Visual.ly Almost Here. Shows Me What I Tweet in the Meantime.

Back in April, I got excited when I heard that a new service was coming named Visual.ly that would give me the ability to create those oh-so-hot-and-trendy infographics.

My creative skills aren’t all that shabby, but I’m certainly not a trained graphic designer, so “a platform for people to plug in data and have infographics pumped out automatically” was definitely something I wanted to check out.

Unfortunately, at that time, it was an invitation-only site. I put in a request for an invite, but did not play their game of spamming my friends in order to hope it got me higher placement in the beta. So … about two and a half months later, I got an email with the subject “Visual.ly is live!” and two weeks later finally found the time to go check it out.

Well, it is mostly live, I’d say. The ability to share infographics and explore those from others is there today. It looks like they’re concentrating first on the things that they hope will lead to revenue (and who can blame them for that?). As noted in FastCompany back in April, “Visual.ly wants to offer its services up in a subscription model, providing its team to clients as needed for a monthly retainer fee.

So, I’m still waiting for what I hope will be an easy way to create graphics for my own use. In the meantime, Visual.ly is offering us a fun visualization of what we tweet via an auto-generating infographic (a similar functionality ionz in Brazil did not so long ago). You can compare yourself to another twitterer, or just get a snapshot of your own tweets.

That’s what I did here – enjoy!

How is a parent ever to get it right?

Report Card with FI’ll skip to the end of this one and tell you what I think – we won’t.

Parents will never get child-rearing “right.”

This coming from the woman who when explaining through my teens and twenties that I had no intention of having children would use the axe murderer example as one reason. Whenever some serial killer is caught and examined, who’s always to blame? The parents. Most often the mother.

So, rather than risk creating a monster, my thought was that I just wouldn’t even try. (I had other reasons for not planning to have kids, too, that I won’t dive into today; but as anyone knows me knows, I learned to never say never.)

Are people’s murderous acts really caused by the parents, though? Not entirely. I’ll admit there are probably some people out there who royally screw up in the act of parenting, but even they can’t take full blame. There’s only so much nurture involved. Nature has to play a part. Look at the stories like the one behind “The Blind Side” where good people come out of bad childhoods. And, look at all the twins raised in the same household who are polar opposites of each other.

So, what has me off on this tangent today?  Well, I finally got around to reading an article from the Atlantic titled “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy” that I’ve had open in my browser for weeks it seems.
I like the way the author put it in her opening paragraph when she said:

“But in that space between Joan Crawford and June Cleaver, where most of us fall, it seemed like a lot could go wrong in the kid-raising department.”

So, I plunged into her article looking for what I might be doing wrong that I could fix. And, there were some insights to be gleaned: don’t shelter them too much from pain and disappointment, don’t confuse your own happiness with theirs, try to teach them perseverance and resiliency, and generally don’t protect them from reality.

Sounds easy enough. But oh how fuzzy that line looks to me between building self-esteem and building a narcissist. Should I not let her get in bed with us when she has a nightmare? Do I tell her too often how great she is? Oh my goodness! I think I’ve told her before that she can do anything she sets her mind to do! Arrrgh. Enter stress and worry.

And then, resignation. Yes, I will screw up.

It’s entirely possible that my child could end up in therapy one day in spite of and because of all my best efforts. And, it’s entirely possible that she’ll be a happy (well, mostly, because that reality I shouldn’t shield her from is we’re not always happy) well-adjusted contributing member of society.

Those of you in my “village” can only hope. 🙂

Image via Creative Commons courtesy of amboo who?

Options Make the Difference Between Google+ and Twitter

It’s good to have options. Where to go to school. Who to date. Where to work. Soup or salad. Republican or Democrat. Paper or plastic.

The recent launch of Google+ just gave us another option in social networks, and as the case usually goes, much has been said about the impact it might have on previous platforms.

It’s the Facebook killer. No, it’s a Twitter killer. Or the tweet I liked that said “Well, I can say with complete confidence that g+ is better than plurk. So it’s got that going for it.”

