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Archive for 2010

Does the Better Business Bureau Sell Its Grades?

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

I was watching ABC News the other night when I saw this report that suggests that the Better Business Bureau is essentially selling good business ratings.  In this report, Brian Ross makes some fairly shocking realizations while interviewing a small business owner that had received a ‘C’ grade for her business and the day after paying the $400 membership fee to the BBB her rating immediately shot up to an ‘A’.  The small business owner indicated that she did not do anything else that would have resulted in her increase in grading. 

The report goes on to detail how some “pranksters” made up a business called “Hamas” which is a well known terrorist organization and paid the same $400 membership fee to the Better Business Bureau and, sure enough, this made up business received a grade of A! 

The ABC report also includes an interview with Wolfgang Puck, who has an ‘F’ rating by the way, and says that he thinks paying for a grade is wrong.  Other business owners interviewed in the piece say that they think the BBB is running a scam by trying to strong arm these small businesses into paying for their BBB membership in order to get a good rating through their system.

The end of the report seemed to indicate that the Connecticut District Attorney was in the process of requesting that the BBB stop rating businesses using this rating system as it seemed to be fraudulent.  If these allegations are true, this no doubt will have huge impacts to the small business community as a large number of them have purchased trust and rating seals from the Better Business Bureau and they would now most likely be requesting refunds for these products if the rating system is, in fact, fraudulent. 

Have you ever purchased any of these products for your business from the BBB and had similar issues in getting a good rating?

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Archive for 2010

Facebook and Privacy

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Exam week is coming up and instead of preparing, I’m procrastinating. 🙂 I only have two major ones anyway.  If I wasn’t procrastinating, I wouldn’t have come across a certain article from TechCrunch.

You all remember Facebook’s privacy issues right? The one’s that have been so numerous that there were tons of articles about them. Facebook has had so many issues that Wikipedia has a whole article about it. Don’t get me wrong, I think Facebook’s a good idea but it has problems.

The top articles for this search

Anyway, when I was browsing TechCrunch, I came across a headline that said “Facebook Sued For Having Privacy Controls In Place. Yes, Seriously.” Wait…..what?  Did I read that right?  Who would sue Facebook for having privacy controls? This is ridiculous. So, I click on the link.  Turns out it’s a patent lawsuit. What? Apparently Walker Digital, an invention company, patented the process of how users control and manage the release of information. Someone patented this? You can do that? Apparently, you can.  The company claims that Facebook violated it’s patent by allowing people to have some control over their privacy. You have got to be kidding me…..I think this is real because Facebook said that they would fight it…..I’m hoping that it’s a joke though. I would still be wary of putting anything that you consider personal/valuable on Facebook though.

As long as we’re on the subject of Facebook, does the interface look cluttered to you all? (On a side note, Twitter looks cluttered to me too.) Look at it, really look at it. Doesn’t it look kinda dull? The Washington Post agrees with me on this. This is the only reason I like Twitter marginally better than Facebook.(I don’t like either of them that much) Twitter lets its users control how their page looks. With Facebook if you don’t like it, you can’t change it. I am a (somewhat) visual person. I don’t like white all that much and I don’t like seeing too much stuff on a page either.  What I would like in a social networking site, is for it to be customizable. I want to be able to change the background, limit the number of things on a page and be able to organize it all.  The two major ones don’t really let you do that.

So what do you all think about the aesthetics of Facebook?

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Archive for 2010

Lessons from Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Mental Game is Key to Success

Monday, November 29th, 2010

I have to admit when I was growing up back in Ohio I idolized Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, I used to get Muscle & Fitness magazine and I watched every Arnold movie from Conan the Barbarian, Commando, Predator, and of course through all of the Terminator classics.  At that time I looked up to Arnold mainly because I was (ok now dont laugh) big into weightlifting and well the movies were just the movies – pretty cool for any teenage kid.

