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  1. Entrepreneurship can be incredibly rewarding. It isn’t necessarily easy, but many find that the rewards more than make up for the challenges that it poses. If you are looking to become your own boss – whether on a full-time basis or in a part-time capacity – you may find these tips helpful. They can give you insight on where to focus your energies and how best to accomplish the goals you set for yourself. Finding an Outlet for Your Talents Perhaps the first thing that you should do if you’re thinking of becoming your own boss is determining what type of business will be right for you. Do you want to provide a product or a service? If you design your own jewelry or are an amateur photographer who is looking to monetize your talent, the answer to this question may already be obvious to you. But what if you don’t have a particular talent or product to sell? If this is the case, you still have choices, believe it or not. Companies like Amway provide an easy pathway to business ownership through their diverse product catalogs. If you are interested in getting into direct sales but have no product to sell, this path may be right for you. Choosing the outlet that is best for your needs – Amway, Etsy, Ebay, or a service of your own – is the first step in becoming your own boss. Staying Organized Once orders start coming in and appointments start getting scheduled, you’re going to need a way to track your increasingly busy schedule – particularly if you continue to maintain a full-time job during the work week. You may try to simply remember your obligations, but this is likely to prove difficult to impossible. Thankfully, there are a whole suite of mobile apps that can help you organize your life. For handling your finances, you may want to consider apps like Mint or Quickbooks (both owned by Intuit). Proven platforms that are easy to use, these apps can even help you create and send invoices, which is a crucial component of bookkeeping. For managing your daily tasks, apps like Todoist make it easy to create and check off tasks as you go. Staying organized will allow you to focus on what matters most – finding new business and selling yourself. Which brings us to our next tip. Marketing Yourself Selling yourself involves marketing. Thankfully, social media makes it easier than ever to connect with your audience. Don’t be afraid to start small; if you are expecting thousands of followers overnight, you are going to be disappointed. However, if you are patient and willing to grow your follower base slowly over time, you will likely find that social media is a terrific – and incredibly affordable – marketing platform. To market yourself effectively, pinpoint what it is that you want to say, who you want to tell it to, and then determine the best way to go about doing it. You may be inclined to start a Twitter or Instagram account, simply because those platforms are so well known, but does your product or service lend itself to these platforms? Do your customers use these platform? Tailor your marketing efforts around your audience; don’t force your audience to tailor their online behaviors around you. Find where they are and go to them. Know When to Take a Break Running your own business, even on a part-time basis, is often a full-time job. You will at various times find that you are tired and overwhelmed. For your own good, remember to take time off for yourself – otherwise, you may not be able to give your company the time and energy that it deserves (and needs to succeed). If you are “on the clock” at all hours of the day, you could be doing yourself more harm than good. To ensure that you are maintaining a healthy and sustainable work-life balance, consider taking advantage of sleeping aid apps, like Sleep Cycle. Being well-rested has a host of health benefits, including improved energy, stamina, and mental aptitude. For the best chance of success, your company needs a stable captain at the helm – you can’t fulfill this role unless you are well-rested and mentally sharp. Developing a Financial Plan Obviously, you’re going to want your business to make a profit. This requires sound financial planning. The apps discussed above – Mint and Quickbooks, to name just two examples – can aid in invoicing, budgeting, and money tracking, but it’s important that you look at your finances not just from ground level, but from 30,000 feet as well. For example, what are your expenses? What is your monthly income? What is your debt? All of these metrics will factor into the ultimate sustainability (and feasibility) of your company. To get a quick overview of what your finances look like – and what sort of revenue may be needed on a monthly or yearly basis to break even – use a budget calculator to run quick calculations. With such a tool, you can gauge what your monthly costs will be, how much you can afford to pay yourself, how much money should be held in reserve for expenses, and other crucial financial decisions. Once you determine these fundamentals, you can then use money management tools to dive into the details. You Can Be Your Own Boss It may seem daunting, but starting your own business isn’t out of the realm of possibility. There will certainly be challenges along the way, but you can help your chances of success by leveraging the right tools and doing some planning in advance. Use mobile apps and software to manage the day-to-day and month-to-month operations, leverage social media for marketing and customer outreach, and remember to set aside time for yourself. Do these and you may be surprised at your success. The post 5 tips on how to become your own boss appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  2. Web hosting is the backbone of any good website. If anything goes wrong with your web hosting, it could have a dramatic and immediate impact on your business. However, there are so many web hosting providers these days that it can be hard to know which one to choose. In the following article, we’ll present you with some of our most useful tips for finding a great web hosting provider. It’s All About Reliability Without a doubt, the most important thing to consider when looking for a web hosting service is their reliability. Any down time on a server can cost you custom and money, so check out your potential provider’s track record and their guarantees on uptime. Ask your provider what their backups entail in the event of a utility failure. No provider is going to be able to provide or guarantee 100% uptime – and if they do, they’re lying – so check out their user guarantees and aim for something that’s at least in the 95% and upwards bracket. If it checks out, go for it. If not, stay away and save yourself from losing uptime and money. Don’t Skimp On Support & Back Up Tied to the issue of reliability, a provider’s support services and back up procedures have got to be up to scratch before you even consider giving them your details or transferring to their servers. Whatever your business or your location, you’re going to want customer support that’s available 24/7, whether it’s via email or the phone. Of course, email is advantageous because – should things go south – you’ll always have a written trail to refer back to. Back up files are a given for any serious web hosting service. It pays to do your own back up to hard drive, but you can never back up enough and oftentimes the restore process will run a lot quicker from the server side. Of course, any down time can be catastrophic for the