Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Where is my traffic coming from? Ukraine??

This blog is hosted using Blogger... just because it's simple and I don't need to worry about it.

It's fairly invisible as I don't really blog much but it provides a platform for me to 'share' without having to resort to social media.  Anyway I thought I'd have a look at where traffic was hitting the blog and this is what I saw:

Yeach.  Really ugly.  What the heck are these sites?  Please don't send me traffic.  I don't care if no one reads it.

Most of my traffic seems to come from the Ukraine?!

How to win at online application forms - 9 winning strategies

OK while I can't guarantee you a win, here are 9 winning strategies to being shortlisted when submitting an application online.

This post applies for job applications too but I thought I'd share my thoughts on the 'reviewer' side of an online application.  I'm currently about 1/3 of the way through an initial review of some online applications.  In this case it was for a competition type thing at work (I work at TfNSW in the Digital team and we're processing the Open Data registrations of interest) but the process it the same.  I've also been reviewing some 'job' applications for one of my latest startup ventures so these tips do cross over into that realm too.

I've filled in a number of these types of forms in the past and for whatever reason didn't appreciate what effort should go into responding!  So to help you avoid the same issue I thought I'd share some tips about what you can do to help your online form based applications.

We had a few questions that needed answering, and the difference between them all were quite apparent.  

Firstly and most importantly make sure you explain what you are pitching.  Don't assume the reviewer knows anything about you or your company.  You don't know who may be reading it.  There were many an application where I just scribbled "Not enough info" or "Don't know what they are pitching" or "they don't know what they want" on it.  We had some amazingly well known companies pitch but even with brand awareness there were a couple I wasn't sure what they were proposing that they or we do!  So be clear.  Make sure it's in language that your grandparents or parents would understand :)

2. Timely
Make sure you respond in a timely fashion.  In this case I work for government so we're actually reviewing things after the submission date is closed so everyone gets equal 'review' time.  We do still get the submission time and date though.  If it's a job application or admission application form make sure you let the reviewer know that you are keen to apply and make yourself known.  Sometimes these things close early due to too many applications so the earlier the better... but not TOO early.  If you are too early it may indicate that you haven't taken the time to sit and ponder the questions or the opportunity.  So within 24 hours is fine.  Within 20 minutes may be a bit too quick!

3. Take time
Take your time.  To fill out the form.  So whilst you do need to respond in a timely fashion also keep in mind to think about the questions and respond accordingly.  I'd suggest copying the words into a note book (Word doc, Evernote, text editor, Google doc or otherwise) and answer the questions in your own words.  Then come back to the form and cut and paste into the form.  

4. Prove it
We had a question in there about market readiness.  Whilst 'ideas' are great sometimes you just have to show the product and how far along you are.  Same with job applications.  It's all good and well to indicate you have an interest in the area, but it's better again if you have had x years of experience in the subject matter!  We had two questions that were similar one about market readiness and one about experience.  Experience counts but if it's similar AND you have something ready to go that's best.  If it's just an idea and you have experience it may not be as useful.  Make your application count and prove you can do the job with experience and a product.

Having said all this some applications I've done I've received feedback that we are too experience or too expensive or too mature a business.  This goes back to the underlying Selection Criteria.

5. Selection Criteria.
Selection criteria.  Make sure you understand what the selection criteria is.  Even if it's not stated in the instructions you should be able to understand for what reason the company or organisation or reviewer will shortlist you.  Can you do what you are pitching?  What will you do if successful?  What is your point of difference?

6.  Stand out
Stand out.  With the Open Data registrations of interest it was for real-time data.  TfNSW already has a number of real-time apps they promote and support.  Pitching 'another' real-time app is not going to get you anywhere unless you tell us why.  Why should yours be better than the experience than the others out there?  What benefit is there to the key stakeholders (in this case TfNSW and the customers of TfNSW)?  Hit me over the head with the killer features you have or the amazing user base you have or the reality that you have access to a technology no one else can get.

