Welcome To The CantBarsed Blog

Thanks for stopping by. This is where I let off steam and talk about affiliate marketing, promotional codes, freebies, Apple stuff and anything else which motivates me to post (which judging by my track record isn't much)...

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

iPhone - MyPhone - The Story So Far

It's no secret I'm an "Apple fan boy" and I've been waiting to order a proper UK iPhone since playing with one in the Apple Store in Florida over the summer.

The only decision to be made was whether to drive into town on a dark cold winter evening to buy from my local O2 store or buy from Apple online and wait a few days for delivery. No contest!
So on Friday 9th November at 6.02pm and a few seconds I logged on to Apple's site half expecting the site to be broken but everything worked fine and a few minutes later my iPhone was ordered.
The iPhone arrived, as promised, the following Tuesday and I had my own sad unboxing and picture taking ceremony (see pics).

Apple packaging is always gorgeous and I can never bring myself to throw it away so everything ends up in the loft and I'm going to have to buy a bigger house or start a museum eventually!

I lost my previous Sony Ericsson mobile at the Latitude festival in the summer and replaced it with a Nokia N95 switching to the O2 network because I knew O2 had won the exclusive UK iPhone contract. The Nokia N95 is a nice phone, I liked the GPS feature but I couldn't surf websites reliably on it and the camera combined with my photographic abilites were both dissappointing.

As an existing O2 customer (if you want to keep your number and existing contract) activation is different so I've put together an O2 step by step activation series of screenshots for anyone who wants to see exactly what happens. It took around 20 minutes from start to activation but I was taking screenshots along the way so that's a worst case scenario and it was relatively straightforward but dull.

If you've ordered an iPhone and you're waiting for it to arrive read my iPhone setup Guide and when your iPhone arrives you'll be ready to synchronise and play in minutes.

I'm not going to hack my iPhone for a couple of reasons. First of all since I have an O2 contract so the phone features work(!) and secondly because Apple have agreed to open up development early next year and I can wait a few months for some "official" widgety enhancements.

However I do hugely respect the efforts of the hacking community because I doubt Apple would have released the SDK without being pushed, it's not in their nature.

By belatedly following the advice in my iPhone setup guide I've now got all my contacts, photos, music and bookmarks neatly organised on my iPhone.

I work mostly online so the most important iPhone feature for me is WiFi support and internet browsing. I prefer the Firefox browser but Safari is a capable and reliable alternative and now for the first time ever on a mobile device I can browse my websites and login and make urgent changes from the iPhone - that's a huge step forwards in Joe World!

I have literally hundreds of passwords which I need access to on a daily basis and I normally use RoboForm on PCs and 1Password on my Macs. They're both excellent web form fillers and password managers and I recommend everyone gives one or the other program a try - especially if you're using the same password for all your online services.

I was scratching my head trying to figure out the best way to store all my passwords on the iPhone and was interrupted by the latest 1Password software update which now supports the iPhone - brilliant!

1Password generates a special encrypted Safari bookmark which is synchronised to your iPhone along with your other Safari bookmarks and although it's not automatic on the iPhone it's the best available unless you know different?

My friend Antonius has a hacked iPhone (it took him all weekend and the rest of family gave him a wide berth) so we met up to compare notes over a pint in the pub. The hacked interface is amazing with lots of toys to play with and I sincerely hope Apple takes a positive attitude to build a community of iPhone developers so we can all enjoy their efforts.

Time will tell, thanks for reading, if you have any questions fire away, I'll try to answer them...

Thursday, 15 November 2007

How to (or not) Haggle for a Domain Name

Like many affiliates we "own" hundreds of domain names but we're not "domainers" and I find it quite entertaining haggling for domains that I really, really want but don't need.
I particularly enjoyed this conversation and haven't yet decided whether to continue the "negoiation" or not, perhaps your comments will help...

Dear Joe,
Thank you for contacting us about [domain.name]. The domain is priced at £5,000 or above.
The price bracket indicated is based on a previous brief initial search of related websites and businesses using the term "[snip]", statistics such as Internet Traffic and advertising revenue and takes into account previous interest and offers on the domain name as well as the value of the term as a potential brand and Internet keyword.
We don't keep an exact price for any of our domain names on file... [snip] ...exact sale prices fluctuate over time so we research these on a case by case basis as and when required when we receive serious interest in a domain name.
If you do think this will be of further interest given the indication above and you would like us to look into this further for you and investigate a definite current asking price, or if you have any other questions or comments please let us know.
Best regards, ???

