I love WordPress themes, really, I do, even when they were just a couple colors and fonts changes here and there they already had great potential, allowing people with very little design knowledge to easily brand a website built on WP which will also make it easily updatable.
Themes kept evolving though, and quickly they weren’t just colors and fonts, but also page templates, and even some custom settings that allowed you to modify things such as the header paddings, showing/hiding sidebars, etc. You could set up your WordPress, upload some content, activate your theme, click a few checkboxes here and there and… voilà! Wait, not quite convinced of that theme anymore? You simply activated a different one and… voilà again! Life was beautiful.
But people wanted more, it’s in the human nature I guess, so what one day was simply amazing the next day just wasn’t enough, people got used to the options themes made available to them and wanted more. Users who didn’t know how to read a <p> tag wanted full control over each and every single pixel of their websites, they got greedy… Lucky for them there were some very talented developers out there ready to accomplish this, and make their sites suck in the process.
This is when plugins came in the game, plugins like Page Builder or Visual Composer which offered a world of possibilities when it came creating layouts for your pages. You might be thinking I’m against these kind of plugins, but I’m not, I think they are great tools and their creators deserve all the credit they can get for the amazing plugins they’ve put together. What I am against though is theme developers who build themes that rely so heavily on these plugins they just won’t work without them.
You start browsing through WP themes these days and you see some incredible designs, really, it’s great that designers have chosen this platform as one of the favorites because the quality of the design you see is simply astonishing, thousands of dollars spend on a custom designed website wouldn’t guaranty that level of standards. But wait, how do I make my website look like the one in the demo? Well in most cases… good luck with that!
Theme developers have bounded their themes with these plugins and taken them to such an extreme were it will be close to impossible for someone else to replicate what they’ve done on their demo pages. Some of them realize that and provide you with the demo content so that you can import it and replicate exactly what you saw before buying, but then it’s up to you to reverse engineer how that was accomplished to introduce your own content. As a result people get frustrated, make poor design decisions (since the theme itself doesn’t make those decisions for them any more) and end up publishing websites that look nothing like what they had in mind and way worse than they would’ve look like with a more “restrictive” theme. Things only keep getting worse when the site owner tries to update the site after six months and not remembering the little he was able to figure out the first time he ends up breaking the site even further.
But if you really want to have fun then you should try to switch to a new theme once you got your site up and running with one of those…
Visual Composer and Co. are, like I said, great plugins, and when someone who has been running a WP site for a while wants to achieve a level of customization that the theme itself doesn’t allow it’s a great tool for them to achieve that. But they are plugins and NOT themes.
In my opinion there are two rules every theme should follow in order to be considered a good theme:
1. A good theme should not require ANY plugin to be fully functional.
2. A good theme should allow to switch to a different theme with minimum migration efforts.
Some people might agree, other might not, but since I’m considering starting to build my own themes, and potentially make them available to the public, I’ll keep coming back to make sure any theme I release meets these two simple rules.
I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now, but it’s only been while traveling and actually relying on on-line reviews a lot that I finally got myself to it.
On-line ratings are a very powerful tool. A few good reviews can really make a business flourish, the same way a couple of bad ones can make it go under. On-line ratings have brought the power to the users, allowing them to make their opinion count way more than it did in the past (a single tweet can influence thousands of people as opposed to a just a hand full of friends at the dinner table as it used to be). However I believe a there is a lack of a standardized rating system which makes it sometimes hard to interpret these ratings… The fault for this relies partly on the users, but also on the brands themselves who having teams of expert marketers, psychologists and sociologists should have come up with a better solution by now.
The issue comes when you need to rationalize your experience at a hotel, restaurant, etc. and translate it into a single number. What should this number be? Some websites ask you to rate on a scale from 1 to 10, others using 5 stars… at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if you use stars, letters or teddy bears, there is always a maximum score, a minimum, and all the different options in between. People tend to position themselves on the extremes of these scales, usually their experience was either excellent or terrible, but let’s be honest, if you think about it most of the times you go to a hotel, restaurant, etc. your experiences is just average… you probably won’t remember what you ate that day or if the room was on the 5th or 10th floor a month from now.
I had a literature teacher once who didn’t believe in extremes when it came to giving scores. If you showed up to an exam and wrote you name that automatically gave you one point. On the other hand no matter how well you did on the exam you’ll never get more than a 9 out of 10. Why did he do this? Simple. Giving you a score of 0 would’ve mean there was no possible you could’ve done worse, and giving you as score of 10 would’ve there was no possible way you could’ve done better. Now if you think about it writing your name on a piece of paper and handing it in isn’t much, but showing up in the middle of the exam smoking, walking to the teachers table and writing your name with pee on it is way worse, so if politely writing your name and handing it in was a 0, how would you rate the second scenario? (ok, maybe I’ve exagerated a little bit, that would probably get you arrested). The same way if you answered everything correctly and he gave you a 10 but another student wrote something that not only was right but it also had style and passion and character in it, something that made him cry to his knees when he read it for the first time, what score would that deserve?
Hopefully you got my point by now. If you go to a pizzeria and the pizza was a bit too salty for your taste, that doesn’t deserve the worst score. Was the place nice? Were the waiters polite? Was the salads or deserts any good? Other people might like their pizza with more salt than you do, or maybe the chef was distracted that day and salted yours twice, so definitely be sure to mention your pizza was a bit too salty for your taste on your review, but don’t give them the worst score, it probably could’ve been worse. The same way if you go to a hotel and everything is just fine, a regular hotel room with a decent bed, a mini bar and a nice lady at the front desk, don’t give them the highest score, by doing so you are saying your stay couldn’t have been better, but what if they gave you the same room only 20 floors higher with a better view, that would’ve actually been better right?
