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Organize and Find Everything in One Place with Springpad and Evernote

If you’re like most people, between shopping, eating, surfing the net, conversations with friends and basically just living your day-to-day life, you constantly come across products, web pages and ideas you want to remember.  However, if you’re like me – and I hope for your sake you’re not – it can be a real challenge as to how to organize it all.

Chances are you’ve at least heard of Evernote.  With Evernote, you can save just about anything you want to remember in the cloud.  I’ve been using it extensively the last few months, mostly to organize others’ blog posts I want to refer back to, though there’s a lot more to it than that.

Unfortunately, for me at least, Evernote has slowly become yet another place to store my bookmarks, along with my Firefox browser and Delicious, giving me as many as three places they might be (to be fair, I’ve been using Evernote mostly on my desktop and long before I acquired my first smartphone a few weeks ago).

Recently, though, I came across a similar, free service called Springpad.  While Springpad mirrors Evernote in many ways – helping you save ideas, things you see, things you like, etc. – it does add a couple of new dimensions that I find intriguing.

First, the similarities:

  1. Both allow you to save just about anything you come across.  This could be a photo you’ve taken, a website or article you come across, an idea, any number of things.  Let’s say you’re planning a wedding and want to have one place to save dress photos, venue options, guest lists, whatever.  Instead of lugging around that three-ring binder, access everything you need right from your smartphone.
  2. You can save items independently or tag and categorize them in folders.  Either way, finding them later is as easy as entering a keyword or selecting the folder (say, “XYZ Project) that contains the items you’re looking for.
  3. Both offer their own smartphone app.  Likewise, I use an Evernote Firefox add-on and a Springpad (Spring It!) bookmarklet when surfing the web.
  4. Both are free.  Evernote does offer a paid version, but I’ve found the monthly 40MB offered with the free version  to be more than enough for me.  For $5 a month, you’ll get a total of 500MB of space that starts over every month.

Beyond that, there are several key differences:

  1. When it comes to how you save what you find, Evernote adds the option of saving audio notes on your app-enabled smartphone.  This feature, on the surface at least, seems to be one of the few advantages Evernote has over Springpad.
  2. Conversely, Springpad enables you to barcode searches.  You can even “search nearby.”  This might come in handy when, say, you see a restaurant or store you want to remember to visit later.  Save it and Springpad automatically pulls in the phone number and address of the business, even a Yelp review if applicable.
  3. Snap a photo that includes handwritten or printed text and Evernote makes it searchable.  Very cool.
  4. One key difference is Springpad adds social sharing to the equation.  You can choose what items, or categories of items, you’d like to make public. Others can follow what you’re sharing and, likewise, you can follow others.  Want to know about great wines Gary Vaynerchuk is discovering?  Just follow his Springpad feed.
  5. The web interface also allows you to add apps to your Springpad experience.  For example, my Springpad includes a blog post and date night planner among others.  Last week when I had an idea for a new blog post I wanted to remember, I noted it in Springpad and was able to even set a reminder e-mail for the day I wanted to work on it.  One drawback though is interfacing with these apps does not appear to be an option within the Springpad smartphone app.
  6. Lastly, when you save something, Springpad automatically curates relevant links, notes and other media (as in #2 above).  Spring a movie you want to check out and Springpad will include a link to Fandango so you can buy tickets whenever you’re ready, or maybe even the latest Trailer, reviews, or a link to purchase the DVD at Amazon.

I’ve only being using Springpad for a short while.  I can say for sure that the lack of a desktop app (versus Evernote which offers both a web and desktop version) is a big deal for me.  I use the Evernote desktop app virtually everyday.  However, I really like the additional features, like social sharing, that Springpad offers.

For more on both services, check out the respective videos below.  And let me know in the comments section which one you use, how you use it, and what you do and/or don’t like about it.  Do you use both?  Which do you prefer?

Have I missed any features?  Differences?  Similarities?

Photo credit, Franck-Boston on iStockphoto.com

How I Got Two HTC Incredibles for Less Than $30 (and you can too)!

