GoDaddy’s New Payment Processor with PayPal and Stripe

We’re big fans and users of Freshbooks for our online accounting, invoicing, and payment software.

It’s interesting to see GoDaddy teaming up with PayPal, Stripe, and Dwolla to offer their own “Get Paid” solution for people and businesses as a small monthly fee starting at $3.99

GET PAID

Everything you need to get paid

Get paid on any device—mobile phone, laptop, tablet

Accept credit cards, checks, PayPal, bank payments

Create and send invoices online and on your mobile phone

via Get Paid | Anytime, Anywhere, Anyhow – GoDaddy.

I suspect this will attract small businesses and folks who want a quick solution without all the hassle that setting up online payment options can cause for those who are less tech literate or strapped for time (and cash).

I also wonder how much this will impact the growing area of online invoicing that our beloved Freshbooks, Stripe, banks etc are already inhabiting after inheriting the space from the ancient Quickbooks ancestor.

What Images Should You Use on Your Website?

Testing is great. Finding a better solution by gathering data is one of the reasons our species has developed and survived. The same is true for solid results on websites, and using tools such as “A/B testing” to determine the best outcome is a worthwhile endeavor for small businesses, churches, community groups, and non-profits with a website…

At many Web publishers, such decisions can lead to impassioned arguments, fruitless debates, even hurt feelings. But 1-800-Dentist doesn’t leave it to chance or opinion. Instead it runs an experiment. It launches two or more versions of a Web page, and then watches as users react. After thousands of people have visited, one version will have edged out the others with a statistically significant improvement in the number of sign-ups.

via A/B Testing for Websites Redraws the Web | MIT Technology Review.

However, there are downsides to relying solely on tools such as A/B testing and the resulting data when it comes to web design (also from the link above)…

In fact, intensive testing appears to be reshaping what the Web looks like. But the page designs that are succeeding won’t win any awards for art direction, just as listicles don’t win Pulitzers. Even proponents of optimization technology admit it can produce sites with simple, cookie-cutter looks.

But A/B testing is spreading because it’s become easy to do. Optimizely says it can pick a winning design after as few as 100 visits for sites that have never been optimized. In practice, running experiments is often much harder. At 1-800-Dentist, which is based in Los Angeles, Kharkats says he’s testing text and images for several slightly different landing pages and estimates that he will need 150,000 visitors to each in order to detect a difference. That could take months, he says.

So, do some testing (we always do). Let it help you guide your path towards a better website or search campaign or poster design.

But, use your gut and trust your instincts (or the instincts of the agency you hire to help you out). After all, we’re humans, not robots.

Twitter’s New Mobile Ads

Twitter has long had an advertising component available (especially for small businesses). With their recent acquisition (acqui-hire) of MoPub, a mobile ad network, they are now releasing ads specifically targeted for mobile app users on iOS and Android in the apps category.

It won’t take long for Twitter to open up their mobile advertising to other categories and businesses as well as they continue to seek a successful monetization strategy…

Twitter is kicking off the global roll out of mobile app promotion ads — units that either take users to app downloads, or to the apps themselves if they’re already installed, via a deep link. Along with that, Twitter’s unveiling new cost-per-app-click pricing for the unit and a dashboard to track usage.

via Twitter Rolls Out App Install And Engagement Ads, And New Click Pricing, Globally | TechCrunch.

Facebook’s Creepy Psychology Study and Implications for Marketing

While Facebook’s recent psychology study on 700,000 of its users feels “creepy,” it does offer a couple of takeaways for businesses and groups looking to use the social network for marketing…

Facebook found that the emotion in posts is contagious. Those who saw positive content were, on average, more positive and less negative with their Facebook activity in the days that followed. The reverse was true for those who were tested with more negative postings in their News Feed.

via Facebook Reveals Huge Psychology Experiment on Users.

Specifically, if you’re using Facebook to promote your business, group, church, or organization, you need to take into account the ability of texts and postings to shape an interaction.

Facebook users, like most users of web services, zip through content at a fast rate and increasingly on mobile devices. You have a very short amount of time to make your mark, even if the user came to your page or post intentionally (it’s even less time if you’re trying to “grab attention”).

Make your posts positive, helpful, engaging, cheery, and (most importantly) personable. If you do run Facebook ads, try not to use generic language or phrases that we so often associate with marketing to our own detriment.

Generation Sell

After reading this study on how 60% of Gen Y professionals think they’re entrepreneurs (found via Jim Kukral‘s Facebook post), I remembered an “old” post from 2011 that described the millennial generation (born in late 70’s up to ’90) as “Generation Sale.” A little googling helped me find the NY Times piece.

It’s a spot on good read:

The small business is the idealized social form of our time. Our culture hero is not the artist or reformer, not the saint or scientist, but the entrepreneur. (Think of Steve Jobs, our new deity.) Autonomy, adventure, imagination: entrepreneurship comprehends all this and more for us. The characteristic art form of our age may be the business plan.

