Monday, June 23, 2014

Blogging Genres, Topic Ideas for New Bloggers

"What should I write about?", Is one of the most common questions new bloggers ask.

The short answer: Absolutely Anything!

The long answer is.. anything that interests you in which you can become an expert through the natural course of your life or career. One of your first and biggest challenges will be to create your first thirty blog posts. To write that many posts quickly, you're going to need to know something about your topic already, plus you'll need a ready source of additional information.

The following list will get you started. Focus on your life and/or your career, simply because, it's what you know. Gradually your blog will evolve.

Topic Ideas for Blogs


Computers and technology 


If you're considering blogging, chances are you're already pretty computer literate. Additionally you're talking with an audience it's already computer literate. Computer and technology blogs have a huge audience, but there is also a huge number of bloggers in this realm. My suggestion: get as specific as possible!


Categories of Computer and Technology Blogs


  • Programming languages
  • hardware evaluation and benchmarking
  • software evaluation
  • IT professionals
  • android/iPhone users
  • Windows/Apple OS users
  • Linux users
  • web designers
  • graphic designers
  • digital photography and Photoshop
  • gadgets and toys
  • Hobby specific technology
  • industry-specific technology


Dad Blogs / Mom Blogs


This may seem like a very broad audience, but surprisingly, it isn't. Lots of parents visit dad blogs and mom blogs, but they tend to become loyal followers of parents to which they can relate very closely. Similar ages, genders, disabilities or unusual family dynamics make great relatable topics for blogs.


Categories of Dad/Mom Blogs:


  • Single dads, single moms
  • New baby
  • parenting toddlers
  • parents of pre-teens
  • parenting teenagers
  • twins or triplets
  • kids with disabilities
  • kids with learning disabilities
  • homeschooling
  • spirituality or church focused
  • sports coaching blogs
  • parents with disabilities
  • adoption or foster care
  • two dad or two mom households
  • large families
  • single child homes

Maker/how-to/do-it-yourself Blogs


Step-by-step instructions with photos are very useful and can cover a huge number of topics and interests. These blogs are also popular with search engines.


DIY and Instructional Blogs:


  • Cooking blogs and recipes
  • household repairs and home improvement
  • personal finance
  • art instruction
  • musical instrument instruction
  • crafts for kids or adults
  • science experiments

Food blogs 


Talk about a wide audience… Everybody eats! Recipes are just the beginning. There are also blogs about restaurants, food presentation, and every conceivable niche type of food.


Sample Topics for Food Blogs:


  • Restaurants by city
  • Restaurants by ethnicity or region
  • Fine Dining restaurants
  • family-friendly restaurants
  • Fast food restaurants
  • gourmet cooking
  • Family-friendly cooking
  • quick meals
  • vegan or vegetarian blogs
  • beverage blogs i.e. tea, coffee, beer, wine
  • food specific blogs, i.e. bacon, chocolate, cheese, hummus, desserts
  • restaurant presentation
  • event dining i.e. weddings, bar mitzvahs, corporate conventions
  • cake decorating
  • food sculpting
  • dieting, healthy eating
  • organic blogs and locally sourced foods
  • pre-preparation foods i.e. growing vegetables, butchering, herbs and spices

Health and fitness blogs


Health oriented blogs are popular with both healthy people and non-healthy people. Whether you want to demonstrate how to improve your body, or share how to cope with a difficulty, health and fitness blogs create loyal audiences.


Health and Fitness Blog Topics:


  • Raising healthy kids
  • healthy eating, i.e. veganism, vegetarianism, low carbohydrate diets
  • managing allergies
  • women's health or women's fitness
  • men's health or men's fitness
  • senior health and fitness
  • bodybuilding or strength training
  • aerobic and cardio workouts
  • weight loss progression or motivation
  • disability specific blogs i.e. multiple sclerosis, quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy
  • cancer blogs
  • diabetes blogs
  • mental illness or Alzheimer's blogs
  • chronic heart disease or chronic digestive disease
  • yoga, massage, meditation or other spiritual/physical exercise

Steals and Deals Blogs 


The Internet has become a gold mine for bargain shoppers. Additionally, for marketers it can be an inexpensive way to introduce products. A blog that helps shoppers find giveaways, deals, special promotions and group discounts for both online and off-line purchases can be fun and lucrative. Additionally, having a steals and deals section of another blog can reinforce your topic and attract regular readers.