It’s ok giving reviews that fall towards the middle of the scale, actually I think most of them should. Think backwards, try to remember all the restaurants you went to last year and make a list, most of them you won’t be able to recall, those were average, and a few you’ll remember perfectly (those are the ones you wrote down), some because they were very good, others because they weren’t, those are the ones that deserve really good or really bad reviews. Now after doing this exercise go to your trip advisor account, I’ll be surprised if you reviews actually matched the list you just made.
Like I said at the beginning this is not entirely the client’s fault as many websites try all sort of tricks to make you give a higher score. I’ve seen a lot of website with five stars rating systems who only assign positive adjectives to the fourth and fifth star… why not the third one? Three out of five is over 50%, means its more on the good side than it is on the bad side. Websites do this because after all if you see a hotel with a score of 6/10 you’ll probably have your doubts before booking it, but if you find the same hotel with a score of 9,6/10 you’ll be much more happy with the reservation you’ve just made.
So to wrap it up, I’m sorry to break it to you, but it’s still your responsibility to interpret those reviews and make a decision, reviews won’t tell you which is the best hotel to stay or the best restaurant to go to. Read their comments and try to figure out if they were just ranting about it or something was seriously wrong, or if the quality of that pizza is actually amazing or they were just saying so because they were on their first date, got laid after dinner and tey remember anything they did that night as being perfect.
Oh and I forgot, good luck with that! ;)
As you may or may not know dribble started as and it’s still an invite only platform. Anyone can create a free account, and even upgrade to their premium plan, but in order to be able to publish you work you need to be invited by an already existing member.
Many websites and services start out as an invite only, it can be a good launch strategy (people want what they cannot have), Google+ did it, Hello is doing it, etc. But like I said this is usually more of a marketing strategy than anything else and usually anyone who spends more than 2 minutes looking on-line will figure out how to get an invite.
Dribble however seems to serious about this… not only they’ve kept the invite only model way after their launch but getting an invite is really though! I myself have been looking to be invited for weeks now with no luck, and trust me, I’ve tried.
I’m really looking forward to the day when I actually get invited. I’m really curious to see what kind of community hangs in there who are so protective when it comes to letting newbies in.
Dropbox is a great service. I’ve been using it for a few years (as a free user with 16GB of space after sending quite a lot of invites) and I’m really happy with it, but let’s face it, Dropbox is a sharing tool, not a backup tool.
I’ve been wanting to have a good, regularly updated backup of my computer for quite some time now, but I wasn’t finding any solution that worked well for me. The best thing I had found so far was a WD external hard drive. WD has some good backup software built into their discs, and as long as you have one connected to your machine it will make a real time backup of all your files. The problem with this was that having a laptop and working from many different places the hard drive ended up rarely being plugged in…
Some people suggested I used Dropbox for backups (the pro version of course), but that didn’t work for me either because you must have anything you want to sync inside your Dropbox folder and I just didn’t want to… I like to have my pictures folder were my pictures folder is, my music folder were my music folder is… what the F, I like to have everything I’m working on on my desktop, I don’t want to have it in my Dropbox folder, no matter how accessible you can make that folder…
That all changed when I founded the Dropbox Folder Sync Addon created by Satyadeep Karnati. This addon allows you to move any folder on your computer to your Dropbox folder while creating a “link folder” in its original location with just a right click on you mosue, that way all your content is accessible from where it usually was but in reality it’s being stored inside your Dropbox folder, and therefore being synced.
Now even the files and folders on my desktop get the Dropbox icon showing if they are already synced or being synced, and I can say, for the first time, that I have a real time backup copy of my machine.
I just watched “The secret of my success” after Amit Kleinberger (menchie’s CEO) recommended it as one of his main motivators to start his company and I just wanted to point something out that might not be all that obvious, although the movie is very straightforward.
So basically a guy from Kansas moves to NY to make his dream come true, work hard, get reach, marry a pretty woman and live on a penthouse. He is determinate to get there on his own with very little help, and surprise surprise, he ends up making it.
Well, I guess the movie’s moral would be something like, if you work hard and have the right attitude opportunities will come your way and you’ll be able to prove how much you’re worth and eventually succeed at anything you want.
That’s cool, and I do relate to that moral, but there is something else in that movie that I believe is seen in many successful people (and I not saying entrepreneurs, but people) and that is the kid did plenty of stuff, hard work, that nobody asked him to do.
So next time you think “if only someone gave me an opportunity…” shut up and get to work! You don’t need anyone to give you permission to get started!
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to set up a sales team. I wanted everything to be a pre-thought as possible to avoid having to make any decisions on the go and keep everything organized.
Got the data base to work with, interviewed the sales people, created email content, sales guides, graphic material… it seemed like the only thing left to do was find a good CRM to centralize and keep track of the sales process and everything would be ready to take off.
And that’s when I discovered the parallel universe of CRMs. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and is basically a tool that will allow you to keep track of customers all the way from the first contact, to the first sale, to future sales and updates. It will remind you when you have to reach out to the customer based on events you create and basically show you each and every single contact and communication your company has had with that customer in the past so that you can pull it up before and call and have it in front of you so that the customer feels like you actually remembers what you talked about five months ago.
I had never used a CRM before, but had always heard about SalesForce, so I decided to sign up and give it a try. After 4 hours trying to figure it out I decided to quit and move on. I then stumbled upon several alternatives to SalesForce, some of them with better design, others with cheaper prices, but at the end of the day all trying to make a customized tool for each and every single customer, no matter if it was a 3 people sales team or 3000…
I was finding this extremely frustrating. How hard could it be to build a software that allowed you to keep track of calls, e-mails and meeting with each specific customer? Apparently very!
