How a Simple, Responsive Web Design Can Get You Noticed


As a technology enthusiast and blogger, I invest a lot of my time in learning about new products, services and methodologies. Because I’m not a professional web designer or blogger, I have to find the most well crafted solutions and tools to help me accomplish my goals.

Recently, I was struggling with my brand identity and my blogging. I didn’t know how I wanted my posts to be perceived. I thought I needed an identity apart from myself, so I created yet another domain and started posting there. This time, instead of using WordPress, I gave Blogger a try.

I loved it, I really did. As a hardcore Google+ user, the benefits of having your ecosystem embedded into your Content Management System (CMS) are numerous. I had instant access to all of my AutoBackup photos, I could easily tag someone’s Google+ profile in a post and I could instantly share it to my page or profile once I was done with the post.

For server reliability, I had nothing to worry about. Google’s uptime is second to none and it was all 100% free.

However, free always comes with some strings attached. Because I am using Google’s platform, they have the right to change it at any time and without notice. You could have a plugin that works one day, and is a total trainwreck the next. The graphical user interface (GUI) could change at the drop of a hat, making it either easier or more difficult to complete routine tasks.

The bottom line though is that the site is over-simplifiedIt’s great for people that are just trying to get started in the blogging, or businesses that just want to “set it and forget it,” however it’s not the best choice for serious bloggers.

When I migrated back to WordPress I decided that I didn’t want to use a clunky “free” theme, but instead decided to invest it something with a proven track record. That’s when I decided on using the Genesis Framework and the Ambiance child theme.

The theme is a content-first design which means the focus isn’t on the website, but on the content presented within. As a blogger, nothing is more important that the easy consumption of text. I think this theme does a great job of it.

Now, I studied journalism for a few years and I know a thing or two about writing. However, I think I owe a hat tip to the careful design of the site. With a few tweaks and a small upfront investment, I was able to create something that I am proud to call mine.

Why am I telling you all of this? 

I just had an experience that many bloggers only dream of. My latest post was just picked up by Mashable.

Why Moto 360 Will Kill Google Glass

In November of 2013, I became a Google Glass Explorer. Part of this endeavor involved forking over $1,500 and tax for a technology device that was still in beta. The hardware was beyond prototype, but not in the mass production scale that would be necessary for worldwide distribution.

Just a few years ago, smart watches such as those made by Sony and Pebble were very limited in their functionality, battery life and technical specifications. When Project Glass was announced in 2012, it was seen as a revolutionary technology. It was wearable computing to the next level. Google Glass enabled people to have the information they “needed” in the corner of their eye and gave them instant access to the world wide web with just a simple voice command.

In theory, the technology is great. However, in practice, it’s a different story.

I have been a Glass Explorer for just shy of six months and I have to admit that I (like many other Glass Explorers) use the technology much less than I ever thought I would and here’s why:

Battery Life: Most of the applications for Google Glass can be a battery hog. However, with “regular” use throughout the day, I can usually squeeze a good 6-8 hours of casual use before the battery is depleted. Many of the augmented reality applications such as World Lens, require a lot of battery use because they involve the use of the camera, display, wireless data and heavy processor use. Doing something as simple as taking a video can deplete the device’s battery in just 20-30 minutes. Granted, Glass isn’t designed or intended to record long form content, but more or less “moments” which is why the device records 10 second video clips by default.

Security “Issues”: Many workplaces will not allow the use of Google Glass because of exposure to sensitive information and PII (Personally Identifiable Information). I would not be surprised to see if the PCI standards change to ban the use of wearable cameras in areas where employees are able to see credit card numbers. Sadly, most of the concerns about Glass are around it’s camera, which brings me to my next point.

Social Acceptance: Wearing a computer on your face is about as acceptable as riding a Segway around your office. The simple truth is that we aren’t there yet. The fact that we recently learned about the largest government surveillance scandal in recorded history doesn’t help either. People feel that their privacy has been invaded enough by companies reading their e-mail, governments listening to their phone calls and more surveillance cameras than we realize. Until these fears are settled, wearing around a camera on your face will remain a faux pas in many settings.

