Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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The secret to life is working to death, experts say

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

PROVO, Ut. — Want to get ahead in this world? Work lots of extra hours — even nights and weekends — experts say, and it will all be worth your while.

“It’s easy to forget what’s most important in life,” says Bill Loney, a certified life coach who hasn’t quite made it in life yet. “Family, friends, and social activities that can often inspire and enrich the life of an individual… these are all distractions in getting more work done,” he adds.

Emma Royds, who hasn’t stopped looking at her smartphone every five minutes for three straight years, councils that most people actually die wishing they had spent more time — not less — working. “People never regret working too much,” she says. “My neighbor opted to do adventurous, social, and fitness-related activities with family and friends in his spare time.

“Now 80, he told me recently he really wishes he would have spent more time on TPS cover sheets, obsessively trying to turn his company into the next big thing, and reading email during every waking hour of his life. It’s kind of sad, really.” Continue reading…

The Struts: Sober performances and the return of stage presence

courtesy photo

courtesy photo

“Who does this guy thinks he is?”

I asked myself that upon seeing Luke Spiller perform with The Struts for the first time. He had just finished ripping through the opening four songs of their recent set in Salt Lake City. Two singles. Two of his debut album’s most anthemic tracks. No stops or pauses in between songs. All in the first 15 minutes of a performance that would eventually double the running time of their only album plus one new song.

But unlike a punk act that similarly keeps the punches rolling, Spiller was wholly uninhibited on stage. He wore glittered capes and spandex. Shimmied his shoulders like Freddie Mercury. Calculated dramatic toe steps and emphatic kicks in every direction. Choreographed his carefully rehearsed movements to the music.

While observing all of this, I couldn’t decide if Spiller wanted to imitate Michael Jackson, Robert Plant, Prince, or Mick Jagger. On top of that, the size of his mouth suggests his mother may have slept with Steven Tyler during the British leg of Aerosmith’s Pump tour.

In a later interview after the show, he brushed off a facetious question about his outrageous showmanship. “That’s just what I am,” he told me. “It’s just what I enjoy.”

For lovers of live performances that make you forget the troubles at home, Spiller’s dramatic charisma is all for your gain.  Continue reading…

Using numbers to look your best

suit

ABC

The world is full of qualitative statements. Exaggerations. Subjectiveness that cannot be measured. The people that make such statements are easily forgotten.

Quantitative statements, on the other hand, leave an impression. They measure your place in life. My father taught me this at an early age.

When I was nine years old, I ran a fast 400 meter dash, which is no easy feat. The thing about the 400 is not a lot of people run it. It’s difficult, because it’s not quite a sprint and not quite a distance race. As such, few amateurs compete in it. At least that was the case when I ran it.

So my father encouraged me to run the 400. I did. All the way to the ’88 state finals. Here’s how it happened:  Continue reading…

Top 10 ways to fix content marketing

Content marketing has been around for centuries—ever since the first newspaper figured out they could sell ad space against stories that interested people. But it wasn’t until the last few years—even after mostly failed corporate blogging efforts—that content marketing has become a staple of modern marketing budgets in the social media age.

Consequently, commercial brands, communication departments, and Fortune 500 marketing arms are hiring former journalists, editors, and content strategists at an astonishing rate. One well-known software maker I consult for even has a bona fide news department. The place bustles like the New York Times newsroom. Their editorial content is generating executive interest and finding traction with online audiences.

That said, we’re still in the wild west of content marketing. Here are 10 ways to lay claim on the new frontier. Continue reading…

Never postpone what you have the desire and means to do today

Blake Snow

My wife taught me a valuable lesson recently.

For years, we’ve been planning to build a new house for our growing family. With that decision, we pegged a lot of other things to it, such as a new living room, new places to see, and even a family dog.

“Let’s update the living room after we move,” we told ourselves. “Let’s hold off on that vacation until we’re settled. Let’s wait for a dog until we have our own yard.”

We’ve held that belief for many years with various plans, not just shelter. Wait, wait, wait. When.. when… when… After, after, after.  Continue reading…

The exact moment I fell in love with soccer

Paramount

Paramount

In honor of the World Cup, which starts next week in Brazil, here’s how I fell in love with the game.

The year: 198X. I was at a friend’s house in a remote part of northern Oklahoma. We were watching Victory, a so-so Sylvester Stallone movie about a POW soccer team playing Nazi Germany during World War II. My buddy and I were no older than five or six at the time.

