Productivity Booster

Best Stylus for the iPad

More years ago than I care to count I bought a PalmPilot 1000. It rocked. I was so excited just for the fact that PalmPilot 1000I would now no longer have to get a new calendar book every year and copy all of the birthdays and important dates across to the new one. Ahhh, the first spark of fire in the dark ages.

The Palm hooked me on the idea of a stylus instead of my KFC grease coated finger for touching the screen. It’s more precise and the one that I use in my smartphone has a pen in it so I’m never without a writing implement.

When I picked up an iPad I noticed that the guy working at the store used a pogo Sketch so I decided to pick one up. It fit well into the bottom of my Dodo Case (which now comes in green and I want a new one) and all was good for about 3 months. Then the clip broke off and when I looked on Amazon to replace it there were now more options. None of them were that expensive so I decided to order a bunch of them so I could do my own shootout and see what worked best.

The Contenders:

Amazon showed Griffin with one coming out soon so that prompted an email to Dave Delaney, who has hooked Marketing Over Coffee up with stuff in the past. Here’s the required link from them saying they give out stuff for people to try and to blog about. Please also note that the links below are affiliate links so if you could use them I can send my son to college.

I also tested one sold by a company called Acase, which was exactly the same as the Griffin. With the exception of the Griffin logo, it looks like they came from the same factory, the Acase cost me $2.94 more than the price of the Griffin, so I’m only linking to the less expensive one.

The elago is also very similar to the two above, same tip a bit lighter with a different style clip.

The BoxWave is also in this family, again same tip and similar look and clip, but it’s about $10 more and heavier because it has a cap and a real pen that is pretty good.

The iClooly was the unique one of the pack, unlike the others.

I also got some cheapos at $3.95 for a 3-pack that I thought might compare to the pogo sketch.

The Results

iPad Styluses
L to R:Griffin, Acase, BoxWave, elago, pogo, iClooly, & el Cheapos

After a week of use I’ve found that I like the Griffin ($13.04) best. It has a rubber tip that’s sort of like a mushy racquetball. A similar tip is on the BoxWave, Acase and elago.

In second place would be the BoxWave which is almost the same, on the plus side it also has a pen, the cost of that is that it’s more expensive ($24.95 was the price when I bought mine) and a bit heavier. Update : after about 2 months use the tip on the BoxWave did not write a smoothly as the Griffin or the Acase, I tried cleaning it and that made no difference.

The elago is in third ($14.99), very similar to the ones above except for two things – it has their brand and the phrase “Design is Improvement” on it. This is a bit odd to me because the whole Apple thing is not to print anything on an object that’s not required. Ever look at the bottom of a Macbook versus a Dell? Also the clip on mine is slightly loose and rattles a tiny bit. Rattling doesn’t fit well with the Apple design thing either. Otherwise it’s about the same as the previous two.

For Fourth I would replace the pogo ($10.73). The tip is like a tiny peice of shag carpet and it’s thinner and lighter than all of the above. A good choice but for the plastic clip.

The iClooly was less expensive (only $9.99) but very well made. It has a unique tip which is like a very short paintbrush. It’s retractable so you have to click it like a ball point pen. That’s the reason I don’t use this one, it’s two extra steps to take off the cap and click it open. The brush cap is closer to the barrel and pulls straight off, the cap has a second tip in it that you unscrew to access with a plastic point for a resistive touch screen (as opposed to capacitive on the iPhone, iPad family). It’s nice but I found the tips on all the other ones work on both types of touchscreen.

It should be noted that all of the above performed the same. I tested them all on Note Taker HD and they all worked fine. You may have a preference of rubber tip vs. cloth vs. brush for feel, but they all work. I thought the rubber was very similar to cloth, the brush didn’t seem to give as much resistance. If you like the feedback the rubber and cloth work best, if you like it to be frictionless the brush is better.

The only fail in the test was the 3 pack of cheapies ($3.92, but no link because you don’t want them). The rubber tip on the better ones have a matte finish, the cheapos have a glossy rubber tip that sticks to the screen making them unusable. When you want to slide panels on the screen it literally gets stuck to the screen. For uber-geeks out there, I did try using the dremel tool to grind the glossy finish off, it does work better, but still not as well as the ones above. I roughed it up with about a 75 grit sandpaper and could try other stuff but at about $15 for the good ones it’s not worth the time.

