Starting Again…

Who am I?

My name is Daniel P. McCarthy.  Everyone calls me Dan.  I am the owner of Main Street Solutions, LLC and the writer of this blog.  I was born on the east coast, just outside of Philadelphia, in Chester Pennsylvania.   My father was transferred to Washington D.C. when I was 5.  I lived in Burke, VA for 2 years before he was transferred back to Philadelphia in 1974.  The rest of my childhood and teen years were spent roughly 20 miles south east of Philadelphia in South Jersey.  It was Washington Township to be exact, right where the Atlantic City Express way starts.

I attended Temple University and spent 5 years hanging out around Broad & Diamond.  I graduated in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts form the School of Communications and Theater (everyone referred to the school by the acronym SCAT, which I was never found of, for obvious reasons). In a strange turn of events, I picked up a part time job with a small entertainment software company the last year of school. The hired me because they wanted me to bring a film eye to their animations (which by today’s standards were like painting with crayons).  That job ended up being my gateway into technology.  One of the main developers took a liking to me and showed me how to rip apart computers and put the back together.  He actually created a custom programming language so I could assist with the creation of animation routines.

Every gig since then has had a technical slant.  Even when working in the entertainment industry as a PA, I tended to setup networks or figure out how to run software that “the guy who just quit was the only one who knew how to run it”.  That got me gigs on such, um, “iconic” TV shows as Baywatch and Thunder in Paradise as well as a forgettable movie titled Strange Days.

So I’ve worked in Entertainment Software, Entertainment (TV\Film), Banking, Finance, Communications and, as of late, Healthcare.

Here’s my 2 cents about the workplace today.  The people are the hardest part.  People fear or resent change.  Technology is nothing but change.  What you buy today is already outdated.  What you install today will already need an upgrade.  It’s a constant investment in constant change.  In my experience, people don’t like that.  That’s why they hire a guy like me who likes to tinker with the new toys that are out there.  But once I do my job I leave… and it’s up to the people to continue to use the systems I’ve put in place.  It’s their responsibility to think strategically & methodically about the change they want to introduce in the lifecycle of their new system, and either do it themselves or bring me back in with a solid set of requirements that can be acted upon.  But typically I only hear “it doesn’t work” only to drill down into the details and find that they’ve changed a business process that the technical process was dependent on.  They never took the time to understand the system holistically, they’ve made rash decisions, and then they go looking for who to blame.

Who am I looking to help?

For starters, anyone using an email address like mynewcompany@gmail.com or mynewcompany@outlook.com or…. You get the picture.  Nothing says rookie like an email address from a domain that has nothing to do with your company.

The kind of people I want to help?  How about a freelancer of any kind… a Maker… a Solopreneur… and all those people struggling in Cubical Nation who have dreams of doing their own thing, but may not know how to take the first step.

That is a broad audience, I know.  Solo Maker to Corporate America… but I think Corporate America is chock full of entrepreneurs in the making.  So ultimately it’s for people who want to control their own destiny.

In recent years my wife has become more and more involved in knitting and the creative maker movement in general.  There are so many people I’ve met who produce great art, but have no clue how to look professional online.  Whether it’s people knitting hats, or brewers making kombucha, a lot of them seem to need help with their online presence.

Where will my focus be?

In a nutshell – getting people to look professional online.

I am a believer in Google Apps for Work.  I’m not against Office 365, I just don’t think it’s as smooth of an implementation as Google is.  Once I’ve completed all the blog posts I can think of to get you up and running on Google Apps for Work, I’ll turn to Office 365 and do the same thing.

All in all I really don’t care which you use… as long as you use one.  I want to see your email address be a part of your branding (joe@mynewcompany.com) and provide your customers a sense of competency.  Seeing these gmail.com email addresses just makes me think you’re a hobbyist who isn’t taking things seriously.  I know a lot of other people who see it the same way.

What can you expect?

You can expect a monthly post that will walk you through each phase of getting yourself up and running on the various platforms or processes we’ve talked about already.  As I get more comfortable with my writing I may increase the frequency, but for now I’ll commit to once a month.