Not wanting to endure the feeble character and pre-game drama, we fast forwarded the VHS “through all the boring stuff” to get right to the climatic game. While the build up to said game will likely keep most adults engaged — more for its interesting plot than acting skills — the last 20 minutes of the movie is most triumphant.

Continue reading…

The anti-technologist: How to smartphone without a data plan

iphoneEditor’s note: The Anti-Technologist is a new column by Blake Snow. It advocates late adoption of consumer technology and expels the wonders of finding offline balance in an online world.

I’m convinced that cellular data plans will someday replace the broadband cable lines most of us still use to access the internet. I also think data plans are great for mobile workers, extended-stay vacationers, or anyone else who doesn’t have access to the internet for the entirety of the work day.

I also know, however, that the last four years of my life after quitting my data plan have been irreversibly better than the four previous years in which I subscribed to a plan. The reason I abandoned the portable internet? In short, I did it because I was tired of being on a self-imposed work leash. That and the “always there” internet didn’t mesh well with my indulgent lust for information. So I cut it.

A lot of people I encounter are surprised by this, mostly because the mainstream view incorrectly assumes that staying on an internet-connected smartphone for extended periods lets you get ahead in life (i.e. make more money). It doesn’t. It’s just an illusion. In fact, all-day internetting actually leads to less inspired work, since obsessive users are never able to truly break away, recharge their batteries, and return to work with a hungry mind.

Nevertheless, smartphones are still great, even on dumb plans like mine. Here’s why: Continue reading…

No turning back: How FiveFingers replaced cushioned running shoes

vibram fivefingers classic black

In 2009, I started running in the ugliest shoes ever. The first time I did it, my calves and feet ached in places they hadn’t before. The second time I did it, I knew I’d never run in cushioned shoes again.

With the exception to select frozen days of winter, in which I run in Nike Free 3.0s to stave off frost bite, I’ve run in Five Finger Classics (pictured) or KSOs ever since. Here’s why: Continue reading…

Top 10 best classical piano sonatas ever (with audio)

pianofingers

Piano is hands down the greatest instrument ever made. Even better than drums. And as far as genres go, classical is, without a doubt, the most timeless music ever.

What happens when you combine the two in their most essential forms? You get this: The best classical piano sonatas ever written.

Before I move on, please note: I use the term “sonata” a bit loosely — my list includes some pieces with no additional movements. But I am using the term “classical” strictly — anything from the common practice period of 1600-1910, spanning baroque, classical, and romantic periods.

So put on your powdered wig. Dress in a frilly shirt. And don’t applaud during the pauses, please. It’s the top 10 best classical piano sonatas of all-time. Continue reading…

My favorite music of 2010

Those who know me well know that I love music. In terms of audio/visual entertainment, nothing compares. Not movies. Not games. Definitely not TV.

When opening it up to all forms of entertainment, music is right up there with books and dancing. In other words, if an armed man asked me which I’d prefer, I’d have a really hard time and probably die trying. What’s more, the latter is virtually impossible to enjoy without music.

That said, this is the new music I most enjoyed last year. New to me, at least. Call it my top bands, whatever. I had this stuff in heavy iTunes rotation last year: Continue reading…

20 business cliches that make you sound stupid

facepalmI went to lunch today with an old business school buddy. We always have a good time making fun of brainless ideas while trying to make a honest buck. Today, we ridiculed some of the following business cliches, which are beyond stale and should never be used; otherwise you’ll sound like everyone else and influence few:
Continue reading…

History repeats: How USA finds World Cup success

U.S. Soccer

U.S. Soccer

Unconventional bravery has always been USA’s winningest soccer strategy.

Although losing its first unofficial match 0-1 to Canada in 1885, the United States men’s national team beat Sweden 1-2 in its first official match played in 1916. Historian David Wangerin noted how the upset was achieved in my new favorite soccer book, Soccer in a Football World:

Sportswriter Carl Linde observed how much ground the American forwards covered and how their sheer willpower often compensated for a lack of technique. Linde claimed this style represented “a new way of playing” and that the visitors “form a very dangerous team, mainly through their primitive brutality; through their speed and through their will to win at all costs.” Another writer remarked that such energetic play made the home side Sweden look as though they were engaged in “exercise for older gents.” (p. 85)

After the game, U.S. coach Thomas Cahill added, “We were outclassed by the Swedish players on straight football. It was American grit, pluck, and endurance that won. No great football stars were members of our team, but we had the pluckiest aggregation ever banded together.”