hosting company as well, as the recent 24-hour outage at OVH goes to show. Flexibility Is Good, But Read The Fine Print Given the changeable nature of the market, flexible contracts are not to be sneered at. Stay away from providers that seek to lock you into contracts or offer a limited ranged of options. Opt for a provider that allows different payment plans or scaled options depending on your intentions, anything that can be scaled within house is good. Ideally, a good provider should offer at least two or three different plans depending on usage and allow you to change plans depending on your needs. Disk Space & Data Transfers Whilst most websites don’t take up a lot of space, you should get as much disk space as possible when looking for a hosting plan, unless of course you’re really doing something basic. Oftentimes, web hosting services will target new or small businesses with plans that will constrain or hamper their growth potential, forcing them to purchase costly extras at a later stage or even pay excess monthly fees. Whatever your intentions with your site, plan for growth. Bear in mind of course that web hosting is quite different to website building, which we’ve discussed at length before, and don’t ever allow a hosting provider to impact on the design or layout of your site simply because they can’t or won’t provide sufficient disk space. If that ever happens, it’s time to switch providers. The post 4 tips for finding the best web hosting provider appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  3. Having a personal assistant is a dream most people have, and the latest influx of Android personal assistant apps are an attempt to realize that popular dream. HTC’s U11 boasts a new and improved personal assistant app dubbed Sense Companion, and while it may be a new addition to HTC’s long list of great features it is by no means new in the Android app world. There was a time where artificial intelligence was something out of a Sci-Fi movie, and what was considered high-tech was the ability to order food online or place bets from your tablet. The pace at which technology is moving forward is unprecedented, and personal assistant apps are being produced by every leading software developer in the word including Google, Microsoft and, more recently, HTC. Not considering hardware and software mashups like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, the most well-personal assistant software is Google Assistant, and it is what many agree to be the best in the market. Considering the vast amount of personal information Google logs about its users, this does not come as quite a surprise. The key to the success of Google Assistant compared to, for example, HTC’s Sense Companion, AIVC a.k.a. Alice, and Cortana among others is that it is virtually glitch proof. Or, at least, Google updates the app so religiously that no bug survives for long enough to upset users. As the new and improved version of 2012’s Google Now, Google Assistant has become a lot more user friendly. The latest preview of Google Assistant’s potential can be found in the Google Allo messenger app. The app allows users to adjust their calendar, device settings and filter through information from various accounts on Google. Simply put, the integrated Google Assistant can learn about you and provide suggestions while you are in a conversation with friends. The Google Allo app essentially offers possible answers to questions written in the chat, something like a third-party listener offering expert advice. Instead of sifting through the best casino resorts in Vegas, or the top restaurants near you, Allo suggests in while you are having your conversation. A solid idea since it helps users skip an extra step of going straight to Google. But how well does the concept work on personal assistants created by other software developers like HTC? HTC released their own PA app; the Sense Companion along with their latest line of smartphones. Much like Google Assistant software in Google Allo does, the HTC Sense Companion offers useful suggestions for restaurants, traffic warnings, weather forecasts among other helpful features to keep your settings and battery power in check. It also tracks just how much you use your phone and gives out usage warnings. What it does not do, however, is give suggestions on what to do instead like Forest or UnPlug. The key advertising points for Sense Companion was that it is always learning about you by retrieving information from third parties; namely Google. Therefore, the revolutionary feature depends on an information bank that has its own highly customized personal assistant. While still useful, Google’s personal assistant remains to be one step ahead of HTC, but time will tell who will come out on top of the AI race. The post Android personal assistants: HTC U11’s Sense Companion vs Google Assistant appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  4. Have you ever wondered how technology has affected the way we communicate? I mean, we’ve definitely come a long way from the rotary phone and string & cup calling system. Between sending embarrassing videos that disappear after ten seconds, to texting each other constantly, the mobile phone and all the applications that come with it, has really changed how society interacts. There is a feeling of being constantly connected to those around us, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, when was the last time you really enjoyed the way that you communicate? Did you really have fun sending that text to your boss to tell him you’d be five minutes late? Was that last Snapchat you sent as epic as it could have been? A lot of the messaging and communication apps we have become so accustomed to, have sort of lost their novelty. And with Facebook copying Instagram, Instagram coping Snapchat, and more, it seems that all communication apps today are sort of blending together and losing their originality. Well, like with everything nowadays, there’s an app to solve that problem. Snaappy is a 3D communication platform that offers users all the features of your typical messaging app, together with some unorthodox elements, creating a fun and refreshing twist on communication. Snaappy is the messaging app that just keeps on giving. The app’s almost never-ending list of features guarantees that users will have fun while communicating with friends and family. Snaappy’s most obvious feature is the 3D stickers available via the app. Snaappy the Bear, the namesake for the app, and his eight friends are all available free to download as sticker packs. All of the stickers are characters with distinct personalities users can relate to. Snaappy aims to change how we communicate, and characters lets users have entire conversations with only 3D stickers not words. Using a prediction algorithm, Snaappy even predicts what sticker is the best reaction to the one you just received. Snaappy helps users express feelings emojis cannot because the characters represent emotions that are real. We’ve all experienced the dread of anxiously waiting for a response, as the ellipsis bubble flashes on screen and almost mocks you. It’s literally torture. Whether you just asked your crush to dinner or fessed up to your boss that you made a type-o, sometimes it just sucks to wait. But with Snaappy you don’t have to. Snaappy offers users a live-typing feature, meaning that users can see what someone is typing before they hit send. Whether it’s your significant other, colleague, or friend, now you can see what your contacts