Archive for Cool Products

20 Jun 2014

How Smart Do You Think Facebook is?

1 Comment Cool Products, facebook
2014-06-20 14_10_23-_[Screenshot 2014-06-20 12.46.45 (1)] (exported)-1.0 (RGB color, 1 layer) 1996x8
Facebook knows where you are, what songs you’re listening to, what you like, and what you have bought.
Is this a pure coincidence, friends?
19 Nov 2013

5 Things You Didn’t Know Gmail Could Do

No Comments Cool Products

This is a guest post by Tom Samph, Director of Content at Grovo

Email takes up 28% of workers’ time.  That’s about two hours and 14 minutes per every 8-hour workday. Emails are by far one of the biggest productivity killers in the workplace, along with mobile phones, and meetings to review meetings.

If you’ve got a Gmail address or use Google Apps for work, you’re probably busy navigating your Google-made inbox for a big part of the day. There are a number of things you can do to cut down on your email havoc.  From using Gmail as a task management system, to playing The Email Game app that encourages users to get their inbox to zero messages by gamifying the process.

For all the time you spend in Gmail though, you probably aren’t taking full advantage of its tools: it’s simple on the surface, but packed with features, and changes all the time. At Grovo, an online learning platform for social media, cloud computing and Internet tools, we have put together a list of the top five things you didn’t know about Gmail to make your day more productive:


Use Gmail Without Internet Access

Offline GmailIf you’re somewhere with your laptop and need to your email but don’t have internet access, you can use Gmail Offline. Enabling Gmail offline allows you to use the Chrome web browser on a computer to manage your Gmail inbox even without being connected to the Internet.  When you enable offline mail, your Gmail messages are saved in Google Chrome’s storage, so do not enable offline mail on a computer that’s not yours.

Otherwise, that person could have access to your email. When you regain Internet access, Gmail will automatically sync all your mail from the last week. At any point when your computer is not connected to the Internet, open Chrome and select the Gmail Offline icon. Here’s a video by Grovo that will show you exactly how to manage your settings to enable Gmail offline, and determine how far back you want your email to sync.


Escape From That Neverending Thread

If you’re continually receiving messages in a group conversation that you no longer care about, you can mute the conversation to send any future messages in that thread straight to your archive. To mute a conversation, open it, or check the boxes to the left of several conversations in your inbox to mute more than one at a time.

Then, click “More” and choose “Mute,” or just press “M” on your keyboard if you have keyboard shortcuts enabled. Now, whenever someone sends an email in a muted thread, it will go right to your archive and you won’t have to worry about dealing with it. To find a muted conversation, search “is:muted” or any keyword, phrase, or email address from the conversation. You can unmute a thread by selecting it, clicking “More,” and choosing “Unmute.”

2013-11-19 18_24_10-[Marketing - Articles] To-do item assigned to you - -


Set Reminders to Check Emails with RightInbox

Dealing with incoming emails can become a major time-sink, which will cause your productivity to take a hit. What slows you down most is the time spent changing gears from work tasks to your email and then back again. While you should be checking your email regularly for urgent emails, avoid answering each email as you receive it. Set aside part of your day to respond to batches of emails that are less urgent.

If you’re worried you will forget to get back to them alter, check out RightInbox.  It’s a Gmail App that, among other things, lets you set reminders for outgoing emails and for any email sitting in your inbox. If you need to set a reminder for an email in your inbox, simply check the box next to it. This will cause the “Remind Me” button to appear on top of your inbox.

2013-11-19 18_57_45-Fwd_ (byline request) 7 Gmail Tricks You Didn't Know You Could Do - max.darby@bl


Make Gmail a Social Media Rolodex with Rapportive

Most webmail clients today offer an address book that acts as a modern day rolodex. But with more and more people building out an online presence through social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, wouldn’t it make sense to centralize a contact’s online information right there next to an inbound email from them?

