The Year Without Pants Gets You Putting on Your Thinking Cap (Part 2)

published on September 11, 2014

If you haven’t gotten a copy of Scott Berkun’s “The Year Without Pants” yet, now is the perfect time to get one. The book is filled with nuggets of insight and wisdom applicable to today’s modern businesses.

For those who are hearing about it for the first time, check out a previous article to get you started. For those who have been following this article, here are a few more interesting excerpts from the book we think will get your creative thinking juices flowing.

The Future of Business

The Advice Paradox

  • No matter how much advice you have, you must still decide intuitively what to use and what to avoid. Even if you seek meta-advice, advice on which advice to take, the paradox still applies as you make the same choice about that advice too.

Modern Work vs Traditions

  • The problem with modern work, and one that sheds light on the future, is how loaded workplaces are with cultural baggage. We faithfully follow practices we can’t explain rationally. Why is it that work has to start at 9:00 a.m. and end at 5:00 p.m.? Why are you required to wear a tie if you’re a man and a skirt if you’re a woman?
  • We follow these practices because we were forced to when we entered the workforce, and over time, they became so familiar we’ve forgotten they are merely inventions.
  • A central element in Automattic culture was results first. Nobody cared when you arrived at work or how long you worked. It didn’t matter if you were pantless in your living room or bathing in the sun, swinging in a hammock with a martini in your hand. What mattered was your output.
  • Every tradition we hold dear was once a new idea someone proposed, tried, and found valuable, often inspired by a previous tradition that had been outgrown.
  • The responsibility of people in power is to continually eliminate useless traditions and introduce valuable ones. An organization where nothing ever changes is not a workplace but a living museum.

On Managing Human Resources

  • 4 Freedoms practiced in Automattic:
    1. Hire great people.
    2. Set good priorities.
    3. Remove distractions.
    4. Stay out of the way.
  • The hardest part of work is what goes on between your ears and between you and your coworkers.
  • The trends and gadgets that make up most conversations about the future of work miss the point. Instead of vice presidents seeing the problem as a lack of a tool or a secret method, they should realize they’re in the way more than they realize. Granting authority is more powerful than any software, device, or method.
  • Remote work is merely physical independence, and the biggest challenge people who work remotely face is managing their own psychology. Since they have more independence, they need to be masters of their own habits to be productive, whether it’s avoiding distractions, staying disciplined on projects, or even replacing the social life that comes from conventional work with other friendships.

On Leadership

  • Being a good lead is all about switching hats: knowing which level of abstraction to work at to solve a problem. It’s rarely a question of intelligence; instead, it’s picking the right perspective to use on a particular challenge.
  • To understand who people really are, start a fire. When everything is going fine, you see only the safest parts of people’s character. It’s only when something is burning that you find out who people really are.

The Data Paradox

  • All metrics create temptations. Even with great intentions and smart minds, data runs you faster and faster into a stupid self-destructive circle. Data can’t decide things for you.
  • No matter how much data you have, you still depend on your intuition for deciding how to interpret and then apply the data.

On Creativity

  • At Automattic, the traps of trying to make things safe are resisted, although people are motivated more by their sense of independence than an awareness of a grand philosophical principle. The basic notion is that if people are smart and respect not blowing things up, too many safety measures get in the way. Instead, employees are trusted and empowered to release things fast.
  • Employees were treated like adults. By not having too many safeguards, we were trusted to pay full attention. Keeping things a little dangerous made things safer.

If you want more of Scott Berkun, make sure to get a copy of his book, “The Year Without Pants”. You won’t want to put it down.


Life begins at 4.0

published on September 1, 2014

WordPress 4.0 debuts as scheduled August 27, 2014. In a sneak peek video conducted by Morten Rand-Hendriksen, he gives a rundown of the latest features that can be expected in this latest iteration. Here’s what he shared:

  • Language Selection Screen – Option to choose language aside from English upon install.
  • Sticky Post Editor Toolbar – Toolbar stays or “sticks” on top even while editing or scrolling down through your post. Extra panels like SEO, Excerpts, etc. can be dragged and dropped into the sidebar for easy access. Spellcheck can be added via a plugin or by Jetpack’s Spelling and Grammar. Extra buttons or meta boxes can also be added via plugins.
  • Ability to add videos and actually watch it in the Post Editor (oEmbed).
  • Media Library Grid Enhancements: filter, search, toggle display options.
  • Enhanced Install Plugins experience – instead of a vertical list new grid pattern layout somehow similar to the Theme Installer experience with emphasis on the plugin ratings.
  • Widgets can be edited in the Customizer with a live preview where you can see what goes on before actually publishing.

