November 19, 2013

If I had a time machine

If I had a time machine and the only thing I could bring with me back in time is a piece of paper - no knowledge - this is what I would have written on the paper. The problem with writing these types of lists is: "The problem with the idea of 'learning from one's mistakes' is that most of what people call mistakes aren't mistakes" (Source). For example, I added a feature in the form of a trading simulator and then I removed it because it didn't fit the core idea. But was it a mistake to add it? It's difficult to say because I learned JavaScript when I developed it and wrote two articles about the problems I had while developing it. These two articles are now among the most popular articles on this blog with thousands of views.
  • Use Twitter to talk to everyone you can find - but don't follow spammers. You have to interact with your feed and if you follow spammers, the tweets from the real people will disappear. It may seem like you are "popular" if you follow spammers and they follow you back - but it's a waste of time. 
  • Focus on the basic idea and stop adding features - on the other hand, you may learn a lot by adding those features.
  • Test more ideas and write less code. It's not cheating to use a framework such as Bootstrap. If you develop a game - use someone else's engine. If you are successful, then you can develop your own framework/engine, but in the beginning it's better to focus on testing your idea as fast as possible.  
  • Blog more - and write articles you can learn something from and doesn't exist anywhere else. Try to share your knowledge.
  • Avoid ideas with the chicken and the egg problem.
  • Avoid ideas where your users can spam you.
  • Read fewer books. This is another difficult topic - is it a waste of time to read books?
  • Brainstorming and other creative methods are not helping you to come up with new ideas.
  • Avoid ads as a revenue model.   

November 18, 2013

The #blog100 challenge

The #blog100 challenge was initiated by the Swedish blogger Fredrik Wass. The challenge consists of writing 100 articles on your blog and you have to write at least one article each day. You can follow the hashtag #blog100 on Twitter to find like-minded bloggers who have also accepted the challenge.

But why do you have to blog so much - isn't blogging what we used to do several years ago before we used Twitter? But that's also part of the problem - we have begun to focus on shorter updates and forgotten about the articles we may actually learn something from. People are still using Google to find solutions to their problems - they are not searching for the solutions on Twitter. As we saw in an earlier article, How to market your company by sharing your knowledge, we learned that one way to market your company is to share your knowledge with your current and future customers. We should out-teach our competitors - not out-spend them. I believe it's much harder to teach on Twitter or Facebook compared with wring an article on your blog.

But coming up with good articles to write about is difficult. The solution to that problem is #blog100 because the theory is that you will come up with more ideas for articles if you force yourself to blog more. It will be difficult in the beginning, but much easier in the end. 

These are the original rules:
  • Write at least one article each day
  • The articles can be short and consist of only an embedded video from YouTube. But you should add some text to the video so your users can find the article through Google 

I believe you can also include major updates of old blog articles in the 100 articles. If you go through your blog, you may realize your language has improved or you have just embedded a video from YouTube without any text. Modify these articles to make them better. You should also take a piece of paper and mark 100 squares so you can easier track your progress - it will also make you more motivated since you really want to fill in those empty squares. 

I began this challenge in October and have now written 100 articles if you include this article. I don't know if it's important to blog during 100 days or write 100 articles? Anyway, here's what I've learned:
  • It's true that it was difficult in the beginning, but after about 50 articles, I realized it became easier and easier to find new ideas. You have to "transform" your mind to always hunt for new ideas to write articles about. After writing 100 articles, I still have a long list of ideas to articles I would like to write in the future. 
  • I realized my English language has improved since I wrote some old articles, so I've included major rewrites of old articles in my #blog100.
  • I've also seen that the number of retweets and favorite markings on Twitter has increased. After I wrote each article, I tweeted about it.
  • It takes some time before Google includes all articles in their search engine so I will update this article in a few weeks to see the final results. What can be seen today can be measured through Google Webmasters where you can measure how many people saw your blog in Google an how many clicked on it. The number of impressions per day has increased with 145 percent and the number of clicks per day has increased with 90 percent.

Update! Google has now indexed all pages, so now can we measure the final results by taking the average of the latest week and the average of the week before #blog100 began:
  • The number of clicks have increased by 123 percent
  • The number of impressions have increased by 107 percent

November 15, 2013

Improve your posture

As both a biker and a computer user, I believe this exercise might be useful. Find a wall and do it two times each day!
  • Flap like a bird
  • Touch your ears
  • Climb a rope
(Save this post or video as a bookmark so you can remember it while slouching in front of the computer)

November 11, 2013

Best Marketing and Selling Articles, Talks, Books, and Media

This is a roundup of the best marketing and selling articles, talks, books, and media. The resources are both internal and external - and it will be updated as I find more resources. 5 percent of a company is the idea, 15 percent is the product/service, and 80 percent is the selling and marketing. The number one reason companies fail is because they do not know how to sell and market. So this is really important.