Rapportive is a Gmail add-on and social intelligence utility that provides context to every email sender.  Once installed, in place of Google ads you’ll find a profile sheet that displays your contact’s online footprint. What’s great about Rapportive is it easily installs on several browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari.  Here’s how to install it

2013-11-19 18_28_28-Fwd_ (byline request) 7 Gmail Tricks You Didn't Know You Could Do - max.darby@bl

Train Your Email With Boomerang

Boomerang is a Gmail and Google Apps utility that allows you to bring messages back to the top of your inbox on specified dates and times, making it easy to remember to respond to messages, or complete actions, exactly at the time that you need to.

You can also use Boomerang to schedule composed emails to be automatically delivered to recipients at a later time. And, because Boomerang is an “extension” to your Gmail or Google Apps account, you can access all of the features right within your inbox, or as you’re typing a new message.

Check out this short video to learn how to schedule messages to return to your inbox, schedule messages to be delivered later, get reminders when your emails go unreplied, and train your email with Boomerang

2013-11-19 18_30_17-Fwd_ (byline request) 7 Gmail Tricks You Didn't Know You Could Do - max.darby@bl


About the Author

6d0f26f727522e10765eec99b98c883dTom Samph is the Director of Content at Grovo Learning, an online Internet education and training platform. Tom is responsible for leading strategy and operations of Grovo’s real-time video production team, which produces about 15 new video tutorials each day, covering the latest changes to popular websites and apps. Tom graduated in 2010 from Boston University with a degree in Journalism and French, and has written for publications such as GlobalPost, Inventor’s Digest, and the Improper Bostonian.

10 Jun 2013

The hidden career of the online marketer

1 Comment Cool Products, Featured, game dynamics and points, Online marketing

Lyft and Uber disrupted the taxi business by allowing anyone with an iPhone to be a cab driver whenever they had a little extra time.


Airbnb disrupted the hotel industry by making spare bedrooms for rent.


FancyHands, odesk, taskrabbit and other personal assistant services let you be a secretary, caterer, or errand runner in your spare time.


Could this work in more complex scenarios such as online marketing?


You bet. Apps handle the complexity of scheduling, billing, and operations. They do the marketing for you, so you don’t have to build a website or run ads. The worker needs only deliver the core service, whatever that is.


Strip away the ugly, tedious parts of running a business and you create a breed of entrepreneurs on both sides: those who create software that enables workers to do this, plus workers who use the software to engage in their specialty.


This won’t work in highly regulated industries, which is why there’s no airbnb for restaurants, the military, or heath care. But online marketing is far from regulated. So far, in fact, that there aren’t even widely accepted degree programs.


Yes– anyone can be an online marketer. Try practicing as a cosmetic surgeon with no license and watch how quickly you get sued.


I believe that tools to empower ordinary, non-technical people to perform online marketing are imminent. You have the Marketos and HubSpots at the enterprise end. Then Infusionsoft doing the all-in-one package for small businesses. It’s a matter of time before we have access to the student over summer break or the stay at home dad.


And when this does happen, watch out!
  •  Mass usage of these tools creates a certification and rating system– points and level like eBay. Then we have trusted practitioners in a measurable ecosystem.
  •  Bogus social-only metrics cede to business outcomes– leads and revenue matter more than fans and followers.
  •  Schools struggle to incorporate this into their curriculum– this is already the case. But it’s even harder to get practitioners as traditional educators. Expect vendors to increasingly take over this role.


Readers, are you ready?


24 Nov 2012

Fancy Hands: The REAL Story

3 Comments Cool Products

I did 310,000 miles last year. Hotels and airports are just a blur. People ask if I’m like George Clooney in “Up In the Air”. I tell them I trust his travel tips as much as I’d trust his medical advice.

The reality of business travel is that it’s tough — a ton of mindless details. And that’s where you need a Fancy Hands. You’ll thank me later. Get 50% off your first month here.