really think about you. Snaappy introduces users to a texting culture that doesn’t exist yet, by eliminating stressful waiting periods, knowing what their friends really think about them, and avoiding the storage of sensitive chat history, all while saving on data storage dramatically. The latest version of the app, available in both the Apple Store and Google Play, sports a new AR video and picture editor. The AR editor lets users enhance all their favorite pictures and videos with the app’s 3D stickers. Once an animation is added, users can upgrade these animations with text bubbles and voice notes. Snaappy turns the most basic of images and videos into cute movie clips! Although Snaappy offers users all the traditional features of a messaging app, we’re not sure yet if its string of unorthodox features will be enough to make it stand out in the competition. If you’re looking at Whatsapp and Viber, Snaappy definitely doesn’t fall into the category of standard messaging. However, it’s not as AR featured as Snapchat. It’s somewhere in the middle. Whether its myriad of features, yet original approach to how we communicate will succeed, only time will tell. The post Snaappy makes everyday communication a bit more fun and revealing appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  5. If you ask me, the blockchain ecosystem has had two major, technology defining moments. The first was, of course, the creation of Bitcoin, the original blockchain. The second was the creation of Ethereum, the virtual machine that has made blockchain based services increasingly common in the past year. Most services we hear about are Ethereum based, because of how relatively easy it has made creating a blockchain powered service. While most services find Ethereum to be suited for their needs, it seems there are still some out there who believe building their own blockchain is the best way to bring forth the blockchain based future we’ve all been hearing about lately. Zen Protocol’s claim to fame is that their freshly built sidechain helps create a crypto based financial platform. Unlike Bitcoin, the blockchain Zen is built parallel to, the protocol can handle more than just transactions. According to the team at Zen, the smart contracts in their chain can actually take real world assets into account, such as commodity, stocks, and even real estate. This makes this new chain a more fully fledged financial system than the others we’ve seen so far. According to Zen, their chain is built with technology missing from Ethereum and other virtual machines in order to make them efficient when it comes to smart contracts, and always verifiable, which is what lets the chain connect with real world assets. The chain was built with F*, a functional programming language built created by Microsoft. This language focuses on quick verification, pre-calculation, and allocation of resources, which is the missing ingredient to other chains utilizing smart contracts. The system knows to alert miners ahead of time as to how much computing resources are needed to verify a specific contract before mining, making sure all contracts will always be verified. While this is all well and good, the question that remains is are we, as a society, ready for a fully decentralized financial system? Some people might like the comfort of a big organization “taking care” of their money, rather than a ledger that’s verified by all. While it might actually be more secure, putting your real estate, stocks, bonds, and the rest of your financial portfolio in the hands of everyone can sound alarming to some. While I do think Zen will have a certain level of popularity within those already enamored with crypto, it remains to be seen if their vision, a truly decentralized, mainstream financial system, will be realized by their product. The post This startup claims to be the missing link in the financial blockchain appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  6. Online marketing is a complex activity. Besides the quick advancements of the digital environment, technology is rising at great speeds. Nowadays, everyone has a phone that can access the entire web database. That is why the online medium is the best environment in which businesses can promote their products to an almost infinite number of interested customers. However, there are some big yet very overlooked differences between pure online marketing strategies and other offline marketing schemes that somehow connect with the online ones. When it comes to starting an online brand, there are many things that can go totally wrong. Lots of mistakes to avoid, lots of challenges to overcome, and most importantly, lots of important decisions to make; these are the aspects that are challenging every marketer, entrepreneur, or small businessmen who will try to promote his or her business in the online sphere. In today’s post, I’m going to share some of the most common mistakes that marketers do while trying to establish and grow their brand presence online. Instead of falling into the same pitfalls, better start noting down everything you find relevant for the future. Don’t commit the same mistakes as many marketers did, and you’ll find your brand progressing at the fastest speeds. Let’s get right to it. 1. Failing to Properly Optimize Your Brand’s Online Presence It doesn’t matter what your business is about. As long as you want to promote it online, there are certain “big factors” you need to take into consideration: Your SEO Strategy Every big brand has an SEO strategy in place. After all, you don’t want to pay for all the traffic and for sure you’d make good use of some free, organic traffic. Here’s where many marketers go wrong: they understand that they absolutely have to place their websites in the SERPs, however, they get stuck with other marketing strategies that might now benefit them in the longer run. When you launch a new brand presence, search engine optimization should be the first in your mind. First, take care of the on-site optimization, and then proceed with the offline one. Your Social Media Presence Social media is huge right now. Everyone’s spending time on at least one social network, and you can probably find every type of customer you can imagine. All in all, social networks are the most frequented online environments that are visited by our future customers. You need to properly display your brand name throughout more social networks. Build professional pages and optimize them as well as you can. Once you’re all set, you need to offer your target audience personalized, valuable, and consistent content that either solves their problems or helps them satisfy needs. Website User Experience Some websites can even give you headaches. You keep waiting for pages to load, you fail to find important details, and the overall user experience they’re offering is unbearable. Well, that’s one of the frequent mistakes that you must avoid. When you welcome a potentially interested customer, you want him to feel like at home. Do your best to improve his experience, and your brand’s reputation will go up. Some websites can even give you headaches. You keep waiting for pages to load, you fail to find important details, and the overall user experience they’re offering is unbearable. Well, that’s one of the frequent mistakes that you must avoid. When you welcome a potentially interested customer, you want him to feel like at home. Do your best to improve his experience, and your brand’s reputation will go up. Some websites can even give you headaches. You keep waiting for pages to load, you fail to find important details, and the overall user experience they’re offering is unbearable. Well, that’s one of the frequent mistakes that you must avoid. When you welcome a potentially interested customer, you want him to feel like at home. Do your best to improve his experience, and your brand’s reputation will go up. 2. They Don’t Have a Pre-Marketing Strategy When you’re launching a new brand, your primary goal is to improve the awareness of the public. You want your name to be heard by as many potential customers as possible, therefore you must think of some pre-marketing strategies that will aid you with your goal. If a product or a brand has some buzz before its launch, it’ll gain a lot of momentum. During your launch days, you’ll probably sell your products more than you’ll do in the next following months. Implement some pre-marketing strategies like discounts, exclusive spots, and other opportunities that people can seize right before your launch date. Do not neglect the pre-marketing process; you’ll feel sorry for it later. 