Shop, best, microphones, podcasting, professional, top
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 06:03:35 +0000
Planning to start a podcast? Well, before you get started you should consider getting the most important piece to the puzzle, the microphone. Having a high quality microphone is going to make a huge difference to the sound quality of your recording. There are two factors to consider before buying a microphone. First, you should know your exact budget. Second, you should have a good idea of where you plan to record (big room, small room, noisy background, etc.). As with many other things in life, the more money you spend, the better quality you’ll get. If you don’t have the money right now, don’t sweat it. As you become more successful you will be upgrading your gear as you go. The goal here isn’t to spend hundreds of dollar an a microphone. The goal is to find something within your budget that you can use on a regular basis. Today I collected some of the top entry level and professional microphones for you to consider. This list is the result of reading reviews from customers, industry professionals, and credible technology websites. Below you will find microphones aimed at different budgets. Good luck! Audio-Technica AT2020 USB Condenser USB Microphone This USB microphone plugs directly into your laptop or desktop (Windows and Mac compatible). This mic is easy to use and should function seamlessly with almost any recording software. The AT2020 is a great choice it you’re just starting out. It’s perfect for home studio recording, field recording, podcasting, and voiceover use. The only downside is that it lacks gain control and a headphone input. This microphone provides a very natural sounding voice while you speak into it. Because the microphone is so small, it works well in reducing noise around you while you speak into it, and the polar pattern allows for less interference as well from pesky background noise. This is a very inexpensive option for someone who is just starting out, or doesn’t produce too many podcasts. Buy $129.00 Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone If you were to ask any professional podcaster or radio broadcaster about this microphone, I can guarantee you that they would have good things to say about the PR 40. This dynamic microphone delivers rich and full sound, allowing your voice to sound vibrant and organic. It is also great at reducing the amount of noise that can be heard in the background. Producing the widest frequency range available in a dynamic microphone, the PR 40 outperforms most condenser microphones, and can withstand huge amounts of SPL. At the same time, it maintains the 25 year Heil Sound tradition of superbly natural voice articulation. Buy $327.00 Rode Podcaster Booming Kit: Podcaster, PSA1 Arm, and PSM1 shock mount The Rode Podcaster is a dynamic USB microphone that combines broadcast quality audio with the simplicity of USB connectivity, no pre amps or other equipment needed. This kit was specifically designed for podcasters. They’ve included everything you need to get started. Simply plug it in and start talking. This microphone processes all of the analogue-to-digital conversion internally (bypassing the computer’s lower quality on-board sound controller altogether), has a headphone output on the microphone body (which provides zero-latency monitoring), and has a built in pop filter (designed to minimize plosives sounds). Buy $349.95 MXL 990 Condenser Microphone with Shockmount If you’re in the market for professional sound quality in both digital and analog recordings, then you should consider the MXL 990. Don’t let the low price fool you, this mic serves all the purposes without sacrificing quality. If you wish to plug it into your PC or Mac you will need a XLR-to-USB converter. Custom shock mount, mic stand adapter, and a case are all included with the mic. Buy $72.87 Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone – Silver Edition Disclosure: I own this microphone. The Yeti USB microphone comes with 4 different pattern modes; Stereo mode: The stereo mode uses both the left and right channels, and is ideal for capturing a realistic, general sound image. Cardioid mode: Well-suited to podcasts, sung vocals, and other voice work, cardioid mode records sound sources that are directly in front of the microphone. It delivers a rich, full-bodied sound. Omnidirectional mode: Omnidirectional mode picks up sound equally from all directions. It is best used in situations when you want to capture the ambience of “being there”–like a live recording of a band’s performance. Bidirectional mode: Bidirectional mode records from both the front and the rear of the microphone. It is ideal for capturing the nuance of a musical instrument, or recording an interview between two people. Its aluminum body has a mute button, volume knob, gain knob, pattern knob, a 3.5 millimeter headphone jack, and USB port. This microphone is very easy to set up and start recording. It works with MAC and PC. The Yeti is useful for almost every recording situation. If you need to sneeze or cough, simply press the mute button. If you’re experiencing distortion or feedback, simply adjust the gain. If you want to listen to the recording in real time without latency, plug in your headphones. Buy $98.47 Honorable mentions Shure PG42-USB Vocal Microphone Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Microphone (Cardioid) Samson Go Mic Compact USB Microphone Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone Samson C01 Large Diaphragm Vocal Condenser Microphone CAD U1 USB Dynamic Recording Microphone Samson G Track USB Microphone
