November 18, 2006

Current developments: the BetterEdit.com Library

We have been negotiating with a few Internet authors (university professors from the UK and North America) to allow us to publish their articles in the BetterEdit library. The library is intended to be a free resource for our students. We are presently collecting and writing articles aimed at helping students prepare assignments. We will offer a comprehensive “how to write an essay” guide as well as a “how to prepare a thesis” guide. These two guides will form the foundations for our library.

Chelsea Allen, one of our editors, is working on a few special articles including an insider’s guide to what professors look for in an essay and hints and tips resource for using the Internet for research purposes. We hope to add more and more specialty articles like these over the months as we develop the library.

Once the library is established I expect many students will come to rely on it. We have no intentions of every charging for our library and anticipate it will remain free for many years to come.

Yaro

Filed under: Blogroll,Pre-2007,Uncategorized — @ 10:43 PM

August 14, 2006

We Are Hiring Students In Honolulu And Vancouver

Do you need a casual job and are located in Vancouver, Canada or Honolulu, Hawaii?

BetterEdit is recruiting one university campus representative for each of these two cities. The jobs take 2-4 hours per week placing posters around different university campuses.

For further details click these links:

Yaro Starak
BetterEdit Manager

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:45 PM

New BetterEdit Blog Design

I’ve just about finished the final touches for the new Official BetterEdit Blog design, which if you are viewing this through a browser you should be able to see.

It’s a nice and clean design that I had built for use on other blogs and I think it’s perfect for BetterEdit because the text is easy to read. Since a significant proportion of BetterEdit’s clientele are from non-English speaking backgrounds it’s important that this blog is clear and simple to navigate.

The design also features a new system backend which I am using to type this entry. This blog is now powered by the ever beautiful WordPress blog content management system, which is a breeze to use.

I hope to implement some systems here at the BetterEdit blog which will see more regular content produced focused on providing tools, resources and education for university students writing essays and theses. Our new admin officer Angela Vink will take over writing at this blog so you can look forward to hearing from her in the near future.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy the new blog design, I certainly am.

Regards,

Yaro Starak
BetterEdit Manager

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:00 PM

July 29, 2006

A Book To Improve Your Essay Writing

A visitor to the BetterEdit website emailed me and had the following question –

I was wondering if you could recommend some books that I could refer to in order to improve my writing skills. I am not good at punctuating sentences, and am in need of desperate help.

I decided to email one of our most helpful editors, Alexa Grunner, to see if she could offer a recommendation to answer this question. As expected Alexa was quick to respond with the following advice –

I use the following book which is written for overseas students. It’s not perfect, but it has great advice regarding essay and paragraph structure.

Oshima, A. & A. Hogue. (1999). Writing Academic English. (3rd Edition.)
New York: Addison Wesley Longman.

Regarding punctuation, it has great charts and explanations on pp.245-254, which are easy to follow.

Yaro Starak
BetterEdit.com Manager

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:46 PM

April 5, 2005

Jetlag

Jetlag is a bitch. I didn’t feel it heading to Canada but coming back to Australia I’m feeling it. So far I haven’t managed to sleep past 5:30 AM yet. In honour of my tired state I offer up a mixed bag blog post today…

I was walking the downtown streets of Brisbane city today for the first time since getting back to Australia. I was heading down Adelaide St, passing the many bus shelters and I noticed the ads where moving. Yep they have installed sliding ads so each bus shelter rotates between two ads rather than just a static single ad. The movement tends to catch your eye too. Smart move advertising company but when did little Brisbane get so cosmo.

This one for all those Australian young entrepreneurs out there – Chris Khoo, one of the guys that manages YNOT in Brisbane (that’s Young Network Of enTrepreneurs) has moved the forums to their own domain at www.youngentrepreneur.com.au. Check it out for some good local Aussie business chat.

The Bnoopy Blog has been updated with an interesting article about The Long Tail Effect

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 9:49 PM

April 2, 2005

A BetterEdit update, more about Skype, and I’m back in Brisbane

It’s 4am, I’m sitting with my ASUS S5N laptop on my, ah, lap, typing this blog entry from Brisbane. I made it through the 20 hour flight from Toronto to LA to Brisbane in one piece. I’m a little bit tired and of course this is way too early to be awake. I tried desperately to stay awake Friday but I could only make it to 7pm (note to self – watching Star Trek DVDs are not good for keeping you awake). Brisbane of course is turning on great weather and yesterday was pretty perfect (around the mid to high 20’s C and breezy). We are spoilt down under.