Samples of Moneymaking and money-saving blogs:


  • Online freebies
  • coupons and discount codes
  • baby products
  • health and beauty deals
  • restaurants
  • local events or venues
  • new product reviews
  • money-saving tips
  • work-at-home opportunities

Fine arts 


Do you have a particular talent you'd like to display or teach? Consider starting an art related blog.


Art, music, and performance blogs:


  • Painting, drawing, sculpting
  • mixed media or unusual media creations
  • trash to treasure blogs
  • antiquing
  • art history
  • photography, filmmaking, video production
  • musical instruments
  • audio production
  • computer graphics or animation
  • graphic design or marketing art
  • temporary art or street art
  • tattooing and body modification
  • dance, choreography
  • automobile customization or restoration
  • steam punk
  • burlesque performances
  • fiction writers and poets

Career building blogs


Whether you are an industry veteran, or just finding your way, you have experience and knowledge to share.


Career blogs:


  • Work-At-Home Mom/Dad blogs
  • small entrepreneur blogs
  • restauranteur or catering
  • health careers
  • travel or transportation careers
  • business or finance careers
  • pet industry careers
  • social services careers
  • recent college/recent high school graduates
  • training and management
  • technical or IT
  • how to guides for specific businesses
  • resume or job search advice

Lifestyles 


Is there something that makes you unique? Do you have a unique hobby? Do you hang with a unique crowd? Do you have an alter ego? A lifestyle blog can bring a community together, or introduce others to your community.


Lifestyle or hobby blogs:


  • Gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender communities
  • collectors of coins, stamps, baseball cards or Barbie dolls
  • avid followers of specific bands or music genres
  • celebrity fandom or celebrity gossip
  • sports teams
  • model railroading, woodworking or dollhouse building
  • hippies, yuppies, hipsters, party kids or even introverts
  • Politics, causes or protests

Travel and bucket list blogs 


Travel blogs have been around for a while, but recently "bucket list" blogs have also become popular. Write about things you want to see and places you want to be before you kick the bucket.


Travel Blog Ideas:


  • Natural wonders of the world
  • visit all skyscrapers
  • hidden gems in your major city
  • visit Amish country
  • visit every continent
  • visit every state
  • backpack Europe or ride the Orient express
  • hike the Appalachian Trail
  • life of luxury traveling
  • travel on a few dollars a day
  • roadside diners or strange attractions
  • ride roller coasters
  • extreme cold, extreme heat, extreme jungle
  • be homeless
  • travel off the grid
  • grifters, conmen, and other traveling storytellers

Spirituality, religion, and morality


Whether you are seeking truth, or believe you found it, others want to share your journey. Whether your views are mainstream or extremist, there are others who share your worldview.


Spirituality, religion and morality-based blogs:


  • Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Hinduism primers
  • Zen, Buddhism, Tai Chi, Baha'i or enlightenment
  • Mormonism, Scientology, Wiccan or Satanism
  • humanism, Unitarianism, atheism or agnostic
  • environmentalism
  • pro-life
  • animal ethics
  • fight racism or anti-Semitism
  • racial or religious supremacy


As you can see, there are literally thousands of potential blogs just waiting to be written. Staying true to your topic and blogging consistently can help you become a powerful member of the blogging community and a thought leader within your niche.


Regardless of your topic, keep blogging!



Monday, June 9, 2014

Gatorade Pokes fun at Lebron James then apologizes

Gatorade (a PepsiCo brand) poked fun at LeBron James -- who promotes rival Powerade (A Coca-Cola brand) -- after cramps kept James out of the final minutes of Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The brand tweeted, "Theperson cramping wasn't our client. Our athletes can take the heat." Gatorade later issued an apology, saying: "As a longtime partner of the Miami Heat, we support the entire team."

