Computers, People, and the Fact That I’m Selfish

I want, I want, I want. Almost all anxiety and anger and relationship problems I have can be traced to me wanting something.

I want people to like me. I want to be stronger, tanner, taller. I want to be better at sports, a better writer, or a more prolific speaker. I want more Twitter followers, more Facebook friends, more blog readers and retweets. I want the new Silverstein cd. Oh, and while I’m at it, I’d like the Silverstein t-shirt that’s tempted me for the past 2 years (and for only $15, why am I not wearing it?!). I want to buy my girlfriend a Lakers jersey or shirt before the season starts. I want new basketball shoes before intramurals start. I want to own season 7 of Scrubs, season 1 of Arrested Development, and seasons 1-10 of Friends on DVD. I want new jeans, I want new socks. I want new posters, music, some nice cigars, ties, etc. I want stuff.

I want stuff ALL THE TIME. The only problem with all this stuff is that it is either impossible to acquire or it requires me to give up something that I rarely possess – money. And that’s the problem – sure, I can clutter my life with all the latest gadgets, cds, shirts and movies – but a few weeks later, I’ll just start the cycle all over again. The trick, I think, is focusing in on those things that you truly love. For me, the two most prevalent things in my life (and those things that are most likely to affect my future) are computers and people.

Computers have been a passion of mine for a long time. Currently, they occupy not only a majority of my time in school, but also much of my free time (though “much of” might be a stretch seeing as I don’t get enough free time to justify “much of” anything). I love just about everything dealing with computers, and I have since high school. I am much, much more likely to get sidetracked working on computers than playing video games, watching television, or even surfing the internet.

Take today for example. I had lots of Calculus II homework to do, and since I wasn’t in class, I decided that my TI-83 might help to move things along a little quicker. After a little searching, I dusted it off, put fresh batteries in and turned it on. Instantly my eyes were drawn to a button towards the middle of the keyboard: PRGM. Oh, the memories. Promising myself I would only be sidetracked for a moment, I pressed it to see a list of all the programs I had written on this little machine in high school.

Believe it or not, that little button changed my life. I knew that day that I wanted to make a career out of this kind of work. From that day on, I programmed games and applications every day – during class, at lunch, in study halls, at home and every spare second I could find. I was called everything from a nerd to obsessed, but I didn’t care – I LOVED IT. And what’s more, it was free!

You see, computers appeal to me in a maniacal way that people don’t – I can manipulate them, create an idea and mold them into what I want them to do. I can put as little or as much time into them and receive a directly proportionate amount of joy from the results. I can have a problem (even something as simple as boredom) and make something to solve it. And what’s best, the selfish part of me can come out saying, “I built that. I made it, you didn’t, I rock.” It might not be the best, it might not help anyone else in the world, but it’s mine and I’m proud of it.

I feel as if the most rare and important things in life are those that require your time. Let’s face it, we are not all equal when it comes to money. You cannot base the meaning of something by looking at its cost. However, when people put their time into something, you know it means something to them. That’s why putting time into relationships is so important. In fact, if you get one thing out of this post, I hope it’s simply that you need to cut back on all the stuff you want and focus on somebody – anybody else.

People are very important in my life as well. I like having friends – I like knowing that I have someone to lean on in tough times, people to love, and people who love me. I consider a select number of my Twitter followers to be good friends – they make me laugh, they get me through the day, and I enjoy chatting with them online about everything from graffiti to Laker basketball to fantasy football. Aside from my faith, friendships are the most important things in my life.

You naturally spend time on the things that you love. Like to blog? Then bust your butt to be the best writer you can. Way, way too often I’m locked up in all the things going on that I start to neglect friendships and do things half-heartedly. A lot of times it just comes down to figuring out what and who is really important in my life – prioritizing things, making time for those that I love and activities that I love. By all means, do what you love and enjoy it – but make sure you aren’t neglecting friendships along the way.

Social Networking Gone Too Far

I have always considered Facebook as the primary social network.  You can manage photos like Flickr, you can post updates like Twitter, you can show off your cliched profile pictures like MySpace, you can sell things like eBay, and now with Facebook apps, you can add music to your page, embed RSS feeds and play games.

Since all these things are combined into one site, I (and most others, I believe) consider Facebook to be the more private network – for real friends only.  Sure, some people make it their job to collect friends, but for the most part, clicking “Friend Request” is an exciting action that is reserved for people you know – or at least people you have interacted with.