It is funny that nearly 20 years later my wife sent me the video below which is a recent interview of Arnold where he discussed his approach to the success he has had a different phases in his life.  It wasn’t until I watched the short 10 minute video that I realized that Arnold reinvented himself three separate times and was wildly successful in each instance. First, as the bodybuilder and multiple Mr. Olympia, then as a huge action movie star and finally as Governor of California.

The punchline for the video and largely this post is that Arnold said the difference between himself and others in each of the three major  roles in his life was the mental game.  As an example, he said there were plenty of weightlifters when he was competing to win bodybuilding competitions that were just as big as him, trained just as hard as he did, but the difference between Arnold and these other folks was their approach to mentally winning. Arnold always envisioned success and winning as well as achieving his goals.  His goal was not just to be a good bodybuilder, but it was to win Mr. Olympia repeatedly.  And so as opposed to other bodybuilders who were just good at training, Arnold continually envisioned mentally winning Mr. Olympia.  And he won it not just once, but six consecutive times! In the video he says the difference between himself and others was not being physically bigger or having more defined muscles, it was instead the mental aspect of training, focusing and envisioning success at all times.

This was Arnold’s approach to the mental game:

a) constantly envisioned success and accomplishing the near and short term goals he laid out for himself;

b) was always mentally focused on that success and accomplishing those goals;

c) carried that focus into everything he did and his approach to training and executing his plans; and

d) was relentless in his pursuit for the success that he set out to achieve.

For startups and small businesses there are strong parallels and lessons learned from Arnold’s approach that he has taken in his life to succeeding not once, but in three completely separate areas as diverse as bodybuilding, acting and being elected as to the highest office in the largest state in the United States.

Watch, listen, take notes and start acting on the Arnold’s guidance! You will not regret it.

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Archive for 2010

Black Friday Update: Why Doesn't Everyone Just Shop Online?

Friday, November 26th, 2010

It’s Black Friday and I’m at the mall.  It’s horrible.  Just getting a parking spot was a fight or flee situation — and you had to make snap judgments on how aggressive you should be based on the competing car.  Ford F-150…well I could probably beat him to the spot, but he’ll likely be very large and angry.  2010 Land-Rover SUV…very likely a soccer-mom who could scratch my eyes out without getting an increased pulse rate.  Subaru Outback…hmmm, probably a softball bat in the back.  Finally I was in competition with another Prius-driver.  That person will definitely be a pacifist vegetarian…time to get aggressive.

After winning my slap-fight with the surprisingly tough Prius-owner, I walk into Nordstroms.  First off, I don’t care how great the deals are here, it costs too much.  Why is everyone running around thinking that they need to buy the overpriced sweaters before they run out?  There will always be more and I’m sure your husband won’t really like it…but will wear it.

I’m walking past all the mid-mall vendors.  Since when was it acceptable to shout out shoppers to try some crappy “jewelry cleanser” or some odd remote controlled car, or my favorite, hair extensions for childern.  Not only are the products being offered very strange, but there is no discretion in who is being offered them.  My wife doesn’t wear jewelry and we have no kids. 

This mall experience is not great …except for the Cinnabun visit (dang).  As I spot the lines at the register, I’m thinking…why don’t I just shop online?  I guess it’s exciting to see the crowds, especially as this year seems to be the first in three years where consumers are really going to open up their wallets.  But I could have just watched the news instead of cramming myself into this social experiment.  So why am I here…I mean a busy mall on Black Friday shouldn’t be unexpected.  Well, I want to try out the Microsoft Kinect at the new Microsoft store.  Yes…I’m a big nerd.

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Archive for 2010

Thanksgiving and Technology

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Hello everyone! I finally have Thanksgiving break! Yay!! So, this is a special post! 🙂 First, lemme ask you a question! What was your first piece of technology? Does anyone remember? I don’t remember what mine was, but I do remember that my parents had a cassette tape and a Walkman. Another question! What technology are you thankful for? I am thankful for the cell phone, because you can communicate on the go, the laptop because it’s mobile and lets me work on my papers as long as the battery’s there and the web because it makes research so much easier! Stuff that you might consider buying for someone. If you know a geek or are one(be proud of it!) Wired has some pretty cool gifts. Here are the ones that sounded interesting!

