Bang that Gong Again

Time to bang the gong again, we’ve got a new MoverWebsites.com customer live!   If you need Huntsville Al Movers or Fayetteville TN Movers, then head on over to GeneralMovingServices.com.     General Moving Services serves the Huntsville Alabama and Fayetteville Tennessee areas.

Like all of our moving sites, visitors can get an instant online estimate without having to give up personal information.  We think that’s a pretty cool feature, hopefully it’s one that drives more business.

 

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Read wikipedia content into your Ruby on Rails app

I am playing around with a new site that helps people find horses for sale, aptly named www.FindHorsesForSale.net.  I wanted to provide searchers some background on the particular horse breed they were looking at, so I decided to provide the first few paragraphs from the wikipedia page for that horse breed, and then link off to the full wikipedia page.  For example, see the content on the lower left of the paso fino horses for sale page.

After some searching around, I found the perfect tool – the wikipedia-client gem on github.   As Judge Smails from Caddy Shack would say, “top notch, top notch!”

Here’s some quick code:

      page = Wikipedia.find(horse_page_name)
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How to import a lot of records into a Ruby on Rails application quickly

I stumbled across this today after hacking around for hours trying to figure out import hundreds of thousands of records into a sqlite database in minutes – https://github.com/zdennis/activerecord-import.   Super simple, and pure awesome.   Works for sqlite, postgres, and mysql.

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The Kayak/Orbitz/Expedia for buying Moving Boxes online

Been hacking away the last couple weeks building an online price comparison search for moving box kits.   Check it out at www.MovingBoxSearch.com, the design has a ways to go, and we still have to add a bunch of providers, but it’s getting there.

We did manage to do one neat thing, we’ll buy $5 worth of Starbucks coffee for anyone who buys moving boxes through us.   Within an hour or two of buying his/her boxes, the person will get an e-giftcard in their email inbox from Starbucks for $5.   Who couldn’t use a little coffee on their move day?

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LAUNCH! AccentTraining.net – American Accent Rating and Training

What do you get when you mix Twilio‘s awesome telephony API, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk workforce on demand, and Recurly‘s dead simple subscription billing API?  A killer American accent training service – AccentTraining.net!  Here’s how it works:

  • A person, let’s call him Joe, wants to improve his or her American accent
  • Joe signs up on AccentTraining.net, and gets a free trial accent training lesson
  • Joe starts his lesson.  AccentTraining.net calls his phone, and has him record a couple of sentences that we pull from a recent newspaper article.
  • Once Joe is happy with his recording, we have 5 native US speakers listen to his recording, transcribe it, and rate his accent.- Here’s the cool part
  • Each US speaker also records himself/herself recording the same sentences, so Joe can compare his accent to to real native speakers speaking the same words

    Accent Rating

    Example accent rating, with recordings

  • Here’s another cool (and geeky) part – we have Twilio transcribe Joe’s recording, and each US speaker’s recording, so Joe can measure how well automated translation understands his american accent, vs. US speakers

    example rating transcription

    Example accent rating transcription

  • We notify Joe when the US speakers submit their ratings, and present him with the cornucopia of information mentioned above.
  • Here’s an example individual accent rating, and an example accent lesson.

Why start such a service?  Simple.  I am a huge geek, and wanted to see if it could be done.  Ok, that’s not the real reason, but I did enjoy the challenge.

The real reason arose when a good friend, who grew up in India, and I were talking about business ideas awhile back.  He wanted to a startup to help Indian students get accepted to US colleges, and the conversation meandered into a discussion of how poor many students’ American accents were.  Fresh off of building a website usability testing service based on Mechanical Turk (EasyUsability.com), the thought popped in my head that an accent rating and training service was a perfect use of the turk.   Who better than everyday American residents to help people with their American accents?

Now you’re probably muttering to yourself, “that’s mildly interesting, but who’s going to pay money for this?”   Great question.  I am not exactly sure yet, but here are my initial thoughts:

  • students wanting to get into US colleges
  • students at US colleges who want to get a job here
  • Foreign born people in the US who want to do better at work, school, whatever
  • Workers on outsourcing services like elance.com, oDesk.com, etc.
  • People visiting the US on vacation
  • the ~600,000 Indian or Philippine residents who work in call centers serving US markets

So who knows where it will go from here, but we’ll see.  Stay tuned for more posts on how things go!

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Looking for a job?

HomeFinder.com (my day job), is hiring a couple software developers, a QA manager, and an Agile Technical Analyst.  It’s a great place to work, right in downtown Chicago, full of fun, bright people.    Developers get to use the latest and greatest web app technology (jquery, javascript, rest, mongodb, solr, php, etc.), get to do 3 day hackathons every month, and get to build and ship cool stuff.  Check out the links below..

QA Manager:

Agile Technical Analyst:
Software Engineer (2 openings):
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How to Market a Small Business on a Budget

As I talk to our small business customers and I prospect countless websites, I have noticed how little these businesses are doing to market and grow their businesses online.

The following is a quick list of easy things every small business can do across industries.  I have left paid marketing off the list in order  to focus on things every small business can do regardless of budget.

Build an SEO friendly website that fits your brand

Your website reflects your brand and your business. When someone comes to your site, they are making a first impression.   You want your professionalism to show in the design, rich content, useful tools, and clear contact information.  Don’t forget an email address in the contact information.  I digress, but it is my pet peeve when I cannot contact a business via email.  I usually only have time to work through my  “to do” list at night.

Make sure your site is SEO friendly.  Don’t hire a spammy SEO firm that will charge you a lot of money, promise first page placement, and just throw a bunch of links into your footer.  The search engines may like you at first, but they are quick to scold when the SEO tactics are not to their liking.  This is a post for another day.

There is nothing like free traffic!  In the moving industry, there are thousands of searches for moving companies in every city a month.  If you are not showing up in searches relevant to your business, you are missing out.

I recommend a couple of ways to get both of the above:

  1. Hire companies like ours, MoverWebsites.com and GolfWebsiteBuilder.com, that are focused on your industry that will build you a great SEO friendly site.
  2. If you already have a site you are happy with, work with a company like DIYSEO.com.  They focus on SEO for small businesses at a reasonable price.

Register for the local directories

It is not only important for customer perception, but it also helps SEO when you are registered with all the local directories.  Enter your business’s information into http://getlisted.org/.  This will tell you where/how you are listed in the various directories/search engines.

Market yourself or your business

You are the expert in what you do.  Sign up for www.HelpAReporter.com.  You get an email twice a day asking for experts across every industry and expertise imaginable.  This is a great way to get yourself published and to promote your business.

Social Media /Networking Sites

As a small business, you may have mixed result in your social media campaigns and marketing.  It cannot hurt to create accounts on the sites below and to use them as appropriate to your business.  Activity on these sites is also really good for SEO.

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook
  4. Regional networking sites like BuiltInChicago.com
  5. Entrepreneurial Organizations on sites like Meetup

Don’t go overboard worrying about Tweeting or constantly updating Facebook.   Just be yourself.

Participate in trade specific organizations

In each industry, there are professional organizations to get involved in at the local level.  This is a great way to network with other professionals and share ideas on how they are doing business.

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