16 Things to Do While You’re Waiting for the Future.

The economy is bad. Certainly more dramatically so than any of us have seen in our lifetimes. So, what to do? What to do?

A recruiter that I have known for a very long time told me, “Bill, 2009 is going to have two polar-opposite types of positions: Positions with companies that are trying to do more with less and sole proprietors”.

Even if you are in a large corporation, it will be helpful to think like an entrepreneur. And if you happen to be amongst the staggering number of newly unemployed, here are some places to think about starting some revenue-generating opportunities from Rajil Kapoor, Managing Director at Mayfield Fund.

Mechanical Turk – this cool marketplace from our friends at Amazon enable anyone to do human tasks and make some cash.  Several of my startups are using this for simple yet fundamentally human tasks such as image classification, reviewing content, etc.
Etsy – online bazaar for individuals that create handcrafted goods.  This is as much about community as it is about shopping for hard to find goods.  The community shares tips with each other on how to market themselves best online.  Etsy organizes it all in one place and provides all the tools.
Fixya (note: Rajil is an investor) – the Q&A marketplace for tech support for any consumer product.  If you can’t wait, you can get live support for a fee which we share with the experts. About half of our experts do it for the money vs just the glory.
Edufire. Wiziq – marketplaces out of the US and India connecting tutors anywhere in the world to students – focused initially on test prep and language instruction.  Not only do they help you connect with students but they also provide the tools for delivering online lessons – a full interactive chat with blackboard and even video.
Cafepress, Minted, Threadless – online storefronts and communities for designers to sell their wares – in t-shirt, printed form, or any object you can put a design or photo on (reminds me of my snapfish days!)
elance, odesk – connecting programmers, designers, and other professionals with jobs online.  I’ve heard many stories of entrepreneurs finding great worker bees on these services.
ustream, mogulus, qik – It doesn’t all have to be about learning and coding.  These platforms enable consumers to have fun and become video hosts or programmers to broadcast live video and generate a following (and hopefully advertising revenue!)
reverbnation – sites like this help you manage the un-business of playing music in a band.
about.com, mahalo – these seem like great reference sites on the outside but they are really a super-powered community of writers that are doing it for a living – and thriving!

30 important usability issues, terms, rules and principles which are usually forgotten, ignored or misunderstood.

That is probably the best long title ever. But usability is critical to success and smashingmagazine.com has put together one of the best one (scrolling) page overview of usability.

If you are new to usability, this is a great resource. If you are a practitioner, then it’s a fine reference page.

“In this article we present 30 important usability issues, terms, rules and principles which are usually forgotten, ignored or misunderstood. What is the difference between readability and legibility? What exactly does 80/20 or Pareto principle mean? What is meant with minesweeping and satisficing? And what is Progressive Enhancement and Graceful Degradation? OK, it’s time to dive in.”

>>Here’s the highly-usable link<<

Gary Vaynerchuk » My Web 2.0 Keynote in NYC

Sure, it’s some potty mouth stuff but I’m from New York and, besides, the message is superb! Not your standard motivational speech. Much, much, mucho better.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Creative Class® – Thinkers, Innovators, Decision-Makers.

The Creative Class®

The Creative Class®

An ex-colleague who is now working in Dubai sent me a link to this site. He’s one of those creatives who thinks architecturally and is forever coming up with these amazing presentations that explain complex things in brilliantly clear ways. He also is the type that casually mentions that he is building something and that something turns out to be absolutely incredible office space or some kind of place that revolutionizes the way people live and work. In short, we love him and hate him.  ;  )

So when he mentioned The Creative Class, I took his advice. You’ll want to also. (The navigation is chunked out into “live”, “work”, and “play”…that’s perfect.)

Here’s the overview:

“The Creative Class® — thinkers, innovators, decision-makers — influences cultural phenomenon and impacts business…understanding the Creative Class is strategic business. Creative Class Group (CCG) offers regions, companies, and associations the customized information, analysis, tools and research necessary for competitiveness and greater economic prosperity.”

If you would like to join up with The Creative Class, the link is right here.

CIO’s 9 Low-Cost Web Startups.

The good people over at CIO have put together an absolutely wonderful guide for web entrepreneurs! (I highly recommend a subscription…or at least a bookmark…it makes sense out of the utterly baffling. I love it.)

“The genesis for this is are the economic times we’re in,” Guy Kawasaki said. “The old days of starting a company by going to investors and giving a PowerPoint presentation — and then getting $2 million — are over.”

Here are nine companies that have developed nifty Web 2.0 sites (with only a little cash up front).

1. Wufoo

Wafoo

Where they’re based: Tampa Bay, Florida

What they do: Allow users to make online forms with no HTML experience. They can create forms that help people register for a website, workshop or mailing list. As people respond and fill out the forms, users can measure their responses by running reports and viewing charts.

Quote from co-founder Kevin Hale: “We don’t just strive to collect information, but analyze it as well. [With no coding experience necessary], it’s for secretaries who want to avoid the IT department.”

Where they got funding: Hale says they were initially funded by Y Combinator (a venture capital firm that gives small funding rounds, usually of $20,000 or less, to companies in their infancy).

Business Model: Free for individuals; charge fees for groups and businesses.

2. Yoics

Yoics

Where they’re based: Palo Alto, CA

What they do: A Web-based portal that allows you to access your computers or network devices from anywhere, without the cumbersome process of setting up remote desktop capabilities.