Self Development, alone, Fear, life, loneliness
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 05:25:07 +0000
Loneliness. Does that word scare you? A surprising number of people fear being alone. In the United States we’re socially programmed into believing that being lonely is weird. We constantly see this in movies and TV shows. If you’re quiet or alone, you’re automatically labeled as weird, strange, or a loser. You can see this type of mentality shine in visual media that is aimed at teenagers. These television shows praise the extroverts, but shun the introverts. This skewed view is gross and irrational. At times, we tend to fear being without friends, family, or a partner. We fear traveling through this journey we call life, alone. But being alone isn’t a bad thing. Being alone is empowering. Everything that you think you know about loneliness, like depression and sadness, is nonsense. Being alone has way more benefits than constantly being part of a group. Now I’m not saying to cut off the entire world completely, you should always try to maintain a balance and see you friends/family every now and then, but in general you should embrace being alone. You’ll be amazed at how much time you have for yourself and how much happier you are. Embrace Your Ambitions Think about all the things you want to do with your life, all your dreams and hopes, they are all reasons you shouldn’t be afraid of being alone. When you’re focusing on someone else, your ambitions can slip away. Some people go through their entire life without accomplishing anything they wanted to, and that’s the most scariest part of all. You Are All You Need In order to overcome being alone, you need to first realize that you are all you need. You do not need others to give you approval on everything you do. Don’t take this they wrong way, but you come and leave this world alone. So there is nothing wrong with being alone while having this experience. Listen To Advice, But Follow Your Heart When I first realized that I’m the only one responsible for my success and failures, my mind opened up to a whole new line of thinking. Others will give you advice on how to live your life, and some of them are right. Spend some time considering what people have told you in the past, but only do what you feel is right. Remember, you’re the only one who knows what is right for you. Enjoy Every Moment If you’ve recently been getting used to being alone, remember to fully enjoy every moment that you spend with other people. They can easily be gone tomorrow, so remember to love the time you spend with them. Change Your Routine Again, if you’re still getting used to not being around other people all the time, try to change up your routine. Try moving around your furniture, change your work schedule. Do whatever it takes to break yourself away from routines that you’re used to with other people being involved. Level Up Your Skills Another great way to deal with becoming alone is to not fill your newly found free time with useless junk. Sometimes it can be easy to fill your mind with television, surfing the Internet, and watching Forest Gump over and over again, but it’s not worth it. Spend your time making yourself a better person. Use your free time to read, create things, and experience new things. You could even take time to learn a new language. It’s simple to find constructive things to do. Plan Out Your Future If you’re still feeling down, or afraid of the idea of not having people around all the time, it’s alright. One of the best things to do is to come up with a plan for your future, where do you want to be in five years? Think about the small steps that it will take to get there, and get started immediately. Volunteer When you’re sick of perusing only your own goals. Think about organizations in your community that need the most help. You can always find somewhere to donate a little time. Not only is this a great way to get some much needed social time, but will help you to better understand your role in the world and will make you a stronger person. Conclusion I hope this article has helped you. Being alone can be a joyful thing. You deserve all the ‘me time’ you can get. Discovering who you truly are and what you enjoy is a wonderful experience. So don’t be sad or fearful, celebrate it!