PepsiCo learned that basketball is much different from NASCAR. NASCAR fans are very loyal to favorite drivers and their sponsors. Pepsi's Mountain Dew can comfortably tease a Coke product driver without alienating Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans.

Gatorade, however, regrets going after arguably the NBA's most popular superstar. Even more so when said superstar is leading his team (who also has a Gatorade sponsorship arrangement) in the first game of the championship series.

Brands need to recognize that fans are loyal to players and teams, and because of this, will buy products they endorse. However, your brand can get hurt by knocking their rival's athlete.

Team sports aren't like auto racing, where the athletes can sometimes be seen as a traitor when they abandoned their brand. Formula One is particularly unique. A driver leaving Ferrari to race for another livery will likely leave many fans behind.

On the other hand, Gatorade and Powerade are the only two brands being talked about for free in every sports section in the country. In doing that, the two giants separate themselves from any other competitor in the wide open energy/sports drink market. Maybe their mistake wasn't so much of a mistake after all.

Monday, January 13, 2014

New U.S. Postal Service Shipping Rates

The U.S. Postal Service is proposing a rate hike for shipping rate. Shipping rates could increase as much as 2.4 percent as soon as January 26. If your business relies heavily on shipping via USPS, it may be time to check costs.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why Snapchat Said "No Thank You" to $3B from Facebook

Here's the short version. A small company called Snapchat was offered a $3 billion buyout by Facebook yesterday (yes, that's a "B").

Snapchat said "No Thanks" even though their userbase is relatively small compared to Instagram and Twitter and they aren't even profitable.

Snapchat offers a mobile phone app that allows you to take a picture, share it online, then after a few minutes it disappears; very handy for those college students who have had a few beers and fewer brain cells and intend on getting a job someday.

So why would Snapchat turn down $3B, triple what Google paid for YouTube? For that matter, why would Facebook make the offer in the first place? Facebook has a lot of money, but they aren't stupid.

I had some thoughts on the matter, but then a colleague published this on his Facebook page. He pulled my fuzzy thinking and absolute clarity.

Kyle Graham, kudos to you. Here is his answer in its entirety:
Kyle Graham - brainiac
[KNOWLEDGE BOMB] Lately, a lot of people have been scratching their heads as to why Facebook offered Snapchat $3B to purchase them, and why Snapchat turned them down. Seems crazy, right!?!?! Especially for a seemingly unknown outfit.
Well, not so much...
Let me break it down.
This actually isn't that new. Back in 1997, Microsoft scooped up Hotmail for $400MM (then worth barely anything...CRAZY at the time), Skype was scooped up for $2.6B in '05 by Ebay. GeoCities by Yahoo in '99 for $3.56B. YouTube for $1B in '06. And more recently, Instagram for $1B last year. 
The list goes on-and-on...
Makes no sense right?
Well, here's the deal.
Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Twitter, etc. are all in an all-out-WAR for control of the Internet.
It's not about traditional valuation, EBITDA, etc. That stuff is pointless in these cases...
You see, there's this phenomenon seen especially in the social networking world called the "Network Effect" which basically means the value of a network becomes exponentially more valuable the more people that are on the network. In other words, for every additional user that signs up for Snapchat, that network becomes exponentially more valuable.
Combine that with the viral nature of these networks, you get a situation where the VALUE of these networks climbs EXPONENTIALLY fast.
So the reason why these companies like Instagram and Snapchat are getting gobbled up so quickly and for so much cash, having made NO money is because of this very fact.
...but here's where it gets really crazy.
If Google, or Facebook, or any Internet giant *DOESN'T* acquire them FAST, with enough time the 'fledgling' network will become SO valuable it might actually eclipse Google/Facebook.
It's happened before (e.g. its the *very* way Google & Facebook started)
Also, there's a point in viral growth called the "saturation point," where it becomes literally IMPOSSIBLE for another network, no matter how much resources they throw at the situation, to catch up to them. 
You can liken this phenomenon to a runner who's speed increases exponentially over time. Every second he runs exponentially faster than the last. Eventually he'll be running SO FAST that no matter what you do, you literally CAN NOT over-take him. This is what's happening.
The only way to stop the CRAZY growth of companies like Snapchat & Instagram is to buy them, and even then, you gotta hope you're not too late, or that the other party is too stupid to know what they have!
This is EXACTLY why Facebook came out of nowhere and is giving almighty Google a run for its money now (and arguably why Eric Schmitt got demoted).
...and this is **EXACTLY** why Google Plus never had a fighting chance. It was too late...Facebook reached saturation.
Bottomline, if these network companies DON'T get acquired in time, they'll be too valuable to be purchased. 
This is why Snapchat turned down Facebook. 
This is why Twitter turned down Facebook. TWICE! in the face of many 'experts' calling them 'stupid' for doing that. Now, they're valued at over $35B. Who's stupid now??
We live in some interesting times...
A time where a couple of geeks in a dorm can create a quick hit and topple over GIANT within a matter of a couple years. 
...and the ONLY defense these giants have against it is acquisition.
They'll pay WHATEVER it takes.
And they don't even care what the service does. Disappearing photos, really??
So, as long as you can show significant network effects and hockey stick growth, the Internet GIANTS will be scared silly and throw money at you as a DEFENSE mechanism.
...cuz if they don't, you might be the next Facebook or Twitter.
Thanks, Kyle, for sharing your insights and giving me permission to publish it here. I think you are spot on!

