Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/marybiev/public_html/wp-content/themes/StandardTheme_274/admin/functions.php on line 229
Technology | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother
Archive - Technology RSS Feed

Don’t Settle for the Horse and Buggy

“When cars began to be sold, my grandmother refused to learn to drive. She said a horse and buggy was ‘good enough,'” a retired lady in a recent Facebook for beginners class told me.

“Cars helped people reach new places faster. Now Facebook helps people do the same. I am going to learn to use it and won’t be like my grandmother,” she continued.

As I teach/coach people to make better use of PC’s and software, I meet many people who have resisted technology and clung to the horse and buggy.

  • It could be someone who distrusts those Excel formulas and relies upon her adding machine tape instead.
  • Sometimes it’s someone who still uses a word processor like a glorified typewriter and doesn’t realize documents could be prepared in half the time and look twice as good with a few word processing basics. 
  • Maybe it’s a salesperson who hasn’t made the leap into social media and sees no value in building stronger relationships with clients and networks via social media.

Once upon a time, that horse and buggy was just fine to venture from one place to another. It still is if you’re Amish or Mennonite.

For the rest of us, choosing the old horse and buggy because it’s “good enough” is going to have one end result:

You’ll be left behind.

  • While you’re taking a few hours to reach the next town, I’m going to be skyping with a friend on the other side of the planet in less than 60 seconds.
  • The hours you spend manually calculating those books because you don’t have time to learn new technology are hours I’m going to spend enjoying time with my family.
  • While you scramble to stay current in your industry, I keep up with the latest changes with strategic targetting of industry thought leaders on Twitter in less than half the time. And I’m probably talking with them too, developing relationships that raise my bar of performance.

Personally, I prefer not to settle for yesterday’s “good enough” but choose to aspire towards tomorrow’s “what can we do better and how do we get there?”

Adapting new solutions to old problems is the real final frontier – where we venture where no one has gone before.

That frontier is open to all with an open heart and mind to learn new methods.

Why don’t we go together on this brave new adventure?

Learn to Drive WordPress First

Driving Lessons - Part 1photo © 2010 Tim Dawson | more info (via: Wylio)
Most of us who drive a car will never build one. Our adventure begins when we start the car and go. Those who do build cars have experience driving them first. Their driving experiences make them better designers and engineers.

Those who want to use WordPress to blog or build their website should do the same. Get help designing and building your site or blog and then learn how to drive it. We don’t require teens to build their own car before they begin to drive, and I don’t think we should require WordPress users to build their own blog before they begin blogging. If they do, they run the risk of focusing more on structure than content.

It doesn’t matter how great the structure of your car is if you crash it as soon as you get on the highway. Ditto for blogs – a perfectly designed blog with garbage content might as well be totalled and towed.

Just as the car owner can eventually learn to tinker – to change the oil, change the tire, or swap out the windshield wipers, a blogger learns with time how to tweak WordPress. The more you know, the more flexibility you will have.

WordPress users should learn basic concepts, like the difference between a page and a post first. Then they should learn how to update a post, schedule it, and insert a photo or video. As they learn those basics, those who are adventurous will begin to explore the dashboard.

The more the driver explores, the more he or she will realize WordPress is the ultimate website Transformer. Depending on the theme and plugins you set, you can have a Bumblebee blog or an Optimus Prime content management system, or website. The beauty of using WordPress for your company’s website is once you learn to drive WordPress, you can quickly update your calendar, news updates, and more, without waiting for an overworked web designer to fit it into the schedule.

Some of us learn to drive and rarely venture beyond the corner grocery store. Others rev their engines and race around the world in 80 days. WordPress lets us do the same, except now we can zoom around the planet in less than 80 seconds, by way of the web.

Getting your own wheels is more than exciting.

Why don’t you learn to drive in WordPress, grab a blog, and give it a spin?

My Favorite Software Freebies

We have an abundance of free software options that can help us make better use of our PC’s and Mac’s. Several of them are based in the “cloud” which means our information stays static while we are portable – we can access it wherever we have Internet access.  My favorites can make your digital life easier, save you money, save you headaches, and save you time. Several have upgrades. So you can try the service and if you like it and want more bells and whistles, upgrade to a per pay version.

