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Blog Blazer Friday – Al Carlton of Coolest Gadgets

Each week I am publishing an interview from the book Blog Blazers (in alphabetical order) which can be purchased on Amazon here. The interviews were all done in 2008 and the full list of bloggers interviewed can be found by clicking here.

This week the interview is with Al Carlton of Coolest-Gadgets.com



Al Carlton


Up until 2004, Al Carlton was a full time coder/programmer, designing and writing financial systems. During that year (2004) Al decided he wanted to leave the rat race and experimented with various web ventures. Towards the end of 2005 he created the blog Coolest-Gadgets.com which after a year of hard work was generating enough income to replace his salary and enable him to leave the 9-5 rat race. Today Al spends most of his time traveling and building his growing portfolio of websites and blogs.


Steph: What makes a blog successful according to you? Is it traffic, reach, revenue, etc.?

Al: With blogging success means different things to different people, for me a successful blog means traffic and revenue, the two of which are closely related, the more traffic you get the more revenue you can earn.

Steph: When did you decide you finally reached success with your blog?

Al: I’ve had an element of success but still have far to go (I hope). The pinnacle so far would be when my blog income overtook my 9-5 income (Jan 2007) and I was able to leave the rat race

Steph: How long does it take to become a successful blogger?

Al: I’ve known some bloggers really make a name for themselves and a decent blog in 6 months others can take a lot longer. From a revenue perspective I’d allow 12-24 months before expecting a decent return,

Steph: Who do you think are the most successful bloggers on the internet today?

Al: I think a lot of the successful bloggers have other sites and business as well as their blog. Darren Rowse or ProBlogger.net is probably one of the most successful purely from a blogging perspective.

Steph: Which websites would you recommend for any new bloggers starting to blog?

Al: Problogger.net would be a good place to start, I also like DailyBlogTips.com.

Steph: What is your most successful blog post ever?

Al: It would probably be the the about a GPS tracker it’s been viewed something like 100,000 times and has generated well in excess of $2K, not bad for 15 minutes work!

Steph: What’s your biggest tip on writing a successful blog post?

Al: Research and be interested in what you’re writing about.

Steph: What’s your best advice in regards to content and writing for bloggers?

Al: Be unique and let your personality show.

Steph: How important do you think are the headlines of your blog articles?

Al: Very. The headline is the first and often only thing people see, so it needs to grab their attention and make them want to read more.

Steph: Do you spend any money and time on marketing?

Al: Normally no but for this Christmas season I have been promoting some of my product based posts by paying other bloggers to write about my post (with a link of course) and so far the results have been very good, more from the traffic off the search engines rather than traffic from the other blogs.

Steph: What are your main methods of marketing your blog?

Al: Mainly I rely on quality unique content to bring the visitors

Steph: Which marketing tactic has surprised you the most in terms of its effectiveness?

Al: The Digg.com front page that brought about 20K visitors in a day. That was nice and free.

Steph: What are your quick and short five best tips for blogging?


  • Be unique
  • Persevere
  • Network with fellow bloggers
  • Write about something you have a passion for
  • Interact with your readers

Steph: What is the most common pitfall new bloggers generally fall into?

Al: They expect instant results and when quit too early

Steph: If you knew what you know now when you first started, what’s the one biggest tip you’d give yourself today?

Al: Start sooner, if you have an idea for a post do it ASAP.

Steph: What repels you the most from a blog (animations, in your face advertising, etc.)?

Al: Popup ads, plagiarized content, really crappy English (must be really bad as mine isn’t great)

Steph: Do you make any direct money from your blog through advertising, product placements, etc.?

Al: Yes

Steph: What is your best monetization method (Ads, affiliate marketing, etc.)?

Al: On my gadget blog it does best from ads, closely followed by affiliate sales. The most lucrative ad program for that site is AdSense which is closing in on $20K per month.

Steph: Do you find you get more from direct monetization of your blog or from opportunities that come because of the existence of your blog?

Al: The business blog SelfMadeMinds.com has brought us a fair amount of opportunities with other companies whilst the blog itself makes very little.

Steph: What’s your most interesting story related to your blog and blogging experience?