Today was the day.  The Verizon Droid Incredible made its debut on Verizon.  I went back and forth on whether or not I’d pull the proverbial trigger on this model, wait for the iPhone to make its way to the big V (after all, I’d already given up on the Google Nexus One), or jump ship to Sprint in June just in time for the HTC Evo 4G.

Last Friday, after a ton of research spread out over several months, I ordered two Incredibles from the Verizon website.  They arrived much to my glee and excitement – and that of my wife, it turns out – yesterday.  I won’t bore you here with unboxing videos and reviews.  You can get that info from a thousand other places.  However, I do want to pass along some tips that will help you save some dough, especially if you’re itching for a new smartphone.

First off, you surely know that if you’re at the end, or near the end of your contract with your carrier, you hold all the marbles.  The leverage is yours to do with what you will.  In our case that meant that, for several months now, we’ve qualified for the Verizon “new-every-two” discount ($100) as our contract expired earlier this year.

If you remain patient to make sure you get just the phone you want (re: hem and haw for weeks driving your spouse crazy as you struggle with what to do), you may even get a mailer from your carrier offering you $80 off your next bill, as we did (in our case, the equivalent of one month of voice service on our, then current, main phone).

Additionally, because we ordered our two Incredibles online, the rebates with Verizon were instant.  No paying full price up front, filling out long forms, mailing them in and waiting the customary 6 to 8 weeks to get your money back.  After this experience, I may never enter another Verizon store again (though I do need some cool accessories to trick out my phone).

Here’s the kicker: The same day I ordered our phones, I saw the Verizon TV ad offering one free 3G smartphone with the purchase of another.  So, yesterday, when my phones arrived, I gave the friendly folks at Verizon a call.  Five minutes later, my purchase looked something like this:

Incredible #1 – $299

Incredible #2 – $299

Total – $598

Minus Instant Rebates of $100 = $398 ($100/phone)

Minus new-every-two discount of $100 applied to Incredible #1 = Incredible #1 drops to $99 while Incredible #2 remains $199  for a total of $298.

Minus One Free 3G Phone (Incredible #2) previously valued at $199 = $99 total for the two phones (Note that the free phone is the more expensive one as my new-every-two discount applies to the phone I’m actually buying).

Minus One Bill Credit of $80 = $19

With tax, my wife and I are out less than $30.  Two Incredible phones (my wife and I are loving them in the first 24 hours), and one truly incredible price, wouldn’t you agree?

This isn’t hard at all, really.  The trick is bringing all these separate deals together into one.  None of the phone carriers present them that way, but they’re all out there, ready for the taking.

Remember, do the math then make your purchase.  Too often, we do it the other way around.  I think that’s what’s commonly referred to as “buyer’s remorse.”  I can assure you there’s none of that here.

Finally, I shot a quick video with the phone’s camera yesterday.  I think it looks pretty good.  How about you?

No Size Fits All: Video Book Review No. 2

I first became aware of this intriguing new book at Mark Ramsey’s blog Hear 2.0.  If you’re so inclined, I highly recommend you take some time to read his analysis of what the book has to offer.

If you’re in the business of figuring out your industry’s or company’s digital future, and are fascinated by the psychology behind the popularity of social networking – or for that matter, why some marketers are welcomed to otherwise closed communities with open arms while others aren’t – then I highly recommend you give it a go.

There’s a bit of nostalgia where this particular video is concerned.  It was shot at my parent’s home in the room I grew up in as a boy.  Unfortunately, the Farrah Fawcett posters are no longer a part of the room’s decor.  What a shame.

Changing Facebook’s News Feed Default Settings

It’s been a few weeks since Facebook launched its recent round of changes.  Those changes not only included a slight face lift (no pun intended), but some under-the-hood changes as well.  If you’re like many, you’re still getting used to them.

In fact, it you spend time on Facebook daily, you may have noticed that what you’re posting isn’t being commented on at the same level you’re used to.  Part of the reason for that, I believe, is due to the changes Facebook made to some of the personal profile default settings.