That’s the wrap up, enjoy your clean screen!

Update: I’ve been sent a Stylus Socks Pro to review and played with it for a couple of days. Ivo has done something interesting with a different approach – the handle is like a paintbrush with a soft tip and about half of it has a sock made of a capacitive fabric. It’s very smooth and has a unique weighting so it’s a nice alternative. My wife enjoys this one, I stopped using it when I realized I have a habit of holding the stylus as far as possible from the tip. For this model if you are not touching the fabric it will not work. What was more interesting to me in his store were styluses for people with disabilities – there’s a mouthstick for anyone that does not have use of their arms, and the Steady Stylus that has a full hand grip that would be useful for anyone that has difficulty with fine motor control. I’ve never seen these before and was quite impressed.

Update 2: With 6 months of testing under my belt there’s a new champion. Best Stylus for the iPad – Six Months Later

Productivity Booster Uncategorized

Smart Warranty – How to save $1,000

I worked for 5 years in the insurance industry and one of the important points in the theory of insurance is that you should not insure anything if you can afford to withstand a total loss.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or a financial professional. If you take any of my advice just assume that you’ll be sued, you’ll lose all your money, end up in prison, your house will burn down  and you’ll probably get a really mean case of athlete’s foot.

Now that we’ve weeded out all but the fearless, and those not afraid of itchy feet, read on…

A common insurance mistake illustrates the principle – many people have comprehensive and/or collision coverage on their cars. This is a good idea for the first five years you own the car, and if you have a car loan it’s required. The mistake many people make is not reviewing this coverage when the value of the car falls below $5,000. If you look up the blue book value of your car and it’s worth $2,100 because it’s 8 years old and has almost 200k miles on it maybe you shouldn’t be paying $200 a year to protect that $2,100. Now yes, it is possible that a tree will crush your car and your insurance company will give you the $2,100, but the odds are you’re going to do that for 3 years, and pay over $500 for peace of mind that your car was protected if it had been crushed. At this point, rather than feel content, you should picture yourself content and short $500, while your other self could risk the car and be enjoying a weekend at the beach with cash to spare.

The easy way out of this is Self-Insurance. You, as an individual, can use the same strategy used by many large corporations to avoid paying insurance premiums. Every time you get offered insurance coverage at check out (say from that store with the gadgets and the guys in the blue shirts), if you actually consider it, refuse it and put that money aside in a savings account. You can do it on a whiteboard if you want to see it in action, but it’s more fun to actually have the cash sitting in an account. What you’ll find is that just like a casino, over time you will win big. A co-worker of mine has been keeping track and by the time he got to his second big screen TV he had a pool of a couple thousand dollars ready for repairs.

You’ll get to a point where you have more in the fund than most stuff costs, with the exception of your car and house – the things you do need to insure. Everything else is giving it up to the casino.

Productivity Booster

iPad Wireless Keyboard vs. Bluetooth Keyboard vs. Griffin Loop vs. A-Frame

I’ve been trying to see what works best for typing on the iPad. When I bought it I also got the keyboard dock. After using it once or twice I found that I didn’t like the fact that it held the iPad in a portrait orientation (tall rather than like a normal widescreen TV). I’ve found the widescreen to be much more useful for reading and going through my GMail.

Dave Delaney hooked me up when I mentioned this on Marketing Over Coffee, and sent over a Griffin A-Frame. It’s a nice heavy duty frame but I had seen a different model they make, the Loop, and wanted to check that out too. So, here are the final stats:iPad Stands and Keyboards

Keyboard Dock – 20 oz (note: I am using a really crummy food scale so these numbers may be way off, but they are good enough for relative measures), $60 as of this writing from Amazon. This can be your complete solution if you don’t mind looking at it in portrait orientation all the time. Another benefit – it requires no power so you won’t be foiled by dead batteries.

