Dropbox: the easiest way to get people using web2 tools

Number two in my series of desktop apps that I use – this time Dropbox.

Dropbox is the simplest concept in the world, so simple that quite often people don’t think about it – they just get on with it – and as I discussed in my Evernote post, it is all about workflow.  Dropbox fits into my workflow as if it has always been there.  If you, like me, like evangelising about the myriad of tools you use online, this is the tool to start with. Right, here is the Elevator Pitch (or Granny Pitch as I like to call it!).

How  many memory sticks do you have? Where are they all? Have  you had to go and invest in an external hard drive to carry all your stuff around because memory sticks aren’t big enough to hold everything? Rather than having to put the memory stick into the computer, why not save the file to a folder that saves your work to a space on the web, which you can access at any time?  Well, why not take a look at Dropbox?  It allows you to save files to the web, backup projects, synchronise files with other computers all with security and privacy?  And, you get all of that for free! Tempted? Click on any of the Dropbox links to take a look!

OK – pitch over, how do I use it?  I use it in three ways:

Like a memory stick

Just like a memory stick, you save your file to a folder on your computer (generally called My Dropbox).  In that folder, you have the option of saving it to a public folder or somewhere only you can see.  The vast majority of things are saved to the private area, and I have about nine different folders, and a gazillion files in there – just like your normal file structure!

For file synchronising between two computers

I use a laptop for work, and we have a laptop at home. Making sure that files are available on both machines at all times, is important.  A good example of how this has worked in practice was when Jet was looking for a new job. She would write an application, and I could open it to check it while she worked on another.

For sharing with the world

If you save an item to the public folder and right-click on it, you can copy the ‘public link’ which then allows you to share it in whatever way you want to.  I did this at BETT quite a bit as I had saved the TeachMeet Takeover flyer and presentation there for other people to save down and use.

So, the file is shared on your computer, the home computer and online, which means  you can access your file whenever you have a web connection. The best bit is that it is all free – I haven’t upgraded my account (you can, up to 100GB) but I haven’t the need as yet!

Have fun!

My top lovely desktop apps

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago, called My top lovely web apps which has been the most read of all of my posts since I switched to WordPress. Looking at that, I checked back and looked at Posterous, and the most read posts there were all the how-to’s for Google Wave, Google Alerts and other web apps I was trying out (actually the most read was this one, but we shall forgive it for bucking the trend!)

I then wrote a post yesterday on Evernote, which in a day became the second most read post I have written, and got a stack of feedback on twitter with people saying they were off to download it.  Thinking about it then, and I guess it is pretty obvious, it isn’t the tools you use, it is what you do with them (!) and how exactly they fit into your workflow.  There are some pretty amazing things out there, but if you can’t work out when you will use them, or you don’t force them to become part of your daily working life, they will never really catch on (take Google Wave as an example – an excellent free app, but it hasn’t changed the world overnight).

So, take the Evernote post yesterday as a preview of the next set of posts – I will take a look at a few things that I use on a day-to-day basis, most of which are contained in my shortcut bar:

As you can see – nearly half of the programmes I use most are Microsoft – I do use a PC, so there is no shock there.  There is little point talking about them (in short, they are great for what they are intended for, all have their bugs and foibles, but we live with them). I will talk in more detail though about Mappoint, as I have a rant up my sleeve. The rest do, to a greater or lesser degree, require some thought… Most likely, starting with Dropbox.

My top lovely web apps

Days past, the first thing I would do when I turned the laptop on was to turn on Outlook. Not any more. The first things I do are open Google Chrome, TweetDeck, then Outlook.

Then… before I used Chrome, I would have had iGoogle as my homepage. I spent aged putting all the widgets together, and found it incredibly useful.

Now I use Chrome, iGoogle doesn’t get a look-in.  iGoogle has been replaced by the extension gallery in the top right hand side of my screen – why go to a place where the web is brought to you, when you can carry it around with you wherever you go?!

I have only highlighted a few of them, but they are all lovely in their own special way.

Google Dictionary – amazing. Highlight any word and a definition pops up!

Google Reader – gives a count of the number of unread items in Reader (I’m doing quite well at the moment!).

Remember the Milk – brilliant for telling me what to do!

Delicious – takes you to the site, adds new bookmarks, very regularly used

Bit.ly sidebar – very useful, shortens and tweets automatically. Also, hover over a shortened link and you get the final destination.

Feedly – turns Google Reader into a magazine style view. Really nice UI, and some nice recommendations as well!

Cooliris – allows you to look at images in a different way, especially good for an image search in Google or Flickr

Evernote – my new best-friend. I use it pretty much all the time to permanently save web pages, links, pictures, anything.

