The Best of the Internet 9-22-07

I hear people talk about how the world is becoming more dangerous and unstable and that the past was somehow safer and better. This selective recollection is not accurate. Our mass media creates the hysteria and Digg and Reddit are no better. Lately, the kingpins of social media paint a picture of reality that is far more negative that the mainstream media. Just count the negative titles on the front page of each website. In reality, our world is safer and more prosperous than ever before. Steven Pinker clearly illuminates the folly in believing that the world is becoming more dangerous. It isn’t. There is no evidence to suggest it. The evidence clearly shows that our world is becoming safer every day. We are evolving into what we were meant to be. We are experiencing a revolution of empathy. We are far short of perfection, but we gaining ground at an astounding rate and technology is propelling us forward.

This photo touched my heart.

The Five Step Creative Process on O’Reilly Digital Media.

A reader turned me on to Box of Crayons and the flash videos The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun and 5.75 Questions You’ve Been Avoiding.

How to Cancer Proof your Body at Men’s Health.

Liz makes a blockbuster post – Seven Secrets to Fiercely Loyal Community of Readers.

Do you believe this is true? Did a married couple actually do this?

The new eMoms at Home Internet Home Business Magazine looks like a winner. Wendy is doing amazing things. I wish her the very best.

Chris Garret gives us some suggestions on how we can make the most of our resources.

Do You Have Time to Run a $100,000 Internet Business?

This post was written by Christine Olson – Founder of Soconik Books

How many hours a week does it take for me to produce over $120K in sales running a retail internet business from home? In a minute, I’ll let you know.

I run a retail internet book business from home. I have a two and a five year old. When people hear what I do they say “Aw, that’s great you can work from home and be there for your kids.” Sometimes I smile and sheepishly say “Yeah”, other times I feel the need to set them straight by screaming “YOU THINK I CAN GET ANY WORK DONE WITH A TWO YEAR OLD AROUND??”

My book business will do over $120,000 this year and I was interested to know how much time I spent working on it. I found my time extremely difficult to track. I put notepads by my computers and tried to write down every block of work time over 15 minutes. The first thing I found out is that I have many blocks of time that I work for less than 15 minutes. Like sorting e-mail while I’m waiting for Eggos to pop-up. I kept track for 2 weeks. My first week was 21 hours. I was amazed. The next week came to 28 hours. Not bad! Both these weeks were mid-summer and like I said, I didn’t keep track of anything less than 15 minutes. The retail Christmas season starts in August for me so the work hours are getting longer. But, with Kindergarten starting for the older one I am hoping to up my work load and push my sales even higher.

I get most of my work done during my youngest son’s 2-hour nap time. Stay at Home Moms usually use that time for cleaning, relaxing, or planning dinner. I don’t do those things. I hired a maid. Everyone told me how much time this would save me. It didn’t save me any time because I didn’t mop, vacuum or dust before, now I just have a clean house. The rest of my work day is between 9:00 – 11:00 pm after the kiddies are in bed. This is difficult because the mere task of putting small children to bed is exhausting.

Some things are essential for running a successful internet retail business in a few hours a day:

Sell Repeatables – these are items you have multiple quantities of. Although I only have 1200 book titles, I have several copies of each. The time it takes to list 1 product is time consuming. When you sell repeatables you cut down your listing time immensely.

Sell high margin items for $10.00 or more each – I’m working on raising my margins and average sales price. My average sale price is exactly $10.00. If it were less, the time it takes to package a product is not worth it. Selling items bundled together is a great way to move the price up. Not only is it worth more, chances are your competitor isn’t doing the same type of bundling.

Boxes & Shipping Area – If you are going to sell a lot of stuff, you need a lot of boxes. I have over 15 different sizes along with Bubble Mailers, Packing Peanuts, Boxing Tape and a multitude of other items in my shipping space. Everything for shipping except bubblewrap comes from http://www.uline.com Anybody can buy from them but most boxes come in a minimum of 25 per bundle. They are in a nearby suburb so I can drive there to pick up my orders rather than pay for delivery. My bubblewrap comes from www.esupplystore.com

Storage Space – This is one of the most difficult parts. Fortunately Steve and I live in a good-sized house in the Midwest which means we have a basement. I have over 400 square feet dedicated to our business. But… sometimes there’s just not enough room. The area in the picture below is a large portion of our newly finished playroom for the kids. Well, as soon as I sell all this stuff maybe they’ll get the playroom back.

