I am now MacBen

How come no one ever told me how cool Mac’s were before now? I kid! I’m already getting “I told you so!” emails, and I’m not embarassed to say, “you were right!” After being extremely frightened about making “the switch” as they call it, I jumped in head first and did it. Thankfully I had help from Michael LeBarron, one of our web developers. He totally helped me get up speed. (thank you Michael!)

Less than 48 hours after buying my MacBook Pro I am now 100% converted and holy crap am I happy! I’m flying around the OS like I’ve been using it for years. I’m learning the nuances and I’ve customized it to my liking. I’m taking full advantage of Spaces too. I do need a couple Windows programs, specifically MS Money, Expensable, and Quickbooks and I just used Parallels to install XP, and with Parallels’ Coherence I can actually run any and all Microsoft programs within OS X as if it belonged there. They even put themselves in the dock. That’s just so brilliant!

But most importantly, I’m back to work. I’m moving around quickly, I’m not waiting for programs to open, close, files to save, etc, and I’m not fighting my computer – it plays nice, it works – it simply works. I got a ton done today. Heck, I had to do a little work in Illustrator and I was in and out in less than 4 minutes! On my Windows machine it would take 4 minutes just to open Illustrator – and that’s no exaggeration.

I can proudly say that I love Mac and I can honestly admit that this is long overdue for me. However, I will not be getting any tattoos, or face piercings, and I won’t be putting any stickers on my lid.

This Week's Ma.gnolia Bookmarks

My Ma.gnolia bookmarks for this past week.

Thermometer Chart in Excel

Thermometer Chart in Excel

Create a Thermometer Chart in Excel

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Mahoney's Garden Centers in Winchester Center – Winchester | CitySquares

Mahoney's Garden Centers in Winchester Center - Winchester | CitySquares

Mahoney's Garden Centers 242 Cambridge St Winchester ma 01890 home & garden nurseries & garden centers winchester winchester center

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Online Invitations, party planning and event management from pingg

Online Invitations, party planning and event management from pingg

pingg offers consumers, professional and
businesses stylish online invitation creation, event management, guest list
creation and event reporting services. With pingg you get the look and feel of
traditional print invitations with the convenience and utility of an online
invitation and event management service.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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:{Custom 52}: Playing Card Design Competition

Playing Card Design Competition

Welcome to Custom52. We are an online design community using playing cards as our canvas. Entries will be graded by your peers and the strong will survive.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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20×200

20x200

20×200: art for everyone

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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BlueFlip Art – Buy prints. Save cash. Help charities.

BlueFlip Art - Buy prints. Save cash. Help charities.

BlueFlip Art's mission is to get great art into the hands of the public at low prices, and help some charities along the way. Browse our prints today!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Award winning luxury Bicycle tours in Europe | Bike Tour | Bicycle Tour | Bike trip| Bike trip France | Bike tours in France | bike tours in Italy | bicycle tours Tuscany | bicycle vacation tuscany | biking tour Ireland | cycling tour Switzerland | biking

Award winning luxury Bicycle tours in Europe | Bike Tour | Bicycle Tour | Bike trip| Bike trip France | Bike tours in France | bike tours in Italy | bicycle tours Tuscany | bicycle vacation tuscany | biking tour Ireland | cycling tour Switzerland | biking

Unique and personalized bike tour in France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, Napa, Chile, New Zealand; biking trips traveling with DuVine Adventures in Provence, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany, Loire, Tour de France and more of Europe. Enjoy a bicycle tour in Europe while staying in deluxe chateaux and sampling great french, Italian, Spainish wines and cuisine, bicycle tour in Tuscany, offering incentive travel and corporate travel incentive groups guided biking trips europe mountain bike tour, biking trips europe, France bike tour,
european bike vacations, european bike tours.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Tags:

The New York Times > US > Image > Shifting Religions

US > Image > Shifting Religions”/>

More than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion, a new survey of religious affiliation says.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Marketing Your Way Through a Recession — HBS Working Knowledge

Marketing Your Way Through a Recession — HBS Working Knowledge

In a recession, consumers become value oriented, distributors are concerned about cash, and employees worry about their jobs. But a downturn is no time to stop spending on marketing. The key, says professor John Quelch , is to understand how the needs of your customers and partners change, and adapt your strategies to the new reality.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Coolidge Corner Hub – Home