7. Pull on those heartstrings
Heartstrings.  Yep your application may be black and white and submitted to a seemingly black hole, but someone does read it/scan your application.  Tug at some heartstrings but don't make it too soppy and make it real. Why are you doing this?  Is there a compelling reason.  Tell a story.  In this round I haven't seen any heartstring pulling stories, but I assure you that I get bored easily and something funny, quirky or emotionally different would be good!

8. Additional info?  Yes!
Send additional information.  Most of these forms have some capability to send more information.  It may be a link or a file upload.  If you are sending a link take that opportunity to monitor if anyone has reviewed your doc.  Maybe you didn't get that far and have already been eliminated?  Or they haven't gotten around to reviewing it yet.  In any case it's good to keep tabs if you can.  

9.  Spelling, grammar and attention to detail
Lastly, spell check, grammar check etc.  When competition is tough it's always good to make sure you aren't eliminated on semantics.  Make sure you spell things correctly and check your grammar.  Whilst this isn't a deal killer, this shows a level of quality.  

That's it.  Rant over.

I doubt anyone who even stumbles across my very invisible blog will have applied, but if you have, don't contact me until it's all done and dusted.  I'm only one of the reviewers and whilst my opinion does count the decision process is fairly objective and scored.

As most of you regular readers (yes all 5 of you!) may know I am also a founder of 99interns and whilst we don't review the job applications we do see them.  We see them flow through and when called on to screen applications we do then review them.  So many of the above points resonate there too.  I'm sure if you are interested there are any number of articles and blogs you can read about standing out with your job application.  But for all of you wantrapreneurs who fill in online application forms for incubators, programs, funding, pitch days and more -- read the above!  I know I'll have a different set of lenses on when I do my next submission!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Doggie friend for Sprocket? (Help with a name!)

I saw an ad on Petrescue for a lovely "Schnauzer Cross"... and a second one too!

So I popped my name down as we are looking for a friend for Sprocket still after we didn't manage to adopt a cute Beagle cross called Bronco:
Bronco the beagle cross in our backyard

So after putting in an EOI for both the Schnauzer Cross dogs I got the call that I was the first to put in for the first doggie, the brindle female dog.

Here are some adorable photos of this doggie from Petrescue:

On Saturday I went out to meet her with Sprocket.

She was a timid old thing.  And didn't warm up to anyone.  But looked a lot more confident after a couple of hours - esp compared to the photos above.

And I really don't like having my photo on the interwebs but can't resist adding this photo of me and the two doggies.  Sprocket was also an ex-pound dog and from the same facility.  The Blacktown Animal Holding Facility.

The issue is we don't want another problem dog.  Sprocket is great but suffers from Separation Anxiety.  Something we've gone to a lot of training, and spent lots of money to ease.  But with our move into my MIL's place and the imminent move home to our new place, we're concerned that he'll suffer a lot again :(

It'd be great to give the little girl dog a home.  So what do you think we should name her?  I'm not that into human names for dogs but otherwise she may be called Harriet.  Only because that was the name on the Petrescue site and a name that was given to her based on seeing her in a photo by a colleague of mine.  Someone who didn't even know he was psychic.  It was quite spooky to be honest!

Oh and we don't think she's a schnauzer.  She looks like an Irish Wolfhound cross.  But they tend to be HUGE.  Her brother (see photo above) is a fawn/blonde colour.  Someone suggested maybe a wolfie cross with a jack russell?  That is a strange pairing...

Sunday.  Sunday we pick her up.  Unless there is something that doesn't work out.

She's cute but nameless.  Help her out.  Let me know what you think she should be named!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Trying Reverse by Jeunesse

My mother has been talking up Jeunesse products for the last few months.  And been sending me lots of YouTube videos and other information about it.  Mainly because she has seen the benefits of it on her friends when she went back to Canada.  What happened was she met up with some friends whom she hadn't seen in a little while and she found that they looked younger and much healthier.  As a cancer survivor who has done well but wants to get back to 100% she of course wanted to find out what the secret was.