I will do my best to provide you actionable guidance that can easily be followed by just about anyone.  Being a Zig Ziglar fan I try to shoot for his choice of writing at the 8th grade, 9th month level… I have a son who will soon graduate from the 8th grade.  So if he can do it you can too. I’ll expect you to perform the actions I write about and get your business online and looking professional!

Thank you for the opportunity to help you achieve your goals.  Let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to respond to your questions and\or update the blog based on changes I see in the solutions or processes I write about.

Amazon Web Services – Connecting to your Windows Instance

Connecting to a Windows AMI

There is a free instance of Microsoft Server 2008 R2 that you can launch, but connecting to it is quite different than connecting to Linux. You can start up your windows instance much like your Linux instance, as shown below. You select your instance, name it, and create your key pair for it, just like you did with Linux.

AWS - Windows Server 2008 R2 Instance
Starting up your AWS Windows Server 2008 R2 instance

Since there is quite a bit more “stuff” that needs to happen to get your windows system up and running, it will take a few minutes before we can actually connect to the instance. Go get some coffee or visit the restroom because you have some time right now. Basically the system has to go through sysprep in order to become a unique instance from the machine image we started it from… it takes time… so be patient. When your instance view shows the instance running and 2/2 checks are green, you are ready to connect.

AWS - Windows Server 2008 R2 ready to connect
Windows Server 2008 R2 ready to connect

Same as before, right-click on your instance and select “Connect”. This time, however, the dialog that appears will be slightly different from the Linux one as you can see below. This is because we won’t be using SSH to connect to Windows… we’ll be using RDP which requires a username and password.

AWS - Connecting to Windows Server 2008 R2
Connection dialog when connecting to Windows Server 2008 R2

The first thing we need to do here is retrieve your password (which is based on your Key Pair). So click on the Retrieve Password Link, which will take you to the screen below.

AWS - Retrieve Password
Retrieve your Windows Server 2008 R2 password

Unlike in Linux, we can actually browse to where we have the Key Pair file stored. In this example, we named our key pair Svr2008R2.pem. So click browse and locate your Key Pair file. Once you have it selected you will then see the option to decrypt your password.

AWS - Now Decrypt your Windows Server 2008 R2 password
Now Decrypt your Windows Server 2008 R2 password

Once you have selected “Decrypt Password” your dialog window will update with your credentials. Note them down and click “Download shortcut file”, which will allow you to save the basic connection information in a RDP shortcut on your local computer.

AWS - decrypt your Windows Server 2008 R2 password
Decrypt your Windows Server 2008 R2 password

When you click on download, you’ll be prompted for a file name… by default it’ll be your Machine name, which isn’t too intuitive. So type in something you’ll remember.

AWS - Save your RDP info
Save your RDP information.
AWS - Name your RDP shortcut something you'll remember
Name your RDP shortcut something you’ll remember

I simply saved the shortcut to my desktop, and when I launch it (from my MAC) I get the following connection screen (Even if you’re running windows, it will be similar)

AWS - RDP to Amazon INstance
RDP to Amazon Instance

When you click Connect, you will be prompted for your Username and Password. This is the password we just generated. You will not enter anything for Domain.

AWS - RDP - logging in
AWS – RDP – logging in

You will be prompted that the server name on the certificate is incorrect, simply click OK to continue to log into your instance.

AWS - Server Certificate Warning
Server Certificate Warning

Once you click Connect you are on your way to your desktop.

AWS - Windows Server 2008 R2 Desktop
Windows Server 2008 R2 Desktop

Since this is a micro instance, don’t expect this environment to be speedy. But if you are looking for a R2 server to beat up, mess around in, test your admin skills on, etc… this is the way to do it. By sticking with the micro instance you can run this sever 24/7 for one full year at no cost to you. Remember that if you spin up 2 or more you will begin chewing up your 750 hours/month more quickly than if you had just one. Also with windows, disk space can be an issue. Monitor it and make sure you a) don’t run out of space or b) allocate yourself more space because the former will cost you clean up time and the latter will cost you money.