If someone likes the website, I’ll accept their request.  If I’ve emailed back and forth with the author of a favorite blog of mine, I might try and add him/her on Facebook.  Thanks to uSocial, however, all of this is changing.  Well, at least they want it to.

uSocial is a unique advertising service that sells Facebook friends and Twitter followers.  You heard me right.   For around $177, you can ensure yourself 1,000 new Facebook friends (the same prices apply to Facebook Fan Pages).  For $87, you can buy 1,000 Twitter followers.  Plans for both services can cost you as much as $11,000.  Why would anyone pay for friends?  Good question.

friends

Ideally, this service would appeal to businesses and professionals trying to market their services on these fast growing social networking sites.  However, until I see statistics on the amount of friends and followers who want to reach into their pocket and pay for your product because they are your online friend, I’m not buying it.  Why not simply pay for targeted advertising on Facebook?  It can be significantly cheaper, and it ensures that the friends and fans you get will be…well…friends and fans!

“So, how did we do this quarter, Jim?”

“Well sir, we have over 5,000 fans on Facebook!”

“Wonderful!  Now how does that income statement look?  Oh, and what’s this $650 charge?”

“Unimportant.”

To sum up, social networking has brought us around to the point that people are literally paying for friends.  Lovely.

And Now For the Name…

If you haven’t noticed yet, RyboMedia officially has a new face, logo, mascot, icon – whatever you want to call him. If you’re new to the site, or just blind, it’s the rhino!

rhino

So, the hard work is done, thanks to William Woody (an excellent designer and videographer if you need one).  Now I need your help for the fun part – a name.  Something fun, easy to remember.  Got any ideas?  Post below, write on the Facebook page, @reply to rybo, or email me!

Potential Logos

A good friend has been working with me to design a few logos for the site.  I say working with to mean, I tell him a general idea and he spits out awesome sketches.  Anyway, he’s completed a few (all very tentative) and we’d like you to look at them.  Let me know which ones you like – comment, email, or tweet your favs. Remember, these are just sketches – the final with be more detailed and clearer.

Thanks!

rhino1

rhino2

platy1

platy2

platy3

With Great Popularity Comes Great Laziness

For months now, I’ve been noticing a trend in a few of the blogs I follow.  Namely, many of the ones that get popular…start to suck.  I like to think that I am semi-picky about the blogs I follow in Google Reader – after all, I don’t want just any ol’ garbage cluttering up my news.  The problem comes when I go down my list of subscribed blogs and start using the “Mark All as Read” button too much.  That tells me something.

Now listen, I’m a young, very inexperienced blogger.  My blog’s just not that popular.  Sure, I’ve had the site for about 2 years now, but that doesn’t really mean anything – time hasn’t exactly equaled success.  For the most part, I’m fine with it – I have a lot of fun with it regardless of the user base.  In those times I get a little disheartened, the string of failures and eventually successes of President Abraham Lincoln keeps me going.

But I digress.  The point is, I do this because I love it.  I like the internet, technology, web, programming, cool logo’s and good design.  I like to write about it.  I like to make it look (somewhat) good.  I like to learn everyday by messing up and restarting.  Most importantly, I like to share knowledge and good information with people.  Isn’t that the whole point of a blog?

The fact of the matter is that a lot of bloggers get successful and their quality not only starts to diminish, it gets forgotten in Twitter follower numbers, FeedBurner stats, etc.  Great weekly content, electronic reviews, and tech tips gets replaced by bi-monthly video game screenshots, detailed analysis of recent grocery store trips, and poorly asked, open-ended questions for followers to answer.  Purge your reader of this crap!

And I’m sick of it.  As bloggers, our charge should be to enrich the content on the web.  Make it better, pass along information, and form a community with those likeminded.  Don’t have time to post as much as you did before?  That’s fine!  Take your time – write, revise, and pick apart your work so that when you do post, it will be good quality content.

You should be proud of every post on your blog.  Form a personality – be funny, be quirky, be grouchy.  Make the blog your own – but keep up the quality.  Always post as if you’re trying to win over readers (because you are) – not as if you have them trapped.

Joupes Beta Release!

For the past few months, a good friend (and past guest blogger) and I have been working on something called “Joupes”.  We have reached a fairly stable and working version, and we think it’s time to release it for testing.  Now, I have played this release over and over in my head, each fantasy involving a large room filled with web and social media experts, a sexy shirt microphone, bottles of the finest water, and a large screen projector to display the project.

Alas, that’s not going to happen – yet.  For the time being, I’ll have to settle for this blog.  So, without further ado, we are pleased to announce the beta release of Joupes.  Applause welcome.

joupes

Fantastic – another brightly colored logo, a weird name, and no explanation at all. Here goes.

What are Joupes?

Basically, Joupes are goals.  You can have short term goals or you can have long term goals – but they are all Joupes.  Joupes.com brings both long term and short term tasks to a simple, one page site – organizing by type and date due.

