• Gmail Google Plus
    23rd, February
    Anyone Can Email You through Google Plus (Here’s How to Turn It Off)

    As the back-and-forth with Google+ continues, the social platform recently introduced a new feature that not everyone was thrilled about. In January, on the heels of their YouTube and Google+ (controversial) integration, Google also announced that strangers now have the option to email you directly through your Google+ profile.

    In fact, these individuals don’t even need to be added to your circles to send their first correspondence. Thankfully Google had the hindsight to hide email addresses until the recipient responded to the initial email. Thus, emails are clearly identified as Google+ messages, and it gives users the choice to ignore these inquiries. Still, that didn’t stop the negative press directed Google’s way after this announcement.

    Google promised to send out a message to instruct its users on how to opt-out of this, but I don’t recall any sort of notification (but I’m also known to have a trigger happy deletion impulse so that’s also a possibility). Actually, I didn’t remember this was implemented until I was messing around with my Gmail settings last week and saw the new heading “Email via Google+”.

    So without further ado, here are the steps to change your settings:

    1. Open Gmail.
    2. In the top right corner, click on the gear icon and select “Settings.”
    3. Under the General tab, scroll down until you see “Email via Google+:”
    4. There are four options: Anyone on Google+, Extended circles, Circles or No one.
    5. After you’ve made your choice, scroll to the bottom and click “Save Changes.”

    You have the option to limit correspondences by Google+ circles or no one. So now the question becomes do you want to restrict who emails you?

    If you’re a small business and the email attached to the Google+ profile is a customer service email, then it might not be so bad to have that option open to the public. After all, it’s becoming easier to send issues through social media, and this technique keeps a social media platform at the forefront of the process.

    However, if the email address attached to your profile is one you’d rather keep private and/or you have a business email you’d prefer to divert communication to, then it’s best to go into your Gmail settings and change that option. Like, right now… I can’t be the only one who forgot about this feature.

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  • YouTube Best Practices
    20th, February
    How to Beat Other Businesses on YouTube

    YouTube Optimization

    YouTube is a wonderful platform that offers anyone the opportunity to upload their videos online and attract some of the most dedicated audiences out there. It’s a field of endless opportunities, but one that unfortunately many businesses (big and small) fail to understand. Simply following the basics guarantees you’ll be ahead of 80% of the other businesses on YouTube, bolstering your eventual video creation success!

    Create Content You’d Like to Watch

    It’s disheartening to see companies use their respective YouTube channels like asset dumping grounds. If you need a way to share your content for public relations assets, FTPs are the best option. Of course that’s not to say you can’t post your own ads on your channel, but a brand’s channel must bring value to their audience—what are they learning/enjoying from watching your videos?

    Content marketing is creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a target audience.” That’s why companies that create content other than promotional material for their channel, such as tutorials, livestreams, behind-the-scenes footage, see more highly engaged fans who are willing to buy their product and promote it for them!

    Never Forget Your Look

    Some brands neglect their channel’s design, which is a BIG mistake! Failing to take the time to create custom headers and thumbnails to establish a look to your YouTube presence is a sure-fire way to scare subscribers away. PlayStation has the right idea.

    Your Aim is Not “Going Viral”

    Then there’s that phrase everyone who works on YouTube shudders at: “going viral.” Your goal should not be focused on making a viral video. A piece of content becomes viral because it’s something people are eager to share—whether it’s inspirational, eye-opening, terrifying, endearing—so that should be your aim. The only way to encourage people to share your content is to create amazing content, and think outside the box.

    Work With Influencers

    Advocates are fans you’ve managed to collect as a brand on your own, loyal patrons who adore what you do and are usually the first to spread your brand’s message along to their friends. These are the people ready to subscribe to your channel!

    On the other spectrum are influencers, those who are already successful and popular on YouTube and have the experience you crave. Their fans trust everything they say, so influencers are powerful assets for your brand.