AND that, I think, is the real meaning of the Millennial affect — which is, like the entrepreneurial ideal, essentially everyone’s now. Today’s polite, pleasant personality is, above all, a commercial personality. It is the salesman’s smile and hearty handshake, because the customer is always right and you should always keep the customer happy. If you want to get ahead, said Benjamin Franklin, the original business guru, make yourself pleasing to others.

via The Entrepreneurial Generation – NYTimes.com.

I was born in 1978, so I’m not sure where exactly I fall in the Gen Y / Gen Millennial grouping. I grew up loving Nirvana, grunge, and the entire “Nevermind” aesthetic but find myself enjoying artisanal pizza.

Nevertheless, “millennials” will change how we do marketing and advertising (and business in general). You can see the differences in food truck lines, churches that make lifelong members uncomfortable, expectations for work place experiences, and how we view the concept of “jobs” in 2014.

So be prepared.

Looks Like Nexus Is Sticking Around (Thankfully)

I’m a huge fan of the Nexus line of Android phones and tablets that Google keeps producing with partners such as LG, Asus, HP, and Samsung.

These are devices that aren’t for the hoi polloi that wander into Best Buy and pick up a new iPhone because they think that’s the only smart phone on the market, but they are fantastic reference devices.

So, I’m glad to see this program sticking around…

You can’t build a platform in the abstract, you have to build a device (or devices). So, I don’t think can can or will ever go away. And then, I think Nexus is also interesting in that it is a way of us explaining how we think Android should run. It is a statement, almost a statement of purity in some respects. I don’t see why we would ever turn away from that, it wouldn’t make sense.

via No, Google Isn't Going To Kill Its Nexus Devices – ReadWrite.

Edge of Empires at Dura Europos

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Finally got my copy of Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos.

It’s a fascinating and beautiful book (I actually took some of the photos in there during my time at Yale University Art Gallery when I worked on digitizing our amazing Dura Europos collection). I could literally go on and on about Dura (ask my wife), but here’s the Amazon description:

Strategically located high above the Euphrates River between Syria and Mesopotamia, the city of Dura-Europos was founded around 300 BCE by one of the Macedonian generals who succeeded Alexander the Great. Within a century, the Near Eastern Parthians overtook and controlled the city until the Roman emperor Lucius Verus captured it in 164 CE. Dura-Europos then thrived as a critical stronghold along the Roman imperial frontier until 256 CE, when the Sasanian Persians destroyed it. By the time of its demise, Dura-Europos was a city positioned at the commercial, political, and cultural intersections of the Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds. Edge of Empires vividly illustrates the international and pluralistic character of Dura-Europos, highlighting objects that demonstrate the coexistence of multiple religions such as polytheistic cults, Judaism, and Christianity; the great variety of languages spoken by its population; and its role as an international military garrison.

Dura is like an old friend that teaches me new things all these years later.

Now I finally need to get duraeuropos.org off the ground :)

Importance of Crisis for Humanities

We religion majors don’t do so bad, either…

Defying all conventional wisdom and their parents’ warnings, most English majors also secure jobs, and not just at Starbucks. Last week, at the gathering of the Associated Departments of English, it was reported that English majors had 2 percent lower unemployment than the national rate, with an average starting salary of $40,800 and average mid-career salaries of $71,400. According to a 2013–14 study by PayScale.com, English ranks just above business administration as a “major that pays you back.”

via Crisis in the Humanities Has a Long History | New Republic.

Remember, crisis comes to us from the Greek word for “choice.” The humanities will always have a love for crisis / choice and that’s what makes it a remarkable human endeavor.

“What Should I Be When I Grow Up?”

practiceresurrection

Dear Mary Hudson and Laura Cooper,

You’ll inevitably ask “what should I be when I grow up?” when you’re in high school if not before. You might not say it out loud to me, but you’ll whisper it to yourself. I already see it in both of your eyes when I tell you about my clients or you see Merianna preach or you visit Mommy at the hospital. You’ll have plentiful options.

So, here’s my advice (my mom gave me this gift, so I’m passing it on to you)…

Merianna and I were having a long conversation about education and learning on the way back home from a trip to Asheville last weekend when the topic of high school came up. I hadn’t thought much about high school lately, mostly out of embarrassment. My dad always thanks Wofford College for turning me into a young man. It took some time, but I think I realize what he meant in that I was just not a sentient being in high school. I remember glimpses and events, but I was a different person in high school in terms of personality and countenance.

All that to say, I do remember enjoying my classes in high school. As I related to Merianna, I don’t remember doing much homework but I was always interested in what I was learning to the point of taking classes my senior year rather than taking half the day off (yes, I was a dork).

It was during that senior year that I had a teacher I always respected tell me it was time to focus and start figuring out my specialty. Despite going through most of school in a fog, I remember this conversation clearly as it continues to impact me today. He was well meaning, but his advice caught me off guard as I loved the idea of studying physics, world history, art history, computer science, and philosophy all at once.

His advice was sound. I had a great opportunity to go to a prestigious college despite my circumstances. My family made many sacrifices for me to have that possibility and I had seemingly worked hard for the chance. It was time for me to figure out if I was going to be a doctor, a lawyer, perhaps a scientist or businessman.