Ok, awesome – but why do I care?

The fact of the matter is, you might not care.  But you should.  Studies show that people who have written life goals are up to 10 times more successful financially than those that don’t.  We’ve taken this idea of written goals and applied it to short term tasks (or “to-do’s”) as well.  Hopefully, the combination of seeing your life goals staring you in the face, as well as being able to check off daily tasks, will help you be more productive.

I’m busy, I can’t log into a website everyday to manage to-do’s!

This is where Joupes gets neat.  With SMS (text-messaging) reminders, your tasks come to you!  That’s right – when you add a task to your Joupes list, you can set reminders to receive text messages before a task is due!

Hopefully that answers a few questions about the nature of Joupes.  Throughout the next few weeks, we will be sending out beta invitations to select individuals for testing.  If you’d like to be considered for an invite, sign up here.  Obviously, as it’s in beta mode, we’ve got lots of works to do.  We have so many different ideas and added features from the site, it can get a little difficult to keep the simplicity.  There is surely more to come, and I hope you’ll stick around to see it.

Of iPhones and Gnomes…

Big Prize. If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, there’s a good chance you’re somewhat familiar with the name. Whether you check the fan page every hour, are constantly confused by the odd little sayings your friends write on their wall, or your Twitter homepage is sprinkled with #moonfruit tweets – you’ve seen the name.

BigPrize

In less than two weeks, and with over 140,000 fans at last check, Big Prize is taking over – by giving stuff away!  The people at Big Prize seem to understand something very basic to human nature – we like free stuff.  Want to attract a lot of people?  Give them really expensive things…for free.

Now, as with every “free giveaway” program, Big Prize has raised plenty of skepticism, especially after the consecutive winnings of Ben Scott.  Ben was one of the people I got to talk with, and he has a very interesting story about Big Prize.  Ben actually won 4 different prizes – 3 t-shirts and an iPod Touch.  While a lot of people posted some pretty rude things about him, he won it all fair and square, simply tweeting responses when he received Twitter SMS updates.  That’s not good enough for some people, and Ben gave up 2 of his shirts to calm the storm of people essentially angry over the fact that they didn’t win.

To be fair to those truly wary, I was also a tad hesitant at first.  However, after doing a little reading, tweeting, Facebook stalking (and discovering that it’s sponsored by Startlike), I was (and am) sold.  So how can someone just give away iPhones, MacBooks and golf clubs?  The answer is pretty straight forward, and involves something my mom has hounded me about for years – budgeting.

As with any company, Startlike has a marketing budget.  This is how they can give away awesome little freebies that we all love so much like t-shirts and koozies (honestly, what is it about free shirts that makes us salivate?).  It’s also how they can afford to chuck out more iPhones than self-taken mirror shots on an middle schoolers Facebook.  Which do you think is more effective – banner ads, pens, and rubber key chains or TaylorMade drivers, iPhones, and MacBooks?

As Michael Scott (Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. in Scranton, PA) has taught us, this is what’s called a “win-win-win”.  Big Prize experiences an exponential growth of fans (hopefully attracting partners), Startlike gets more attention, and all the fans and Twitter followers get the opportunity to win stuff.  Viral marketing at its finest, in my opinion.  Traffic, fans, and interest grows through Facebook “word-of-mouth”, with minimal-to-no direct advertising.

Ok, so all that’s fine and dandy – but why do you care?  As the end consumer, you just want to know that you aren’t getting scammed.  That’s where I come in.  Over the past few days, I’ve been gathering interviews from a few people who have been Big Prize winners.  Everyone I talked to was happy to answer my questions – I guess free iPhones tend to put people in a good mood.

Now, as Facebook is geared towards sharing information with friends, most people I talked with found Big Prize through the wall posts of friends or direct referrals.  Michelle Cramer, however, saw something about it on her Startlike homepage.  A few days ago, I wrote a post about how much I enjoy my own Startlike homepage, and it’s neat to see a winner who uses it on a regular basis.

Basically, though, I just wanted to find out if winners actually got their prizes, and if they got them quickly.  My answer:  a resounding double yes.  Everyone I talked with had great communication with Big Prize, and they received their prizes about a week after winning.

“They were really quick about it, within a week I got it.” – Binal Patel

“They told me on June 29th or 30th I would get the gift card . . . on July 8th. I got it on July 2nd.” – Benjamen Scott

“The prize . . . arrived by postal mail the following week. No muss, no fuss.” – Eric Alderman

“I received my [prize] about a week after winning it, which in my opinion is pretty quick!” – Michelle Cramer

So, after speaking to 4 completely satisfied winners, I can safely say that yes, Big Prize is giving things away – no scams, no ploys.  “No muss, no fuss.”