[shameless plug] Kyle built a piece of software (tenminutepages.com) that's brilliant. It uses WYSIWYG technology to create landing pages. I recommend it.

Basically you can spend the next couple of years learning HTML CSS JavaScript etc. then take a couple of courses in marketing and business writing… Or you can give Kyle 95 bucks. It's a no-brainer. If you have stuff to sell, just go buy it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Picture Passwords and more cool Lock Screen customizations in Windows 8

One of the new features of Windows 8 that is particularly useful to tablet and mobile users, and particularly annoying to PC users, is the Lock Screen. When you put your machine to sleep or to AFK (away from keyboard), a Lock Screen comes up. On a mobile device or in an office, you want to keep your desktop hidden from prying eyes when you aren't paying attention. However, if you have Windows 8 in your home or office, and you are the only user, it can be annoying.

Here’s how to get the most from the Windows Lock Screen:

Customize the Lock Screen

You can change the background image of your Lock Screen. Open the Charms Bar (the top right corner of your start page) and choose “Settings”. From there select “Change PC Settings”. Most of your customizing can be done here.

Turn Off the Lock Screen Password 

If your PC is in a secure location, you may want to disable the password on login. From “Change PC Settings”, click “Accounts” then “Sign-In Options”. The last option permits you to turn off login passwords altogether.

Create a strong password 

If it is necessary to use a password on your PC, create a strong password. The best passwords have a mix of letters, numbers and symbols such as the @ sign. Remember it, but don’t make it easy to figure out. Everyone knows your dog’s name and your kid’s birthday. Be more creative.

Simple Password or PIN

Windows also has a second password option, the Personal Identification Number or PIN. This is handy for signing in after a bathroom break. It’s also handy as a back up plan when you forget that strong password you just created.

Create a Picture Password 

One of the coolest features of Windows 8 is that it’s optimized for touch screens and telephones. For these you can create a Picture Password. The start screen image acts as a map. In the “Accounts” area, choose “Picture Password” and follow the instructions. Now you can trace a pattern right on top of the image. Don’t forget to update it if you change your Lock Screen background.

Change the Background on the Lock Screen 

You can change to any photo. Under “PC Settings” choose “Personalize” in Windows 8, or in Windows 8.1, choose “PC and Devices” then “Lock Screen”. You can choose from one of their pictures or click browse to use one of your images. Again, don’t forget to change your Picture Password if you’re using that feature.

Change Notifications on the Lock Screen

The default notifications are the time and date. I kept these, but you can add several other apps by selecting them under the “Lock Screen Apps” section of the previous settings page. If your boss sticks you in a closet with no windows, it might be nice to know the weather. If you communicate by email, you can have your mail app inform you when something new arrives.