If you’d like to learn more about what to expect in WordPress 4.0 before its official release, you can watch the whole video presentation event of Morten Rand-Hendriksen including answers to real-time questions by viewers posted on Google+.


Integrated Marketing Can Maximize Social Media Success

published on August 19, 2014

Companies that want to make a heavy splash on social media should consider taking an integrated, or blended, approach in how they market. Integrated marketing takes a coordinated approach to spreading a message, using different formats and media.

A well-balanced approach uses content in many forms — blogs, photos, video, events — to extend the reach of a business website. It also means devoting serious resources and time to do it well. For business to consumer (B2C) firms, this means strategic and regular posts on Facebook and Twitter, where consumers are most likely to be found. According to Social Media Today, more than 70 percent of consumers will make a purchase based on a referral from a social media site, particularly Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Social Media is an Extension of the Website

Website traffic is notoriously brief, while social media, particularly Facebook, is a true “time suck,” to borrow Betty White’s famous phrase. While the bulk of website visits last for a minute or less, the time the average American spends much more time on social media. Business Insider recently reported the average time spent on Facebook is just under one hour per visit. Therefore, it makes complete sense to focus as much on Facebook as you do on your website.

Most Facebook business pages link to specific website content to encourage visitors to stay a bit to read or watch, browse the site, and make purchases or request more information that can lead to a purchase.

What type of content should you produce? It really depends on what appeals most to your target audience. For any content to resonate with a Google search, it must obviously be relevant. The Content Marketing Institute also suggests some consistency in output for items like blogs, but less so for more time-consuming efforts:

  • Written and spoken content (blogs, articles, podcasts) should be frequent and regular
  • Projects like videos, white papers, webinars, and ebooks can appear less often
  • Special events like webinars, contests, and guest posts can be occasional; in fact, too many of them may start to feel gimmicky.

Mobile Customers and the Twitter Advantage

Twitter acts more like a website outreach tool, particularly for the mobile market. While it doesn’t have Facebook’s market dominance, it’s less of a time suck and feels more like a business tool. People who primarily use their smartphones to access Twitter do so more often than those glued to desktops, and they visit the site several times a day, according to Twitter’s in-house research. If your customers are more likely to be on mobile, invest in a mobile site; Business Insider notes 60 percent of social media time is through smartphones and tablets.

Twitter is designed to be compact; if a particular tweet catches a person’s eye, it can expand. Here are a few examples of of Twitter pages that deliver useful information in one glance, on a small screen:

  • Fans of the Arizona Cardinals will see training camp has begun and the team has signed wide receiver Reggie White.
  • LifeLock customers or others interested in online security services, will see (a) a sweepstakes is almost over, (b) the service now offers roadside assistance and legal services, and (c) link to a blog about avoiding ID theft while traveling.
  • Content writers and marketers who depend on Search Engine Land‘s intelligence will find (a) a nice quote about investing in human care, (b) how a Google update solved a Yelp issue, and (c) that Google is working on voice search. How cool is that?

The Year Without Pants Gets You Putting on Your Thinking Cap

published on August 18, 2014

When we think of the workplace, we have this stereotype idea of what it should be like. Office hours, office attire, a work desk, a cubicle, the water cooler, and so forth and so on. It’s the typical scenario. It’s tradition. But, times are changing. The work environment is changing. The “acceptable” workplace is changing.

In the book, The Year Without Pants, author Scott Berkun shares what it was like to work for a company that isn’t traditional at all. He worked for more than two years with Automattic – the company that runs WordPress.com and WordPress.org and there is much to glean from his personal experiences and the insights he gained while he worked there. Here are a few excerpts taken from the book to whet your curiousity.