They told her it was Jeunesse.  And got her to try the very expensive products over the next few weeks. I was then told how this was great and how she got her energy up and how she wanted me to do the business.  Uh oh.  Not one of those!  Yep a network marketing opportunity (think Amway).  And I don't tend to really have that bad a reaction to them.  I've tried a number of these businesses mainly because I liked the product but didn't like the work to build the business!  And it was another one of those.  Again I may like the product but I don't like being locked into trying to drum up business or being locked into buying stuff from them on a regular basis.

When she got back to Sydney (she stays in Canada months at a time) I saw her and she really did look better!  Her skin was glowing, her face looked "tighter" and overall she just seemed happier and healthier.  I was all for approving that!

And Uncle Archon was also looking great.  He had more hair on his head and it was coming back black!!!  But he wasn't on the Jeunesse products.  He was still taking ecosway Bio-AFA pills.  Which I had also started taking in earnest when I heard his hair was blacker :)  (I had been trying things like He Shou Wu/Fo-Ti in order to try and reverse the grey in my hair...)  I wanted to continue to take the Bio-AFA but I was gifted a 'membership' to Jeunesse with a huge supply of a product called Reverse.  Basically I was signed up if I wanted it or not.  My mum and Uncle Archon were insistent that I should stop taking the Bio-AFA for now and take the (more expensive!) Reverse instead.  (Contrast about $30 for a month vs $100 per month).  But then the Reverse is meant to do so much more... including my hair colour, my skin, my energy - basically everything.... hmm... sounds a bit too good.

My mother believes that I won't need to 'sell' that people will just come up to me and ask what I've been doing.  Well it's a bit of humour her and "what can it hurt".  I've been trying a few things already as I'm really into the Tim Ferriss 4 Hour Body and Dave Asprey Bulletproof Diet type stuff even if I don't adhere to any of it :)  (and cherry pick the things I like and think can be maintained).

I don't know why I'm so hesitant even to blog about this.  Part of me is saying to do something online as no one seems to have done very well with SEO on the Jeunesse products or if they have I've been using the wrong terms.  (I tried searching for Reverse Jeunesse Review and there are short snippets but no real long form reviews.  I'm hoping to change that if I do go and do this properly.)  I think it's the whole fear of being judged thing.  To me it sounded a bit too good to be true and I've been burned so many times with so many things. In addition to that I'm trying to focus on the 5 things I'm trying to do (ha!  focus is something I'm working on OK?!)

But at the same time I've been quite impressed at how my Mum looks and I've often been drawn into the herbs and supplements world that are adaptagens and other herbs that are mentioned in iherb reviews.  I then end up just buying them and trying them.

These were the supplements I was taking in January 2015

So this morning (Monday 20 April 2015) I opened and had my first pack of the Reverse Gel.  It looks like an energy gel pack (Like Gu gels).  It's not as thick as a Gu gel or as sweet as the ones I use to take (I think Torq was the brand I used).  Each pack is 13 calories so not huge and isn't meant to replace anything except some of the other pills.  So I didn't take any of my usual supplements and instead just took the one packet.  Let's see how I go.

An unboxing of the Reserve by Jeunesse box of gels

I did a quick mental scan of how I feel and also the 'problems' I have at the moment as well as a quick mental journal entry.  Which I really should jot down as my memory is not the best and I do tend to get false memories :)