Terminating your Windows Server 2008 R2 Instance

Remember, if you instance is running you are “On the Amazon clock”. Shutdown your server when you’re not using it. If you have been experimenting and gotten to a place where your instance is useless, just terminate it. As we did with the Linux instance, just right-click on your instance from your Instance View and select “Terminate”.

AWS - Terminating your Windows Instance
Terminating your Windows Instance

Be sure to delete your associated EBS volumes (off-instance storage). If you don’t you may end up being charged for using the space.

That’s It!

So now you know how to connect to a Windows free micro instance on Amazon Web Services. Here’s the thing to keep in mind… these are sandboxes for you. You can create, destroy, terminate anything you want as many times as you want so you can learn what you want to learn when you wan to learn it. With the micro instances you have 750 hours of free usage per month for one year. Make the most of that year. Experiment, create, try, fail, try again… and come out the other side knowing more than you did when you went in.

Best of luck and let me know if you have any questions!

PS – I have already terminated all the instance that have been used in these posts. That’s why I haven’t obscured anything in the images. You get to see what I saw when I spun them up so you get a feel for what you expect to see… but don’t waste your time trying to hack into any of these instances… they’re gone… long gone.

 

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Amazon Web Services – Connecting to your Linux Instance

We have already launched a free instance of an Amazon AMI in our last post. Now we’ll look at the ways you’ll connect to your Linux instance.  This will be a lengthy post, mainly due to the fact that there will be a lot of “showing” along the way.

Connecting to a Linux AMI – Securely

SSH Key Pairs

In the last post I didn’t go into how to create a key pair.  You’ll need one in order to connect to any instance, so we’ll quickly create one now while we spin up a new Linux instance (just as we did in our last post).  Be sure to select one of the available free instances. For this post we will again use the Amazon AMI. When you select the instance you will be spinning up, you can create a new key pair as shown below.

AWS - Create Key Pair
Creating your Key Pair

All you need to do is name your key pair, and then you’ll be able to download it by clicking the download button.

AWS - Downloading your Key Pair
Filling in your Key Pair information to download your Key Pair.

Remember where you save your file (it will have a “pem” extension).  So in the example above you will download GettingConnectedLinux.pem to your local computer.  Don’t share this file with anyone or post it on the net anywhere.  It’s your security key into your environment.  If you make it public, your environment is now public… so keep it safe. Amazon describes your key pair as follows:

Public AMI instances have no password, and you need a public/private key pair to log in to them. The public key half of this pair is embedded in your instance, allowing you to use the private key to log in securely without a password. After you create your own AMIs, you can choose other mechanisms to securely log in to your new instances.

So now you have a key associated to an instance that you have spun up.  Now we can work on getting connected.

Connecting to your instance

Confirm your instance is up and running.  Navigate to your Instances menu so we can see what instances are running

AWS - Navigate to your instance
Navigate to your instance view

You should now see your running instance.  In our example we called our Amazon AMI “GettingConnectedLinux”.

AWS - Running Instance
Confirm your instance is running

Now right-click on your running instance and you will get a sub menu.  We are looking for “Connect” at the top of that sub menu.

AWS - Get Connected
Getting connected to your Linux instance

You’ll get a new dialog that will open.  We will be connecting from our browser using the Java SSH client.  You can set up your own connection using your own SSH client, but for this example we’ll be using the Java SSH client.

AWS - Connection Dialog
Connection Dialog box for Linux

Here’s where we need that key pair file.  There is no browse option here… you need to type in the exact path & file name of your key pair file.

AWS - Completed Connection Dialog
Completed Connection Dialog.

When the path and file name are complete you can click “Launch SSH Client”.    This will begin the process of connecting to your instance.  You will be prompted to add this host to your known hosts if you like.  It’s not required.  If all goes well, you’ll see a terminal window that is now connected to your instance.

AWS - Connected to your Amazon Instance
Terminal windows indicating successful connection to your instance.

