Saturday, November 5, 2011

LinkedIn 201 Workshop - Saturday Nov 12, at 2 pm

Our second LinkedIn Seminar will be at the Haverstraw Library this Saturday November 12, from 2 to 5 pm. Last week we had our first annual workshop on this topic, and went into the basics of creating a profile, filling out your profile, connecting with your business associates, and joining groups. (Please click here to download the PDF file for LinkedIn 101.)

This week we will be looking at the various applications that you can use through LinkedIn, such as, Slideshare, and other useful tools. We will also cover LinkedIn mobile, to allow you access to your connections from the road, as well as further discussing the psychology of posting to your profile.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Closer to God...through technology?

A good friend and business associate of mine recently started creating podcasts of individual chapters of the Bible, and posts them at his website I must say, he has a great voice for reading out loud. Everything is very clear to understand and enjoyable to hear...not an easy feat to say the least.
It also prompts an interesting phenomenon in our culture today, the use of technology to give and receive Religious and Spiritual messages. I find it very encouraging that people are using computers, phones, websites and more to stay close to God, regardless of Religious affiliation.
I'm no Saint. I have done my fair share of stupidity during my existence thus far, and I'm sure that I'll do more. But cool this like my friend's website help me to stay on target with the fundamental (not fundamentalIST, mind you) beliefs that I grew up with as a kid: 1. Believe in God 2. Obey God. Simple as that. The rest is training.
Here are some other things I use to stay on the Path:
+ RSS Feeds: I can keep up to date with my friends podcast, right from my phone.
+ YouVersion: Mobile Bible App you can download for your iPhone or Android device.
+ Facebook: There's a few good people that I've friended that update their statuses with Spiritual messages. Always good to see them amongst the 8000 messages about people doing laundry and some think our country sucks and blah blah.
+ Email subscriptions: I subscribe to some nice websites, like Tres Dias, Guideposts.
Again I must emphasize that I'm nobody special, and this post isn't intended to brag or push anyone. However it is to let you know that if you do have a basic belief in God (or even if you just feel the presence of a Higher Power...), and you want to stay reminded of that Faith, Presence, or stay on your rightly guided Path, consider using one or more of the tools described as above.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wordpress 101 Whitepaper Available for Download

For all of you who came to the Rockland Web Design Wordpress Seminar, we thank you. =)

In conjunction with our free seminar at the Haverstraw Public Library on September 17, 2011 at 2 pm, we have created a 38-page presentation which will act as a supplement to all the cool stuff we'll be talking about in the seminar.

Stay tuned for more of our seminars. You can view some upcoming seminars by going to Rockland Web Design's site here. Also, if you have suggestions for other seminars, please let us know by calling us at (845) 877-7333.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Quick blog post: Our Freebie Website offering for new businesses is gaining rapid steam! If you need more information on this great package for startup businesses with a very very small budget (nothing wrong with that, we've all been there), give us a call at (845) 877-7333.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Twitter: The Almost-Forgotten Social Network

In between all the buzz about Facebook going IPO next year, LinkedIn gone public this year, and Google launching a new Social Network called Google+, we've nearly forgotten about our little friend Twitter.


Slowly but surely, over the past few years I have been following people here and there via @rocklandweb, primarily for entertainment purposes such as @DeathStarPR, @DanielTosh, and other funny users. But I also follow up on how Rockland Web Design's clients are growing and building their respective businesses. Primarily I do this using my laptop, but every once in a while I'll follow someone via mobile updates. Today I followed HP's Social Media exec brynaatp to see if I could get a hold of one of those tasty $99 HP Touchpads. So if Bryna posts at 3 am that they are getting a shipment in at 4 am that morning, I'm right on it!

For those of you that don't tweet via your mobile device but might have an interest, below are some really really easy ways to do so. Mind you, you do not have to follow everyone via your mobile, only specific people! This makes things a little more manageable.

You can find more information on using devices with Twitter here.