Coolidge Corner Hub - Home

The latest news, events and information for Coolidge Corner and Brookline, Ma, In response to the growing need for quality pre-K child care in the area, Brookline's Little Children Schoolhouse recently expanded its program to include this age group, offering both full and part-time slots., The Brookline Recreation Department is offering outdoor fun for kids from toddlers to teenagers., This winter, the Brookline Arts Center opens its doors to the father and son photographers B.D. and Ben Colen., Harvey Bravman, Coolidge Corner Hub Founder and President of Advanced Digital Replication, Inc. was among those recognized in by the Brookline Tab in its TAB 10 of 2007., Coldwell Banker's Arts and Community Show continues this month featuring local artists, Lola Baltzell and Robin Lippay., The Brookline Education Foundation's Annual Win-a-Mini Raffle is underway., For people with busy schedules who cannot commit to a long-term visual arts class, the Brookline Arts Center is now offering one-day workshops and short evening courses on a variety of topics, The Brookline Chamber of Commerce has a full schedule events over the coming weeks.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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YouTube – Keeping Austin Weird with the Multiplier Effect Episode 4

YouTube - Keeping Austin Weird with the Multiplier Effect Episode 4

Fiercely independent Austin Texas came up with a formula to shield its independents from an unfair playing field for Borders Books. And they come up with a …

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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CitySquares on Boston Pedicabs

CitySquares on Boston Pedicabs

Video of Boston Pedicab's Official Launch with CitySquares as the official sponsor.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

I’m Converting to Mac… I Think

(Not long after posting the below post, I wrote this one after converting to Mac. Check it out when you’re done reading this.)

So, I think I can say I’m ready to convert to a Mac. I’m not 100% convinced because frankly I’m just frightened about it. But I think I’m going to talk myself into it in this blog entry. Here we go…

I’ve been using computers since the days of, well, since before there was a Windows, thanks to my Dad and his entry into the computer industry in the early 80’s. First I was using VMS on a DEC Rainbow and PDP 11. I was using MS-DOS, then I was using Windows 3.51, then Windows 95, then Windows 98. I was an MSCE in Windows NT Workstation, Windows NT Server, then Windows 2000 and Active Directory. I upgraded to Windows XP, and now, I have Windows Vista.

I currently run Vista on a ThinkPad T60p. Vista is slightly sexier than XP – which isn’t saying much at all! All along the way over the past few years, especially the past 2 years, I’ve been growing more and more impatient with Windows and more and more intrigued and impressed by Mac OS and its flexibility to work with Windows, even in parallel. Most especially over the past couple years as Apple has clearly been doing some very new and impressive stuff, slowly encroaching on Microsoft’s enterprise market share – albeit totally puny. And I’ve always stuck to the same message of “but I need Windows for business – I just couldn’t convert.” Today, however, I had such a terrible and ironic meltdown that I think the Gods, as well as the stranger next to me on this train ride, are telling me it’s time to convert. Check this out…

Being that I run Vista on a ThinkPad T60p, I naturally have to reboot often. And it’s only been getting worse. But, being the Windows guy that I am, I tolerate it. I tolerate it like I tolerate back pain – I just accept it. It comes with the territory! So at 7:30 this morning I’m at Penn Station waiting for my train back to Boston, trying to get online. No go, and Outlook is freezing for some unknown reason, along with other apps like Winamp, for no apparent reason. So, whatever, I close the lid and stuff it into my bag and go back to my BlackBerry where I can actually be more productive. Imagine that – I’m more productive on my BlackBerry than I am on a $2000 laptop running Windows Vista. When I boarded the train and sat down at a table diagonal to another gentleman, I saw him reach into a manilla envelope and pull out his Mac Air. (OK, he didn’t really pull it out of an envelope). So I break out my massive, stealth black ThinkPad (powerful as she is) and plunk her down on the table. I crack it open and notice that Windows has decided to start fresh. OH – OK. Chalk it up to not putting it to sleep properly – because apparently closing the lid is just too much for Vista to handle properly. So I wait about 6 minutes for it to start this service, that service, that app, this app, yada yada. I kill the usual processes that otherwise would require me to reboot in short time, and then I’m on my way. Hah! Take that Mac guy with your shiny white glowing apple – staring at me with it’s, it’s stem.

I proceed to plug my Verizon Wireless PC card in, run VZAccess manager and attempt to get online, which works for about 10 minutes. Outlook is trying to connect, and I proceed to Firefox where I can catch up on some reading about some of the stuff I picked up at this week’s conference. I put my headphones on, start Winamp, and crank a little Soundgarden. I’m rockin now!