So I lost my luggage on the way to an important business meeting. I sent an email to Fancy Hands and within 5 minutes, they were already on it — calling the airline and the airport, wading through the voicemail mazes, and getting everything arranged.

I’ve done other bonehead things. I left my cell phone at a restaurant that gives you 5% off your bill if you hand it to them (smart move, I think, to keep the place quiet). But I forgot to ask for it back, nor did they remember. I had one of our guys call and he said it wasn’t there. But Fancy Hands did — calling repeatedly to get the manager and got it squared away.

I had a nightmare experience at a hotel (if you travel enough, you know what I’m talking about). Fancy Hands made a series of phone calls and took care of every detail. I even got a night comped for it.

I’m speaking all over Asia on Facebook marketing next year. I forward the conference dates, listing when I need to get there by, and they book it for me, after confirming the best options.

I have a bunch of meetings in New York to set up. I give Fancy Hands a list of them and they not only schedule it, but put it in my calendar, making sure to account for the right time zones. And when I meet the clients, they say, “Your assistant called to reconfirm the meeting.”

The online meetings they go into our WebEx and schedule all the details. They call the client to let them know if I’m running late.

I smile at these things.

It’s $45 for 15 requests a month. I’m on the super duper plan of 50 requests for $130 a month, which is by request only, I’m told. Either way, just one or two saves pays for itself.

In the last 3 months, they’ve made 168 phone calls on my behalf, logging 536 minutes. That’s a couple days back of my life so I can do laundry and scout out the best wings in each city.

No, wait — they have arranged for my laundry to be done on the road and made recommendations for the best wings, too. It’s all done for me.

We do have a couple virtual assistants. For those folks who don’t know, you can hire staff from the Philippines for a buck or two an hour to do similar sorts of things. However, the Fancy Hands folks are in the US, well-educated, witty (you’ll see what I mean later and how important that is in problem solving skills), and super reliable.

So you could “save” a few dollars with a part-time VA (virtual assistant), but in the end, you’ll regret the headache of having to train them to know that, for example, there are 3 major airports in the San Francisco bay area — and one might have the direct flight you’re looking for. Their professionalism and courtesy is the same you’d expect from an executive assistant to someone in a publicly traded company.

In other words, no need to “manage” them.

I’m wondering how Ted Roden, the founder, does it. Maybe he’s secretly doing all this himself, enslaved an army of extra-terrestrials that work via a time-warp portal, or found a way to recruit intelligent, cheerful housemoms. I’m guessing it’s the latter, though I have seen one guy respond. Ted has replied a couple times to my messages — so we know he’s watching. Maybe he’ll leave a comment here!

I’m not going to repeat everything on their website — the features of their system, clever examples of how FH can give you time back, or how successful their company is by delivering service so WOW that I have to write about it here. But others gladly write about them, too.


  • You can kick back and relax — they can handle any task that doesn’t require physically being there. For example, they posted an ad to Craigslist to help me find a maid. Then they followed up on the references to make sure they were legit.
  • It pays for itself in one use. Just one emergency, one business trip saved, or an embarrassing moment avoided.
  • They integrate with basecamp. I still prefer just sending an email to, which automatically recognizes me.
  • They are super reliable. Not sure how their internals work in assigning tasks to agents, but they normally reply within 30 minutes. Unlike contractors, they won’t flake out on you.
  • They are super clever and cheerful. Once they conference called me in with Hotwire to get a booking changed. I was surprised and delighted. I heard they wrote a poem for someone else, bringing that person to tears (in a good way). I wonder if there’s a way to send a gift to the assistant that does the most amazing work.