Twitter commands

Do more than Tweet! Send these commands to Twitter:

FOLLOW username
Start following a user
UNFOLLOW username
Stop following a user
Turn all Tweet notifications on or off
ON/OFF username
Set Tweet notifications for a user on or off (you'll still be following them even if you set it to off)
GET username
Shows you the latest tweet from any user
RT username
Retweet a user's latest tweet
FAV username
Favorite a user's latest tweet
D username your-message
Send a direct message to a user

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The @Font-Face Lift - An Easy Way to Pretty Up Your Website

I don't know about you, but if I see one more website with an Arial or a Times New Roman font, I'm going to deeply stick a razor into the biggest vein on my arm.

Not that I don't find them useful. For many years, Arial and Times New Roman were the de facto standards for "web-safe fonts", which is a fancy way of saying that these were fonts
that would show up on pretty much any browser no matter what you're using: Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer (or as we call that last one - the scourge of mankind that will not die). You could be in Yemen, on a foreign browser created by a Taliban warlord that just harvested and tested opium poppy seeds, and yup...Arial or Times New Roman!

Then there were a few fallback fonts: there was Verdana, which always sounded like a classier font, but the truth is that it is simply a fatter Arial. So if you ever

read a Verdana font that says "do i look fat??" respond back immediately with a vehement "of course not, sweetie."

Comic Sans: Honestly, my favorite font. I always thought it went well with our cartoon logo. But of course, it is cartoonish. So it might not be the best font for, say...a funeral home. You don't wanna go to find out when your loved one's services are about to transpire at Wally's Wild Water World .com or something. Go bury your loved one and get 15% off the mega water slide.

I'm probably getting a little irreverent at this point so I'll say for the record now;
I apologize if I have offended anyone. But I am pretty stoked about something I just saw on one of our client's blogs, which is a completely new font! You can see it here: BTW Rockland Web Design can't take credit for that one,
Kathi Handt has a very talented relative that was able to set it up that way in her Blogger account, which unbeknownst to me is a new setting in the system. When I heard about this I checked it out and changed my own blog font.

So a little background just in case you are getting confused why this wasn't able to happen in years past: Every computer (including the one you are on) has a set of fonts installed inside. Then, when that computer goes to a website, the page that shows up tells the computer what font to use to display the text on the page. The problem of course, occurs when a certain font (such as Futura, Gothic or Amazing Grace) is not installed on a computer. Then all that shows up is nothing, or in most cases the backup font. Guess what that is? Yup, Arial or Times. Ugh.

What changed? A seldom-used technique called @font-face. I won't bore you with details, but essentially it makes the font in question hang out on the website, and when somebody goes to the aforementioned website, the pages will temporarily install that font on the computer that is being used. Pretty simple, huh? Unfortunately, few people used it up until now.

But designers are starting to catch on. And when something reaches a critical mass and starts getting used more, it reduces the cost needed to install on a website. This means that now, if you have a website, you can probably have an @font-face setup installed for just a few hours of work from your friendly neighborhood Spiderman (um, web designer). Wallah! Instantly, your website looks a little less vanilla, a little sexier, and more likely to attract people to stick around.

The reason why you want to do this is that it is a very easy way to change your entire website with very little effort. And when you change, update and modify your website often, it is a great way to have your customers coming back for more! Aesthetics definitely count, and if you pay attention to them, you won't end up with yet another customer leaving because he subconsciously got turned off by a fat arial. Rather, he (or she) will stick around - Amazing Grace is on the screen, and it is quite the bedazzling @font-face, one which certainly encourages a few extra clicks over to the shopping cart, contact form, or phone to give a buzz.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Meaning of Customer Service

You know, for many years I have heard people boast about "customer service" in their business being the thing that sets them apart. And I always thought that something like that should be pretty freaking Captain Obvious. But I'd like to share with you a story that will open your eyes a bit; it certainly has done so for me...