The Work Place

On Hiring,

“There are no formal interviews for positions at the company. No one asks trick questions like why manhole covers are round or how many Ping-Pong balls fit on a 747 airplane. Instead they hire by trial. This means you are asked to do a simple project. You get access to real tools and work on real things. If you do well, you’re offered a job. If you don’t, you’re not.

The many phony parts of hiring, from inflated résumés to trying to say what you think the other party wants to hear, disappear.”

On Corporate Culture,

“No technique, no matter how good, can turn stupid coworkers into smart ones. And no method can magically make employees trust each other or their boss if they have good reason not to.”

“The best approach, perhaps the only approach, is an honest examination of culture. But culture is harder to understand than a meeting technique or a creativity method. ”

“Product creators are the true talent of any corporation, especially one claiming to bet on innovation. The other roles don’t create products and should be there to serve those who do.”

On Meetings,

“There is nothing wrong with the concept of a meeting. If the people in a meeting think it’s a waste of time, then either they’re the wrong people or what’s being discussed is not important enough to justify a meeting. I knew if I kept our meetings on important decisions and little else, we’d do fine, whether in person or online.”

On Company Retreats,

“The big bet of many retreats is the location. The hope is that a resort in the woods or a trip to a special city will provide a fresh environment away from the daily routines, a change that stimulates new thinking. But they forget the most important thing that location cannot change: the company culture. No matter where they go, they take dozens of forgotten assumptions about how work is done along with them. The more an event is driven by the people in power, the more it will reinforce the status quo. This is why these big meetings start with promises of growth and innovation and end with a vague sense of disappointment. ”

On Innovation,

“The fundamental mistake companies that talk about innovation make is keeping barriers to entry high. They make it hard to even try out ideas, blind to how much experimentation you need to sort the good ideas from the bad.”

On Team Dynamics,

“There are many theories about why teams of four to six work best, but the simplest is ego. With about five people, there’s always enough oxygen in the room. It means on average that every person gets to speak once every five times, which is enough for everyone to feel they are at the center of things. At this level of participation, their pride can be invested in the team instead of focused inwardly on themselves.”

“How do you know if you’re doing a good job? They (Team Social) all shrugged simultaneously and I laughed. Unlike most corporations that emphasize performance evaluations, none of them were particularly concerned. It had never been an emphasized part of their experience at the company. It seemed to them like an odd question to even ask, given how rarely it came up with Mullenweg or Toni, or in the company at large. It was not a promotion-oriented culture. Instead they cared mostly about how much value they were getting out of the work. ”

The Year Without Pants, an Amazon Best Book of The Year released in September 2013, was written by best-selling author and sought after speaker, Scott Berkun. Scott Berkun has worked at Microsoft from 1994 to 2003, mostly on Internet Explorer 1.0 to 5.0 (not 6), and has worked as a team leader for Automattic on WordPress.com from 2010 to 2012.

His other works include Confessions of a Public Speaker, The Myths of Innovation, and Making Things Happen. His work as a writer and public speaker have appeared in the The Washington Post, The New York Times, Wired Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes Magazine, and other media. He has taught creative thinking at the University of Washington and has been a regular commentator on CNBC, MSNBC and National Public Radio.

Leave us a comment if you want a part 2 to this article.


WordPress-Friendly Ghost Themes

published on August 12, 2014

Ghost started out as a Kickstarter project by John Nolan with the goal of creating

… a blogging platform with all the open source benefits of WordPress, but simpler in every way, and just focused on publishing. Ghost is unique in its philosophy of focusing entirely on publishing. Everything about the administrative system is designed around making writing simple and pleasurable. Everything about the theme system has been created to facilitate personal blog, magazine, and news themes.

The biggest difference between Ghost and other platforms from a technological point of view is that it’s built entirely in JavaScript. A modern technology stack means that Ghost can push the boundaries of what’s possible with the web. You can install and run a blog on a 16MB USB stick, a Raspberry Pi, or a high powered Virtual Private Server.