Hi ???, Thanks for your reply.
The domain has been for sale for ages (years) with no takers so I feel my £1000 offer is realistic irrespective of your estimated valuation. I don't need it, it's just a nicer fit for [snip]
Our main business is affiliate marketing through other websites.
As I stated in the initial form I have no plans to resell it for profit so you wouldn't be missing out and £1000 has to be better than it being parked for another year.
Regards, Joe Connor

Sorry Joe but that's not how it works, Regards, ???

Hi ???,
> Sorry Joe but that's not how it works.
I recently bought a domain where the initial asking price was 18k for 3.7k through Sedo so I know that's exactly how it is.
A domain is worth what someone will pay for it and given it's been sat there for years unused it's clearly not worth what you value it at.
I'll email you again next year ;-)
Regards, Joe

Hi Joe,
"Sat there for years unused"? you make it sound like an old washing machine! Like I say that is not the way it works and you clearly have no concept of my businesses model in this area, something which has nothing at all to do with whatever a bunch of jokers on Sedo may get up to.
I am not going to enter into a debate with you on this and explain the situation because I get hundreds of people come out with similar nonsense to me every year and I never normally reply.
But to put you straight though on this on this occasion it is suffice to say whilst your thoughts on this are a nice idea for you and your desire to try and secure this domain name; and a good attempt at an angle for you to try and bargain a lower price on it, they are fundamentally incorrect.
An asset in this instance a domain name like this one that is firstly appreciating in value and secondly generating revenue does not fit with your description, as someone who makes money out of parked domains with advertising on them you must surely be aware of this second point. If it were like an old washing machine and becoming out of date, obsolete and depreciating and something I had to pay storage and rent on and was falling into disrepair then, yes, you may have a point, and yes I would then be wise to look at trying to secure a deal, but the situation bears no comparison to that and your reasoning is clearly flawed.
So nice try, but regardless of your past experiences in buying domain names there is no way I will be selling this domain name for any less than the price indicated whether now or even if I still have it in 10 years time. If I were in a hurry to get rid of it and needed the money I know two places where I could sell it for more than three times your offer, immediately, today guaranteed.
If however you are in the future in the position to make a genuinely "realistic" offer if say your business grows for example and you have more money to spend feel free to let me know.

Best regards, ???

So the domain probably has a true value somewhere around £3000 and I could probably get it for £5000. Follow up suggestions welcomed...

Monday, 29 October 2007

Cheeselets - More Like CheeseLESS!

We always look forward to cracking open our first tube of the new Cheeselets season and this year United Biscuits have taken the biscuit - literally, about half of them by our reckoning.

It's not all bad, the useless opening pull strip that always breaks off is gone (hurrah) and they've changed the flavour again - they taste different, a bit crispier, but still good.
Our kids pointed out they're 40% less fat... less salt... less everything because the biscuits are 40% gone!

And it's not just one tube, we checked several, and it's not because they've compacted down either, if anything there's fewer broken biscuits than normal. Quite frankly we're cheesed off!

Saturday, 27 October 2007

A4U Expo - Expose!

Congratulations to Matt and the gang on the best conference style event I have ever attended and for getting it near-perfect first time, that's a fantastic achievement.
In the spirit of constructive criticism, here are my personal observations:

Ticketing: I got a conference pass in the post but at the event the passes were all printed out again which seemed to be a waste of time, effort and paper - worse still my printout said "Agency" which marked me out as a conference leper before I started! I tore it off the bottom of my pass which then got me into hot water with one of the a4u staff (didn't recognise him).

Planning: I was planning to go to the after show party but main event finished at 5pm and I'd checked out of my hotel so had nowhere to go between 5pm and 7pm when the after show party started - which was too long to wait after a long day so I went home. I understand exhibitors had to pack up and get organised but next time somewhere warm visitors can hang out for a couple of hours to keep it seamless would be cool.

Music: I've mentioned this one for a few previous get2gethers. I love music but the volume of music in the after-show parties is way too loud. I know I'm getting on a bit but the volume got to a level where even face to face 1 to 1 converstations were impossible and the next morning my voice was shot - maybe that's a good thing I hear some of you say but I wasn't the only one to mention it.

Food & Drink: Generally, really well handled by the Excel centre (contract staff?). I liked the brown paper bags and paper packaging but a lot more could be done to improve wastefulness on their side. The Awards evening fish and chips was tasty but a real bun fight, with some people getting more than one and others waiting ages, that needs sorting if the same venue is used again.