If you are serious about starting an internet retail business I would suggest the following books and websites:

Tax Loopholes for eBay Sellers

Not just for eBay sellers but for anyone starting a home based business. All the “loopholes” are legal and do not skirt the tax laws. They are encouraged by the IRS for small businesses. It talks about the pluses of setting up a corporation, what you can and cannot write off and many other excellent pointers. The tax tips in this book led to this post on making your children tax free millionaires.

Titanium eBay

This is an excellent resource for anyone wanted to sell big time on eBay. Although I find Skip McGrath on the “spammy” side he is considered the King of eBay Selling Information. I read this 560 page book cover to cover. One thing I would not follow is his advice to join World Wide Brands. He must get a pretty good kick-back for pushing that one.

Skip’s Blog:

http://blog.skipmcgrath.com/

I check this every few days to see if it has anything that pertains to me.

Auction Bytes

http://www.auctionbytes.com/

I subscribe to Ina’s E-mail News Letter and Updates. It has tons of great info for online sellers.

If you want to see more blog posts about my business leave your ideas in the comments. 🙂
Coming Next – “Where do I find stuff to sell?”

Don’t miss anything – Click here to subscribe to future posts.

Banned by BlogRush!

That’s right, I’ve been banned! And it only took one day! I guess John Chow isn’t the only evil blogger.

I rarely promote any blogging fads but I thought BlogRush deserved the pub and I wanted your referral traffic. 11 of you joined BlogRush yesterday from my referral link… Thanks!

Yesterday evening my computer crashed hard and wouldn’t even boot. Whatever happened also wiped out my ipod. I couldn’t sleep, so I got up around 4AM this morning to fix it. After a lot of screwing around in safe mode it appears to be working again and Sophos hasn’t found a virus. Windows said that Firefox caused the boot problem but didn’t give me the details. Could it be a Microsoft conspiracy to rid the world of Firefox?

Then I checked my site and it said BANNED where I posted the BlogRush Widget. I logged into BlogRush and my account was highlighted in red. No explanation from BlogRush.

So I carefully read the terms of service to see if they had a policy against middle aged white guys posting old mullet shots of themselves. Nope, just the usual stuff, spam, hate, porn, piracy. I didn’t think this site fits in those categories, so I emailed them. I’ll let you know how they handle it.

Increase Your Traffic with BlogRush

You want more traffic to your blog, right? I do too. So after visiting my favorite evil doer on the net, I signed up with BlogRush. It is already going viral and could drive more traffic to your blog than a six figure marketing campaign.

Here’s how it works. Add the BlogRush Widget to your blog. On this blog it appears on the sidebar just above the fold. Each time someone views a page where the BlogRush Widget appears, it creates a “Syndication Credit.” So, if you had 2,000 page views today, a link to your blog will appear 2,000 times on other blogs which run the BlogRush Widget. What’s even better, is each time you refer someone to Blog Rush you will receive “Syndication Credits” for their page views as well. So let’s say I have 5,000 page views a day and you choose to sign up at BlogRush right now and your blog receives 10,000 page views a day, a link to steve-olson.com will appear on other blogs 15,000 times a day. I signed up through John Chow, so he’s going to get a link for every page view on this site.

Subscribe to at Steve-Olson.com -I’ll post my traffic results from BlogRush soon.

12 Things I Learned My First Year Blogging

Steve-olson.com is one-year-old today. My first year blogging has been one the top 20 experiences of my life, it ranks somewhere just below losing my virginity and slightly above passing a kidney stone and having my gall bladder removed.

12 Things I Learned My First Year Blogging.

1. Look for content everywhere, but you’ll find your best original content away from your TV and computer. On Saturday – instead of watching college football, I took my family to the University of Minnesota Arboretum and discovered two fantastic ideas for blog posts. Get out of the house, away from the internet, and find your content in everyday experiences.

2. Carry a digital camera at all times. Hang it around your neck if you have to. I’ve missed some golden opportunities because I didn’t get a picture. In one missed opportunity, the cops were harassing a guy with little kids and it would have gone viral if I had the picture. This year the camera is going everywhere.

3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun. Don’t worry about making everyone happy. Some people are too freaking sensitive. In the next year I am going to have a little more fun like I did with 10 Reasons Target is Better than Wal-Mart. I took a lot of shit for making fun of fashion challenged NASCAR fans at Wal-Mart (BTW I love NASCAR, and so do my sons), but people are the funniest creatures on Earth, and we gotta have the courage to laugh at ourselves. Remember, this is coming from someone who once looked like this:


This is not Jaromir Jagr. This is Jaromir Jagr.