If you know your way around Linux…. you’re all set.  You are connected and able to do whatever you like to this instance.  You can install packages, configure it as a web server, do anything you like to it.  Just remember though, Amazon is tracking the usage.  You get 750 hours a month of free usage if you are using a free tier eligible AMI.  If you get crazy and spin up 2-3 free tier AMI’s you are chewing up an hour of time for each instance.  If you go over the 750 hours you will be charged.  So, while you’re playing, keep it to one running instance at a time.

Cleaning Up

When you are done having fun you’ll want to disconnect from your instance.  If you are completely done with your instance, you may want to permanently terminate it.  To do this, first disconnect from your instance.  Simply select the File menu, then Exit.

AWS - Disconnect from your Instance
Disconnect from your Linux instance.

If you are going to connect again later, you can keep your instance running.  If you want to keep the state of your instance, but don’t want it running any longer, you can stop your instance.  If you are done with this instance and want to permanently delete it, you can terminate it.  To terminate your instance you can right-click on your instance (as we did when we connected to it) and select terminate.

AWS - Terminate your instance
Terminate your AWS instance

Remember, this is a permanent action.  If you have work you want saved, select “Stop”, not “Terminate”.  Once you have you have terminated your instance, you’ll see that reflected in the status of your instance view.

AWS - Terminated Instance
Instance View showing terminated instance

This status will stay in your view for a while, but will eventually be cleared from your dashboard completely.

That’s It!

So now you know how to connect to a Linux free micro instance on Amazon Web Services.  Here’s the thing to keep in mind… these are sandboxes for you.  You can create, destroy, terminate anything you want as many times as you want so you can learn what you want to learn when you want to learn it.  With the micro instances you have 750 hours of free usage per month for one year.  Make the most of that year.  Experiment, create, try, fail, try again… and come out the other side knowing more than you did when you went in.

Best of luck and let me know if you have any questions!

PS – I have already terminated all the instances that have been used in this post.  That’s why I haven’t obscured anything in the images.  You get to see what I saw when I spun them up so you get a feel for what you expect to see… but don’t waste your time trying to hack into any of these instances… they’re gone… long gone.

 

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Amazon Web Services – Getting Started

Hopefully you have already signed up for your Amazon Web Services (AWS) account. It’s simple & straight forward so I won’t be going over that here.

Once you are signed in, you will go to your control panel, shown below.

AWS Full Console
Amazon Web Services console showing all your available AWS options.

Once you can see this screen you are on your way to playing in the cloud.  For this post we will concentrate on EC2 and spinning up an instance.  It’s short & sweet and easy to accomplish. Click on the EC2 link to go into the EC2 console.  It will be from here that we will be launching virtual machines (AWS refers to them as instances).  Clicking on the link will take you to the EC2 specific console.It will take no more than 10 minutes from here to get your first virtual server up and running. As you can see in the screen below, the yellow highlighted area is our starting point.

EC2 Console
EC2 Console

Click on “Launch Instance”.  This will take you to another view that will allow you to choose the type of machine you want to deploy.  You can upload your own virtual machines that can be deployed on EC2, but aren’t covering that in this post.

Selecting your instance (AWS AMI)
Selecting your instance (AWS AMI)

There are 4 items to make note of here:

  1. Naming your instance.  This is actually optional, but a good practice none the less.  Just type in a name that you want to use for your own benefit.
  2. Key Pair.  Since I am assuming this is your first time in, you don’t have a key pair established yet.  You need one in order to later connect to your instance.  So, select “Create New” in order to create your key pair file.  Amazon’s documentation on key pairs can be found here.  In general you want to:
    • Open the Amazon EC2 console
    • Open the Amazon EC2 console at https://console.aws.amazon.com/ec2/
      Click Key Pairs in the Navigation pane.
    • The console displays a list of key pairs associated with your account.
      Click Create Key Pair.
    • The Key Pair dialog box appears.
      Enter a name for the new key pair in the Key Pair Name field and click Create.
    • You are prompted to download the key file.
      Download the key file and keep it in a safe place. You will need it to access any instances that you launch with this key pair.
  3. Choose the AMI you will be launching.  AMI = Amazon Machine Instance and is how Amazon refers to the virtual machines it provides to its customers. You can choose any AMI you’d like… but I’d stay in the free tier of service by selecting one that is starred & noted as “free tier eligible”.  For this post I’m selecting the Amazon Linux AMI (which I believe is a Debian Linux distribution).  It has a lot of the basics contained within it and it’s easy to add-on to if you want.
  4. Once you have items 1-3 take care of, click “Continue” to start the process of launching your instance (virtual server).