Mini-Journal bit

  • Got up at 5.45am after being awake since 5.10am and having my Sleep App telling me I should get up.  I'm mentally awake at this point but just don't want to get out of bed as the rest of my body and mind is still wanting to snooze!  (This is my usual)
  • Walked the dog in the rain - short sort of block
  • Had some ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) - I take this as I've found I get the 'shakes' if I don't... (the shakes are something I can't explain well but I get it when I'm tired? or when there are temp changes and feel very weak and have been known to faint!)  It also seems to help with cravings as I don't get them any more - only as a mental craving rather than a strong force unto it self.  
  • Had the Reverse (after doing a quick unboxing video - not yet cleaned up so I'll leave it for now - and taking a couple of selfies as evidence or the "before" shot).  Really unflattering so I'll keep it for when I need it.
  • Breakfast was a cup of tea and 2 slices of peanut butter bread (white) - I haven't been eating as much bread recently but due to some of my issues (below) I figured that I should just revert back to what I was doing and start again removing things!
Self scan of issues
  • Lack of sleep (self inflicted) and get around 5-6 hours per night
  • Concentration levels - I need to learn to focus better rather than being distracted by any new thin
  • Period - ugh.  For the last say 8 months I've been having a terrible time.  Although this morning I will pick up a bottle of Black Strap Molasses (thanks to my friend J and to Earthclinic) to see if that helps.  I've been having very drawn out periods and heavy days which are much worse than I had in the past.  
  • Overweight - again self inflicted but something that at least is stable and not still growing that I know of 
  • Eyesight still pretty poor after trying to improve it in the last few years.  It's better than it was but I am not so good at continuing to do the exercises etc.  They get very tired when wearing contact lenses by around 6pm.  
  • Tenseness - I find I'm often clenching my jaw and have shoulders that are 'up' rather than in a relax state.  I know if I tell myself to relax my shoulders I can almost all the time.  
  • Short fuse for being annoyed - this could be because I'm staying at my MIL's place but in general as I age I do feel it easier to be annoyed.  
  • Shakes - I get these tremors or shakes and weakness (as outlined above) occasionally.  It's definitely better if I take ACV every morning.  I've had tests for low blood sugar and other things but no one can tell me why I get these but due to self experimentation I've found that if I take a splash of ACV in the morning it doesn't see to occur.
  • Back pain - about 12 - 18 months ago I had an excruciating pain in my back.  So much so I had to take pain killers (I really hate 'real' pills unless necessary).  I now do a standing desk a lot of the time so I can reduce to chance of it coming back.  I still get pains but it's more like an ache and usually something I can manage easily as it seems 'normal' rather than the sharper pain I was getting previously.
  • Aging in general - I'm over the hill.  Well at least in age.  So now my hair is greying and my joints twinge every so often.  I had a sore arm (right) for a little while and ended up switching my mouse to the left hand side to help train my brain and stop my right arm getting over used.
Otherwise I'm relatively healthy.  I try and do too much (but can't seem to help doing that!) 

So let's see what this Reverse stuff does.  I'm finishing this blog post on the way home and noticed today I was pretty tired but not significantly more than usual.  My morning routine changed in that normally I have the Fo-Ti and Bio-AFA and have been having breakfasts of Bulletproof coffee.  I did have a sweet craving but didn't end up succumbing.  

Usually at the end of this type of article there would a link to the person's affiliate/join link.  I won't post one up just yet.  Let me trial this first and advise... 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Mocoro - our latest pet and gadget in one

Mocoro - fuzzy blue (or pink, yellow or green) gadget that cleans your floor and is fun.  It's marketed as a robotic floor cleaner.  

This guy is hilarious.

Unboxed this guy after purchasing it online month's ago.  It's not the genuine Mocoro as the instructions don't quite work against the actual thing but it doesn't matter.  He's a cool Cookie Monster blue (and comes with different 'covers') and rolls around the floor.  The really cool thing is that he (it?) rolls around in inconsistent ways and often just 'rolls off' to do it's own thing.  It's quite hilarious (strange sense of humour I have maybe?)  It often goes against a wall and just um... becomes fairly affectionate against the wall...

Initial thoughts about the 'useful' part of Mocoro:

  • The zipper makes a bit of a disconcerting noise against the floor and maybe a bit of concern about scratching the floor... 
  • Takes 2 AA batteries (despite saying only 1 battery)  
  • Not sure how long it will last for battery wise as there is some comment about 1 AA battery and 5 hours on the box but since it's not a genuine one... I doubt it and I think it would be based on the battery... 
  • Not sure how good it cleans as this was at my MIL's place which is fairly spotless
  • Not predictable in the way it rolls.  It was happy to roll into the bedroom which is carpeted
  • Hard to turn 'on'
If I had time I'd create little stories featuring the Mocoro.  It'll be hilarious.  Maybe even start me Vining or Instagram video'ing.  Or should it be Meercatting these days?  :)

If you want one for yourself, I'll be listing a few 'spares' I bought on Oddswop (if shipping from Overseas my take was getting a few more).  Although I'm tempted to keep them all for myself and giving them as gifts to others.  