All episodes of the Random Show with Kevin Rose and Tim Ferriss

Kevin Rose is the creator of and Tim Ferris is the author of the book series the 4-Hour x, where x is Workweek, Body, or Chef. They are friends and they meet randomly to film episodes of the Random Show, where they drink large amounts of beer and wine and they talk about things they've invested in, books they've read, and much more.

The Random Show appears on the Internet randomly, the length of each episode is random, and so is the numbering. To make it less random, I though it would be a good idea to collect them in one place. I've earlier collected them on this blog and summarized a few of them, so this articles should be considered as a front-page to the Random Show. You can actually find (almost?) all episodes on iTunes, but they are not summarized. 

If you like Kevin Rose, you should watch his other project called Foundation where he interviews entrepreneurs related to the technology industry, but you can also find a few other types of entrepreneurs.  

November 9, 2013

Give your users feedback

When you ask your users to perform a task you should make it as easy as possible for them to do so by giving them real-time feedback. For example, users can submit links to Trejdify through a form that looks like this:

This is what the user sees when the user hasn't signed in. The user gets feedback in the form of the red sign that says the user has to sign in and the form is also "closed" so the user can't write anything or click the button by accident. If the user has signed in, the form looks like this:

The important part here is the preview link at the bottom that updates automatically as the user types in the name of the link and the url of the link. I added it after I realized that users submitted link with strange characters that turned into signs like �. To minimize the damage even more, I added to the Guidelines section that if "strange characters" appears, the user has to change them. Did it work? No it didn't. Users are still submitting links that include these strange characters! But I've hopefully minimized the damage. The other important part of the form is the upper-right corner that looks like this:

The maximum numbers of characters in the title is 150, so I added this feedback so the user knows exactly how many characters he/she can write. This is a problem I've had over at Hacker News, which is a site similar to Trejdify. I've often written a great title, submitted it, and got the feedback from Hacker News that the title was too long. The problem now is that I don't know how many characters I have without having to counting them one by one. So this little gray square with a number in it and a few lines of JavaScript really simplifies the process. This is an image of Hacker News's submit page without any feedback:


November 6, 2013

Learn how to sell and market your company with the help of Kevin Rose

Kevin Rose (@kevinrose - 1.4 million followers) is currently working as an investor at Google Ventures, but he's probably most famous for being the founder of the social news website Digg, or for throwing away a raccoon that had attacked his dog Toaster (video). Since he left Digg, the site has declined as describe in our earlier article called The rise and fall of Digg, and what we can learn from it. In this old talk, he explains how he Digg got 1 million users.

Lessons learned:
  1. Ego. You should ask yourself if you have a feature that increases the users self-worth or stokes their ego? Will the user get a reward if the user is contributing to the system? For example, Twitter has "number of followers" and Hacker News has the karma reward system that gives a user more advantages. Your users want to win this artificial competition - they want more followers. You can also use a leaderboard - you can find out who has most followers on Twitter.
  2. Simplicity. Stop adding more and more features. 2-3 is enough! Always ask yourself if you can simplify.
  3. Build & Release. Analyze what your users are doing - not what you think they are doing. Build more and talk less. Build - release - itereate - build - release - ...    
  4. Hack the press. In the beginning, invite only a limited number of blogger to your website. Your users have to sign in to watch all the different parts of your website. Talk to small bloggers - not the top bloggers since they will ignore you.
  5. Connect with your community. Digg started a popular online tv show called Diggnation where they each week covered the best content from Digg. Also talk with people on sites like Twitter.
  6. Advisors. Learn from the best.  
  7. Leverage your userbase to spread the word. Find out how you can sit in a bar while your users sell and market your website. Dropbox give you more space if you spread the word about Dropbox to your friends. 
  8. Does your product provide value for 3rd party sites? Facebook has the like button and Twitter has the tweet button. 3rd party sites want you to click on those buttons.
  9. Analyze your traffic. Use Google Analytics.
  10. The entire picture. Find the growth-loop: Users -> Quality -> Traffic -> Buttons -> Users -> ...  
  • He recommended the book Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk. 

Why you have to use online backup

I came up with the idea for this article while writing How to market your company by sharing your knowledge. The essence of that article was that you should share your knowledge, but the problem is that it's really difficult to find out what you know that someone else doesn't know. One thing I know is that it's really important to backup your computers information online. When I wrote a biography on Elon Musk, I saved it to four different locations:
  • The computer
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • Gmail

This is knowledge I can share because everyone is obviously not aware of the importance of backup. A few years ago, someone here in Sweden got a bag stolen and lost a really important essay. Did the person backup the essay? Yes she did - the problem was that she stored the backup in the same bag that was stolen. Another more recent example is, I believe it was an architect, who got 4 years of work stolen after someone stole his laptop from his car. He didn't use any backup and will now spend 1 year to redo everything that's lost.