To this day, America still plays a more primitive game when compared to giants such as Brazil, Italy, and Germany. You have to respect that. Otherwise you’ll slow play it as the underdog, ineffectively counter attack, and ultimately lose playing better opponents. This, I fear, is what U.S. coach Bob Bradley will do this summer to our team’s eventual demise. Continue reading…

Top 5 reasons video games don’t look as good as you think they do

From doctored screenshots to recorded animations, in-game graphics often underwhelm

madden-2005-bullshot-comparisonLeft: Screen capture of a Madden 2005 trailer. Right: The final game, which looked noticeably worse.

Video games are a delight. In my eyes, they’re better than television, and right up there with books, movies, sport, and music as pastimes. But since their beginning, games have held a dirty little secret: they never look as good as advertised. Here’s why: Continue reading…

Worlds are colliding: The brave souls who are quitting Facebook

quitting facebookFacebook is a great way to stay connected with friends.

It’s also a great way to get fired, have your insurance benefits revoked, or suffer public humiliation. As a result, a number of users are deleting their accounts and leaving the popular networking site behind.

For good.

“It just became too much,” says grade-school buddy and long-time friend Josh Rhine. “More an obligation than fun. It also started to smell like some one cracked an egg of high school over an old gossip rag.”

Continue reading at VentureBeat…

Diving in soccer is un-American

img

It may be called “the beautiful game,” but soccer is full of bad acting.

If fans want their sport to be taken seriously by fellow Americans—in other words, thrive here—they need to shun diving from the game at all levels. Otherwise, tough-loving American sports fans will never embrace the sport. And soccer fans in general will continue to get an inferior product. Continue reading…

Remember when I almost killed myself running?

I like running.

With exception to an injury hiatus, I ran several times a week over the past two years. And since reading Born To Run, I do so enthusiastically (not begrudgingly like I once did).

I normally run continuously for 45 minutes to an hour. On occasion, two hours—whatever I feel like really. I don’t time myself or track miles—an act that makes running feel like work—I just run.

Two weeks ago, I was feeling especially light on my feet. When I left the house on an empty stomach that Saturday, I didn’t plan on running for three plus hours, but I did. I also didn’t take water or food with me, and nearly put myself in the hospital as a result.

Continue reading…

Incredible: Unread email actually waits for you on your computer!

gmail

OREM, Utah — After four convenient but usually bad-habit forming years, I canceled my Blackberry email/data plan with T-Mobile last week. To my surprise, I was amazed that my email would actually wait for me on the computer, as opposed to following me around wherever I went. Now, if I’m away from my desk, my email will tell me how many unread messages I have upon my return, so as not to overlook anything. (Some fancy email programs even support audible alerts, such as “You’ve got mail!” Really neat stuff.)

In a flurry of discovery, and in search of more answers, I asked a representative of ARPANET, the inventor of email, for comment. “The great thing about email is that it’s free, provided you don’t give money to your cell phone provider for the same service,” the spokesman said. “And unlike the Post Office, you don’t have to put a hold on your mail if you’re away, say on nights and weekends. If it fits, it ships—which is all the time.”

Continue reading…

Top 5 best Powerade flavors

powerade

For the first time in my life, I’ve become a sports drink junkie. I still guzzle water. But I like how the lightly flavored drink displaces the “workout” taste better than water. So I drink fluorescent colored super juice after heavy training.

Since Powerade (not Gatorade) was on sale last month, I stocked up on all eight flavors. And being the gentlemen that I am, I decided to review them for you. So the next time you reach for a 32 oz. bottle, remember the top 5 most refreshing Powerade flavors, expertly named by yours truly: Continue reading…

I believe I can fly: Top 5 Nike Air Jordans

jumpman_logo__w_white_background

I’ve always admired Michael Jordan’s athleticism, style, and grace in the air. He was the greatest basketball player ever. And even though I only owned a single pair of his pricey Air Jordans (version IV, thanks Mom!), I’ve always like the form factor of his shoes, especially the earlier models. So stick your tongue out, poke your air pocket, and check out the top 5 Air Jordans all time: Continue reading…

Top 10 best Michael Jackson songs

mj.jpgMichael Jackson was undoubtedly the most disturbed musician of all time. He’s also the greatest R&B performer ever—both as a singer and a dancer—and a top 10 all-time artist, right next to Mozart, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin. If you’ve forgotten how talented he was in the recording studio or on stage, I encourage you to listen to Thriller, the best-selling album of all time.