I checked my email and about 60 emails came through during my Internet hiatus while flying the pacific ocean. I’ve trimmed the SPAM away but I’m not even starting to wade through the BetterEdit emails until I confer with Edward who looked after things while I was travelling. I’ll take back admin control and business life will continue from how I left it in Canada. You certainly have minimal boundaries managing an Internet business.

Now that I am back in Australia and with the University semester into the second month I have a lot of work ahead of me. It’s all very exciting stuff and I can’t wait to jump into it. Things have really picked up in the last few weeks as my efforts in Canada to spread the word about BetterEdit.com start to bring in results as the university semester come to an end in Toronto. I haven’t done the detailed statistics yet but I think my persistence poster advertising for a full semester has brought in at least 20 new clients and if at least 10 of them continue to use our service and tell friends then I can certainly call my trip a success business wise.

The business focus is on providing the best service we can which will promote healthy word of mouth. If you start with even just a small group of clients, for example say we have 10 regulars now in Toronto, and meet or exceed their expectations, by the same time next year we may have 30 new clients just from the original 10 spreading the goodwill. It’s not speedy growth but its healthy growth. I often tell myself this when I am struggling to negotiate for a job that is only worth say $25 to the business. It’s $25 today but potentially a lot more tomorrow and month after month if you can keep your quality at a high standard.

Added to that good news is that BetterEdit is making strong gains in Google placement and I’ve started to notice an increase in the amount of international clients that come through from search. Even better news is that BetterEdit is now positioned at 1st-3rd for all of our key search terms for Australian based searches using Google. We are in the lead position for university and academic editing services in Australia. Now we just need to make sure we stay there, continue to lead the market in proofreading and editing in Australia and continue to improve our overseas position.

Excuse me, I have to make two phone calls…

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.
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Okay, I’m back.

What I just did was use SkypeOut to call a new client in the USA. It cost me about 20 cents to have two phone conversations for a total of about 10 minutes. One of the calls was to a cell phone at an airport. I’m sitting in my lounge at home at 4am in the morning and my client is in an airport in the USA waiting to board a plane. How cool is that. Later this morning I’ll call my grandma in Toronto using my laptop to let her know that I made it back to Brisbane okay. She will be sitting down to Friday night dinner and I will be just about to head out on a Saturday morning.

What’s even more exciting is that Skype has two new services in BETA testing that I’m eager to start using. One is SkypeIn, which allows a Skype user to have a ‘normal’ phone number which is purchased on a subscription basis. What happens is that anyone can call this number using any normal phone or cellphone and it will go to your Skype account which you answer using your computer. The person will only be charged as if they were calling locally for that country. If they are not in that country then they are charged a long distance fee exactly like they were calling internationally over a landline. Because of this you may buy numbers for each country you want to have a local number in.

The other service is Skype Voicemail which is included for free with SkypeIn or you can subscribe to it separately. This acts like a standard voicemail service for your Skype phone. It records messages for any SKYPE calls you miss, including Skype to Skype, or if someone was to call you using SkypeIn and you missed the call.

For our business this is how I would use the services – I subscribe to have a local number in the USA, Canada and Australia, our main markets. I can then list our new ‘normal’ SkypeIn phone numbers for customer queries in each of those countries. Any person that calls gets routed direct to my Skype account which, since I am always on my laptop means I could answer it wherever I am. If I miss the call it goes to my Skype Voicemail which I check and then use SkypeOut to return the call to any phone in the world. This potentially can replace our entire business phone needs, allow us to improve client support and all at extremely cheap rates.

Right now these services are in BETA and only available in a few countries but I am very, very, excited about their potential. Combine this with wireless Internet access and it’s truly a global, mobile business world.

Yaro Starak
BetterEdit Manager

Filed under: Blogroll — admin @ 4:23 AM

March 29, 2005

Heading back to Australia and SKYPE

I have a quick personal update today. I’m heading back to Brisbane Australia Wednesday so I’ll be offline for a day or two. Edward Chalmers my friend in Brisbane who has been manning the phones and checking the post office box for the Australian queries will be watching the email while I’m travelling.

It’s unfortunate Australia and Canada are so far apart. I’d like to live in both countries and if it was simply a matter of flying between say New York and Toronto it would be much easier. But it’s a 20 hour flight to get from one end of the world to the other. Anyone that has ever visited Australia from pretty much anywhere in the northern hemisphere I’m sure can concur with my situation. It’s not a fun trip and you don’t want to be doing it more than a few times a year.

I’ll be making the most of my flying time by reading some of the books I have piling up. I’ll also spend a bit of time working on a resource for this blog. I’ve been getting some questions regarding running and/or buying an online business so I thought it would be useful to put together a step-by-step case study of what I did to get my business off the ground. I’ll be looking at all the tiny details with the hope that you can learn and emulate what I did right and avoid my mistakes.