Finally I came across ClinchPad, which have a very particular approach to tracking sales. They base their software on a funnel that goes from first contact to sale, that’s your main screen, everything you see, and the only thing you can do is move potential customer from one step of the funnel to the next and write notes on what did you talk about during your last call or anything else you might find useful in the future.
Our sales team is set to start working next week and I’m pretty confident ClichPad was the right choice, at least for our under 5 people current sales team.
Fruto de la difícil situación que está viviendo el mundo de la construcción en Catalunya son muchos los arquitectos que se ven obligados a emigrar a otros países en busca de mejores oportunidades laborales. Pero ¿A dónde emigran los arquitectos catalanes?
Recientemente he estado trabajando en un proyecto que de forma involuntaria me ha llevado a dar con una primera idea de cuáles son los países preferidos para emigrar por los arquitectos catalanes. No se trata de un estudio exhaustivo y seguro está sujeto a imperfecciones, pero aun así el resultado me ha parecido interesante y digno de ser compartido.
Antes que nada explico un poco de donde sale esta información. Recientemente enviamos una promoción a la lista de mailing del COAC (lista en la que figuran todos los arquitectos actualmente colegiados) para promocionar www.archcase.com, y como en cualquier campaña de mailing obtuvimos varios informes tras el envío para valorar la campaña. Entre los datos del informe se encontraba uno al que en principio no íbamos a prestar atención, que era desde qué país se habían abierto los e-mails. Erróneamente y sin darle muchas vueltas habíamos supuesto que se abrirían todos desde España, sin embargo no fue así.
Este es el top 5 de países desde donde se abrieron nuestros e-mails (la base de datos tenía un tamaño de algo más de 12.000 subscriptores):
- España – 82%
- Estados Unidos – 14%
- Japón – 0,6%
- Holanda – 0,45%
- México – 0,3%
Desde luego parece que Estados Unidos es el destino preferido por los arquitectos catalanes que optan por emigrar. Aquí quedan los datos para que cada uno los interprete o analice como crea apropiado ;)
A few weeks ago I wrote about LoveHomeSwap, a webstie/service I signed up in order to swap homes with people around the world when traveling instead of going to hotels.
Well, this past weekend I completed my first swap and everything went amazingly well. It wasn’t a regular swap were someone came to my home and I went to theirs, instead a couple from Iceland came to my home while I was in London and for that I earned points that I can now spend in staying at someone else’s home while they are away like I was.
The couple in their mid-fifties from Iceland who stayed in my apartment were wonderful guests. When I showed them in the day they arrived they took their shoes off before entering the apartment without me telling them to do so (I didn’t do so myself) and they asked if it was ok to invite a family friend over for dinner next day. I told them it was definitely ok and offered them a good bottle of white wine to share with their friend.
When I came back from London they were already gone and I found the apartment just as I left it, everything was organized just like I left it, everything was clean, and they even left some flowers, a DVD about the northern lights which they told me were something I should definitely see if I ever visit their country and a thank you note.
What else could one ask for?
Now I’m looking to complete the second part of the experience and spend my points staying at someone else’s home next time I travel, I’ll let you know how that works out! ;)
Every day I see plenty of blogs all publishing the same stuff, mostly press releases, and I couldn’t help to wonder… is it worth it? I mean, is it possible that ten different websites publish the same exact thing and all ten of them are getting enough traffic to generate any decent revenue through advertising?
Since no decent website would make their stats public, much less their revenue, I decided to run a little experiment myself. It’s been a month since I started a curated Architecture blog called ARCHADDICT and here is what I’ve found.
First of all I set up ARCHADDICT to be as automated as possible. Running on Word Press I basically combined a series of plugins that will crawl the most relevant architectural blogs out there and import all their posts (just an image, excerpt and backlink of course), leave them pending for me to review and then broadcast them to Twitter and Facebook once I approved them.
Over the last 30 days my blog has imported a little over 2K posts from which I’ve only actually published 290. The ones I dint publish were either related to design instead of architecture, repeated (like all said, most of this blogs are already publishing the same things) or I simply didn’t like the projects.
Before we dive into numbers let me say that even though I set the blog up to be as automated as possible it did take me roughly 30 minutes to an hour a day to go through all the posts the crawler found publishing or deleting the ones I liked and didn’t like. So even though this was supposed to be an automated blog it does require some work… I guess I could just have set it up to auto publish everything that came in, but it just didn’t feel right, even if I was just publishing a picture, excerpt and backlink.
And now what you’ve been waiting for… the numbers!
Blog stats for the last (and first) 30 days:
- 409 Sessions
- 327 Users
- 2.180 Pageviews
- 2:49 Avg. Session Duration
- 66,50% Bounce Rate
- 44,63% Organic
- 26,83% Direct
- 16,83% Referal
- 11,71% Social
I wasn’t running any ads on the blog, so I can’t give you any revenue numbers, but I can tell based on my other websites that Google Adsense pays an average of $2 RPM on this topic in English language, so do the math and ARCHADDICT could’ve potentially generated $4 in revenue during its first 30 days.
I’ll leave it up to each of you to decide if this numbers are good or bad, and if managing a curated blog is worth the time or not. As for myself I’m not sure if I’m going to keep adding new content to ARCHADDICT or I’ll consider the experiment to be over and spend my time on something else.
I wonder why big brands can’t seem to figure out responsive web layouts. I’m sure there must be a reason, since they definitely have the talent and resources, but what it is absolutely loses me…
What made me decide to finally write this post was the new Twitter profile layout. I just opted in to the new layout, it looks great, definitely an improvement. But why not make it responsive? In this particular case it’s not like there are tons of information to accommodate, nor is the site’s structure to complex…
They’ve actually have thrown some responsive in there, when you take your screen under 1220px columns start to narrow, and under 1055px the right column’s content even moves below the left column, but that’s it, at 1010px you even start losing the “edit profile” buttons, when there is actually plenty of space for it! At 775px you start losing your tweets and below that… you don’t want to go below that! :S
I know Twitter, and other websites who don’t seem to be able to figure out responsive layout completely, have plenty of aps for iPads, iPhones and every conceivable device, but still, was it that hard to make my profile look presentable when I divide my screen between two websties?