Bluetooth Keyboard – 10 oz. $69, that weight is including the 2 batteries it takes. I was surprised how light it was. You now add the risk of dead batteries, but if you go with a Griffin stand, now you can view the screen in Landscape orientation

Griffin Loop – 12 oz. $29.99. A single solid plastic loop that is a bit taller than the A-Frame stand, but considerably lighter

Griffin A-Frame – 17 oz. $49.99 (retail, $36.99 on Amazon as of this writing). It’s rock solid, but heavier and more expensive. It does look more heavyweight than the Loop and it folds down to be flatter. I’d consider that a benefit for travel except that I prefer the weight reduction of the Loop over an inch space saving.

End result: I’ve gone with the bluetooth keyboard and the loop. I think it’s worth the extra $30 to get a landscape view, and it’s only 2 oz. more than the keyboard dock. There is the battery risk, but it can also be used with a Mac to recycle it, the keyboard dock is a paperweight for anything but an iPad. The A-Frame is nice but more money and weight are the deal breakers for me.

Email Marketing Productivity Booster

Effective Segmentation

A couple of weeks ago I had an epiphany an managing segmentation. I had been giving a lot of thought to one-to-one marketing vs. things like personas and how to go from the impressive strategy, to actually making it work as far as day to day logistics.

I’ve been doing a lot of work with Manticore as far as email tracks and delivering relevant content, but the revelation I had was that its not as much the content as effective list management. Once you can create and send custom content it’s much more important to be able to map out the sales and customer lifecycles in terms of what list individuals should be on at what time. More importantly – the huge benefit is when you can automate the management of addition and removal from specific lists. I think there’s a bigger picture here that I am starting to see about a second level of marketing automation.

Podcasting Productivity Booster

Recording Skype to Skype

During my trip to The Fortress of Solitude for November to avoid the blogosphere I had a friend ask about the best way to record a phone interview. It was more strategy than tactics and Tim Street called me out for shoddy workmanship. Since I had begged off on blogging for the month this was classic “No good deed goes unpunished”. Now after a few months in my draft bin, here’s how to do the best option – skype to skype:

  1. Have a smoking fast internet connection. I use Verizon Fios.
  2. There are many ways to run skype and record it via software on the same computer. I don’t trust any of them.
  3. Run skype on your PC and have your sound card set up so that you can monitor yourself in your headphones and hear the caller. I use a standard issue Dell laptop but add an external sound card. I use the Mobile PRE USB, which then allows me to record with my E/V N/D767a microphone (this is about $250 worth of stuff).
  4. Instead of going to the headphones the audio out goes into a digital recorder. I use the Marantz PMD 660, which is more expensive than a lot of recorders but it is a lot more rugged, gets great sound, and sarcastic news audiophiles say it’s so simple even a reporter can use it.
  5. Monitor the sound on the recorder, now you are listening to the final output.
  6. If possible make sure your interview subject is using headphones and has a good microphone. One benefit of this method is that if your subject is not tech savvy you can still use Skype Out to get them on a regular phone and they will sound ok, and you will still sound great.

This is not the cheapest way to do it but it sounds great and it’s the safest way to go. If you are going to get only one shot at the interview this is the way to go.

Geek Stuff Great Marketing Podcasting Productivity Booster

How to Record a Phone Interview

Even though I said I was taking November off, I’m back again. A friend asked me about recording a phone interview and I wrote so much that I thought it would be a shame not to get a post out of it too.

The Phone Tree Option in Order of Sound Quality:

Best – Skype to Skype
Still good – Skype to regular phone (Skype Out) A lot of people use this if your interview subject can’t handle skype (doesn’t have the bandwidth, or the technical skill).
Last Option – Phone to Phone

For skype to skype or skype to skype out, use one computer for skype and another, or a digital recorder to record, do not skype and record on the same machine (yes, I know, lots of people do skype and record on one machine, remember that you’ve only listened to their successes, you haven’t heard the files that were lost or ruined). Another benefit of this method is that you get full studio sound on your side.

Ways to do phone to phone: like most tech stuff, the trade offs are that cheap and/or easy are at the expense of sound quality.

One thing to test is cell vs. land line. Cell can be clearer, but if reception is an issue go to land line.

Another important factor – headsets are best, handset next, Polycom conference phone is rough, speakerphones are terrible.

