Only Send Me Junk Mail From Now On!

I was having one of those days where whatever I started went wrong or led to three other things that needed doing more urgently so when Hannah Swift popped up on MSN asking why I hadn’t replied to her recent email about a bean bag I’d won courtesy of Bean Bag Bazaar and I had to confess it was just one more thing which went wrong – I hadn’t seen the email.

Like many affiliates I get hundreds of emails to multiple email accounts every day from networks, agencies, friends, ads, spam and other nasties. I use the excellent Mailwasher Pro (exclusive promotional code) to monitor email live on my mail servers which makes it easy to react in near real-time to any incoming mail needing urgent attention BUT only if I’m at my desk and on the case. When I’m out of the office or not paying attention and I run a send/receive/delete email cycle without checking for urgent emails first everything ends up in Outlook where mail rules organise them neatly into black holes and hyperspace folders containing in excess of 35 THOUSAND unread emails.

The only way I can find emails in Outlook now is to do a google desktop search and frankly things are so bad I’m giving up on email.

I’ve been trying to improve my workflow and productivity and have been inching ever-closer to a paperless office. As part of that process I’ve been using online services like Google Apps, Evernote and Mobile Me so I can work online anywhere and still have access to my resources from anywhere on a laptop – which in itself is part of a longer term plan to be entirely mobile at around the same time my kids all leave home.

Tim Ferriss’ inspirational blog includes a similar tale of email woe. Tim’s solution is to “accept that small bad things will happen” and not to worry about it. That’s certainly an interesting approach but what about the small good things? If two wrongs don’t make a right surely ignoring bad emails risks the wrath of the karma gods and the good emails will dry up too?

So my new cunning plan is to tell everyone NOT to send me important emails any more which just leaves unimportant emails and spam which I can safely ignore – tada!

I must admit I’m feeling quite pleased with myself so please don’t go picking holes in my plan.

Getting rid of email is just the latest in a long line of hermit-like strategies I’ve deployed to free up more “me time.” My fax machine ran out of paper years ago so I put it in the loft, feel free to try and communicate with it if you like.

The telephone is another comms device I’ve mentally consigned to history. I do still have one, but I generally don’t answer it unless I know who’s calling (of course I have caller ID enabled and an answerphone) and I do sometimes have a weak moment listening to anyone brave enough to leave an answerphone message and pick up but it’s usually just to abuse and taunt hapless callers.

The answerphone message relayed by digital Dorothy says I’ll get back to you but she’s telling porkies. After several attempts at recording my own message inviting people to leave a message I decided she/it strikes just the right blend of FOAD I was looking for.

If you REALLY need to tell me to do something or NOT to do something I’d like to encourage you to chat with me by MSN, it’s immediate, I usually reply if I’m about or later when I have time – it’s a virtual post-it slapped on my monitor so there’s no better way to grab my attention. MSN also keeps a record of conversations so there’s every opportunity to incriminate or contradict yourself and my blackmail folder is growing steadily! My MSN address is joe(at)cantbarsed.com.

I also like to communicate sporadically on the a4u forum where I post as renegade, on Twitter and on Facebook so there are still plenty of ways to get hold of me pretty much anytime.

I believe Howard Hughes became a recluse suffering from OCD after accumulating his millions so now I’m washing my hands even more often and restricting myself to virtual human contact it’s surely only a matter of time before I accumulate some millions too?

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The CantBarsed Affiliate Marketing Lifestyle Experiment…

lifestyle experimentI’ve been around the UK affiliate marketing industry since the early days and there are so many great things about the industry every now and then I take time out to have a look around and see what other affiliates are up to and to remind myself not to take anything for granted because standing still really is going backwards in this industry.

Learning new stuff and trying out new ways of making money are two of my favourite things and two of the most important qualities anyone interested in making a living from affiliate marketing will need along with determination – lots of determination.

It’s not easy to think outside the box, especially on demand, but my background as a product designer means I’m adept at coming up with alternative ways of achieving the same result and when I suffer from designers block I buy other websites and take a look under the bonnet which gives me an insight into someone else’s mindset. Because they’re selling up there’s every chance it turns out to be a cul-de-sac but nevertheless it’s always fascinating.

My fascination with websites extends to domain names and I’m always on the lookout for new domains to support existing projects and inspire new ones so feel free to pitch yours to to me!

I’m not a domainer but I can spot a good deal when I see one. I recently enquired about a domain which the current owner thinks is worth a lot more than I do – nothing new there if you read my earlier post about domain name haggling. I asked one of my favourite web developers with domain name expertise Paul Lasikiewicz for his opinion and he reckoned the asking price was about double what I felt the domain was worth. The owner isn’t budging so I’m content to let the credit crunch bite and have another go later. Learning to play the long game is another essential skill affiliate marketeers need to learn.