Technology, Customer, ecommerce, Marketing, mistakes, Online, Shopping
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 04:57:56 +0000
In our parents’ time (unless you’re a 14-year old reading this), setting up a company meant taking huge loans, acquiring office space, employing a large bandwagon of employees, getting government licenses, and a long wait for all of these to fall in place before you could start operations. Today, you can think of a novel business idea in the morning and reach out to millions of prospective customers by evening through your very own store on the World Wide Web. But of course, you know this already. With the proliferation of D-I-Y tools like Weebly and Wix, a 5 year old (okay, a 10 year old) could put up a spanking new website in a couple of hours. Social media, online PR, blog posts and good old fashioned word of mouth will get you all (or at least, most of) the eyeballs you want. What a lot of online retailers out there don’t give enough thought to is the things they might be doing that actually hurt their business instead of the other way round. Let’s take a closer look at some of these unforgivable self-flagellations. 1. Building walls around your site Common sense says that you’d want as many shoppers as possible to come to your website and hopefully buy your products/services. Many marketing “gurus” say that building an email list is the only way you can build a thriving community of buyers. In this frenzy to capture email IDs of every human being that stumbles upon their site, business owners create sign up forms that act as a wall that visitors are expected to scale before they can even begin to see your merchandise. Even worse, many of these “database generation silver bullets” and “conversion rate enhancers” are actually impenetrable without supplying a host of personal details and verifying code. In this day and age of attention spans the size of a paramecium, do you really want to make a potential customer jump through all those hoops just to arrive at your home page? Unless a visitor has some very specific interest in something that you offer on such a site, you’ve lost them forever. A good way to check if your list building fervor is losing you customers is to check your bounce rate. The average bounce rate for ecommerce sites hovers between 20 – 40%. Is your bounce rate way over the mark? If yes, you know you need to make your website easier to access. Image Source: KISSmetrics There are tons of ways you can build your database or track a customer’s journey across your site. Building the next Great Wall around your site is not one of them. 2. Doing a tortoise act Remember the dial up days of yore when we waited patiently for minutes on end for each page to load and then proceeded to repeat it again for the next page? Thankfully, those tortuous days are behind us, and we don’t really need a coffee refill by the time most webpages load. There’s one problem to our new and improved state of affairs though. Expectations have swung to the other extreme and the race to the finish line was never this crazy. According to another study by KISSmetrics, 47% of web users today expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less. Image Source: Visualwebsiteoptimizer Want to rank higher on Google? Speed up your site, for Pete’s sake! Waste no time in finding out your current page load times and plugging the gaps. Get started with free to use tools like Yahoo’s YSlow or Pingdom. 3. Not focusing on marketing A “Build it and they will come” level of confidence is alright if you have people camping outside your stores days before your new product launches, a la Apple. To be fair, even Apple marketed the game-changing iPhone in the early years with a memorable ad campaign that began with a simple “Hello.” Most ecommerce startups spend so much time perfecting the layout, design, service delivery and a million other frills on their website, they barely have the time (or energy) left to whip up a brilliant marketing campaign on the side. While it would be great to have the resources to plan and execute digital and offline campaigns that do full justice to your dream project, there’s no shame in starting small. Some of the easy (and free!) things you could get started with are: 1. Leverage the power of social media by creating and regularly posting interesting updates to your followers. Try and keep the fun stuff to sales plug ratio at 80:20 to continue to hold the attention and respect of your followers or shall we say, potential shoppers. 2. Start your own blog. A blog does not mean you list the minutes of yesterday’s brainstorm session with your programmers or go on and on about the last trade show you visited. Write about stuff that your customers would actually care about or be able to use. If you are an all-natural cosmetics retailer, you could give tips on keeping your skin supple in the summer sun or the dangers of toxic ingredients found in commercial lipsticks. 3. Use YouTube to your advantage. Take inspiration from the Dollar Shave Club, who have perfected the art of going viral in spite of a blatant product plug. The two major takeaways from this campaign? Keep it simple and tickle the viewer’s funny bone. Shopify offers some easy-to-implement guidelines on how to turn YouTube into your own 24-hour Shopping TV channel, only infinitely more interesting. 4. Reach out to synergistic brands and help each other out. A good example would be a photo printing site tying up with an electronic retailer to offer camera buyers on the electronics site 5 free photo prints. This not only offers value to your partner brand, it also drives traffic to your site. The cost of customer acquisition through brand partnerships is significantly lower than most traditional methods of customer acquisition. 