With the King of Pop’s new summer tour announcement recent death, I can’t think of a better time to list his best hits. There are 20 other songs equally worthy of the honor, but in terms of what gets me moving the most, these are the top 10 Michael Jackson songs of awesome: Continue reading…

Vinyl records sustain digital future

Author’s note: This is the piece I pitched to the Miami Herald and DJ Times after our stay in Fort Lauderdale. The Herald said it was too “trade specific” and the Times said it was too “Stanton specific,” so I’m publishing it here so it can see the light of day. Enjoy.

stanton-hq-hollywood-fl.jpg

HOLLYWOOD, Fl. — Despite three decades of newer technology, vinyl records are still crackling. In fact, vinyl sales grew last year, doubling to almost two million in the U.S., according to Nielsen Media Research—the highest they’ve been since 1991.

“Though vinyl’s popularity waned with the emergence of cassettes and CDs in the late 1980s, records continue to hold a niche in the music marketplace, especially among audiophiles and DJs,” says Joshua Friedlander, vice president of research for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Helping to boost last year’s total is a growing number of teens who prefer the collectible nature and warmer sound of vinyl—comparable to listening to a “live” self-playing piano, as opposed to flat MP3s, which are often forgotten as quickly as they are downloaded.

Continue reading…

5 things I wish my BlackBerry could do

_image2.jpgI’ve been an avid BlackBerry user since 2006. I think they’re great if you can moderate their use. (You don’t want to be the loser in the room who plays with their phone all night, right?) But I would also like to see some changes for the better. And becoming an iPhone is not one of them.

  1. Multi-color LED alerts. One of the best features of the BlackBerry is the ability to glance at it from afar without activating the screen to see if you have an unread message. For example, the little LED in the upper right corner blinks red when I have a new message. But I wish I could set different types of messages to display different color alerts. For example, the Curve’s LED blinks blue when in Blue Tooth mode, and green when fully charged. Why not put those colors to good use?
  2. Continue reading…

All you ever need to know about employee appreciation

Originally published December 19, 2006.

Here’s stating the obvious: Most employee appreciation bonuses are lousy, exposing how cheap corporate America can be. Take for example my good friend Matt and his wife Susan. Both are honest working individuals that are extremely kind to those they come in contact with and extremely loyal to the companies they work for. Susan has worked close to 10 years for a local manufacturer. What did she get after working five years for the company? A small shelf clock. And Matt, having worked at a local credit union for five years, got a whopping $50 bonus for his tenure. Nothing says “we care” and “the biggest asset to our company is our employees” quite like skimping when it counts. That’s not to say Susan’s or Matt’s employers are shmoes, just that they suck when it comes to appreciation bonuses.

Continue reading…

25 status updates you should never make on Facebook

ifacebookedyourmom.gifIf you’re a Facebook user, you know how fun status updates can be. The good ones give you specific insight into what your friends are doing, how they are feeling, and what they really think. The bad ones are vague, cryptic, menial (you just checked into some hotel — no one cares), and wouldn’t know wit if it punched them in the baby maker.

These, on the other hand, are much worse — 25 status updates you should never make on Facebook. Continue reading…

Video games ain’t what they used to be, and that’s a good thing

Quick: What’s the most popular type of video game? If you answered “shooters,” “sports,” or “casual games,” you’re wrong.

It’s actually “action” games, according to the NPD group, the official tracker of U.S. video games sales. And you might be surprised to learn that the most popular genres can change with the tide of release calendars.

“Genres move up and down the ranks largely on the shoulders of one or two big games in any particular year,” explains NPD analyst Anita Frazier. “In 2008, that game was Grand Theft Auto IV.” (see graph)

vg-genre-rankings.gif

Some genres, like the aforementioned action, are easier to classify than others. You’re either engaged in a Hollywood-style plot and getting into fisticuffs or you’re not. But other top genres aren’t as easy to define, and many of the games boosting their popularity are titles that seasoned players take least seriously. Think you know what constitutes a “sports,” “strategy,” or “adventure” game? Think again. Continue reading…

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Top 5 pro wrestlers from the 80s

wrestling.jpg

I used to watch a lot of wrestling when I was in elementary school. Saturday mornings with my buddy Chris and a box of Fruit Rollups was always a good time. My interest for macho soap operas later waned in middle school, but I briefly rekindled my love for pro wrestling as a sophomore and junior in high school when WCW was at its peak. Call it a guilty pleasure. I haven’t watched it since.

