Welcome to Toolsday — posted every Tuesday, featuring brief reviews of small, helpful apps and sites to make your life easier. Know of a tool I should feature? Shoot an email to Toolsday [at] JulesSays [dot] com.How often have you wondered what the pixel measurement of a given image or space was on a web page? How wide is that column? How much room do I have for a banner?

Kevin A. Freitas has created a brilliant add-on that works with Firefox, Chrome, screenshot of measureit icon on toolbarand Safari called MeasureIt. Once installed (in Firefox, anyway) you’ll see a small ruler-like icon in the lower left corner of the browser window. Click on it, and you get a crosshairs cursor that lets you measure anywhere within the browser window.

Figuring out web page measurements used to be a pain. If I wanted to know the size of an image, I’d copy the image and open it in an image editing program to check. If I wanted to know the size of an available space, I’d make an educated guess and do trial and error until I got it right.

Those days are gone, thankfully :)

Here’s an example – I went to Google and measured (roughly) the size of the Google logo.

Google home page with a blue box showing the area I selected. The size in pixels is shown to the right of the selection box.

Go get the add-on or plug-in or whatever your browser of choice calls it and give it a try. Then let me know what you think!

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Treat your customers’ dogs well — it’s great branding

by Julie Gomoll on September 16, 2010

Be good to your customers dogs (or kids, or pet cause) isn’t just a nice thing to do — it’s also great branding.

My dogs can hear the UPS truck coming way before it arrives. They jump up in unison and run to the door, trampling anything that gets in their way. Kody, smart pooch that he is, opens the door for all three of them.

The UPS guy is their favorite visitor. Why? Because he brings them treats. He’s the awesome food-from-a-truck guy.

Kody & Tip wear electric fence collars, so they never cross the perimeter. Sadie, however, is well-behaved enough that I never felt the need to get her one. So she runs out and gets right up in the truck! Does he mind? Not one bit.

The USPS delivers here. FedEx delivers here. And UPS delivers here. Who do you think I choose when I have to send a package somewhere? It’s a no-brainer. I go with the company who’s good to my dogs. That’s great branding.

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Toolsday: Find your lost phone, get out of a boring meeting

by Julie Gomoll on September 14, 2010

Welcome to Toolsday — posted every Tuesday, featuring small, helpful apps and sites to make your life easier. Know of a tool I should feature? Shoot an email to Toolsday [at] JulesSays [dot] com.Welcome to Toolsday — posted every Tuesday, featuring small, helpful apps and sites to make your life easier. Know of a tool I should feature? Shoot an email to Toolsday [at] JulesSays [dot] com.

phonemyphone logoWhere’s my damn phone?

I haven’t had a land line for years. The only time I really miss it is when I lose my mobile phone. I check every room, I check under piles of paper, I check the fridge (really), but I just can’t find it. I no longer let myself get apoplectic. Instead I turn to PhoneMyPhone. Type in your number, and PhoneMyPhone does just like the name says. It phones your phone. A few times, if you want, to give you time to run to the car and check there.

You could also use it to be sure you receive an important call during a boring meeting or a bad date. I’d never use it for that though. Never.

What’s your favorite handy tool? Or what do you wish there were a tool for? You never know, I might have a solution for you next Toolsday :)


BlogathonATX logoI’m blogging from BlogathonATX, being held at Conjunctured Coworking here in Austin. It’s pretty clear already that this event is a big hit :) I’m in the Talkathon room at the moment, one of the two rooms people can go to for expert advice (the other is Techathon). The conversation is lively, there’s lots of laughter, and people are making all sorts of new contacts. The two Writeathon rooms are quietish, with writers hunched over their laptops blogging away.

bloggers working in writeathon roomClearly there’s a demand for this type of event. It’s not quite a BarCamp — there are no presentations — yet, like BarCamps, it’s a free event and plenty of opportunities for attendees to bring up their own topics.

I’m a roving expert, wandering back and forth between Techathon and Talkathon, but one of the really cool things happening here is that pretty much everybody is an expert in something. An official Social Marketing Expert might need tech help, and a Tech Expert might need Social Marketing help. I ended up offering some advice as a Travel Expert, which I sure wasn’t anticipating, but kind of the nature of this event. Conversations are all over the place.

Ilene Haddad is our Ringleader. This is her brainchild, and I’m quite certain she’s astonished at what it’s become. She has done an absolutely fantastic job putting it together. It’s been a blast being part of it — I can’t wait for the next one :)

Tweet from Neatorama: Another awesome fact: Dr. Seuss invented the word "nerd."