A few weeks ago I dropped into The Chuggin Rhino after work for a well-deserved drink. (They are located on the corner of route 45 and 202 in Pomona, just down the block from the Rockland Boulders Stadium)

I sat down at a table by myself, and the waitress promptly came over to take my order. I ordered my usual Sam Adams draft and a burger that is the size of a small country. (I've had them before at the Chug...they're good.)

Anyway after a few minutes I got kind of restless and wanted to read the newspaper. I asked the waitress if she had one in the back, and she said "Let me go check." A minute later she asked which one I wanted, and I said the Journal News. Then she was gone for about 5 minutes...

When she returned, she gave me what looked like a new newspaper. So I asked her "Did you go out and buy this?" She said yes. I was astounded - later I asked her why she did this, and she said that the owner, John Rodriguez has always emphasized making the customers feel as comfortable as possible. She also said that she knows that some customers don't always feel like talking to other patrons and there is usually a newspaper there. On this day, it seems someone discarded it already, so she went out and got a fresh one for me. (She also joked with a wink that she knows it increases her tip. She was very right and deservedly so!) I thanked her for being so courteous.

A few minutes later, I went outside to make a phone call. When I returned, I noticed that the burger I was eating was gone. Before I could ask questions, a waiter came back with it, put it on the table again, and explained that he put it under a heat lamp to keep it warm, while I was outside making my call!


I'll tell you this: From this experience alone I have recommitted to the practice of giving good customer service for everyone who needs work from Rockland Web Design. For many years, I focused on various elements of building the foundation of the business: marketing, design process, seo, social media, administration, infrastructure, and a whole lot of other things that segment my time. And a lot of it involves numbers, numbers numbers.

But I've come to realize that numbers alone do not make a successful business. Everyone that encounters us has to come away from the experience with that same "wow" that I got at the Chuggin Rhino that day. They should all be smiling like they just got the best...burger of their life!

I won't be following up with a post on how we pride ourselves on customer service. I just hope we simply perform more acts in the future that allow us to continually improve, and be able to smile at our customers when they thank us at the end, responding with a " worries, hope to see you again soon."

I hope you do the same in your business. Especially if your business prides itself on customer service.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wordpress 101 Whitepaper Available for Download

For anyone who wants to use Wordpress to better promote their online business, we've created the de-facto guide for using it!

In conjunction with our free seminar at the Haverstraw Public Library on July 28, 2011 at 3 pm, we have created a 38-page presentation which will act as a supplement to all the cool stuff we'll be talking about in the seminar.

Stay tuned for more of our seminars. You can view some upcoming seminars by going to Rockland Web Design's site here. Also, if you have suggestions for other seminars, please let us know by calling us at (845) 877-7333.

Monday, March 28, 2011

9 Ways to Spot an Email Virus or Dangerous Attachment

I just got a great email question from my friend David Reinhardsen of Hudson Photo Works. In it, he was trying to figure out if a chain letter email he got was legitimate. The text that was passed along read like this:
...You may receive an apparently harmless e-mail titled "Here you have it" If you open the file, a message will appear on your screen saying: 'It is too late now, your life is no longer beautiful....Subsequently, you will LOSE EVERYTHING IN YOUR PC, And the person who sent it to you will gain access to your Name, e-mail and password...
I responded that a good way to check if an email chain is valid would be to verify using They are a good independent source to determine if you're getting your leg pulled, or worse yet - something else. :-)

In this particular case, the chain email was indeed a hoax, as verified here:

However it's always good to be safe rather than sorry. Generally it is a good idea to be careful of attachments and web links from strange places. When you get an email from someone, if there is an attachment or a link in the email, pay close attention to the following (color coded for your viewing pleasure):

1. Is the item addressed just to you, or to many, many people?
2. Is the link or attachment's contents clearly explained?
3. Were you expecting something from that person?

4. Do you know the person who emailed you?
5. Is the link or attachment's contents clearly explained?

6. Is the text of the email very vague, like "Check this out"
7. Is the text misspelled like it was done by a 1st grader?

8. Is the file attached an executable file (does it have a .exe. extension)
9. If you put your mouse over the link, does the address it shows look like a really, really weird link, like (That's just an example)

The darker the color on the numbered items above, the more likely the danger. Items 8 and 9 are very dangerous!