A4U Awards: I enjoyed the David Brent lookandsoundalike (although he did go on a bit) and I'd like to offer my congratulations to the winners, especially Matt, Hero, Kieron, Bruce and Zak. From my perspective there were some distinctly odd results and daft categories but it was generally good fun. Again the noise level detracted and the stage being at ground level made it hard to see what was going on so, depending how important/prestigious the awards become, perhaps this should a more formal event held in the conference halls - I recently attended an-after show event at the Excel centre with 1000 attendees so it can be done.

The Exhition Hall: For me this was the really HUGE plus because it meant the network staff (at least some of them) are nailed to their stands. I finally got to met CJ staff for the first time (Yes, they are real live HUMAN BEINGS) and add more names to faces at all the networks - all prizes to the address in my profiles please guys :)
At previous a4u get2gethers I've been to everyone is in a bar with a drink in their hand and network staff tend to stick together which makes it a lot harder to break into their conversation.

I even joined a new network called alltogether digital run by James Little and Kenneth Cheung. Unlike most new networks, they have already got 2 merchants I want to work instead of the usual rubbish pseudo deals so respect and good wishes to them with that project.

The Sessions: These generally exceeded my expectations and are a great addition to the mix. They're also a welcome opportunity to sit down, nod off and learn stuff depending on the particular session. From the a4u forum gang Dixon, Jess and Lee did a great job, I missed Graham, Jason, Kieron, etc but with concurrently running sessions that was inevitable. Ciaran Norris was my favourite speaker, a natural public speaker, so upgrade him to the main stange and make sure you catch him next time. Perhaps an award for the best sessions could also be organised?

Merchants: It was great to see a few larger merchants with a stand. I had a really useful chat with Lesley on the Littlewoods stand which cleared up my mis-conceptions about how the Littlewoods and Littlewoods Direct and associated brands fit together. I also bumped into other merchants touring the floor. I learnt Elaine has a merchant program (Doh!) called Childrens Rooms on POR, I can't believe I missed it or that Elaine or Dave hadn't hassled me but I've signed up now so where's my codes Elaine? ;)

As the event was closing Frostie introduced me to the Euroffice duo, Jonathan and Vincent and they showed us their new site layout which look great and perfect for B2C customers - the old site converted well enough but seemed to have B2B focus so hopefully the new site will convert even better for me. I also had several good chats with Alyssa O'Mara from CardScan (part of Dymo group) who made the trip over from the US and is looking for affiliates with suitable B2B sites, you can check out their program which is running on CJ and Webgains.
I'd like to see more merchants taking stands rather than walking the halls so affiliates can find them more easily, perhaps smaller, cheaper stands in another hall, perhaps one day only, or even just informal merchant meeting points or merchant speed dating sessions would be a good addition to the mix?

Thanks to Matt, the gang and all the sponsors and I look forward to the 2008 event.

With discount codes being the hot potato ATM the a4u code site owners gang (except those that bottled it) held a mini summit meeting to air our views and now Frostie, Ray, Keith and myself are best mates - well sort of! :) Thanks also to Clarke for talking about POR's new system and Hero for her input explaining Webgains POV.

Finally, I'd like to thank all the usual a4u forum members for making the event even more enjoyable including Jess, Dixon, Keith/s, Paul, Julie, Elaine, Dave, Jason/s, James, Clarke, Jude, Zak E, Graham, Kieron, Malcolm, Nadeem, Pete, Kandevil, Mark, Bruce, Lee, Tom and put some faces to a few a4u members I hadn't met before - Hi to Kirsty and Duncan, Bruce, POR Graeme, Kenneth, Alyssa.
Apologies to anyone I've left out, especially one random guy in the loo - I was heading towards a kids urinal next to him when I noticed and exclaimed "That looks a bit small" - his reaction confirmed "low" would have been a better word to use!

Monday, 1 October 2007

Mac Undercover

Mac computer users should take a look at Undercover which effectively renders a stolen mac useless to a thief and there's even a chance it will help you get your Mac back or see what the thief looks like!

Once installed if your mac is ever stolen you visit the Undercover website and enter your unique ID number at which point they start looking for your mac.
As soon the the stolen mac connects to the internet the IP addresses and router address is logged which helps trace the physical location of your mac and, if your mac has an isight webcam, sends pictures of the thief every few minutes.

If you still don't get your mac back at least you have the satisfaction of knowing the thief won't enjoy using your mac for long. After half an hour Undercover simulates an intermittent hardware failure (even if the mac isn't online). If the thief decides to sell you mac or take it in for repair Undercover will track this and will shout and display a full-screen message alerting the reseller (or someone who bought the Mac from the thief) that the Mac has been stolen and should be returned along with Undercover's contact information and reward offer.