When I got to college, I started down the path of a chemistry and computer science double major. That seemed logical and allowed me a couple of options in terms of career and life. All of that changed during a class on the Old Testament with Prof Bullard. At Wofford, a college with a strong identity of liberal arts learning for all students, there was a requirement for a number of history, literature, and religion classes. I was enjoying college so much after my freshman year that I decided to stay and take summer classes for those requirements (to get them out of the way, and all) rather than head home.

The first day of Old Testament class, I realized I had made a mistake. I was not going to be a computer science / chemistry major. I wasn’t going to earn a B.S. degree and move to California and start my own “internet cyber-economy company” (hey, it was 1996…we talked like that). Instead, I was going to be a religion major.

I walked to the registrar after the first day of OT class and changed my major. My family was supportive but didn’t seemed thrilled. Even I was confused. However, I knew it was the right path for me. I didn’t want to specialize.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Walt Whitman

Along with my religion classes, I had the chance to take whatever fancied my liking from Shakespeare to more computer science classes to sociology explorations of MLK to ancient art history. I was not following my high school teacher’s advice. I was embracing all that liberal arts had to throw at me, and I loved it.

However, what was I going to do after graduation? Well, graduate school of course!

I had an amazing opportunity to go to Yale and spend two years learning about religion, art, archaeology, and life outside of South Carolina. When I finished my studies there, I moved back to South Carolina and decided to teach (10th Grade English). That led to a series of teaching jobs in middle school (mostly 8th grade Physical Science, American History, Algebra, and English). In the midst of that I worked for a few marketing agencies, started my own, and went to seminary (and taught adjunct Old Testament for grumpy freshpeople at 7am).

I didn’t specialize. I didn’t whittle down my career choices or my specialties. It hasn’t been easy, but I love that my bedside table has books on a number of different subjects.

What prompted this reflection was a comment last week from a follower of mine on Twitter asking if they should follow me if they were only interested in hearing about a given subject. “Nope,” I responded. Life isn’t a content consumption project, and the content I produce ranges from tech to marketing to religion to history to NASCAR to whatever else I like to enjoy and learn about. That’s not some form of ADD or having a “scattered brain.” It’s curiosity. And I embrace it (and encourage you to as well).

Don’t settle, don’t feel like you need to ever narrow yourself down to a certain subject to gain more listeners or followers. Be yourself and embrace knowledge and curiosity.

Or as Wendell Berry put it rightly, practice resurrection:

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

It won’t be easy. You’ll have to make your own “job” but you’ll eventually enjoy it. Our economy in 2014 is already pointing towards a future where your generation will be tasked with doing just that as we transition from industrial to internet revolutions. But you’ll be fine. Study, read, and keep imagining. Look for ways to take what you’ve learned and improve the lives of others. You’ll create your job and live happily.

Love you,
Sam

Sam, what computer should I buy?

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I get the “Hey… you know lots about computers. What computer should I buy? I don’t really want an iPad because I like keyboards.” conversation often. Whether at a party, a church event, a meeting with a client… it seems to happen at least once a week.

So, here is my answer (well, the Summer 2014 version at least).

The Acer C720P Chromebook.

That’s my Acer C720P alongside my brand new Macbook Air 11 in the photo above (well, it’s technically Merianna’s).  The Acer cost me $279 and the Macbook cost me $1100. That alone is a big differentiation for many people. However, the Chromebook is a little workhorse of a computer. I literally use it to run my business when I’m on the road, and frequently at home or in the office.

“But Sam,” you say, “aren’t Chromebooks useless when they aren’t connected to the internet? I need to do things on my computer besides just check email.”

That might have been a logical reason for why you should buy something like a cheap Windows computer from Best Buy rather than a Chromebook last year or especially two years ago. However, Chromebooks have progressed a great deal over the last few years (especially months) and now allow for offline applications, heavy graphics programs, and using or editing media like video or audio in addition to all the goodness that comes with web apps in 2014. Even games are catching up.

Plus, it has a touch screen. I maybe use it twice a day, but when I do it’s pretty nifty.

For 90% of people, a Chromebook is a fantastic choice as Google continues to optimize and improve the ChromeOS experience.

The Verge agrees with me today (go read their review for all the specs and details):

The best Chromebooks combine high-end touches with low-end prices, and the C720P has more of both than most. First and foremost, it has a latest-generation Intel processor. That alone makes the C720P feel like a fully capable laptop, not a tablet or smartphone. If you’re looking for a Chromebook to use as your primary computer, don’t buy anything without Intel inside. The C720P also has all the ports and trappings you’d expect from any good laptop, a keyboard that works fine without being totally exceptional, and a really good trackpad. This is a pure workhorse machine, but it’s truly a workhorse.

via The best Chromebook you can buy | The Verge.

So save yourself the trouble of buying a cheap windows laptop or the expense of buying a Mac if you’re going to be doing mostly web intensive things or office related activities. If you need a computer that will handle Adobe Illustrator, 324 Excel macros, and your Sony video editing software… buy all means buy a $1,000 + Windows or Mac machine. Most of us don’t need that, just as most of us don’t need a pick up truck (although I do love mine).