  • The nPowerPEG: it uses your movement to charge things! $150
  • Travelteq Trash Messenger: yes the bag is actually called that. It looks nice and is large enough to stash a lot of stuff. $365(expensive though)
  • Think Geek Molecular Gastronomy Starter Kit: Yes! Now I can play mad scientist!(evil laugh) $70
  • Temple Laptop Briefcase: like the other bag except cheaper $ 478(slightly)
  • Matias Folding Keyboard: Find touch screens difficult to use? Don’t want to carry a large keyboard with you everywhere you go? Then this is for you! $ 70
  • Sure SE425 Earbuds: The wire is reinforced with Kelvar and they have a two year warranty. Maybe these ones will last me…..$300
  • Cannon S95 Camera: blur free stills and good low light abilities $400
  • Country Comm Embassy Pen: looks cool and is supposed to last a lifetime; the tip looks like it’s fine point $39 (cheaper than most good quality fountain pens)
  • Davey Flask with Telescoping Cup: I wanna store my water in this….I like the design. $118
  • iPad: I want a stylus with this one….$629
  • Dixit: Yay! Plot ideas! Now I can get some more twists for my novel! $35
  • Sharpie Liquid Pencil :Yes! No more sharpening and it has a fine tip. $2
  • Hi Tech Art LED Map of the US: Maybe this will make US history seem more interesting. #the Wired pic shows Europe instead of America $200
  • Rockler Bench Cookie: Keeps stuff in place! $12 for a set of 4
  • Cleveland CG 15 Wedges: Makes golf balls spin! # If anyone gets one of these, let me see you golf. Please? $120
  • Koziel Trompe-L’Oeil Wallpaper: Perspective wallpaper. Makes it look like you could walk into the scene. I want one of these…$49-199
  • RockPaperRobot Float Table: It floats! It’s expensive though. $2,000
  • Innate Doppio Cappuccino Tumbler: Keeps your cup of coffee hot and keeps it at an actual cup. $9
  • Lomography Spinner 360°: It spins! Now you can capture motion around you more easily.  $145

Wow, that was a lot of stuff. The Wired list has a 100 of them. So that’s what you can look for if you go shopping on Black Friday. Speaking of Black Friday, here’s some tips for getting what you want.

  • Get there early. I know the economy’s been bad, but it seems like it’s rebounding, so be sure to get to the store early.
  • Get coupons! Some stores will let you use coupons for stuff that’s already on sale.
  • Make a list. You should probably do this every time you go shopping because then you won’t get distracted by what’s above your budget.
  • Budget; don’t go crazy, you’ll get the bill sooner or later
  • If you’re buying gifts for someone, go shopping with that person and keep an eye on what they like. Then if you can loose them for a few minutes get the thing that they want.

So, anyone have anymore shopping tips?

The orange/green thing is supposed to be a pumpkin

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Archive for 2010

Are You Ready For Black Friday?

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

This Black Friday I will not be standing in line at 3:00 AM waiting for the doors of some store to open and then frantically pushing my way around the store hoping to find some amazing deals. Nope, not this year. This year I will be comfortably lounging at home in my pajamas making my purchases online.

What are you doing this Black Friday? Will you be out and about taking advantage of the early bird specials, or will you be doing your shopping from home?

Whatever approach you’re taking, you should start by doing your homework and making sure you know what stores are offering what deals, and when they’re offering those deals.

Here are a few tools and websites that you may find helpful when planning your Black Friday shopping strategy:


Use this website to find Black Friday tips, ad scans, and doorbuster information. This site gives you the option to sign up for Black Friday Email Alerts.


This site is designed to help you research, plan and execute the best Black Friday shopping. It also allows you to view leaked Black Friday ads for major retailers. This site also gives you the option to sign up for Black Friday Email Alerts.


This website features a very helpful time-line that includes Black Friday online sales information for each retailer that includes sale start times, door-buster availability and free shipping qualifications.  This feature is constantly updated to reflect the most up-to-date information.  This site also has information about Black Friday deals that have already begun.