Google Wave – Well, I live in hope that it will be used!

There are a couple of other greats that are not shown:

Google Quick Scroll – never click on page 2 ever again!

FastestChrome – highlight any word and it will give you four different search options. Google, Twitter, OneRiot and Wikipedia

Now, all I need is an extension to do my work, and make the tea, and I will be a happy man!


Ideology and policy over personality

Life is funny, those like me who are interested in politics have long wished for a time when it could be more engaging and get people who up to now have not voted, voting. Then, all of a sudden, we have it – and people are concerned that voters will go for personality over policy.  (Personally, I would like to give the electorate the benefit of the doubt!)

In my view the debates have created a fantastic platform for the parties to put forward the policies that they have. It has also allowed for more focused debate on specific topics, such as education, economy and business. I think, though, that it is in these smaller debates that the parties have let the electorate down. The education debate was such a shambles, wholly down to the way the candidates behaved themselves that no proper policy was discussed.

Incredibly no-one has actually said how bad the economy is going to be in the next parliament – probably because the first honest politician would be the turkey voting for Christmas. But let’s be clear, it doesn’t matter which party gets into power or whether it is hung, there will be swathing cuts that will be incredibly painful for everyone in ever sector.

Now, I am not in the camp of people who say that we fought wars for our democracy therefore you are morally obliged to vote. I will be voting and will always do so but the democracy that was fought for allows for people to decide for themselves whether they should vote. To get people to vote we need our polititians to be engaging, relevant and have a clear understanding of what their voters need. Have we had that with the whistle top tours of marginal constintuencies? I think not. Will we ever see the 24-rolling news channels complaining about it? Definitely not, as the soundbite it provides is just what they are after. Wouldn’t it have been better for any of the prospective leaders to have set up camp in the middle of a town and stayed there for half-a-day? Talk to and engage with their voters, listening to and talking through their solutions.

So tomorrow I will be voting, I have been enthralled by the soap opera, but a soap opera it has been. We have had the highs, lows, humour and that inate ability to miss a few days and still know what is going on.  What is quite interesting is that even though I have watched every debate possible, listened to every leader on radio phone ins, tweeted with polititans and journalists, who I will vote for has not been swayed. At the end of the day, you vote for ideologies and policy not personality and I am sure that most people will do the same.

Customer Service – keeping customers happy and gaining new ones in tough economic times

I wrote a guest blog for ‘The Best of Hinckley’ this week, so have republished it here. You can see the post in it’s original setting here.

People have a limited amount of money in their pockets during these tough economic times and they are being more and more selective about where they spend it.  What can you do to help them spend it with you?

Whatever your business, I believe that the same basic principles will always apply …

  • treat your customers well
  • ensure that you talk to them regularly
  • remember who they are and what they like

… and they will come back time and time again.

Of course, you might say that works when you are selling the best and the cheapest product but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that exlusive or low cost a product to get good customer retention (people will often sacrifice a little of quality, and pay a little more if they know they are going to have a good experience buying it).

Customer Experience

In practice, here are just a few examples of the companies, local and national, that I think have amazing service:

The Barber of Bosworth – I know that hairdressers are meant to talk to you but most of the ones I have been to before will talk about where I went on holiday, etc. but Leanne at The Barber of Bosworth knows her customers; she knows how old my daughter is, her name and what I do for a living.  There are many hairdressers much closer to where I live, but I drive for 15 minutes and pay for parking to get a haircut there!  How could you do something similar in your business?

Barwell Butchers – every time I go in, I get a smile and conversation when I buy local and high-quality food that isn’t ridiculously priced! In your everyday life, is there a chance that you could make someone smile?  If you can, they’ll come back!

Moo.com – it is pretty difficult to be different when you make a business card, right?  Well, where everyone else sells themselves on being the cheapest, Moo go for the WOW factor. Fancy having a picture on your business card? How about a different picture on every card in your pocket? Think what effect it would have handing out a unique business card – will that make you stand out in the minds of your customers?

Using new technologies – Social Media

One of the interesting things that has started to happen recently is for companies to conduct their customer service online.  I did a bit of research this morning and I couldn’t find many local businesses on twitter (the micro-blogging service).  Using Twitter well can help you to gain new customers, keep people engaged and improve your retention rate.

How to use Twitter effectively is a whole other blog post though but the first rule is simple – be there!

Strategic Partnerships

Don’t be afraid to go over the top, or join up with another company to create something amazing…how about this as an example. I work for a large national publisher that offers £15 of stickers free on every order placed, even when the value of the order is lower than £15.  Crazy, right?