And partied with these guys:

I used to be a South Park Republican and I’m going to let it shine in the coming year. Sometimes, pointing out absurdity… well… it ain’t so touchy feely.

4. Don’t get addicted to checking traffic, subscribers, and linkbacks. Get addicted to writing great content, and the traffic, subscribers, and linkbacks will take care of themselves.

5. Blogging isn’t easy money. With a full-time job, helping with Christine’s book business, and raising my boys, I haven’t taken the time to monetize the site. Text Link Ads and Google Adsense generate $200-300 dollars a month, which is better than being stuck in a bathroom stall next to an Idaho Senator, but it ain’t that great either. You’ll see more monetization in the coming year.

6. The WordPress platform was the right choice because most bloggers use WordPress so pings and trackbacks happen automatically, there are more plug-ins available for WordPress than any other blogging platform, and if you want to hire a professional blog designer many of them only service WordPress .

7. List posts are the best link bait, but I hate writing them so you haven’t seen many of them here. Since readers love them, I’ll try to be less of a snob in the coming year and write more list posts. Some of the list posts on this site, like 10 Things I Learned from My 4-year-old and 10 Things I Wish I Never Believed have generated over 200,000 page views. Whoever said ‘The List Post is Dead’ is dead wrong.

8. Write from your heart. It produces results because readers will connect with your passion. The most popular post on this blog is – How the Public School System Crushes Souls. It has generated over 300,000 page views and produced nearly 20,000 back links. There is nothing I feel more passionate about than creating a new education paradigm that does not resemble a mid 20th century factory, one completely free from centralized control, the government, and unions. One that promotes our individual uniqueness, interconnectedness, and freedom much like the internet does. Imagine a long tail in the education market!

9. Blogging will build your network. It is a great way to connect with people from every corner of the globe. In the last year, I have connected with people from all over the States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Bulgaria, India, Romania, and England. I plan to travel one day and meet many of you in person. I want to visit Rick’s theatre in Pennsylvania, drink beer with AD in Sweden, and go biking with Craig in Oz. I’m also looking for a contact in South Africa. I plan to visit SA one day. I’m huge Boer War buff and I’d love to visit a Boer farmstead.

10. The pressure to post can take the fun out of writing. I love to write, but I don’t publish most of what I write because I don’t think you’ll find it interesting, it’s too controversial, or it sucks. Sometimes I spend two days writing and I trash the piece. I only get about 30-60 minutes every other day to write so when nothing decent comes, it’s frustrating. If I waited until I had something good, blogging would be more fun so I’m going to take a ‘wait until I have something good” approach in the coming year because I know you want to read something decent and I need to respect your time no matter how guilty I feel about failing to post.

11. Don’t let successes inflate your head. Have reasonable expectations. I experienced ups and down in my first year. This blog started out like a rocket drawing over 100,000 readers and over 200,000 pageviews in the first month. I know that doesn’t sound like a problem, but it was, because it was my best month blogging all year. I couldn’t keep it going part-time, I used up my best material in the first month, and then felt like I was falling behind when in reality I wasn’t. The base readership of this blog has shown continuous growth in each of the last twelve months as evidenced from this screenshot of subscribers.

12. Don’t get distracted with meme’s and other promotional gimmicks. I made this mistake at about the six month mark and I wish I hadn’t. When I focused on creating content, I drew the most visitors and linkbacks. There is no gimmick about it.

Finding the Remarkable Among the Ordinary

Well, maybe this story isn’t so ordinary, but sometimes business ideas do fall out of the sky.

Tonight, as we were standing on our deck enjoying a cold refreshment watching a woodchuck pick through the millions of acorns carpeting the forest floor, I about died when Christine told me this story which was posted to the Internet Merchants Association a business networking group she belongs to:

Here is a wild story.....i have told it before...but
here goes.....

I am in Kentucky - acorns are plentiful - very
plentiful - too plentiful.

I was about to cut the yard at the dome, beer in one
hand ( I can be honest here, i usually just say cold
refreshment) and I was just looking at the yard seeing
all of these dang acorns.....kinda dangerous trying to
mow over them - the mower blades tend to pick them up
and throw them out at high velocities in random
directions.....I was wondering waht to do...

