Affiliate links

Just a quick one to say that from now on I’ll be using affiliate links when linking out to products. Initially it will only apply to stuff on Amazon, but we’ll see. Personally I don’t have an ethical problem with affiliate revenue, and am quite glad that cool sites like Wirecutter get some money back for recommending me decent tech equipment etc. So, I’ll be doing the same here. I hardly think it will bring in insane levels of income, but figured it was still worth trialling purely to see what’s possible.

If for any reason you’re not in favour of that, just don’t click the links to products and go search them directly on the service. I’m fine with that too 😉

Rolling your own easily accessible cloud network drive with OwnCloud and Transmit

owncloud-logoFor a while now I’ve been trying to solve a particular issue with how I work. I use a Macbook Air, with a 128Gb hard drive. That’s not a lot of space, especially when you’re working with a lot of assets like video files and whatnot around an artist campaign. Across my campaigns a lot of assets wind up getting saved to my hard drive: photos, cover art, promo videos etc etc. Storing it all takes up more and more space – annoying when I may only need the files a few times across a campaign lifetime.

With that in mind, I was looking for a cloud storage solution with the following criteria:

1) Must be accessible as a network drive on my Mac so I can simply copy files to/from it
2) Must also be accessible from mobile/tablet so I can get to files on the move
3) Must be private by default (ie content not accessible via public URL)
4) Must also have means to share links privately to other people

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Further fun with Twilio: two easy, clever things you can do

logos_downloadable_roundOn my last post I detailed a simple way in which you could use Twilio to be a central phone number directing on to wherever you happened to be (home, office, abroad etc). What I didn’t detail though was some of the extra stuff I’ve done with my number which underlines why I use Twilio and don’t just buy a Skype number, for example.

First up: Twilio and Zapier. Zapier is very similar to IFTTT; it allows you to feed one API into another to make something happen. A large number of services are supported and you connect them up to do things like tweet when a new Mailchimp campaign has been sent, for example. In this instance though, what I’ve done is set up a “zap” where if I text an email address to my own number, it adds that address to the Daily Digest mailing list. I often have people ask about signing up when I’m at events or meetings, so this is a perfect way to take action on that; I can just text their email to my Twilio number, and it then adds that address to the Daily Digest list, then sends a confirmation email to the subscriber. Simple, but hugely effective. In time I’ll probably buy a separate number so I can publicise the feature – ie “text your email to [number] to subscribe”.

If you do have a Twilio number, Zapier is really a must-have service as it just opens up the possibilites no end – particularly to non-developer types like myself. For example, you could have Twilio call you when one of your artists updates their Facebook page. Or you can have it text you when someone adds a new file to your Dropbox. The possibilities are endless, so do check it out.

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Twilio: getting hands-on with phone-number-meets-web fun

logos_downloadable_roundPermit me a small backstory here. Like most people, I tend to be contacted most on my mobile where work matters are concerned. Now I work from home a lot more though, I’ve found that the reception here is, in short, appalling. I could change network, but my deal is an awesome one that makes that a pretty unappealing prospect. Similarly, I don’t want to give people my home number, and fitting a second line could prove expensive – a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

Enter Twilio. For a while now I’ve been curious about this service, which interfaces telephony with the web. My mate Syd Lawrence has done some very clever stuff there, which in turn had me interested in what was possible from a marketing perspective. However what tipped me over the edge into using it was this post, explaining how you could use Twilio to dodge roaming costs when travelling. From that, I learned a few things. Firstly, you could buy a number for a tiny amount ($1 per month). Secondly, you could then do a LOT with that number. In some respects, Twilio is like a more powerful version of Google Voice – a service unavailable to anyone outside the US.

Twilio has solved my problem. How? By giving my business a flexible landline number (and a local London one too!) that my clients can call. How the number behaves it entirely up to me – and believe me, it can do some funky stuff if I so desire. In the simplest terms though, I can have the number forward on to either my home landline, or my mobile. Alternatively, I can just have it dial me on my computer, allowing me to use it in the same manner as a Skype phone number. As the above blog post demonstrates too, I can also use it to handle my being abroad, by having Twilio forward to a local SIM that I’ve bought in whatever country I am in. Similarly, whilst I am there I can use my laptop to call clients via the web and it won’t cost me the earth. Usefully, they also just see the same number calling them, so they always know it is me. It allows a reliability that my clients will appreciate (only one number to call, anytime, to get hold of me) and with that brings a touch more professionalism to my business.

So – how do you go about doing all this? Well, its pretty simple really:

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Spotify & Deezer’s apps: The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 15.08.16Recently I decided to familiarise myself with Deezer, because I feel the service could start making some big moves this year and that therefore it would be good to have some insight as to the platform, the user interface, what’s possible etc etc.

Something that really caught my eye when using their web client though was the way in which many of the Deezer “apps” were basically just external websites that were using the Deezer API to provide their audio. This led me on a train of thought around both Deezer and Spotify apps, where I concluded that in many respects what we have here is a massive case of Emperor’s New Clothes. A chat with Syd Lawrence on Twitter basically confirmed that, too – which you read on Storify here.

Let’s start with the basics. Spotify’s desktop client is basically a jazzed up Chromium browser, as I understand it. The Spotify apps that run within it are, to all intents and purposes, websites. They’re code being pulled from elsewhere and run within the Spotify desktop client. Similarly, Deezer’s apps run in a similar manner – though often not even within the Deezer web client.

That being the case, one has to ask the question: why are the people behind these apps not broadening them out to run on the web, connecting in with all available services? Take the Earache Metalizer Spotify app, for example. I’d wager that with probably an extra 20% of time spent on it, that could have been adapted to also run within Earache’s website, pointing people to the streaming service of choice, be that Spotify, Deezer, Rdio or potentially something else.

This isn’t – and shouldn’t be – an “either/or” scenario. I would assume you could have the same app available in Spotify, Deezer *and* on your website if you so desired – and why not? It provides convenience to your users, after all. So why aren’t people doing this?

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