    That said, when reaching out to influencers, treat them like the professionals they are! It’s true that YouTube is a field filled with cute cat videos, but that should not diminish the amount of time and effort these creators put into their own work. Approach them with care and, if you have the funds, reasonable deals. The one detail I cannot STRESS enough is not to impose on their creativity: they are not producing an ad for you. They’ve formed a connection with their fans because they’re truthful with them, and creating ads for your product with ‘corporate talk’ is more harmful to their personal brand than your product. Keeping that in mind, and trusting them, will lead to peaceful and successful roads.

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  • Headline Attention
    17th, February
    Stop Writing “Opinion” in your Opinion Headlines

    Killer Headlines Get More Traffic

    Lately I’ve been paying closer attention to the headlines I click on in my RSS feeds. Evaluating what drives a user to click on a particular subject based on the format and keywords is fascinating.

    I’ve really come to appreciate the simplicity of game industry headlines compared to those of general news outlets—mainstream media aims for witty but instead produces confusing and boring titles. Still, video game outlets are not without their faults, and there’s one in particular that I’ve seen so often I’ve developed a pet peeve for it…

    Stop writing “opinion” or “editorial” at the
    beginning of your opinion headlines!

    Editorial industry success usually comes down to the headlines. In print you feature the most eye-catching stories  on the front cover to secure a newspaper or magazine sale. Online, the more eyes on your website means more ad revenue, and headlines are the attraction mechanic. Everyday it’s a fight against the collective noise of information overload, so it bewilders me that some outlets don’t realize they’re doing themselves a disservice by adding the disclaimer, “this article is about one writer’s opinion,” before a reader clicks on the article.

    Let’s look at two examples:

    Which are you most likely to click on? The second headline is vague enough that it could be an opinion piece, but it can also be interviews with fans from different countries, a video compilation showing the differences between the sport culture in America compared to the rest of the world, a roundtable discussion between experts, etc. It’s captivating enough that you want to know more, so you click.

    The first headline already sets forth that it’s one person’s opinion. If a visitor glances the author’s name and see it’s not someone they recognize, they’ll most likely decide to skip the article together. But who knows if that visitor would have enjoyed the piece and fell in love with a new writer! Or even if they disagreed with everything the author said, they’d still have engaged the article.

    Of course the argument then becomes, “But we don’t want to confuse the reader into thinking this is fact or a review of a product.” In the case of Destructoid’s “Opinion: Lightning Returns is by far the best ‘XIII’ game,” that’s definitely a possibility. But that’s a simple fix: inform the reader it’s an editorial piece within the article. Mashable has a disclaimer before the body of their op-eds:

    Mashable Op-Ed
    and so does Polygon:
    Polygon Opinion

    In fact, Polygon goes so far as to have a more detailed disclaimer explaining how their opinion pieces are meant to begin dialogue within the community on a particular subject matter. That’s great! Though, outlets don’t even need to go that far. Game Informer has a small little icon under their headlines that clearly screams “this is an opinion piece!”… but they also write “opinion” in the title so there’s room for improvement.

    Sometimes you may not need any sort of disclaimer at all. In my editorial “How Our Gaming Habits Evolve As We Age” it’s made clear early on that I’m writing about my personal experiences. Yet, the headline is general enough that it could have been talking about a study recently published. Who knows, you have to click to find out!

    If you don’t have fancy HTML to input a disclaimer to the likes of Mashable or Polygon, adding a tagline is also an option. In that same article there’s a tagline: “Playing Final Fantasy for hours on end was a staple of my childhood, but now it seems there’s been a striking change in how I approach videogames.” It clearly sets forth that I’m talking about my experiences.

    So…

    To be clear, I don’t condone the practice of click baiting, that’s not with this article is about. Sites like Cracked—which I’m addicted to like… chocolate—are able to profit from click baiting practices (“Top 6 reasons why you suck at life”) because that’s what their site focuses on. Game industry websites take a more professional stance, so it’s a different scenario. My fear is that many outlets are losing on potential readership with these ‘opinion’ or ‘editorial’ headline precursors.