Al: Probably going to Vegas to cover the Consumer Electronics show which just happened to coincide with Adult Video Expo, I remember trying to get served at the bar surrounded by porn stars. I gave up waiting to be served in the end.

Steph: What’s the one biggest opportunity that came to you because of your blog?

Al: The opportunity to quit the 9-5 rat race

Steph: Thank you for your answers Al.

LandlordMax 2012-2013 Fiscal Year – 10 Year Anniversary And a 10th Record Year!

LandlordMax Property Management Software - Fiscal

It’s that time of year again. Our fiscal year just closed and like I’ve done every year, at least for the past 6 years (since 2007), I’m posting our sales revenues graph and highlighting some of our achievements over the year. And like every year before, with no exception, this year we achieved another record fiscal year!!

But before I begin, here is the link to all the previous years posts:

First things first, this is our 10th year anniversary!! It’s amazing to think we’ve been in business for 10 years already. That’s a long time in the software world. So firstly I will self-congratulation LandlordMax for its 10th year anniversary.

Getting back to the post, to all those naysays that say desktop software is dead, it’s very well and alive!! In some categories owning the software and your data is much better than using a web based hosted subscription service. It can actually significantly lower your risks and costs compared to a hosted subscription service. Yes I’ve talked about this a number of times, but for those who are new, when it comes to the critical data of your business, where losing the data is not an option, hosted services can come with very high unexpected risks as I’ve outlined in this previous article. There’s also a new article that just just came out titled The Unprofitable SaaS Business Model Trap which I recommend reading that explains why we see so many hosted services come and go. So although SaaS have pros most people kinda forget there’s one very very very big con that comes with them until after it’s too late to do anything.

And now onto our achievements. This year our biggest achievement has been the release of the all new LandlordMax Network Editions of the software! In addition to these Editions, we’ve also added some new features to the Desktop Edition to match the new Network Edition (which is included as a free upgrade for existing users of the 6.05 Desktop version). The release of the Network Editions has been our biggest ever in terms of effort and scale. We’re very excited by it and we’re already seeing a very noticeable impact. It’s only been a little over two months and we can already tell that next fiscal year is going to be exciting.

Above the software of course we’ve also had to implement a whole slew of other items. For example the website purchasing system has gone through some major changes and improvements to support the new Editions. The user manual has been updated. Basically everything that goes along with such a major launch has also happened along with the release itself.

Beyond that, and I hate to admit this, we didn’t execute many new additional marketing initiatives this fiscal year. Most of our efforts went into getting the Network Editions released. This was a big effort. I know I’ve said it before that a lot of work went into it, but a LOT of work did go into it. As a result a lot of our other initiatives were put on hold as we re-allocated efforts to the release of the Network Editions. For example marketing projects were transitioned to release efforts. You may also have noticed that I didn’t publish any posts here for almost 6 months, this is why. It was an all hands on effort to get the Network Editions released. No one was spared. So our marketing efforts stayed pretty consistent with the previous fiscal years (neither up or down).

And on that note I do want to take a minute to thank everyone who helped us release the Network Editions. Above those who worked beyond their job roles and descriptions, we also had a lot of people who volunteered their time to help us in our testing efforts. To all these people I personally thank you very much.

Since the release of the Network Editions our main efforts have focused back into the next major “feature” release of LandlordMax. That is we hope to release a major new version of LandlordMax Property Management Software before the end of the year, possibly within as little as a few months. It will include many new features and lots of new functionality. Not only features, but we’re streamlining a lot of the processes within the software so that many actions will be even easier and quicker to process. Basically more automation in your regular tasks along with new features and functionality.

For example, and this is still unofficial because as a rule we do not officially state anything until it’s fully completed to avoid any vaporware statements, we’re working towards offering a built-in word processor with the next major version, which will potentially include “templating”. The major benefit of this feature is that you can import your legal documents into the software as “template documents” from existing Word documents. From there, you can say go to a tenant, create a new lease agreement, and the software will grab your templated lease agreement from the templates, fill in the tenant’s information, and then save the new lease document under the tenant, allowing you to print it, export it, and so on. This is really beneficial in that it lets you manage all your documents with your data, from tenants, property owners (for property managers), etc., all within the software.

