9 Questions from 5th Grade (that I still have)

I have a lot of unanswered questions from my youth. Can someone help me out?

1. Does the girls’ bathroom really have couch in it?

2. When will I ever use cursive?

3. Will I ever be 6ft tall?

4. Why is the “real” Slim Shady standing up?

5. Do I have a chance at becoming a pro skater?

6. Why does my Tamagotchi poop so much?

7. Will I ever be able to grow a beard?


8. Where do they make balloons?

9. What do I want to be when I grow up?

Off Contract: Democratize Data

Smartphones rule the world but even they have a master – data. Smartphones without data are just dumb phones – bricks you use to text and hangup on the Redcross with. Smartphones have shackled their users to data and the carriers are taking advantage of the situation.

Cell carriers now shape their plans around data – not texts or minutes. Some plans are a minimum of 3GB. When I got my first cell phone we were counting texts and timing phone call for after 9pm. Data wasn’t a consideration when choosing the plan. Much has changed in the past 10 years and those key considerations are simply an after thought. Now when selecting phone plans we look at how much data is offered rather than how many texts.

With 3GB plans costing more than $70 per month it feels like our bank accounts are being drained by carrier vampires all in the name of data – data we only need when were are away from WiFi. I use less than 1GB of data per month but am being forced to pay for three times than what I use.

I recently wrote about how a friend of mine went four years with a cell contract. The only time she had real issues with being away from WiFi was on the golf course. I thought I had the perfect solution. Just get a MiFi from a carrier and you’ll never have an issue again. You can drop your carrier and just use the data over the MiFi to make all your calls, texts and Facebook posts.

After some quick research I concluded that MiFi contracts are insane. $50 per month for 5GB of data on a 2 year contract. You can get a Mobile DataConnect Share Plan thing for 4GB for $30 per month but they explicitly say you cannot connect a smartphone. What? I was shocked. I was appalled. I was confused. I was angry. I wanted a better solution.

Everyone should have access to cheap data. Just like internet at your home, internet while on the road should be affordable. Data should not be controlled by a select few but it should be in the hands of the people. I began googling every phrase I could think of about a data only device. I came across the Karma which is a decent solution. Karma is a sleek MiFi device that leverages Sprints network for data. I tweeted at Karma two days ago to see if it supports VoLTE (VoIP) calls over the device but have yet to hear back.

I want to build my own device for this specific purpose. Something that can fit on a key chain like a SecureID. Maybe some Georgia Tech hardware geeks will help me build it. We’d act as an MVNO to leverage one of the big carriers back ends by buying data wholesale and reselling to consumers. The device supports regular data usage (Google Maps, Pandora, Facebook, etc.) along with voice calls utilizing the data. Consumers would free themselves of the carriers while we manage the infrastructure relationship portion.

I see huge opportunity in the space of an affordable data only device. We need more competition in this space. To think that Karma alone can turn the industry on its head is a mistake. It’s a targeted play that I think would be benefit millions and would make even more.

Anyone out there in the cyberspace want to join me on this journey to democratize data?

Off Contract: Cutting the Cord

Without any context the term “cord cutting” is a bit gross but in reality it’s a beautifully difficult idealist term. The cord being cut is the cable cord – cancelling cable or satellite at your home. Being a cord cutter is filled with struggle and triumph. Cord cutting, in my mind, is about ridding ourselves of the big cable providers and their hefty fees, as much as possible – not simply about watching TV.

Some of you may not know this but the major television networks broadcast their shows over the air (OTA) for free. ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, TBS, and a few others do this today. All that’s needed is a device with an antenna/TV tuner to pick up the signal. A good example of how OTA works is the old TV show where the drunk dad is fiddling with the antenna on his TV because he’s not getting signal any more. That antenna is pulling the TV show down and he’s watching for free. We’ve since started broadcasting these shows in HD so free TV is in even better quality.

The internet plays a crucial part in the success of cutting the cord (only furthering the evidence that the internet is a utility). Often there’s only one cable/internet provider in your home/apartment so you would still have to put up with big bad Comcast. At least now they’re not taking all of your money. Here’s a simplified step-by-step from Cord Cutter Guide for cutting the cord.

CordCutter_Steps

With a combination of digital content providers and OTA TV there are very few shows you’ll miss out on. If you don’t mind avoiding spoilers, most shows come out on Netflix and Hulu relatively soon after airing. Even the big players that don’t broadcast OTA like MTV allow you to stream content from their sites.  You’ll never miss an episode of Catfish again.