Reliability: Google Glass is not reliable. Plain and simple. Switching between Bluetooth and Wifi data is never seamless. The device is incapable of connecting to Wifi networks that require TOS agreements or have any sort of splash page login method. If you leave the device turned off and unplugged for a period of time, the battery mysteriously depletes itself. The most frustrating reliability issue is related to connectivity. You can have Google Glass successfully paired to an LTE device with great signal strength and still see the dreaded “can’t reach Google right now” message.

 Google Glass can't reach Google now error message

Moto 360 Won’t Have These Problems

The most exciting thing about the Moto 360 is that it won’t have most of the problems that I encounter on a daily basis with Google Glass. First of all, it’s on my wrist, so it’s much less conspicuous than a face-mounted computer. This definitely helps us in the social acceptance arena, and makes it a wearable that I’m comfortable wearing everywhere (except maybe not the shower). Battery life may be a problem, but not in a way that it is for Glass. I expect overnight charging for my smart watch and would love to see wireless Qi charging integration to make that process just a little bit easier.

Better App Development

I don’t think I’m alone in assuming that there will be more and better apps designed for wrist-mounted wearables. Although the Android Wear platform may look completely analogous to Glassware, it’s a much more practical form factor which means more users and more potential for success of any certain app. Also, apps can be designed to work on a number of devices, not just Motorola’s upcoming offering. Developing for a multi-device platform is a no-brainer when compared to developing for a single device on a different framework.

Sex Appeal

Men love watches. It’s really the only jewelry that most guys wear, and a lot can be inferred by the watch someone wears. For example, during the work week, I wear a Seiko stainless steel watch with a black face and very minimalist design. It shows that I am polished, responsible and punctual. On the weekends I like to wear a leather-banded “easy read” by Timex that is reminiscent of a standard GI watch from decades before.

With the ability to instantly change the face of your watch and select a stylish band, this wearable becomes less of a computer and more of an accessory.

Safety

With Moto 360, you don’t have to brag to the world that you’re wearing a computer. A fringe benefit of this design is safety, as we recently learned from the woman wearing Google Glass that was allegedly mugged inside of a San Francisco bar.

Affordability & Luxury

$1,500 was a lot of money to thrown down on a prototype. Especially something that won’t get daily wear. I don’t expect that Google Glass will dip below $800 any time soon, either. Moto 360, on the other hand, is likely to come to the market with a sub-$500 price tag. The competition in the market will surely help keep prices down as other manufacturers continue to innovate.

However, as in the world of watches, history tells us that consumers will spend thousands of dollars for a rare timepiece. If any of the major watch makers join the game, we might see an emergency of luxury smart watches which will only drive more consumers in the middle class to pick up a lower priced model.

I wanted Glass when it was announced. It was new, it was fresh and it was unexplored territory in the real world. Now that I’ve seen Moto 360, I see elements some elements of Glass that I love that will fit much better into my daily life.

*Image ©2014 Motorola Mobility LLC

Google Giveth and Google Taketh Away

My journey on Google’s Suggested User’s List for Google+

In July of 2013 I found myself added to Google’s Suggested Users List (or SUL). The list is displayed to new users as they create an account as well as existing Google account users when they first go to use the Google+ social platform. Up until the second week of March 2014, I was displayed to millions of new users as someone “Fun and Interesting.” During that time, over 400,000 additional users added me to their circles.

My addition to the SUL came without much warning. I simply noticed a large uptick in followers and later received an e-mail from a Googler informing me that I was being offered as a suggested person for new users to circle. They asked me for feedback after my first couple of weeks, but initially I didn’t notice much of a change.

Over time as I first crested 100,000 followers, I thought being on the SUL was going to be a great opportunity for me to grow an audience overnight, become well-known for what I do and hopefully introduced to opportunities that I would have never found before.

Eight months later, I can confidently tell you that not many of those things happened. Just after I eclipsed the 500,000 mark (507 actually), I got yanked from the list. Again, no warning, no communication, I just noticed that instead of gaining an extra thousand followers each day, I was losing 50-100. This “falloff” happens for a couple of reasons. Mostly, I assume it is from the removal of spam and phantom accounts that have been reported. But, unfortunately, I think it comes from a number of users that actively remove me from their circles.