Although this new ecosystem is fairly new compared to WordPress and may not appeal to everyone’s liking, there have been several beautiful and interesting themes that have been released with a WordPress version counterpart. Here are a few of these Ghost-inspired WordPress themes that you can check out.

CASPER

Casper WP theme, is essentially a port of the gorgeous default theme from the Ghost blogging platform built using Underscores as a base. It is a clean, minimalist, and lightweight theme that’s designed to highlight content without the unnecessary frills. Author, Lacy Morrow, gives a short demonstration of the theme’s features with a blog post that was written in Markdown (the language used by Ghost)and uses the Jetpack Markdown plugin for parsing. Other WordPress features are also integrated into the theme.

RAIN

RAIN is one of the best selling Ghost themes on ThemeForest and also has a responsive WordPress theme counterpart. This minimalist WordPress “Ghost” theme has a background that is 100% dynamic where you can imply upload your own photo and it also includes audio files in the package free of charge. This theme is designed primarily for writers.

ASTRO

Astro is a content focused responsive theme, originally a Ghost designed theme, built for the WordPress platform. Designed from the bottom up to be high performance, user friendly, and accessible on all devices. Astro adapts to the users viewport, so it looks great on smartphones, tablets, TVs, and even the latest 4K monitors. Astro includes two different post styles. The standard style is designed for update posts and short articles. The featured style includes full title images, suited towards larger articles, tutorials and other documentation.


Not Your Usual WordPress SEO Plugins To Try

published on August 5, 2014

WordPress as a Content Management System, in itself, is already a good platform for SEO goals because of the way it is structured. But you can always make a good thing better if you want to. Check out these fresh SEO plugins that you might not have heard of but might help make your SEO efforts yield even better results.

Premium SEO Pack for WP

This plugin in gives you a whole array of tools to help you optimize your site’s visibility in internet searches. The plugin includes monitoring tools like Google Analytics, SERP tracking, On-Page and Off-Page optimization tools, the premium Mass Optimization feature that allows you to optimize all your posts and pages at once. Another cool on page feature is Local SEO. This allows you to rank your pages based on the geographic locale. Other noteworthy on page features are: title & meta format, sitemap, SEO slug optimizer, SEO feature optimizer and google authorship. The SEO pack also includes Link Builders, Backlink Builder, Social Stats, Page Speed Insights, Smush It, and also an SEO code insert feature.

WordPress SEO Post-Optimizer

WordPress SEO Post-Optimizer plugin assists you in optimizing page rank posts. This plugin checks your posts againsts SEO criteria, checks for keyword density (the right amount of keywords in a post), and autochecks for the SEO score of your post every 15 seconds. The SEO scores are expressed in percentage. A real time check on the amount of words is also done in recognition of the fact that search engines usually prefer content with more than 300 words. The plugin also checks if the post has images or not and also if there are links to older posts on your blog to improve your internal content structure. The Post Optimizer plugin also checks for internal links, the usage of h-tags and alt-tags, and bold, italicized, or underlined keywords in your post.

Rankie

Rankie is a WordPress Rank Checker plugin that helps you keep track of WordPress rankings on Google keeping a close eye on each keyword position. The plugin allows you to track an unlimited number of keywords on Google and keeps updating these ranks daily. You can also check out ranking trends per week, month or all time. The plugin is also a great keyword research tool that helps you generate keyword lists by suggesting possible alternatives to keywords of interest. You can track unlimited number of keywords ranking on Google and keep updating these ranks daily as it works as a WordPress SERP plugin, generate ranking reports per month, per year or by all time letting you know how ranking is going up or down with details on every single position change for each tracked keyword, including many other helpful tracking functions.

Ultimate Video SEO Plugin

Ultimate Video SEO Plugin is an advanced stand alone plugin for WordPress which covers all aspects of Video SEO. It automatically fetches video SEO details from videos of all major video hosting providers and submit it to a video sitemap. What can it do? It supports self hosted videos in all WordPress supported video formats. It notifies search engines whenever a sitemap is updated or generated. It supports video embedded through shortcode or metabox (created by third party plugins or theme). It supports self hosted videos embedded using default WordPress media gallery. It adds schema.org video object markup to all your video posts/pages. It shows snippet preview of video search results within your post editor.