  • They can’t handle your credit card info. But that doesn’t mean they can’t book flights, hotels, etc. You just give them your logins. They can’t handle Verizon, since Verizon won’t talk to anyone except who is on the account.
  • You can’t specify which assistant you want. At first, I thought this would be a big deal, since learning the nuances of travel planning isn’t easy. But their agents are surprisingly competent. Only once or twice did they not find the best fare– and international bookings are MUCH harder, as you know.
  • There’s no unlimited plan anymore. I upgraded to the 50 request per month plan and am probably using 15 a month. I have the 50 just in case, I guess.
  • The tasks are supposed to take no more than 15 minutes each. Very reasonable limit, of course. Once I asked FH to make a list of the top 20 publicly traded companies in Louisville, Kentucky with their websites and Facebook pages. Great work! Then I decided to press my luck and ask them to assemble a list of every beer, liquor, and alcoholic beverage on the planet. They declined that, of course, but suggested we break it into multiple tasks. Good idea!

Are you still reading this? Have you not signed up yet? Click here to sign up and I’ll get $5 off my next bill. But that’s not why I took the time to write this. I’m in love with your service, Ted!

Dear reader, tell me what you think or how it’s working for you in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you think.

28 Feb 2012

Dennis Yu: Taking Facebook Marketing by Digital Storm!

No Comments Cool Products, promoting yourself

So I decide to have some fun and ask a local student to write a biography for me. This is what he came up with.


Dennis Yu is not only a Facebook Marketing expert and CEO of a company, he is also an avid anteater collector and loves Magic: the Gathering!

Dennis Yu, CEO of and Facebook marketing expert, has recently shocked the online world, both with his expertise and knowledge of Facebook dashboards and analytics, but also by revealing more about his interesting and dynamic personal life.

“First and Foremost, my passion is Facebook marketing,” said Yu. “My company provides dashboards to really help companies see how their social media is working and devise plans to grow and succeed their social media, and in turn, their brand.” However, to most Facebook experts, that is not news. Dennis has been a staple provider of must-have tools and is an industry legend. The more newsworthy materials are what Dennis revealed in a recent interview with local student and social media wannabe Mitch Mallory. “Dennis is such a dynamic person, and to learn more about his personal life was an absolute revelation to me,” said Mallory. “It was a look inside the mind of a successful, dynamic, and exciting man.”

For one, Yu is an avid collector of anteaters. As in, those animals with the long noses that eat ants. As is expected, his interest in them came out of mere practicality. “In college, we had an ant problem,” said Yu. “I’ve always tried to think outside the proverbial box, so I thought it might be fun to adopt a rescue anteater, as we had a shelter close by.The rest, as they say, is history.” Interestingly enough, Yu now has seven anteaters, and this reporter can say accurately, each one is known and loved by Dennis. (He claims to not have a favorite, but Grizelda, the 7 year old pygmy anteater, seemed to get the most cuddle time.)

Another lesser-known fact about Yu is that he is an avid player of the card game Magic: the Gathering, which had its heyday in the early 1990’s.  “Again, this interest came out of my passion for marketing,” said Yu. “I love strategizing a plan for companies and providing them with the tools to really find the success they’re seeking. Magic, for me, provides that same challenge but in the relaxed, friendly environment of my basement. I love finding the right tools, in this case the warlocks and dragons, and executing a plan to help myself and my orcs succeed.” Although Dennis is world-renowned for his social media tools and strategies, these new revelations made him even more beloved to his dedicated followers and fans.

“Wow, anteaters?” said an obviously delighted Sarah Darlington, a devoted Facebook and Twitter follower of Yu’s. “I honestly am considering getting one of my own if it helps me be as good as Dennis is.”

Dennis is an avid Tweeter, Facebook marketer, and CEO of Dennis has been featured by CBS News, NPR, and The Wall Street Journal, among dozens of other publications and outlets. His social media tools have been used by brands big and small around the world. Dennis can be contacted at





17 Feb 2012

Why “Killer Facebook Ads” by Marty Weintraub is a MUST-Read

No Comments Cool Products, facebook marketing and advertising

If you’ve ever heard Marty speak—a whirlwind of energy—then you can appreciate that reading his book on Killer Facebook Ads is like having him sitting next to you, explaining exactly how you would create ads for your particular situation. 200 pages of Marty—enough to make your mind explode with ideas!