And this is just one of the features we’re looking to implement for the new version. There’s a lot more where that came from!!

In addition to the new release, we’re also planning to really ramp up our marketing efforts this fiscal year. Like I just said a few moments ago, our marketing efforts did not increase much during 2012-2013. Yes we’re still marketing at the same levels as the previous year, but we didn’t really grow our efforts with new initiatives. Which on a positive note says a lot about our revenue growth in the last fiscal year. People like the software. We know there’s a significant amount of word of mouth promotion going on from our loyal customers. People recommend LandlordMax to other people. And that’s where most of our growth for the last year has mostly come from. So one of our big goals this fiscal year is to really improve our marketing efforts beyond what we’ve done in the past. In two years we’ve doubled our revenues, it would be nice to be able to double them again but in just one year this time.

And on that note, I really look forward to 2013-2014. There’s absolutely no doubt we’re going to have another record year. We’ve just launched 3 new Network Editions. We’re on the edge of releasing a new major feature release. And we’re planning on significantly improving our marketing efforts. And we’re already seeing an upswing from the new Network Editions in just a couple short months. Fiscal 2013-2014 is going to be exciting.

After 10 years I continue to be excited by our progress and how love there is for LandlordMax. Here’s a sample of some of the new testimonials we received just last month (July 2013):

“I have been using LandlordMAX for a little over 18 months. Not only was the program easy to setup but has made tracking of expenses, late payments, etc. much easier. With quite a number of apartments on our books it was always difficult to see when payments were not made. The year end accounting has been a dream. My accountant no longer needs to go through our books to get the EOY numbers. Also I wanted to add that customer support has been terrific. And best of all when I have reasonable suggestions for improvement of the program they are made within weeks.” – Murray Acheson

“I have been looking for a program for the past couple of months and was getting very weary and discouraged.  Especially for a ‘smaller’ complex, such as ours.  It seems  the  market for automated recordkeeping has gone to  mostly online with monthly cost, which is probably great for large complexes but not economical for us small operations.  I have been relieved to find your program and the great support from you as I learn the program.” – Ann Noel

“Love the program!! JERRY” – Jerry Carr

“Knowing that I have Help/Support for the future is like having insurance on your car.” – Gil Rheaume

“And again – thank you for the absolutely amazing customer service and product support” – Doug Doody

“Once again, thank you for the outstanding customer support. It’s incredible easy to use. Using it is very intuitive. When I run into a problem or have a question, I can always count on FAQ, discussion forum, screenshots and an outstanding customer support to solve my problem and/or answer my questions.” – Christine Chan

I also want to include one of my personal favorites we received just the month before:

“I’ve been using your software since 2007. I was one of the ones that started asking about a network version long ago. Even on its first release, your network Landlordmax software is awesome! It does EXACTLEY what I was hoping for. I’m a tech geek, and I’ve been willing to pay any amount for good property management software for my brokerage. I’ve tried every other competitive solution (all of which charge substantially more), even the big name networked versions, which charge outrageous monthly fees. Yours outperforms them all. Really brilliant software. You did great Steph. You’ve really helped my brokerage succeed as it rapidly expands. My employees all love it too, and it save’s me a king’s ransom in training cost for new employees do to its simplicity.” – Ed Dimarco

Blog Blazer Friday – Abdylas Tynyshov of AdesBlog.com

Each week I will be publishing an interview from the book Blog Blazers (in alphabetical order) which can be purchased on Amazon here. The interviews were all done in 2008 and the full list of bloggers interviewed can be found by clicking here.

This week the interview is with Abdylas Tynyshov of AdesBlog.com



Abdylas Tynyshov


Abdylas (also known as Ades) was born in 1978 in Kyrgyz Republic, popularly known as Kyrgyzstan internationally. It’s a tiny republic in Central Asia with a population of approximately 5 million people .It’s one of the former 15 countries that gained independence after the collapse of USSR in 1991.

This important incident brought along a lot of opportunities to Kyrgyz people from the outside world. Suddenly lots of countries were opening businesses, schools, and universities in Kyrgyzstan. One of these schools was his high school, which was opened by Turkish educational organization called SEBAT, in conjunction with Kyrgyz Government.

