give a talk about SEO for small businesses. This is a topic I can easily talk about nonstop for an entire day – if not several days (but obviously, will have much less time to do so).

 
In addition, we – my friends, the participants and the organizers – also have a studio for a day which we’re going to use. We intend to record videos for a possible group project, and for our own personal use. This is going to be fun! I’m feeling so-so at the moment, hopefully it’ll clear up by Wednesday. I don’t want to be “immortalized” with a cold! Then again, they may have special effects available..

 
I’m very excited to finally meet in person some good friends and fellow participants that I’ve been talking to over the phone 1-3 times a week, usually for hours, and yet never met.

 
AND there’s going to be a Tweetup organized by @SeattleWineGal (what social media event would be compete without a tweetup??). I hear she does the best tweetups, and I’m really looking forward to this one. I hope to meet some people I’ve chatted with over there! Please say hello if you know me.

 
On a final note, this conference has a few strange coincidences for me. It’s a bit of an odd coincidence that this conference takes place in Seattle (actually, it doesn’t exactly: it’s in Microsoft’s headquarters at Redmond). The last academic conference talk I gave was in Seattle as well: GECCO 2006 (just in case you are curious, my talk was titled “Modular thinking: evolving modular neural networks for visual guidance of agents”, which is somewhat more complex than what I’m going to discuss now :) ).

 
My last talk was on my birthday whereas this talk takes place on my wife’s birthday. Odd.

 
Anyway, I was very close to finishing my Ph.D., and my mind was already thinking of what comes next. I anticipated that the last day’s activities would be finished later than they did, and so, my flight was scheduled for the evening. As a result I had about 2-3 hours in which I had nothing to do. So I walked all over Seattle – a beautiful city – and then reached the conclusion that I need to retire from academic life. I won’t go into the details why (very long story), but that is the moment when I made the decision.

 
I was a bit sad about this, as I enjoyed my time in Academia, but this felt like the right course of action – which, in hindsight, was a correct assessment. Funny that the next conference talk I give is in Seattle (close enough..) as well. When I went on the plane towards home, I had a good idea that what I’m going to do is going to involve entrepreneurship, but wasn’t sure about the specifics or that I’m going to be involved with conferences in the future. So this feels like closure to me.

 

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My Summary of 2009


 
Originally I intended to write a summary of “my 2009″. But after reevaluating this, I decided to make it shorter.. or better phrased, easier to digest. Just share some of the lessons I learned this year. I’m mixing both the personal and the professional here, though items are generally grouped together.

 
Overall, 2009 was a great year. There were some rough moments, both personal and professional, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.

 
In 2009 I learned:

  • That as suspected, having no boss and being self employed would result in (easily) more than twice the amount of hours that I worked when I had a boss. Even when considering investment banking (notorious for demanding a lot of hours).

     

  • That even though I am smart, an excellent planner and a hard worker… I sometimes lack focus. And focus matters more than I realized. This one was a very valuable lesson.

     

  • That working insane hours but having much more time to spend with your family is SOOOOOOO worth it.

     

  • That working after 4am can cause you the equivalent of a hangover. Since then I try (and often fail) not to do so.

     

  • That “Do No Evil” is just something that Google says, but nothing more than that.
  • .. and that things can change in a way you’d never expect: Who knew I would ever be rooting for Microsoft?

     

  • That twitter is not just about sharing “what I just ate” (admittedly, I used to think so too) but rather a wonderful, albeit addictive, medium for meeting friends and making business connections.
  • …yet sharing “what I just ate” occasionally results in the most fascinating discussions.

     

  • That Twitter includes the entire range of the human spectrum: the best, kindest and most wonderful people you’ll ever meet, and also some of the worst. And that “Block” is a wonderful option for the latter.

     

  • That Twitter allows one to find many people who need help but don’t know how to ask for it.
  • … but also that it’s wise to draw lines, otherwise you may get pulled in and (at times) blamed for some of their troubles. A lesson I learned the hard way.

     

  • That some celebrities are extremely friendly, and yet other people at times act like the worst celebrities regardless of the fact they’re no different than you and I (often less, actually).

     

  • That being a Twitter ex-con makes you tougher… kind of. Okay, it just makes you less talkative which may make you appear tougher (see my blog post on Twitter Jail).

     

  • That blogging about “professional subjects” leaves enough room for humor and self expression (until this year I’ve only had personal blogs).

     

  • That some spammers have a well honed sense of humor (see my two posts on spammers: spammers types, and spammers jokes).

     

  • That a good affiliate manager is worth his/her weight in gold (and if we’re talking about a really thin one, then platinum).

     

  • That sometimes you really need to listen to your instincts, but other times you really need to ignore them. Both professionally (in this case, talking CPA offers/Landing pages/Ad copy), and personally.

     

  • That due to the secretive nature of affiliate marketing, the good ideas usually stay with you, while the bad ideas get rehashed, repackaged, and resold.
  • …and I wish I could say more about the former…

     

  • That PPV is just awesome.
  • … but other times it’s not fun watching your entire budget evaporate in 20 minutes without any positive results.

     

  • That the most successful people – at least in affiliate marketing – are usually the most modest ones (or the most silent ones – sometimes it’s easy to confuse the two).

     

  • That it’s hard finding people who truly want to collaborate as a team. But when you do… it’s the best thing.

     

  • That quotes are a great way of saying what you want to say without saying it. And that sometimes this is very important (yes, being cryptic is part of the point here ;-) )

     

  • That some friends don’t even give the tiniest of warnings before they decide this world is not for them. Kaya, I wish I got to know you better before you left us. I hope you are at peace, wherever you are. (I intended for this to be the last item, but I don’t want the last one to be sad… and the next one relates in a way Kaya would have found amusing, I think).

     

  • That being deprived of cupcakes is extremely dangerous (more about that in future posts).

     

  • That I can survive on my own cooking (who knew?).

     

  • That having a character named after you in a book is, like, the coolest gift ever.

 
Can you believe it’s already 2010? I feel it was just 2000 maybe 2 years ago… how did a whole decade pass so quickly? Personally, I think 2010 is going to be fantastic – I just know it.

 
Happy new year everyone!

 

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