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Moodboards: my profile/guest post on the Evernote blog

by Julie Gomoll on August 10, 2010

Evernote logoI’ve been using Evernote for over 2 years (I checked. I thought it was longer, actually, since it’s such a regular part of my work process). I only recently started using it for moodboards. A tweet from @Evernote asking if anyone used it this way caught my eye, I responded, we emailed, and voila! screen shot of my post about moodboards on the Evernote blogMy thoughts are right there on the Evernote blog as part of their Creative Series. Nice!

If you’re a designer and are unfamiliar with moodboards, definitely give this a read. They’re a powerful tool to add to your presentation/process arsenal.

If you haven’t tried Evernote, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s web-based, but there are also desktop, iPhone, and iPad apps that sync to it, and of course bookmarklets that make it easy to clip and save stuff to your notebooks. I’ve used it not only for moodboards, but for market research, read-it-later types of things, recipe collections, shopping research, wishlists, idea lists… the possibilities are endless.


How to custom schedule your Time Machine backups

by Julie Gomoll on July 12, 2010

Time Machine is a fabulous backup program. It’s easy, beautiful, and pretty much dummy-proof. If you’re a Mac user, there’s really no excuse for not doing regular backups any more.

But the hourly backups can get to be a bit much. The first few seconds of a backup can really slow down, or even interrupt whatever else you’re working on. And a particularly large incremental background can slow everything down.

I could never figure out why Apple didn’t include a scheduling feature into Time Machine. Every so often I’d think “they must have included it — I’ve just missed it” and dig around trying to find the elusive feature. But no. It’s not there.

Dialog box for changing hourly intervals of Time Machine BackupEnter Time Machine Editor.

Install this tiny program, turn off Time Machine, and set your backups to take place on a schedule that works for you. You can simply change the intervals. That’s what I did — I’m now backing up every 4 hours. It’s easy enough to tweak if I want something different. You can also choose to back up on certain days

Dialog box for changing intervals of Time Machine Backup via calendar

and/or at certain times. Then move the slider to “on” and you’re all set. It works as seamlessly as the built-in Time Machine app. No fuss, no muss.

Oh, and it’s free.

I don’t know who wrote this gem. I couldn’t find any credits on the download page. Whoever you are — thank you, thank you, thank you!

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How to Waste Your Advertising Dollars on the iPad

by Julie Gomoll on June 22, 2010

Step 1: Sign on with a big ad network who pays very little if any attention to targeting your ads to appropriate sites.

Step 2: Tell them to run your ads on the iPad with no attention paid to application demographics.

Step 3: Don’t bother to make your site iPad compatible.

Lending Tree add with pop up menus that don't work on the iPad

Check out this ad, which runs on GodFinger on the iPad. Are GodFinger players looking for loans? I don’t know. Doesn’t matter, because you can’t click on the pop-up menus necessary to continue.

Bad move. Not only do you not look cutting edge, Lending Tree, you look lame.


Rework: Short Attention Span Business Wisdom

by Julie Gomoll on June 15, 2010

Cover of ReworkRework falls into a genre of business books I call Short Attention Span Business Wisdom. Hugh McCloud’s Ignore Everybody, which came out shortly after Rework, falls into the same category.

There’s a lot to like in Rework. Certainly Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of 37 Signals, have learned a ton of valuable lessons on the road to building their successul company. Their lessons are—like their software—simple, to the point, and easy to consume.

One of my favorite lessons is “Why grow?” It’s so easy to get caught up in thinking bigger is better. Most VCs demand it, and many entrepreneurs presume it. It’s refreshing to know a successful software company recognizes where their own sweet spot is, and is proud to have only 16 employees. Money quote: “Small is not just a stepping-stone. Small is a great destination in itself.”

And I love “Out-teach your competition”. I love the abundant-universe approach. Knowledge is not a scarce resource. Sharing your knowledge makes everyone stronger. And in the case of product companies, that sharing makes for better informed, loyal customers.

There’s plenty of inspiration to be found in these pages, and plenty of common sense, too.

Do you sense there’s a big BUT coming?

There is.

BUT I take issue — enormous issue — with the essay entitled “Learning from mistakes is overrated.” HUH?

Another common misconception: You need to learn from your mistakes. What do you really learn from mistakes? You might learn what not to do again, but how valuable is that? You still don’t know what you should do next.

Wow. This is a remarkably arrogant attitude. In fact, it’s complete bullshit.

Mistakes are a part of every business. Mistakes don’t just teach you what not to do. They teach you better ways to move forward in other areas. Mistakes can open entirely new pathways of thought. And they can teach you a whole lot about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and where your ego gets in the way.