Then it all came to an end. Every app froze. I couldn’t click anything. But the mouse moved so that was a good sign! I know this pattern, I just have to wait. So I go to the snack car and get a cinnamon bun. Upon my return Windows was still frozen and all my apps were pale white. But the mouse still moved, hooray! But I can’t click the start menu. OK, fuck it – hard shutdown (an activity that always frightens me because it’s just SO not good for a hard disk). BIOS posts, Windows comes up, and I login. Suddently I see Windows Vista has decided to install IE again, along with many other programs. I can’t see anything but this install process – not even my tropical golf course wallpaper. Then Vista only confirmed what I feared was happening – it was rebuilding my Windows profile. All my personal settings were gone – just, gone! My startup items, gone, my wallpaper, gone, and then I clicked to my Documents folder – empty! My Music, empty! My Pictures, empty! Holy crap! (Thankfully I use Mozy Pro and I can get it all back if it’s really really gone)

I just had to stop for a minute and laugh. I just, laughed! Here’s this Mac guy with his sexy Air working away and looking so calm and collected, even smug, but – productive. And here’s me – not able to do a single thing – no work cuz Windows doesn’t want to play nice. I take off my headphones and I engage the enemy in a discussion, a diplomatic discussion. I want to know more about his culture, the state of his nation – Mac nation.

Turns out he’s a senior business consultant, and a technical one at that. He told me he was a diehard PC guy for many years – let me say that again – he was a diehard PC guy. Now, he’s using a Mac! I gave him some more airtime and let him sell me. And he just about closed the deal. We spoke for a good 15 minutes and he almost totally convinced me. He answered all sorts of my questions about dual booting, about the Intel processor, about the speed, the efficiency, the graphics, the this the that. What we concluded that there is nothing stopping me but fear. I feel like a kid who’s afraid to dive off a rock into a lake, while all my friends are there swimming and having fun, but I’m too much of a sally to jump in with them.

Then, I picked up my BlackBerry I notice my friend and advisor to CitySquares, Randy Parker (founder of Constant Contact), was on Google Talk. We get to talking about the same topics. And he too convinces me – puts all my concerns to rest, aside from just the emotional barriers. He emails me some articles about Leopard, about how fast Vista is on a Mac – how’s PC World actually says that the fastest machine they’ve ever run Windows on is a Mac!!!

After these conversations and collecting some of the data I need, on top of data points I’ve picked up on over the past couple years, I needed to just think about it all. Meanwhile I decided to reboot the laptop nice and proper like. When I did, my original profile came back, thank heavens! But some of my settings are gone and I can’t use my Aircard now. I don’t care. I’ve given up.

So here I am now, on the train, typing this entry into Windows Notepad because I’m afraid to use anything the else. And when my train pulls into South Station I think I’m doing it – I’m going to run to an Apple store and get some advice on converting from Windows, and running Windows in VMware or whatever, Parallels or something, that might even be built into Leopard (cuz you can do that on a Mac!). And if that doesn’t work – again, according to PC World Vista runs faster on a Mac!

So that’s it, I’m doing it. I’m making the plunge. And ya know, I’m excited. I’m ready to leave PC land and go to Mac land. The irony here, aside from my experience this morning with this friendly passenger and his Mac Air, is that until about a year or so ago I was a long time, loyal, passionate Windows Mobile guy (starting with my first HP iPaq). After growing frustrated with windows Mobile day after day, month after month, year after year, I converted to BlackBerry. I’ve never looked back. I love my BlackBerry Pearl!

I’ve always said, I’ll never get a Mac, yet here I am, about to get one. Ya know what’s most exciting about this folks? The most exciting thing about this is that now, I can get some work done. Apparently when you put a Mac to sleep, it goes to sleep. When you wake it up, it wakes up. When you boot it, it boots, fast. When you tell it to do something, it does it. Viruses on a Mac? Are you kidding? I am genuinely excited about getting back to work, and OK, on a very sexy Mac with it’s shiny glowing little apple.

To be continued…

Continued here.

At SES NY

SES NY

I forgot to post this earlier, but better late than never! I will be at Search Engine Strategies New York this week, from Monday through Thursday. I look forward to seeing many friends and acquaintences, including:

Gib, Mike (and Fred?) from Localeze
Andrew Shotland from LocalSEOGuide
My friends from TurnHere
Ryan Sarver from Skyhook Wireless
Danny Moon from UpNext
Jason Calacanis from Mahalo and Calacanis.comassuming he’ll speak to me!