Here are my current favorite freebies:

  • CaringBridge - If you have a critically ill family member, CaringBridge will help you quickly update and connect loved ones. You can post photos, updates, and friends and contact you. I love this for prayer requests, especially during surgeries and after.
  • Dropbox - One day, programs like Dropbox will replace flash drives. I can save my files on my hard drive and in Dropbox. The shared folders help me work on group projects with others.
  • Googledocs – If you need a simple word processor, spreadsheet, or presentation, Googledocs will let you create them and if needed share them.
  • Gmail calendar and contacts – I love syncing my Outlook calendar and contacts on Gmail. This provides a backup and makes mobile networking easier.
  • Hootsuite - The free version still works well for an individual. I can quickly access my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts to scan social media. I love using Twitter lists with targeted criteria with Hootsuite – it helps me make the most of my Twitter time.
  • Mailchimp - you can manage your email campaigns for up to 1,000 names free of charge. Email is not dead. It’s just changing and needs to be directly targeted for good business results. You can use  this to offer free ebooks and downloads to prospects and collect their emails.
  • MealTrain - if you have a friend of loved one facing critical illness or crisis, MealTrain will help you organize the dropping off of meals – who has which night, what’s for dinner, food allergies, and more.
  • NutshellMail – If you need a quick route to keep updated with your adds on Facebook and Twitter, check out NutshellMail. You can have a single email sent to you daily (or more often) with comments not only for you personally but your business.
  • RockMelt – an awesome social media browser that lets you use Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and coordinate your chats.
  • TurboTax - if you have a simple 1040EZ form, it’s free online. For more complex forms, you can try it for free and if you like the results, then pay for the software.
  • WordPress - you can start a personal blog free of charge. WordPress will host it. If you have a business, I strongly recommend self-hosting.
  • Wylio - if you have a blog and need graphic images for your posts, check this out. After you input search criteria, Wylio shows possible images. If you see one you like, you can set where and what size you want the graphic to go, and Wylio generates the code which you can then put into your blog or website. They have great photos, and their search feature is fantastic.

The challenge with any software is learning to use it quickly. If you don’t have enough time to learn new software and still meet your deadlines, give me a call. If you hate learning new software because it’s just one more thing to add to your stressful life, I can help with that too – with steps and an action plan to make your software work for you instead of against you!

Let’s make 2011 the year our software is a tool, instead of a headache!

Dropbox – an Alternative to a Thumb Drive

by Nibby Priest

Dropbox-logo Dropbox allows you to share and manage files among multiple computers.

Recently I was introduced to a piece of cloud based software called Dropbox (thank you John L). 

At first I just thought it was another one of those around for a short time file sharing tools.  Of the others I have looked at  this one is the best.

After installing Dropbox, there is a folder placed in your My Documents named “My Dropbox”.  To sum the service up in one sentence: any files placed into this folder will both be uploaded to the Dropbox servers, and will be synchronized with any other clients in your account.

So, in a single computer situation, this Dropbox folder is effectively a backup solution. If you have more than one PC in the account, any files placed into this folder on one computer will automatically be synchronized onto all others running Dropbox  in the same account.

At my church Community Baptist Church, our media team who puts together the video for the worship services needed an easy way to transfer sermon graphics and other media to the people who needed it.  We started using drop box and haven’t looked back.  It is like having a network.   It works like any other folder on your computer and then replicates the folder to others of your choosing via a internet connections.  Dropbox works  on both Windows and MacOS X systems.  This is nice since some members of our media team use Mac’s.

Dropbox installs a small application on your desktop or you can use the convenient web application.  One nice tool that I like about the software is that it keeps your last revisions and deletions for back reference.

So throw away those aggravating thumb drives and starting using one of the best secure file sharing options out there-Dropbox!

What do you like about Dropbox?

Nibby Priest is a lifelong resident of Henderson Kentucky and enjoys living in the Downtown community and managing his family owned Independent Insurance agency- GoVaughn.com Insurance.

Shopping in a Mobile Age

Shopping’s changed from when we visited the Main Street stores on Friday night in Small Town America.  My phone is my  new road map for shopping success.

By Christmas this year, half of all Americans will own a SmartPhone or other mobile device. Smart shoppers will leverage their technology, and smart stores will profit. 


  • When car shopping, a teen lags behind her parents in the car lot, texting prices quoted to her parents so they can later compare with online prices and other lots.
  • A mom at a meeting, discussing the need to make costumes for an event, goes to the fabric store online from her Nook Color, finds a pattern that will work, shows it to all in the room and buys it immediately. Does your online store offers pictures and access to make this possible?
  • While shopping at the grocery store, an odd cut of meat is on sale. The shopper hasn’t seen it before and checks her recipe app on her phone to learn more about it. It includes recipes, nutrition info, and shopping lists.
  • The fine print on the back of the package at the store is too small to read, so the shopper starts the magnifying glass app on the phone and reads what it really says.
  • The bar code scanner shows me every comparable price online and in the area. I may still buy from you if you’re local and your price is a bit higher. But you’re going to have to have great customer service and give back to our local community.
  • Shoppers scan a QR code – whether on a sign in a store or the back of a cereal box – looking for more information or coupons. One Boston sushi restaurant prints QR codes in edible squid ink directly on plates so consumers can get dietary information about their dinner.
  • Location-based programs a la Facebook Places and FourSquare can offer me deals or can help me brand myself or promote important events to others.
  • If I get bad service and the store ignores my complaint, my next complaint goes on Facebook and Twitter. I could photo or video my problem and share that as well.