You will be prompted with another screen after clicking “Continue”.

Launching an Amazon AMI
Launching an Amazon AMI

For this post, we’ll just click “Launch” at this point and get the instance running.

AWS Instance starting
AWS Instance starting

You can close this screen.  The instance will spin up quite quickly (if you chose a Windows instance it’ll take longer).  You can now see your instance details by clicking on the left menu, selecting “Instances”.

Selecting your Instance View
Selecting your Instance View

 

Now there’s plenty more we can do here… but I think that’s plenty for “Getting Started”.  In the next post we’ll connect to the running server and do a few basic checks.  I’ll be running Linux again… so be prepared for a prompt based view.  I may do a separate post on running a Windows instance since you’d use SSH to connect to Linux and RDP to connect to Windows.

Get your free micro instance running and we’ll get connected to it in the next post.  Let me know your thoughts/comments/questions and I’ll do what I can to help you out.

Until next time…

 

 

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Amazon Web Services – Take it to the Cloud

Should I use Amazon Web Services (AWS)?

If you don’t have already have an AWS account, now is the time to get one.  New AWS accounts are eligible for one free year of running a micro EC2 instance.  Specifically, it allows you to run one micro instance for 750 hours a month for 12 months.  Will this allow you to run a website that gets 10,000 hits a day everyday?  No.  Will it allow you to test (and break) micro EC2 instances all day every day until you get the hang of using AWS?  YES!

 

EC2, EC3… whatever it takes…

So what is EC2 and why would I want to use it?  EC2 stands for “Elastic Compute Cloud” and, in general terms, is where you can take a virtualized server and run it in the Amazon Cloud.  Amazon provides many virtulized servers (they call them “instances”) to choose from.  If you are going to take advantage of the free tier of service you will need to look at the available micro instances.  Anything larger than a micro instance you will be charged hourly for.  There are instances available for Windows (server 2008 R2) and Linux (Redhat, Ubuntu, SUSE, etc).  You do have the option of uploading and running your own instance… but that will require configuration to meet the definition of a “micro” instance and is out of scope for this post.

 

So what’s next?

This is the first of a series of posts on this topic.  To get yourself ready for the next post (finding and starting an instance) go out to AWS and get your account setup.  Go to http://aws.amazon.com/ and click the Sign Up button, as shown below.  Feel free to examine some of the online documentation and familiarize yourself with the AWS console.  In my next post we’ll walk through the console, open up EC2 and start that micro instance.

AWS Signup
Sign Up for Amazon Web Services

 

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The Linux Command Line

If you really want to know your way around a Linux box, this is the book to get.  It gently exposes you to the environment in very digestible nuggets.  Starting with “What is a Shell” and typing your first simple commands all the way to writing shell scripts utilizing IF statements, CASE statements and Loops, this book will take you as far as you want to go.  It’s written in a conversational style that makes it quick to read & understand.  There’s also some fun geek-related quotes you won’t want to miss…

The Linux Command Line
The Linux Command Line

Have you ever noticed in the movies when the “super hacker”—you know, the guy who can break into the ultra-secure military computer in under 30 seconds—sits down at the computer, he never touches a mouse? It’s because movie makers realize that we, as human beings, instinctively know the only way to really get anything done on a computer is by typing on a keyboard.

For the beginner, you want to take your time with Part 1: Learning the Shell.  It lays a solid foundation for you to work from in later chapters.  Understanding the basics, especially the location of files within the file system itself, will allow you to move through the latter section more easily.  And pay attention to the tips that are presented to you.  I still consider myself a N00b, but I thought I knew precisely what symbolic links were… but I was wrong.  This book taught me a few new things along the way.

