R U Tweeting yet?
While On the Road to $1M is temporarily on stand-by, I’m collaborating with a new blog on everything Twitter-related.
Feel free to drop by at http://i-tweet.org
December 5, 2009
September 29, 2009
I’ve arrived at a crossroads -not in my life, but in my blogging life, which is also important. I’ve decided to move my blog to my own domain. This is something other bloggers suggest you should do as soon as you start posting, but I always figured I could deal with the hassle later on.
Now, however, I’ve reached the point where I want to have more control over my site. I’d like, for instance, to be able to add Amazon affiliate links to my book reviews, which is not allowed in WP.com. There have also been some developments in my online experience and in the road to perhaps not $1 million but hopefully a small amount of passive income, and it feels right to start talking about them from a new platform.
So the decision is taken, I’m migrating to my brand new private domain. The question now is whether to change the WP theme or not. Initially I though I’d change it, since this one seems to be quite common -I’ve come across two other blogs that use it- and has a slightly amateurish feel. I poked around a bit, went to a couple of websites, and finally came around a very nice one -which you can see here. I don’t particularly love the colors, but the structure is great, and the overall feel could be changed with some basic customization.
And just when I thought I’d made the decision to go for that theme, I took another look at the current one, and realized I’ve grown quite used to it. It feels like it’s my baby I’ll be separating from!
At this point I could use a couple of objective opinions. What do you think, should I change or should I keep the current theme? You can let me know HERE. I’ll take a decission after considering any suggestion, and you’ll be able to see the result very soon. Thank you!
September 18, 2009
Or this is at least how I interpret Kiplinger‘s coverage of the health care debate. But let’s start from the beginning: A study by Harvard Medical School researchers has found that nearly 45,000 deaths every year can be linked to the lack of medical insurance and the inability of those lacking coverage to access good health care [link to Reuters story].
The final figure of almost 45,000 people has been obtained after analyzing data from 9,000 patients tracked by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. As all statistical results, it will be subject to some margin of error, but its implications can hardly be overstated:
Lack of medical insurance is responsible for more deaths than drunk driving and homicide combined.
According to the study, the uninsured have a 40% higher risk of death than the insured.
The finding adds to the factors that led to the US being ranked 37th in a recent World Health Organization health-care ranking, slightly better than Cuba and below all other industrialized countries.
And this takes me back to a disturbing paragraph I read in Kiplinger’s October 2009 editorial, where Janet Bodnar writes:
I received an e-mail from an interest group helpfully providing me with a list of horror stories from people who couldn’t get affordable health coverage. I forwarded the message to contributing editor Kim Lankford, our expert on health insurance -who proceeded to suggest solutions to all their problems. […] [She wrote back:] “I wonder how hard these people tried to find better deals”.
This, I have to admit, is a work of genius. With one single sentence, Ms. Lankford brushes aside the so-called horror stories of 45,000 people every year, including those of the freelance cameraman with a burst appendix; the 51-year-old mother with undiagnosed heart disease; and the 26-year-old with unusual fatigue who died lacking health insurance -these three cases were covered this morning on CNN’s front page [link to CNN’s “Dying from lack of health insurance”].
Let me state my position on this debate clearly: I don’t condone the use of scare tactics by any of the two sides. And I’m not acquainted enough with the latest version of Obama’s proposal for reform to say that it’s the perfect solution. I’m sure it isn’t. But I don’t have any doubt that our system is broken, and I’m glad that the possibility of reforming is at least being talked about.
To suggest that the people who don’t have health insurance and end up dying for it just aren’t trying hard enough to find bargain-priced plans in our “quite healthy market” -Kiplinger again- is outrageous. And guess what? In countries like the U.K. or France, which spend a much lower fraction of their GDP in health insurance than we do, how hard you look for affordable coverage isn’t even an issue, since every citizen has the complete coverage that only the richest in this country can afford.
So this is my message to Kiplinger: while you -hopefully- reflect on the wisdom of minimizing the health-care drama into a simple “people should try harder to find better deals”, I’m canceling my subscription. Please be a little more sensitive next time.
September 14, 2009
Working moms will think this title just states the obvious, but unfortunately not everybody agrees that a woman who’s had a baby and taken time off work can come back and be as valuable and committed a worker as she was before. This is why I was delighted to find out that this year’s US Open winner, Kim Clijsters, is a mother -and one who took two years away from the game while she had her baby. If you can regain your place in elite women tennis after two years of semi-retirement, then surely you can go back to your office job and perform at the same level as your male peers? Apparently, the answer is not straighforward.
The topic of working women becoming mothers has interested me since I took my first job in corporate America. From the very beginning I realized that here the assumption is that a woman will delay having children for as long as possible, so as to maximize the number of years she can spend fully committed to advancing her career.