A company called Aereo tried their best to capitalize on the free OTA content that TV tuner and antennas can pick up. They setup a large network of antennas (one per subscriber) and allowed people to stream live TV from any device. Subscribers were even able to record shows for later while watching another. Granted the only shows available were those OTA shows but if you lilke NBC’s The Voice or Blacklist then you’re in good hands. PC Mag does a much better job explaining how Aereo’s business model works. Aereo faced a lot of backlash from these large networks and a big lawsuit. Their case was brought in front of the supreme court for “rebroadcasting” content illegally. They ultimately lost and put an away message on their website.

I do see cord cutting as the “way of the future”. Many Americans have already started taking the necessary steps whether they realize it or not. Streaming TV from bed or binge watching Netflix on the weekend are slowly making this an acceptable lifestyle. What’s next? We can only speculate. Our goal should be to break free from the hold these Goliaths have on us.

In my next post I’ll explain my experiences and struggles with cutting the cord.

3 Tips to Help Your Furry Friend Through Daylight Savings

Daylight savings is a stressful period for everyone including your furry friend. Here are a few easy tips to help with their transition.

1. Set your lights on a timer

With daylight savings evening comes earlier. Being the hard working adult you are, you may not be able to get home by 6pm when the sun goes down. Don’t be the human who leaves your dog in the dark. Plug your living room lamp into a timer (you can use your outdoor Christmas lights one) and set it to turn on for 5:30pm. This will give your pup light inside before it gets too dark outside.

2. Stick to your feeding times

A hungry dog is a vocal dog but don’t give in. Don’t let the puppy eyes convince you it is time to eat. Force the adjustment and you’ll be set the rest of winter; give in now and prepare for 5pm dinners the rest of your life. If you have a picky eater then the extra hour will ensure a member of the clean bowl club.

3. Cuddle up when your pup falls asleep early

Your furry friend won’t understand why it’s dark earlier or why he’s so sleepy. He, and the rest of the world, think we’re crazy! I can guarantee that your little buddy will be zonked out early. Be sure to grab some free cuddles before your evening walk and the cold night air riles him up again. This show of love and support will help him through this sleep adjustment.

Have tips of your own? Share them in the comments below!

Off Contract: Living Without a Cell Phone Plan

Meet Maria. A former collegiate golfer from Spain. She spent four years in the United States without a cell phone plan.

As much as we hate our cell phone plans and their carriers we’re chained to them for two years at a time. Dealing with mystery fees and throttled data we continue on with our lives accepting this as the status quo. The average individual cell phone bill in America is around $71 per month or $852 per year – a hefty fee for an exchange student.

To maintain her exhausting social life Maria used an iPhone 4, iMessage, a neat little app called TextMe and a whole lot of WiFi.

TextMe assigns a real phone number to the user and a convenient messaging/calling app. The TextMe user will message and call their friends using the app. The user can give their friends the assigned phone number to maintain the facade of a normal phone. This is important for contacting non-iPhone users since they do not have the option of iMessage.

The trick for TextMe to provide all this functionality for free is their unique ad model. They provide credits for watching ads and downloading certain apps. Each ad and app are worth specific credits. Credits can be redeemed for text messages and phone calls. For instance, a ten minute phone call is worth about ten credits and one downloaded app is worth around eleven credits. If you spend each morning watching ads and downloading apps you’ll have a fully functioning phone for the week with no out of pocket expenses.

Being the resourceful character she is, Maria found WiFi almost everywhere. As a college student WiFi is abundant. Campus housing provides WiFi in the building and all classrooms are WiFi enabled. Maria could call and text all day, provided she had enough credits. Even when she went out on the town she was able to find an internet connection. If you look hard enough you can find WiFi in most bars and clubs.

The only real trouble Maria had was on the golf course. Naturally courses aren’t covered by a blanket of internet but this was not a big issue. By being disconnected for a few hours a week, she had time to focus on her game. Uninterrupted practice allowed her develop the skills to win tournaments and focus on her future of becoming a professional golfer.

The telecommunications industry is ripe for disruption. Consumers are practically begging for it. Companies like Republic Wireless are taking steps in the right direction but there’s room for others. I want to be a part of this transformation. Don’t you?

Blog House Keeping

I did a little house keeping of NikFuller.com.