Even if the knowledge is obvious to you - everyone else may not be aware of it. So if you are not using an online backup, please begin to use it. The most common alternatives today are:
  • Dropbox - 2 GB free, but you can get more free space if you share their service
  • Google drive - 15 GB free
Of these two, I believe Dropbox is the best alternative, but since they are free, you can install both on your computer. It's really simple, just install, drag the files you want to store online to the specific folder, and the files will automatically be copied to an online account. 

How to market your company by sharing your knowledge

Jason Fried (@jasonfried) co-founded 37signals in 1999. The company is really famous within the tech world and they are behind the programming language Ruby on Rails and the popular blog Signal vs Noise.

Lessons learned:
  • If you purchase a new product, try to learn why you bought exactly that product
  • We tend to buy products from someone who taught us something - not just from big companies
  • Out-teach your competitors - not out-spend them
  • We tend to not give away our knowledge because we are afraid that someone will steal it and use it against us
  • Don't worry about your competitors - but be aware of them
  • PR firms are a waste of money and advertising is expensive and can be difficult depending on the company you have
  • If you teach, you will get an audience that will come back to you and spread the word about you to their friends
  • One article by Jason Fried too 15 minutes to write, but more than 800,000 people has read it. How expensive would it be to drag in 800,000 people with ads?

I watched this video a few years ago and I've tried to teach my knowledge through this blog. One thing I discovered is that it's actually quite difficult to know what your knowledge is. For example, why is the color on the top of this page gray and not red - can the answer become a article? According to the right side of this page, the most popular articles on this blog include 3 articles where I taught something no-one else has taught on the Internet (that's why they are popular): 
So that's almost 17,000 views I didn't pay one cent to get!

The psychological reason to why this is working is explained in the book Influence. The influence of authority says that we are trained from birth that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong. Information from a recognized authority can provide us a valuable shortcut for deciding how to act in a situation, but it can also be dangerous.
  • A nurse may listen to a doctor even though the nurse know the doctor i wrong – what would make sense is irrelevant
  • You can hire an actor to play the role of a doctor speaking on behalf of the product. Or an actor who used to play a doctor in a TV-series
So if you share your knowledge, you will become an authority on the subject, and people will begin to follow you because we are trained to follow authorities

November 5, 2013

Why you should avoid or use infinite scrolling

If you have used Twitter, then you know what infinite scrolling is. When you look through your stream of tweets, new tweets will load automatically as you scroll down on your screen. More and more websites have begun to use infinite scrolling, the questions is if that's really a good thing? Large websites like Reddit, Amazon, and Google are not using infinite scrolling because infinite scrolling has several drawbacks.

You should use infinite scrolling!
  • It's faster and smoother, especially if you are using an iPad or smartphone. If you have pagination, you have to search for the "page 2" button, aim at it with you fat finger, and then look at the top of the page again as you scroll down to page 2's main content.
  • Old content seems more important. Research has shown that few users click on the "page 2" button because that content seems less relevant. For example, 94 percent are satisfied with the first 10 results at Google. If you have infinite scrolling, you will "fool" your users to look at more pages.

No, avoid infinite scrolling!
  • Probably one of the reasons to why Reddit and Google have avoided infinite scrolling is because they have ads on the top of their pages. These ads will be seen more often if the user has to click on the "page 2" button. But if you have ads in the stream, like Twitter have, the ads will be seen as often if you have infinite scrolling.
  • The problem with infinite scrolling is that it's impossible to reload the page if something happens. When I've searched through tweets, Twitter's database if often slow and I've often encountered an error message saying Twitter can't load more tweets. To load more tweets, I've to reload the page and begin scrolling from the top again.
  • You don't know how much content is available (this might be fixed if you add somewhere how much content is available).
  • Users see fewer items in the search results. In an experiment, users who used infinite scrolling saw 40 items, while users who didn't use infinite scrolling saw 80 items. In the same experiment, users who used infinite scrolling also clicked on fewer results and they also "liked" fewer items. In an e-store, the users who used infinite scrolling bought fewer items from the search results.   

Update! Here's a great example of how Google made a combination of infinite scrolling and pagination:

November 3, 2013

Trejdify design update

Trejdify has always been responsive (the content looks good on the phone, the tablet, and the traditional computer). But as the number of devices grow, it's difficult to know if it really looks good on all devices. If you have the resources, you can buy/borrow each new device and install all different browsers on each device. Your office will then look like this:

Source: Paul Olyslager

The alternative is to outsource the code that makes the website responsive to someone with resources. I've decided to use Bootstrap to make sure Trejdify looks good on all devices. I've earlier considered using someone else's code as "cheating," but have now changed my mind since Bootstrap is used by organizations like NASA. According to Wikipedia, Bootstrap was developed at Twitter as a framework to encourage consistency across internal tools. Before Bootstrap, various libraries were used for interface development, which led to inconsistencies and a high maintenance burden. In August 2011 Twitter released Bootstrap as open source, and can be downloaded here: Bootstrap. Make sure to download version 3. This is the result: