Here, we go, again.

Whirr. Click. Clank! Reboot complete – 47hats is back! Having taken a long virtual walk to clear my head about what I want to do here, I’m writing again about what matters to me (and hopefully you): the Startup World, productivity in the early days of the Internet Age, and sundry other topics.

Redoing this site has been very much a case of eating my own dog food (or in my case cat food): I’ve been taking my own advice from WordPress for Startups, my next book. WordPress is an awesomely powerful codebase for anyone who wants to build a great site for their business without spending huge amounts of time and money. But like a lot of the progeny of the Internet, understanding some of the deeper truths about it helps:

  • A lot happens in a few Internet years. The workflows that made sense a few years ago can come back to bite you now. Case in point: Featured Images in posts, added to WordPress about two years ago, gave theme developers lots of new functionality to work with. That’s the good news. The bad news comes in if you’re ignored this new feature. If you just keep adding images to posts the way you used to pre-Featured Images, you could end up a corpus of 700+ posts that as far as modern themes are concerned are just so much text. Ouch. Which brings me to point 2:
  • Look within your given online community for who’s already solved your problem. The number 1 reason to do you site in WordPress has to be the hundreds of thousands of developers, designers and artists who are part of the WordPress Community. For example those 700+ posts I’d have to go through manually to generate featured images for. Let me introduce you one of the 16,000+ WordPress Plugins: Generate Post Thumbnails. Install it, run it, and let it do the heavy lifting for you.
  • When adopting major software, or components for that software, there’s no such thing as having too much support. It can be an enlightening experience as software developer when you start getting jabbed in the side by some other developer’s idea of what you should be doing with their creation. If there’s one thing 30 years of dealing with software has taught me is that every single application has built into its core a set of assumptions about the world, what problem it is solving and what is the “right” way to solve that problem. If you situation is different, you’re mileage will vary. A lot. And that when you are going to want help.
  • Accept un-perfection and move on. There will be times when the effort cost of fixing something is way too expensive. For instance, either manually editing and resaving each of 700+ posts to not use use features images when displaying just the post, or running a fairly complex SQL query on my (don’t touch it!) WP database to generate the needed records in wp-postmeta. So, I’ve done the last dozen or so posts, and the rest will have to wait for a while.
Anyway - So how do you like the new look and feel of 47hats?

Lies, Damn Lies! and Time Management

Note: The following screed is brought to in the public interest. If you’ve wouldn’t in a million years put the words “time” and “management” together, feel free to skip. :)

I started reading Jenny Blake’s fine Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want this morning (Jenny: need a Life Way After College sequel and Kindle version!), and was globsmacked when I read the phrase “time management” in the intro. I’m looking forward to reading the entire book, but I just had to pound out this post.

“Time Management” is a poisoned meme; ingesting it any way, shape, form or media is a very, very bad idea.

I know, I know, you’ll say it’s just a shorthand for all the practices and methods aimed at improving personal productivity; you are probably googling right now where I’ve used the same phrase. Consider this post an act of contrition.

There never has, and there probably will never be, such a thing as “time management.” Time, at least for those who don’t get to play with supercolliders for a living, is a constant. It cannot be speeded up or slowed down or stuffed with extra needed hours. And, unless you’ve hotwired your genitals to an alarm clock, nothing, but nothing, happens at exactly at the start of any hour.

Time management” in the last century went hand in hand with industrialism: a punctual (and time clock punching) workforce was a necessary prerequisite to manufacturing, and “scientific” management. But that was then, and this is now, and if you are reading this post you no more punch a clock than I do. So why let a catchword of the industrial age shape your thinking in this post-industrial society?

If I told you the first step to becoming more productive, to getting what you want from life, to success however you define it was “gravity management”, you’d laugh in my face. Trying to become more productive by managing time is no more an idiotic idea – and what a terrible waste it is trying to achieve it!

Words have power. And meme’s - conceptions of reality freeze-dried into phrases we seldom examine – can go boom in your face.

 

You have data. What you need is DigMyData.

So there you are, with your startup wired up with every type of analytic instrumentation you could ask for. You got your Google Analytics, Google AdWords, your email engagement program of choice (it really ought to be MailChimp, IMO). And you have your social media data – how many Twitter followers you have, what people on Facebook think of you, how many people read your blog. To top it off, you’ve got your sales data in one form or another, and whatever other stats you’ve bought into.

And you know what all this data will do for you? Not one single thing. It’s just raw data–it doesn’t do anything. It’s your job to figure out what all this data means, how each of these different streams of information interrelate. Then, and only then, have you got actionable information so you can do more of what works, less of what doesn’t.

That’s where DigMyData.com comes in. You don’t need more facts, you’ve already got all the facts: what you need is a way to see all of the data you need in one place, at one time, on one screen. If you’ve ever tried to figure out if what you are doing is actually working based on all of your numbers – web site, email, social, revenue – you will want to put DigMyData to work immediately.

This online service is about asking questions, getting answers – answers that let you change where your startup is going. When you post and tweet more, do you sales go up? That day, that week, that month? When you post a video to YouTube, do the number of tech support emails/tickets drop, or rise? What happens in Google Analytics when you spend more time doing tech support and less on social media – nothing, more visits to the right pages that lead to a sale? What?

In a nutshell, you pick which types and sources of data you want to give DigMyData access to. Then you create not just comparison charts (Adwords spending vs. number of tweets/posts, etc.), but annotate that data with scenarios that you can test, and actions you’ve taken. For example, if during the rest of this month you do X, what do you predict will be the results in terms of revenue? Moreover, actions you take – improving your SEO, reaching out to talk to at least one customer a day for 15 minutes, updating your site – will be reflected in your data. With DigMyData, you can add those actions and scenarios as story points in your startup’s timeline, so when you look back in 3 weeks, months or whenever, you can see in the data their positive (or negative) effects.

I’ve been using DigMyData with one consulting client for the past 6 months and will continue using it as ProductivityToDo.com launches and WordPress for Startups goes on sale. Today is DigMyData’s official launch date, and they’re offering an extended free trial if you sign up now that runs the rest of 2011 so you can really see results. It’s a powerful, unique way to not just consume data but test scenarios and make decisions. Highly recommended.

Taking Charge of your Startup’s Scheduling

By Mark L. Smith, Co-Founder
www.DigMyData.com

Momentum is the life blood of a startup. Nothing gums up the works and kills momentum like scheduling difficulties — timezones, multiple availability schedules, holidays. It’s a wonder sometimes that anything gets scheduled at all.

We absolutely love our product vision at DigMyData and we love using our own tool to tell our business stories. As a result, we schedule a lot of meetings with people all over the world to both pitch our product and to help them with the initial setup of DigMyData. We use Tungle to manage this scheduling and keep up the “big mo’.”

What is Tungle?

Tungle is a cross-company scheduling tool that solves timezone and availability issues. It allows the meeting initiator to “paint” in the time they can meet and send e-mail invitation to one or more meeting attendees. The other meeting attendees paint in their availability and the last attendee gets to pick from a list of times that work for everyone else. Tungle can integrate directly with Google Calendar and Outlook to automatically manage the painting process.

What we use it for:

We use Tungle for prospecting. When we want to talk with people about our product, we paint in our availability and send a Tungle invite to our prospect. How many of your prospects go cold because they’re used to frictionless scheduling with people inside of their company? You often don’t know because you never get a response. Tungle keeps that stuff from happening.

We also use Tungle for support. Tungle lets us plug our Google Calendar availability into a special tungle.me site. Our customers can visit our tungle.me site and book a meeting directly — we get an e-mail notification and it automatically shows up on our Google Calendar. Customers are most likely to do a support session with us if it is easy for them to do — which makes it more likely they will stay customers.

What we love about Tungle:

  • Solves timezone issues.
  • Keeps the mechanics of scheduling from getting in the way of great conversations.
  • Great if you use Google Calendar — easy connection (shows busy times, puts it right on your calendar, etc…).
  • Great for setting up meetings with more than 2 people.
  • Free!

What’s bad:

  • People who get it, get it. People who don’t, don’t. In our experience, the people who are most likely to give our Tungle invites the “sideways puppy dog look of confusion” are Outlook/Exchange users in large companies.
  • Tungle was recently acquired by RIM – makers of BlackBerry. I’m an ex-BlackBerry user. I’m concerned that RIM will ruin Tungle.

Our tips to get the most out of Tungle.

  • Setup your Tungle.me page and include your profile info. Send that link to people when you reach out to ask for a meeting. The links look like this: https://tungle.me/smithmarkl.
  • When asking someone to Tungle a meeting with you, go ahead and tell them what call-in information to use (you call me, I call you, we use this #, etc…).
  • We use join.me for on-demand screen sharing instead of worrying about scheduling a WebEx or GotoMeeting session. When we are on the phone it is very easy to to tell someone to A) go to join.me B) type in a phone # length code.
  • Check your Tungle settings! I like making schedulers give me at least 2 hours advance notice for meetings — that way, I have time to notice it in my calendar.
  • Be realistic on setting your availability — bankers hours are fine :)

Conclusion

A typical DigMyData call goes like this: We talk with a customer or potential customer over Skype using Join.me with a Tungle scheduled meeting. It’s all free and just works. Reduce friction; keep up the momentum!

===

This guest-post was written by Mark L. Smith, Co-Founder of DigMyData, a storytelling tool for web businesses. Follow @DigMyData on Twitter.

Will it work?