After graduating from Kyrgyz-Turkish High School in 1996, Abdylas applied to International Islamic University, in Malaysia (IIUM). He was accepted to the Department of Information & Communications Technology (ICT). He then graduated from IIUM in 2002, and went straight into the IT Industry. Initially, he worked as a Web-Designer, with his last position being a Creative Lead. But after working for about 3 years, he decided to concentrate on his own projects and pursue his education. By this time he was running a few online projects generating some income, so much that in November 2005, he was officially self-employed.

Today Abdylas is doing his MBA at Management Centre of IIUM, majoring in Strategic Management. He is also actively involved in several personal projects, including his blog and a few other websites which generate over 2 million unique visitors a year combined.


Steph: What makes a blog successful according to you? Is it traffic, reach, revenue, etc.?

Ades: Personally I think the person behind the blog makes the blog successful. His or her ideas, expertise in certain field, his or her thoughts and predictions make the blog stand out from the crowd.

However on internet, mostly traffic, monthly revenue and the number of RSS subscribers determine the success of the blog. Not always, but most of the time.

Steph: When did you decide you finally reached success with your blog?

Ades: Success is very subjective. Personally I believe that I have a long way to go. Some people might consider me successful already, however I think I still have a lot to learn. So for me, success is a lifelong journey.

Steph: How long does it take to become a successful blogger?

Ades: It takes several months to fully grasp how various tools and technologies related to blogging work. It takes another few months to perfect your writing skills. So basically, it could take up to a year to be a successful blogger.

Steph: Who do you think are the most successful bloggers on the internet today?

Ades: It would be Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net and John Chow of JohnChow.com.

Steph: Which five blogs do you regularly read?


Steph: Which websites would you recommend for any new bloggers starting to blog?

Ades: I think Problogger.net is a great place to start. Darren has covered most of the blogging related things already.

Steph: Which book(s) would you recommend for new bloggers (these can range from marketing books, blogging books, etc.)?

Ades: I personally think you don’t need to buy a book to learn how to blog. There are plenty of websites and blogs that teach you how to start your own blog for free. However new bloggers can consider this book The Rough Guide to Blogging 1 by Rough Guides

Steph: What is your most successful blog post ever?

Ades: I have written a post (guide) on blog posting frequency that consists of three parts. It’s one of my favorite posts. You can read it at https://www.adesblog.com/2007/10/06/guide-on-blog-posting-frequency/

Steph: What’s your biggest tip on writing a successful blog post?

Ades: The first and foremost, the post must be useful to the reader.

Steph: What’s your best advice in regards to content and writing for bloggers?

Ades: Always incorporate your own thoughts and analysis when blogging about particular issue or topic. Because at the end, it’s your personal opinion that counts. Your thoughts and ideas are your competitive advantage that differentiates you and sets you apart from other bloggers.

Steph: How important do you think are the headlines of your blog articles?

Ades: Extremely important. Because people like to scan the headlines, especially the new visitors. Your regular readers might read the whole post from beginning till the end, but new visitors will often scan the headlines first. Thus it’s important to have catchy and descriptive headlines that will turn these new visitors into regular readers.

Steph: Do you spend any money and time on marketing?

Ades: Yes, sometimes.

Steph: What are your main methods of marketing your blog?

Ades: Sometimes I would buy a banner advertisement from other blogs for a month or two. I have also used StumbleUpon’s advertising service. Other than that, I try to concentrate on producing quality content. After all, it’s the quality of the posts that matter the most (at least for me).

Steph: Which marketing tactic has surprised you the most in terms of its effectiveness?

Ades: StumbleUpon. If you have great content, you will be surprised how well StumbleUpon can perform. StumbleUpon can have the multiplier effect that other advertising programs don’t. You can read more on this effect on my post titled “Effective advertising strategy using StumbleUpon” available at https://www.adesblog.com/2007/07/02/effective-advertising-strategy-using-stumbleupon/.

Steph: What are your quick and short five best tips for blogging?