As much as I hate “waking up” my computer at work, the Lock Screen does have some nice features which at least make it useful. For tablet users, you should love it. Come on, a Picture Password is cool. Old passwords are so 2007!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

25 Tips for Windows 8 - Mastering your Desktop

25 Tips for Windows 8 - Mastering your Desktop

I just bought a new PC running Windows 8. After I have some time with it, I'll write a formal review, but meanwhile, here are 25 Tips and Tricks to help you get started using the latest Microsoft operating system.

Windows 8 Tips and Hacks


#1 The taskbar is more functional than ever. You can right click on "lock the taskbar" to lock or unlock the taskbar. Several features can only be used after its unlocked. 

#2 Grab the top edge of the taskbar (unlocked) and you can drag it up or down to give yourself more room for icons and tabs. 

#3 The taskbar doesn't have to stay on the bottom. Again, unlocked, you can click and hold on a blank section and drag it to the top of your screen, or even to the left or right edge.

#4 Select the taskbars properties menu by right clicking on the taskbar. You can change the menu location and choose how large the icons appear. I like small icons, but if you are using Windows 8 on a tablet, larger desktop icons may be preferred. 

#5 In taskbar properties, choose the "taskbar buttons" menu. Click "combine when taskbar is full" and similar windows will stack on top of each other for that Windows XP feel. 

#6 The notification area in the right hand corner can be customized. Click the little "up" icon just to the left of the notification area. Here you can see all the background programs running on your PC. 

#7 Right click the taskbar and you can "cascade windows" and each window will organize on your screen to overlap with just the top drag bar showing.

#8 Speaking of the top drag bar, grab any window and drag it to the left or right, top or bottom and the window will snap into place, securing it to the edge of the screen. 

#9 Need a new window for your application? Shift clicking on any open document in the taskbar will open a new document using the same application.

#10 You can hide the taskbar altogether. Right click and select "properties" and chose "auto-hide the taskbar" and it will disappear until you roll your mouse against the edge of the screen, causing the taskbar to reappear.

#11 The taskbar has its own toolbar menu. You can add handy tools such as search boxes or internet address box. 

#12 You can even create a new toolbar.  Under the toolbars menu choose "new toolbar".

#13 Use peek to peek at a minimized window. To turn on peek, go to taskbar properties and choose "use peek". Hovering over the tab will show a miniature version of that window.

#14 Task Manager is a great way to look under the hood of your PC. You can look at all open applications, background services, and see how much of your system resources are being used for each. Check out how much of your ram and what percentage of your computing power is being used up to the second. 

#15 Keep your desktop organized. Many people tend to drop things here and create clutter. However, if you don't mind the clutter, you can also change the size of the icons making more room for more files. You can keep shortcuts or entire files here.

#16 Right-click the desktop, under the view menu, you can choose whether or not your icons are aligned to the grid. Aligning to the grid keeps your desktop orderly but turning this off gives your more flexibility to put icons anywhere on the desktop. 

#17 Auto-arrange icons can also be done under the view menu. This lets Windows rearrange things into an orderly fashion. This is particularly useful when two icons get accidentally placed on top of each other. This will separate all icons into columns.

#18 Hide everything. Right-clicking on the desktop view menu and you can uncheck "show desktop icons". Your icons will disappear, but the files are still intact. You can use your documents window under "desktop" to get to your files or simply turn them back on. This is very handy when doing a screen share presentation and you don't want the viewers to see that you have seven copies of various Angry Birds games on your computer.  It's also handy when the boss walks by.

#19 Sort the icons by choosing "sort by" after right-clicking on the desktop. You'll have several options including of course alphabetically. 

#20 Start a new folder or file right on your desktop by right-clicking anywhere on the desktop "new".

#21 Left-click on the little clock on the corner and a handy clock and calender will pop up.

#22 Right-click on "adjust date/time" and you can add more clocks from any time zone. Do you need to know what time it is in Japan, Malawi, Paris and Jamaica? No problem. 

