As a 40-something professional focused on business applications, I have had little interest in using Facebook. But Facebooks new platform initiative compelled me to join. The world has been waiting for object-oriented solutions with plug-and-play integration for years. It's still a long-ways away in business applications, but it looks like Facebook is off to a great start. I played around with this for an hour or so today and was impressed with some very cool independently developed services - like "Where I've been".
I have faithfully maintained my linked-in profile and network for the past few years and it has served me well. But after an hour or so building my Facebook profile, Linked-in seems really dull. If some independent developers start adding in some clever business apps, Facebook could zoom right past Linked-in. I read that Linked-in is pursuing a similar platform initiative - but they better hurry. Right now, only about 15 of my 300+ linked-in contacts seem to be in Facebook, but I think that might change. I'm looking forward to seeing how this shakes out.
I am continually frustrated with annoying inefficiencies in using email, the web and office applications. So, I have really come to like a few widgets that I have integrated into my day to day use.
Here they are:
Adding new contacts to outlook is a pain, unless people send around their VCards, which most people don't. What if you could highlight someone's contact information in the footer of an email, or on a website, hit Ctrl-C-C and boom . . it's in your outlook. I love Anagram. $30.
Cutting out pictures, text, logo's, etc., from websites and documents is limited to right click and saving a component (which is filled with issues) or hitting print screen, which gives you the whole screen in view . . which is typically more or less than you really want. I love SnagIt - it let's you cut out large scrolling windows that exceed the open screen size as well as objects that don't save/copy well. $40.
I have a password protected word document that houses all my passwords. How annyoning - even when you have a standard password, sometimes you have to put one in that is longer, or requires a mix of numbers and letters, etc., a real pain. I just started using roboform. I never thought I would find a good password management tool, but this one rocks. Check out recent review in Computerworld. $30 for the download tool and $40 for the portable USB stick.
I like how clean .pdf files are, but I have no need for a publishing tool. I love PDFCreator. It lets me print to a .pdf file from any application - as though it were a printer. It's opensource and FREE.
Small businesses have tough choices to make when it comes to software and subscription services that help them manage their operations. The natural tendency is sign-up with a market-leader, because you want something that works and don't have time to hunt around for lower-cost alternatives.
Having felt this pain in the past, following are some recommendations (most are based on personal experience) for services that are at least 80% as good as the market leading solutions at less than 20% of the price. Assuming a team of 5 people, I will suggest potential cost savings.
CRM, you can't go wrong with Salesforce, but IF you have a server available and the in-house resources to install it, then SugarCRM is a great deal. It's free. Sure, you will have to spend a few hours to install it and a few hours to upgrade it about once a year, but it works quite well and I have personally found it to be reliable. Savings $995/year to $3,000/year.
WebMeetings/Presentations. Webex is great and has tons of features. However, you can get 80% of that functionality (and a simpler interface) with gotomeeting at a fraction of the price. Savings $5,000/year
JobPostings. There are TONS of options to Monster.com, Careerbuilder and Hotjobs - each of which will help you find a lot of candidates. Ones that you absolutely ought to try include:
CraigsList (for free in most cities) - best for lower-level jobs - I still don't know why, but it works
The Ladders - free postings, geared towards $100K+ jobs.
LinkedIn- if you have a good network, for a $100, this is quite good.
Savings, N/A - think of these as other low-cost ways to find more good people.
Conference Call Service. Tons of options here, but have you heard of Free Conference Call? It really is free and it really works. You don't get toll free numbers, but most people don't need toll-free anyway. The service can be a bit finicky, so I would try it out for internal calls first.
Then again, for internal conference calls, you can always use Skype. See my other blog post on Skype. Also, if you have an IP phone system, it probably includes some of this capability - built in at no extra cost. Savings - $1,000/year or more.
There are a lot more of these kinds of options out there. Anyone have other suggestions?
As somewhat of a tech geek (for a non-programmer), I am a little embarrased to admit I have not been a Skype user - until yesterday. I have friends and previous co-workers around the globe that are big users, but I never had enough of a recurring need to bother.
Less than 5 minutes to: WOW, that was easy!
Yesterday afternoon I emailed a friend in France to say hi . He emailed me back and arranged a time to call on Sunday. I noticed he had a Skype user name and decided that would be easier (ok, cheaper) than making a long-distance call. So, I went to the Skype site and downloaded the service. It took about 2.5 minutes to download and about 1 minute to test. I searched for my friend's user id and found it in 15 seconds and added him to my contacts list. About 1 minute later, my computer rang. It was my friend. We chatted for a few minutes about work, family and Skype. No reason to wait till Sunday, no reason to pay for the call.It turns out that although he had Skype setup on his computer, he had never used it before. His IT guy set it up for him and he never had a need to use it before (just like me). However, when I added him to my contact list, he was notified, he hit the call button and I was on the line. Neither of us had headsets, so we just talked through our computers, which worked fine.
Massive adoption, minimal change
The real brilliance in Skype is the way they have enabled those that REALLY need it, to use it without forcing any change on others.
There are huge benefits to CALLERS using Skype even if you are calling someone on their land-line or cell-phone. There is no real benefit to those receiving the call, but the fact that they don't have to change anything is huge.
Litmus test for technology adoption
I was introduced to Skype a long-time ago and have heard callers rave about how great it was - while they were calling me on Skype. I understand better now, what so many others have found obvious for so long. What other cool technologies out there embrace change this well?