All of the sudden one fell out of the tree and landed
smack dab on top of that beer can in my hand.....PLINK
and to the ground it fell among the
others................a lightbulb went off! (It had a
question mark included, but i thought what the heck -
a lightbulb anyway!)

"Wonder if I can sell these on Ebay?" I grabbed a box
and started raking up a load of acorns and set them
aside. I completed cutting the grass (and some more
cool refreshments).

I hauled the box of acorns home and took a picture and
listed them on Ebay - $5.00 per lb......

I sold all that I had collected and actually had to
collect more when i returned to the dome to fill even
more orders - I had oversold them!!

That is when i knew that Ebay was going to be a very
good venue to get serious about. True story!

Blew me away!

LOL

Charlie

What’s even better is Charlie’s web site, where he tells his story about living his dream, building a geodesic dome home, overlooking a 5000 acre lake, mortgage free. Yes… mortgage free. Charlie is a man living life on his terms. Some people say you can’t make money on eBay anymore… don’t tell Charlie that.

You can find a business opportunity in the most unlikely places, but you have to keep your mind’s eye open, discovering opportunity in the obvious and ordinary. In the things others discard or take for granted.

You can visit Charlie’s ebay auctions here.

I have five 100+ year old oak trees on my property. They dump so many acorns each fall that a stroll across the backyard is like walking across millions of brown marbles.

Christine and I have made a game of removing the acorns from our deck in which or sons race around our deck picking up acorns and chucking them into the woods.

Our first fall in the house, we heard cracks and pops on the roof and deck, which sounded like ball bearings being dropped from the sky. It’s dangerous to be underneath our oak trees certain times of the year.

Who wudda thunk it? We could’ve been turning our acorns into cash!

Best of the Internet 9-9-07

Are you willing to be free? That’s the problem isn’t it? Willingness. When we look to others to grant us freedom, they can’t give us what we already have. We need a willingness to free ourselves from ourselves.

I don’t even know where to begin with this guy. His blog is tremendous. If you write you must read The Art of Writing: 10 Tips from the Masters and How to Write Faster, Better, and Easier by K. Stone. This blog’s content just gets better. Publishing two posts this powerful in a single week is a testimony to John’s hard work and talent.

I love Liz Strauss’ artistic blog. Her latest post The Genius that is You Returns reminds us that a genius is within all of us.

I despise our oppressive tax system, but I don’t wear a tin foil hat and I never will. I advocate that people pay what they legally owe and encourage them not to overpay. For most of us taxes will be the biggest bill during our life time. Jeremy at GenX Finance give us some compelling evidence why you should pay your taxes. It’s foolish to take on an angry heard Elephants with a sharp stick and a quick wit. It’s better to steer clear of Imperial entanglements.

It’s strange, I always thought of myself as an extrovert. But I’m not… I do fine with people, but I need time alone or I go crazy. I learned a lot from this story… “Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?”

Doctors diagnose too many kids with “disorders.” Is acting and feeling different than the mainstream a disorder? We need people that don’t fit in… that aren’t part of the herd.

One of my lifetime goals is to visit sub-Saharan Africa. This is why.

DUI law is one of the biggest threats to our legal rights (Just for the record – I’ve never had a DUI). I know this isn’t PC and we need to get drunks off the roads. But at what expense? Our freedom to move about? Our freedom to legal counsel? An end to the presumption of innocence? Now there is clear evidence that thousands of people have been falsely convicted of DUI by faulty software. Shouldn’t people be convicted by a jury, not a machine?

Do You Own Your Own Business?

Do you own your own business? Is it profitable? Tell me all about it. Leave a link in the comments.

If you don’t have one now, do you plan to start one? Tell us about your plan.

This is my third installment of Weekend Reader Appreciation where I ask the readers to sound off about themselves.

14 Tips for Healthy Computing

Do you know how to avoid a stiff neck, back aches, burning eyes, and repetitive stress injuries when you spend a lot of time in front of your computer?