  • Moved from using WordPress.com to WordPress.org and started self-hosting my blog. I use BlueHost simply because it’s cheap. Their CPanel allows for an easy WordPress install. The main reason for this move was to install Google Analytics and maybe Google Adsense sometime in the future.
  • Exported all my content from WordPress.com into an XML file and import into my new hosted blog. I didn’t lose any content (not that I’ve noticed, at least) but formatting for some embedded links has been lost. I don’t think I’ll fix them – at least not right now.
  • Chose a new theme for the blog. Not sure I love it yet so I’ll keep searching for a more permanent one.
  • Reviewed all my existing post categories and removed 6 categories. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a year now but never found the time/desire to do so. It only took 15 minutes. I want to be able to better categorize my posts into standard groups. Previously I would create categories at will with no structure or forethought.
  • Thinking about reviewing all my tags but there are 278 of them. This might wait for another year.

That is all. Go clean up your blog before the big Thanksgiving blogging season…

Business Challenges For The Millennial Generation

Found this post sitting in my drafts folder from July 2013. I don’t necessarily agree with the 2013 version of myself but the post was already finished and new blogging ideas are hard enough to come by. Enjoy!

For the past few weeks I’ve been reading “The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century” on the train to and from work every day. Progress has been slow since it is only a total commute time of 30 minutes but what a great book. I originally started it about 2 years ago when a CIS professor (Bala Ramesh) recommended the class read at least the first chapter. So I did and then forget about it until a couple of weeks ago. I could spew out interesting facts to you until your mind blows but I don’t want to ruin any surprises for you. The version I’m reading was published in 2007 and the advances in technology from then till now astounds me.

On the train this morning, the author began discussing VoIP and how amazing and game changing it is. He discusses Skype (pre-Microsoft) and how X Company adopted it and cut their phone bills by 10%. I kind of laughed to myself and thought, “Well duh, of course VoIP makes sense and videoconferencing is important.” As I continued to half read, I tossed around the idea of what challenges my generation will face when we’re CEOs of major corporations or running call centers like Company X.

As of right now, the number of Millennials running multi-million/billion dollar companies is low, but for good reason. With the exception of Facebook and Tumblr, we’re either still in college or just recently graduated. Trying to figure out this big bad world doesn’t happen overnight, so here we are biding our time and gaining necessary experience. But in 20 years we’ll be primed and ready to run these companies, so what will our challenges be?

Great question and I don’t know.

And that’s fine. But I do know what we won’t be discussing and I’ll take a stab at what we could possibly maybe perhaps talk about.

The Non-Issues:

  • Mobile First:  Today’s CIOs should have that nailed down within the next 2 or 3 years. By the time we run big companies, a solidified standard should be in place.
  • Big Data: Ugh, what a painful term. In 20 years “Big Data” will just be “data” and life will go on. So shut your traps about it. You sound like a toddler who just learned a new word.
  • BYOD: Come the next 10 years, OSes will be unified across all devices with just two major players. We will be able to easily separate work and personal on the same device. I think Microsoft with Windows 8 is the first major step with unifying mobile and desktop. Apple will follow suit soon and Android will be the ugly step child that no one knows what to do with but keeps around just in case.

The Issues:

  • Gamify the work place:  Making work into a game rather than a job will improve efficiency, collaboration and morale. All of which increase the bottom-line; the goal of any good CEO.
  • Execute on “data”: Now that Big Data has become just data, businesses will just be tweaking its use cases, like we are with data today.
  • Cut the fat: Businesses need to be leaner than ever powered by improvements in efficiency tracking. You’ll never have to ask yourself, “What does that guy even do?” Corporations run by Millennials will be far more thorough and efficient than ever before.
  • Provide Global WiFi: Steve Jobs’ idea of a perfect cellphone was not connected through cellular towers but over WiFi. Cellular providers will turn into WiFi providers and just charge to access their network, and of course miscellaneous fees. This will open up the internet to billions more users.

Over the past 200-300 years, companies have evolved in how they’ve done business. Way back when, companies only cared about selling their products. They used the lackluster technology given to them to produce their items. Then came the industrial revolution. Technology advanced so quickly, business just wanted to produce as much as possible regardless of how ethical. The most recent generation, the ones currently in charge, put ethics (mostly) first compared to prior years. Now that we can produce a ton of materials in a somewhat ethical matter, the Millennial Generation can focus on efficiency more so than the current generation. Every last function will be monitored, tracked and reported until all systems run at 100% 100% of the time. Since the Millennials will have access to more information than ever imaginable our success all depends on what we do with it.

To really succeed in business, the Millennial Generation will have to out-innovate, out-execute and out-perform the previous generation. Not the most difficult feat ever attempted. It happens every 20 years or so. My advice to the old white guys running companies: put together a nice retirement plan because the Millennials are hungry.