  • Blog in a category that you have expertise
  • Register your own domain name
  • Use WordPress, it has many advantages over other platforms
  • Blog in your own style, do not imitate others
  • Have a professional design for your blog

Steph: What is the most common pitfall new bloggers generally fall into?


  • Start blogging on free blogging platforms like blogspot.com
  • Being carbon copy of popular bloggers i.e. talking exactly on topics that these popular bloggers are currently talking
  • Monetizing the blog too much, filling the blog with all sorts of advertisements

Steph: If you knew what you know now when you first started, what’s the one biggest tip you’d give yourself today?

Ades: Register problogger.com and problogger.net (wink).

Steph: What repels you the most from a blog (animations, in your face advertising, etc.)?


  • Too many ads inside the content.
  • Too many posts a day, anything more than 5 would be too much for me.

Steph: Do you make any direct money from your blog through advertising, product placements, etc.?

Ades: Yes. Most of my income comes from advertising, and some from paid reviews.

Steph: What is your best monetization method (Ads, affiliate marketing, etc.)?

Ades: Text links ads. Text-Link-Ads.com and LinkWorth.com has been working really well on my blog. But it might not be the case in the few months to come, because of Google’s tough stance on paid links.

Another method is of course direct advertisements. This includes text links, banner ads, and paid reviews for me.

From affiliate marketing programs, Shutterstock.com has been doing really good for me. It’s a website where people can sell their digital photos. When you refer people to ShutterStock.com, you get paid for every sale that the referred person makes.

Steph: Do you find you get more from direct monetization of your blog or from opportunities that come because of the existence of your blog?

Ades: At this point in time, definitely from the direct monetization methods

Steph: Thank you Ades for the interview.

Blog Blazer Friday – Aaron Wall of SEOBook

Each week I will be publishing an interview from the book Blog Blazers (in alphabetical order) which can be purchased on Amazon here. The interviews were all done in 2008 and the full list of bloggers interviewed can be found by clicking here.

So let’s start this week with Aaron Wall of SEOBook


Aaron Wall



Aaron Wall is a well known blogger who primarily focuses on search engines, internet marketing, and why ideas spread. He is also the author of the eBook entitled “SEO Book” which has sold innumerable copies and is referenced throughout the internet.

Although Aaron is successful now, it has not always been easy for him. Early in his youth he was nearly legally blind, at least until half-way through high school without knowing it. Even through this adversity he still had a strong disposition towards entrepreneurship, most notably buying and selling baseball cards.

After graduating high school, Aaron joined the military as a nuclear reactor operator on a special operation fast attack submarine. However this was not the lifestyle for him for several reasons and he soon left the military. Upon leaving the military Aaron went through some rougher times and almost went bankrupt. This is when he took a job as a middle level manager.

He continued to work as a middle-level manager for almost a year while simultaneously learning everything he could about the web. He finally quit to focus on his web initiatives when he had reduced his debt to $10,000 and was making at least some money on the internet, which at the time was about $100/month. It didn’t take him long to go from there to making $10,000 a month. Within a year (the end of 2004) he had achieved success! Since then he has only been growing his success.


Steph: What makes a blog successful according to you? Is it traffic, reach, revenue, etc.?

Aaron: It depends on the goals of the site. I have some blogs that make no money and have a low readership but help people, and to me those are successful. Other blogs are just about personal expression while my business ones are more income oriented. It is easy to get stuck on traffic stats, but you still have to pay your way.

Steph: When did you decide you finally reached success with your blog?

Aaron: I started my blog in December of 2003, started selling my eBook on it in February of 2004, and was fairly successful by April of 2004. I got started on the web in January of 2003.

Steph: How long does it take to become a successful blogger?

Aaron: I had a little known blog on my other site for about 3 months prior to creating SEO Book, so I guess it took about 7 months total. Though you don’t really become successful overnight or at any set point in time. I think of being successful as being self funding and having the confidence necessary to keep learning and keep trying new things.

Steph: Who do you think are the most successful bloggers on the internet today?

Aaron: I think Seth Godin and Matt Cutts have great influence. I love reading GapingVoid.com. I am mostly focused on internet marketing at the moment though, so my view of the web is a bit limited.

Steph: Which five blogs do you regularly read?

