Category Archives: Web Services

Switching to wireless delivery from Instapaper for my Kindle 3G

For months, I’ve been using Wordcycler (Windows, freeware) to manually sync individual items from Instapaper to my Kindle 3G + Wi-Fi via USB cable. Now that I have a smaller number of articles to read, I’m going to try receiving new items via Wi-Fi through Instapaper.

I’ll also start trying Instapaper’s Send to Kindle bookmarklet for immediate delivery (Account > Manage My Kindle Settings).

If this works well, it’ll be fantastic not having to connect my Kindle to my computer every few days. I’d only need to worry about charging it.

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See you later, Delicious

I just exported my Delicious bookmarks file for safekeeping. Why? September 23, 2011 is the last day before AVOS migrates to the new site on September 24th. I haven’t seen a rebuttal to “Why You Should Think Twice About Opting-In to the Delicious-AVOS Transfer“, and I haven’t used the service since December 2010.

It was a good run, but I’d rather use my blog.

Are you going to keep using Delicious with AVOS?

Greetings, Fuelly!

Since the end of 2008, I’ve kept a fairly regular habit of jotting down my trip mileage, odometer, price and other fill-up numbers[1. Date, station, odometer, price, gallons, and partial fuelup (yes/no).] whenever I fueled my 2003 Toyota Corolla at a gas station. When I get the chance, I’d open my spreadsheet file and add the new fill-ups.

When Matt Haughey started Fuelly, I postponed importing my data and switching from sheer laziness. After revisiting the site a couple days ago, I saw that I already had all the information I needed from my spreadsheet. After renaming the columns and changing a few fields to use boolean logic[2. Partial_fuelup and missed_fuelup from yes/no to 1/0.], my CSV import went through smoothly.

Why I dig Fuelly:

  • Fuelly displays my data with elegant charts and graphs, which is more than my spreadsheet.
  • With my smartphone, using Fuelly’s mobile site is gorgeous and allows me to enter new data easily, saving the step of writing it down for later.
  • If I choose to leave, I can export my fuel-up data to a CSV text file.

Right when I was about to publish this post, Fuelly wouldn’t show any car details. After a quick email to inform the Fuelly team (of what I’m sure they already knew), Paul Bausch replied within minutes that the problem was fixed. Awesome. After a friendly interaction with Paul, and having watched a few episodes of Portlandia, Oregon is starting to look really nice. :)

My Fuelly username: btvillarin / Sign up at fuelly.com

My love for Dropbox

My 8GB MicroSD card on my Android phone basically died on me a few weeks ago. I’m glad I save my photos and sync my text files to @Dropbox.

You really should get a free Dropbox account, especially since you get 2GB free. (Disclaimer: That’s a referral link. If you use my link, I get 500 MB and you get 250MB of bonus space, up to a limit of 16 GB.)

Get a Google Calendar already

It doesn’t matter who you are. You need a calendar. (More specifically, Google Calendar. It’s free, you know.)

Do you truly respect people and their time?

While working at a law firm for last five years, I learned that everyone uses a physical and/or digital calendar. That calendar is sacred. If it’s not on there, it doesn’t happen.

I get annoyed when something gets planned or bumped at the last minute. I’m not talking about randomly, but on a regular basis.

I’m not calling you an idiot for not having a calendar. I just think you’re foolish to keep your schedule in your head. Additionally, if people rely on your calendar to schedule things involving you, what other incentive do you need to create and maintain a calendar accessible to others?

It’s alright. They can just text/call me and I’ll let them know.

What if you’re off the grid for a few hours, or your cell phone battery is dead? Do you really want the back-and-forth exchange one person has to undertake with several people?

How about if someone is asking me on the spot?

Tell them you’ll check your calendar and get back to them. Or, keep a paper copy on hand with the next few weeks.

Can’t I just keep it on my basic cell phone calendar?

What if your cell phone breaks or it’s lost? Where’s the backup?

Alright wise guy, so how do you keep your calendar?

I love Google Calendar. Look at its features! I’m sharing my calendar for potential customers[1. I still don’t know if it’s better to call them clients.].