New Adventure: Weekly Flex Trip

Weekly Flex Trip highlights the best flex trips across the globe through user submissions. We aim to give insight into the best places to eat, play and stay in each city we cover.

About two weeks ago I was given Click Millionaires by Scott Fox for some light reading. I demolished the book in three days (lightning fast for me). Both my head and OneNote were quickly filled with business ideas- good and bad. The one that stuck with me is Weekly Flex Trip.

For those who don’t travel for a living let me define what a flex trip is. A flex trip is when you don’t fly home on the weekend but instead you fly to a different city. These are basically mini trips that are paid for by the client.

Here’s my pitch below:

What’s the problem?
Consultants aren’t getting the most out if their flex trips. They’re missing great city features, leaving money on the table, and staying in overpriced accommodations.

What’s the solution?
Provide real insight into these aspects from locals/frequent travelers, offer advice and tips for getting the most out of flex trips, grow community of flex trippers to provide trip reviews.

How’s it different from TripAdvisor?
Targeted advice for consultants on flex trips, a very specific niche, which is not currently being covered.

Overview:

Beginnings

This website initially started out as a noozle or an email newsletter. Consultants would sign up for this weekly newsletter to receive weekly updates about flex trips, cities, travel tips and more. I signed up for MailChimp and began creating my first noozle. Even though MailChimp makes it extremely easy to format your content and information it still required more graphic skillz than I could muster. There was not a good format that could contain all this information that I wanted to share. My next logical step was a blog.

Hosting

I have experience with the free WordPress setup, which is what NikFuller.com is currently leveraging, but I wanted more experience with a hosted WordPress. I volunteer for the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce as their IT guy. They use a hosted WordPress. I figured setting up my own will at least give me more background into how theirs works.

I purchased the domain name late one night and started playing around with hosting it. I chose BlueHost as my host. I saw a lot of ads for them claiming to be easy to setup a hosted WordPress account. Sure enough it was very easy to get going. I did however encounter a few problems with my sites uptime. I kept receiving a “Database can not connect” error whenever I visited my site. I spoke with their tech support on Wednesday evening, the day after installing WordPress, and he finally admitted someone was abusing their server which caused my outage. Two days later the same error started occurring again. I rephoned BlueHost from Hawaii (I was on a flex trip) and was greeted with a much more pleasant tech rep. He gave me some advice on better plugins. My site has loaded quicker without errors ever since.

Collaboration

Every time I have a new idea I can’t wait to share it whether or not it’s been fully thought through or not. I get so excited about it I can’t think of anything else. In an effort to break up the silence in the car ride to a meeting, I began telling my coworker about my latest and greatest idea. She was a fan. I took this as an opportunity to bring in someone else into this new project who had more travel experience and a bigger consulting network. Times were slow on the project so we setup weekly meetings to plan and discuss content, demographic, formatting and overall vision of Weekly Flex Trip. By having a partner in crime this process has been a lot smoother, I think. I’m able to have a sounding board and someone to help me with the less glorious aspects of building out content on a blank site.

Content

We were able to identify four different content types for the site.

The first content type being city maps filled with places to eat, play and stay using Google’s My Map feature. This allows us to easily add new content in an interactive way for our readers. Each city had content filled in by residents of the city and frequent visitors ensuring readers won’t waste their time in bad restaurants or boring museums.

The second content type is user submitted trips. I think this is the most exciting portion of our site besides our expertly curated activities. We encourage our readers to share their past trips for others to see. By seeing and reading about what to do in San Francisco it will make it easier for someone to plan a trip. This makes it more likely they get out and travel. I’m looking to build a contest out of these submissions in order to entice readers to submit.

The third form is travel tips. This is essentially a blog of tips that I think of. After a year on the round I think I provide some advice to newer travelers. Some of the posts are reviews on articles I’ve read while others are tips and advice that I can give straight from the ol’ noggin.

One of the more playful content types is the challenge and it’s the fourth content type. I plan to have  new challenge every month or quarter. Not really sure yet. The current challenge is a drinking challenge for the plane. I figured all these consultants like to drink and talk about so this should be an easy one.

Marketing

Facebook used to allow individuals to promote their posts. I would do it on occasion when I felt particularly strong or positive about a new blog post. They’ve since removed this feature so I started looking into Facebook Ads. Facebook makes it fairly simple to create one but I did hit some speed bumps. I wasn’t aware of the difference between a campaign and an ad. I ended up creating five ads under on campaign with a threshold of $60 per ad over a one month period. Luckily four of the five ads were rejected for some reason or another. This saved me from having to shell out $300 to our Facebook overlords. I’m currently running one ad which received 34 Website Clicks for $39.12.