3. Not Defining a Specific Target Audience There are many causes for which businesses and products fail to work. However, one of the most serious mistakes you can commit is failing to establish a specific target audience for your brand. Your target audience should be narrowed down to a “target persona.” Once you figure out who your ideal target customer is (target persona), you can start crafting your content, your marketing strategies, and your product or service personalization according to his or her needs and problems. 4. They Neglect Networking Resourcefulness is the most important quality that an entrepreneur and marketer can cultivate in time. You’re resourceful when you know different people, when you know where to look when you encounter problems, and when you understand that almost every issue can be solved through one way or another. In the online marketing business, networking plays a huge role in the establishment of new connections and relationships with other individuals and businesses. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are the best platforms to look for connectivity with like-minded professionals, so if you haven’t started, do it right now. 5. The Brand Isn’t Product-Specific When you think of Coca-Cola – what do you see? Most people will immediately see the bottle of black coke, maybe even cold as ice. Yet, Coca-Cola is a giant corporation that owns much more products and spreads across more industries. They have succeeded to gain this incredible popularity because they focused their branding and marketing efforts on one product only: the ever-lasting Coca-Cola bottle of juice. If you want your customers to remember your brand while presenting it online, you need to make it product-specific. Emphasize the benefits that your products and services offer, and make it easy to remember. The simpler, the better. 6. They Fail to Send Out a Clear Message What’s your brand’s unique value proposition? Is it something that really stands out? Is it something that oversteps the benefits of the competition? If your answer is a clear “yes”, you can even skip this point. But, if your brand’s message isn’t that well-established, you might have a problem. You see, every consumer wants to know what he’s getting from the deals he’s making. After all, he’s trading his most valuable currency for something productive in return. How can he come to you if your brand’s promise isn’t clear, satisfying, or helpful? The answer is simple: he just won’t. He’ll find another brand that’s offering something better than you. The problem doesn’t lie in the quality of the products, but rather in the way marketers present them. Put your product in the best possible angle and it’ll sell! 7. The Brand Name is Hurting the Business Here’s a subtle thing that can go wrong. The name of your brand will stay forever, and you just can’t turn back. That’s why sometimes figuring the perfect brand name is one of the most challenging tasks when launching a new brand online. A good brand name is easy to remember, easy to spell, and easy to associate. The association part is definitely important, as that’s how the human mind works; it gathers information through experiences, and then it links that overall perspective of something to an object, person, or feeling. For example, Skittles has succeeded to spark representations of bright colors and rainbows in most of their consumers’ minds. Whenever you think of Skittles, you see a variety of colors along with the small fruit-flowered sweets that taste extremely well. Moreover, the product name is easy to spell and easy to remember. After all, they’ve matched the necessary criteria for being remarkable. 8. They Fail to Be Consistent The majority of brand launches fail because they fail to be consistent with their activity and promises. A blog that does no longer provide new content will die. It’s the same with your brand. You start with a promise, you enter the market, you make yourself visible, and then you’re on. Your activity needs to continue no matter what! Hannah Watson, Coordinating Online Marketer at Aussie Writings shares her perspective over the consistency issue that many marketers and brands fail to address: “Once you launch your brand, there’s no turning back. A “short break” from work might represent the company’s final stop. If you look closely, every successful big brand has maintained its consistency throughout time. Clients expect stability, they expect updates, and they expect to see motivated people behind the products and services they’re leveraging on a consistent basis.” Takeaways Never expect your job to be easy. After all, what you’re trying to accomplish is to become an authority in your niche market. Most consumers want to deal with the best companies, therefore you’ll encounter a lot of competition along the way. Obviously, that shouldn’t be of any concern to you, as your brand is unique and can be marketed in even more unique ways. Keep your head up and always look for solutions instead of blaming what happened. You’ll always have problems. Yet, the way you approach them and solve them is what truly differentiates you from the rest. The post The most common branding mistakes made by marketers appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  7. Ah, the sharing economy. It’s changed all our lives for the better. We can stay at people’s apartments, order food from anywhere we want, and, of course, zip around in our Uber to anywhere and everywhere for a fraction of the price we paid for cabs. Regular cab services used to be a sort of cartel, offering fixed prices and terrible service in cramped vehicles. But now there’s Uber, with its relatively new cars and courteous drivers that drive you to your destination with no fuss and little money. Everybody wins right? Not so much. There are losers in Uber’s sharing economy, namely, the drivers. While the sharing economy was greatly bolstered by Uber, and it used to be that drivers could earn a living, this is no longer the case. Currently, Uber drivers, who are mostly immigrants or those who struggle to find employment, are sometimes making below minimum wage, which you can see in this video of a driver yelling at then CEO Travis Kalanick. This overall disdain for Uber is being felt most of all in New York, where the company is used by almost everyone. If you live in New York you’re probably either an Uber driver or rider, and everyone is feeling this tension. Rydar