Aaron: I read every post Frank Schilling writes on his Seven Mile blog. I am a regular reader of SearchEngineLand.com. And while it is not updated as frequently as those two, I love TropicalSEO.com by Andy Hagans. CopyBlogger.com and Paul Kedrosky are equally refreshing.

Steph: Which websites would you recommend for any new bloggers starting to blog?

Aaron: Brian Clark’s Copyblogger is a must read if you want to understand how to write compelling conversion oriented copy. Daren Rowse’s ProBlogger.com is a must read if you want to get into understanding the mechanics of blogging. I also think you should read at least a dozen blogs about a topic you are interested in to learn how and why ideas spread amongst bloggers. Use iGoogle or Google Reader to make it easy to subscribe to a wide array of blogs.

Steph: Which book(s) would you recommend for new bloggers (these can range from marketing books, blogging books, etc.)?

Aaron: The Cluetrain Manifesto teaches you why the web is different than monolithic marketplaces of the past. Steven Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think teaches you about how to create a usable website. If you make a site that is usable and market demand oriented people are going to use it. Seth Godin’s Purple Cow teaches you how to be remarkable. Links are nothing but citations or remarks. If you know how to be remarkable then marketing is easy.

Steph: What is your most successful blog post ever?

Aaron: As far as spreading on the web, I would have to say that posting about getting sued for blog comments went far. I also launched an SEO tool called SEO for Firefox. Beyond those, I don’t think I have had any signature posts that I could easily point out as examples of successful posts. I actually had one article that did well before I became a popular blogger, but I think many of my posts are pretty good and I was lucky enough to enter a growing market early with a unique voice.

Steph: What’s your biggest tip on writing a successful blog post?

Aaron: If you are new to blogging and want an idea to spread make sure you get community feedback early on such that market leaders in your industry have a vested interest in talking about your blog post.

Steph: What’s your best advice in regards to content and writing for bloggers?

Aaron: It is easy to think that if you had one hit post that would get lots of readers, but people are fickle and competition is fierce. Doing well with blogging is not about writing one key post, it is about performing day after day and helping a few people at a time. Eventually big success comes out of all the smaller successes. Sometimes it arrives via an accident or mistake.

Steph: How important do you think are the headlines of your blog articles?

Aaron: Headlines are critical. They set the tone for the piece and a strong one can even change the mood of the reader before they even get to the content. Some social media sites will vote up a story based on the headline, without even bothering to read the story.

Steph: Do you spend any money and time on marketing?

Aaron: I have spent over $100,000 and over 3 years marketing my blog.

Steph: What are your main methods of marketing your blog?

Aaron: I have an affiliate program, I buy AdWords and AdSense ads, and I pay for a lot of custom programs that I give away. In turn, people link at my site and tools and talk about my site, which leads to more sales.

Steph: Which marketing tactic has surprised you the most in terms of its effectiveness?

Aaron: Just performing day in and day out. Making oneself available via email, blog comments, etc. allows you to make connections and build brand loyalists one person at a time.

Steph: What are your quick and short five best tips for blogging?


Link out to other interesting pages. Linking out is a form of free marketing, plus it prevents you from wasting time trying to create the web again from scratch.

Read and write everyday.

Write a second personal blog for family, political, and off topic posts.

Consume information in a variety of formats, including books, DVDs, magazines, and blogs.

Mix up your format. Use pictures, headers, and sub headers.

Steph: What is the most common pitfall new bloggers generally fall into?

Aaron: Many bloggers get burned out because they try to be too rigid following someone else’s advice, and thus take the fun out of blogging or feel everything has already been said before.

Steph: If you knew what you know now when you first started, what’s the one biggest tip you’d give yourself today?

Aaron: Re-invest more aggressively sooner.

Steph: What repels you the most from a blog (animations, in your face advertising, etc.)?

Aaron: AdSense ads plastered above the content on a blog with a default WordPress design. It basically says I don’t care for you.

Steph: Do you make any direct money from your blog through advertising, product placements, etc.?

Aaron: I sell a bunch of eBooks. As an indirect revenue stream I sell consulting services.

Steph: What is your best monetization method (Ads, affiliate marketing, etc.)?