I find tips and story like advice from other online businesses and entrepreneurs to be very helpful. Often what other people write about business spark the best ideas for your own business so I thought I might give some of the kudos back. I’m sure many of you out there plan, dream or currently operate an online business and may find some guidelines helpful from someone that is currently walking the Entrepreneur’s Journey.

Lastly tonight I’m going to send out a quick recommendation for a piece of software you may or may not have heard of. It’s called SKYPE and I think it is one of the most exciting services currently unfolding via the Internet. It’s a voice telephony over Internet software that is completely free for software to software and also has a very affordable (about 3c AUD/CAD per minute) for Internet to landline calls. I’ve been using it in Toronto to keep in touch with family and friends in Australia and I’ve even used the paid service to contact clients in Australia. For example I made a call to a client’s mobile phone (cell phone) in Sydney from my laptop which was using wireless Internet access from my home in Toronto. It cost me about 10c to sort out the query. I’ve talked for about an hour using the service and it’s cost me about $2 so far. I’ve talked for countless hours using the free service. It’s still a bit buggy at times when talking Australia to Canada but considering the distance more often than not it’s pretty damn good.

I expect this sort of service to eventually replace standard landlines and in the not too distance future we will be having video calls over Internet networks at prices so cheap it will be ridiculous. The best benefit – this technology can be rolled out in third world countries using satellite and wireless Internet access points. It’s an exciting time to be working on the Internet!

Yaro Starak

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:43 PM

March 28, 2005

Pay Per Click (PPC) Fraud

I was just reading a post about click fraud at the Young Entrepreneur forums. It mentioned some pretty nasty things your competitors could be doing to you if you use pay per click (PPC) services such as Google Adwords.

Statements like this are an example of a possible method that your competitors could be taking advantage of your PPC advertising budget.

I know of SEO companies who have scripts that will click on their clients competitors Adword ads until the competitors have hit their daily max spending limit. They do this to the ads above their clients ad, and once the competitors maximum spending budget is reached, Google removes the competitors ads, and the clients ad is at the top, and the program stops.

I myself use Google to bring in some traffic but I’ve never given too much thought to fraud since I hoped (perhaps naively) that Google and the other PPC providers kept on top of fraudsters. They say (that’s the word on the street, dawg) that Google has some fairly sound technology behind their programs which offer good protection.

The key thing is to be smart when using PPC. You need to be tracking your campaigns and monitoring results carefully. You should notice some indicators fairly quickly if you are a victim of fraud. You can’t just turn Google PPC on, throw some money at it and hope that you get more sales as a result. It takes time and maybe you should even consider hiring an expert or having a dedicated staff member manage your campaign, especially if you don’t know your CTs from your CT%.

If you can’t afford to hire specialists and don’t have the staff to do it for you, then do like most of us small business folk do, get educated so you can maintain your own campaign. A good place to start is the Google Adwords FAQ. You might also try third party sites such as Pay Per Click Universe.

Yaro Starak
BetterEdit Manager

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:16 PM

March 27, 2005

Toronto Poster Laws

An interesting development here in Toronto regarding poster laws. As I have mentioned previously postering in Toronto is pretty rampant and you can basically stick a poster on any telephone pole in the city and well, everyone does! It’s pretty crazy how many posters are out there. The same certainly can’t be said for other cities in the world. In my hometown Brisbane if you stick up posters on public property chances are the city council will fine you so it’s not a wide spread practice.

It appears that Toronto is heading the same way as the city council has been slowly debating and now implementing new poster laws to restrict the amount and type of posters allowed. Currently the plan looks to be restricting postering to approximately 2% of the total telephone poles in Toronto. As you would expect there has been an uproar against the plans and a campaign was launched to fight the polices. Most of the complaints are about restricting freedom of speech and making it so only corporate business can afford to advertise (referring to billboards, buses and other outdoor advertising options).

I find this an interesting development because of my relationship and past contacts with some of the postering businesses in Toronto. If this law was passed and enforced fiercely I can see poster businesses really hurting.

Personally I do think something needs to be done to curb the somewhat ruthless and excessive postering going on in downtown Toronto but the current proposals do not seem adequate. You can read what some of the local GTA bloggers are saying too.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 2:57 PM

March 26, 2005

Book Review: All the Rave – The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning’s Napster

I’m trying something new for today’s blog entry, a book review. I find myself constantly referencing books in most of my blog posts. Books often provide me with inspiration for blog topics and people have been telling me they sometimes buy the books after reading my comments. In particular my constant ravings about The Perfect Store: Inside eBay by Adam Cohen has led to a few extra sales of the book (I’ll do a review of the book soon for sure) and I think I should get a referral fee!