While “the sport” is pure trash now (in the 80s it was only part trash), I still have fond memories of those fake-baked, bad actors with muscles and lots of fluorescent tights. Here are my favorites. Do share yours. Continue reading…

My proven guide to dumping and avoiding fake friends

Real friends

Lindsey and I have been blessed with many genuine friends — ones that make us laugh, can celebrate our accomplishments, and extend considerate help.

This week, while visiting one such family, we discovered that they’ve been dealing with some “friends” that reputedly became envious and judgmental of our friends’ recent good fortune. For shame — time is too precious to waste on such superficial friends.

With that in mind, here’s my proven guide to ditching and avoiding fake friends, so you can better enjoy your days in the sun. Continue reading…

Crispy Gamer: Some Like It Short (Why Gamers Don’t Finish the Job)

Earth is under attack. Your favorite football team is waiting to win their division. There are more than 60 remaining stars to collect. And yet the gamers charged with overcoming the odds couldn’t care less.

They rarely finish their games, it seems.

According to an investigative Crispy Gamer survey of 2,000 players conducted this month, less than 25 percent of games are played to completion (i.e. the rolling of credits). What’s more, an alarming number of the same percentile say they finish less than 10 percent of their games, purchased, rented, or otherwise.

Continue reading at Crispy Gamer…

Video games in good company since 1958

As with all things in life, video games are best when shared with others. But despite the medium’s rich history and current resurgence of multiplayer games, a tired stigma remains:

Video games are played in isolation, and thus perpetuate social retards.

“There is still this mindset that video games are lone wolf activities for like-minded groups of nerds,” says Troy Goodfellow, a freelance critic for nearly a decade. “But on the contrary, they build connections better than a lot of people think.”

Continue reading…

A geek’s guide to avoiding buyer’s remorse

img3.jpgI consider myself a thrifty individual. I don’t shop at garage sales or anything, and have been known to purchase select high-end products, but I love getting a deal. And I hate feeling buyer’s remorse after spending money on something I don’t need or know I won’t use.

So here are five preventative measures I follow to avoid buyer’s remorse:

1. Use Amazon.com’s “save for later” feature. The number one rule for avoiding buyers remorse is don’t buy on impulse. Amazon’s “save for later” feature ensures that you don’t buy on impulse, yet it provides a quick and easy way to purchase things later with just a couple of clicks. I currently have 14 items in my “save for later” box. I will eventually buy maybe 1-2 (I just recently deleted about 20 itmes after deciding I really didn’t need them). Is there a better way to plan ahead? I think not.

Continue reading…

Why waste good technology on science and medicine?

For any interested, here is a handful of my recently published video game works after my visit to Baton Rouge two weeks ago.

The 10 Most Underrated Consoles (GamePro) — The road to modern video games is littered with the corpses of noble game consoles who flew too high to the sun. Here are the 10 best under-achievers of all-time.

Not Every Politician Hates Video games (Crispy Gamer) — At a VIP game developer event in a secluded upstairs San Francisco lounge, a well-dressed man in his 50s is making the rounds. “Hello, I’m the mayor of Baton Rouge.” “Do you just walk around calling yourself a mayor?” asks one doubting attendee. “No, I’m really the mayor of of Baton Rouge…” Continue reading…

So long mindless button mashing

Video Game Controls Only ImprovingIt pays to embrace inventive controls — just asked Nintendo, Activision, MTV Games, and Electronic Arts. The latter of which did so using a traditional controller even when in 2007 it released Skate, a game that outsold Tony Hawk’s latest by 2 to 1. What’s more, Skate was available on three fewer systems.

The reason for its success is simple: more gratifying controls.

Unlike the once-pioneering Tony Hawk series that relies heavily on button mashing, Skate lets players capture the feeling of skateboarding by executing timed gestures onto dual thumbsticks, with little dependence on buttons. EA calls it “Flickit” controls.

Continue reading…

Should I delete soft sell comments?

I nuke hard sell comments as soon as they are published to Smooth Harold (read: “Nice blog! Check out this really cool snake oil!”). I also reserve the right to delete profane or otherwise mindless provocative comments while Akismet takes care of the spam.

But what do I do with soft sell comments? The comments that are relevant and might add value to some readers even if a salesman is behind them.

Continue reading…

Crispy Gamer: The Excessive Use of Subtitling in Videogames

img5.jpgA closer look at the rise of lengthy videogame names by Blake Snow.

In the second week of November 2007, publishers released an unprecedented number of multiplatform videogames at the height of holiday shopping. Interestingly, more than half of the listed games employed subtitles in their titling, via the use of colons. This represents a far cry from the use of subtitles 10 years ago, which stood at just 30 percent of games.