Most of my female friends in corporate jobs who dared having a kid in their early 30s complain about having become invisible on their return to work -in some cases less than 10 days after giving birth. They’re understood to have revealed a strong preference for their family life over their job -as if the two things had to be mutually exclusive-, and are no longer considered serious contenders for career advancement.
Worst of all, these assumptions are not only held by men, but also by a majority of women. I’ve heard female colleagues scorn another one who’d had a baby -what had she been doing in this line of work, where full commitment is taken for granted, when all she wanted to do was be a mom?
I’m sad to say that they may have a point in their anger. They fear that the behavior of those who became mothers will reflect badly on them: their bosses could worry that any other woman in the team may be thinking of having a baby soon, and put forward a man -the safe bet- whenever the next promotion comes along.
Unfortunately, I don’t see this state of affairs changing any time soon. We can of course hope for a time when corporations will realize that moms can be devoted workers, and that giving them some flexibility to juggle their job and their children’s needs can benefit everybody involved. But, realistically, from the inside I see no indication that we’re even moving in this direction.
For my part, I’ve given some thought to the possibility of leaving my job and starting my own business once I decide to have kids -for me, delaying motherhood for the sake of my job is out of the question. This is perhaps the easy way out, but I know it’s being considered by an increasing number of women. Many of the mother-entrepreneurs profiled in Secrets of Millionaire Moms mention the flexibility to organize your work-time around your family commitments as one of the reasons why they decided to work for themselves.
Besides, what’s the alternative? Being the last to leave the office and working 60-hour weeks so as to dispel any doubt that you’re as dedicated as the men and the non-mothers? Every time I see a co-worker pathetically reminding everyone that she didn’t turn off her Blackberry during labor, or how easy it was for her to get back to work two days afterwards, I make the same promise to myself: I’ll do everything in my power to never be in their position.
September 11, 2009
On the road to $1M rating:
Let me start this review with a disclaimer: I’m just evaluating Featured Users as a tool to attract Twitter followers. Their website says that advertising with them is “a great way to get more Twitter followers and support your favorite Twitter apps”. So if your main objective is to support the applications that display Featured Users banners, then you may be happy with the results. On the other hand, if you just want to get new people to follow you, then Featured Users is a downright waste of money.
Advertising in Featured Users works in the following way: you pay a fixed amount to have a small banner with your Twitter profile displayed across a network of Twitter applications and websites [You can see the list of participating websites here]. People who find your description interesting click on the banner and are directed to your Twitter page, where they can choose to start following you.
When I first heard about the Featured Users concept I thought it sounded like a good idea, and decided to give it a try. And though I’m not usually much of a compulsive buyer, that day I went for the most expensive package: I bought 11,500 impressions of my profile for $100.
Once all the impressions had been used, I logged on to Featured Users to evaluate the results. I anticipated they’d be disappointing, as my total number of followers had barely moved from the initial 400. They turned out to be even worse than I expected.
The 11,500 impressions had translated into 48 people clicking to see my Twitter page -implying a dismal click-through rate (CTR) of 0.475%. It’s not possible to know how many of those actually became followers, but even in the best-case scenario I’d have paid $100 for 48 of them, which works out at a whooping $2 per follower.
Was the low CTR due to my profile being unappealing to those who saw the banner? Yes and No. Certainly my CTR was well below average. However, according to Featured Users’ numbers, even the average user would have seen less than 100 people click on her ad. In the best-case scenario -where all those who click become followers- she’d have paid $1 for each. This seems outrageously expensive to me.
You could argue that those who click on a banner displaying a profile are more likely to be targeted followers -interested in what you have to say. But bear in mind that it’s possible to get 100 targeted followers in less than 15 minutes for free: just search Twitter for a couple of keywords related to the topics you care about. You’ll get a list of tweets containing those keywords. Browse through them and follow the first 200 users whose tweets provide genuine information -it’s very easy to spot and avoid the ones just trying to sell you something. That’s it: next time you log in you’ll find that more than 50% of them will have followed you back.
Is saving the hassle of manually following 200 people worth $100? Judge for yourself. For me, the answer is a resounding no.
September 7, 2009
On the road to $1M rating:
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and the saying applies literally to Tamara Monosoff’s Secrets of Millionaire Moms: if you can look beyond the shabby cover and the flat, black-and-white inside layout -betraying that the book was originally published in ebook format- you will be pleasantly surprised.
Monosoff draws on her own experience as an entrepreneur and those of 17 other women -all of whom decided to turn their ideas into start-ups and eventually grew them into multimillion-dollar companies- to illustrate the steps needed to create, manage, and grow a business.
The first original aspect of the book is that all the profiled entrepreneurs are women, many of them in their 50’s and beyond -while I think it’s safe to say that the typical image of a self-made, millionaire entrepreneur would be that of a man. And there is a further catch: as the book title suggests, all these women have kids, and have had to work hard at achieving the elusive work-life balance, coming up with ingenious ideas to be able to enjoy their children while they worked hard on their businesses.