I’m sure I’ll see, as well as meet, many others from around the way. I always enjoy these industry conferences – there’s always such great energy and fun, and of course overwhelming amounts of information. I’ve heard great things about the SES shows and this is actually my first.

I’ll be staying with a friend uptown and seeing some friends and family while in town too. It’ll be a tight schedule that’s for sure! If you’d like to meet up shoot me an email at my name at CitySquares.com.

Introducing The CitySquares Company Blog!

Your Suspect has always been about my experiences and perspectives as an entrepreneur running CitySquares.com. I started this blog in the early days of CitySquares, the sweat equity days. I’ve tried to hold back from doing too much of a PR spin on things and just try to give it to you raw and real. In doing so I feel like I’ve also a bit of a disservice to my company by not talking about certain CitySquares specific things like new products, features, campaigns, traffic, sales, other stuff – stuff that can only be reported from the battlefield. This blog here, at Your Suspect, is my blog, and my opinions are not those of CitySquares. And now we have a place for that – at The CitySquares Blog!

A quote from the first post on The CitySquares Blog:

This is the start of something new. I’ve been blogging for quite a while on my own personal blog, Your Suspect, which is both about CitySquares and local search but really more about my perspectives and experiences as an entrepreneur. I’ve been blogging about such things since the earliest days of CitySquares but I’ve always wanted to give Bob, my cofounder, and other coworkers with a place to let their voices be heard from a company perspective, within the trenches.

Rest assured though that this blog here, at Your Suspect, will continue to be as it is – honest, a little brash at times, opinionated, and authentic. I hope you will enjoy both blogs!

So without further ado I invite you to jump over to and subscribe to The CitySquares Blog.

Calacanis Lit a Fire, Here are My Thoughts

(This entry has been appended, see the last sentence for an update)

So Jason Calacanis lit a fire last week with a blog post about things to do and things not to do in a startup company. I was introduced to Jason a few months ago at a conference in LA by a mutual friend. We chatted for quite a bit while he waited for a ride to a Lakers game. We joked around, talked business and just gabbed. Seemed like a nice enough guy, and at the same time he struck me as a no-nonse kind of dude. Jason is extremely bright, and certainly successful and his reputation definitely precedes him. His blog post created quite a stir in the blogosphere. Many critics have piled on him. TechCrunch piled on starting with Duncan Riley to Michael Arrington. Don Dodge jumped in, and the latest to catch my attention was Mark Cuban.

About two weeks ago, after subscribing to Jason’s blog for a long time, I unsubscribed. The reason? He never seemed to have anything important to say – just the same ol’ promotional crap about his business Mahalo. Now granted, I think Mahalo is cool, but I don’t read Jason’s blog to read about Mahalo. I read it to learn his insights as an entrepreneur, and an entrepreneur I respect. But I’ve grown tired of his endless Mahalo postings. As one of my Facebook friends I’m also tired of his endless links to Mahalo. It totally clogs up my Facebook news feed! But this recent post, that I’m referencing here in this entry, is a damn good one and is reason for me to subscribe to his blog again.

Anyway, to the point… out of all the responses in the blogosphere to Jason’s entry, some of Mark Cuban’s responses are the ones that really stuck a chord with me. (interesting side note: Cuban is a Mahalo investor). In Mark’s response the ones that caught my attention were:

3. Hire people who you think will love working there.

That’s the first thing I look for – a gut, passion, a heart. All our job postings state exactly that! If I don’t see those qualities in the first 30 seconds of an interview, the interview is already over and I just go through the motions. My colleagues can attest to that. Anyone I’ve hired in CitySquares is there because they passed these tests. I grill them and if they can look me in the eyes and not bullshit me and show me some guts, they’ve passed my first test.

6. An expresso machine ? Are you kidding me ? Shoot yourself before you spend money on an expresso machine. Coffee is for closers. Sodas are free. Lunch is a chance to get out of the office and talk. There are 24 hours in a day, and if people like their jobs, they will find ways to use as much of it as possible to do their jobs.

I love Mark’s response here! Firstly, we have a coffee machine in the office. A Keurig brewing machine – ya know – the kind that take those little cups? The reasons are simple – the closest coffee shop is not terribly convenient. That’s time my sales staff is not on the phones. And, having one of these babies in the office always stocked up is a great way to just keep everyone caffeinated and thinking. I’m a big fan of caffeine. Heck, if I could I’d chew coca leaves all day! Caffeine keeps me thinking and often gets me thinking in very creative ways. I think my sales team find it just as useful as I do. Espresso machine? Eh – that’s a little, well, a little too snooty for me. As for lunches – I agree. Get the hell outta the office for a little bit. Breath some fresh air instead of your coworkers breath. Get out, clear your head, get some perspective, then come back refreshed and ready for the rest of the day. And my staff do work at all hours, mostly. I’ve had numerous exchanges with coworkers this weekend, including board members.