Advisors are important, not only for startups, but for life. We simply cannot know everything about anything, so at some point, if we want to make wise decisions in areas outside our expertise, we are going to need someone to give us advice. Who we chose as our advisors is key, as our decisions will be partly influenced by their judgment.
It is important therefore to really understand who is (or can be) our advisor and who isn’t (and will never be).
This might sound like nothing new to you, but I’ve seen several people fall into this mistake recently; a sales person ISN’T your advisor! Even if their business card says “financial advisor” or anything along those lines, they guy at the bank isn’t your advisor, you need to be able to tell the difference, he is a salesman, he doesn’t work for you, he works for the bank.
So how do we tell if someone’s advice is honest? Well, we can’t, but we can at least set the circumstances to make it more likely that it is. I believe it basically comes down to this: in order for advice to be valuable the outcome for the person giving the advice must be the same whether you take the advice or not. And when I say outcome I’m referring to anything from salary to a promotions, recognition or simple personal satisfaction.
Let’s think about the “financial advisor” at the bank for a minute. He probably gets periodical instruction from his superiors who tells him what products (savings accounts, credit cards, stock investments) they need to sell the most. He will then pitch those products to his clients trying to sell as many as he can in order to show his superiors how good he is at his job, maybe even get promoted eventually. His pitch is a sales pitch, not advice. You choosing to sign up for a new credit card actually has an impact on his performance at work.
On the other hand if your uncle, cousin, colleague or college teacher advises you to sign up for a new credit card you can consider their advice as honest, since they won’t benefit from your decision, and if they are any good at finances it might even be good advice.
So just keep in mind who the person works for next time you consider taking advice from someone and if your decision regarding that matter will have any impact on them or not.
A few months ago I came up with the idea of taking half a year off to travel with my girlfriend. I have recently sold my company and she is about to finish school, so it seemed like the perfect time to plan something like this.
We started discussing possible destinations, length of our stay in each location, etc. We then started calculating travel expenses, flights, hotels, diets, etc. and yep, it quickly become a very expensive project!
Looking for alternatives to bring our project’s cost down I was introduced to home swapping. I had heard about home swapping before, but for some reason had never consider it.
I did some research on-line and quickly signed up to LoveHomeSwap.
It’s been roughly a month since I signed up and published my apartment and so far I’m loving the concept of home swapping and the LHS platform. I must say I haven’t completed any swaps yet, but there is a very active community on the site and I’ve received over 20 swap requests so far.
A cool thing about LHS (maybe other platforms offer it too. I don’t know) is their swap points program. Let’s face it, it’s actually kind of hard to find someone who lives were you want to go who wants to visit were you live, you both want to travel on the same dates and you both like each other’s houses… What LHS offers (on top of regular swaps) is the possibility to offer you house for someone to stay while you won’t be there for whatever reason (maybe a business trip) and earn points which you can then use to stay at someone else’s place under the same circumstances. This doesn’t only take away the “dates” variable but also the “location”, since I don’t necessarily have to travel to the places were people who stay at my apartment come from.
I have recently agreed to a few swaps under this points program hoping to gain a good amount of points that we can then spend during our trip. First swap will come in early May, so, if anything goes wrong, or better than expected, you’ll hear about it soon!
If you are familiar with Google Adsense you’ll probably agree it’s one of the best options to monetize your web unless you want to go into selling ads yourself. At least that’s what I’ve been told and I do agree so far.
But still, the way Google Adsense pays you is mysterious… they pay you per click, but those clicks are sold in bids, so their price changes base on demand, which means at the end of the day you have no idea how much you’ll make, even if you can predict your traffic accurately.
So here is my theory on how Adsense works. My guess is Google somehow analyzes your website and puts you into some kind “cluster” which determinates how much you’ll make. Hopefully they will review your website every so often and change you from one cluster to another if needed.
Why do I say this?
Well, I’ve been showing Adsense on some of my websites for quite some time now, and even though my traffic is growing steady my Adsense income isn’t, it is growing, but it seems to grow in “steps”. For a certain period of time my website will generate X dollars per day +-10%, until one day suddenly it will move on to generating Y dollars per day +-10% and stay there for a while until there is a new “cluster” change.
It’s funny to see how revenue is X on a Wednesday (the day with more traffic within the week) and will still be X on Saturday (the day with less traffic). My RPM during the weekend will go up, and then down during the week, whatever it takes to keep the final revenue near X. I was even more suspicious when one day my website went down for 6 hours and guess what? I still made X that day!
I’m not complaining, I make some good money from Adsense and I’ll keep using it, I just thought the theory was worth sharing for those of you who are trying to figure out the magic recipe for Adsense success! ;)
Today I put an end to one my biggest entrepreneurial adventures to date, ARCHmedium. It was September 2009 when I came up with the idea for a platform that would organize architecture competitions for students only, two months later we launched our first competition, and today, four and half years later, I’m moving on, hopping to find other projects that will keep challenging my every day. I’ve sold all my shares in the company to my co-founder, who I’m sure will keep competitions running smoothly and adding value to student’s educational experience all over the world.
During these four years we’ve organized 14 different competitions that have taken us to all corners of the world, from Barcelona to Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Tokyo or Dubai. Over 25K students from 80 different countries have made these competitions an amazing experience both for themselves, their opponents and us. ARCHmedium competitions have been published in magazines such as MARK, On Diseño, Arquitectura Viva or Wettbewerbe Aktuell to name a few, and we’ve had the chance to organize exhibitions and talks in amazing places such as the Architecture School of Barcelona, the Architecture School of Buenos Aires, London Central Saint Martins or the London and Barcelona Roca Galleries. We’ve also met a lot of great people from all over the world; our jury members who have showed us the insights of their studios and their cities, and students themselves who have traveled really long distances to meet us. To all of them, thank you!