If one or more of these things occur, stop before you open up the link or attachment. in that case, the best practice is to contact that individual (call or a new email - not reply back) and find out what is going on with that attachment.

As always, try to use your gut instinct.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Death to Internet Explorer 6

For those of you on Internet Explorer 6, we encourage you to check this website out - straight from Microsoft:

Before I start ranting and raving like a lunatic, I'd like to thank Ryan Trotz, developer extraordinaire for pointing me to this website.

We at Rockland Web Design HATE (with a passion) Internet Explorer 6. It's 10 years old, and Internet Explorer 7, 8, and now 9 (for Windows 7) have come out. If you're worried about security, don't be -- the new browsers are just as secure (or more) than this legacy browser that does not even have support from Microsoft anymore. Imagine driving around an old car that doesn't have any parts available for it when something goes wrong on it. THAT is IE6.

Worse, web designers across the globe have to backwards code all their designs with the premise that someone, somewhere will be using this browser. It's nothing against them, but the downside for the customer is that new, innovative features that can be used in a website cannot be added, because IE6 will not support those new features.

If I sound passionate about this, you better believe it. One prominent developer recently indicated to me that he spends 20% of his time coding backwards for this awful, awful bane of our technological existence.

Anyway, PLEASE consider upgrading if you haven't done so already. Here are a few links to some fantastic browsers out on the market that you can put on your PC for FREE:

  • Google Chrome - My favorite. It is light, fast and very customizable.
  • Mozilla Firefox - This browser is the popular alternative for Internet Explorer
  • Internet Explorer - If you are worried about switching to another browser, don't. Just upgrade to one that was created during this decade! LOL
I really hope you click on one of those links. For now we will support IE6. But one day in the near future, the time will come when we can finally put that terrible web browser out of its misery...and ours. And on that day, I shall have a cold, frosty Sam Adams in celebration of a Brave New World.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Search Engines, Our Puny Human Brain...and Jeopardy??

Last week, a giant leap forward in the world of technology occurred. No, Call of Duty: Libya Edition has not been released yet. I'm talking about the Jeopardy exhibition match between IBM's new mega computer, Watson, and former Jeopardy masters Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. While our carbon-based brothers put up a good fight, ultimately Watson and the programming geniuses at IBM walked away with the 1-million dollar grand prize, which will go to two charities.

What I found interesting was Ken Jennings' dissertation thereafter on about his experiences with the IBM Super Computer on Jeopardy. He brought up a word that I find to be extraordinarily important in the world of Search Engine Optimization, and just good writing in general. That word is contextual.

Contextual information is data which unravels the overall or general meaning of a given topic.

So, for instance if you hear the word cheesy, you might think the term is referring to one of my awfully-timed jokes (I pray you are never a victim of my attempt to make you laugh......), until I brought up the term lasagna. Now the word takes on a whole new meaning; you've detected a pattern in the topic and begun to unravel the overall context of the root word or discussion.

That machine zeroes in on key words in a clue, then combs its memory (in Watson's case, a 15-terabyte data bank of human knowledge) for clusters of associations with those words. It rigorously checks the top hits against all the contextual information it can muster: the category name; the kind of answer being sought; the time, place, and gender hinted at in the clue; and so on. And when it feels "sure" enough, it decides to buzz.

Contextualization is soooo important for both humans and machines. It allows both the ability, as Jennings noted in both himself and Watson, the ability to get to that main point, and respond accordingly.

A funny thing to also note above is Jennings' view of how humans and machines think very much alike. Granted, there is a significant speed advantage for the computer, but the point is that if enough time were allotted, both human and machine would arrive at the same conclusion, especially since the machine is patterned after human engrams.

(Human engrams...anybody remember the M-5 from Star Trek? Daystrom? Sorry, cultural reference...)

