front door

Open the {Virtual} Front Door!

front door

Yesterday, I came across an article admonishing independent restaurants to get a web presence, and I thought the point was a good one and worthy of being re-posted.

As someone who often works with small businesses, and specifically in the areas of social media and networking, I have been known to say that if you have no web presence, you don’t exist. Sounds harsh, sure, but the article I’m referencing explains it well:

Imagine spending the whole day preparing food to serve in your restaurant that night, but never unlocking the door. Imagine your customers’ confusion as there is not a sign in the window or any communication from you; eventually they wander off to dine down the street. An absurd scenario, yes, but one that illustrates that having a physical front door that is inexplicably closed is akin to not having a website in today’s digital marketplace. You are, in fact, closing your virtual front door — the door to your online customers.

Yes. Yes! THIS is what a lack of web presence does to your business.

I’ve done it. You’ve done it (okay, well, maybe not you). Every smart phone user has done it: you are in a different area of the city, or visiting a new city, and you wonder what’s good where you are, or you see an attractive sign and wonder what kind of place goes with it.

The first resource for such a person? Google! But even Google can’t find a business without a web presence.

Take it from a person who has spent significant amounts of time looking for websites to link to from other tourism and commercial sites (with the purpose of benefiting local business and the area in general) that too many small businesses have no web presence.

What do I mean by web presence? I mean at the very least a page on the web where people can see a) your business name (and what type of business it is); b) your location; and c) at least two ways of contacting you (phone and email are preferred).

A Facebook page is great. I would go so far as to say it’s a must-have, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it replaces a website itself, because…:

…search engines such as Google and Bing have limited ability to display the content that your restaurant posts on Facebook. Without a website, the ability to attract consumers searching online for a venue is limited. Many online sites, such as menu aggregators, use websites to gather and pass along information they find. Restaurants without a Web presence can’t benefit from this online amplification.

Again with the closed door. I apologize if this post veers too closely to the point of ranting, but I sometimes feel like taking small business owners firmly by the hand, forcing them to look me solidly in the eyes, and repeating emphatically over and over: “Help me help you. Help me! Help you! Help me help YOU!”

It really is all about you, or your business, for me. As is a web presence.

And why the heck not?! My site costs me about $12/year. I kid you not. If your business cannot handle $12/year, I hate to break it to you, but your business is dead.

Sample Wix site
Sample Wix site

Where to start:

  • A domain name. I would go with GoDaddy or whatever your friends with websites recommend. Go to the site, search to see if the domain name you want is available, and if it is, buy a year or two of rights to it. Every year or two, you have to renew your rights. Easy enough, right?
  • A FREE website. Yes. FREE!! (Why haven’t you done this before, again?!) If you want to have an online shop, go with something like Shopify. Or, if you want to just have a page with your info on it, you can go with a free template from sites like Wix, Weebly, or WordPress.com. Again, ask around and go with what someone you know has used before (so you can call them if you get stuck, of course). All of these sites are customizable and re-customizable, so you can start small and build your site as you gain knowledge.
  • Ask your friend (or hire me) to help you hook your domain name up with your new site.
  • Verify your site with search engines. This sounds complicated, and it’s perhaps a little more complicated than the other stuff you’ve already done, but trust me: it’s worth it! If your site is verified with, say, Google, then Google knows you’re not spam, and therefore will recommend you to people and bump you to the top of the virtual pile. Yay, right? Virtual door wide open!!
Sample Weebly site
Sample Weebly site

I really am available for hire to help you set up your website and your Facebook page, as well as other social media outlets, email marketing and newsletters, and more. Email me at sarahekoopmans (at) gmail (dot) com, message me, or tweet me.

Even establishing a one-page website is a great start to leveraging your restaurant’s online search presence. Open your virtual front door and capture customers who are looking to discover and learn about your restaurant, and ultimately lead them to your physical front door.

Now please. Please! Open your virtual front door!

(Oh, and sorry for the accidental publish last night… a technological oops!)

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with an extra hour in the day, i would...

Survival of the Creative and Playful

with an extra hour in the day, i would...

There’s always something that gets me through the two most stressful times of year for a student. Last term, it was Pinterest, Diana Gabaldon‘s Outlander series on audio book, and the Conquist game for iPhone. This spring, it’s the discovery of the joy of Tumblr, Twilight on audio book, and DrawSomething for iPhone.

I also take frequent food breaks. On a diet like the Whole30, it’s possible I look forward to the food less than I did when my snacking included things like salt and vinegar Crispers, chocolate, and cheese and crackers.

The ability to look forward to something, even when it seems like there is no light at the end of the papers-and-exams tunnel, helps propel me through the long minutes and hours alone at my kitchen table.

Three weeks and counting…

A Transparent Life's Facebook page

I have a Facebook page!

A Transparent Life's Facebook page

That is, this website is now on Facebook. Personally, I’ve been on that people-from-far-away-connecting, privacy-selling, time-sucking site since…2007? Not since the beginning, but long enough. Long enough to know I’m not sure how I would connect to my network-at-large without it. Long enough to know it’s kind of on its way out. Shh, don’t tell Mark Zuckerberg: he recently submitted Facebook for an IPO.