I have used it for a short stint and can confirm that it cleans! 

I have a very dirty cover thing for proof!
Dirty Mocoro
Oh and when rolling around a rug it doesn't seem to have the power to go ontop of the rug so all good.  All the hidden dust and hairs under the seats were cleaned up.  WIN!  

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The power of a key!

I hate broken crockery.  Or chipped crockery.  It irritates me.  But you know what is worse?  A broken keyboard.  Or rather a missing key.  Not only did I suffer 1 fallen off key but two!!
Someone suggested I asked too many ?s!  
 I could still use the keyboard despite the missing key but it was irritating.

I even had the key but if I put it on top it wouldn't necessary depress so I pulled it off rather than suffering the irritation when typing.  Otherwise I'd end up being an ANGRY typer.  Oh yes.  They exist.

I have a keyboard at home which has no key labels.  I love it.  (It's a DAS keyboard in case you are wondering.) Even when I can't find the dollar sign or the minus key (unless I used the number pad).

Then the G key was also loose :(

Not only do I ask too many questions, I must also have a love of the letter G.

After a lot of searching around and trying to replace keys on my Sony Vaio, I even thought to get the whole keyboard replaced.  But that would cost a fair amount.  And it was only these plastic hinges that had snapped off.  or the little legs on the hinges that had worn out.  Something so tiny I couldn't work it out even with a magnifying glass!

But when visiting the various keyboard replacement companies they didn't seem to have one that fit my keyboard.  So I again revisited the option of the full keyboard replacement.  But I didn't want to spend over $300 on the replacement :(

So back I went looking for keyboard replacements.  Lucky for me I decided to contact via their support services.  They asked me to send a photo of my missing keys (hence the above photos!) and they sent me a link of which one I should purchase.  I ended up buying 3.  A spare 'any' key so that I could use it if needed.  Cost me a fraction of replacing the full keyboard.

Anyone looking to replace their keys, an annoying thing about is they upsell you AFTER you have completed the transaction. I would have purchased a couple of extra hinges and was tempted by the clear cover thing (I'm Asian!  It's in my genes OK!?) had they put it prior to checkout or during checkout.  So I bought no spares afterwards even though a few hinges would have been great since I still had my keys but the hinges were the broken bits.

I'm just glad that my keyboard is back in action and looking like it's not missing teeth or looking like chipped crockery!


Now to check out Instructables to repurpose my spare keys that I have -- for something more than just a magnet!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

House update - we're almost there!

For those who don't know we're building a house.  No not us, but a builder is doing the building but we have commissioned a house to be built.  And we're almost there.  The 10 months we've been living at my mother in law's place has been interesting.  Whilst it seems like a long time we've been keeping ourselves busy so it's not been all that bad.

The really good news is that I feel like we're only maybe 5 - 6 weeks away from getting keys.  But I have no idea.  The Site Supervisor has indicated by May we should be in.  But he didn't want to commit!

This is what it looked like last week (February 2015):

In December 2014/January 2015:

October 2014:

In October 2014

In July 2014 (around the time of Demolition)

For more information about the build visit the Building Journey blog:

Onboarding a user via an App - Uber case study

Uber onboarding screens

I thought this would be useful for others as it's a good study in how to design an app for easy 'onboarding' and sign up.  

During a UX workshop I went through an app onboarding example using Uber.  It is not an app I have used previously as I haven't had any need to use Uber.  But everyone who has used it seems to love the service and convenience.  And one of the guys told us how good it was so that was going to be our benchmark.

Uber was deemed an easy process and utilised some interesting phone features to make it as easy as possible.  

Takeaway: All apps should make onboarding (signups) as simple as possible and reduce keyboard entry of data.