Aaron: Selling my own product far exceeds the profit potential for selling ads in my market. In the search marketing community most people are quite ad blind in nature, and there are only a few scalable business models that are willing to spend heavily on advertising across blogs.

Steph: Do you find you get more from direct monetization of your blog or from opportunities that come because of the existence of your blog?

Aaron: Right now I would say direct monetization is ahead, but I have lots of opportunities I am still building on. I just don’t like to count checks until they are cashed.

Steph: What’s your most interesting story related to your blog and blogging experience?

Aaron: My wife met me through buying my eBook. If I did not start my blog so she could find me I will still be a hollow lonely man.

Steph: What’s the one biggest opportunity that came to you because of your blog?

Aaron: Getting married to my wonderful wife. I don’t deserve to be with someone so wonderful. I need to work hard to become the person she deserves.

Steph: Any other comments or thoughts you’d like to share?

Aaron: Thanks for the interview Steph.

Blog Blazer Fridays


Like I said I will start posting an interview a week from the book I published called Blog Blazers (seen above). However I decided to first have an introductory post today to give you a list of the bloggers that were interviewed (in alphabetical order as they are presented in the book). As well I thought it would be good form to add a link back to the introduction on every post for people who join later on as way for them to quickly catch up. This way they can have a starting point.

First the details for anyone interested in purchasing the printed book, you can buy it on Amazon here as well as a digital copy from the website here. The main difference is that you can click on the links in the digital book where as the printed book you have to type them in. Other than that the printed book and digital books are identical. In any case, I will be publishing all the interviews here so you can also just read them here and click on the links here. The printed book is really more for people like myself who prefer printed books, or the digital book for people who want everything together in one nice file for their iPad, Nexus, Kindle, and so on. Also please note that you can also subscribe to receive emails of the interviews by entering your email in the form in the top right corner or entering your email in the form on this page.

That being said, the book was published about 5 years ago, back in 2008. So over time some things have changed, but the interview questions were intentionally selected to be as timeless as was possible and while making it interesting and offering the reader a lot of actionable items. I also tried to ask everyone the same interview questions so that the book would make it easy to study how different people succeeding at blogging. You want to know the secret to blogging success, there is NO ONE SECRET! Different bloggers succeeded in very different ways. The biggest hurdles to blogging success are number one starting and number two stopping. There is no one single way to succeed or a single secret recipe for success. Different bloggers have succeeding in different ways using different techniques.

Back to the book, and before I go ahead and list the bloggers interview, if anyone wants to peek ahead and read the individual blogger’s bios, you can read their bios here. Warning of shameless plug: Also if you’re interested, you can find the reviews about the book here.

Now, as I was about to say before, deciding who to include in the book was very very hard. I wanted to not only include successful bloggers, but also up and coming bloggers, bloggers that weren’t mainstream yet. I wanted to include bloggers for different subjects and niches. There seems to be more technology related blogs than other niches. I also tried to include bloggers that I believed would be around for some time, at least 5-10 years. When it comes to blogging, most people are notorious for only blogging a short time, from a few months to maybe a year, so I wanted to avoid bloggers that were going to be gone shortly.

So without further ado, here is the list of bloggers interviewed in alphabetical order:

As you can see the list of bloggers interviewed is quite large and substantial. At the time some were just starting out and have now reached new heights of success!

I’ll be posting an interview a week for almost a year, for 40 weeks in all! It will be called Blog Blazer Friday.

Thankfully the vast majority of the bloggers I invited to be interviewed in the book have lasted the test of time, at least in blogging time (5-10 years). Almost all of the blogs are still alive, all but just 2 blogs!! The ones without the links are the two that are no longer online. A few more do have their blogs online but aren’t actively posting anymore. But overall the vast majority are still very active bloggers and have only grown more since the book was published! Overall I have to admit I’m pretty happy with the results 5 years later.

There’s definitely a lot of good information and details in the interviews and I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed compiling them.

The Move to Aweber From Feedburner is Completed

Handing keys over

As most of you realize, about two weeks ago I made the hard decision to move the email subscription list for this blog from Feedburner over to Aweber. I basically had come to the realization that Feedburner is coming to an end sooner than later, most likely sometime later this year to at most sometime next year. The signs are pretty obvious in my opinion. So as a result, rather than continue to build up the email subscriptions only to lose them later, I decided to take the hit and move to Aweber now.