While I enjoyed my time on the SUL, I think it negatively impacted the way I thought about producing content. I focused my efforts on Google+, at one point abandoning Twitter and then later deleting my Facebook account. Now, as I look back, I realize that I ignored some pretty simple advice from a number of smart people, “don’t make Google+ your only platform.”

Platform is a funny word, when we think of it as it relates to technology, we don’t always think of it as something you stand on, but if you could imagine Google+ as being your only soapbox, regardless of how many followers you have, you’re standing atop one of the weakest soapboxes in terms of frequency of engagement.

Even with over half of a million followers, I rarely see over 100 +1’s on a post. To put it simply, that’s two hundredths of two percent. or 0.02%. That’s not very much engagement.

I think the reason for the drop in engagement with growth of audience is due to some very simple math. When a social media platform like Google+ evaluates the “relevance” of your post, it looks to see how much engagement you are getting in a short period of time. I imagine if your content eclipses that threshold, it will be “pinned” so that more of your followers will see it when they next log in. The problem with large audiences is that the more people that follow you, the more engagement you need to ensure the preservation of your posts in others’ streams.

Basically, unless all of your followers live in your time zone and you have a large audience, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Now, if you stick to traditional tactics like posting the about the most trending subjects or just humorous (but not otherwise valuable) content, you can game the system and gain traction that way. However, if you are trying to share original content beyond bumper sticker philosophy, funny GIF’s or the most popular news story, you are going to be met with a serious reality check.

When I was on the SUL, I felt like I censored myself more, trying to keep content within some mysterious criteria that would keep me in Google’s good graces. I wanted to do whatever it took to keep myself on the list so I could guarantee maximum audience exposure (it’s what almost anyone would do). However, in doing so, I did myself–and my followers–a large disservice. I was no longer taking the time to carefully craft the content that I did when I was being discovered organically.

Now that the ride is over, I am focusing on redesigning my blog, building an e-mail list and trying to build a tribe that is actually invested and grateful for my message. All of that is going to take place here, so if you’d like to become a part of it, I invite you to come back often and join the conversation.

This is my platform now. I make the rules, I decide when to change the design and I respect the people that come to visit and be a part of it.

Google may give, and Google may take, but this is my website and these are my stories and I’m happy to start sharing them with you again.

My Top Ten Uses for Google Glass



10. Caller ID
The great thing about wearing Glass is when I receive a phone call I can quickly glance at the screen to see who is calling and decide whether or accept or reject the call. I don’t need to pull my phone out of my pocket and I can very discretely reject a call. Best of all, I can answer the call with Glass. The only issue right now are some call quality issues which is why I use Glass more for Caller ID than making/receiving calls. I would expect that to improve before the consumer version rolls out.
9. Keeping up with social media
Getting notified of comments on your posts and responding quickly can be integral to keeping the conversation going. With Glass, I can always rely on getting my notifications for certain posts right in my periphery.
8. Getting the Weather Forecast
While I was getting ready for work this morning I tiled my head up and said, “OK Glass, Google, Do I need a jacket?” within a second I had the current weather conditions read aloud and a forecast displayed on the prism. It doesn’t seem like much, but little time savers like these can add up HUGE. The best part, is Google can understand natural language like, “do I need an umbrella?”
7. Appointment Reminders
The awesomething about appointment reminders is that you can immediately get directions to wherever you are going. With Google Now, Glass can remind you when you need to leave the house to make it to the office on time. If you embed the location of your appointments, you can instantly get turn-by-turn directions to your destination with no effort on your part.
6. Keeping up with my portfolio & sport scores
Granted, you can do this with your phone, but zipping through the Google Now tile cards on Glass allows you to do it even more quickly. These little time savers stack up and keep you from bending your neck down to look at your phone throughout the day.
5. E-Mail
E-mail is still the primary form of my digital communications. It’s how I work with businesses, get updated on financial transactions and ultimately the easiest and most widely accepted way for people to communicate online. With Glass, I can have my messages read to me while I am on the road. Use Google Wallet to pay for dinner? Watch your e-mail appear instantly confirming the amount charged before the server returns with your check.
4. Responding to Text Messages
One of the greatest innovations in texting wasn’t the graduation from T9 to the Qwerty keyboard, but the advent of voice recognition. Glass’s voice recognition is fantasticwhich makes things like responding to text messages a breeze and surprisingly safe(r) when you’re driving.
3. Translating Foreign Languages
“OK Glass, Google, How do you say this is my favorite restaurant in French?” It’s one of the simplest ways to communicate with people while you’re traveling abroad (provided you have connectivity).
2. GPS