The fact that the book focuses on moms doesn’t make it any less of a business book. Apart from a chapter about juggling family and business, all the topics covered are of prime interest to anybody considering starting their own venture: how to turn your life-fantasy into a workable business plan, the importance of understanding the finances, how to raise capital, administer assets, or manage employees.
I think that most readers would define Secrets of Millionaire Moms as female-oriented. Being told from a female perspective, it often touches on issues that are typically considered of more interest to women. For instance, references abound to the internal critic that continuously reminds you of the reasons you can’t do something -it’s usually assumed that this nefarious inner voice is more commonly a problem for women, although I suspect that many men will be acquainted with it too. There’s also a discussion of the guilt factor from being away from your kids which, if the readership of blogs on the topic is anything to go by, is also of greater concern to women than men.
This is not to suggest that men won’t find the book useful and enjoyable. The times when a man could -and would want to- spend all his life working while leaving his wife to take care of the household and the family are long gone. Men entrepreneurs will at some point in their lives come across the difficulty of juggling work with family life, and the fact that a business book tackles this topic head on should be welcomed as a refreshing novelty, in step with modern times.
In the end, the book is extremely inspiring without lacking realism: while it continuously underlines the importance of believing in yourself, it doesn’t hide that being an entrepreneur can sometimes be difficult -you may have to spend birthdays away from your kids, have money troubles, feel anxious and stressed, or be obliged to fire employees. The ultimate message, however, is a positive one. All interviewees agree that the sacrifices they made were worthwhile, and more than compensated by the gains in terms of flexibility, outlets for their creativity, and financial independence.
I loved reading a business book written by a woman who was able to achieve her dreams through hard work. While I cannot stress enough that both male and female readers will enjoy the book, it’s still harder for us women to find entrepreneur role models. Thanks to Secrets of Millionaire Moms, I’ve found several to add to my list.
August 27, 2009
On the road to $1M rating:
The title of Raymond Aaron’s book is misleading. I thought it would discuss strategies to turn your hobby or passion into a profitable business. Instead, it deals with how to set goals and strategies to achieve them -whether the goal is to double your income, give more to charity, or improve your relationship with your spouse, is up to you.
The book introduces a method to systematically analyze your life and set up goals related to different aspects of it -family, work, personal fulfillment. Then you have to work on those goals. Aaron suggests different strategies to help you put a stop to procrastination and start taking steps -however small- in the right direction.
If you’ve read Brian Tracy’s Goals! -or, for that matter, any other book on goal setting or beating procrastination- my summary of Double Your Income may sound familiar. Indeed, the two books share not only the overall theme -how to achieve your goals- but also many of the specific advices -goals should be written down to increase accountability, overwhelming tasks become doable when broken into small steps, etc.
So what’s the unique proposition behind Double Your Income? Unfortunately, the book’s selling point is what I liked least about it: according to Aaron, his method is inspired by the Law of Attraction.
If you’ve seen my post on the Law of Attraction and the ensuing discussion, you know that my main objection to it is the way it presents otherwise sensible ideas wrapped up in a mixture of pop-psychology and mysticism. I agree that clearly defining and thinking about our goals makes us more likely to take a first step and eventually achieve a better life. But I don’t agree this is because thinking about our goals sets the Universe in motion to deliver what we really desire and deserve.
Aaron, however, is a firm proponent of the Law. Every single paragraph of Double Your Income had me cringing with notions such as the following:
The Law of Attraction holds the secret to “achieve your goals effortlessly”.
It is essential to phrase statements in the positive for the Universe to “deliver [what we] really desire”. Conversely, by making negative statements -and therefore “invoking the Law of Attraction badly”- we become doomed to receive things we don’t want.
There is “spiritual proof that you have a life mission”.
I don’t understand the need to contaminate ideas that make perfect sense by themselves with simplistic pictures of a Universe that will deliver our dreams just by the power of positive thought -or, as Aaron puts it, automagically. Let’s be honest: success won’t come without effort. And “the Universe” won’t decide our fate based on our positive or negative attitude -we achieve things not by tweaking our life outlook but through simple hard work.
There’s one more thing I disliked about Double Your Income: every two pages you’re directed to Aaron’s website for complementary material. Once there, you’re asked to provide your email address before you can see the content. Soon afterwards you receive the first email asking you to sign up for Aaron’s expensive 17-month mentor program. This left me wondering whether the book was no more than an elaborate sales letter.
Because of my misgivings, I cannot strongly recommend the book despite all the useful, common-sense techniques it teaches to help define your goals and work on them. Nevertheless, if you’re a Law of Attraction devotee or can cut through all the mystical mumbo-jumbo, you may actually enjoy it. In either case, I’d love to hear your opinion of it -if you’ve read the book, you can leave a comment here.