This site features the option to create a personalized shopping list and a comprehensive FAQ section.

Do you have any favorite Black Friday websites?  Happy shopping!

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Archive for 2010

KikScore Presentation: Security for Small and Medium Businesses: Top Trends That Matter Now

Monday, November 22nd, 2010
Security for Small and Medium Businesses: Top Trends That Matter Now

View more presentations from KikScore.
Mike and I were invited to speak at the Focus.com Interactive Summit on All Things Small and Medium Business on October 28, 2010.  We covered previously the great list of topics and speakers (ourselves excluded of course, we are just humble Midwestern fellas!), that were included during the presentation.
Mike gets credit for putting together a great slide deck that somehow was able to weave in security trends for small and medium businesses conveyed through pictures from AwkwardFamilyPhoto.com.  To hear our presentation (and the other great ones), the recordings of those presentations are at the Focus.com site.  You just need to sign up and you can access the on demand recordings.
In our presentation on security for small and medium businesses, we covered:
1. Tips to use to protect your business from data compromises;
2. Ways to make sure your employees are using good security practices;
3. New trends in phishing that impact businesses;
4. Best practices for password, system and account security for your business and employees;
5. Tips on protecting your systems, sensitive information and computers from intruders and hackers;
6. And much more.
So please take a listen. We promise you will learn something and also get a chuckle or two from our presentation.  Also special thanks to the great Focus.com crew for inviting us to speak.
We would love to know what you think about the presentation so please let us know.

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Archive for 2010

Happy National Entrepreneurship Week!

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Did you know that President Obama proclaimed November 14 through November 20, 2010, as National Entrepreneurship Week? He also proclaimed November 19, 2010, as National Entrepreneurs’ Day.  President Obama explains how “entrepreneurs embody the promise that lies at the heart of America — that if you have a good idea and work hard enough, the American dream is within your reach”.  So, to all you small business owners and entrepreneurs out there, Happy Entrepreneurship Week!

In honor of Entrepreneurship Week, I’d like to share several quotations about entrepreneurship that I hope you will find inspirational, and maybe even a little funny.  I have included several quotations below:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”

Thomas Alva Edison

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great”

-Mark Twain

“To win without risk is to triumph without glory”


“The cover-your-butt mentality of the workplace will get you only so far. The follow-your-gut mentality of the entrepreneur has the potential to take you anywhere you want to go or run you right out of business–but it’s a whole lot more fun, don’t you think?”
– Bill Rancic winner on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice”

“Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.”

-Niccolo Machiavelli

“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of People have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer”

-Nolan Busnell

Do you have a favorite quotation that inspires you? Please share it with us.

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Archive for 2010

Great Videos For Small Business & Startups from the 2010 GrowSmartBiz Conference

Monday, November 15th, 2010

My wife and I were so looking forward to attend the 2010 GrowSmartBusiness Conference in Washington DC. We previously covered the reasons that the small business and startup community should have attended this event.  Unfortunately for us we had to miss the great conference due to the stomach flu making an appearance in our household.  So this post is as much for me as it is for the entire small business and startup community.

Just a simple following of the #growsmartbiz hashtag on Twitter will show you that the conference was a huge success.  But the organizers went a step further.  They have put most of the content online in the form of the speakers videos from the day.

So here is a tally of the links you should visit to watch and learn from some of the wonderful speakers from the 2010 GrowSmartBiz Conference:

1. The lunch keynote from Raul Fernandez, Chairman of ObjectVideo, Vice Chairman, Monumental Sport and Entertainment is here.

2. The marketing and innovation session was given by Barry Moltz, author of “Bust a Myth” and it was titled “How Social Media Has Made Customer Service the New Marketing.”

3. Another great session was “Reinvigorating Small Business Innovation” with small business experts Jason Falls, Steve King, Jeremy Epstein, and Duncan Alnay.