Glass’s turn-by-turn directions are the simplest, most intuitive and unobtrusive method of providing directions I have ever seen. Unlike a traditional GPS, Google Glass only shows you a map when you are about to make key maneuvers during your trip. You’ll hear audible reminders, but the screen will only illuminate when you need to see what you’re about to do.
1. Finding out anything I need to know, instantly
Let’s be honest, the most amazing part of Google Glass is the instant and (almost) effortless access to Google’s search engine. As Google improves its contextual search and natural language recognition, I am finding that there are more and more “natural” search queries that give me exactly the information I’m looking for, exactly when I’m looking for it. That’s what I call awesome.

How to properly attribute photos in blog posts.

I have been struggling to find a quick and easy way, or a perferred format for crediting images that I use in my blog posts. After some searching, I stumbled upon these guidelines from +Creative Commons:

Examples of attribution

Here is a photo. Following it are some examples of how people might attribute it.
8256206923 c77e85319e n.jpg

This is an ideal attribution

Because:
Title? “Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco”
Author? “tvol” – linked to his profile page
Source? “Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco” – linked to original Flickr page
License? “CC BY 2.0” – linked to license deed

This is a pretty good attribution

Photo by tvol / CC BY
Because:
Title? Title is not noted (it should be) but at least the source is linked.
Author? “tvol”
Source? “Photo” – linked to original Flickr page
License? “CC BY” – linked to license deed

This is an incorrect attribution

Photo: Creative Commons
Because:
Title? Title is not noted.
Author? Creative Commons is not the author of this photo.
Source? No link to original photo.
License? There is no mention of the license, much less a link to the license. “Creative Commons” is an organization.

Best practices for attribution by Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 3.0

What happens when you stop responding?

+Taylor Swift (middle) and me (third from right) photo by +Sony 
If you were to poll 100 celebrity accounts with over 500,000 followers across social media, I think you would find something interesting. Most of them do not actively interact with their audience. Sure, they may call out an individual tweet or reply to an occasional comment, but for the most part, their audience interaction is limited.
For traditional celebrities, this seems very rational. +Taylor Swift probably doesn’t have time to reply to thousands of comments, and if she tried to, it would turn into a cascading time suck. However, if she started to reply to each and every fan, would it ruin all of the excitement for those that do hear from her?
Watching several “non-traditional” celebrities, more of the Internet type, writers, commentators and corporate big wigs, I’m starting to notice a trend, that people are more likely to engage with those that are less likely to respond. Take +Vic Gundotra‘s posts, for example. If you watch what he and his colleagues post, you will always see a myriad of responses, some form more prominent Internet figures. However, most of them know that the likelihood he will respond is fairly low. So why do they bother to comment on his content?
I’m wondering if there is a “critical mass” in terms of tribe size or follower count where content creators should limit their audience interaction in an effort to increase engagement on their posts. It’s a continuation on my theory of “manufacturing scarcity” but I think it also applies in the social realm.
I believe that in personal branding, we are taught to interact with as many people as possible as often as possible to help establish our authority in our particular niche. However, is there a point where well-followed individuals should curb their audience engagement to encourage more interaction with their posts?
Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about totally eliminating interaction, but showing your audience that you’re busy doing important things and can only interact occasionally. By creating this artificial scarcity, does the engagement become more valuable?
It sounds crazy, but I think it might just work…

#thinkaboutit

Can you manufacture scarcity?

Variety of Scarcity” by bryanesque is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Recently I was reading an article my dad sent me about +Bobby Flay and his new mission to open a new restaurant in Manhattan–a city with plenty of restaurants already.