Affiliate Marketing feels like a game of Monopoly to me. On the roll of the dice (my google rankings) I cruise the board buying web properties which I develop adding houses and hotels on them in the hope that people will eventually land on them I and make money.

I got chatting with Paul (this means typing in MSN in JoeSpeak) and it turned out he has been busily developing his own web properties including a nice discount code related domain Discount.org.uk and we struck a deal and now I have another code site to look after – it’s good to type!

I tend to look for domains with two keywords or something catchy that’s brandable and I’ve never been a fan of generic domains. I also hadn’t really considered org.uk domains as worthwhile properties until that purchase but Paul explained the site could rank well for searches like “[retailer] discount” and “discount for [retailer] and I can see his point so I learned another important affiliate marketing skill – listen to what other people have to say and adapt to prosper and stay in the game. I’ve since registered a few org.uk domains including billybargains.org.uk, renegade.org.uk etc.

We chatted about SEO and I realised not being a domainer isn’t my only lack of expertise – I’m no SEO expert either! It just goes to show that however much you learn about affiliate marketing (and I’ve learnt a helluva lot) you must never stop learning. I make a decent living as a jack of all trades but the challenge is to do even better. I love being my own boss, I get to choose when I work and I’m a tough taskmaster.

My conversations with Paul really inspired me and I’m working on new projects and looking forward to battling with my fellow affiliates for those top slots on all the search engines.

It’s the a4u Expo this week so I’ve been working flat out to get things done before my head explodes to free up some headspace for new stuff at the Expo sessions. I’ve already picked the sessions I want to attend and have added them to Evernote so I can read or change my itinerary from any machine or my beloved iPhone. It all depends how quickly my cold clears up, how much beer I drink and whether I’ll be able to get in or stay awake to all those sessions! I managed to soak up some useful stuff last year without any planning or effort, doffs hat to Mr Lee Mccoy, so my plan is to be just a little bit more professional this year.

For starters I’ve got some shiny new business cards to give out, assuming I remember to carry them with me, and the in/famous cantBarsed booby lady remains a key feature – after seeing her traded for poker chips at a previous a4u event I know she has legs! However, in my quest for professionalism on these overly PC times I’ve cut up some post-its and censored the sensitive areas by hand so peel to reveal or not – the choice is yours! I’ll cover them with a scratch panel next time. If you do see me wandering the Expo or asleep in the sessions do say Hi and ask me for a card.

Affiliate marketing CantBarsed style really does suit me and, like the best experiments, it’s much more exciting when you don’t know the final outcome.

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Is Less More?

Is less more?Salesperson: “Hello Sir, Mobile XYZ here phoning about your mobile phone contract, we…”
Me: “It’s an iPhone.”
Salesperson: “That’s lovely sir, anyway about your mobile…”
Me: “They’re exclusively with O2, you’re wasting your time… and mine.”
Salesperson: “…”

It’s happened twice already.

In my vision of an Apple inspired future I hadn’t foreseen the welcome side-effect of the demise of mobile phone contract parasites (or that being scewed by O2 would have an upside) and it got me wondering what else in our lives would be better if we had less choice?

Do we really need to choose which company sends us a bill for our electricity, gas, water etc? If comrade Stalin-Brown nationalised the lot again we’d have less choice but we’d all pay exactly the same and we wouldn’t have to endure those pesky comparison website TV adverts.

Do we really need so many separate remote controls with myriad buttons we’ll never use? I don’t. Apple’s remote control is an marvel of self-restraint which everyone can use without a manual, it just works. There’s even an Apple iPhone App(lication) which lets me control iTunes from anywhere in the house. All we need now is some smarty pants to come up with a box of tricks which let’s me control everything from my iPhone and I can throw all my remote controls away – I see there’s already a company working on this, but I’d rather Apple took charge and did the job properly.

Less is more was always my favourite design philosophy but it hadn’t occurred to me having less choice might also be a good thing. I’m certainly losing brain cells quicker than I’m making new ones these days so working smarter is good but working simpler is where it’s at.

Given a free choice I choose less choice.

Karma Chameleon – The Times They Are A Changing

Our recent 25th Wedding Anniversary party and my 50th Birthday seemed blogworthy enough milestones so here I am again.

We don’t throw many parties because we’re not fans of the traditional village hall format and the prospect of having our house trashed becomes ever-less tempting. I was explaining this to my friend Chris and we ended up talking about Packing Shed Island, which sits just above high tide off the coast of Mersea Island in the Blackwater River estuary, and we both agreed it would make a great alternative party venue so a few phone calls later the shed was booked for our anniversary party.