Meta Tags Optimization

Meta Tags are keywords used by search engines to find useful information. A lot of times the title and nature of the content may not be associated with the right meta tags. The Meta Tags Optimization plugin advices the admin whether the page is optimized correctly, by highlighting with green and red colors the Meta Tags that are found on the page. While the plugin will not tell us what tags to add or eliminate, it will highlight with red the incorrect inputs. This plugin gives useful information to the writer by highlighting meta tags on the page that may not be the best suited for the content. This plugin also lets you optimize meta tags for posts/pages by providing you clear instruction to repair your meta tags.


The Big 4.0 – Multi Lingual Made Easy (Beta 2)

published on July 29, 2014

In keeping with its development timeline, WordPress is set to release version 4.0 in August and it is something to be excited about. It has recently released the Beta 2 version which includes further refinements of the first release. Here are a few of the exciting features developers have been working on in this version.

  • Previews of embedding via URLs in the visual editor and the “Insert from URL” tab in the media modal. Try pasting a URL (such as a WordPress.tv or YouTube video) onto its own line in the visual editor.
  • The Media Library now has a “grid” view in addition to the existing list view. Clicking on an item takes you into a modal where you can see a larger preview and edit information about that attachment, and you can navigate between items right from the modal without closing it.
  • Fresh plugin install experience. You’ll see some early visual changes as well as more information when searching for plugins and viewing details.
  • Selecting a language when you run the installation process.
  • The editor intelligently resizes and its top and bottom bars pin when needed.
  • Improvements to how your keyboard and cursor interact with TinyMCE views such as the gallery preview.
  • Widgets in the Customizer are now loaded in a separate panel.
  • Changes to some formatting functions.
  • Refinements for the the plugin installation and media library experiences.
    Updated TinyMCE, which now includes better indentation for lists and the restoration of the color picker.
  • Cookies are now tied to a session internally.

This software is still in development and is not recommended that it be run on a production site in real time. If you want to try and test it before its official release, you can try the WordPress Beta Tester plugin (you’ll want “bleeding edge nightlies”) or you can also download the beta version (zip).


Top Themes Featured on Theme Forest

published on July 16, 2014

Every week, Themeforest features promising WordPress themes that are worth noticing. Here are some of the latest themes that have been featured on Themeforest you need to see. Check these out.

Forgiven – A Powerful WordPress Theme for Churches

Forgiven Premium WordPress Theme is a powerful parallax enabled church theme that includes major features such as: Visual Composer plugin, Slider Revolution, Envira Gallery, the unique and exclusive Blur Slider, support for Church Theme Content, WooCommerce support, Page customizer, Gravity Forms and Contact Form 7 support, Sermon functionality, The Events Calendar and the Events Calendar Pro plugin integration and support, and so much more.

FlatAds – Classified AdsWordPress Theme

FlatAds Classified Ads WordPress Theme is a super flexible and fully responsive Premium Directory/Listing WordPress themebuilt with HTML5 and CSS3. FlatAds is compatible with WooCommerce 2.1, bbPress, and MailChimp for WP plugin. Other key features include custom fields for categories and subcategories, interactive Google maps Geolocation support, integrated PayPal payments support, and WPML (multilingual) support.

Faculty – Responsive Academic WordPress Theme

Faculty Responsive Academic WordPress Theme is a magazine or personal blog styled page that can be used to build personal or professional websites specifically for academic people. This simple and yet well structured responsive theme is especially designed as an online cv of professors and PHD students. Key features include publications management, option to present research, teaching and blog pages, and provision for downloadable CVs for interested visitors.

KLEO – Next level Premium WordPress Theme

KLEO – Next level Premium WordPress Theme is an extremely flexible, fully customizable BuddyPress and bbPress compatible WordPress multipurpose theme to help you create a community, a corporate portfolio, or a membership website. This membership ready theme allows you to create membership levels and restrict content based on member access quite easily. key features include: WPML and Translation Ready, WooCommerce Ready, Google Maps integration, Contact Form 7 compatible, among others.

