Monday 15 November 2010

What I'm up to

I haven't been posting much here for a while. All my blogging effort has been going into Living Skillfully: Change Your Life, my personal development blog, and guest posting on other related blogs to build more traffic and subscribers. But it's time for a roundup of what's been going on.

I'm about to bring out another online course, Stop Procrastinating, Start Succeeding (there's a $20 discount offer if you sign up before 22 November 2010).

I also want to put together a small stop-smoking product before the end of the year, since cigarette tax goes up here on New Year's Day and that will stimulate a few more people to look around for effective ways to stop smoking. I'm approaching quitting smoking in terms of a personal development challenge rather than from a strict medical model.

I haven't just been writing about personal development, though. I'm doing some too. I've started getting up earlier to exercise, which is going well (I'm progressing through the Hundred Pushups challenge). Conveniently, this builds the same muscles that I use to paddle my new kayak, which is a lot of fun.

Starting in February, I'm doing a 10-week improv class. My day job may also pay for me to go to a public-speaking course run by Toastmasters.

Very slowly, I'm working on a Young Adult novel called The Y People, which is a bit of a hat-tip to the X-Men while being almost completely unlike it.

I've moved all my creative stuff over to C-Side Media at last, and I'm thinking about starting a new blog there (because I don't have enough blogs). This one will be about the process of self-publishing, basically how you can publish your book for free. It's a topic I have useful knowledge on and it would benefit other people, plus if I get people subscribing to it there'll be some splashover to my other projects. I'll announce it here as and when. (You can subscribe to get all C-Side Media updates on any of the several C-Side Media blogs.)

I'm also planning a podcast in the New Year on personal development, in which I'll interview other personal development bloggers. Steven Aitchison has agreed to be my first guest. It'll probably be monthly.

So there's plenty happening in my life in 2011. Feel free to leave a comment if you'd like to know more about any of it.

Thursday 4 November 2010

A couple of years ago, I posted on this blog:

Here are my three main worries about... Barack Obama:
  1. Despite the smooth running of his campaign suggesting that he can pick good staff, will pick the wrong people for the jobs that need to be done, as George Bush did in some - though not all - cases, and that this will, as with Bush, lead to his intended changes either being hijacked or failing to be executed properly.
  2. Will splash money around without accountability on how it is spent or control of the consequences. We're seeing, potentially, the first example of this with the bailout for the auto industry.
  3. Will disperse the goodwill and popularity he has by enacting radical policies that the electorate generally doesn't support.
Can I call it or what?

Not so much the first one, but the other two, definitely.

My other worry about him was that he was promising more than he could deliver, and this, too, has come to pass.

Still, President of the USA is a pretty thankless position these days. Whatever you do almost half the electorate will disagree with it, you're short of money, the economy and the environment have both been in trouble for years, internationally you're stuck in an unwinnable war and regarded with resentment even by many of your allies...

The whole US political model is overdue for an overhaul, but because of the way it's designed it's almost impossible to overhaul it. What kind of worked and was radical and cutting-edge in the 18th century is now an entrenched system which, while theoretically accountable to the people, in fact offers them no option that really represents their views in most cases.

It's a worry.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

How to sell stuff you haven't made yet

I haven't ranted about bad marketing here for a while, partly because I've been busy learning how to do good marketing. (My definition of bad marketing: Marketing that is clueless about what the customer actually wants, mainly because it doesn't care what they want.)

I've done several different courses from several different people, but the one that has really stood out is Clay Collins' "Interactive Offer". (It's actually saved me a lot of money. When you start poking round in the marketing field, you tend to get a lot of offers from people practicing what they preach, that is, trying to sell you stuff. For several months now I've been looking at those offers and thinking, "Yeah, that would be really good. But I don't need to buy this, because Clay's course will teach me that.")

Clay's thing is very 21st-century. You build a relationship with a group of people, and ask them what their problems are and what would help them solve those problems. And then you presell them a solution. And after that, you make the thing, because at that point you know it's going to succeed.

It's basically distributed patronage. In the 18th century, you had to find one rich person to pay you to make things. In the 21st century, you can find a whole lot of people who have a relatively small amount of money each, and make them things they want.

It's also the complete opposite of the kind of advertising and marketing I hate, where someone has a product that they want to sell, and they will interrupt you and try to sell it to you regardless of whether you need it or want it.

So, it's a brilliant concept, and Clay has used it to launch his last several products and got it down to a system, which he explains really well. (He's a nice guy, as well, which helps.) I'm very happy with my purchase.

I got in on the ground floor, the very first time he offered it. He's now created a whole lot of excellent material for us (asking us what we wanted at several points in the process, of course), and he's relaunching it all under a new name: The Presell Formula. (That's an affiliate link, but I'm not just recommending it to make some money. This is genuinely good stuff.)

What really sold me on the course was that Clay's free preview material for it was about three times as useful as the average marketing guru's paid course. And for this new version of the course, he's doing the same again: great preview material that you can actually use, even if you never buy the course.