Cheapest and easiest: Many conference call services, such as the good folks of TelSpan can record your conference call (I am a customer of theirs). Give your subject the number, tell the service in advance that you want this one recorded, and download an mp3 when you are done. This is as low a quality can go, but it does work.

Next, if you already have recording gear, put the subject on a polycom and record the room. You get studio sound on one side and this method is a good compromise on price / sound quality. The setup we use for Marketing Over Coffee (this link goes to a page with the full gear listing) is great for that, it’s about $600 but is NPR quality sound and durability. You can go cheaper, but the question is: “How screwed would you be if you lost an interview?” for some it’s no big deal, for others it may be once in a lifetime opportunity.

Most expensive – a device that operates as a phone but pulls the caller into your mixer and pushes your mic back down the line. I don’t know many people that go this route since skyping out is cheaper and better sound quality. But, it should be noted that JK Audio has a full assortment of devices that do this (as well as some other devices that are great if you want to do your own webinars – again, I am a customer and vouch for them).

It will also depend on if you are doing it once or if it’s an ongoing project, for one time call in some favors, rent gear, or pay a pro. If it’s a regular thing, get some decent gear.

Another big tip – when you are done, run it through the Levelator, it’s a free software tool that balances out the volume levels.

Have fun, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Productivity Booster

DSLR and Audio in Film Making

I really liked the look of this session, and the content is great if you are into shooting video.

Advanced Sound for DSLR’s from Steve Weiss, Zacuto USA on Vimeo.

Productivity Booster

Get the Full Feed – No Charge!

For my dear diehard fans that originally subscribed to the feed on the old domain, please subscribe to the new feed:

For some reason, during the transfer to the new domain, the old feed became a partial feed, the new one is a full feed. If you are not familiar with feeds I encourage you to check out Google Reader, it allows you to subscribe to the websites you like so that you are notified when new content is posted instead of having to manually take a look all the time (I’m able to keep up with over 300 websites daily in less than 10 minutes a day).

Thanks to Daniel Johnson, Jr. who pointed this out to me (I had no clue), and to Chris Brogan who mentioned the prior post on Twitter giving me a flood of new followers.

Email Marketing Lead Generation Productivity Booster

Manticore and GoToWebinar

I had a Marketing Over Coffee listener ask me about using Manticore (Email, web analytic, demand generation) with GoToWebinar (Online meetings). I thought that this was too much “Inside Baseball” even for MOC, but it fits here.

Do you typically send out your webinar invitations as part of a Manticore Demand Booster Process? It gets sort of tricky because once someone uses the invitation to register for the webinar, then GTW sends them back a personalized URL for accessing the webinar.  As you know, GTW does a great job of managing registrations.  Post-webinar, it can also provide a list of attendees and a separate list of registered no-shows.

It seems that the easiest thing would be to wait until the webinar takes place, then start the demand booster process at that point using the lists of attendees and no-shows.

This is an interesting problem. I thing the big issue is that GoToWebinar doesn’t have an API (at least at my last check with their tech support). You could build all the same stuff (registration, follow up email) on your own site through Manticore and manage it all there.   That still wouldn’t solve the problem though, just change the direction of data you have to load – instead of pulling the reg list out of G2W, you’d be uploading the projected attendees into G2W, and since there’s no easy way to do that unless you want to start scripting something that goes through HTTP, and that makes my brain hurt.

I do send the invites out via Manticore, you can grab the HTML and load it right up. And a tip – if you include the “Register Now” button the tracking of opens will work over in the GoToWebinar reporting.

I don’t do webinars as part of any demand booster tracks, I don’t like anything to be in a track that is locked to a specific date, that really increases the labor required to reuse the track.

Hopefully by putting this out there, somebody will have a better idea…

Productivity Booster

New Marketing Summit Oct. 14 and 15

I am going to be passing this over to the Marketing Over Coffee audience later today or tomorrow, but I figured that since there are a lot of Bostonians that read over here I’d give you guys first crack.I have a pair of tickets to The New Marketing Summit coming up on the 14th and 15th at Gillette Stadium. Get a chance to meet the organizers: David Meerman Scott, Paul Gillin, and Chris Brogan. Christopher Penn will also be presenting. Comment here if you want one and I’ll follow up with you.