    The word ‘opinion’ itself is just off-putting. I don’t want to read just your opinion; I want to read your convincing argument on why “Titanfall is the perfect game for people who are terrible at first-person shooters.” Wait, did a developer say that? Is there data that’s been published that confirms that? Let me click to read more… Oh, it’s just one editor’s opinion… Well I’m here already, and I’m intrigued, let me keep reading.

    +1 new reader fan.

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  • Body Image Mirror Selfs
    27th, January
    “You’re Too Skinny!” The Other Side of the Body Image Struggle

    Body Image Apple Core MIrror

    Living in Los Angeles has been an interesting experience. Stationary traffic and smog aside, it’s hard not to miss the heavy focus the LA culture has on health: protein shakes, gluten-free menus, sushi, yoga, juice cleanses, etc. It’s a city with “body image” as its core, and it’s one that can be quite overwhelming for newcomers.

    Coming from Florida, you’d think I’d already have a grasp of societal pressures on body image; after all, Miami is all about the bikini body. Yet it wasn’t until I moved to the west coast that I really started to see how much looking your best was important… at least by LA standards, and how living here has affected me: I glance at storefront windows, looking past the merchandise to stare at my own reflection; I question everything I eat, even when it’s seemingly healthy; and I’m constantly wondering how others perceive me (my conclusion is usually negative).

    Despite all this, I comfort myself in knowing that although I may be highly critical of myself, if I work hard I can be as happy as those women who are thin, healthy, beautiful, and thus comfortable with themselves. Right?

    Right…?

    I know quite a few gorgeous women, stunning really, who are extremely uncomfortable in their skin—and it frustrates me. How can someone look so good and still somehow be sad with their own reflection? How are there fit women out there who criticize themselves more than I do?! It’s possible, it’s happening, and it’s truly depressing.

    There’s someone I’ll refer to as “Angie,” who’s tall and thin with curves in the right places, giving her a beautiful and unique frame. To say she has the body of a model is extremely accurate, because she is one. I envied her; she could wear a simple t-shirt and look amazing while I’m standing next to her looking frumpy and dull. And yet despite having a profession where she’s idolized for her looks, and reminded of how captivating she is every day, she still sees flaws. Flaws that are not actually there, but nevertheless traits she feels she needs to fix to be desirable.

    Then we have “Danielle,” who despite having one of the smallest figures I’ve ever seen, still thinks she’s fat. In fact, she’s lost more weight since I last saw her. Yet with every compliment she receives, she negates it with a, “Oh no, I’m just sucking it in.” Although that’s humanly impossible, she tells herself this so she doesn’t accept her lovely body for how it is.

    Finally, there’s my friend “Aisha” who is not only tiny, she’s extremely fashionable and always so well put together. Often I find myself dressing up a bit for our outings just to try to match up. Although she’s a gorgeous person, she too hates the way she looks. She doesn’t like being petite. One day she confessed she was trying to gain weight, just to stop her friends from commenting on her size, “I’m tired of my friends always pointing out how skinny I am. How it looks like I don’t eat, when I eat a lot. How everyone’s concerned with my looks.”

    This threw for a loop. I can verify she does eat a lot, while still retaining her figure thanks to metabolism/genes/something I don’t have. But the key here is that she IS healthy; she’s not starving herself. But thanks to criticisms and even compliments about her size, she’s become extremely self-conscious about her own weight. She has a frame most women in Los Angeles would die for, but something she would do anything to change.

    … I’m just stunned. It’s heartbreaking to see women I find stunning not comfortable with themselves either. That there’s another side to the body image struggle I rarely take into account. Those of us who feel we need to lose weight to achieve that model look aren’t the only ones in pain; the models themselves are struggling to find a happy balance with themselves.

    I think it’s important to remember that we’re all under the same image pressures, and that it isn’t good for us. It’s time we feel comfortable for our own sake—health should be our goal, not what dress size we are. We have to stop caring what we think society perceives us to look like, and love how we are. Easier said than done, and it’s simpler to write the words than embody the message, but I’m so tired of it all. And I’m tired of being tired.

