Archive for September, 2006

Business Cards

September 29, 2006

I just got my business cards today. I ordered them from www.VistaPrint.com. They came out exceptionally well! VistaPrint allows you to design and preview your cards online. They provide a variety of templates and graphics, plus you can upload your own. I got 250 cards plus a metal case for about $45 after using a coupon. Coupon? Before I buy anything online, I always google for a coupon. Low and behold I found one and saved about $20.

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MeeboMe

September 28, 2006

I have a success story that I want to share. I use a service called MeeboMe that allows prospective clients to chat (instant message) with me from my website. I have found this works well— people who might not have taken the time to e-mail me seem to prefer this medium. I like it too. Why? Quick resolutions. They tell me their needs, I ask for whatever information they left out, they shoot back answers, and I tell them if I can help them or not. With instant messaging, there is no waiting around for replies. Every time customers have to wait for a reply, the chance that they will lose interest in the effort increases. MeeboMe can be inserted, free of charge, into any website with just a few lines of code and is rendered as chat box widget. As long as you are online, messages are routed to your Meebo instant-messaging account. Meebo itself is a cool service because it allows you to instant message from multiple accounts/providers from a single web-based interface. From any computer you can log into all your accounts and see your contacts in a single buddy list.

The catch of course is that you need to be at your computer and able to respond quickly to questions, but since my job is to sit at the computer, that is hardly a problem. The other night (late) three prospective customers messaged me all within the same hour! I don’t think they would have bothered to contact me if the chat box wasn’t right there on the front page of my website.

Netvibes.com – Best Blog Reader

September 14, 2006

Two weeks ago I was searching for a good online blog reader. Most that I tried loaded individual entries too slowly (bad for quickly scanning) or did not allow you to organize your feeds well. Then I tried netvibes.com. Seriously, click the link now and try it out (it’s easy). It surpassed all my expectations. Now regardless of what computer I am on, I open up netvibes.com and can track all my favorite blogs, gmail, weather, etc. However, new Yahoo Mail (beta) has an innovative rss reader and could be a good alternative for some users.

Web Worker Daily Blog

September 13, 2006

I recently came across the Web Worker Daily blog. I think it is going to be very interesting to follow, because it discusses issues relating to mobile workers, like me. One of my self-employment goals is to be completely mobile. As a result I will be able to work from any cafe or faraway friends’ place. I will be sharing my thoughts on how best to make this work in coming posts, but I am sure the Web Worker Daily will offer complimentary insight.

Learning from MSDN Events

September 12, 2006

Staying abreast of the latest tools and technologies is important for my consulting business. With that in mind, I took the afternoon to attend “Get Connected with the .NET Framework 2.0 and Visual Studio 2005,” a MSDN event that occurs in many cities every 2-3 months. I did learn some cool things, specifically about exposing web services from standalone applications and using the upcoming Atlas (AJAX) library in conjunction with ASP .NET. That being said, there were some parts that dragged on. I think the best perk of every session is getting the DVD at the end. It comes packed with recent betas of Windows Vista and development tools. I would recommend selecting only the sessions that are most interesting to you or maybe slipping in towards the end just for the DVD 😉

Why I Made the Switch (Part II)

September 12, 2006

I knew I had to make a change. I took a leave of absence for three months during which I backpacked in Europe and taught English in China. Wonderful experiences! I had taken the GMAT (business school entrance exam) in the spring and scored in the 99% percentile. I knew I wanted and could do that, but didn’t feel directed enough to enroll right away (maybe in two years?). I considered moving to another position within the company or moving to other companies, but two years is not much time to advance within a company. Why not do my own thing *again*? I say again, because I ran a successful software business in high school. It was a fabulous experience. By being self-employed again I would be able to take on a unique and very rewarding challenge. I would have flexible hours and potentially have time to pursue other interests. And luckily I already have some contacts, a couple of which I had been freelancing for already, to help me get a consulting business rolling. Anyways, if it doesn’t work out, I have some savings and can always get another technical job very quickly.

Why I Made the Switch (Part I)

September 12, 2006

Let’s review my background. I am twenty-three. I graduated from an Ivy League school with a degree in computer science. I worked for eight months at a software company in the consulting division writing software for monitoring large computer networks. The application itself was cool, but I became discontent for two reasons: the tools and work environment.

By tools, I mean that we were using C, a low-level programming language, to write a large windows application. To write simple features took weeks. Bug fixing often involved tracking down numerous memory leaks and other outdated tediousness. Of course we leveraged a multitude of libraries that provided functionality obtainable in higher-level languages, but these were proprietary libraries. A newbie like me had to figure out what was there and how to use it and then come to terms with the fact that this knowledge would be useful nowhere else. I wanted to learn how to use the latest languages and libraries that allow for rapid application development and a more frequent feeling of accomplishment.

Second, the work environment was not stimulating. Everyone worked on their own feature and communicated only at weekly meetings or when a question arose. Maybe that makes sense. We had a job to do and we were doing it. But I prefer a more intense and interactive environment, like that perhaps of a startup company where you are constantly going back and forth and looking over each other’s screens while rapidly putting together an application. Additionally there was no flex time benefit and the Internet was filtered such that certain sites (like email or cnn) could not be reached. Is this kindergarten?

A Belated Welcome

September 10, 2006

Welcome. This blog is meant to share my self-employment experience, including the good and the bad of it, the unique challenges, and what I find helps me the most. Additionally I will occasionally share technical news, along with commentary, that I find interesting.

The New Facebook — So Good It’s Bad?

September 5, 2006

facebookrevolt.JPGIt is fun to watch, not to be watched… Today Facebook enabled a feature that allows users to see, in a single condensed stream, individual changes made to friends’ profiles. You can read more about it here. This is really innovative. One reason Facebook has been so popular is that people become obsessed with reading the “Recently Updated” profiles of their friends. The difficulty however is that it is not always apparent what changed— even fanatics become aware that they are wasting more time than they would like by sifting through the same information for the umpteenth time. The new feature allows you to get at exactly what you want in real time. As a result users are going to be logging in even more often for to tap this instant source of gossip. With hundreds of friends, the average user will have a limitless supply of entertaining information.

Wait, there is a flip side to this. Every tweak you make to your profile (a favorite activity of many users) will be readily apparent to everyone. When other users tag you in a photo or post on your wall, your friends may know before you do, before you can censor it. Those flirtatious comments you’ve been leaving/receiving are going to be seen by a whole lot of people. This is out of control! To be fair, it is simple to remove an item from this published stream, but that hasn’t stopped users from protesting by joining a Facebook group entitled “The New Facebook creeps the shit outta me.” The group currently has 1000 members with over a hundred joining per hour. Is this the start of a damaging revolt? Will users stop updating their profiles frequently and adopt stricter privacy settings?