Time Travel – Timeline WordPress Theme

Time Travel – Timeline WordPress Theme is an ultra modern next generation premium theme developed with cutting edge technology and design. The built-in voice control makes it both revolutionary and at the same time super intuitive to use. You can set up your own language to be used in the voice commands control, so it is as easy as possible for your visitors. The design of the site is a 3D time travel path, ideal for displaying chronology data, posts flow by date, history info or just any type of timeline content in a modern and futuristic way.

It is ideal as a blog, a portfolio site, a corporate site aiming to display the history of company or brand, an artist’s portfolio to display albums / films / books in a chronological way, an agency website to showreel projects and team by date, etc.

Hooray – Premium WordPress Blog Theme

Hooray Premium WordPress Blog Theme is one of the most colorful and user friendly personal blog themes. Key features include: easy to use powerful Admin Panel, full Arabic RTL support, social counter integration, translation and multi language ready, page templates, review and rating system, unlimited colors and sidebars, and so much more.

Moustachey: A Blog theme with extra gusto

Moustachey Premium WordPress Theme is a fun, quirky WordPress blog theme playing on the moustache design. Key features include: Author support, social share enabled, typekit web fonts integration, adobe edge web fonts integration, Google analytics support, Google API v3 integration, configurable donate/message block at the top of the page, localization support, and so much more.


Why User Generated Content Goes Viral

published on July 8, 2014

If you are hoping to create a campaign that goes viral, look no further than your own users. People love to create their own content. Statistics published by YouTube show that 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute, and more than 6 billion hours worth of videos are watched every month. A viral campaign created with the help of user generated content can reach millions of people, and here are some examples of how it works.

Fractals

Fractals are mathematical figures of reoccurring patterns that recur repeatedly on a diminishing scale. Likewise, content goes viral as users share it with other users who then share it, and the cycle can continue on and on. For example, T-Mobile’s “Break-up” campaign is a perfect example of this idea. T-Mobile offered to pay the early contract termination costs from their competitors in return for a switch to T-Mobile and a posted picture of the switcher with a “break-up letter” to their former provider. These break-ups were documented via photographs, image macros, twitter posts and Facebook updates, all collected at RebelMouse. By connecting with their potential customers concerns about their current providers, T-Mobile effectively created 80,000 unique advertisements shared with countless users without having to do anything themselves.

The other side of the coin is more frightening for businesses. Bad viral content spreads quickly and can destroy a brand. According to Fox Sports, a hashtag heavy tweet congratulating the U.S. in its World Cup win over Ghana quickly backfired on Delta Airlines. People swarmed to criticize the company for an insensitive “giraffe gaffe” and quickly shared the tweet amongst their friends and followers. Delta apologized and removed the tweet, but the damage was already done.

Reasons Users Participate

Getting users engaged with your content is key if you want them to generate and share their own content. In 2010, Old Spice launched the immensely popular “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” advertisement that accrued more than 48 million views on Youtube. The combination of humor and strangeness was a perfect viral video cocktail, but Old Spice didn’t stop there. Seeing the popularity of their shirtless spokesperson Isaiah Mustafa amongst bloggers and social media users, Old Spice initiated a campaign in which “The Old Spice Guy” began sending out videos via Twitter to the bloggers who had originally shared Old Spice’s original content. The genius of this move is clear; sharing the ads and talking about them garnered you a personal thank you from a highly recognized advertorial character. There was an inherent reward that Old Spice offered, and users scrambled to chase after it.

Taking It to the Next Level

Sometimes user generated content doesn’t exist to advertise a product, it is the product. T-Shirt company Threadless took the idea of user generated content to the next level by building an entire company based on the idea. At Threadless, users submit T-shirt designs that are voted on for a week by the community, and those artists whose designs are approved by the community and website are paid a flat rate plus royalties based on sales of the shirt. Threadless figured out a way to not only incentivize users to create content, but they made user generated content and community interaction the foundation of their business. Each new shirt design is a chance for the site to go viral on social media. By holding regular contests based on the best and most popular content, Threadless keeps artists and consumers glued to their website and sharing links in the hopes of having their designs printed—and that’s the genius of it.