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  • Google Plus YouTube Comments
    20th, January
    Did the Integration of Google Plus Make YouTube Comments Worse?

    On November 6th, 2013 YouTube announced that it had begun implementing their new comment system: all users were now required to integrate their YouTube accounts with Google+. Their reasoning for this drastic change was to diminish spam and help personalize the YouTube experience by showcasing comments from those you care about (friends in your circle). It’s a change that some say was a step in the right direction, but actually it seems that Google Plus made YouTube comments worse.

    “No Anonymity” Hurts Regular Users Too

    The veil of anonymity is a strong one; certain individuals use that veil to leave spam messages full of mockery and hurtful speech. It’s turned YouTube into a negative space, so much so that certain social media profiles are dedicated to reminding their followers to not read the comments.

    Yet, they’re not the only ones who favor using usernames on the Internet. Regular users who prefer to keep their viewing habits separate from their identity make up the majority of people on YouTube; those who visit their favorite channels to view a multitude of videos a day for their fix of entertainment.

    This also applies to popular YouTube creators like PewDiePie; YouTube creators who prefer to go with pseudonyms versus their full name. Some may prefer pseudonyms for security reasons, while others are trying to maintain a unified brand. Whatever the case, not everyone who posts on YouTube wants to showcase their real name. YouTube does provide the option to use your username over your full name, but only if you create a second Google+ account separately, an unnecessarily confusing process.

    Not Being Able to Comment on Your Own Videos

    Even after creating this second account, users found issues where they weren’t able to reply to their own video comments. Either the platform wasn’t recognizing their particular Google+ account to verify them to comment, or there was no reply link for them to click on. YouTube has bolstered that a key element to the integration has been to reduce spam, but if it’s stopping regular users from participating in conversation altogether, the change may have missed its mark.

    No Limit on Number of Characters

    YouTube Google Comments War

    Twitter has a limit on the amount of characters you can tweet, 140, while Facebook’s limit ranks all the way to 63,206. For Google+ there were no issues as long as the post was under 100,000 characters. This fact was abused tremendously in the first week of YouTube’s new comment system, where one comment could take up half the page—and most of the time this feature was abused, it was to actually users warning YouTube about the exploit. Eventually Google addressed this problem.

    Approving Comments is Cumbersome

    For brands, having the ability to approve incoming comments is fantastic to bolster positive communication versus the usual negative fueled landmine that usually accompanies very popular videos. However, when that review system is difficult to navigate, it makes users want to avoid it altogether. Then there’s the issue with top comments no longer being voted up; instead the top comments are those from your circles, ones from the Google+ profile belonging to the channel, and, most importantly, comments that are attracting the most attention. And on YouTube, “popular” comments are usually the comments that are the most unconstructive.


    Google experienced firsthand what happens when you mess with a beloved system they themselves created then modified. YouTube has admitted that the transition hasn’t been a smooth one, and have thus addresses issues by creating a new tab that lists comments received for example.

    Even so, YouTube creators have noticed a steep decline in fan participation in the comments, and some have opted to avoid participating in their own comments altogether. This begs the question if the merger between Google’s social platform, which is still fighting to get more participation, and it’s striving video sharing site (a social platform in its own right) was worth it.

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  • Overflowing Email
    17th, January
    New Year, New Inbox: Tips for Better Email Management

    Too Much Mail Computer

    Email is a fundamental aspect of our jobs in today’s technologically driven age. So much so that we spend 28% of our workweek focused on reading and answering emails, which doesn’t sound like much until you realize that equals roughly 11 hours of a 40-hour workweek—and that of course doesn’t account for jobs that focus solely on email interaction like customer service! Yet despite how important emails are to most occupations, the majority of individuals dread looking at their inbox, let alone addressing all the unopened messages. But there is a method to taming the madness; there is a way to manage your email to make it work for you instead of against your free time. Following these tips guarantees a lighter inbox and peaceful state of mind.