Continue reading… [Crispy Gamer]

Cultural Learnings of 2007 for Make Benefit of Smooth Harold

BoratI’m no fan of new year’s resolutions. I think individuals should resolve to improve on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, not yearly. But I am big believer in learning from the previous year, which brings me to my list of top educational attainments and the last post of 2007.

  1. More really is merrier.
    I’m the proud father of two girls instead of one as of October. Before the latest arrival (Hi, Maddie!), I errantly thought that two kids would double the parenting workload. In reality, it feels more like a 1.5 workload with a 2.5 return. Challenging, yes, but even more rewarding than I imagined. Continue reading…

Casual blogging not just lunch money now


The AP reports: “Zach Brooks pocketed $1,000 this month blogging about the cheap lunches he discovers around midtown Manhattan. The site, Midtownlunch.com, is just a year and a half old and gets only about 2,000 readers daily…”

Without soliciting ad space, I averaged $575/month ($19/day) in 2007 across my two blogs (the other being Infendo). They garner a combined 3,000 daily readers. (Casual time spent keeps me operating at a loss, however.) Note: I don’t use Google AdSense because Tribal Fusion and Value Click pay better in my experience.

By my calculations, then, I make lunch money fit for two. Not rich, but then again, I didn’t start blogging to make money (believe it or not) — I started blogging because I’m opinionated and like writing.

When you consider the incidental networking opportunities created by daily blogging, however (read: people who find or read your blog and offer high-paying gigs), I am a rich man. Not TechCrunch rich. But new rich at the least.

I shutter to think were I’d be today without blogging — personally, professionally, and financially.

Headline and image courtesy the Associated Press

Two year-olds break PlayStation 3s


The toy compact disc you see pictured above is not compatible with PS3 hardware — in fact, the little booger is twice as thick as standard CDs.

But the irregular gauge nor warranty endangerment would keep my little Sadie from trying to play “I’m a Little Tea Pot” on the ill suited $500 machine this past Monday. Amazingly, the PS3 took the disc, but wouldn’t give it back — the Blu-ray drive was in duress.

Continue reading…

How to keep a pregnant wife happy

Lindsey and I are anxiously awaiting the pending arrival of our second child next month, a girl that will don the ever-popular name of Madison (Maddie for short). Despite my being a newbie dad, I’ve learned a few tricks in keeping a pregnant wife happy.

Here are five suggestions for doing just that.

  1. This first one should be obvious, but just in case: Never tell a pregnant women she’s fat. She knows this. Also, her feet (and maybe even her legs) will inevitably swell with water due to the added weight of a baby. Don’t be a retard; avoid this one at all costs. Continue reading…

The Story Behind Each of My Scars

The wife and I were talking over the weekend about our corporal markings and how we got them. Breathtaking conversation, I know. But we both thought it was interesting how a scar is really just a physical story from your past.

With that, here are the stories behind my engraved blemishes in the order I received them. Some dates are educated guesses of course. Not that you asked, but I thought I would document them none-the-less: Continue reading…

You Don’t Know Jack About Viral Marketing

Viral marketing goes by several different names — buzz marketing, disruptive marketing, guerilla marketing, annuity effect, long tail, media leverage and even word-of-mouth marketing. But adding the word “marketing” to viral or any of the aforementioned names is a bit of a misnomer as the act of marketing typically describes a direct and conscious act on the part of companies to pitch their products to consumers. Viral marketing is anything but conscious. It is indirect marketing managed by consumers and consumers alone.

By definition, viral marketing is a phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message, usually — though not exclusively — online. Like a literal virus, the product message gets passed along from one user to the next and is easily shared in rapid fashion. Hotmail’s mandatory “Get your private, free e-mail at Hotmail.com” message on every outgoing e-mail is widely accredited as the first viral marketing campaign. Its strategy included:

Continue reading…

My worst job ever

What makes something the worst job ever? In my eyes, it’s a lack of excitement. The worst jobs in the world are boring. Yeah, Discovery’s Dirtiest Jobs Ever are pretty bad, but I’d like to think I’d pick one of those any day over boring work. Excitement = Happiness.

Before I describe the worst job I’ve ever had, let’s run down my list of employers and/or clients in chronological order: Chick-fil-A (first job), IBM (PC specialist), Lucent Technologies, Youth Soccer Coach (paid, baby!), Cingular Wireless (retail clerk), BYU Performing Arts (male secretary), BYU web developer, Griffio (my company, still a male secretary), Combat Films (freelancer), Weblogs Inc (blogger), Provo Labs (business incubator), Next-Generation (writer), GamePro (writer), and GigaOM (reporter/blogger). A large number of the latter gigs have been managed concurrently and are/were part-time.