10. NEVER EVER EVER buy swag. A sure sign of failure for a startup is when someone sends me logo polo shirts. If your people are at shows and in public, its ok to buy for your own folks, but if you really think someone is going to wear your Yobaby.com polo you sent them in public, you are mistaken and have no idea how to spend your money

Yep, love it. The only time we’ve bought any shirts, jackets, or hats is for events, trade shows, and marketing activities. That’s it. I totally agree with Mark. No one, including my board members to my own wife, are not going to where our corporate threads. Please – spend that money on a coffee machine or coca leaves!

12. Make the job fun for employees. Keep a pulse on the stress levels and accomplishments of your people and reward them. My first company, MicroSolutions, when we had a record sales month, or someone did something special, I would walk around handing out 100 dollar bills to salespeople. At Broadcast.com and MicroSolutions, we had a company shot. Kamikaze. We would take people to a bar every now and then and buy one or 10 for everyone. At MicroSolutions, more often than not we had vendors cover the tab. Vendors always love a good party :0

As I think many of my previous posts would demonstrate, we make all sorts of efforts here to keep morale high and people giving a shit. This is more than a job, it has to be. Some of things we do to keep people happy here happen by accident, some are quite intentional. From happy hours on Thursdays, to a Kudos contest, to American Idol pools, company lunches, and just general Shenanigans and Tom Foolery, we have a lot of fun. But make no mistake, we kick each others asses and hold ourselves and each other accountable.

Long story short, I think that Jason is a proven entrepreneur with loads of experience. I do, however, think that what works for one startup won’t necessary work in another. I can think of other startup companies I’ve worked for, including my own, that have had totally different requirements for morale, for efficiency tools, and for productivity. What works for me may not work for Jason. What works for Jason may not work for Mark. And so on.

Ultimately, that’s what this blog is really about – my perspectives as an entrepreneur. I try to keep the self-promotion out of it. I try not to be obnoxious (which I can easily be) and keep marketing and PR efforts out of this blog. That’s what a future planned CitySquares blog will be – promotional and PR stuff.

So if I can be just one more person to jump onto the Calacanis pig pile, my only piece of criticism would be to make the Calacanis.com Blog about Jason Calacanis, about his experiences with and in entrepreneurship, not about Mahalo and Mahalo and Mahalo. I am now resubscribed to his blog – at least until I get bored again.
2008-03-12

Jason posted a new blog entry in which he states he’s going to change his tune. I think that’s brave and wise of him. He’s such a respected guy and people really admire him (myself included). It’s refreshing to see this sort of honesty and guts. See his blog entry here.

Loving Xobni

I read about Xobni a while back on TechCrunch. I was immediately intrigued but I wasn’t able to get my hands on it. I recently downloaded the beta and less than 48 hours later, I’m already huge fan! It’s a little buggy and I think it might be bogging Outlook down a bit, but it’s still worth it. I read somewhere this week that Bill Gates himself demo’d the damn thing – and it’s not even a Microsoft product. Holy crap is that a feather in the cap! After mentioning it to my pal Don Dodge he told me he knows the founders and spoke very highly of them, and he too uses the software. I invited a few colleagues to install it (I was limited to 5 invitations), and one of them, my sales manager, said he’s already totally diggin in.

Anyway, if you use Outlook I highly encourage you to check out Xobni. It will make you 30% more productive right out of the gates. One feature I like already is the “schedule time” feature. It grabs my schedule and sticks into the body of the email message. No longer do I have to manually decipher my availability in my calendar and then try to explain it in an email message. Instead, the message is automagically created and reads like this:

Hi Scott,

Here is my availability for the next few days. (All times are Eastern Standard Time, GMT-05:00.)

Wed March 05, 11am to 1:30pm, 2:30 to 4pm

Thu March 06, 9 to 11am, 11:30am +

Fri March 07, 9am to 2pm, 2:30pm +

Sat March 08, all day

Sun March 09, 9am to 3pm, 6pm +

Mon March 10, 2pm +

Best,

Ben

All that with a single click!

Again, it is a bit buggy, but it’s a beta. Either way, I’m freaking lovin this thing. If you are an Outlook user, especially a poweruser like yours truly, get Xobni!