Watson was a major step forward in the advancement of computers, but it is also a wonderful opportunity to glimpse into the mind of a machine that is geared toward searching for answers. Now, let's take a step back and think about search engines for a moment; are not Google, Yahoo, Bing and other engines geared to do pretty much the same thing? You type something in the search box, and Google will seek out the best possible answers to your query, all in a matter of milliseconds.

So what most people do in order for their site to rank well is to add content, and lots of it. Nothing wrong with that, but the writing is geared toward getting it ranked well by the engine, not developing the proper context of the article for the humans to consume and gain knowedge. This is all wrong, since as we noted above, the computer was developed with the likeness of the human, not the other way around.

I'm not saying this like this is new to all of us, I'm saying it more as a reminder. A lot of times when we are writing for our websites, blogs, social profiles, and other search-engine related material, we are writing with the hopes that the machines will pick up our information and present it to somebody sitting in their suit or pajamas and invite them in. The problem is that we've lost touch with the more important one to write our stuff for ---the actual human being seeking the information. Humans are not looking for a stupid search-engine optimized article with tons of keywords and weird heading tags that don't even seem to make sense, they're looking for a real article on how to solve their real problem.

Stephen Chapman of ZDnet today described an unsavory version of this as "article spinning", where you basically regurgitate an article you find on the web in your own words. The purpose, again, is to placate the search engines, with no regard for the humans that ultimately stumble upon it. It's a really awful practice, and the funny thing is that the net result is that it's not even useful. The humans that ultimately land on such a page won't even stay long enough for the content to matter, anyway.

When you write your content for the web, write as if you're talking one on one with somebody. It takes some knack, I admit. but if you can refine your practice, the most difficult part of adding unique content to your site will be 90% complete. Then go back and edit a little bit, sprinkle a few good keywords in there for the search engines (Maximum 5% keywords range), and adjust the tags of your site accordingly.

Above all, the most important endeavor is to make sure you've gotten the main point of your article across to the user - the context of the writing should be crystal clear, so that when the user moves on to a new topic, the one just observed is completely understood from your point of view.

In conclusion, don't try to think like a computer. You already are one. Since computers are trying to be built like you, there's no need to try to impress it. Rather, think like the human that you are, have an opinion, and welcome the opportunity for others to benefit from it when they visit your blog, website or social profile.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Social Media's ROI: CHANGE.

For the last 5 years, I've heard the question "Where's the ROI" used in conjunction with Social Media more often than "Where's the Beef" back in the 1980's.

The problem is that most people try to take platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, and use them for some sort of direct Business or Financial gain. But as you've probably seen over the years, that rarely works.

Some have used the platforms as a branding tool. While this certainly has value, if the branding conversation is one-sided (i.e. the business throws a few posts per week at its followers, but doesn't directly respond to reply questions or discussions), then the net result can be a perceived lack of authenticity. This can kill a brand faster than a bad Groupon commercial:

I remember about 5 years ago I was talking with a trusted mentor of mine in the web development community, and I told him that Facebook was going to be a very important platform, and we should develop and integrate our websites in conjunction with it. He responded that he just doesn't see the value of Facebook and other Social Media, and it would be pointless to change anything we are doing, or try to develop any sort of interface that would be useful for our customer base at that time. In a rare divergence of opinion with him, I decided to use the platform to try and better connect with my community - obviously there was a business purpose, but I endeavored to do it in a more authentic, upfront manner than just putting up a post and expecting the world to respond to it. To this day, when I log on, I try more to see what others are doing rather than focus on posting my own things.

This week we've again seen just how effective Social Media can be as a communication tool. As a result of Facebook and Twitter, Egypt's Hosni Mubarek was removed from power. What happens next is anybody's guess, and hopefully the transition will be as peaceful as can be. But the point has been made, that when people organize around any cause that is near and dear to their hearts, significant change can be the result.

As a businessperson, this may not directly affect you, but you can certainly garner some interesting conclusions on what has happened in Egypt, and how powerful Social Media's influence can be in creating change:

1. If you are not listening to the voice of the people whom you serve, you and your business can become obsolete in short amount of time. Think about it...did we even consider Egypt just a few short weeks ago? Yet on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc., people were organizing and discussing issues, and came to the collective conclusion that it was time to change the system.