  • I don’t have a smartphone (e.g. BlackBerry, iPhone), but I have a data plan, so viewing [a few weeks of] upcoming events through their mobile site is simple.
  • I can add items via SMS (text message).
  • Even though I check my calendar daily, I can choose to receive reminders via SMS.
  • Customers looking at my calendar shows when I’m busy – private, yet effective.
  • Tip: I can export my private ICAL (.ics) file[2. How? On the left, click the dropbown arrow next to your calendar, then Calendar Settings. Under Private Address, right-click and save the ICAL file to your computer.], then copy it onto my Apple iPod (3G). It’s not painful to do this every few days and it forces me to have a backup on my computer. If you have a newer iPod or iPod Touch, you could do this, too.

Convinced? Setup your own Google Calendar now!

Confused Twitter users and cluttered @replies

My first name is my Twitter username (@bryan). I love that!

Downsides:

  • New users don’t realize that you need to input the exact username.
  • Spammers know they can flood your @replies tab. (Of course, you can easily block and report them as spam.)

Tip: I understand that many Twitter users have difficult names to spell. Don’t rely on your memory. On the website, hover over the message you want to reply to and click “reply.” (End tip.)

At the time of this writing, the last four pages of my @replies tab only has nineteen legitimate @replies to me. (Well, technically fourteen because five are mine.[1. I sign my Twitter updates from @scarletparadigm with @bryan.])

Each page has twenty (20) Twitter updates. So, if I use fourteen in my math, 17.5% of 80 @replies are from Twitter users who don’t know how to @reply their friends correctly.

I’m leaning toward blocking repeat idiots offenders, but that’d take a lot of work. Maybe I should block anyone who can’t @reply properly. Is that too harsh?

How do you deal, if at all?

If you’re in your RSS reader, please click through to vote in my [unscientific] poll, and feel free to elaborate in the comments. (If your URL seems suspicious, I’ll remove it.)

Do you block people who can’t @reply on Twitter correctly?customer surveys

Update 2010-07-07: Derek Powazek wrote “Press the Magic Button” the same day I wrote this. I feel like he was reading my mind.

12 Tips for Better Sales on eBay

After recently selling a few things on eBay, I’ve compiled some suggestions for you in hopes it’ll increase legitimate bidding activity.

Readability

  • Use a large, readable font. On a 22″ wide screen LCD monitor, 14 point is ridiculously small. Try 18 point and the Georgia font.
  • Create sections in your auction description with bold headings. (e.g. what’s for sale, why you’re selling, item condition, shipping or local pickup, retail pricing)
  • Check for spelling, especially in the title.

Completeness and/or full disclosure

  • Explain yourself. Most auction descriptions are too brief or simply repeat the item name. Why are you selling the item? How long have you had it for? What comes in the box?
  • Even though eBay auctions have a built-in shipping, return policy, and payment tab, repeat the shipping, handling, and payment details in the description. (You know, for redundancy and decreasing miscommunication.)
  • Don’t use stock photos. The bidders will usually ask, so save them time.
  • Display several clear photos of the item. If you know someone with a DSLR camera, get a white foam poster board and take the photos of the item(s) on it. Try to take the photo in some shade. If it’s too bright, get a friend to hold a diffuser over the item(s). For best results, make a light tent. (See “How To: DIY $10 Macro Photo Studio” or “How to Make An Inexpensive Light Tent – DIY“)
  • Link to a few glowing reviews of the item.

Don’t pay unnecessary fees

  • Host photos elsewhere. There’s no need to pay eBay more money for photo hosting. If you have Flickr, WordPress/WordPress.com, or Tumblr, create a set/page with a gallery of photos for your item(s). Don’t forget to link to the photos within the auction description!

Increase views, watchers, and bids

  • Use eBay’s first free image so it shows up in the listings.
  • End the auction around 9:30pm, and if possible, on the weekend. This will help get more buyers looking at your auction, especially for more expensive items. If you end the auction at 3pm on a weekday, it’ll be more difficult for people at the office to participate in the last few minutes of a bidding war. Don’t forget to calculate the time zones you want to cover. (For example, if you want to end the auction at 9:30pm EST, start the auction at 6:30pm PST.)
  • For a fee ($0.10), eBay can schedule your auction to start at a certain time and day. If you want to save that ten cents per auction, and you’ll be at a computer when you want to start the auction, fill everything out and save as a draft. You can post it later.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to take some photos of some more items I’m going to put up for auction.

Do you have more time-tested suggestions? Please take a few minutes to share them with a comment, and explain how it’s helped you. Thanks! (Back off, spammers. I’ll nuke comments and ban IP addresses without hesitation.)