It got me thinking. Something like 80% of small businesses fail, and a large number of those are restaurants. So, if a certain type of business has a shelf life, why don’t we exploit that and build it into the business model?

What I am pitching here could be a billion-dollar concept, assuming you can figure out how to lower overhead and control costs. What if you opened a restaurant with an incredible chef, trendy decor, fresh menu items and everything that food critics are clamoring for, but then tell the world that the restaurant will only be open for 9 months. Can you manufacture scarcity?

After time, the restaurant is doomed to fatigue, grow out of its honeymoon period, wither and become stale. People will stop talking about it, and the food costs will rise as the revenues subside. However, if you knew that you could only keep that concept vibrant for a certain period of time and exploited that by telling the world, could you keep the place packed before it was time to close up shop?

#thinkaboutit

The Age of "You're Doing It Wrong"

I am sitting here this morning watching +TODAY on NBC and I noticed a segment talking about selfies and a documentary that is showing how they are helping girls and their mothers boost their self esteem. The director, Cynthia Wade, encouraged the women to take their digital self-portraits without using any filters or image alteration.

Before the segment, +Carson Daly did a great job of demonstrating the differences between our definition and understanding of beauty with a simple Google image search. Carson simply searched Google Images for “beauty” and then did the same on +Instagram. The difference was obvious, Google showed us what the media wants us to think beauty is whereas the hashtag on Instagram showed not a bunch of glamour models, actresses or Photoshopped makeup ads, just a myriad of selfies showing beautiful individual smiles.

There was a popular opinion for a while that taking a selfie was a narcissistic behavior. We were warned by generations before us that we were so self-loving and needed to focus on what was important, and spending less time trying to share every moment of our lives. I’m not sure if you all felt that way, but over the last few years, I saw I bias between generations. The ones before us did not understand or appreciate the self-discovery of the later generations.

As a millennial, I am watching some incredible things unfold. I was the first generation to learn computer programming grade school BASIC, LOGO, I was the first generation to experience mainstream social media before it made it into public domain (Facebook) and now one the generations to fully experience the digital-to-analog transformation.

During this revolution is a new wave of transparency. People now exchange their thoughts, ideas and opinions more openly through social media than they ever have before. Some hide behind anonymous cloaks and others declare their thoughts openly. Regardless of how, so many people have been preaching the essence of this one phrase that just drives me wild, “you’re doing it wrong.”

Whether or not their might be a better way to accomplish something in order to attain ones own goals, it doesn’t mean that we all share the same goals. Just because something doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean you should caution all others against it.

To all of those that say “you’re doing it wrong,” I offer you this one piece of advice: you’re doing it wrong.

Allow others to try things, shape their own opinions, learn from their discoveries and share what they learn. In this case, something that was condemned as narcissism (taking selfies) has transformed into a way to let people appreciate their own beauty, realize that we are all different and celebrate those differences.

My differences? When I was a teenager I had terrible acne. I still deal with some of it today. My teeth? Stained from years of smoking. In fact, I just learned yesterday that they will never be Hollywood white and I’m fine with that. My hair? Fine as you could imagine and gray as #AAAAAA in some places. My eyes? Horrible astigmatism and myopia.

You know what? This is me, and I’m pretty cool with that. I may not be Hollywood’s definition of beautiful, but I’m beautiful to someone, and that’s all that matters. If you don’t like my photo, get over it.

If you don’t think I should be taking pictures of myself, then think about this: the Internet is a place where we can connect with billions of people from the around the world. Unfortunately, 99% of this communication is through text. Unlike a face-to-face conversation, you never get to see my face. Facial expressions alone compose the majority of non-verbal communication.

My point? You can learn a lot from someone’s selfie.

What are you known for?

talk to the experts by Mai Le is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday serves as a great day to ask yourself, “what are you known for?”

No, we won’t all move mountains. We won’t all change the course of human history. We won’t all make it into the history books, but we all have the opportunity to make a change in the world. It can be something small, something big, or something that only affects a single person.

Regardless of what you want to be in the world or what you want to do, people will always associate you with certain things. If you work with them, they might just see you as a co-worker, if you bowl with them, they might just see you as a bowling partner, if you do great things though, they might see you for your accomplishments.