For the intermediate or advanced user, you may find all you need online and need not bother with buying a book.  I like consolidated information though (I have enough tabs open in Firefox and Chrome already) and if you’re intermediate and looking to write shell scripts and possibly automate some system maintenance, I think you’ll find this book useful. It’ll give you insights and examples that you can build off of.

Another quote from the author that I like explains it like this:

Most computer users today are familiar with only the graphical user interface (GUI) and have been taught by vendors and pundits that the command line interface (CLI) is a terrifying thing of the past. This is unfortunate, because a good command line interface is a marvelously expressive way of communicating with a computer in much the same way the written word is for human beings. It’s been said that “graphical user interfaces make easy tasks easy, while command line interfaces make difficult tasks possible,” and this is still very true today.

This is true of Windows as much as it is of Linux… so get your hands on the keyboard and enjoy!

 

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Social Media Toolbox: Tweriod

Here’s another tool for your Social Media Toolbox: Tweriod.  As it’s tag line states, it helps you start tweeting when your followers are listening.  It’s simple to use and simple to implement. From the home screen all you need to do is sign in with your existing Twitteraccount.  Once you are signed in, the service will analyze when your followers are online and provide you with the 4 most popular times for you to tweet.

Social Media Toolbox: Tweriod
Tweriod

That’s the short of it.  Now, you can perform a “free” analysis once a month.  You can also buy credits in order to perform Premium Analysis.  Each credit is only $2.50.  One credit will get you an analysis of up to 5K followers, 2 credits will get you 10K followers analyzed, 3 credits gets you up to 15k followers analyzed.  The initial free report analyzes up to 5K followers as well. n order to produce the report, the service fetches a list of followers from your Twitter account and analyze their last 200 tweets.  Based on when they tweet everyday, the reports are generated.  This takes a bit of time, so when you generate your report it could take a bit of time to fully generate.  You will be emailed with your results.

Now, if you are using Buffer, this analysis is priceless.  You can then go back to your Twitter channel on Buffer and make sure it’s in alignment with your Tweriod results.  I’ve just started using this new tool and have adjusted my Buffer accordingly.  I’ll be tracking how well this works and reporting on that later.

 

 

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Buffer – Scheduling Your Social Media Stream

I’ve been using Buffer for a few weeks now and while it’s not the be-all end-all solution, it’s great at what it does.  And, for me, what it does is provide consistent flow in both my Twitter and Facebook Fan Page streams.  Once you set up your account and connect it to your twitter account and Facebook personal page or Fanpage, you are ready to start posting.  You can post from the web interface itself.  It’s straight forward, clean and easy.

Buffer: Enter your post
Buffer: Enter your post

You can see in the screen shot to the left, I have both my Twitter account and Fanpage selected.  In the center box, you enter your text.  You can add a link, you can have Buffer suggest a post (which occasionally include a little self promotion… but at least you’ll get added buffer slots for anyone who clicks on your link), and when you are ready, you can post now or send the post to your buffer… so what is “your buffer”?

Your buffer is like a funnel.  With the free account you can add 10 items to your funnel (if you keep things in sync, that’d be 10 tweets and 10 Fanpage posts… basically once one account hits 10 items your buffer is “full”).  Now, how often those items go out is something you set up.

You can configure each media account separately and all the times that buffer will release information.  You can see in the next image the settings I have for my Twitter account.  I have it set to release a tweet 5 times a day, and I’ve set the specific times of those 5 tweets.  Those times are based on the time zone you have selected.  I am located in Denver, so I’ve set all my times to be relative to the local Denver time.  Another nice setting is the ability to use your Bit.ly account as your shortener.  This allows you to collect analytics for each URL that is shortened. Buffer provides some analytics on it’s own… but Bit.ly is a nice addition.