First, it’s important to note that this won’t change, necessarily, by making the simple adjustments I describe in the video below.  For that to happen, everyone else you’re connected with will need to do the same.  To put it simply, you need to spread the word.

However, if you feel – as I did – that you’re just not seeing near the activity in your Facebook stream that you once did, the simple adjustments outlined in this screencast should help change that.  I hope it helps.

Photo credit, Photos8.com

iPhone, Nexus and Droid, Oh My!

Before you ask, the answer is, “No, I do not now, nor have I ever owned a smart phone.”  Hard to believe, especially if you know me well.  Most of my Facebook friends and Twitter contacts are stunned when they learn I don’t own one.  I often hear things like, “I guess I just always assumed you did.”

I’ve had trouble in the past justifying the added data plan expense, and up until recently Verizon – my carrier – just hasn’t had anything compelling to offer.  That changed with the Droid.

My wife and I have been with Verizon for two years now.  We have no intention of switching especially when they’re offering $100 dollars toward a new phone (new every two).  More than once I’ve come this close to pulling the trigger on the Droid (which, for a limited time, includes a free HTC Eris for my wife).  Something though keeps holding me back.

First, there are the constant iPhone rumors.  Will the iPhone come to Verizon or won’t it?  I was extremely disappointed when there was no announcement from Verizon to that end last Wednesday (as was heavily rumored).  Google’s Nexus One (announced at this year’s CES) was another reason to wait (at least it seemed that way at first).  It doesn’t come to Verizon though until Spring.  And, by the way, what does that mean?  Could you be any more vague?  Spring?  Give me a break!

So, what to do?  I’m still not sure, but I know one thing: as you are a person who reads this blog – and likely a smart phone user – you have much wisdom and experience to share.  Am I right?

Help me learn from your expertise (or your mistakes, as the case may be).  Before you comment, keep in mind I have no intention of leaving Verizon as a carrier.  Now, if you will, comment away.

Pandora Surpasses 40 Million Users (and what it means for terrestrial radio)

According to an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Pandora, the personalized online radio service, reached 40 million users in 2009.

On average, 15 million people stream internet-only radio stations like Pandora every week.  That’s not far from matching the number of those streaming terrestrial radio station sites (22 million, according to the article).  Think about that for a second.  A handful of internet-only radio stations have nearly 3/4 the listeners as do all regular radio station streams combined.

“What’s the big deal,” you say.  “Besides, internet-only stations can’t compete with radio’s ubiquity, right?”  Guess again.  The last real advantage radio has is quickly evaporating.

Here’s the kicker quote from the article: “Unlike Pandora, CBS and Clear Channel don’t necessarily require users to register.” Did you get that?  Many stations, mine included, aren’t asking visitors/users to register (the first time) in order to consume the station’s content.

For my company, that’s nearly 50,000 unique streamers every month we’re NOT collecting information on.  For Clear Channel it’s 8 million a month.  For CBS, 9 million.  Want to take a guess at how many Pandora users give up at least an e-mail address for the chance to consume Pandora’s content?  I’ll tell you.  It’s 100%; as in, all of them.  That’s a database of 40 million e-mails.

Remember, back in the day, when your station first put up its streaming player and someone on staff argued against requiring registration for fear your users would find it off-putting?  I guess it’s safe to say now that that’s a hollow argument.

Maybe the real problem isn’t the various barriers to entry, but rather the experience (or lack thereof) we’re offering and the content we’re streaming. After all, we’ve removed all the hurdles, yet Pandora and its ilk are still kickin’ our tail.

The Only Book on Social Media Marketing You’ll Ever Need

Several months ago I promised Tamar Weinberg I’d do a video review of her book The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web.  My apologies to her for taking so long to get around to it.  After all, how hard can a video book review be, right?

After being sidetracked with other projects shortly after reading the first two-thirds, I finally got around to finishing it recently.  If you buy one book on social media, do yourself a favor and make it this one.

For the ultimate review of Tamar’s new book, check out this video from Polar Unlimited.

Sales and Social Media: PB & J or Oil and Water?

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of delivering a presentation to our company’s Business Development Directors on the benefits of considering certain social media tools to reach their goals.