4. Donning the black hat Remember what your Mom taught you – being naughty can get you spanked. Stop, thinking dirty (I know you did, for a minute, you did!) and think of Big Brother Google who can make or break your website’s future by penalizing it till you mend your ways for good. It’s great that your business has the resources to devote to marketing, but where you put your money matters a lot. Especially after the Panda and Penguin updates, Google does not hesitate in blacklisting entire sites even if a single page is the prime offender. If your intention is to build a long-term business that brings value to you and your customers, these are some of the tactics that you ought to steer clear of: Content stuffing: A no-brainer really; keyword stuffing was so overdone right from the early 2000’s that you might as well have not bothered with the Web 2.0 at all. The modern form of this is content stuffing – creating content that just talks about your products and services and bores the crap out of people. Misleading redirect links: Tricking a user into clicking a link to your home page when the user expected something entirely different will not only get you no buyers, but will also flush your credibility down the drain. Buying links: Pay for your marketing, surely. But links that you pay for are often from spammy, illegitimate websites that you get no ranking benefit from Google for all the money you blew. With time, search engines have smartened up and this is one of the surefire ways to get your site banned by Google. 5. Not being mobile-ready An average user in 2013 spent about 1.8 hours consuming media just on their mobile phone. Unless you are living under a rock, you’ve been bitten by the smartphone bug by now. Image Source: INCRIdea Indonesia Today, mobile traffic accounts for 15% of all web traffic. More importantly for ecommerce sites, a ComScore study shows that 4 out of 5 US smartphone users use their mobile devices to shop. Imagine the number of additional customers you would gain by ensuring your ecommerce site is mobile optimized? But it’s not just your website that needs to be mobile ready. We are talking a mobile-first approach here. As per this study, in developing countries including China and India, the mobile is the first screen that consumers use to access the internet, unlike the United States or Europe where it is still the second screen of preference (due to the large established desktop PC base). This means mobile optimized emails, a clear budget for mobile advertising, and actively building future additions to your site from a mobile-first perspective. 6. Confusing your users How many times have you closed an ecommerce site, frustrated with the endless digging you had to do to arrive at a product that interests you? User experience (UX) deals with the first impressions that a user has after landing on your site. Many factors contribute to a killer UX, including colors, images, merchandising, navigation, find-ability, consistent site architecture, secure and quick checkout process, and so on. It’s really simple. If you want the user to buy a particular product, make it easy for them to find it in the first place. Avoid overwhelming the user on your home page with a million products merchandised. Try your best to avoid distractions like flashing banners and pop ups that will divert the user from your primary goal – making a sale. Make navigation less of a bitch. Put yourself in the user’s shoes and try to build your site structure as intuitively as possible from there. A clean UX with a well thought out site hierarchy is not just a pleasure to use, but the planning you put into your site architecture also pays off SEO dividends by making your pages more easily discoverable by Google. 7. Wearing them out at checkout ‘1-Click’ buying may be pioneered by Amazon, but most ecommerce sites still ask you to fill up multiple forms, check off on newsletter subscriptions, give every personal detail imaginable before you can whip out your credit card and pay for the purchase already. Shopping cart abandonment is probably one of the most heartbreaking of metrics for ecommerce business owners. After all the efforts you put in to get the user to your site, interest them in a product, get them to start to buy the product, the user dropping off halfway through the checkout is a big deal. A very big deal, in fact 69.5% of users abandon shopping carts midway through the checkout process. As per a UX design study conducted by Smashing Magazine, the average checkout process among the top 100 ecommerce sites was 5.08 steps. The graph below shows that the usability score (or the ease of use) for ecommerce sites starts falling drastically when their checkout processes have 7 steps or more. Image Source: Smashing Magazine So what can you do to prevent abandoned shopping carts? Don’t ask for unnecessary details, it adds to user fatigue Keep the checkout flow linear. Don’t have sub sections that take the customer away from completing the purchase. Allow the option of guest checkout (bears repeating). 24% of the top 100 ecommerce sites still force a user to sign-in in order to make a purchase. Show the final price of the product before the end of the checkout process. After all, no one likes rude shocks; especially when it comes to money you’re parting with. 8. Ignoring customer communication With so many communication platforms available today, it’s not easy as a business owner to stay on top of each one. Trouble is, the cost of missing out on communication from a customer is too high for you to not go that extra mile. If you have a social media presence (who doesn’t!), EXPECT customers to write to you with their problems and queries. Even though you might look at social media as a free marketing tool, for most users; Twitter, Facebook and the like are platforms to voice their dissatisfaction (frequently, also satisfaction) with the brands that they consume. According to different studies, while 50% of customers gave a brand only one week to respond to their complaint before switching service providers, a shockingly low 30% of customers actually received responses to their tweets! The upside to this is that when a brand does reply to a customer tweet, 83% of customers love it. Such a simple way of making your customer feel special and preventing them from switching to competition! Customer communication does not always have to be complaint redressal or a sales pitch. An often overlooked aspect of customer communication is reaching out to a customer and saying, “Thank you!” With technology (such as triggered emails) on your side, the long road to customer retention is definitely walkable.