2. Even people with limited resources are able to connect, organize and ignite change using Facebook. Thus it makes more sense than ever to always keep these powerful voice in mind as you are growing your business.

3. On the Internet, money does not equal power. The will of the people equals power. Thus, you cannot directly attribute ROI to every online endeavor, rather steer your business in the direction of what best serves your audience.

4. Keep tabs on new innovations. My guess is that the Mubarek government had very little idea that such a revolution could occur in just a matter of weeks. When they realized, they tried to shut down the Internet, which backfired. In addition to listening to the voice of the people, it is very important to stay current on the latest technological innovations. Try out a new service each week, just to see if there is any value to it. If there is, it might help you, your business and your client base. (One that I recently became interested in is Convore - check it out)

I often talk about the reverse 80/20 rule, in which 80 percent of your time on Social Media should be spent listening, serving and conversing with others on random things that build connections with your friends and audience. The other 20 percent of the time is used on the ROI-building activities, such as discussing new services, advertising events, and other endeavors that are profitable. While the 80 percent may not bring direct results, it does wonders for you and your business in terms of reputation.

You may not ever have to deal with a revolution as monumental as that of Egypt, but you can certainly be a part of the community that creates positive change. To do this, consider embracing some of the ideas mentioned above. It will change your business, and more will change you - in my opinion, for the better.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finding Business Value in Those "Stupid Facebook Games"

I hear it over and over again...
  • "I don't have time to waste on Facebook games"
  • "There's absolutely no point to playing Facebook Games"
  • "I can't stand getting 800 Facebook Game invitations"
Yeah, I admit it is kind of annoying after the 742nd time you get invited to play Mafia Wars, or other games that at the core hold no interest to you. Quite frankly, after playing Farmville on and off for a few months, I finally got to the point myself thinking "What's the point"?

After all, I ended up getting in a monotonous routine everyday of checking my farm for 15 minutes, harvesting the crops, planting new seeds, adding new farm equipment, making sure all the neighbors were visited. It was almost like I was married. :-D

So I took a hiatus, and ended my Farmville days for a good 4-5 months. I thought that I was done. But then my good friend Heather convinced me to jump back in the fold with a new game, Cityville. It's basically the same concept as Farmville except you are in control of building an entire city.

Along the way you deal with a variety of easy challenges, such as supplying the local business vendors with goods, collecting rent, building infrastructure, working together with your friends to help their cities, and making sure your consumer population is kept happy as much as possible.

Sound anything like what you do in business each day?

As crazy as it sounds, I have found real value in playing this silly game for a little while each day. (And I owe it to Heather for convincing me. Yes, Heather you can rub it in for as long as you want)

In addition to the game being a much needed quick break from the normal pressures we deal with at Rockland Web Design, it has also helped as a small set of reminders of the all-important basics in building one's business (or city - LOL). See if you find any below that might help you:
  • Planning: As your business grows, you need to continually plan ahead to make sure everything continues to run smooth, and it is growing the way you want it to grow.

  • Organization: Every once in a while you can notify your friends about special coin bonuses and other things that you can post to your wall. Because I don't want to annoy people that are not playing the game, I decided to create a special list in Facebook just for my friends that play CityVille. It only took about 10 minutes to build, and now I don't bother anyone but people that play the game, and are happy (I hope) to see updates on my wall.

    We have a great video tutorial on our free Rockland Web Design Help Forum which shows you how to build lists in the new Facebook (as of Dec 2010. It'll probably change in 6 months).

  • Logistics: Sometimes you'll run low on supplies. You need to have shipments arrive or farm crops harvested to supply your local businesses, to keep customers happy.

  • Energy: If you do too much yourself, you'll run out of energy. (Sound familiar?) So you need to pace yourself, or try to get other neighbors to help you.