app. Well, not everybody is standing back and letting Uber swindle it’s drivers out of a living salary. Rydar is launching its new Uber driver companion app to help drivers get the edge and hopefully make a respectable salary off of their Uber driving careers. While many Uber driver companion apps exist, Rydar is the only one using Uber’s official API to power their app, so the app works automatically for drivers and has more functionality than the competition. The app’s main selling points are an event calendar, so drivers can plan ahead for events that are coming up in their area, which could prove to be lucrative opportunities, pickup hotspots Uber drivers should hang around due to high traffic of Uber users, surge notifications, which is a common feature with other apps, and a mileage tracker that uses Uber’s API to track miles. According to Ryder, their app is the only one that automatically tracks drivers’ miles, rather than making them input the miles themselves. Mileage trackers are pretty common on the app store and help drivers figure out their income versus the upkeep of their car and gas costs. Uber was recently pressured into allowing riders to tip their drivers through various lawsuits and public pressure. This coupled with a strong TV and online campaign by their major competitor, Lyft (centered on the fact that Lyft allowed tipping since the beginning), painted Uber in a really bad light. It seems though that others, like Rydar, are doing their best to help drivers by working with Uber, rather than against it, building technological solutions, rather than PR ones. Rydar boasts all these things, but they haven’t really shared any testimonials showing that these features actually drastically improve drivers’ income, or if the app just gives them an extra buck or two a month, which might not be worth the hassle. The post Rydar wants to make the sharing economy a little more fair appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  8. Online retail has transformed the way that we shop. And it’s easy to see why. In many cases, it’s simply easier, more convenient, and often cheaper to buy things online than it is in person. For one, you’re guaranteed to find what you’re looking for – that can’t be said of shopping in person. Combine this with the fact that it can be done from your phone or laptop, and it’s plain to see why online shopping is so popular. But desktop browsing is hardly the end of the road for the digital shopping experience. These technologies are set to rewrite shopping once again. Augmented Reality Augmented reality shopping applications do just what they say: they augment a shopper’s reality to help them better visualize a product’s use. For example, someone can, using a smartphone or tablet, visualize what a new piece of furniture will look like in their home. Better yet, they can do this in real time, from multiple angles. The benefits of this technology are many; it gives shoppers a better sense of how a product might work in their everyday life, and provides a unique shopping experience that can’t be duplicated. Spearheaded by companies like Cimagine, augmented reality is likely to become more and more popular with retailers in the coming years. Virtual Reality If augmented reality brings the product to you, then it might be fair to say that virtual reality brings you to the product. Though not exactly common, VR shopping technology does exist. Chinese retailer Alibaba already has a trial VR shopping program, in fact. Buyers simply download the appropriate app and pair their phones with a suitable VR headset. They can then stroll the halls of American retail stores like Target and Macy’s right from their phones; if they see something they like, they can purchase the product online, and it will be shipped directly to their doors. Suffice to say, with 5G technology right around the corner, we can expect to see more virtual stores in the future. With enhanced mobile broadband capacity, lower latency rates, and universal coverage providing a more uniform experience for all, virtual reality will soon be as commonplace as video streaming is today. Visual Search Have you ever come across an item that you wanted to check prices on, but you didn’t know how to look it up? Visual search tools, like Camfind and the Google App, solve this problem. Simply photograph the item you want to look up, and the application does your work for you. Needless to say, this technology opens all sorts of possibilities for shoppers. Consider these possible use cases. Perhaps there’s a particular type of flower or tree in your neighborhood that you would like to buy for your garden, but you can’t identify the type. With visual search, you can simply photograph the flower, and find out the exact species or type. Or perhaps a co-worker has an article of clothing you’d like to buy for yourself, but you don’t know who makes it or what the style is called. Again, visual search can help. With visual search tools, finding items and buying them online is as easy as photographing them. Gamification Retailers are constantly looking for ways to engage and incentivize buyers. One strategy that has proven effective time and time again is gamification. If you don’t know what gamification is, it’s simply the practice of applying gaming principles to the retail experience. Think of McDonald’s and its yearly Monopoly sweepstakes. That’s the old way of doing things, however; increasingly, the gamification experience is going online. Companies like In2Win bring gamification to the masses by teaming up with retailers to offer cash prizes and discounts through their mobile app. For the consumer, there are no downsides – you can save money, earn prizes, and have fun while doing it. You likely play games on your device anyway. Why not play those same games but earn prizes in the process? That’s the premise of gamification in a nutshell. Automatic and Mobile Checkout The future of E-Commerce is arguably going to hinge on increased accessibility and usability. Companies like Sling and Square are already making that a possibility, by allowing micro merchants and small businesses to easily accept mobile payments, credit and debit payments, and more. This technology is only going to become more commonplace. Soon, paying your gardener with your phone will be as easy as shopping online is today. Technology will not only open-up all new possibilities for small businesses and micro merchants, but the buyer as well. In the not-too-distant future, the long-promised cashless society may finally come to fruition. If you can buy food from a taco truck using your smartphone, or pay your pool boy with a simple money transfer, why bother with cash anymore? That could soon be the new normal. Mobile payments, automatic checkout, and mobile money transfers will soon revolutionize the way that you shop. The post 5 technologies that are changing the way people shop appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  9. Every year about 300 million people try to start about 150 million businesses, out of which only one-third see the light of the day, which means 50 million firms are born every year. However, less than 10% of them manage to survive; a pretty shocking statistic. While 42% of the start-ups fail because there is no demand for their product, 17% aren’t successful because of an inappropriate business model and 14% due to poor marketing. If you are a new entrepreneur or planning to establish a business, you might be having second thoughts after reading these disappointing