    Folders/Labels are Your Friend

    Folders (or labels if you use Gmail) are an excellent starting point for organizing your inbox. Classifying the types of emails you receive and sorting your current messages under specific topics will begin emptying your inbox and help with future searches for specific emails.

    If you’re the type of person who has over 3,000 emails in your inbox right now, going through each one and classifying what folder they belong to isn’t a good idea. Best bet is to make one folder titled “2013 to the Beginning” and file all your emails from that time frame in there right now. That act alone should be a big sigh of relief. Now that your inbox has (hopefully) less than 100 emails, you can begin to tackle sorting messages into their designated category: personal emails, client A, project X, receipts, etc. This will take some time so schedule at least a one-hour block one day to complete this task. Here’s a how-to create labels for Gmail, folders for Yahoo mail and for Hotmail. Archiving is an alternative to all this, but using folders makes it a better searchable strategy.

    Keep the Emails that Require your Attention Front and Center

    By sifting emails into folders, your inbox should now ONLY have the important emails that require a response. Once you reply to the emails you can respond to, move that email into a folder—this way, you know you’ve taken care of your side of the correspondence and now all you can do is wait on the recipient.

    If an email is very urgent and time sensitive of the recipient’s response, then it might be best to leave the email in your inbox so you don’t forget about it, but that also doesn’t mean your inbox should return to its old state. Better yet, you can even create a folder titled “FOLLOW-UP” that you train yourself to look at before the end of every workday. Another option is keeping emails that call for a response marked as unread, making it a good visual reminder to attend to that email when you can.

    Create Filters

    Filtering is a fantastic tool for forwarding emails you know you’ll never read but continue to receive, such as company newsletters or press releases. If you’d rather not unsubscribe (or simply can’t) then filtering is the way to go. Gmail, for example, gives you the option to pinpoint email addresses, subject headings, and specific words to create a filter from, to then either forward to a specific folder, mark as read, or automatically delete.

    Use the Vacation Responder for More than just Vacation

    The vacation responder is the lovely tool that notifies everyone who emails you that you’re out of the office, enjoying a martini on a beach somewhere during the holidays. But it can be more than that. Using the vacation responder on those days your inbox is just overflowing, a tip I picked up from writing consultant Alexandra Franzen, is a way to let your clients and fellow employees know that you’re just really busy, not ignoring their email. It’s a personal, even if automated, touch to making the entire email process simpler.

    And if you’re the type of person who receives the same questions over and over again, you can write up a small FAQ (or link to one) that goes in your vacation responder to automatically answer a majority of your emails without lifting a finger.

    Ignoring Emails is not a Solution

    It’s quite discouraging when you take the time to send a very important and detailed email, only to never hear a peep from the recipient. The usual complaint is, “Well we’re busy! Our inboxes are flooded so we don’t have the time to respond to every inquiry.” But that can change; you can be THAT person who responds to every inquest who in turn will acquire a reputation for being quick and responsive—believe me, it’s such a rarity that others DO take notice and appreciate you for it.

    In general, ignoring emails just creates more clutter because people usually follow-up on their inquiry, frustrating both parties. Avoid making those emails haunting reminders of the state your inbox was formerly in. Once you begin to organize your emails with these tips, you’ll find yourself with more time on your hands to answer people’s individual requests. Overall, the time saved will not only allow you to respond to emails at lightning speed, you’ll be able to focus on other projects and change the way you see your inbox forever.

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  • Puppy Bowl Pink
    14th, January
    Dog Bowls, One Example of Effective Local Marketing

    Dog Drinking from Bowl

    It’s no secret that dog is man’s best friend, but nowhere is that more evident than on the streets of West Hollywood in Los Angeles. You’re guaranteed to see one dog every five minutes, accompanied by their loving owner. Thanks to their abundance, every few stores has a water bowl outside their entrance to quench the animals’ thirst, a cute gesture that actually has an additional purpose to their presence.

    It’s an effective local marketing tactic.