ARCHmedium was born to allow architecture students to really express themselves in terms of design, without the pressure of grades or reviews, which often influence the outcome of many projects. It also aimed to give them the opportunity to face exciting/magazine-cover like projects which are rarely presented at a studio class.
I believe we accomplished these two goals from the very beginning, managing to attract a huge amount of students willing to put an insane amount of their already non-existing free time into our challenges.
The result has been nothing short from breath taking. Hundreds of designs started flowing in, each with a unique approach to the brief, some of them probably with more quality, potential, imagination and innovation behind them than many of the projects that actually get built every day.
There is a lot buzz going on lately about the direction architecture is taking these days and whether it’s the right one or not. Well, let me tell you this, if we take care of this generation of architects I’ve had the pleasure to work with enough for them to feel worth it and stick to their principles, give them the opportunity to keep doing what they’ve already learned how to do, architecture will be just fine.
When we launched ARCHmedium in late 2009 I like to believe we were first platform of our kind. Sure we didn’t invent competitions, professional architectural competitions have existed for ever, and there were also a few student competitions out there organized by big brands to promote their products amongst potential future architects, but I like to believe we were the first to treat architecture students as grown-ups and challenge them with briefs that were not that far away from what a professional brief would look like (some of them probably even more complex!), and man were they ready for them!
Many student competition platforms have come up after us, some of them have been great competitors, forcing us to keep pushing ourselves a little more each time. Others were plain and simple copycats (one of them even forgot to change Q&A email address and their users were sending their questions to us!), and others tried to give the concept one more spin that in my opinion has degraded the idea of what a student’s competition should be.
I’m sad to see that today many students just walk away from competitions without even looking at them just because they see them as companies trying to take advantage from their time and skills. I don’t blame them, like I said there have been a few platforms that have taken this approach lately, asking students to come up with great concepts for the chance to win $500 and then sell that concept to a client without even giving any merit to the student in some cases, it’s a shame.
I am sure though that, after a period of adaption, students will learn how to tell the difference between those competitions that are worth their time and those that aren’t, those that will add value to their educationd and those that wont, and platforms like ARCHmedium will regain their reputation as a place for architectural innovation and discovery. After all architecture competitions have been around for centuries and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Time will tell, and I’ll be paying close attention to this evolution, only I wont be a part of it anymore, but just as a mere spectator.
Ever since AdBlock was released in 2010 more and more internet users have started using it virtually blocking all internet ads.
These people claim ads that were shown to them were intrusive, annoying, even scary sometimes when the ads literally could read their minds and showed them offers on that new camera they wanted to buy but hadn’t told anyone yet (except Google of course, but that doesn’t count, still creepy). I’m guessing the real trouble would’ve come when it wasn’t cameras they were searching for…
It was obvious to all webmasters whose websites rely entirely or partly on advertising that we were losing some business because of users using AdBlock, but it was incredibly hard to estimate how much was actually being lost, until recently in 2013 PageFair launched allowing any webmaster to place a little tracking code on their website to learn how many of our users were actually not seeing our ads.
In my case, for an architecture website with content in Spanish, English and French and roughly 10K visits per day its 16%. 16% of people who visit the site are blocking ads and there for producing cero revenue. This numbers has grown by 2 points in just a month and one can only expect it will keep growing, which means soon enough we won’t make enough to keep generating new content (for free) and at one point maybe not even enough to keep our servers going, which means the site will go down and users will have to go and find their content elsewhere.
I do agree some website’s ads are intrusive and annoying, but to be honest when they are it’s because you are looking at arguably illegal websites anyways such as torrent downloads or similar. 98% of legal, decent, serious websites who rely on ads to survive actually show them in a very reasonable non-intrusive way.
Just a thought, we’ll see were this ends. I’ll keep updating if that 16% changes significantly.
For different reasons that are not important right now I’ve had two or three talks lately about how I would ideally raise a kid if I had to.
I come from a traditional education, but still I’ve been to seven different schools, which have given me a good idea of what’s out there. Private schools, public schools, religious schools, English schools (living in Spain)… Before you ask, I wasn’t kicked out of any of them!
My parents weren’t never too strict about school either, they would often make me miss one or two weeks of class to travel, never forced me to do my homework and always let me chose which school I wanted to go to (there you have your reason why I went to so many).
School didn’t make me unhappy, but most of the times it was definitely not something I looked forward too, all the contrary, I was always anxious to get out so that I could do the things I wanted to do, which of course changed often, from perfecting my tennis skills to tearing apart electronic equipment or building RC cars among many other things, the things I learned during that time I will never forget.
After watching Logan LaPlante’s talk I know I didn’t hack my schooling, but I definitely hacked my after class time, he has the opportunity to hack his days from beginning to end… lucky boy! (I’m not complaining).
Many architecture students (including myself) find it a little disappointing when they go into architecture school just to find out that at least most of first year is about copying rather than creating; you have to copy what you see and copy what other great architects have done before you. I use to hate this, but over the years I’ve come to understand how important that process was and how you need to learn how to copy well before you can do something of your own (unless you are a genius, in which case you can probably do whatever you like).
Apparently some people paid less attention than other during that first year, either that or they are completely unable to apply what they learned to other fields other than architecture. Such is the case of Per Linde, a Swedish architect living in London who founded the website combocompetitions.com.