Quote from founder, Ryo Koyama: “Our view is that everyone knows how to use a Web browser. So there is no reason all your data shouldn’t be accessible from the Web. Setting up a remote desktop tends to be a more complicated thing.”

Where they got funding: According Koyama, they launched the product with their own resources before receiving funding.

Business Model: Licensing to networking technology companies.

3. Dropbox

Dropbox

Where They’re Based: Bay Area

What they do: Dropbox allows you to synch and share your files online. One of the upsides to the service is that any change or update you make to a file, it is updated across all your devices that access it. It also has good version control, allowing you to “undelete” files.

Quote from founder Drew Houston: (Referencing Dropbox’s sophisticated version control): “It’s almost like a time machine that works across all platforms.”

Where they got funding: $15,000 from Y Combinator. They later received funding from Sequoia Capital.

Business model: 2 GB free to users; they charge for additional storage.

4. Disqus

Disqus

Where They’re Based: San Francisco

What they do: Pronounced “discuss,” Disqus allows users to track the comment threads they participate in, on websites across the Web, all in one central area.

Quote from cofounder Jason Yan: “With Disqus, immediately, I see all the comments I’ve left across websites and I can see when other people replied to [my comment] without having to check out each individual website all the time.”

Where they got funding: $15,000 from Y Combinator.

Business model : Get money from publishers/media companies looking to use the service for their entire sites.

5. MightyQuiz

MightyQuiz

Where they’re based: Bay Area

What they do: MightyQuiz is a user generated trivia game. People can share knowledge with others and have them answer trivia questions in response.

Quote from COO Kelly Bennett: “Our motto is everyone is a trivia junkie for topics they love.”

Where they got funding: Initially $10,000 from Y Combinator.

Business Model: Unclear based on their presentation, but given its social nature most likely ad-based.

6. SlideShare

SlideShare

Where they’re based: San Francisco and New Delhi

What they do: Enable you to easily share PowerPoint presentations online.

Quote from cofounder Rashmi Sinha: “How many times have you received

This slideshow could not be started. Try refreshing the page or viewing it in another browser.

files that clogged up your inbox? We created a social space to share them instead.”

How they got funding: According to Sinha, they got modest investments up front. The later received money from angel investors like Mark Cuban and venture capital from Venrock.

Business model: Their site allows people to take out ads.

7. Posterous

Posterous

Where they’re based: Bay Area

What they do: The service allows users to publish blog posts by simply typing them in to their favorite e-mail service, such as Gmail. It also takes links that were pasted into the email and makes them come alive in the blog post (as an example, a video link posted into an email would appear in its full video form in the blog post).

Quote from cofounder Garry Tan: We can take a link that is worthless [and make it] more intelligent. The user doesn’t need to know how to embed code.”

Where they got funding: $15,000 from Y Combinator

Business Model: Free for individuals. Premium subscription model in the works.

8. RescueTime

RescueTime

Where they’re based: Seattle area

What they do: They measure how much time users spend on the Web, on either a website or application. While it sounds a bit Big Brother like, it’s really for users to determine how productive they’re being on a daily basis (how much time did you spend in email yesterday?). It does offer organizations a management view to see organizational behavior, but individual users’ identities are protected.

Quote from cofounder Tony Wright: “It’s not a micro-manager tool. We offer a categorized view of how you [and your organization] is spending time. That allows you to be more efficient.”

Where they got funding: Wright didn’t specify amount, but it was from Y Combinator, so likely under $20,000.

Business model: Free for individuals; fee-based for organizations.

9. Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere

Where they’re based: Chicago and Boston

What they do: They make presentations interactive by allowing users sitting in an audience to text questions to the speaker and see them populate on a webpage.

Quote from co-founder Jeff Vyduna: “Our goal is to make presentations a two-way medium.”

Where they got funding: $20,000 from Y Combinator.

Business Model: Free for up to 30 people, but priced per month as a service after that based on audience size.

E-Commerce Fulfillment Providers (EFPs)

If you are starting an online business and you started running the operations numbers, you have probably noticed that they get pretty big pretty fast. It gets expensive to get things from Point A to Point B.

E-Commerce Fulfillment Providers are designed to take the friction out of order fulfillment. You will, of course, pay for that service but you may also find that removes a component of your business that is not your core competency.

Mark Ayotte is the owner of Yugster.com, an e-commerce site that offers a daily special item for sale each day and he has written an article on EFP’s:

There are several EFPs. Yugster.com uses Webgistix. Amazon is actually the largest EFP, although most people think of Amazon only as a retailer. These two companies take different approaches to fulfillment services. Webgistix offers a customizable solution that is integrated with a retailer’s order-entry system. Amazon offers a self-serve solution that allows retailers to plug into Amazon’s fulfillment infrastructure. Other EFPs, such as WeFulfillIt, are also emerging as demand for these services continues to rise sharply.”

You need to get references if you are planning to do this though. It’s not that these companies are disreputable, they are quite reputable, but you will need to calculate the numbers for YOUR business and also hear firsthand experiences from their customers who ship a similar product line as the one your are considering. Mark Ayotte mentions scalability in his article and that is a critical component that any business owner will want to keep in mind. In good times or bad, scalability is key.

Favourite Website Awards.

Favourite Website Awards.

Favourite Website Awards.

Sometimes you just need a little creative inspiration.

Favourite Website Awards has been a destination of mine since 2000. If you design sites, or are involved in site creative, you will probably want to carve out at least an hour exploring this treasure trove.

If you’re in the ideation stage of a project, you could probably spend an entire afternoon getting ideas and it would all be time well spent.