But I am proud to announce that, as of yesterday, this blog site has a corresponding Facebook page. Did it really need one? No, probably not. It does, however, increase the likelihood that people on Facebook can see A Transparent Life, and interact with me and my posts there. I’m pretty picky about who I accept friend requests from (I actually have to know you – imagine that!), which would limit anyone outside of my immediate network from being able to see my posts on Facebook.

So here we are: more invested in the interwebs.

Come and join the social network party: facebook.com/SarahsTransparentLife.

(At this point, it appears as if you have to be signed into your Facebook profile for this link to work. I’m not sure why. Another option would be to click “Like” in the Facebook box on the sidebar of my site.)

"# of people on the Internet"

{Comically} Wordless Wednesday

Remember my good friend Keeley? The poet?

She with her fabulous sense of humour clipped a comic for me last week that I thought would be fun to share.

"The great irony"

"# of people on the Internet"

"# of people on the Internet"

She made sure to let me know that it was all in good fun. Which, of course, I took it as. 🙂

Here’s the whole thing:

Comic

 

Keep the Server Happy, Website Edition

This week, I submitted my last final assignment. Finally.

Currently, I’m procrastinating from studying for a take-home exam due this afternoon. Oops.

But it’s once again been too long since I posted, and I’m pretty excited about this final assignment and I want to share it with you. Now.

The assignment, which was for an online class called Writing for the Web, was to design a website with at least 5 different pages to it, incorporating the principles we learned during this course.

I don’t know how my prof will grade it, since I only submitted it for marking yesterday morning, but after receiving some good feedback from my Facebook friends, I thought I’d share it with you. I am thinking of purchasing a domain name for this site and publishing it to the web for real and making it a bit of a hub for all that stuff servers wish their customers knew!

Here’s a linked screen shot so you can go see it yourself:

Keep in mind I’m an amateur Dreamweaver user, and I built this all from scratch, and I didn’t really have the time to finess things too much. It’s a beginning, more than anything.

But – do you like it?

Do you have a restaurant story to add to my “This one time…” page?

I have some ideas for a domain name, which I’m hoping to host as a sub-page to this site, we’ll see. Meanwhile, I could use your feedback about domain name ideas:

Send me your “This one time at a Restaurant” stories for when I debut the website with its own domain name!

Which is Worse, Tyrants or Tycoons?

Yesterday, I read a couple of articles about the Occupy Wall Street movement (#occupywallstreet) that is underway in the Western world. One article, titled “This is what democracy looks like” was for the Globe and Mail, co-written by an assistant professor of my program (Media, Information, and Technoculture at the University of Western Ontario), Amanda Grzyb:

"This is What Democracy Looks Like..."

The other was for the New York Times, written by opinion columnist Mark Bittman:

"Finally Making Sense on Wall Street"
Both authors are sympathetic to the cause, and Bittman even says the movement is “being embraced by the Democratic leadership.” This movement is clearly different: it is resonating with hundreds of thousands of people world-wide.

Occupy Wall Street began 26 days ago with a call to action from a culture-jamming group known as Adbusters. People responded to their call for a horizontally-structured (as opposed to vertically-structured and therefore bureaucratic in nature) movement demanding change. Participants then began to camp on Wall Street (and the streets of other cities’ financial districts, including Toronto’s Bay Street starting this Saturday), and present themselves as the “99 percent” that struggles while the remaining 1 percent enjoys the majority of the wealth of the west.

Their inspiration? The Arab Spring, a massive ongoing series of uprisings that have caused civil wars and unrest in several Middle Eastern and North African countries, not to mention the deaths of thousands upon thousands of oppressed citizens who have had enough of autocracy and persecution.

Adbusters: Occupy Wall Street

Ironic, isn’t it, that thousands die to obtain democracy while our friends and neighbours suffer because of democratic deceitfulness and capitalist crookedness?

As Bittman says, the desire to protest the status quo isn’t new: perhaps one of the reasons this movement resonates so deeply for so many people is that almost every generation has faced some injustice that required standing up and standing out. Think the Vietnam War, or even the French Revolution.

Our generation has it the worst of any other yet, though, according to Bittman. If this movement does not result in substantial change, will our children get hit even worse? Is it even possible to bring about the change that we so desperately need?

~~~~~~~~~

I wonder which is worse, tyrants or tycoons?

The Ephemerality of an Idea

I am writing this post from my iPhone 4, typing with my middle finger as I balance a pen under my index finger.

I’m in a writing class, listening to the prof with one part of my brain, and, with the other part, thinking about how much of a slacker I have been on this blog.

When I updated my blog site this spring and downloaded this app on my phone, I had such romantic hopes that, now that I had such a handy productivity aid at my fingertips, I would be inspired to write regularly.

The romance then proceeded to wither a few weeks later when I got distracted by _____________________.