I don’t know for how long this website has been running, but I just came across it today for the first time only to find that their current competition “poor but beautiful” is basically a mash-up of competitions we have already run at ARCHmedium.com. Take our “Rome Motorino Check Point” brief (http://en.archmedium.com/Concursos/RMCP/Summary.php), apply it to our “New York Theater City” site (http://en.archmedium.com/Concursos/End_NYTC/Results.php) and there you go! A bran new “original” architecture competition!
Come on… really? I’m all for competition (yes, we do organize competitions, the irony is not lost on me), but at least try to be original, otherwise it’s going to be hard to actually push architectural limits and challenge the architectural community to find new answers and solution to existing problems (which we all claim to be trying to do).
I was contacted by Per and after exchanging a few e-mails I have agreed to update this post with his view on this situation. For anyone who is interested, find his explanation below:
Thank you for the opportunity to address your comments.
It is understandable that you want to protect what you have created with ARCHmedium. While I appreciate the work you and your team have produced, I do want to emphasize that I haven’t used any of ARCHmedium’s competitions as a base for Combo Competitions’ briefs. This is evidently difficult to prove, but I sincerely believe that copying someone else’s success is not the way to further the architectural discourse.
One of the reasons for launching the Poor But Beautiful competition was to offer a competition that turned focus towards the typology of the parking garage building: its necessity in dense urban areas, paired with monetary neglect and the unwillingness to use its size and often prominent location as an advantage.
This is to be contrasted with ArchMedium’s Rome Motorino Check Point, which deals with traffic-related issues caused by illegally parked scooters. While both competitions concern parking, they do so in decidedly different ways.
When it comes to location it is important to clarify that the site of Poor But Beautiful is not the same as ARCHmedium’s Urban Theater Campus’. While both sites are indeed located in the Hudson Yards area of Manhattan, it would be a staggering task to sift through every existing competition to make sure a certain site and its surrounding areas have not been used before. Besides, it’s a well-known fact that the Hudson Yards area is currently being redeveloped, which by default makes it an architecturally interesting location universally.
I chose the site not only because of the current focus on and potential of the area (including attractions like the High Line and Madison Square Garden), but also because of it being a vacant plot of land on Manhattan, along with the general infatuation with cars in the US, and the inherent issues with the size of a parking garage structure located in a very dense urban area.
I hope this clarifies any misunderstandings.
iTunes is a pretty nice software if you ask me. Sure the last couple of versions have taken a few steps back in terms of design and usability, but overall it allows me to keep all my music (and I do have some good 7000 songs) organized, categorized, searchable and sync between my devices.
However I feel like there is something missing, nothing too complicated, just a “free tag” field.
iTunes already uses tags, or categories, or however you want to call them, but they are predetermined by the program. For each song you can use tags such as “artist”, “album” or “genre”.
Music though is much more than an artist with a certain style recording an album. At least for me music is the soundtrack to my life. Each moment, each party, each journey I make, person I know or even season in the year can be associated with a different soundtrack, and listening to those soundtracks allows me to travel back to that place or time when I first heard that song or when I shared it with someone I care of.
It would be great if iTunes allowed you to simply tag song with whatever you wanted, thing like “new year’s eve 2009”, “summer in India”, “grandma” or whatever phrase you wanted to tag it with and that will allow you to search those song and listen to them whenever you want to remember those occasions.
Sure you could build a playlist for each occasion, person you know, journey you take and season of the year, but that wouldn’t end up not being very useful when you start having hundreds if not thousands of playlists…
I won’t say a lot of people do, but definitely some people come to me from time to time saying they would like to start an internet business. They come looking for advice, most of them without an idea of what it is that they want to do, they only know they want to start something. (Not judging. That’s more than most people know about what they want to do with their lives!).
It’s easy though to get trapped in the stage of trying to come up with a cool idea. Days go by and frustrations starts to grow, making it even less likely that you will actually come across that great idea. So my advice is always to get started right away. Use that energy, that excitement that will only lasts so long to actually get something started.
“Ok but what do I start?” I usually hear next. Anything! Start a blog even. You think that’s too boring? Well then buy a clone of some website you like. Here’s where people usually starts to get all moral and judgmental. “But that’s copying” they usually say. “I want to do something original”, etc.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for protecting intellectual property and I hate when I see literal rip-offs of a website or product, but let’s get some things clear:
- First. You must either code a clone yourself or buy it from someone who has already done the work. So all the code you’ll be using is legit, nothing is illegal, Facebook doesn’t own the right to all social networks the same way Pinterest doesn’t own the right to all photo sharing services (wait, isn’t Pinterest a social network too? I’m confused…)
- Second. Do you know how many well-known companies, those you admire and idolater were actually the first to come up with the concept that made them popular? Probably none. They all started bases on some other company’s idea or concept and took it from there or just executed it better.
- Third. Let’s say you decide to clone Facebook. No matter how good your clone is, even if it’s better than Facebook itself, let’s be realistic, you won’t be a thread to them, they have too much market share already for you even appear on their radar. So if you want to make something out of it you will have to develop your project into something else, focus on a very specialized niche, add something that makes you different, whatever it is. So at the end of the day you’ll need to come up with something of your own, a unique concept, the clone is just the starting point, not the final goal.
So yes, I’m all for using clones (sometimes), they’ll help you make progress quick in the beginning, which will get you even more excited about the project and make you want to work harder. In the end your flagship product will likely look little like the site you initially cloned or will even be a side project you started to promote your clone-based website. You never know were opportunity will come from, but you need to get started.
So you want to settle or start your company is Spain. Like in any other place there are a series of cost for running a company. Here I will roughly go through the cost of having and S.L, one of the most typical companies that can be formed (similar to the American LLC).
There are three types of costs, establishment costs (you just pay once), fixed costs (you pay regularly no matter what your sales are), and variable (you pay regularly depending on your sales).
