NASA / Google’s Singularity University Has Been Suspended

NASA / Google recently announced their new Singularity University project. It looks pretty cool except for one little thing. Their site (hosted at BlueHost) seems to have been suspended. (All these brilliant people and they can’t keep their site up.)

Singularity University video

Google Wishlist?

I just stumbled across Google Wishlist, a type of universal wishlist based around Google Product Search. Is this something new, or have I simply never noticed it before? Basically you start by finding a product through Google’s product search (originally called “Froogle”) which itself is based on Google Base. If it has been around for any significant period of time, then adoption is apparently really low. If it is something new, interest is apparently quite low because I don’t hear anyone else talking about it. I guess we’ll see. Personally, I’m still a huge fan of Amazon’s Universal Wishlist

Has you used (or even heard of) Google Wishlist?

6 Ways to Cut Costs (& Boost Business) in a Tough Economy

You’ve no doubt heard about the economic turmoil all around us. Maybe the recession is hitting your business particularly hard. While there’s nothing we can do to fix the economy, here are some ideas you can implement today that will help you cut costs and save big bucks.

6. Make Friends with a Competitor

You’ve been in business long enough to know that you can’t please everyone. And why would you want to? There are some customers out there who just wouldn’t be a good fit to work with your company. But guess what… some other business is a great fit. And that’s okay. Because most of your customers wouldn’t be a good fit with their company.

Now that we’ve clarified that, working with the competition becomes a great opportunity. If you’re too expensive for some clients, refer them to someone less expensive. If you don’t offer exactly the service someone is looking for, tell them who does. You’ll quickly realize that you’re spending less time dealing with frustrated clients, and more time with the profitable ones. And what’s more, your competitors will start sending customers to you. It’s all about building good karma. Cost = FREE

5. Accept Payment Online

Do you offer online payment to your clients? If not, you probably should be. These days, people expect to be able to pay with their credit card. And they don’t trust letting that card out of their site. Offering online payment options through a reputable provider makes your business that much easier to work with. And the best part is, it’s not that difficult. Just 15 minutes to set up an account with PayPal or Google Checkout and you’ll be ready to accept payments from Visa, MasterCard, AmericanExpress, and Discover.

Your customers can feel safe that you won’t ever have access to their card, and you can rest easy knowing that nobody can break into your office and steal valuable information. Cost = FREE

4. Stop Mailing Invoices

How much time does your receptionist spend printing/folding/stuffing/addressing/mailing invoices each month? How much money do you spend on postage? paper? envelopes? Is tracking down late payments sucking up time that you could be using to make money? Enough is enough!

There are a mountain of companies that can automate your invoicing process including: Zoho Invoice (my personal preference), Invoice Journal (my 2nd favorite), FreshBooks, and Blinksale. These products take all the complication out of billing your clients.

For example with Zoho:

  • Just click on “Create a New Invoice”
  • Choose a client and the service performed
  • Verify the correct amount
  • Click “Save and Send”.

An invoice will be emailed to your client along with a link to make a secure payment via PayPal. If they forget to pay, a reminder will automatically be sent to them later. Zoho shows you at a glance how much you’ve invoiced, how much you’ve collected, and how much is still outstanding. Cost = FREE to send a few invoices; up to $35/month to send a lot of invoices.

Jump to the next page for 3 more suggestions…

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Blog Action Day Tackles Global Poverty

You may or may not be familiar with Blog Action Day. It’s a concept dreamt up by our friends over at Envato. This year they’re tackling the topic of poverty, a serious problem around the globe. Personally, I fast for 24-hours each month and then donate what I would have spent on food to a charity that serves people who cannot provide for themselves. What ideas do you have for tackling poverty?

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Your Home Page Is Ugly

Here’s a little food for thought

You make sure to dress up nicely for work every day. If you’re a retail business, you probably make sure there is a dress code that ensures your employees look presentable. Your store is probably cleaner than your bedroom at home, and you pay good money for letterhead and business cards so your company looks professional. 

So why oh why do so many businesses scrimp on their websites? Why do you spend heaps of money trying to make your company appear professional, and but you only want to spend $400 on a web site? Don’t you realize that’s where many of your potential customers will get their first impression of you. 

Is your home page ugly? If so, clean it up… for the company’s sake.

The Framing Shop on the Corner

Some good friends own a framing shop in Idaho Falls, Idaho called Forever Stitching and Framing. They are friendly people and have done a beautiful job with several pictures we needed framed. 

Yesterday, they got a very threatening letter from another local framing shop called The Framing Corner (link). Apparently, they think they have a trademark on the word “corner” and said that if Forever Stitching and Framing use the phrase “on the corner” in any of their advertisements, they’ll get sued. This makes it difficult since Forever Stitching and Framing is on the corner. A very prominent corner in fact. 

The letter also stated that if any of the pictures in the front window at Forever Stitching and Framing are tilted they’ll get sued. (Evidently they believe they have trademarked a tilted frame as well.) Come on geniuses, everyone knows that you can’t trademark something that’s obvious or generic. 

I have never understood why businesses think they have to take these predatory measures in order to succeed. If they just spent more time improving their product and less time visiting with their lawyer, they might actually succeed of their own merit (not to mention, they wouldn’t have to charge as much). And yes, I know people who have gotten their pictures framed at the Framing Corner and the quality was… less than optimal. 

While we’re on the subject of “intellectual property”, it’s also interesting to note that the Framing Corner’s logo itself includes what appears to be an arm taken from Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. (rolls eyes)

Starpointe Gets a New Logo

It’s just a small change, but hopefully you’ll all appreciate it. I finally came up with a logo that I’m pleased with. I think it’s pleasant to look at and subtly reflects the trifecta of services that Starpointe Marketing offers. Feel free to tell me your thoughts.

Starpointe\'s New Logo

North Temple is Down

One of my favorite blogs about design and usability has been down for several days and I’m starting to go through withdrawls.

Now they know a lot more about usability and design than I do, so I’m not one to criticize, but couldn’t they have gotten the new design ready and then switched it over in one fell swoop? (Isn’t that usability 101?)

Worst Idea Ever… .anything Domain Names

I just read that ICANN is considering opening the floodgates to webmasters so they can register any top-level-domain with at least three characters.

Not good.

The only people who will benefit from this are spammers, phishers, domain-squatters, and fraudsters. Imagine getting an email asking you to download document.doc. You’ll assume it’s a Word file. Wrong… it could be a link to a phishing website located at http://www.document.doc.

Do we need more TLDs? Yes. But there should be a thorough vetting process before releasing them into the wild.

How well do you know your fonts?

Play this tricky little game to find out how well you know your typefaces. (I got 14/34 :()

The Font Game