This study was done on an Android device (Nexus 5) on Thursday 26 February 2015 in the Sydney CBD area.
1. First time open

2. Registration Option
This option allowed for social sign in.  This is always a good option but don’t make this your sole way of signup as it can alienate people too.
Also note that this picked up automatically my name, my email address and my country code (I do have a setting in there somewhere that makes it a UK phone).


I selected the Google+ option and it prompted me for which account (no screenshot as that is standard functionality).

3. Create an Account
To create an account with Uber requires a phone number – this hasn't been passed through via the Google social sign in so the app prompts me to enter it in again.  
The keyboard that appears is the keypad only.
4. Credit Card or Paypal
The next part of the registration requires a credit card to be entered or linkage to a Paypal account.  Again having a couple of options increases the signup process.

5. Scan a credit card
Using OCR , the card can be scanned and the numbers from the credit card can be picked up.  Unfortunately this time it didn’t work (probably because it was a silver card with silver writing).  

Note: The green border and the white text is part of the app.

I've used this type of functionality in the past and it's been fine so suspect it's just a card/camera issue (phone functionality not app functionality).

6. Auto sign in
The user is signed in at this point and doesn’t have to jump through any more hoops.  This happens when the sign up happens on the device.  

Not sure why the buttons don’t all fit.  Assume it's a bug... 
7. Verification SMS
I’ll assume this text message that is sent from Uber is for signups that happen that can’t be verified via the device.

I really liked doing this exercise.  It was for work purposes as otherwise I don't think I could be bothered documenting each step!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Free standing desk (hack)

A no cost, free way to build a standing desk

We're currently house sitting (been doing that a lot over this xmas break).  Now at my sister in law's place looking after a cat.  One of the difficulties in being a nomad is my desk!  I haven't got it set up right anywhere yet.  Not even at my mother in law's place and even in Peakhurst when we hadn't settled in properly the desk or bench in that case was only temporary.

I have been inspired by a number of IKEA hacks found on the internet but I'm quote happy with what I came up with by scrounging around.

The box is 22cm high.  I found a bluetooth media keyboard (which has an inbuilt trackpad - helps as there is no room for a mouse on this box!).  The stool is a further 23cm taller than the box so my laptop is sitting on 55cm above desk height.  It could be a bit taller but not much more.  This is good for my height.  The desk is a standard height at around 73cm.

For comfort, the keyboard could sit a bit lower (or I could be a bit taller!) as my elbows are almost 90 degrees (which is meant to be ideal) but I think my hands want to be just a bit lower again.  Also this box doesn't have the width for me to pop my mouse in a good spot which I'd prefer.

I'll have to show you a photo of my makeshift standing desk at my MIL's place too when I am back as that isn't that much better -- actually some of the boxes I've used are even more precarious -- I'm using a cardboard box for the laptop but at least the monitor is standing on a guitar amp (photo will explain better).

So anyone wanting to try a standing desk this is probably a good solution for you to give it a go without investing anything.  No special tools, no installation required.  Just a stool (or you could use a chair) on a desk and then a box or something else to prop up a keyboard and mouse.

For those who want to get fancy and see the 'aha' IKEA hack article, check out the Standesk.  Supposedly $22 but that is using US IKEA pricing.  In Australia  (Eastern), IKEA is a bit more.
Lack table $9.99 or $7.99
EKBY Viktor $9.99 (The Tryvvge is cheaper at $4.99 and 79cm - the Viktor is 75cm)
Valter brackets $5 each at $10 for two (the EKBY STÖDIS is $2.50 each at $5 for two but doesn't look as good)
Total cost based on the original recipe in Sydney is $27.98 or $28 as we get rounded up anyway.  Or you can do it for a bit cheaper at $20 with the Laiva and Stödis.

Upgrades to the Standesk can be the Lack Coffee table at $29.99 and a longer shelf either the Lack (not sure how the brackets would work on that one!) or the Järpen at $24.99.  But at then a cost of $65 you may be better off with another hack...