    Sounds silly, but by placing a water bowl outside the store entrance the pet owner gets to look at the storefront while their furry friend takes a sip. This makes sense; after all, for local businesses Yelp and Google searches are not always enough to bring in potential customers. What better way to attract business than by effectively “forcing” passers-by to stop and stare at what they offer. It’s convenient for the pet seeking sustenance and doesn’t really disturb the owner’s regular routine.

    Thinking creatively about what your local city (and more specifically your block) deeply cares about and how to attract customers using that interest is a key and effective way to bring in more walk-ins. Does your town cherish football, but you’re a dog toy store? Well how about posting a flyer on your window front detailing how your brand will be livetweeting the Puppy Bowl, an event that combines the excitement of the Super Bowl with adorable puppies! It may be a long shot, but taking these types of local marketing initiatives is helpful in developing unique approaches to increase interest in your product. Not to mention it’s fun!

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  • Pile of Shame Video Games
    13th, December
    How to tackle your pile of shame

    Pile of Shame Video Games

    The dreaded pile of shame: a culmination of all the games you set aside when life got too busy. We all have one, and it’s a haunting reminder that greatness awaits if only we had more time to sit down and relax, controller in hand. But fret not, for there is a light at the end of the tunnel: there are ways to sift through the madness! “I don’t need tips,” you say! Well if it were so easy, you wouldn’t have a large shame pile to begin with.

    Make a list

    It sounds unnecessary, but having a tangible list of all the games you’ve put on the back burner would make things a bit easier to manage. Separating the games into categories is even more helpful: games not started, games 50% completed, etc. You don’t realize how easy it is to forget all the games you set aside when they’re mixed in with the rest of your collection, not including digital downloads you have stored on Steam.

    Set a schedule

    Creating an agenda for your work week (and if possible, weekends) is essential for everyday life, really, as it helps pinpoint where there’s room for improvement to make the most of your time. Having a calendar helps keep track of upcoming events and appointments so you can then plan your free time more wisely (and don’t accidentally forget a friend’s birthday). Taking the time to organize yourself a bit will allow you to see where you can fit in reading/writing/gaming—after you take care of the more important tasks, of course!

    Setting a schedule also prevents you from wasting free time: How often have you found yourself with two straight hours of nothing to do that just cropped up out of nowhere? They may be rare, but I’m sure they happen, and it’s during these moments that you can tackle that copy of Ni no Kuni you left for later. Only, I’ve often found myself just watching whatever’s on television when these hours spring up, and I always kick myself later for not doing something more productive fun with my time. Don’t be me.

    Know when Achievements and Trophies are worth it

    Personally I love the sound of that achievement ding when I’ve completed an objective, and seeing that platinum trophy icon appear on the upper-right hand side of my screen is an amazing feeling. BUT when you have a shame list that just keeps growing, sometimes 100% every game is not feasible. You have to choose what brings you more joy: achievements or the variety and completion of multiple games. Knowing how long a game can take to complete is also good knowledge to have, but I wouldn’t recommend rushing through a game just to get to the next item on your list either. Don’t deprive yourself of the pleasure these games bring, it defeats the entire purpose of the activity you’re trying to make time for.

    It’s dangerous to go alone!

    Friends are great for many things, such as tackling those games you have neglected for awhile. Having a good co-op buddy (online or taking turns on the couch) will help you run through games quicker and more efficiently. The best part? It’ll be more fun regardless, so it’s a win-win!

    Ditch the games you’ll never get back to… Seriously

    It may be hard to accept but you won’t finish all those games; if you’re too busy now, your life is just going to continue to get more occupied. Which is why it’s time to accept the inevitable: there are simply some games you will never go back to—games you’ll never finish. Maybe you lost a save file worth twenty hours of hard work, and just the thought of redoing all those missions is enough to put the game off for another day. Or maybe you know Final Fantasy XIII gets better at the thirty-five hour mark but getting to that point sounds grueling. No matter how many times you convince yourself you’ll eventually find the time for every single game in that pile, when you factor in all the future games you’re going to get, it’s a lost cause.

    Ultimately sell the game or gift it to a friend, because something that may just be gathering dust in your home may bring great joy to another. That’s rewarding enough!

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