Not really, the stickers are provided by another company that specialises in stickers.  The free gift gives my customers the warm glow and enhances our retention rate, the sticker company gets exposure and follow-up orders.

I trust that my first blog post on the bestofhinckley has sparked some thought and in particular, what can you do to make your business stand out, how can you retain your important customers and are you spreading the word about ‘your amazing business’?


The most recent question I have been asked is “what is geotagging”.  Geotagging is a way for you to say where you are when you tweet, or say where a photo was taken.  There are a few ways of doing this. Depending on your device, you can set the options to tell Twitter where you posted from automatically, or for it to ask on every tweet, if you are using web interfaces, you may have to plot where you took it manually. If you go to your settings on Twitter,  you will see  that you can set whether Twitter keeps a track of your location from there, and will give you more info if you need it.

If you are a new user of Twitter, you may not have realised about the positives and negatives of geotagging.

I will deal with the negatives first – as they, in my view, are quite small:

You have to be aware you are using it, and what you are saying. People will know where you are which led to the rise of certain site such as Please Rob Me. Certain twitter applications will show you exactly where people are when they are tweeting which can be quite creepy – people who are concerned about their online presence should be aware.  However, one blog that is good to read which gives a great counter argument to Please Rob Me is here.

The positives

I think the positives are exciting and interesting in a number of ways, here are just a couple:

For education, the possibilities are amazing – imagine the school trip where each child takes a photo that is automatically geotagged, which can then be reviewed on a map later on.  Or finding out more about a subject by looking at photos of it on Google Earth – giving a sense of scale (in fact, before I went on holiday to Peru, we looked at where we were going on Google Earth, and could see the Nazca lines/photos of Machu Picchu and could track the trail we were going on).

In the same way, automatically tagging your photos for sharing sites such as Flickr is becoming more prevalent, the technology for this is here already in hand-held devices, but if you use a DSLR camera, you can get an Eye-Fi card which will do it for you.

For charities, local pressure groups – imagine if you could talk to all the people within ten miles of where you live?  There are plenty of things you could use for that. Twitter Advanced Search allows you to search within a defined distance from where you live.  If you are a someone who wants to get the interest of people in a defined area, this type of searching can be very powerful.

I have put all of the links that I think are worth a read here, although just as I finished writing this, I came across this great post!

Summary of Seth…and summary of my thoughts

So, here we go, I have been lazy and not read the last 27 Seth blog posts; but I have finally got around to good, clear thinking.  A great one to start:

We get distracted by the large and overwhelming – not necessarily the most important thing. Is this another way of saying “work smarter not harder”?!

Scrimping and saving – if you do it, be clever about it.

Pick your fights…

The thing that is most difficult to embrace in a commercial world is not trying to please everyone – I think Seth is right, but there is a big gap between agreeing with someone and actively doing it!

I love the sentiment here

How do you teach initiative? I wish I knew…

If I have read this right, work should be fun, not a job

Safe is lazy…hear bloody hear

Prizes measure popularity…ditto with knobs on

Most organizations now have it backwards“… enough said

I had completely forgotten about Wordperfect, I guess that is the point!

I like lists – I use Remember the Milk, but I do make my own list.

I am struggling to cope with the ideas I have had since starting Linchpin, some good, some bad, some not thought through fully! I have stopped reading for the moment until the rest of me catches up. Read it, it is fab.

I like Wordoid!

I watch TV. I like spending time with my family. I like work. My view: balance is good. Seth doesn’t watch TV

Quite possibly a different and better version of saying that compromise is bad

This ended up like a blog post of tweets, but in the main, they aren’t my sentiments, so it is always best to read things in their original setting.  Seth is good, really good, but I think that it is what he makes you do that makes him so good. Why just read?!

Flickr vs Picasa

I know, I have harped on about this for long enough, but I need to understand something…why is flickr so popular?  It is not to say that it isn’t useful, and I am trying (really trying) not to let the log-in issues that have dogged my use cloud my judgement, but I can’t get over how so many places default to flickr!flickr


A couple of examples

  • this blog only shows images from flickr on the home page. That is because there is no way to set it to picasa;
  • moo.com (a website I love), only allows web imports from flickr

Why is this?  Looking at the blogs and comments on both, picasa seems to be generally thought of as easier to load images to; it belongs in the Google family, so one password/login/thought process.  There is no danger of me moving from Picasa, I have a stack of space to use, and I like the usability. I can see that there is a social element to flickr but how is that enough to keep people there? and moreover, why is Picasa excluded from so many places?!

Although a rant, I would welcome enlightenment!