Now, explaining why I’m a Big Prize fan is like trying to explain to my best friend Daniel (a Celtics fan) why I’ve been a die-hard Laker for 11 years – they’re the best program in the league, backed by some terrific players (in Big Prize’s case, Startlike), and Kobe Bryant is the finest example of hard work, dedication, and fundamental perfection the NBA has to offer.  Ok, so that last one didn’t really apply at all, but it’s my blog.

Show me another company that can give away thousands of dollars in free stuff, carry on great personal customer relations, generate thousands and thousands of Facebook fans in a few days, and represent themselves with a gnome.  In the meantime, my computer’s broken, and I could really use a MacBook – so excuse me while I keep playing.

Camping in Virginia

I got back from our family vacation earlier this afternoon.  The first 4 days of our trip was to camp in Virginia (near Rugby, I believe) and from there we went to stay in Boone, NC for 2 days.  This post serves two purposes – the first to link to pictures of the trip (just in case, for some reason, you’re interested).  The first linked photo below will take you to my Flickr set (more pics to come) and the second to my public Facebook album, though I would love for you to friend request me (as a few readers have already done)!

camping in virginia

camping in virginia

The second is a quick thought about mobile technology.

As you well know from my posts, I have a Blackberry.  Now, I am all for taking time away from electronic gadgets and gizmos to enjoy creation and rest.  However, car trips are a different story.  Now, I’ll follow up this post with one soley dedicated to this, but I discovered Pandora for Blackberry on the 5-6 hour ride up to the mountains.  It’s amazing.  First of all, it’s free.  Second, it’s easy to use, doesn’t take up much space, and buffers quickly.  If your iPod playlists are getting dull on car rides, Pandora for Blackberry is the way to go.

As a side note, it was great having my camera and iPod as well.  Obviously.  I debated whether to even say it, but it honestly amazes me how much we can do nowadays.  Especially on mobile devices.  I can watch movies, catch up on TV shows, and listen to custom playlists, audiobooks, and podcasts wherever I am, at the push of a button.  I have better specs on my $125 camera than anyone would have imagined a few years ago.  But I digress.  My point is simply that we often take for granted everything we can do with this stuff.  Technology is awesome.

Web Startups: Lots of Failures + A Few Successes = Success

I stumbled across this post by Meg at Meish, graphically displaying the recent successes and failures of “Web 2.0” sites – that is, ones that have died (or stopped updating, or whatever), ones that have been purchased by another company, and ones that are still going strong.

Many people either claim that this “Web 2.0” thing is either dying off quickly or growing fast.  Well, it can’t be both.  Sure, there are lots of failures…your point?  Look at any industry – there are lots of failures, and lots of successes.  It took Thomas Edison 10,000 tries to get the lightbulb right.  But we’re still using the lightbulb today, aren’t we?  And nobody is saying that lightbulbs are dying out (well, a few do – but let’s leave that alone for now).

Remember the immortal words of Ben Franklin (inventor, politician, author, adulterer, etc):

“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.”

As one who strongly desires to be involved in this thing we call the internet for years to come, talk that the internet and web apps are dying is a tad depressing.  On the contrary, I think we’ve barely scratched the surface.  Every year, a few new web companies start that introduce ideas we’ve never considered, simplifying life and getting things done like never before.

So what do you think?  Is “Web 2.0” really dead?

Followup: Twitter, Narcissism Debate

Today, while reading Lifehacker, I came across a post on the uses of Twitter, as well as a few notes on the narcissism claim. After the tremendous response I’ve gotten from the post a few days ago, I thought I’d post a link to the article and several intersting quotes.

Discounting Twitter altogether because you think it’s ridiculous that people tweet about what they had for breakfast is like claiming that email is useless because of forward chains. It’s a mistake, and you’d be missing out on a great tool if you let that put you off Twitter completely.

Virtually every company has a Twitter account these days, which means if there’s a product you really care about, following them on Twitter is often the easiest way to stay up to date with the latest developments. But more often than not (in the context of Twitter, at least), the thing we care about most is ourselves. We’ve already shown you how to create an ego search to monitor what’s being said about you on the web, but now Twitter is another must-use tool for getting your ego fix. Still, even if you’re not an ego-maniac, surely there’s something that you care about that you could monitor on Twitter. Do yourself a favor and download one of the free desktop Twitter clients to help you create persistent Twitter searches so you can keep track of whatever your want without always hitting up the main Twitter search page. We’d recommend checking out TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop.

There area many other interesting points and uses in the post, so instead of listing them all here, I’ll just send you to it. Keep in mind that, as said above, while Twitter definitely appeals to the narcissism in people, it can be used effectively to great success.