#23 You can set the clock manually, or have Windows do it for you. Windows 8 can even automatically adjust for Daylight Savings Time, although it won't help you wake up an hour earlier the first day it changes.

#24 Right-click on the desktop and choose "personalize" and explore all the options for changing your desktop wallpaper, screensaver, fonts and sounds. 

#25 Right-click on the desktop and choose "screen resolution" to change the number of pixels your monitor displays. This is a great way to get all the text larger for easier reading, or choose a higher resolution for more working space. The one identified as "recommended" or "native resolution" is the best size for your monitor and a good place to start.

Little tweaks to your desktop can enhance your productivity, make the desktop more comfortable, and even reduce eyestrain by adjusting colors and sizes. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dun & Bradstreet Phishing Scam


Today I received an e-mail from Dun and Bradstreet requesting that I respond to a complaint filed against my company. It had an attachment, and requested I download it, read and respond. I'm always cautious, but this e-mail was extremely convincing.

I contacted Dun & Bradstreet directly and learned that it was in fact a phishing scam, and customer service has been inundated with inquiries today. They are currently in the process of investigating.

Phishing scams are generally used to target the general public, but clearly scam artists are upping the ante.

Use these best practices to prevent phishing scams while not missing a legitimate communication.

Rule #1: Never open an attachment unless you are expecting it. It used to be they told people not to open attachments from e-mails they don't recognize, but today that's not good enough. I received malicious e-mails from extremely credible companies and even personal e-mail addresses. Even e-mails from your mother should be suspect unless you are expecting it.

Rule #2: Never open an attachment until you verify it, even if it may be legit. Some malicious software can replicate and read e-mail themselves from an infected device. If you get an unexpected attachment from someone you know, call them or e-mail them to verify that they did in fact send you an attachment.

Rule #3: Never open an .exe file for any reason. Application files pose the most risk. If it is necessary to send an executable file, don't use e-mail at all. Today there are better ways of transferring large files securely.


Other notes:

  • As I've said, .exe files are the most dangerous but other types of files can also have embedded content. Any web link could be potentially suspect. Word processing documents such as .doc or .docx can also contain malicious script. Generally .txt and .rtf files are safe. Image files are generally safe as well. It's important to note, however, that just because a file ends in a safe suffix doesn't mean that it's absolutely clean.
  • Malicious e-mails don't necessarily need attachments. If they provide a link, often this link will take you to a look-alike site with login information. This is particularly dangerous when it's a financial institution such as PayPal or your bank.
  • If it's from a company you use, type the web address directly into your browser, rather than clicking a link. Links can be masked, and will often use is similar, but not exact domain.
  • If it's from a company you don't necessarily use, use Google to search for the company to make sure you have the legitimate website.
  • Call the company, providing them with as much detail as possible. It's important that large companies know when their customers are being targeted.
  • Don't rely on antivirus software. I use one of the better antivirus software's available, Outlook has built in protections, and I use a second antivirus software to screen the e-mails individually as they arrive. This particular scam penetrated three layers undetected. Unfortunately this isn't uncommon because most software can capture things they haven't seen before. Even the best antivirus will never catch everything.
What if it is legitimate business e-mail?

Most companies today know that sending attachments through unsecured e-mail is bad practice. If you receive an attachment from a place of business that you did not request and discover it is legitimate, advise the business to investigate other protocols. The most intelligent customers will be cautious, and some may see it as a sign that the business doesn't act professionally. It's easy and free to transfer files when needed without using e-mail.

What is the law regarding e-mail scams?

Unfortunately, there is no law against attempting to trick someone. Companies can use copyright law to sue individual who misuse their trademarks, but to my knowledge this has never been applied to phishing scams.

In a previous event, I contacted the FBI in Philadelphia which has a dedicated staff focused on Internet fraud. Unfortunately, however, the FBI cannot file charges unless someone has actually been damaged. Almost being tricked is not enough to press charges. You actually have to suffer monetary damages before you can pursue a criminal complaint.

Report phishing scams to the companies, and other scams to the FBI. It's good to generate awareness, however unfortunately, it's a very difficult problem to police.