Will your startup succeed? Will it make you money, get you into TechCrunch, be a home run?

No one can tell you for sure. But some people can give you a damn good guess backed up by a track record of building successful startups. One such person is Jason Cohen, of A Smart Bear fame, and he is ready, willing and able to share his considered opinion with you this Thursday, September 1st, online at 3:00pm Central Daylight Time (4p EDT / 1p PDT) for the second Smart Bear Live show.

If you want a better answer to this question than you already have, here’s the sign-up form: bit.ly/rrbDTn. Sign up for details on the conference call, and to get your questions answered.

Patrick Foley and I will also be on the call, adding what insight we can into the question that should be keeping up you at night.

See – or hear – you there.

Weekend Ponderable: Too funny, too true

I can’t personally vouch for Peter Ireland’s services, but he has a solid grasp of the nature of  a certain kind of “startup founder” and a wickedly sharp sense of humor. That’s a good reason to watch this video and check out what else he has at his site. Enjoy:

Weekend Ponderable: The net value of your idea

Derek Sivers nailed it. So what’s the value of an idea? Well, it does have some value, but it’s really a multiplier for execution.

Say ideas are worth 1 to 20. 1 to 20 what? 1 to 20 as ideas in and by themselves. Not exactly enough to retire on, right?

Now do something with that idea. Make it real. Execute on it. Even if your execution is crappy, you will actually have something.

Here’s how he explained it in this AppSumo Action Video – (free, but go grab it now!):

So, if you already had the awesomely amazing idea (like I do – of course! – with ProductivityToDo.com) you’d better focus 99.9999% on execution. (He says to himself.)

An idea alone – that’s nice. Idea times execution: Now you have something.

 

In or Out?

In the Zone

Of the Zone I mean.

You’ve heard about it over and over, but here is the best description I’ve read (Thanks Rands!):

Let’s talk about the Zone once more.
You’re either sitting down with your computer to futz around with something or you’re attempting to get in the Zone. This is that magical place where you’ve managed to fit the entire context of your current project in your head. With all this content in there, you can perform superhuman acts of productivity and creativity because you have the complete problem space at your mental disposal.

That’s it.

If you can claw your way past every email demanding attention, every web site (including mine!), every self-inflicted attention wound, you can load up all of the problem in your head and do really good work. But it’s all, or nothing. One damn call, one little growl, and the cathedral in your mind comes crashing down before you can actualize it into something external to you.

Oh, and don’t forget that little red devil slyly whispering into your ear! “You’ll never do it, you’re worthless, look at all those people being written up in TechCrunch. You’re not them! It’s not worth it, and you can’t do it. Go back. Give up.” That’s the voice of your lizard brain (see Seth Godin & Daniel Pink for details).

So it comes down to this: How are you going to repeatedly and deliberately get into the zone? Please don’t give me that crap about waiting for inspiration. This is about perspiration, about making real value.

Here’s a tip: make it as automatic as merging onto a freeway – you do it exactly the same way each time.

One more tip: You can “store” a Zone, go do other things, and reopen that Zone and pick up right where you left off, with minimal effort. But you need to at least power up and then power down that zone once each day to keep it fresh. Stored Zones (whether they’re a novel, a codebase, or all the moving parts you need to do a really awesome WordPress membership site) start to stink like dead fish in a day. Then you have to throw them out and start all over.

Weekend Ponderable: Eternal Truths

Way back in 1981 I was pretty much at rock bottom. I was working as a bicycle messenger in San Francisco, after wandering off the academic reservation. I can remember sitting there in the can after a shift one day: I was soaked to the bone, cold and hurt everywhere after going ass over head when my front wheel got caught in an old train track paved over by Levi Strauss.

Up on the cheap plywood that the toilet at 444 Clementina was, at eye level if you were sitting down, some graffiti. I was cold. I was tired. And this is what I read by some anonymous guru I never got to meet:

“The more shit you take, the less money you make.”

I was stunned. The corollary hit me like a live wire connected to that john I sat on as the rain beat down: The less shit you take, the more money you make.

Within 2 years I’d gotten myself a top slot in the media world: Dayside SF at UPI (think Huffpo now).

In 30 years I’ve not found one scintilla of evidence that whatever else is true in life, this is true. All the time, in all places, for all people, amen.

But it’s time to put this to new music, dance it around the room and see if it works for you:

“The more digital you are, the more money you make.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

ok – so this is ugly.

But I could use 20 seconds of your help. Do either of these HD YouTube vids play for you? After Iain’s killer post I decide to take a cannonball jump into video. Blame Iain :) :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkEqVPmupLY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gITrCFCDUC

Thanks! You should get over the shock with a few deep breaths.

(An aside: if you run a WordPress site (and who doesn’t?), check out http://pippity.com/ very very nice, and two! updates since launch a week ago.)