Here's the link again: The Presell Formula. Go and take a look, sign up for his videos and enjoy his enthusiasm.

Saturday 24 July 2010

Review: The War of Art

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative BattlesThe War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a 4-start book until near the end, when Pressfield sets up what I consider a false opposition between creating for an audience and being true to yourself. We don't consider J.S. Bach a lesser artist for having produced his works for patrons, do we?

The War of Art was published before the idea of "1000 true fans" gained currency - a group of people who are, in effect, your patrons, who you create your material for and who, in turn, will buy pretty much anything from you. I wonder if Pressfield would still make such a strong dichotomy and cling so hard to the Romantic myth of the loner artist who produces brilliant work that often isn't appreciated by the masses. The modern reality (which the publishing industry needs to embrace, or it's doomed), is that there's no future in making things at random and firing them out at an uncomprehended public in the hope that they'll like one for some inscrutable reason, and buy enough copies to compensate for all the failures. Being in touch with your audience is just as important as being in touch with yourself, and the two are not mutually exclusive.

The earlier part of the book, though, on overcoming resistance, is excellent and worthwhile, and I do recommend it.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday 28 January 2010

More on why I'm disappointed with the iPad

I've been thinking some more about my reaction to this morning's iPad announcement. I'd said to myself beforehand, "Even if it's just a larger iPod Touch, that will still be cool." But - it's just a larger iPod Touch, and it's not that cool. Why not?

I think Apple are victims of their own hype machine (not all of which they control - Apple fans, I'm looking at you). What I was really expecting was that it would not be just a larger iPod Touch, that Apple would come up with something transformational that nobody had ever thought of before. And they didn't. Every element of this device - the e-reader, the touch interface, the slate form factor, the positioning "between a smartphone and a laptop" - all of it already exists. Not in one device, maybe, and if in one device, not in a device this well-designed, but still - it's evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Hence, underwhelm.

And that positioning itself - do I actually want something "between a smartphone and a laptop"? No. I want something that combines the convenience of a smartphone and the functionality of a laptop, rather than having a bit more of one and a bit less of the other.

I have no doubt that the iPad will be an extremely cool device, and I still want one, but I don't plan to be an early adopter. For now I'll be sticking with the iPod Touch for convenience and the laptop for functionality, and putting up with the small form factor (and difficulty of reading/web browsing) on the one, and the bulkiness and lack of a touch interface of the other.

Damn, now I put it that way I'm leaning towards the iPad again. But only a bit.

Apple iPad: Lower price and fewer features than I'd hoped

I've just been catching up on the coverage of the big Apple iPad launch. I've been eagerly awaiting this, because I have an iPod Touch, which is the coolest device I've ever owned, but is too small to browse the Web or do anything with documents. (It's easy to use, with the touch interface; it gives me instant-on internet, although, as I say, web pages are a bit of a pain to read; and I can carry it everywhere.)

The iPad is basically a very large iPod Touch or iPhone (it'll come in two versions, both of which connect to wifi networks, one of which also connects via 3G wireless). Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be a whole lot more than that. Don't get me wrong, an iPod Touch that's four times the size (twice as wide, twice as high) is actually very useful, and I had already decided that I would (eventually) get one even if that was all it was. And the pricing is better than I expected: entry pricing (16GB, wifi only) is $499 USD, and the most expensive version (64GB, with 3G) is $829, or about $1200 NZD. Based on what happened with the iPhone, that will also come down. But those are attractive prices already.

It's got a supposedly pretty good onscreen keyboard that you can use with both hands, and they've already announced a keyboard dock (or you can use Bluetooth keyboards). The iPod Touch keyboard, because it's tiny, is hard to type on. This should be better, so that you can actually use it as a laptop. They're making a version of the Apple Office equivalent (iWork) for it, and pricing the apps very reasonably, though I would probably use Google Docs in any case and have my documents automatically in the cloud where I can get at them from any web-connected computer.

I can see myself possibly using it in my hypnotherapy practice instead of writing on a clipboard as I do now (the advantage of a virtual keyboard is that there's no typing sound, unless you want there to be), assuming that someone builds an app that can be a front-end for a database. (If not, I can always build one myself on my website, appropriately secured.)

The problem is, I'd like to use it also to record the sessions and - here's the key area where it falls down - write them to CD. There's no provision for connecting to standard USB devices - external hard drives, memory sticks, CD writers, and my good-quality USB microphone, for example. I could record using the built-in microphone or the lapel mic I currently use to record on my laptop, but I'd then have to synch across to my laptop before I could write the session to CD for my client to take away, which kind of takes away some of the convenience.

The other thing it's missing which would have been cool (though it's not, for me, a killer app) is a built-in video camera so that you could sit on the couch, or in bed, and have video calls with someone on the other side of the world. (People are screaming "You can't make phone calls from it!", but of course you can. Skype is in the App Store already.) Maybe they'll do this for iPad 2.0. Of course, if they supported USB, I could just plug in my existing webcam...