Buffer: Twitter Configuration
Buffer: Twitter Configuration

Now for me, adding posts from the website is the last thing I do. There’s way more convenient ways to add content to your buffer.  The major browsers all have plugins.  Each plugin allows you to surf the web as you usually do… and as you come across content you like, you can add it to your Buffer right then and there.  This is how I add most of my content.  You can also setup Buffer as a channel on If This Then That (note: the one limitation with IFTTT appear to be you have to select a single stream – so you can’t post to Twitter & your Fanpage at the same time.. read more to see my work around.)  I have another post about IFTTT that you can read if you wan to know more about that service.

You can also send updates to your buffer via email.  So, prior to the recent iPhone app release, I could still post to my buffer from my iPhone by using the email address provided by the service (it’s long & ugly, but by adding it as a contact and giving it an easy name to remember, like BufferApp MainStreet, makes it easy to use).  This is also my work around for IFTTT.  Since you can setup a task that can use your email account, I setup tasks that are triggered from RSS feeds, twitter feeds or Facebook updates and email then to my Buffer.  I can’t tell you how easy this makes “spur of the moment” posts.  I can be in a conversation on the street and if someone gives me some information that I can look up on my phone… I can be posting it minutes later.

As noted before, you can use the service for free.  For $10/mo you get the Pro account.  It increases your buffer size to 50 along with a few other benefits.  .  In the next few weeks I’m pretty sure I’ll be upgrading.  The next (huge) jump is the Premium account.  It’s $99/mo, but you get an unlimited buffer… so you certainly get a lot for what you’re paying for.

There seems to be a little flack regarding the “impersonal” nature of scheduling your posts.  I just don’t see that as an issue.  I’m still searching for content myself.  I’m still picking out what I’m sending out.  What buffer give me is a steady stream of posts at regular intervals.  It also allows me to test what times of day will work best for me.  By manipulating my settings and re-posting a few tweets, I can check my analytics to see what times of day work best for me and my followers.

It’s a great service with tremendous potential.  Sign up, start using it, and learn from your analytics!

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YouTube: An Insider's Guide to Climbing the Charts

O’Reilly was kind enough to send me this book quite some time ago, so it’s about time I got a review posted for it.

YouTube: An Insider's Guide to Climbing the Charts
YouTube: An Insider

Having a BA from Temple University‘s School of Communication & Theater, I have some experience with learning how to communicate via film & video. Ok, so most of my experience was 16mm film, but that’s another story.

What I liked about this book was that it didn’t start with any technology advice or how to shoot video. After a quick overview of YouTube it dives into storytelling. Storytelling is one of the most important tools you need to be aware of (and potentially master) to not only make great videos, but to thrive in our current economy. Don’t skip that chapter…. Read it 3-4 times. It is the foundation of all that you will be doing going forward.

The rest of the book is solid information, guidance and/or advice on how to best utilize YouTube for your needs. The 99 cent film school chapter covers the technical aspects of filming. Theres really not enough room to get all of the details you’ll need to shoot high quality footage… Experience will teach you that (and right quick too). But at least in these days of digital recording you don’t have to suffer the same loss as a flashed can of film, you just tape over the bad stuff with better stuff.

So pickup this title, get the basics going & start shooting.

 

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If This Then That

Pretty straight forward & pretty simple to use, If This Then That allows you to own your online information.

If This Then That - Dashboard
Dashboard

So how does it work? Simple. Go to the website and setup your free account. Once you’re in, add channels. Your channels are the various social & online accounts you have such as:

  • Facebook
  • Gmail
  • Evernote
  • Twitter

There are plenty to choose from.  My list above is a small list to give you an idea of what we’re talking about.

Once you have some channels setup, you can start creating tasks.  A task is built by selecting a triggering channel as well as the specific trigger that can be executed on the channel.  You then select the action channel along with the action event that can be executed on that channel.

Flow
Basic Flow of IFTTT

In the example above, if I post a picture to Facebook (triggering event) I can have that picture saved to a notebook in my Evernote account (action event).  So you can create a variety of tasks that will be performed over & over again without complaint.

I’m only scratching the surface with this stuff.  There are “recipes” out there (tasks created by other users that are offered up for you to use) that do a variety of things.. some that I can’t even comprehend at the moment 🙂 The big thing is to go out there, check this out, let your creativity flow, and see what this service can do for you.