Let’s Make a Deal shows the audience making deals with the emcee. In our increasingly mobile world, it becomes: Let’s Make It Mobile.

How do you use mobile to enhance your shopping experience?

Tech Heroes

Josh at Tech's laser tag party

This blog is a salute to my 4H Tech Club heroes – the leaders. Who are they, and what do they do?  

Five years ago, my son started robotics. Robotics held such potential I asked our county’s 4-H program to offer a robotics project. Some areas had robotics clubs, but I wanted more.  

In Thomas Edison’s time, there weren’t light bulb clubs. I saw a vision of a 4-H Technology Club, where youth encounter technologies, build skills, and ignite passions.  

Challenge: it takes two leaders to begin a club. I am not a scientist. We needed  a second leader with a science background. A friend introduced me to Josh Weiland, a web designer. At our first meeting, Josh was friendly.  I knew he was the right guy when I told him, “I don’t know much about science, but can organize my way out of a paper bag. If you help with the science, it would work, ” and he laughed.    

4-H began a push to cultivate 1 million new American scientists. Our club could help that happen in Evansville, Indiana.

So our Tech Club began 4 years ago. Since then, Dana Nelson (a social media strategist) and Mark Keller (an engineer) have joined our team of leaders.  They all share their unique strengths with the club.

Each year, we host workshops in computers, electricity, aerospace, and robotics. We’ve brought in guest speakers including a brain surgeon, toured an airport, and practiced hands-on robotics programming as guests of a college programming class.

Josh is the fun leader who adds zing. Each year, we’ve played laser tag at our completion party.  Josh loves it, and club members conspire to “get Josh.”

Computer Hardware workshop

 Josh, Dana, and Mark give workshops in their areas of expertise. Mark has taught physics and application of the scientific method.  Dana and Josh have led members in web design exercises.Last night, Dana loaned Josh a webcam for a computer hardware workshop. Because of their many questions, the 30 minute workshop stretched to an hour. With each question, Josh answered patiently as his enthusiasm lit the crowd. 

Club members divided into teams that took apart computers and put them back together. Learning by doing sometimes means learning by taking apart. Dana, Dan Nelson (Dana’s husband, an IT pro), and Josh helped the groups.

Thanks to Josh, Dana, Mark, and all the families of our club who worked hard and built it into a success.

What, Why, and How of QR Codes

At yesterday’s Indiana Social Media Summit/Smackdown, 1 Indianapolis attendee wore a t-shirt with a giant QR code printed on it, challenging friends to scan his  code. Last night, I tried explaining this to a friend who is neither a geek nor a marketer. He had never heard of QR codes. That’s when I realized most normal people don’t know what QR codes are or how they will be used next year. 

What are they?

You may have seen the graphics attached to packages, on flyers, or in other information without realizing what they are. These are 2 dimensional barcodes.  They were developed in 1994 for use by car manufacturers as a Quick Response code.

Why do people use them?

If you scan a QR code into a SmartPhone or other device, you access information faster. Instead of manually typing in a web address, I can scan in the code and immediately get to the website. It can be set to immediately provide the scanner with contact information and text. Imagine the possibilities for your business card.

Think of this as a faster way to get coupons, special offers, and more.

Marketers love these because they can measure ROI on different parts of a campaign. Put a different QR code on different media branches of a campaign. They can then measure response rates and make smarter purchasing decisions in the future.

Artists are including QR codes in their artwork so those who scan the code can access new information, Easter eggs, and more.

At yesterday’s Indiana smackdown, trophies were given to statewide winners. Evansville’s Ameristamp Sign-a-rama donated the name plates for the trophies and included the QR codes of winners beside each winner’s name. A QR code can be included on any printed material or signs. Some business owners print and post them to better reach their smartphone customers.

How can I get started?

The first step to printing something with a QR code is to generate a unique code for your information or website. If you Google “QR code generator,” several options will be listed. Mashable recommends considering  Kaywa, iCandy or Stickybits.

Right now, 1 in 4 Americans uses a cell phone with applications.  By this time next year, 1 in 2 Americans will have a SmartPhone.

Smart businesses will find ways to use QR codes to better reach their customers. The smartest ones will find new ways to use them.