Posted on February 17, 2007
Filed Under (Advice) by jennifer

So a little while back I spoke about the importance of selling yourself and your business — having a good elevator pitch. That post was inspired by my own experience trying to pitch an article, in front of a camera in two minutes or less, to the editor in chief of Best Life, an upscale men’s mag published by Rodale. 

Let’s just say I have a new-found empathy for those singers on “American Idol” who Simon calls “wedding band” or “karaoke” singers or “okay but not great.” Clearly they know how to sing, but they fall short. They lack that extra sparkle or shine. They don’t sell it. And that’s pretty much how I felt. On “American Idol,” it often comes down to song choice, song choice, song choice, as Randy likes to say. In my case it was pitch choice, pitch choice, pitch choice.

While I had rehearsed my pitch, I just wasn’t passionate about it — and didn’t have a “hot” hook. My problem was I was still hung up on my initial pitch, the one that won me a place in the contest, but that I decided to drop after I found out the magazine had run a similar piece not that long ago. In other words, I wasn’t at the top of my game, and I didn’t get the gig.

OK. So just how badly did I do? You can judge for yourselves by going to http://www.mediabistro.com:80/articles/cache/a9452.asp.

Btw, the pitch the editor did like, about the chic, secluded hotel that was Ian Fleming’s estate in Jamaica and where James Bond was “born,” has been written about extensively — and I was quite surprised the editor in chief hadn’t heard about it. I’ve read several articles about it, and I don’t even read travel mags!  (Sour grapes? Most definitely.)

Anyway, if you’re feeling sympathetic or had the same or similar happen to you, please cast a vote for me.

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Posted on February 12, 2007
Filed Under (Tools) by jennifer

If you’re anything like me (and my guess is that you are), you interact with many websites that require logins. So that you don’t lose your mind (or have to carry around a huge cheat sheet), you use the same login/password combination for as many sites as you possibly can. Business or pleasure, my guess is that you are living on the edge security wise. It’s just too much of a pain to worry about making all these identities strong and unique.

Using an insecure set of credentials for visiting the NYTimes.com or YouTube may seem innocent enough, but the convenient habit of reusing credentials quickly becomes a risky strategy when you are interacting with your bank or your brokerage firm. It’s also risky for any site that stores your payment/credit card information, such as eBay.

If you start to use unique, “strong” credentials for each site, you can quickly go crazy trying to remember which secret place you hid your login information. I consider myself to be very good at managing my own personal data, but recently, after having my brokerage account password reset for the fourth time, because I couldn’t decipher what I had last used, I decided that I need a better way. Enter RoboForm.

RoboForm (http://www.roboform.com) is a secure password manager/form filler application that plugs into your browser (sorry PCs only, but it does work on both Firefox and Internet Explorer). It uses encryption and a master password scheme to safeguard your personal data, which can be easily backed up or synced to another computer. They even have a version that will store your data on a thumbdrive or work with your PDA. (Unfortunately, if you are a BlackBerry user, like I am, you are out of luck — for now.) RoboForm had been on my radar for a long time. It is a very well reviewed, mainstream application, and it’s creator, Siber Systems, has been in business since 1997. But I just wasn’t ready to plunk down $29.95 for convenience.

However, after about a week of trying RoboForm for free, I knew I needed to buy it. I’m now a month into owning the program, have 57 identities stored that are tied to a very convoluted master password, and am very happy with the product.

[Filed by Kenny Schiff]

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Posted on February 8, 2007
Filed Under (Tools) by jennifer

At the company where I work, TPC Systems, customers and staff often ask how they can send or receive very large files (over 10 MB via email). Recently, I found a very easy-to-use, free service for doing this called YouSendIt.

For files under 100 MB, YouSendIt (http://www.yousendit.com) doesn’t require registration by either the sender or the receiver. You don’t need to zip or change anything about the files you are sending. You just go to the website, upload the file, fill in the recipient’s email address, and click on “Send it.” Users on the other side will get an email notification with a private/secure link to the website.

YouSendIt has other paid services, but you don’t need to use these. This is a great way to deal with one-off file sending or receiving.

[Filed by Kenny Schiff]

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Posted on February 6, 2007
Filed Under (Advice, Tools) by jennifer

According to statistics, spam represents between 90 and 98 percent of the approximately 100 billion emails sent each day. At its most benign, spam is unsolicited or junk email, typically advertisements for things you don’t want or don’t need. (Erectile dysfunction drugs anyone? How about a home mortgage? Stock tip?) At its worst, though, spam can clog or cripple your in box, infect your computer and/or network, even cause your computer to spam your friends and clients, which could get you blacklisted.

When it comes to blocking spam, basic email filters just don’t cut it.  So what’s a small business owner to do?

To find out, I spoke with several small business owners and representatives from Spam Arrest and Cloudmark, two leading spam-blocking software solutions.

You can read what these small business owners learned in “Stop Spam Before It Stops You”, on SmallBusinessComputing.com, or by visiting my Clips page, where I post all of my articles.

Although it got cut from the article, if you are on a tight budget you may want to try out MailWasher, a free spam-blocking solution that has received good reviews — and has over 7 million users worldwide. (MailWasher also has a Pro version, which is free for 30 days. Then you have to pay $37 annually.)

No matter which solution you use, or if you do not have a standalone spam-blocking solution, follow these basic online safety tips:

1. Try not to display your email address in public forums — or if you do use some trick like yourname “at symbol” yourdomain.com to fool spammers.

2. Consider separate email addresses, one for work, one for personal email.

3. Check you ISP’s spam policy/filtering system. From personal experience, both Yahoo! and Hotmail do an excellent job of separating out spam or bulk mail from good email, although occasionally a piece of “good” email will be sent to the junk or bulk folder. (GoDaddy also does a good job.)

4. Immediately delete — DO NOT OPEN — any suspicious-looking emails from your in box.

Good luck!

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