I won’t go through the establishment costs since they are only paid once, and if you are in it for the long run they are almost negligible.
The fixed costs for a small S.L are basically two; first you need to sign up as a self-employed (autónomo) in order to be able to have a company, that will cost you between 250€ and 300€ per month. You then need to submit your accounts to the government once per quarter. You can prepare your accounts yourself, but you will most likely mess up more often than not and have to pay plenty of fees for it, so you are definitely better off hiring an accountant to take care of it, this will cost you between 250€ and 350€ per month. Again this numbers are for a small company, let’s say 10 employees or less.
It’s a pain so far, but here comes the fun part.
Last we have the variable costs, most of them taxes, which work as follow. Let’s say you sell something for 100€ to your customers, like in most of the countries other than the US and a few others you never give prices without taxes, so from those 100€ 21% are actually taxes and you are left with 82,64€. You will then need to pay 25% from your profit on that sale. Let’s assume you have a cost of manufacturing (pray you do, otherwise the outcome is much worse) of 50%, meaning you spend 41,32€ from production to delivery of the product, being left with 41,32€ of sales revenue which you will then need to pay 25% for, being left with 30,99€ net profit. This calculation is for the company itself, if you want to then spend that money in let’s say, dinner, you’ll have to pay yourself a salary and pay the correspondent taxes there too, but I won’t get into that today. So basically the equation will end up looking something like this:
((sale price – 21%) – production cost) – 25% = Net profit
((100€ – 21%) – 41,32€) – 25% = 30,99€
Cost of running a company = 27,69% of sales revenue + fixed costs.
Let’s now take a look at the same equation applied to an internet company, were no products are being manufactured and your main costs are servers (and people of course, but since this is an extreme scenario we are looking at let’s assume you are a solo company). It’s not crazy (not at all) to assume that a simple website than could perfectly run on a dedicated server easily could generate thousands of dollars per month just in advertising and referral fees, or if you were selling an e-book or audiobook. Let’s assume for this example you are making 5000€ per month with your niche website (or even blog). Then the equation will look something like this:
((5000€ – 21%) – 150€) – 25% = 2986,67€
Cost of running a company = 37,26% of sales revenue + fixed costs.
Some may argue I shouldn’t be counting taxes into the sale price, and for a while I didn’t, but hey, you have to convince the client your product is worth its price including taxes or the sale won’t happen, so I don’t care if they are taxes or not, it’s still your client’s money and your job to convince them they should give it to your company, so I’m counting it in the equation.
I finally decided to give the VA services Timothy Ferris describes in his book “The 4 hour work week” a try (see previous post). I contacted YMII who then forwarded me to GetFridady, apparently a sister company that specializes in providing VAs to foreigners (not Indians).
It too us a full week of backs and forth to figure out how many hours a month I’ll need my VA to work and specially for the company to decide which VA to assign me based on my needs. 5 days, 10 e-mails and 3 phone calls later I received an introductory e-mail from my VA.
I read during my research, and was reminded again by GetFriday, that having a successful relationship with your VA is much of a learning process, so I decided to get start by assigning him tasks that were redundant, meaning someone from our in-house team had already done or will do the same tame task to make sure everything was done according to our standards and also to double check the information my VA was sending was reliable.
The first task I assigned was to do a small study of our competition, which in a niche as small as “architecture competitions for students” we already knew from top to bottom. I provided a spreadsheet with a column for each specific piece of data we were interested from each of the competitors and asked him to do a Google search for companies offering these kind of services and fill in the spreadsheet. I told my VA this should not take more than 3 hours.
My first surprise was a reply from my VA telling me it will take him (and his team) 2 days to deliver. Two days for a three hours assignment?
Two days later I received the spreadsheet back with a polite e-mail saying most of the information wasn’t available on-line. I decided to compare the half empty spreadsheet my VA sent with the one we keep and regularly update in-house. Second surprise, not only we had been able to find most of the information GetFriday was unable to but a lot of the information they did provide was wrong. And I’m not talking about anything fancy or complicated, one of the data parameters we asked for was the date the company was founded and suggested they looked up the date the domain was registered in who.is to figure it out (I know the date a company is created and the date a domain is registered has little relation, but for the purpose of this experiment it was accurate enough). They listed our main competitor as founded in 2011, which we know was founded in 2009.
I sent the spreadsheet back to my VA explaining my concern and he assured me his team would revise it and send it back.
Three days later I got the revised spreadsheet. I have to admit there were way fewer empty spaces than the first time, but after seeing they had changed the previously incorrect founding date of our main competitors from 2011 to 2013 (again, they were founded in 2009) I decided not to double check the rest of the information…
A couple other minor tasks were assigned and delivered with average quality and again with a two days delivery time.
I guess this is a tricky question to answer because only right answer is “it depends”. It depends on your niche, it depends on the language your content is write in, etc. etc.
That being said what I can answer is; for an architectural website with content in Spanish, English and French, which country pays the most using Adsense? This is just a very specific example, but it’s the only true data I can provide to even try to get close to the generic question that titles this post.
So here is the ranking by CPC:
- United States – 0,59€
- Austraila – 0,53€
- Canada – 0,48€
- Switzerland – 0,37€
- United Kingdom – 0,35€
Slightly different if sorted by RPM:
- Australia – 4,54€
- United States – 3,44€
- Canada – 2,96€
- Switzerland – 2,51€
- United Kingdom – 2,03€
This data is for November 2013
I’ve been reading “The 4 hour work week” by Timothy Ferris this past couple of days and I have to admit I’m liking it. I was first recommended to read this book back in 2009, but I had my doubts it was the book for me since I actually enjoy working, at least for the time being.