They seem to have thought of everything and the prices are really cheap:
* Single User license: $49
* Household license: $59
* Site license: $249
* Student license: $39
* Volume educational license: $8/Mac

I should mention I have no connection with Undercover apart from being a customer.

There's also iAlertU which is a free alternative to Undercover, it doesn't include the network tracking but is a more in-your-face deterrent. There's no reason why you couldn't use both.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

iPhone - The Apple In My Eyes

I've seen an Apple iPhone inspired future and it's the stuff of science fiction. All the crucial elements are already in play.

iTunes was the Trojan horse which let Apple loose on Windows giving PC users a glimpse of Mac loveliness as they traded up their mp3 players for iPods and got used to doing things Mac style.

Making a success of the iTunes Store was the next crucial move which has made it (almost) painless to pay for our music, it's certainly a lot less hassle than all that peer-to-peer nonsense - and with music becoming available at higher quality and DRM free there's no excuse to steal music anymore.

Switching Macs to Intel CPUs has made it easier for programmers to get Windows software running on a Mac which both encouraged long time Mac users to stick with the platform and enticed more people to switch to Macs offering a comfortable transition.

The recently released Apple TV is a stealth device - it also integrates seamlessly with iTunes and iTunes Store on both PCs and Macs. To the casual observer Apple TV appears over-priced and near-useless BUT it's being flown in under the radar to provide essential mission support as the iPhone establishes a bridgehead.

I firmly believe the iPhone will do to the mobile phone market what the iPod did to the mp3 player market and history is going to repeat itself - people are going to start trading up their standalone iPods, mp3 players, mobile phones and PDAs to the iPhone. We'll hear the same old bravado from other manufacturers about how they're not worried while they frantically scramble to produce iPhone clones but they've missed the big picture and there's no way back for them now.

In less than two years all we will need is a TV ('cos they're big and fun to watch together), a computer or games platform (to work and play games) and an iPhone (because they're Star Trek-like, damn sexy and portable). The stealth role for Apple TV reveals itself as the infrastructure to wirelessly manage everything on your iphone, computer and TV screen using iTunes and Safari.

The next battle for Apple isn't with Microsoft or other device manufacturers but with Sky Digital and terrestrial digital TV for control of our eyeballs. Movies and TV shows are already available via the US iTunes Store and these can be streamed wirelessly over the Internet to your iPhone, computer or TV screen. The only question is when Apple TV is renamed Skynet - finally the big picture is clear for all to see.

Click here for the latest iPhone news...

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Shields Up!

Promotional code sites like cantBarsed.com and DiscountCodes.tv are now so popular we're coming under ever closer scrutiny from merchants. Most are happy for us to promote their codes, which they see as a symbiotic relationship, others are ambivolent or turn a blind eye but increasingly we're being asked to remove valid codes which is definitely bad for YOU and makes our sites less relevant.

What's worse is that some of the merchants who have asked us to remove codes still give them away to newsletter subscribers (read our money saving tips about newsletters) and via their other advertising channels which leaves our regular visitors out in the cold.

If their aim is to get rid of code sites they're unlikely to succeed - a quick look at the US experience shows code sites are not going to go away so pulling codes is just going to drive the perceived problem underground.

We've always approached merchants to organise exclusive promotional codes for cantBarsed visitors so we've ramped up this activity which in the long run will hurt the stores not offering codes as their coverage shrinks at the expense of our exclusive promo code partners.

The challenge for merchants is to learn to work with us, not against us, and manage promotional codes intelligently so everyone is a winner.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Iny Meany Miny Mo, to the AW Event We Shall Go!

I'd already accepted my invitation to the Affiliate Window event before I realised it clashes with the A4U get2gether and cruise to Amsterdam. I can't do both events and keep Deb happy on her birthday. It's a shame when affiliate events clash but I've been meaning to put some names to AW faces and it looks set to be a great evening. I'll certainly miss my usual round of conversations with the guys from the a4u forum but I hope they'll be some familiar faces at the AW event too.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Dirty Pretty Things R Us

As ASOS' last affiliate of the year before they took their ball home I've been outed by ASOS Pearly King Nick Robinson as one of the "grubby little people in grubby studios growing income at our expense" which seems a bit harsh given it was ASOS that invited me to their London HQ, took me out to lunch and encouraged me to make more sales.
This all happened back in the days before ASOS turned their affiliate program into a virtual torture chamber and by no co-incidence shortly after affiliate marketing superhero Jess Luthi escaped her corporate shackles and took the ASOS brain cell with her.