One of my biggest struggles as I have created my personal brand identity, is to figure out exactly what I want people to think of me as. Do I want to be a SEO expert? Nah. A community management expert? Maybe. A social media guru? Definitely not. A storyteller? Probably.

The challenge of trying to define yourself as a topical expert of one particular niche is important if you want to be a known authority for that particular subject. But, what if you’re like me and you’re interests are all over the place? What if you love consumer electronics, but also have advice for how small businesses can better use social media to attract new customers? What if you like debating issues like social media platform design and application user experience?

Can you truly be the master of anything if you enjoy so many different things?

I have been watching quite a few characters on Google+ recently, and I’m starting to notice a trend. The people that are regarded as topical experts post a lot about their given topic. However, a large number of them seem to cross over, post and comment on things that might be tangential to their focus, but not necessarily their blockbuster topic.

The bottom line, though is these people always return to what they do best, and because of that, they are known for that. +Mark Traphagen is on top of everything related to Authorship in SERPs. +Ronnie Bincer knows every technical aspect of Google+ Hangouts, Hangouts on Air and YouTube interface. +David Amerland has established himself as an expert on semantic search while +Dustin W. Stout  is leading the wave on fresh, purposeful content and engagement. Need to know anything about Google+ on the whole? +Denis Labelle and a slew of others likely have you covered. Android news? +Derek Ross is all over it.

These examples are people that have chosen to focus, and because of their focus, they are rewarded with being known for their focus. Those of us that chose to be interdisciplinary won’t achieve the same recognition of these individuals, and won’t stand out in a crowd for being the best at any one particular thing.

By diversifying your interests, you have the ability to learn so much about so many different things. However, in doing so, you can sometimes sacrifice the opportunity to be known as an expert. Regardless, though, how important is it to be known as an expert of one particular thing?

As I look to shift my career, I’m learning that ambition is no match for hard work and years of experience. Hiring managers and companies looking for consultants don’t just want someone that knows what they’re talking about, they want someone that can prove that they have consistently performed. These individuals, by choosing their focus and continuing to teach and share have done exactly that.

For the rest of the year, I am going to be asking myself, “what am I known as?” But until I figure it out, maybe you can help, what do you know me as?

To Share +1's or Not to Share +1's

Yesterday I was perusing my stream on Google+ when I noticed that +Dustin W. Stout had +1’d a post by +Taylor Swift. Now, I couldn’t help but think it was out of place for someone as savvy as Dustin to broadcast his interaction on a post with a mega celebrity that doesn’t have much at all to do with his realm (being awesome at the Internet).

When I privately alerted Dustin of what I thought must have been a mistake, something that he had overlooked, I got a reply that made me totally reconsider the way I thought about sharing +1’s.

Within minutes of seeing Dustin’s reply, I noticed this post in my stream by +Chris Jenkins that had been “vetted” by +Mark Traphagen+Derek Ross and +Eli Fennell (three people that I highly admire).

Prior to the screen capture, I didn’t have +Chris Jenkins in my circles. In fact, if the three people that I trust so much hadn’t +1’d the post and had their accounts enabled to show +1 recommendations, I never would have seen the post appear in my stream.

When the +1 broadcast feature was initially released, it was met with two schools of thought. One was that those that decided to turn the broadcast on, would either self-censor themselves or “over-share” and possibly +1 things that didn’t fit their brand or niche. The other school of thought was that by enabling the feature, you would allow your followers to be open to a whole new world of content and creative people.

Sadly, at the time of the release, I bought into the first theory. I didn’t want to censor myself by changing the way that I 1+ content. I wanted to +1 whatever the heck I wanted to, and not worry about someone else seeing it appear in their stream. I wanted to show everyone I was following that I was listening.

I guess at a certain point in your Internet presence, that school of thought is okay. But, with a large audience comes a bit of responsibility (at least in my mind) which is why I think I should take the opportunity to share what I find interesting with the rest of my followers. Starting today, I’m going to think about what I really enjoy reading, watching and engaging with. As I find things those things, I think it’s time to reward the people that took the time and effort to create and share those things.

Thanks, +Dustin W. Stout, for making me change the way I think.