I’ll be curious to know if Jason and David feel the same way after they have a few good mistakes under their belts.

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Social Media Marketing & Ethics

by Julie Gomoll on April 27, 2010

photo of a brown medicine bottle labeled "snake oil"

There’s a ton of social media snake oil out there. You’ve seen it. Crapware that promises you a million Twitter followers and Facebook fans. Social media marketing “gurus” with no experience ready to sell you their secret magic systems.

It makes me crazy. Much of it is apparent for what it is the minute you land on the ugly website with the direct mail design and the coiffed “expert” flashing their pearly whites at you.

These are easy ethical calls. It’s snake oil. Just say NO.

But there’s a wide, fuzzy grey area, too.

A Real Life example: there’s a smart, savvy social media marketing expert out there with a huge following. He gives great advice, and clearly knows what he’s talking about. He will also Tweet — as himself, using his hard-won social media reputation — on your behalf for a fee.

My first reaction to this is “Ugh! Not cool. Ethics FAIL.” But he does tell people that this is how he works. Not in every Tweet, of course, but it’s on his site. Not right up front, but it’s there. So is it ok? My gut says no. How am I to know when he’s Tweeting about something or someone he really believes in and when he’s doing it for cash?

I have a new, fun, very cool client. It’s a local small business. I’m working with them to get more business, and there’s a significant social media element to it. So is it cool for me to occasionally Tweet about them? They’re not paying me to Tweet, per se. And of course I know that I’d only do this for clients I really believe in. But that’s what everyone says, isn’t it?

ethics definition in a dictionaryI talked with Susan Price about this. As usual, she was able to point out how I was rationalizing.

“You should only tweet about them if you’d be tweeting about them even if they weren’t your client. That’s what I do. Else you’re diluting your own reputation on behalf of the client. You’re either selling tweets or you’re not.”

Ouch. She’s right.

On the other hand, when I owned Go Media — long before social media — I would often talk about/spread the word about my clients when I was out and about. How is Tweeting about them — with restraint — really any different?

And from my client’s point of view, part of the reason they hired me is for my knowledge of and access to their demographic.

So now I’m trying to find a happy medium that fits with my own ethics. Facebook and blogging are no problem — I can simply explain. Twitter is another issue.

We need a hashtag. Anything I Tweet on behalf of a client should be noted as such. That’s tough to do that in 140 characters. I used #pimpingmyclient on one Tweet, but that’s too long, and it’s not exactly professional. Would #client be enough?

Suggestions are most welcome.

What ethical quandaries have you bumped into?


It’s the Filtering, Stupid!

by Julie Gomoll on April 5, 2010

Bruce Sterling gave a talk at Lift09 in France last year called “Shaping Things”. As usual, he gave a fascinating, somewhat stream-of-consciousness talk that managed to connect lots of seemingly disparate topics, from spimes to RFIDs to design to tranaparency to recycling.

His thoughts about tag clouds and industrial design made something click for me. He talked about how tag clouds had such promise, but are now revealing their weaknesses. What happens when the tags/words go away? Or evolve?

tag cloudHe transitioned smoothly from tag clouds into industrial design. Industrial designers make coherent things, and name them. But what about the components of the objects? They need tags too. So we end up with tags, and sub-tags, and sub-sub-tags, until we’re left with an organizational mess.

We need a way to filter and and organize.

The same thing is happening with location-based applications.

Location-based apps are hot as hell these days. They were the app-star of SXSWi this year, and new services are popping up all over the place. Personally, I’m using FourSquare, Gowalla, and Whrrl just to get a sense of what they have to offer.

Yes, checking in with multiple services is a pain, but it’s worth it to me to see how they evolve.

But I see another problem emerging, and that’s filtering. Any time I check in, I’m presented with a list of nearby spots. Gowalla seems to be more precise in locating me, but regardless I’m presented with x places. When the place I’m really at doesn’t show up, it’s another step, and often a slow one, to get it to appear. As often as not I just skip it.

Word list: Austin-Bergstrom Airport, Terminal A, Gate 17, Boeing 737, Row 14, Seat DI was at the airport the other day. When I went to check in I found listings for half a dozen gates, several restaurants, the Admirals Club, and specific baggage claim areas. It wouldn’t surprise me to see specific airplane seats and bathroom stalls very soon. During SXSWi, I saw checkins for bathroom lines, bus stops, and specific rooms in restaurants. I even saw someone’s moustache listed as a location, and some lucky friend had checked in. Amusing, for sure, but it makes the services much less useful.

We need a way to filter the locations, and fast, or the apps will become unusable and even more tedious.