Apture makes killer plug-in for web sites and blogs

While viewing my Plurk timeline (oh, you haven’t see plurk yet) this evening I found a link to an interesting blog post. Not only did I enjoy learning about the new open source Twitter client called identi.ca from my Plurk friend Bwana, I also couldn’t help but notice his very useful site plug-in that let me see definitions of words in Wikipedia.

Four months ago I went searching for just such a WordPress plug-in so that I could add custom and general definitions to my small business marketing site LocalNa8ion. After finding little of value in the WordPress plug-in arena I ended up using the tried and true HTML acronym tag. How does the acronym tag work in HTML? The acronym tag places …… under the tagged word, and when you mouse over the word your mouse cursor turns into a question mark with a pointer – a universal computer symbol for help. The acronym tag is particularly useful to site visitors when you’re knee deep in technical and industry terms that you would otherwise have to stop and write about just to gain understanding for less expert readers. Rather than putting everyone through a long written description the acronym tag has allowed me to speak to experts and newbies alike in less time. Yes, this is a bastardized use of the acronym tag. I’m bad bad bad. Technically, the acronym tag should just be used for acronyms and nothing else, but hey, it gets the job done for real people in the real world.

So Apture can address this need for me on Local Na8ion. But it does SO VERY MUCH MORE. In fact, I haven’t been this excited about a plug-in since I started using WordPress in 2004 and found out there were things called plug-ins.

Tools like Apture could change the web – radically.

See for yourself on the short video below and be sure to experience Apture. Subscribe to Apture’s blog while you’re at it.

GrandCentral bug and the ultimate GrandCentral Hack

Hurry GrandCentral guys please fix this one ASAP!

I’m addicted to GrandCentral, the one-number service that rings all your phone numbers at once plus a whole lot more. I’ve got a bug to share with my fellow GrandCentral users and a few points that you might find helpful in using the service.

Don’t miss my GrandCentral call recording hack at the end of this post – you can use it to keep your service providers honest when you cancel their service and they later magically deny having heard from you.

First the bug

The problem comes if you disconnect one of your phone lines and forget to update GrandCentral. Like a lot of other GrandCentral users I typically have 3 to 4 phone lines hooked up to my GrandCentral line:

1) home
2) office
3) primary mobile
4) secondary mobile

My secondary mobile is the one that I use to evaluate mobile phone carriers and phones. It changes frequently. The other day I disconnected my latest trial phone with a Helio Fin (awesome features / boring as hell) and Helio Drift (fun as hell but missing a few things) and forgot to take the number out of Grandcentral.

The result? Complete failure.

No ringy dingy on any phone even though ALL my other lines were operational. If my friend and I hadn’t been IM’ing I would never have known. GrandCentral, please fix this. I recognize that people don’t all carry second cell phones and change them all the time but your GrandCentral users DO change their numbers – it’s a primary reason people want a SMART number platform like GrandCentral in the first place.

I’ve used one-numbers or SMART numbers for a long time. I still use Accessline as my drop-dead-reliable-one-number and so does IBM. Er, I guess that means I have two one-numbers which is kind of sad. But I’ll keep Accessline for the $20 a month I pay for it until GrandCentral is completely out of beta and 100% bug free. Then there’s the question of what Google will do to GC. Hmmmm, let me guess – text link ads everywhere on the web site and voice over ads when you call in to check messages. That will drive us to pay money for their service just to shut the ads off. No problem, I’m in!

And here’s why I’ll pay.

Three things I love that are unique about GrandCentral

  • Lets you transfer live calls to your other phones.  You need to walk out the door to a meeting or to get your kids and you’re no longer chained to your office phone. Never be late again. 🙂
  • Let’s you record in-bound phone calls for podcasting or the ultimate in note taking (don’t worry it tells your callers even if you forget to, saving you from an embarrassing trip to jail). I have a hack for this for outbound calls (see below)
  • Listen in to callers leaving you a voicemail with the ability to pick up and take the call at anytime. It’s like your ol’ mechanical answering machine from 1982 but without the fake wood grain and all the vagaries of microcasette tapes.

The outbound call recording hack for GrandCentral

aka AT&T/Sprint/Verizon/Comcast/Adelphia/Time Warner/DirecTV

Now on to that hack for recording outbound calls. These instructions sound convoluted but they’re really not. If you can handle using two phones and a web browser then you can do this. The only requirement is that you have two phones and since you’re interested in GrandCentral this should be a no-brainer. These instructions assume you’ll make the outbound call from a land line at your home or office but it works with any combo.

  1. Login to GC web site and head over to settings
  2. Uncheck your land line phone from the list of active phones (you don’t need to delete it – just uncheck it so it won’t ring when someone calls your GC line)
  3. Now call your own GC number from the landline phone you just unchecked in your GC settings
  4. Your cell phone rings. (power user tip: put it on vibrate for a cheap thrill)
  5. Answer your cell phone, it is YOU after all. Now mute your cell phone.
  6. Now from your land line place a three-way call to the person/company you want to record. Don’t forget to join the calls – usually by hitting the TALK or CALL key again on your phone keypad.
  7. When you get your party on the line explain that you want to record the call. Then hit the 4 key on your cell phone (hitting 4 on an inbound GC call turns call recording on).
  8. Record away
  9. When you’re done you can simply hang up both of your phones or you can hit 4 again to turn call recording off. If you want to turn call recording on/off during the call just use 4 to toggle. Great when your client wants to trash their boss!