~~~~

Today in the reading for my writing class there was a section on ideas: where to find them (just about anywhere), how to nurture them (write them down, then add to them as your mind digests them and comes up with related ideas), and how to develop them into viable story options.

The author kept an empty notebook with him at all times, so that whenever his brain churned out a new idea (often in the shape of, “I wonder what would happen if…”, or “What if…?”, or “Is it me? What is it about me…?” etc…), he could start to build a complete idea or ideas.

My brain ate up that idea. I get ideas at the most inconvenient times (2 a.m., driving, in the shower), but I’ve learned that the key is to record the idea as soon as possible, while it still retains the ephemera that only something brand-new can evoke.

So… What’s my problem, if I have ideas and I know enough to record them?

My problem is that I haven’t been honouring those wisps of curiosity and inquisitiveness that flit through my mind. I haven’t been writing them down or seeing them through.

~~~~~

By now, it’s later in the day and I have come back to this several times. I am
also now typing with both thumbs like you do on a smart phone.

I have a renewed resolve to do better, to try harder, to record thoughts before they fly away.

Will you be my sounding board?

The App That Gave Me Back Mornings

I have night owl in my blood. Really. It just comes naturally to me. Plus, I’m always afraid of missing something, or I think I can cram in ONE more page, one more minute of an audio book, one more activity. Often, this kind of thinking finds me feeling like crap at 2 or 3 am, wondering why I am so stupid.

Next time, I will go to bed on time
Me, every night.

The next morning, either I feel gross because I didn’t get enough sleep or I feel gross because I got too much. Either way, all too often I have felt like the “hit by a truck” statement could be applied to me in the morning. (NO, I’m not grumpy in the morning, generally–I’m just not happy sunshiny either.

Everything changed last year. In the summer, I got an iPhone, and in the fall, a friend introduced the Sleep Cycle app to me.

Sleep Cycle app
Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle is an app that uses the accelerometer built into the iPhone (and iPod Touch) to track your sleep patterns, and then wake you up in the general vicinity of when you’d like to wake up (within the half hour before, usually), but when you’re at the edge of a sleep cycle. That is, it wakes you up when you’re not in deep sleep, which is the most shocking phase to get awoken out of.

It’s really quite simple: you plug your phone in (the app drains about 30% of battery over the night), set your alarm sound (you can use a song from your iTunes) and a time you’d like to be awake by,  click “Start”, then lay the phone glass-side down on the edge of your bed. Then, you entrust your wake-up call to this genius application.

It is. Genius. I promise you. It has revolutionized my mornings, which, in turn, has revolutionized my days. I no longer wake up hating the day, hating myself, hating the fact that I have to get out of bed… oops, I said I wasn’t grumpy in the mornings. I’m not, I promise you, but now I actually FEEL good as well!

Oh, and there’s a handy graph feature where you can look back at all the nights you have used Sleep Cycle to compare your patterns. Also, what kind of app would it be if it didn’t have a “Share on Facebook” feature? I kid you not. I have so far restrained myself, though.

Solid app. Well done, Sleep Cycle people!

YES, it’s worth the 99 cents! What are you waiting for?!

I’m saying good-night…

Sleep pattern graph and sleep screen
The data and the image Im going to be looking at in a few minutes.

Interrupting This Study Session to Bring you… Aurora Borealis

I am studying for an exam on Sunday. The course is called The Meaning of Technology, and this study session has me trying to dig deeply into topics like cyberspace and nanotechnology and what it means to be a cyborg–fascinating yet somewhat frightening topics.

As I study, TweetDeck brings me a steady stream of tweets about Canadian news, Canadian politics, American politics, what Ellen DeGeneres is up to, Kanye West‘s latest whacky thought, and the once-in-a-lifetime award my school (University of Western Ontario) has just received: we are fourth on Playboy’s list of top ten party schools in North America. Wa-freakin’-hoo.

My eyes stray back and forth from my notes to the TweetDeck notifications, hoping for something juicy, funny, thought-provoking, some worthy distraction (who are we kidding–they’re ALL worthy distractions when you’re studying!). Then, one Huffington Post tweet catches my eye, and my interest.

It’s a “Green” blog article, one of the few HuffPost pages I don’t follow… yet. The blog post isn’t so much a blog post as a collection of videos of the amazing natural phenomenon Aurora Borealis, also called the Northern Lights.

The video wouldn’t show on Firefox, and, so fascinated was I about the prospect of seeing a video of the famed but elusive Northern Lights, that I even lowered myself to opening Safari, which, of course, complied with my command to “Play!” the video.

Sometimes, nature is worth checking out of “reality” for. Sometimes, sacrificing some time from all of our responsibilities and duties and busyness to marvel at how these phenomena come to be is worth it.

Presenting: Aurora Borealis (turn up the volume)

(and you’ll need a browser other than Firefox, it seems. sorry. :s)

To see the rest of the Huffington Post’s choices: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/13/aurora-borealis-2011-northern-lights-video_n_848638.html#s264018