My favorite parts are Chapter 7 (chock full of specific headlines and creative you can use) and Chapter 2 (pages of specific examples of ad strategy for a myriad of situations). If you’ve done Facebook ads already, you can skip the later chapters on the user interface, campaign set-up, the history of Facebook, etc… But do note the golden nuggets at the very end where he has a number of interests pre-grouped for you.

I first met Marty 3 years ago when we were both speakers at a SMX event on Facebook Marketing. Back then, he was doing deep research on what users liked to do on Facebook. Facebook advertising wasn’t mainstream (and it still isn’t), so it was the wild west of people selling questionable products.

I’ve seen him give his mind-blowing presentation on ad targeting with interest counts—and it’s better every time! I do have to wonder about the references to gay people, L Ron Hubbard, people who work in the Senate that like porn, Microsoft employees that love Apple products, 13 year olds that “like” Alzheimer’s, and other zany tidbits we can quantify.

A number of things have changed in Facebook’s ad platform in the few months since Marty’s book came out. However, the core of his message is about interest targeting and crafting messages that work—timeless principles from the days of print that are just as relevant today. Smart of him to do that, versus listing techniques that would be outdated before the books even hit the shelves.

Two things that have significantly changed since then:

  1. Sponsored Stories—this is automatic amplification of content and actions by your users and the brand itself. While available in a rudimentary form before, it’s now the crux of Facebook Advertising. It’s so new that nobody has really written in-depth about the right combos of Sponsored Stories to use for each situation and which compound targets to also use.
  2. Keeping traffic inside Facebook. When you send traffic off Facebook, you immediately lose the social context, meaning the display of your friends you also liked the content or performed some action. Social context doubles and triples click through rates and is what Sponsored Stories are based upon. When you send traffic off Facebook, you cannot run friend of fan ads and you eliminate your ability to grow audiences. Yes, you can have like buttons and SSO (for the geeks out there), but for the most part, it doesn’t work.

I’ve done Facebook ads since before the platform launched—back when it was Flyers in early 2007. And this is the best treatment of the core targeting and ad copy strategy I’ve ever seen.


08 Mar 2011

The best $5 I ever spent

1 Comment Cool Products, facebook marketing and advertising, promoting yourself, social media

I met this fellow Jason Stephens on  He did a killer impersonation of Morgan Freeman and Christopher Walken, which you can listen to here. Yes, I got this for only $5. And, no, this is not a paid endorsement.  I was so thrilled working with him that I wrote this blog post in gratitude.

The unintended effect is likely that Jason’s book of business will get so full from word of mouth that I’ll never be able to hire him again– at least not at this super steal of a price.  So go in and hire him for $5 before it’s too late. This is his profile.

If this was a good tip, please let me know in the comments below.

15 Oct 2009

Check out these 24 hilarious pumpkin carvings!

1 Comment Cool Products

Got 60 seconds?  Check out the 24 funny pumpkin carving images here– they’ll make you laugh.  Here’s my favorite one:


Ok, fine– it’s not technically a “carving”, but it’s still hilarious!

27 Sep 2009

The new XBOX Natal will blow your mind– here’s why

2 Comments Cool Products

project-natal-sensor-xboxEvery couple years there is a product innovation that just changes the game.  The new XBOX has no controller, so forget about buying a Nintendo Wii.  The new XBOX has facial recognition and voice recognition– so it can spot you among a crowd of players.  They show an example of a skateboarding game where the kid holds up his skate deck and it scans both sides into the game.  Watch the 3 minute video here:

I predict that:

  • Sales of keyboards and controllers will go way down.
  • Porn companies will find clever applications to hack the box.
  • You will be wasting a lot of time and money replacing your old stuff.
  • Voice and facial ID will supplement password recognition.
  • Uncle Sam and Big Brother are already excited about what is possible.

What do you think?  Are you scared?  Excited?

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