Architecture, beautiful, bridge, creative, world
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 05:48:42 +0000
Building a bridge is extremely challenging to say the least. The design of a bridge usually depends on its function, the nature of the terrain, the materials used to make it, and the amount of money available to build it. Below you’ll find twenty-five beautiful bridges from around the world. These masterpieces are truly inspiration, reminding us that humans are capable of achieving incredible things. Enjoy! Pont du Gard Bastei Bridge in Sächsische Schweiz, Germany Chengyang Bridge, China Ponte Vecchio, Italy Stari Most, Bosnia and Herzegovina Verrazano Narrows Bridge, New York Tokyo Gate Bridge Infinity Loop Bridge Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Lego Bridge by Megx Python Bridge, Holland Rolling Bridge in Paddington Basin, London Tower Bridge, London, UK Magdeburg Water Bridge, Germany The Bridge of Immortals: Huangshan, China Sky Bridge @ Langkawi, Malaysia Storseisundet Bridge, Norway Trampoline Bridge, Paris Charles Bridge, Prague Mostar Bridge, Bosnia Xiying Rainbow Bridge, Taiwan Capilano Suspension Bridge @ Vancouver, BC Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Japan Jadukata Bridge, India Millau Viaduct, France
Self Development, Development, explore, invest, learn, personald, Read
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 06:06:36 +0000
Investing time in yourself is way better than investing money into something or someone else. When you invest in yourself and build valuable skill sets, you will never have to worry about unemployment again. If you were to strip Bill Gates of his assets and put him out on the street, he’d be back to earning a comfortable income in about a week. Why? Because he has tons of human capital. Sometimes the stress of life (bills, cleaning, children, etc.) can really start to take a toll on us, and it’s unfortunate. After sleeping and work, we only get about 8 hours a day to spend on other activities. You should utilize this free time by doing things you truly enjoy and also benefit you (killing two birds with one stone). To help get you started, I’ve listed a few of my favorite ideas below. Learn a new language I could go on all day about the benefits of learning a new language, but I’ll spare you the details. Just keep in mind that it’s going to help you, both personally and financially, if you do. I’ve been working on my Spanish for a while now, and I don’t regret it for a moment. There are HUNDREDS of resources for you out there, find one. Personally, I use YouTube, it’s free and I can do it whenever I want. Podcasts are also very useful. Read books When was the last time you even picked up a book? If you’re like most people today, it’s been months or even years. I know, growing up, I always saw my grandfather reading books, and always wondered why he was so cultured. They offer a chance to explore something you’re unfamiliar with, dive deeply into a fantasy or learn something new. Books are one of my favorite ways to relieve stress; just another benefit to think about. Go back to school (or participate in webinars and workshops) I know, school is time-consuming and expensive. However, no matter your age you can still go back. Financial aid programs are available to most people, and there are thousands of scholarships. Now that you can’t come up with financial excuses, think about time. There are so many online colleges today that offer full 4 year programs that you can take advantage of. If you’re not ready for that, consider workshops (resume building, French cuisine, parenting, etc.) and webinars that will really help you develop your skills. Write a book Now, this is something you should strongly consider doing before you die. I only recently started working on mine. And by working on, I mean I have a few ideas. Seriously, if you’re looking for a way to invest your time, write something that you want to share. It could be anything, and that’s what’s great about it. Even if you never get published, you created something! If you’re not ready for that, think about creating a blog. Just write about your cat or your crazy neighbors. This will develop your writing skills and give you a public voice. Explore You don’t need to get on the next plane to Haiti, but you could at least go spend a weekend camping. Maybe you’ve never gone out for Mexican food, and know of a local place your friends have been talking about. Spending some time in a place you’re unfamiliar with will give you a chance to explore new cultures, learn new skills (like making a camp fire), and will get you away from your daily life. Not to say our daily lives are terrible, but getting out never hurts. Discuss things you don’t agree with I love developing new ideas. In fact, my political ideology has completely shifted in the past three years because I’ve been paying attention. Spend some time seeing things from someone else’s view. Craigslist has a ‘rants and raves’ section that is open to dialogues about just about anything. Quora is another great resource to learn new things and discuss differing viewpoints with others who care. Who knows, you might switch someone to your point of view. Work out I’m not going to go on and on about getting in shape, but if it’s something you’ve been thinking about, wait no more, get going. PlanetFitness is just about everywhere in the US and costs $10 a month. If you’re not into the gym, grab yourself a yoga video — stress relief and a fit body in no time. Volunteer I never used to see the point in volunteering my time, but it’s benefited me greatly. First, it looks wonderful on a resume. Second, you’re helping your community. Third, you can make industry contacts who can offer references, jobs, and ideas. Most importantly though, it really helps you learn a new skill. Make something I was never really the best artist, and art classes used to stress me out. That’s alright though, I found my comfort zone in music. It’s not something I still practice, but it was a lot of fun. There are tons of things you can partake in or create, the only limit is your imagination. Good luck!