Monetization

I plan to monetize the site in three ways. Google Adsense, leveraging affiliation programs, creating an affiliation program and content sponsorships are my three main avenues. Google Adsense for the click-through revenue. Leveraging affiliation programs seem like a natural fit for the Deltas and Marriotts of the world. Creating my own affiliation program for AirBnB rentals – every user booked to your unit through my site will warrant a fee. Content sponsorships will work as any other sponsor would.

Struggles:

Just like any new business I’ve encountered some struggles. I could use some advice on them if anyone out there wants to lend a (free) helping hand. From my viewpoint, I need to understand who’s going to my website and what they’re doing there in order to figure ways to get them to come back. I have two analytics tools at my disposal, Google Analytics and Facebook Ad Manager, that I am not yet fluent in. Google Analytics has been installed since day one. In order for this website to succeed I feel I need to understand what is actually driving people to it.

  • Google Analytics
  • Facebook Ad Manager

Conclusions:

So far this has been a fun ride. Taking an concept from idea to reality is really rewarding. I feel this will help me in future ventures. Normally a blog on NikFuller.com takes some strike of lightning for me to write but with Weekly Flex Trip I’ve learned how to knock out content on demand. I feel it will really improve my writing and overall creative process. Please enjoy Weekly Flex Trip and forward it to your traveling/consulting friends.

Thanks!

Lean Packing Methodology

Trademark pending…FoldPackWearLPM

The Lean Packing Manifesto:

 We are uncovering better ways of packing clothes for a four-day travel week by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

  •  Function over form
  •  Overhead space over checked luggage
  •  Light weight luggage over clothing options
  • Planning over procrastination

 That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Lean Packing Methodology acts as a starting point for travel plans. It is to be used as a framework and guideline for business travel. Practitioners of the Lean Packing Methodology are encouraged to experiment and explore new avenues for leveraging the methodology while maintaining its integrity.

Lean Packing Methodology Checklist (Suggested):

Article Total # Breakdown Reason
Dress Shirt 4 Wear 1 on plane. 3 for suitcase. Business casual.
Underwear 5-6 Wear 1 on plane. 3 for suitcase. 2 for extra. Gotta stay fresh.
Dress Pants  1 Wear 1 on plane. Business casual.
Dress Shoes  1 Wear 1 on plane. Stylin’ profilin’.
Socks  5-6 Wear 1 on plane. 3 for suitcase. 2 for extra. Argyle.
Belt  1 Wear 1 on plane. Match shoes.
Athletic Shoes  1 1 for suitcase. No more excuses.
Casual Shirt  2 2 for suitcase. Relax.
Jeans  1 1 for suitcase. Relaxed fit.
Watch  1 Wear 1 on plane. Bling bling.
Water Bottle  1 1 for suitcase. Hydration is key.
Phone Charger  1 1 for suitcase. Juicin’.
Dopp Kit  1 1 for suitcase. Be clean.

Training Aids:

Please share the new and exciting Lean Packing Methodology with your fellow travel companions. As we grow, we will develop best practices for all genders. Together we can shape the future of business packing. Certifications in development. #LeanPackingMethodology

Landing Pages & Headlines

In an effort to subsidize the costs of WiFi at hotels many have taken to partnering with local newspapers. When a guest checks into the hotel and signs in through the portal with their name and room number they’ll be taken to the default landing page of the online paper. What a great way to learn about the community that many are visiting for the first time.

There’s one problem. Most newspapers highlight the crazy, weird and sad events of the day on their website. So whenever a guest logs into the internet for the first time they’re met with details about a double homicide instead of the kitten rescued by local firefighter.

Below are screenshots of the landing page from the past few weeks. Not really the best representation KSL has to offer. Maybe Marriott should rethink this partnership a little. Work is hard enough with having to read some of the headlines below. Enjoy!

Screenshots captured by @DMcCash.

Screenshot_2014-07-07-19-49-59

What a warm welcome. Glad I’m here too, Marriott.

Screenshot_2014-07-08-09-41-02

Well then. I’ll be sure to stay off the roads.

Screenshot_2014-07-08-19-56-10

Woolen mill fires are the worst.

Screenshot_2014-07-09-20-02-06

West Jordan born and raised. On the playground is where I spent most of my days.

Screenshot_2014-08-04-20-20-30

I can’t imagine the night he had before.