Google maps rant

While preparing for my European trip, I was using Google maps a lot. Naturally, I wanted to save the maps I created, to return to them later. And that’s where my problems started.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Google suite of tools. They are extremely useful, usable and intuitive. I would not be able to function without Google calendar (and I totally love its easy integration with event organizing tools like Eventbrite). My business e-mail runs on Gmail. My business website is on Blogspot platform. I use Google analytics. And I am not paying a cent for all that. (I would have a hard time if Google suddenly decided to charge for all these things, I would have to pay through the nose. Just don’t tell Google, it may give them ideas.)

However, I was extremely disappointed with Google maps. They are as counter-intuitive as it gets. I was completely frustrated.

Intuitively, you expect the following sequence of operations:
1. You open a document.
2. You edit it.
3. You save it.
4. You can repeat pp. 2 and 3 as required.

Now, with Google maps it just does not work. Read the rest of this entry »

My post for Blogging Idol contest – Your IT budget on a shoestring

You have recently started a business, but don’t have a huge budget for all things IT?

Here are 17 free or inexpensive tools that will help you to establish your online presence and spread the word.

1. Create a Facebook webpage for your business. (Not a group, though; only people who are on Facebook can see a group and participate in it, while a Facebook page can be seen by anyone.) Become a fan (there is a button for it) and ask all your Facebook friends to become fans, too. Cost: free

2. Create your company’s profile on LinkedIn. Cost: free

3. Blog! Blog a lot. Write something interesting and useful, so people want to come back for more. Write often, to become a habit with your readers. Cost: free

4. Microblog! Post on Twitter. (Take care and do not overspam your followers; post something they will find useful – information about freebies, discounts, promotions, news and events, for example.) “Live tweet” events on Twitter. Cost: free

5. Get yourself a good domain name – short and meaningful. Avoid acronyms. Speak to your reader. “” is better than “”. Cost: as low as $9 per year.

6. GoogleApps will give you a free hosting (but you will need your own domain name, see above). Cost: free

7. A business e-mail on hotmail does not look cool. You can get a free business e-mail from Google (but you will need your own domain name, see above). Cost: free

8. You can create your own professional-looking website on a blog platform, choosing one of a million freely available styles. Check out WordPress 2.7 – WordPress has recently grown into a full-scale content management system. Check out Blogspot, too. With Blogspot, you can redirect your domain name to your blog-based website for free, so it has a “grown-up” url and not a third-tier domain name. Blogspot, however, offers fewer features if you want to develop a full-scale website. You can use your own domain name with WordPress, too, but in this case you will have to pay a small amount to WordPress for the redirection (something like $15 a year). Decisions, decisions. Cost: free to $15.

9. TikiWiki is another powerful and free content management system and groupware. It is open source and free, and you can find hosting for as low as 0.95 per month. Cost: from $0.95 per month

10. Attend meetups and various camps: there is DemoCamp, Barcamp, CloudCamp, BookCamp, Podcamp and millions of others. When you register, insert a link to your website and blog. (Many event management systems, like Eventbrite, have this feature.) Cost: free

11. Search Engine Optimization. Check this great document from Google. Cost: free.

12. Use Google Analytics and Google AdWords to find out who is visiting your website and what they expect to find there. Cost: free.

13. Create videos and post them on YouTube. Create responses to other people’s videos. This simple and short presentation was viewed almost 800,000 times:

14. Inbound marketing. Create a toolkit, give people something they would want to use. Cost: free.

15. Turn your PowerPoint presentation into a Slideshare slide show. Cost: free.

16. Post your ads on kijiji and Craigslist. Cost: free.

17. Give people an opportunity to contribute. For example, create a wiki where people can share their experience and information about your product or service. Cost: priceless. People love to share, and you will contribute to the community building.



Pep up your website popularity with Google Analytics

Get to know who your visitors are and where they come from
Find out what works and what does not
Google Analytics for your web-site by Helen Overland – presentation from PodCamp’09 Toronto

Good customer service: priceless, or How one should NOT treat bitchy customers

As I have complained already, I had trouble exporting Facebook events into Google calendar. When I tried to export, Facebook gave me an .ics file and I for the life of me did not know what to do next. For some reason I supposed that there should be a link or a button or something, and when you press it, the event appears on your Google calendar (like Eventbrite does, and, by the way, that’s how I found Google calendar and started using it: that’s what I call good customer experience). Facebook offered nothing like that, and when I searched it I only found someone’s complaint that there is no application for exporting events. I decided that the logical place to seek help was with Facebook customer service. A message exchange ensued, pretty much along these lines:

– Dear facebook customer service, how can I export FB events into Google calendar?
– You can export your Events while viewing the main Events page, by clicking on the “Export Events” link at the top of this page. I apologize for this confusion. Please let me know if you have any further questions, and I will be glad to assist you.
– All this link does is offering me to open the same .ics file with Firefox instead of Outlook.
– Our records indicate that you are able to use this file successfully to import your events into your calander [SIC! – T.S.]. You will need to contact your Gmail, if you are experiencing difficulties. I apologize for this confusion. Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns, and I will be glad to assist you.
– Could you please tell me, exactly HOW I must use this file to export events into Gmail calendar? (Also, please note that calendar is spelled with an “a”.) [Now, at this moment I am still unable to export events, and slightly pissed off with the whole situation]
– Unfortunately, you will need to contact Google if you are experiencing difficulties with your file. I apologize for this inconvenience. Please let me know if you have any further questions, and I will be glad to assist you.

I feel that our talk turns into a conversation of a blind man with a deaf one. I start suspecting that one of us is an idiot, or maybe we both are. I enter “importing .ics file into google” into Google and in 3 seconds find a solution. I must explicitly import the darned .ics file using Google calendar’s user interface, and it is a standard operation. 1 more minute, and everything is done. I am happy. (By the way, this is how you do it.)

But then I think, WHY ON EARTH could not the customer service person tell me that outright, saving a few useless messages and her own time (to say nothing about mine)? Could she use Google in the same way that I did and tell me what she found? Of course. But SHE DID NOT BOTHER TO. I imagined my own conversation with a client:

– Dear Tania, how much will you charge for translating this text?
– (this much) per word.
– How do I count the words?
– My records indicate that you are able to use Microsoft Word functionality to count the words in your text successfully.
– Yes, but exactly how do I count the words?
– Unfortunately, you will need to contact Microsoft if you are experiencing difficulties with your word count. I apologize for this inconvenience. Please let me know if you have any further questions, and I will be glad to assist you.

Ridiculous, right? Of course I am not responsible for teaching my clients to use Microsoft Word, but if I talked to them like in this imaginary dialogue, I guess I’d be without clients pretty soon. Hello, Facebook customer service? TAKE NOTES.