14 Tips for Healthy Computing:

  1. Make your workstation fit you. Since we all come in different shapes and sizes, you need to know what is the optimal ergonomic setup for your body. Here is a tool which will help you find out what is right for you.
  2. If you use a laptop for longer than two hours without proper ergonomics it can wreak havoc on your body. You can minimize these problems by using a laptop mount or lift arm.
  3. Position the monitor no closer than 20 inches (508 mm) from your eyes. A good rule of thumb is an arm’s length distance.
  4. Adjust your monitor height so that the top of your screen is at or slightly below eye level. Your eyes should look slightly downward when viewing the middle of the screen.
  5. Adjust your screen position to eliminate glare from windows and ceiling lights.
  6. If lighting conditions permit, tilt your monitor back 10° to 20°: this maintains the same distance between your eyes and the screen as you scan it from top to bottom. Exception: If using bifocals, lower the monitor below eye level and turn screen upward,tilting it back 30° to 45°.
  7. The center-line of the keyboard should be level with the height of your elbow.
  8. Tilt the keyboard back 10° so that your wrists remain flat.
  9. Use an adjustable chair. Get comfortable with its features and make adjustments regularly.
  10. Rest your eyes periodically by focusing on an object 20+ feet away.
  11. Stand and stretch your back and arms from time to time.
  12. Position whatever you are looking at most of the time (the screen or reference material) directly in front of you to minimize turning your head.
  13. Remember that even if your workstation is set up properly, you can still get muscle fatigue from being in the same position for too long. Be sure to periodically adjust your monitor, keyboard or chair to stay flexible.
  14. Minimize the amount of time you spend using a laptop without proper ergonomic height adjustment. I know you own a laptop because it allows you to work in the coffee shop, on a park bench, at the swimming pool or from any room in your home and it’s okay in moderation, but prolonged use of a laptop in a non-ergonomic environment can have long term consequences.

My Day Job

When I’m not blogging, I work for Ergotron, so I have access to a wealth of information about healthy computing.

At some point I wanted to introduce you all to my day job so I want to thank Jeff Atwood for giving me the opportunity by starting a conversation about ergonomic and healthy computing. Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror recently posted some great information about ergonomic computer workstations and it got me thinking… (HT to Riley McArdle)

As many of you know I am no evangelist for the corporate lifestyle, but some corporations are improving people’s lives and Ergotron is one of those companies. Ergotron is a different kind of company – we are green, entrepreneurial, innovative, and compassionate and that’s why I work here.

What we do at Ergotron… In my own words…

We create products that promote the wellness of each unique individual.

As our CEO Joel Hazzard said, “We’re improving people’s lives – you can be proud of what you do – it’s not like we’re selling cigarettes here.” 🙂

Best of the Internet Labor Day 2007

Do you find it nearly impossible to get through all the crap you need to do so you can get to the stuff you want to do? Avanoo gives us the answer to this problem in the best blog post for the month of August.

Who is going to kick Google’s butt and become the next killer web app? Robert Scoble thinks he knows. I think he may be right!

So what’s scarce now? Respect. Honesty. Good judgment… says Seth Godin, find out how you can capitalize on your character traits.

Falling real estate prices are good for about 70% of the population. Does that sound like crazy talk? It isn’t. Time magazine published an op/ed piece with a new perspective. I rarely agree with this yahoo (Kinsley), but this time he’s right and I’ve been saying it for the last seven years. The skyrocketing real estate market is bad for most of us.

Afraid of globalization and outsourcing? Is America being sold out to foreigners? No. It’s fearmongering nonsense. We heard it in the 80s – Japan was going to dominate the world and wipe out our economy. In Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Peter Drucker brilliantly countered every one of the fearmongers of the 1980s and 90s and each of Peter’s predictions has been proven correct. It’s the same today, we hear all the nay sayers foretelling doom and gloom for America… China and India are going to wipe us out economically. Bunk. We are helping each other grow. Wipro just out-sourced 500 jobs from India to Atlanta because of the high cost of labor in India. The cost of labor is rising everywhere in the world. Prosperity is spreading everywhere. Good, it’s about time.

The old industrial workday schedule (9-5) should die. We live in a creative, networked, always on, world economy. We need to maximize ourselves by working when we are most productive.

Want to set up a home based business/office but you have doubts and questions? Entrepreneur.com put together a goldmine of information that may answer your questions.

Do you think the US national debt is out of control? That we are mortgaging the our grandchildren’s future? That the economy is going to come crashing down so dramatically that it will make the Great Depression look like Michigan Wolverines home opener? While the national debt is bad, it’s better than deflation. Steven Conover the Skeptical Optimist gives us an idea why the doom and gloomers are wrong. Everyone could use a little Marco economic education. The national debt is not analogous with your personal debt or your business debt. It is a completely different animal.

It’s back to school tomorrow for our public school children. My condolences… 😛

For all my regular visitors – I appreciate your patience with my infrequent posts recently. I’ve been buried in other commitments and I decided to wait until I had something to say rather than waste your time with filler posts.