Anyways after two more people recommended it I decided to give it a try and so far it’s proving to be a great read. It’s true I wouldn’t wont to work only 4 hours a week right now, but I do have to admit I’m quite an impatient person and I always have too many ideas going on in my mind that I find hard to prioritize, so I figured if I could take care of my current business in four hours per week (or at least less than it takes me right now) I could use the rest of my time to pursue some of those other ideas.
Most of the things Timothy recommends in the book (at least to the point where I’ve gotten) are easier said than done, or at least they aren’t anything most people won’t already know, like don’t waste time in useless conversations or stay away from the internet when trying to write a paper, sure that will help.
The chapter I was reading today however actually suggested something that can be done, it’s not a matter of self-discipline but something that you only have to decide once, and this is getting a Virtual Assistant. A Virtual Assistant (VA) is basically the same as a Personal Assistant (PA) with the only difference he or she works remotely. The way Ferris puts it if you can pay somebody $5 an hour to do part of your work (the parts that don’t really require your know how) and you get paid $20/hour you are basically saving $15 an hour.
This idea sounded promising, even if it costs me $20/hour, if I can have somebody working while I sleep I could get so much more done in way less time than it takes me right now.
I have always had my doubts about outsourcing to countries like India, China or the Philippines, it’s just that most of the times our quality standards, what’s acceptable and what isn’t, are just worlds apart, but Ferris recommends a couple of companies (not individuals) that specialize in these kind of services, according to him they are diligent, professional and speak excellent English.
I’m seriously thinking in giving this a try…
I’ve been running a few campaigns on Perfect Audience for the past couple of weeks. The value proposition they offer is definitely very tempting (see my previous post for a more detailed explanation), however I’m a little concerned with their metrics.
Every day they send me a report with the performance of all my campaigns during the previous day. This is all good and very useful, you can check how many impressions your ads got, how many clicks, therefore calculate clickthrough rates, etc.
Perfect Audience also offers the option to set up goals just as you’ll do in Google Analytics, that way you can track how many sales (or whatever it is that you want your users to do) you get from their ads and calculate ROI.
Studying these reports I came across a term I’ve never heard about before, and that’s the view-through-conversion (VTC) which according to Perfect Audience I was getting a lot of, so I decided to learn a little more about what a VTC actually is. A VTC happens to be a conversion that came from a user that saw your ad but didn’t click on it. Ok, this is starting to sound familiar, we’ve all heard about the importance of brand awareness and how people who see and add might be more likely to buy your product just the same way people who see your billboard on the highway are, even if they don’t click on it (obviously).
This is all good and fine, but when you apply this concept to retargeting ads things doesn’t seem so clear to me, because what Perfect Audience is really saying is hey, there is this person who visited your site (on their own), didn’t buy on that first visit, but then saw our add, which he didn’t click on, went back to your site (on their own again) and made a purchase, so we are going to take some credit for that sale.
Let’s take a look at another example. We have some very loyal users who will purchase every new service we offer. These people will obviously have the Perfect Audience cookie because they visit our site regularly. They will most likely never click on one of our ads because they already know who we are and where to find us, but even then Perfect Audience has decided that next time this users makes a purchase they are going to take some credit for it. Sure, why not…
I just came across Perfect Audience, a company that offers retargeted ads on Facebook. So basically what they do is after you insert a few lines of code into your website they start placing cookies on the computers of anyone who visits your site, then when this people log in to their Facebook they will be served your add.
The value proposition is definitely tempting. Why on earth would someone who has already visited your website (therefore have your cookie and are now being served your add) click on one of your ads if they hated your product right? Someone who click on these kind of ads should be that more likely to convert, at least in theory.
I’ll give it a try and let you guys know how it works out.
A few days ago I woke up and found one of my websites down. Not being very technical I tried everything I knew; does the site responds to ping? Yes. Do other websites in the same server work? No. Reset the server, did it work? No…
So I contacted my hosting company to see if they could help me figure out what was going on and they sure did, they told me by website was sending around 10K e-mails per hour, which was considered spam (no kidding) and therefore my website had been added to several black lists that prevented it to load on most browsers.
Shit! 10K e-mails per hour? What happened here?
So I contacted my tech guy (girl actually) and asked her to take a look at it. She got back to me almost immediately and said our server was indeed sending out tons of e-mail but it wasn’t our website (weird when you are talking about a dedicated server that is supposed to host only one website), it was a WordPress installation that I did a couple of week earlier as a side project, I told her that and she asked; did you make a secure WordPress Installation?
What? I just installed it, isn’t that supposed to be secure? Well apparently not as much as it should be since that installation was hacked and was being used to send tons of spam.
So my obvious question once the issue was solved (it took a few weeks to go 100% back to normal) was; nest time, how do I set up a secure WordPress Installation?
According to my tech team it’s not that hard at all, you just have to follow a few more step after the installation, some obvious (but worth being reminded of), others not so much. So here is a list of the 5 steps you should follow to set up a secure WordPress installation:
- This is obvious, but choose strong passwords and never set up a user called admin since most robots will try that when trying to hack your site.
- Use a random database prefix instead of the standard i39fw1_
- Insert this line of code at the end of your wp-config.php file: define(‘DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT’, true);
This will disable file editing from your admin panel, which means that even if someone does hack your admin password and access your dashboard they won’t be able to insert malicious code into your files.
- Install a theme called Login Lockdown and take a minute to set it up properly. This will block anyone attempting to log in to your website a suspicious number of times in a relatively short time (what robots usually do to hack you password) and will block them for a certain period of time.
- Last but not least, keep your WordPress and plugin versions updated. Even if it’s tempting not to once everything is working you should always update. I’ll take the rist to contradict myself though and say you should not update the first day a new WP release comes out, give it a week or two to make sure all the plugins you are using also come out with an update that’s compatible with the new WP version.
And that’s it! I hope this helps many websites prevent the numerous hacker attacks that happen every day.