Booking the shed really was the easy part because everything from people to toilet rolls has to travel by boat to the island, and back again, which adds an extra dimension to even the simplest tasks with plenty of scope to FUBAR!

Parties need music so I spent a long time going through my iTunes collection picking must-have tracks from each decade and ended up with enough music to put on a music festival rather than a party!

I always enjoy browsing the pictures people traditionally put on the wall at parties but getting those mounted up and onto the island was never a practical proposition so I decided to put together a noughties style slide show using my Apple TV and an LCD projector. I generally hate scanning photos but it was therapeutic scanning pictures and amazing to see small snapshots spring to life on a much larger screen. The slideshow seemed popular so I’ve uploaded the lot to my .mac web gallery for anyone who missed it or wants copies of the photos you can grab them yourselves.

It’s great to get presents but there’s really nothing we need so we’d decided to organise a charity raffle and thanks to the generosity of our sponsors (especially IWantOneOfThose.com and Buyagift) and all our party guests we raised exactly £500 for our favourite charities.

From our perspective the party went really well. The island mentality led to us over-ordering food and we even had some alcohol left which is more a case of us getting old rather than over-ordering I think. Apologies to anyone I didn’t get around to chatting with, that’s always the problem with parties, but everyone had a smile on their face in the photos and they’re also available online here or on the Facebook event page.

So fifty is bloody old, especially when I grew up in the cold war and remember being told the world might end today at infant school, so I’ve been counting my blessings ever since. We can’t help growing old but we don’t have to grow up and figuring out what’s important is more important than learning stuff and milestones like anniversaries and birthdays make me maudlin and reflective – please feel free to skip my self-indulgence.

I’ve been practicing Taoist Tai-Chi for over four years now and although the gentle body changing exercises have undoubtedly improved my physical health it’s the taoist aspect which has been the key to becoming more comfortable with myself so here’s what I think I’ve learned so far:

* Don’t judge people too harshly. Most people are lovely, mostly harmless and often ineffectual but lovely nevertheless and the more people you meet and friends you make the more lovely experiences you will have in this life, it’s simple probability in action so just do it.

* Do something outside your comfort zone every day. Say YES when you’re screaming NOOOOOOOO on the inside and see what happens – it almost always turns out OK. I’m really uncomfortable at the thought of public speaking but it gets a little easier each time.

* Break your habits and embrace change. Challenge yourself, stop drinking tea or start drinking coffee – it really doesn’t matter, changing your behavior is the key because it challenges your self-image and ultimately how others perceive you. Be open to new ideas and experiences, life inexorably narrows our potential so don’t make it any easier.

* Be useful and be generous. From personal experience I know the law of karma works. Often being generous is useful too so it’s already karma payback, did you see the movie Pay It Forward?

Finally, and on a lighter note, I’m reminded of this essential tidbit for men of a certain age: If you have the opportunity to go to the toilet, take it – and if you’re lucky enough to get an erection use it!

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Fancy Dress Party

I like a fancy dress party because it means party visitors have to make an effort before the event. This has several beneficial side effects:
Fancy dress party visitors are more likely to remember you’re having a party and turn up!
Once the costume is on you’re “in character” so even if you start off self-conscious you have a role to play.
It’s the perfect way to give a group of people (who may not know each other very well) something in common which makes it really easy to start conversations.

Anyway, we were invited to Claire’s 40th Birthday party and we had to go as something beginning with the letter “C”.
I looked at an online costume hire company in London but the site didn’t include sizes and by the time they’d replied to my email we’d organised a visit to a local costume hire store and picked up the costumes in the photo above.
I’m Al Capone and Deb is a Can Can Girl. It was a great party with a good selection of costumes along with a selection of cop-outs notably a Conservative who was just wearing a blue rosette which was so simple I almost admired his cheek – almost!

Christmas shopping is now in full swing online and we’ve added zillions of new offers and promo codes for popular UK stores. We’ve created a new Discount Perfume and Fragrances page which hangs off the main Health & Beauty category and a new Digital Photo Printing page which makes it easy to find somewhere to share your Christmas fancy dress party photos and order digital prints online.

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Live 8 Benefit Concerts

The Live 8 benefit concerts kicked off on Saturday 2nd July 2005 there was an opportunity to help make poverty history so there was really only one place to be – in front of the TV all day!
It kicked off at 2pm and I watched it until I fell asleep around 12 hours later during the Philadelphia concert, which continued after the Hyde Park, London concert finished.
It was great to see awesome performances by both old and new bands, Pink Floyd did it for me, with a majestic performance.

Which just leaves the G8 summit and some serious head-banging of world leaders. If you haven’t already signed the petition at Live8.com do it now…

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