Continue reading…

How to increase your website’s usability, user goals, and SEO traffic using a single footer paragraph

One of the things the new Griffio website is lacking, outside of the all important content that is coming soon, is footer paragraphs. Footer paragraphs are a great way to increase your website’s usability, user goals, and traffic via SEO juice. Take this one for example that I use on a fan site I publish:

Infendo is a gaming blog for gamers passionate about all things Nintendo. The site covers news, tips, cheats, rumors, speculation, reviews, culture, Wii, DS, GameCube, Game Boy Advance and a whole bunch more several times daily. Subscribe to our RSS feed, listen to Infendo Radio — the number one Nintendo podcast on the internet — or send us a tip! Infendo. Always informed.”

As you can see, the footer copy serves as a site summary and a call to action featured at the bottom of every page on the site. It’s keyword rich, it makes sense to humans, and encourages them to further interact with the site in a way we desire. Will your site see an explosion of traffic after implementing such an idea? Probably not. But it’s better than the alternative as analytics prove. White space and a bland copyright statement in your footer is a waste of space despite their clean looks. People like suggestions when reaching the end of content. Make sure you give it to them with well written, key word rich, and action-encouraging footer paragraphs. I promise you’ll see results, however small.

[Thanks, Nicholas]

5 guidelines in building a successful blog

Over the last two years, blogging (and social sites in general) have been big sellers for Griffio. The short answer is because they work in boosting exposure, influence, and opportunities. But sadly, the blog drop-out rate is ridiculous. I’ve heard as little as 1% of all newly created blogs continue publishing after only a short while. To counter that futile fate, here are (5) guidelines for building a successful blog should you decide to start one: Continue reading…

How to unsubscribe from feeds

2007: it’s time to clean out your feed reader. I understand this article goes without saying but feel the majority of heavy RSS users don’t understand the importance or reasoning behind usubscribing from feeds. Why should you? Because RSS overload eats into productivity and phases out quality reading time, that’s why. Even if you click “mark all as read” you’re still wasting time.

Last year I let my total feed count creep into 400+ territory. I read maybe 20-30 daily with about another 30-40 periodically. Since then, I’ve reduced my total “active” feeds to 67 while constantly cycling in new ones and ditching old ones that no longer yield useful content for me. With that, here are some general guidelines I like to follow to keep my feeds clean and usable and my productivity at a healthy level:

  • Determine which feeds you no longer use. You know the routine. You read an article you like and subscribe to the publisher’s feed. That’s what you should do. But maybe that was and is the only article that appeals to you. What if you’re no longer reading the feed, or better yet, pulling inspiration from it? You may be thinking: “But I don’t want to lose it.” Well guess what. You can resubscribe at anytime.
  • Remove feed. Hit delete. Just do it. You’ll be better for it. If you must, save the feed in a backup OPML file in the unlikely event you decide to re-add it to your reader later on.
  • Create high-, medium-, and low-priority feeds. Another helpful method in organizing your feeds is to use priority folders. “High” being stuff you enjoy reading daily and that yields solid inspiration, “medium” being the above average feeds you sometimes read, and “low-priority” being feeds you don’t use often but like to keep tabs on and/or read when you have some extra time. I’ve also seen some feeder users organize feeds by “updated often” or “rarely updated.”
  • Add new feeds. If you aren’t cycling in new feeds at least once a month, you’re missing out. There is simply no way you have already subscribed to the web’s best content. Seek it, add it to your reader in a “pending” status to gauge its viability, then add it permanently if its producing consistent results.

Life, not to mention the work day, is too short to waste on stale feeds. And just think, while you’re mindlessly thumbing through “fast food” feeds, you could be treating yourself to a real literary entree; The Chosen or one of these business-related books quickly come to mind.

How to Make Something Look Good

I had a recent conversation with a colleague of mine who was asking about good design, specifically for websites. Here’s what I told him:

“Don’t try to make a website look good. Ensure that it doesn’t look cheap and that it wouldn’t hurt an audience from further viewing it. There’s a difference. By focusing on not making [a site] look bad, it will naturally look good.”

Over the past five years, that has always been my approach, and it has been a very successful one for me. I’m not the best designer, but I do know how to make something look clean and professional which is what it should be doing anyway. A website is to content as a glass is to water. Don’t let the glass distract from the importance of the water.