I enjoy reading and I’m more than happy to give a brief review of each book as I finish it. I’ll be focusing more on business related books in my reviews because this blog is about entrepreneurship. I do read other books but they would not be appropriate for a business blog (Discworld anyone?). In each review I will comment on how the book impacted me, what I learnt from it, and how I can apply it’s teachings to my own business endeavours. I link to the Amazon.com sales page for each book using my associates ID so if anyone does decide to buy the book from Amazon as a result of reading my reviews about 5% of the fee will be going to me. On to the first review…

******

All the Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning’s Napster by Joseph Menn.

As the title says this book is all about Napster.com which you will probably remember was the first Peer-to-Peer (P2P) software application to achieve wide spread use. Napster today is now a legitimate legal music subscription service but back in it’s original form it was THE place to swap MP3 music files and most of the trading going on was illegal (breaking copyright). During it’s heyday you could find virtually any song on Napster and I admit it, I was a user too.

The author of this book, Joseph Menn, must be commended for the depth of research done to complete the book. He really did his homework, including interviews with all the key players. It starts from the very beginning when Shawn first develops the concept while participating in ‘hacker’ chatrooms and finishes at the end when the assets, which after all the lawsuits left pretty much just the brand, domain name and logo, where sold off.

The book was not boring and I found myself very interested in the whole story, the only problem I had was that I couldn’t keep track of the variety of personalities that kept coming in and out of focus. With so many investors and employees entering and leaving the story over the years and such phenomenally quick growth it’s hard to maintain a grasp on who owns what and where everything was going. The scary thing is I don’t think even the people running the business always understood what was going on regarding ownership and strategic direction.

The ownership and investment future of Napster was always a contentious issue because of John Fanning, Shawn’s uncle. John came on board early on in the story and offered to provide business leadership support (and he sure had a shonky business past). Based on his portrayal in the book, John Fanning was a greedy man, with terrible business practices. He incorporated Napster and only gave his nephew 30% ownership in the business that Shawn’s invention created. Uncle John took the remaining 70%. This one decision and due to the greedy nature of John, would haunt Napster and result in many a deal falling through because John wanted more money.

I read this book after reading the eBay story. The feeling with eBay’s story was one of a nice guy building a nice community business, making profits from day one and always trying to keep the customers happy. While Napster also had a strong sense of community it was based on illegal activity and often the community creed was to shove it to the powers that be, the record companies. The business model was focused on not making profit because in a lawsuit, which the management team were expecting, if they were found to have been profiting from an illegal activity it would have hurt their case. Basically they had no profitable business model and just hoped to get big enough that they could negotiate a deal with the record labels.

Napster, which grew faster than any company in history at the time, would not have grown at such a stunning rate if it wasn’t for offering such a suspect service. Much like in eBay’s story the press, which in Napster’s case was almost always negative and focussed on court cases, helped to popularise the brand to such an extent that it became part of pop culture. If it wasn’t illegal then it wouldn’t have got the attention it did. I find that a wonderful ironic twist.

This book reinforced a few concepts that are important for any entrepreneur.

  • News, media coverage and press are the best tool for mass awareness generation. No form of advertising can match sensational press. Richard Branson knows this and works it to his benefit on every new product launch. Half.com also realised this and went to great lengths to find a stunt crazy enough to get attenton when they launched, and they sure did.

  • The importance and power of investment capital. Napster, with it’s profitless business model functioned day-to-day by living off investment cash. At one point they had over 100 employees. That’s a lot of salaries to pay when you are not making profit…

    …In fact after reading this book I realised that I personally have a knowledge gap about venture funding and I went out and purchased a book to help bridge that gap. I’m not certain I intend to ever go the VC way with a business but I definitely want to have more knowledge about how the whole process works.

  • Although the concept of P2P was revolutionary at the time and deserved great attention (and still does today), it was being applied to encourage an illegal activity and consequently in the long run was shut down. P2P and digital content are the way of the future but even today there is no model out there that truly satisfies consumers, the record companies and the artists. That’s a fairly big opportunity for someone that can get it right.

Napster was a revolutionary concept and existed during a very exciting time for Internet business. You can learn a lot from reading about the behind the scenes deals going on between venture capitalists and business owners during the peak and decline of the Internet business bubble.

Yaro Starak
Young Entrepreneur

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 4:38 AM
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