stats. As discouraging as these statistics are, they are not meant to demotivate you. In fact, they have been mentioned to guide you so that your business can be among the 10% that survive. So, majority businesses fail because of a misfit product, but you have tested the market and you believe that your product will be a hit. On top of that, you have also recruited the best team, but that still doesn’t guarantee that it would end up being a successful venture. Why? It is because the devil is in the details, which are often ignored. Let us illustrate with an example – Rdio, a music company launched by founders of Skype was started in 2010. The company managed to attract a lot of investors and soon was available in 60 countries. It was also termed as one of the best online streaming apps. The product was great, there was market demand, but 5 years down the road it filed for bankruptcy. What went wrong? The company had a poor marketing and distribution strategy. Rdio’s failure clearly shows that no matter how awesome your product may be, you need robust processes in place. In fact as a start-up, the first and the foremost thing you should do is establish processes, especially sales and business development process that can drive growth and add to the bottom line of your company. A sales process is not the same as a marketing process, hence, do not confuse the two. While marketing is about increasing your visibility, sales process involves converting potential customers into actual customers. It is more about lead generation and closing the final deal. By creating a process and breaking it into stages, you can better understand how to lead customers through each stage. Moreover, by doing so you will be able to identify at which stage you need to work the most by capturing data. Capturing data at each stage will help you identify trends that will eventually help you forecast your marketing strategies. The best advantage of a sales process is perhaps consistency, which reduces uncertainty for your employees as well as your customers. Of course, there is not one fool proof sales process out there that every company can replicate. A sales process of a technology company would be very different from that of a real estate company. However, every sales process has some common elements. A robust sales process is not only about closing deals, it also reflects the values of the organization, and its customers and products. It is basically a detailed plan about how to find clients, approach them and close deals. However, before you begin drafting a sales process, you need to observe. As a startup, you can benchmark best practices of the companies that are already successful in your niche. Once you do that, observe past few deals that you have done and identify the major steps involved, how long the entire process took and what were some of the bottlenecks. Your next step is to map out the process and then fill in the details. The idea is to come up with a process that is simple and easy-to-understand by an average sales representative. A general sales process usually starts with lead generation strategies. Your sales plan should include how to approach your customers. Plus, your sales reps should also know how to talk to customers. In case a sales rep annoys someone, it will hurt the image of your company and you will end up losing a potential client. Moreover, your sales reps should also know how to identify a qualified customer, someone who is actually interested and can afford your product or service. Otherwise, they will be wasting time and each minute lost is going to cost your company. Once your sales reps manage to attract the attention of a qualified customer, they should know how to proceed further. Extensive knowledge about the product is extremely crucial at this stage. Also, the sales reps should know what customers demand they can accept and what are against the company’s policy. The example of Dijiwan is quite relevant here. Dijiwan failed miserably and had to file for bankruptcy. One of the mistakes the company made was that it gave out a lot of discounts in the hope of signing new, cyclical contracts in the future. Those contracts never happened. On top of it, the CEO was not really sure about the product that he was selling and, hence, was not able to convince the customers. Perhaps, the most vital step in the process is closing deals. Most of the sales fail because sales reps are not able to close the deal. Your sales process should mention in detail how a sale should be closed and what formality needs to be completed once you have an order. Your sales process doesn’t end at defining the steps involved. Once you are done with that, you need to document the process to make it scalable and repeatable. Building an apt sales pipeline template can also be of great help in this regard. Next, you have to set up some metrics to measure the performance of your sales team. You can use these metrics to pinpoint issues and subsequently improve performance. It is better if you can establish some guidelines for hiring and training your sales staff as part of the process. Just having a sales process in place does not a guarantee success; it is more about executing it correctly. Also, remember that your sales process should always be work in progress. Customers’ demands and market trends change every day. Hence, it would be better if you take feedback from your sales representatives and update your processes accordingly. The post The importance of having a sales process in place as a startup appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  10. Lots of online computer games pit one player against another player, or multiple players. This applies to games played on game consoles, PCs, laptops, and mobile devices including phones and tablets. Some games are also played on various platforms through social networking sites. It’s quite normal for players to adopt pseudonyms, so the chances are that you have no idea what the real identity of your opponent is. In other words there is an element of risk involved as far as your personal security is concerned. There is also a financial risk to be taken into consideration and this risk is now heightened by the increasing number of games that demand you purchase “in-game items” for real money. The various types of risks you can encounter through online gaming Any sort of gaming, and this includes games played at online casinos, contains a certain risk element. The sorts of risks you need to be aware of include: Being involved with large bands of potentially anonymous players in gaming, especially where those games are huge, multi-player role-play games. Getting involved in chats and exchanges when you might unthinkingly divulge personal information such as passwords, email addresses and your age. Being duped by unscrupulous individuals who pretend to offer help, but who pass on malware such as spyware, and viruses. Downloading or playing pirated game copies with could result in you being financially penalised. Being hoodwinked by cyber thieves who steal money from you by selling you fake “in-game” property. Throwing away old gaming consoles that still contain personal information. Becoming totally addicted to certain games, both role playing and gambling, and spending too much time and/or money playing them. Genuine gaming sites, like for example sites where you can deposit and play with real money, go to great lengths to extend the best cyber security they can to keep their customers safe, but you owe it to yourself