My First Prezi Presentation

Mixing sales (or marketing) and social media is, of course, done by companies and individuals all over the world every day.  But, if your social media approach is lead by what you’re going to get out of it (ulterior motives) as opposed to shining the spotlight on other people (altruistic motives), make no mistake that people will see right through it.

My main point then was two-fold.  If you’re not participating, that doesn’t mean the conversations aren’t happening, they simply go on without you.  And, once in the game, are you there for the right reasons?  If it’s primarily to add value to whatever community you’re in and to help whenever possible, then the answer is yes.

Thanks to Brian Solis, Olivier Blanchard, John Haydon, Chris Brogan and everyone else who inspires me every day to aide those around me in their quest to make sense of all this stuff.  By the way, I tried embedding the presentation here but apparently wordpress.com doesn’t like Prezi.  At least they’re not playing well together.  Instead, I’ve included the public link.  I hope you like it.

Sales and Social Media: PB & J or Oil and Water?

Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham: A Review

fysl_cover_fullOkay, I’ll just come out and say it. It’s been really hard to Find My Strongest Anything lately.  There have been two deaths in my family in the last week,  yesterday my one and only laptop hard drive crashed (I’m on a borrowed one now) and, I realized just moments ago that this review is actually due today, October 5th, and not tomorrow, October 6th, as I’d thought.  Me, strongest life?  Hardly.

On the other hand, one could argue the timing of this book in my life couldn’t be better.  In a moment, I’ll tell you how you can get a free copy all your very own.  But first, my impressions of the book.

The complete title is actually Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book that was so obviously not geared to me.  Despite this though, I found it to be quite fascinating.  Here’s a quick 90-second video intro to the book from the author:

What the book ultimately tries to do is to teach you to identify your life’s “strong moments,” those moments that really get your juices flowing.  Sounds pretty remedial, right?  But, for me at least, it’s so easy to let these moments go by unnoticed.  Reading the book, I realized I’d been doing exactly that for a long time.  Even as I thought about the last couple of weeks, as Buckingham suggests doing, and tried to pick them out, I kept coming up empty. 

What Find Your Strongest Life helped me to do was pinpoint them so that I can now, going forward, focus my attention on them.  I discovered, for example, that my Lead Role is as an “Advisor” (You’ll learn where you fit after taking the simple test at StrongLifeTest.com.  The questions are geared to women, but I didn’t find it difficult to think of each one in terms of my male role in life).  I must say that, as I read the “strongest moments” associated with this trait, I became really excited.

One of them – someone calls you up out of the blue and relies on your opinion – reminded me of two real-life examples from just a few days ago.  When I thought back to these two moments, I was instantly reminded of how much I enjoyed these conversations.  Is it possible, I thought, to make a living advising people?  Duh!?!  Of course it is you dolt.  People do it every day. 

But other than a few brief flashes, I hadn’t much thought about my desires in this area.  Find Your Strongest Life helped me understand the importance of not treating these flashes so lightly.  In short, I came to realize there’s nothing I enjoy more than being relied upon for my opinion.  In other words, as Marcus writes, to clarify a complex issue for someone who acts upon what I’ve told them and to see them succeed upon doing so.   

Whether you find you’re an Advisor, a Motivator, a Weaver, a Care-Taker, I think you’ll find new motivation and the direction you’re looking for in this new book.

—————————————————————

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers, I have four (4) copies of Find Your Strongest Life to give away.  For a chance at snagging one, you must take the following three actions:

  1. Leave a comment below. Tell me why you’d like this book.  I really want to know.  I might even get to know you better.
  2. Fill out this special form. I have set up a separate form to make it convenient for you to provide your mailing address.  Please do not include your address with your comment.  This will automatically disqualify you.
  3. Twitter a link to this post. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use Facebook.  Please copy and paste the following into your tweet/update:

Reading: A book review of Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham. @THEjeffbrown is giving away copies! http://wp.me/poeTz-mR

Yes, I know if more people read this, it will hurt your chances of getting a copy yourself.  But the only incentive the publisher has to provide books to giveaway is the free publicity you and I collectively provide.