4. The final session that included the Marketing Keynote with Rohit Bhargava, Ramon Ray on 6 Rules for Tech Success, Rieva, Lesonsky, 3 Top Small Business Trends for 2011, Shonali Burke on PR & Small Business, and Jill Foster on Public Speech 2.0 in an 140 Character  World.  Check out all of these great videos here.

I sure hope we can make it next year.  What a great conference and thanks for the fantastic content!

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Archive for 2010

Melted rocks and other browsers

Friday, November 12th, 2010

I’m assuming everyone has head of RockMelt by now. Yes? Good! Do you know what it’s supposed to do? Not quite clear on it? That’s ok, it was kept a secret for some time. So what is it?  We’ll get to that in a minute. I thought that with a new browser coming out, that we could take some time and compare what’s already on the market(Why this is called a market, I’m not sure. No one’s paying to get a new browser. Strange…) Anyway, most of this will be my own experience, with links! Except for RockMelt because only my father’s using it and he just downloaded it recently.

Let’s start with RockMelt! This is a new browser for people who use social media constantly(like my father).  People say it’s a browser for Facebook because Facebook is better integrated into it than Twitter or any of the other stuff you may use. According to screenshots, there’s two bars on the side of the browser that are for your social media stuff.  Uh….doesn’t that cut into your browser screen though? It looked ok in the screen shot, but it seems really picture frame like to me. Apparently you must be logged into Facebook to use it.  It looks a lot like Chrome in the screenshot, which makes me wonder if you can customize it to give you themes. To me it doesn’t sound too new. It sounds more like a cross between a browser and a mail client, except without all the pop ups.

Moving on to Firefox. They just released a plug in that lets you share website links. Plus they integrated with Gmail.  The plug-in is less involved than RockMelt but it should save you from copying and pasting links into an email. Firefox has released beta 7. I haven’t used Firefox, ever since they stopped giving support for Thunderbird, but a lot of these features sound like stuff Opera and Chrome have already done.  For example Firefox Sync. Everything in Firefox is saved on the cloud, so whenever you use Firefox on another computer you get your preferences, bookmarks, the whole deal. Opera’s already done this. Firefox now can handle more Java intensive sites, like Chrome. Firefox also has a thing called Panorama. It lets you keep websites separate, organizing them into groups. Opera sort of does this, by letting you see some websites as panels, which are hidden. Also now you don’t have to restart your browser whenever you install an add on. Chrome and Opera already have this.  When I used Firefox, I liked the fact that they had all of these themes.

Now on to Chrome!  I used this for a while. The themes are nice, but for me the browser kept on crashing occasionally. It did warn you when you clicked on a link if the site had malicious code in it.  I didn’t like the fact that if you accidentally closed your only tab(I do this a lot) , the whole browser would close. Also, the only way you could get  all of your tabs back at once, was to shut down the window with the tabs still open when you finished your session. It did have a pretty clean feel though.

Now for Opera! This is the one I currently use. The interface took some time to get used to, though not much. I figured out where everything was within a couple of minutes of using it.  I like that all of your bookmarks are grouped into one place, instead of having a folder that says bookmarks below your address bar. Opera has everything in the menu button at the top. Opera also allows you to customize your speed, using Opera Turbo. However, it does warn you that using it may distort some images. There is an option to set it to automatic, so you can browse faster on slower networks. I like the themes on Opera because they are compatible with the Window’s 7 Aero themes. Opera has an option that  enables it to follow the system color scheme, so it matches the rest of your windows. Opera’s speed dial page is also mostly transparent, so you can see your other windows or your desktop. The only thing is that if you turn speed dial off, is that transparency is gone also.

On to Internet Explorer! It works. I’ll say that. I don’t have the new one, so I can’t tell you how that works. Version 8 seems ok. It didn’t crash when I used it. Although the only thing I use it for is viewing pages that Opera has a hard time with, namely Google Docs. I don’t like the fact that Explorer will open up my documents in a new window. Chrome never used to do that.  Explorer has only one style and the buttons make the top look really big, although you can shrink that.

So, what’s your favorite browser and why?

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