As I recently revisited a good old friend, TweetStats.com, I noticed something in my stats that stood out to me and made me realize why it is that Twitter has become so ingrained in my life over the past four years — the options you have for *how* to tweet.
Chart of Twitter Interfaces Used by @LPT to Tweet
I tweet through their web site. I tweet with Tweetdeck. I tweet with Twhirl/Seesmic. I tweet photos through Posterous. I can also tweet by emailing them to twitpic. I tweet with the TwitThat! bookmarklet. I tweet to work accounts with the Sprinklr app and their bookmarklet. I occasionally tweet from foursquare. I can tweet from my work-issued Blackberry. I can tweet through my iPhone (purchased before my employer sold phones). Actually, I tweet four different ways through my phone – the Twitter mobile app, Tweetdeck’s app, Posterous’ app, and good old reliable text. I even tweet quotes from my Kindle.

It didn’t start out that way. Twitter didn’t build all these interfaces, but they gave others the tools they needed to do it for them and that’s been a key part of their growth, in my opinion.

Google+ may get there. People have already created ways to bring Twitter and Facebook into G+.   But, those just pull things in to G+ from other places, not let you send stuff to G+ from other places.

As in the past with new platforms, people are still using the old ones to talk about them. You see people tweeting asking to get invites to Google+, and then they’re tweeting about what Google+ is like. I myself used Twitter to ask questions and get answers about G+.

If Google will give people the tools they need to make it as easy to send updates to them as it is to do so with Twitter today, then maybe I’ll make the switch. Or, I guess if all the people I enjoy hearing from and talking to in Twitter migrate over and don’t return, I’ll be forced to do so.

I saw my friend Connie Reece comment on Google+ that she’s “using Twitter less. Finding so many of my friends from Twitter here and can post more than 140 characters. But still need FB for family and non-Twitter friends.”

But, for now, Twitter remains my primary social network and I’ll just dip a toe into Google+ every now and then to see how it’s progressing.

Group Couponing: Maybe Good for Some, But Probably Not for All

“Like the world needs another one of those.”

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 10:  The Groupon logo is en...

That was the snarky comment I heard myself saying in a meeting this week where someone said of a mobile application that was being discussed that it could eventually be a way of delivering a group coupon buying service.

I guess the guild is just off the lily for me with such services as Groupon and LivingSocial. That’s not to say I haven’t had good experiences with them.

My first Groupon purchase worked perfectly for both me and the restaurant that was participating. It was a fondue place that we’d been to before, but didn’t frequent often because it’s a little more expensive than we want to spend most nights out. The Groupon worked for us because we were able to save $20, which made it a bit more bearable on the pocket book. It worked for the restaurant because it brought us back in sooner than we might have come, and of course, we spent a little more than just the coupon amount.

With that experience under my belt, I dove into the group coupon buying crowd with much confidence. It soon waned, however.

First there was the housecleaning service that assured me when I called them prior to making the coupon purchase that they could get someone out to my house prior to a Christmas party, but then said they were booked when calling after the purchase. Then, it was the spa package bought in January that said they were booked and to call back in March to try again, only to tell me in March that they couldn’t fit me in until October.  And the last one I tried for a photo package at a mall chain store ended when I walked by the store to see it dark and a sign taped on the door explaining they’d not been able to pay their rent.

The coupon services themselves did everything right. LivingSocial refunding my purchase of the spa package without fuss and on the same day I requested it. They also sent out notice of refunds on the photography package before I even got around to asking about that one.

Based just on my experience, I’d say that these sort of promotions aprobably work best with companies that are more product based than service based. Meaning, it’s a lot easier to simply give a discount on a meal – they’ve been doing those sort of coupons in newspapers and direct mail for ages – than it is to meet a surge in demand for cheap housecleaning and massages.

No, it’s not the couponing service, but the businesses that use it that have had trouble delivering what is promised.

But that doesn’t mean the coupon providers aren’t in trouble. As VC Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital put it, “Everybody and their brother has entered this space. There’s really not that much they do.

Yes, when Travel Zoo suddenly started adding “local deals” at restaurants here in Austin similar to the one I’d first purchased from Groupon to the weekly emails I get from them on hotel specials and flight deals, that’s when I agreed with Simon Dumenco that they’d jumped the shark.

I mean, group coupons for real estate? Really?

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

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