See also: Intelligent Design (May 2005)

In Case You Missed It

Smooth Harold is a wee-bitty site. The little fellow gets a whopping average of 25 visitors/day as of last month. Little or not, that’s the most ever, so I thought I’d do a roundup of some of my favorite, most opinionated, and subjective business posts. Feel free to tell me where I’m wrong. I have no pride.

My attempts to be a shoe designer (with a reply from Nike)

Nike SwooshAs a young boy, I used to dream about being a shoe designer for Nike. Something about “tennashoes” always fascinated me. I loved sports and I guess I really believed or wanted to believe that my kicks could help improve my athletic performance. So I drew shoes.

I entertained and acted upon that dream from grade school to my late middle-school years. I would seclude myself in the corner of my shared room and draw shoe mockups with only a pencil. I must have gone through dozens of notebooks. Finally, when I was about 11 or 12 and through my own initiative, I decided to look up Nike’s corporate address and send them my work.

Continue reading…

Top Prospecting Methods

For all you salesman out there (which is just about anyone who tries to influence others), here are three of the most consistent prospecting methods:

  1. Asking for referrals. Remember to always ask clients, colleagues, even prospects if they know anyone who could benefit from your services.
  2. Executive Networking. Let your work speak for itself. Get your client CEO’s to call or email others in their industry on your behalf. Executive-to-executive sales will always outperform seller-to-executive sales.
  3. Cold Calling. Yup. That’s right. Contrary to popular belief, the reason this method keeps re-occurring in sales is that it works. No other method can increase your prospecting efforts like cold calling can. (I have personally closed many profitable clients this way.)

There are lots of other ways to build your pipelines, but hopefully this will prioritize them and remind you of what works.

[Source: Power Prospecting by Patrick Hansen]

Got customer service?

There is a plethora of business books out in the world claiming to reveal the next big thing to make money or better run your business. Some are good, most are bad. There are books on management, sales, and even customer service. The last one I think is laughable. Customer service is equivalent to how you cordially serve your customers to make them happy. If you don’t understand that, I don’t know how you would be in business.

I therefore present Griffio’s “corporate policy” on customer service. It’s rather simple and is based on one thing: accountability. Be responsive to those you interact with. Here’s how:

  1. Return phone calls within 1.5 hours – it’s tough, but it can be done. You will be surprised how comforting a returned phone call can be to your customers. By your doing it, they will have more respect for you and your company.
  2. Reply to emails on the same day – When someone writes an email, respond to it. It usually takes about 10 seconds to do so. I recently emailed a gentleman last week inquiring about his marketing services. I still haven’t heard from him. My bet is that if he treats his potential customer’s poorly, a paying customer probably won’t get much response from him either.

Reason being: customer service is about character not dollars. It’s something that is hard to teach although it can be done. The two above items should help your efforts in showing your customers that you care enough to respond to them. They have been the only formal customer service policies we follow and have taken our company a long way in being one of the most responsive firms in our industry. Sure beats reading a long, boring business book on customer service.

Problem Solving

Some of you may like to know: exactly how does Griffio go about solving our clients’ business challenges? Well, we’ve loosely documented but rigidly followed the below ideology. (It applies to all sorts of problems and not just how to make web-based business software.)

  1. Discover. Find out what the problem is. A lot of times, you can just ask, “What’s the problem?” or “How can I make your job easier?” Otherwise, conduct in-depth research, such as thorough exploration and investigation to expose the predicament.
  2. Design. After you understand where the problem is, you need to think it through. What ways can you solve the issue? What would work best? Continued research must take place to test your ideas during this phase. Contrary to popular problem solving formulas, this is where most of the testing should take place. An example would be how a certain web page will work or how my audience would react to this idea. Try to uncover any potential hang-ups the idea or process may have.
  3. Develop. Create or build the supporting materials. This step generally includes the use of technical tools such as a software editor, a hammer, or even written notes. Good craftsmanship must take place to ensure quality.
  4. Deliver. Once the system or idea is built or completed, deliver it, launch it, present it, or sell it. This is the part where you give and/or tell the “problemee” what you think will best improve their current state.
  5. Support. This is where you help implement you solution, be it an idea or website. Problem solving requires change, both logistical and behavioral. Good support facilitates that change. The audience should be free to ask questions or get training as to how to best use your idea.

Hopefully, this will help or add to how you approach problems. The idea is to use these steps or a derivative of them in solving just about anything. If you come up with any areas that this might not work (i.e. marriage) please let me know by filling out our quick and easy comment box.