to take certain precautions too. Self-precautions you need to take to ensure safe online gaming The precautions that you can take as an individual are not only in respect of gaming. Some of these precautions apply to doing anything online. They include: Being careful when constructing usernames and passwords. Ensure they are not too obvious and give nothing away. A blend of totally randomized letters, numbers and characters are best—or even better, use a password manager like 1Password to generate random passwords. If you have to create a player profile for specific gaming sites or particular games, ensure that you do not divulge any personal information that could be used against you. Ensure that you have current anti-virus and anti-malware software, and having a strong firewall deployed is a prerequisite to any online activity. Only play authorized versions of games. Only use websites that have good cyber security certification. Only use websites you frequent regularly and that you trust. Make sure that any game software you use is up to date. Most good games and gaming sites regularly update game software each time you download it. Nonetheless, it pays to be sure. Keep yourself up to date with current scams and always be on the alert. Over 700 million people are involved in online gaming, so it is no wonder that this market is attractive to cyber criminals. By being aware of the various security threats that exist and following the safety tips given above, you should be able to enjoy a secure online gaming experience time after time. The post How to enjoy a safe and secure online gaming experience appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  11. Thanks Chuck!
  12. AdTech has been a very lucrative field in the past several years, but still, it seems Google Facebook continue to dominate, projected to corner half of the digital advertising market between them until the end of 2017. Even still, more and more players are joining the field, promising advertisers better results and publishers an ability to better monetize their products. One such company, focusing on monetization of mobile apps, is Glispa. Glispa, a mobile AdTech company, has unveiled its new Avocarrot SSP dashboard for app developers and owners to monetize their products. According to the company, this new dashboard for publishers offers more control in a more user friendly dashboard, helping app developers of any stripe and any level make more money from their apps. The company claims to be able to target users more effectively than other display solutions utilizing its proprietary GAP (Glispa Audience Platform) technology. The technology supposedly utilizes big data in order to collect and execute insights on user targeting. Glispa claims to have access to over 1 billion users. The AdTech industry has been taking a beating lately from the aforementioned Google and Facebook, mostly due to the massive amounts of information the two giants have about their users, making targeting both easier and more effective to execute. That, alongside ad blockers, which are slowly moving from the client side to the carrier side, have further hindered the display market, making growth within the industry almost non-existent in the past several years. Still, AdTech startups are raising a lot of money and trying to roll out new technologies and strategies in order to beat the odds and fight against the challenges. And some are succeeding. When I asked Glispa what’s so interesting about this new platform, they said it’s main attractor is combining mediated advertising with programmatic advertising, previously handled by two separate products. The new platform also has many more features, including the ability for publishers to manage the content offering shown on their apps at any level. You can manage targeting at a behavioral level, beyond just the usual demographics, making sure it’s relevant to your audience, or you can work a high level if you don’t feel like getting into the nitty gritty. According to Itamar Benedy, CRO of Glispa, “With this launch, we now have the leading native monetization platform for app developers.” That remains to be seen, with display advertising losing more and more of its market share to the giants of Silicon Valley. Tell me about any new tools you love in the comments below. The post Glispa thinks there’s room for another AdTech product with its new release for publishers appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  13. Although for many of us IoT presents an exciting new horizon to explore, this relatively new tech sector also opens up a great opportunity for hackers to wield their axe of destruction. While most computers and mobile devices now come with at least basic protocols and addons aimed at protecting us from exploits, billions of new IoT devices come into our lives without even basic means of protection. Nevertheless, having an IoT gadget hacked can be equally detrimental as having a computer hacked. Today we’ll be looking at the most likely ways for hackers to try for access and how to prevent bad things from happening. From the perspective of cyber attacks, a smart thermostat or a talking washing machine is no different than a computer. Any vulnerable device connected to your home or corporate network can serve as an entry point for a hacker. Home Burglary Assistance Although the latest generation of burglars have tried using their victims’ social media activities to work out their daily routine, you can’t say this was a scaleable tactic. Home automation, however, has potentially made this scaleable enough to attract interest from various shady individuals. The concept at the core of the majority of home automation devices – starting with smart lightbulbs and ending with thermostats – is to work out their owner’s routine so that they can provide comfort and gratification according to when their humans arrive from work knackered expecting the soothingly green LEDs to be exactly on 55% power and their living room heated to no more no less than 72 degrees Fahrenheit. So, technically, a hacked smart thermostat can send information about your arrivals and departures to its new “owner” who can in turn then collate this data to work out when is the best time to burgle the property. Involuntary Taking Part in Attacks Modern day IoT security threats can be divided into two groups – inbound, when hackers target you specifically to cause you damage, and outbound, when they don’t care much about the gains they could make from you. In this case your smart devices can become members of a zombie botnet; and we’re talking huge botnets of potentially billions of zombie soldiers. In most cases such botnets are used to carry out Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks or alternatively as computing power to break passwords or mask the real location of the hackers. Recently, it’s been difficult for hackers to scale their botnets because computers and mobile devices are getting protected by antivirus software and firewalls. IoT sector that lacks a unified and tested set of methods for protection is a great opportunity for them to build botnets in a previously unimaginable scale. It’s no longer science fiction – a recent DDoS attack on a hosting company was carried out by hacking more than 140,000 IoT devices. This is a relatively small botnet. Considering the sheer number of home automation devices in use and with many more lined up for production, botnets can bloat to a size we’ve never experienced before. How Hackers Gain Access to Your