Since Google purchased GrandCentral they’ve demanded that GC avtivate an automated greeting when you turn call recording on to prevent untold litigation against the Googleplex. Smart move since call recording is illegal in some states when you don’t tell the other party you’re recording them.

about that jail thing… 

Now, I’m not suggesting that you do this, but for those of you in states where IT IS legal to record conversations WITHOUT telling the other party you can always turn call recording ON at your cell phone BEFORE you make your three-way call. The message about call recording will come on but since you haven’t dialed your other party they’ll never know. Now you three-way the person you want to call and record. Again, user-beware, check your own local, state and federal laws before considering this.

Keep in mind that the power in call recording really serves you BEST when everyone knows. It’s not just a question of staying on the right side of the law. For example when you turn on voice recording for note taking purposes both you and your other party relax. You both know that you won’t miss something important. I use this all the time with web site design so I can make sure I’ve nailed down all my action items. And if you’re podcasting it’s really easy to download the file from GrandCentral and then edit it in your favorite recorder.

Second, when you’re calling someone like a service provider to get help or cancel your service you WANT them to put their best foot forward. Call recording DOES that. If you cancel, you can rest assured that the customer service rep who has just heard a message saying that they’re being recorded WON’T “forget” to cancel your service. And if they’re bold enough to do so, or if they make an honest mistake, you have a record of your conversation.

No other smart number service has ever had this much power. It’s no surprise that Google bought them. Keep up the good work GrandCentral.

p.s. If you need a beta invite I’ve horded a few.

[tags]Grandcentral smart-number, one-number, call-recording[/tags]

Can you get fit playing a video game?

Nintendo Wii may get your healthy
If you don’t already know, Nintendo released their latest game console late last year and despite its lack of graphics capability and sophistication (as compared to the Microsoft Xbox and new Sony Playstation 3) the console has taken off in sales. Most attribute its success to good value, FUN games and a new interface that lets users move their hands and arms about to control games. I haven’t tried out the Wii yet but I’ve heard of sword fighting and boxing as examples of using the new controls.

Now this article from Three Minds, the blog made by my fellow Interactive marketing geeks Organic:

“Six weeks ago, a Philadelphia man decided to see what types of physical gains he can make by playing Wii sports for 30 minutes a day. Today he published his results and pictures. He was able to drop 9lbs, 2% body fat, and 3.5” in his waistline. Does Nintendo have the next Jared?

Frank Ribitch”

Scrybe online organizer


Scrybeâ„¢ is a groundbreaking online organizer that caters to today´s lifestyle in a cohesive and intuitive way.” -Scrybe home page.

The much anticipated Scrybe online personal organizer has launched their beta today. I’m writing about it here for two reasons. First, who isn’t interested in ways to be more productive? As far as tools go, the quality of the axe you swing does make a difference, even if the skill of the operator is more important. Second, it’s a great example of how you might use savvy online marketing techniques to promote your effort (be it a recruitment campaign, local, national, or even international, hello world, launch) as Scrybe is going for.

Scrybe made all the cool watcher lists due to a knock-your-socks-off video that they circulated on video sharing sites like YouTube. The video has been described as a savvy use of modern online marketing. Take a look at their home page and all the ‘A list’ blogger testimonials and it’s pretty obvious that Scrybe made the blogging digerati a key part of their social media marketing plan as well. Call it what you want: guerrilla marketing, word-of-mouth-marketing, buzz marketing, social media marketing, social media optimization. Whatever! I’m calling it a great example of how to make a ton of people aware of your stuff so that they’ll want to someday buy your stuff when you’ve got a budget of…well, pretty much nothing. Judge for yourself.

Remember folks, this is only the launch of Scrybe’s beta – not the final product. If you’ve watched the video, you’ll get an idea of how their use of the latest web technologies (like Ajax) are used to create what would appear to be, highly functional and useful tools.

Useful tools eh?

AchillesOK, here are a couple that make my list. Offline sync, once the Achilles’ heel of web based programs, is handled with aplomb, as are paper output modes designed to appeal to the luddite or PDA Hipster in all of us. And it all looks easy to use – dare I say it – even enjoyable to use.

So here’s the thing. I’m always on the hunt for better ways to organize my life (I use David Allen’s framework). Yes, sometimes my lust for new tools even outweighs my desire for productivity itself. But, never for long, and I’m quick to apply a .22 to the head of any self described productivity tool if it gets in my way. For now, I’ve signed up to be part of the beta with about four different e-mails in hopes of getting in on the action. So far, I haven’t heard a peep from Scrybe. I imagine this blog post might help. At least it will if Scrybe is as up on their social media marketing as they appear to be. Because if they are, they’re monitoring the blog buzz on their launch right now and they’ll see this. So, what are you waiting for Scrybe? I can’t write my review until you give me the keys.

[tags]iScrybe, iScrybe.com, Organizer, Calendar, PIM, Personal Information Manager, Life Hacks, GTD, Getting things done, Time Management, To-do Lists, PowerLists, ThoughtPad, Social Media Optimization, Social Media Marketing, Interactive Marketing[/tags]


Google enables way-back machine with news archives

It’s pretty fun to be able to perform keyword searches on news from 1890 from the New York Times and The Washington Post. Now that Google has launched their News Archives function you can your search these rags and others to your heart’s content. Unfortunately, many of the links will take you to paid news archives services that won’t let you see the full content of the page your search found, but hey, it’s a start.