  • Helping others: When you visit and help other neighbors, you can actually gain energy, experience and a few extra dollars. It is probably one of the most important reminders of the game, that if you do unto others as you would want them to do unto you, it will benefit everyone in a Good way.

  • Growing: You'll also gain cash and property rewards (sorry, only virtual) for your efforts. But don't get too hung up on that part. As even Donald Trump said in "The Art of the Deal", he was never really that interested in money, except as a scorecard.

  • Fun: Sometimes if you give yourself a break and distract yourself with a silly game like this, it actually makes you feel better. Imagine that. :-) Oh and also it might make you more productive. A recent study by the University of Melbourne indicated that using Facebook or Twitter at work can help you and other workers more productive by 9%.
If you see anything in the list items above that might hold value to you, I encourage you to try out CityVille, or perhaps another game offered on the platform. Of course, I do urge a bit of caution --- anything not used in moderation can be detrimental. Here are a few quick tips before starting:
  1. Talk with a few of your trusted friends about their favorite games. If you hear of one that may entice you, check it out.

  2. Be careful of your privacy settings. As you probably know, many Facebook game makers (notably Zynga) take lack of Privacy to a terribly new level. Before starting, go to the Account >> Privacy Settings in the top right corner of your Facebook account and change or remove anything you don't like.

    My best rule of thumb for privacy on Facebook is to never put any info (Your real birthdate, private email address or private phone number) on the platform that you don't want the world to know. I know it sound scary, but it isn't as long as you follow that simple rule.

  3. Don't sign up for games that make you look bad. Not that I have anything against people that play Drug Dealer Shootout Part III (no that is not a game, stop looking for it), but I don't want to play something that might post to friends that I do business with. Thus, I don't play such games.

    If you are in the public eye, just be careful what you sign up for. You never know when a fundamentalist radical, um...person might let the whole world think that you did something bad, even if you didn't.

  4. Sign up for the game. Again, when you are told that the game will access some of your information, be careful not to give away anything you don't want to hand over. If you feel too uncomfortable, don't sign up.

  5. Follow the basic game instructions. You'll likely be walked through a few quick tutorials on how to add friends, perform tasks and gain bonuses. This will be the enjoyable part, so just go with the flow. Likely you'll want to add some neighbors; seek out those that are already playing the game, or are cool with you inviting them. Don't send to people that you feel are not interested, it will simply piss them off.

    Oh and a side note - you don't need to pay real money in most of these games. Yes the game will go slower, but again it is just a game. Work with your neighbors to achieve goals and you will advance anyway. (Disclaimer: I am not saying the game makers do not deserve money, they worked hard to develop it. If you truly enjoy the game, consider visiting the company's site and looking into making a small monetary, one time donation.

  6. Give yourself a time limit when playing. Again, everything in moderation. I recommend about 15 minutes. Set some sort of timer, because these games can hook you for hours if you are not careful.

    The browser Google Chrome has a great extension that you can add, called StayFocused, which automatically shuts off any website after you use it for an allotted amount of time. You can tweak the settings, add websites that you want to go easy on, and other things. It's very useful, and it keeps you disciplined to what you configured for your brain. :-)

  7. Know when to end. At some point, you're going to start to get the feeling that you've mastered the game, you've learned all there is to learn, and there is really no point to playing anymore. Unlike real relationships - which God willing will always have a new dynamic to them until the day we leave this existence - we must remember that this is merely a game.

    Thus, at that point you should really consider packing it in. In this case, do the polite thing and let your friends know that you are calling it quits. Then, if possible see if you can delete all your settings in the game, so that you don't leave any personal information with a company that has come to an end of its usefulness.
I hope this blog was useful to you. I always try to find some sort of reason for why we do the things we do. Some businesspeople will still look at this post and say "Are you nuts? There is still no ROI! Where's the ROI??"

To this I say that the investment you make is a little bit of your time, and the return is a new experience that, like many others that we encounter, help us to see life just a little more different than we perceived it before. After all, isn't that where the fun is?

Try it out. You might smile a little more today.