Smart Home The most obvious way is by guessing a password. Do you remember the time when an IP camera came with a preset username/password that usually equalled root/1234. How many people did actually bother to change that password? The funny thing is that a home security camera (I’m making an emphasis on the word “security”) is still one of the easiest entry points into your home network. Very few cameras come with a login lockdown meaning that hackers can try as many username/password combinations as they wish. And in most cases, they don’t have to try many before they’re in. Other simple routes into your automated home can e a badly set-up wireless router or a stolen mobile phone. All three aforementioned issues can be easily fixed by applying strong passwords. For example, if an Android phone is stolen and it doesn’t have a password-enabled key lock, the thief will gain access to all the apps that are used to manage the various smart devices around your home. That’s all they need. There are more intricate ways of gaining access, though. A rather famous security research company TrapX released an interesting piece of research showing how a smart home was hacked though a rooted Nest thermostat. To pull this off, a hacker needs to have physical access to your Nest, so you wouldn’t be able to replicate this scenario with a shop-bought Nest device, however, if it was bought second hand on eBay or other shady sources, the device could have been “jailbroken” by installing software on its operational system or even the processor’s firmware. The same goes for IoT devices bought from anywhere else apart from official sources. For example, if you buy an IoT kit or even a smart robot kit for your child off an unfamiliar website located thousands of miles across the ocean, you may receive a Trojan Horse with a vulnerability on-board. How to Make IoT Devices More Secure If you’re already running smart devices that can receive and transmit data, it’s time for you to scan your system for vulnerabilities. As with almost everything else these days, there is software for that too. You can try this one offered by Bullguard or if you’re concerned about your corporate IoT security, try RioT. Although the IoT security industry is still very new, there are a few physical solutions for securing your automated home – two that spring to mind are Securifi Almond and Bitdefender – both of which are pieces of hardware that add an extra security layer to all your home devices. If you prefer a more virtual approach and don’t mind a bit of home DIY, try Home Assistant which will let you monitor your smart devices closely. Some of the main security holes could be patched up by manufacturers committing to using internal data encryption. The reason why so many IoT devices come without data encryption on-board is that it impacts retail price to a point where it narrows the target audience too much. If you were to encrypt data exchanged between a motion sensor and a smart thermostat, we’re instantly talking about more powerful processors, larger sizes and, of course, a knock-on effect on the retail price. The industry needs to step up and develop a viable strategy for IoT security. Some of the manufacturers are clearly reluctant to do so as it would mean they’d have to hike the prices or take a cut in profits. While there is a shortage of professional security solutions, it’s up to the homeowners or business owners to make sure hooking up the next shiny smart device to their network doesn’t open a vulnerability. The post IoT Security: How to prevent your smart thermostat from joining a botnet appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  14. Podcasts help many people get overviews of the day’s headlines, learn foreign languages and chuckle during their commutes while listening to sharp-witted comedians. There’s literally something for everyone with today’s podcasts: you can find podcasts on the latest healthcare news or episodic tales of fiction and true crime. Maybe you’re already a loyal podcast subscriber, or perhaps you’re ready to explore the trend. Whatever the case, there are several ways you can discover podcasts that suit your tastes, keep all your feeds up to date and save episodes to your trusty devices. Use Breaker to Locate Lovable Broadcasts One of the hardest things about picking out podcasts is choosing the top-quality or best-reviewed possibilities. Until recently, this has been largely a process based on trial and error or word-of-mouth. However, what can you do in the absence of tuned-in and well-intentioned pals? The Breaker app is a feature-packed solution. Not only does it have a built-in podcast player, but it also includes several discovery tools powered by people in your social networks and fellow podcast listeners that are also using Breaker. Quickly find the highest-rated options and give them high ratings of your own if you agree with the masses. Rely on an App With a Synchronization Feature Many of today’s top podcast tool developers realize that people listen to podcasts in many different environments. Whereas one person might love to listen to streams on her laptop while she cooks dinner every night, another individual might prefer to get podcasts via a smartphone and hear them during gym workouts. This high degree of variation has meant that many top podcast apps, including Pocket Casts, sync podcasts across multiple devices. If you download an episode from a title offered by NPR on the bus while riding home from college, it will also go to other internet-enabled gadgets as soon as you connect them to Wi-Fi. Using an app that saves your episodes in the cloud means you don’t have to manually put them on certain devices. They just appear there automatically after completed transfers. Set Episode Storage Limits As you excitedly find podcasts that become new favorites, you might notice the free space on your device rapidly decreasing. One way to cope with that common scenario is to tweak the default storage limits within Apple’s Podcasts app. Doing that involves going into the Settings icon on your iOS device and finding the section for podcasts. You’ll notice sections related to limiting episodes and deleting episodes you have already heard. The first option is good to play around with if you like a certain podcast with daily episodes that quickly eat up space on your Apple product. On the other hand, maybe you don’t want to manually delete episodes after listening and prefer if the app takes care of it. It’s a good idea to get those settings just the way you want them before saving podcasts regularly. Otherwise, you might find your device devotes too much space to them. Check out Spotify’s Newly Added Podcasts If you are a Spotify user and don’t want to spend a lot of time searching for podcasts on your own, the section of the streaming service for podcasts is a good place to start. Listen to titles representing multiple genres directly in the Spotify app. After finding one of interest, tap the icon with the three dots directly to the right of the podcast’s title and select “Download” to enable offline listening after the episode moves over to your device. No matter how acquainted you are with podcasts, these powerful tips will help you make the most of every episode. They might even help you find streaming content that gives new perspectives on familiar topics. The post 4 easy ways to find and save new podcasts appeared first on BestTechie. View the full article
  15. Hey bearskin!!! Glad to see you're finally past your Windows Me phase. B