On Thursday, based solely on my arbitrary and subjective evaluation of the comments, I will select the winners. If you are selected, I will notify you via email. If you don’t hear from me, you can assume you didn’t make the cut.

Question: Why do want a copy of this book?  What do you hope to get out of it?

Whether you win a copy or purchase this book from one of the above links, I thought you might enjoy sampling a few pages first.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller: A Review

Don Miller Book CoverIf you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers.  You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen.  The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back.  Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.

But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful.  The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.

And so begins the new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life by Donald Miller, author of Blue Like JazzIn a moment, I’ll tell you how you can get a free copy. For a taste of what’s in store, as well as information on Miller’s 65-city speaking tour, interviews and more, see my previous post.

Miller asserts that a big part of living a better and more rewarding and fulfilling life is about creating meaningful stories within which to live it.  He cautions though that, The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined.  The point of a story is never about the ending, remember.  It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle.

If you’re like me, you find it difficult to be motivated by words written on a page.  I don’t know why I’m wired that way.  It may explain why only in the last several years have I become an avid reader.  But despite this personal quirk, I found A Million Miles to be filled with thought-provoking and motivational moments.  One of my favorites:

I’ve never walked out of a meaningless movie thinking all movies are meaningless.  I only thought the movie I walked out on was meaningless.  I wonder, then, if when people say life is meaningless, what they really mean is their lives are meaningless. I wonder if they’ve chosen to believe their whole existence is unremarkable, and are projecting their dreary life on the rest of us.

If you’re aware change is needed but are struggling with the motivation to make that change, you might appreciate this:

Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life.  It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you are going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it.  It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life.  People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen.  But joy costs pain.

He goes on to write that, because of this, we often have to force ourselves to create these stories:

We have to get up off the couch and turn the television off, we have to blow up the inner-tubes and head to the river.  We have to write the poem and deliver it in person.  We have to pull the car off the road and hike to the top of the hill.  We have to put on our suits, we have to dance at weddings.

As I read the book during a recent trip to visit my ailing grandfather, I couldn’t help but think about how little time we all have to create meaningful stories.  My grandfather, at 91, was facing the end and I, if fortunate enough to live as long, was nearly half-way there myself, I thought.  What was I going to do differently?  What changes would I make?

That was three weeks ago.  Since that time I’m glad to say that, while probably considered baby steps, I’ve begun a few new stories in my life.  Both my wife and I, if we’re not careful, can make a weekend of laying around and doing nothing (me much more so than her).  Already, we’ve discussed the need to change this habit along with specific goals toward which to shoot.  Just one example, but there are others.  Like I said, baby steps.

Meanwhile, my grandfather’s funeral is tomorrow.  And while he may be gone, I’m glad to have shared a few meaningful stories with him along the way.  The stories he fostered are what will live on beyond tomorrow.  Your meaningful stories and mine, if we choose, can begin today.

—————————————————————

Thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers, I have a copy of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years to give away.  And if Chaffee Management comes through, I may even have several more (Update: 5 more copies for giveaway have just been made available).  For a chance at snagging one, you must take the following three actions:

  1. Leave a comment below. Tell me why you’d like this book.  I really want to know.  I might even get to know you better.
  2. Fill out this special form. I have set up a separate contact form to make it convenient for you to provide your mailing address.  Please do not include your address with your comment.  This will automatically disqualify you.
  3. Twitter a link to this post. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use Facebook.  Please copy and paste the following into your tweet/update:

Reading: A book review of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. @THEjeffbrown is giving away copies! http://bit.ly/oju0P

Yes, I know if more people read this, it will hurt your chances of getting a copy yourself.  But the only incentive the publisher (or author’s manager) has to provide books to giveaway is the free publicity you and I collectively provide.

On Thursday, based solely on my arbitrary and subjective evaluation of the comments, I will select a winner(s). If you are selected, I will notify you via email. If you don’t hear from me, you can assume you didn’t make the cut.

Question: Why do want a copy of this book?  What do you hope to get out of it?