I knew it was going to painful and I would lose many subscribers over in the transition based on what I read from many other bloggers. It was pretty clear the subscription count would drop significantly. There was no if, the only question was by how much?

Firstly, and this is the hardest to swallow, everyone you import over to Aweber basically has to re-subscribe (re-opt in but it’s really the same thing). To prevent spam, and thus to prevent people from importing random email addresses and email lists and causing harm to their service, Aweber require that every single person you import re-opt in. That is they will send out an email saying that if you wish to continue receiving emails, you have to once again click on the link to confirm your subscription. Not a big deal, but this does require an action from all your subscribers.

The problem here is twofold. Firstly many people are afraid of clicking on links they receive. When it comes to subscribing, they usually get it within a minute or so, so it’s very fresh in their minds. It’s an expected email and they’re ready to respond. However when it comes out of the blue, even if you announce it in a previous communication, it’s still not as expected, so a lot of people will be reluctant and just not click. It’s unfortunate but that’s reality.

Also, and this is again another reality of our world today, asking people to perform any additional steps is enough to lose a certain percentage. Yes they may still be interested in your articles, but any additional work will cause a drop of some people. Just like adding an extra field in your purchase is likely to lower your sales conversions, asking to re-opt in will unfortunately drop some people.

And of course, and this is probably a good thing, over time some email addresses will no longer be valid. For example I still had many hotmail.com email addresses which Microsoft have since converted over to outlook.com. So for some people they may just have re-subscribed with another email address. Others just missed the opportunity. Similarly others may have used their work email address and are no longer employed at the same place so the email address is still in the list but is no longer active. Basically a bunch of little reasons for why some subscribers are no longer valid. So all list naturally need some pruning over time. It’s just psychologically tougher to do at the same time as everything else even if you know why.

With that in mind, the last blog post I wrote here was to let people know what I was doing, so that they weren’t as big a surprise when they received the email to re-opt in. Basically a friendly notice. And since then I decided to wait at least a week to give as many people as possible a chance to re-opt in before posting again so they wouldn’t miss anything. So yes although I was planning on writing more often, I held back to give the transition a little bit of additional time.

So what was the end result? Well firstly I’m happy and relieved it’s done. I’ve been wanting to do this for at least the last 2-3 years. I don’t know why I held off so long, probably it just didn’t seem as important. That and I didn’t want to lose any subscribers along the way. In any case it’s now done and as a result I can breathe more freely. And most importantly I can feel more comfortable that any efforts I spend on growing the list are not going to be lost in the future.

And now for some metrics. Well right off the bat 26.6% of the emails bounced when sending out the re-opt in email. So yes although that stung, that’s actually a good thing. It’s the pruning I just talked about. S4o basically 26.6% of the email subscribers over the years are no longer active. So this is a good purge. No point in sending out emails to people whose email addresses are no longer valid.

After that, in terms of re-opt ins, well let’s just say that quite a good number of subscribers were lost. I expected it, and it was definitely within the norm from what I read online from other bloggers who did the same thing. Everywhere you read about it, people say do it sooner than later because the cost of transitioning is painful. After this experience I completely agree. Do it sooner than later. It’s not fun so if you’re going to do it, do it sooner rather than later. It’s better to keep the number of lost subscribers in absolute numbers lower because the percentage will most likely be about the same. In other say losing 10% of 10 is much better than losing 10% of 1 billion in absolute numbers. That being said, I’m finding a week later previous subscribers are still in the process of re-opting in, so I don’t yet know what the final percentages will be.

On a positive note I’ve absorbed the cost so that’s now done. And although I lost some subscribers, quite a lot did transition over which is great! Above that, all the RSS feed subscribers are still there, they haven’t changed in numbers at all according to Feedburner (I left Feedburner for the RSS feed for now since there’s no reason not to – there’s no penalty if they go away and I transition that later).

What’s also good is that I already have quite a large blog with almost 500 posts written over 8 years so that will definitely help me re-grow it back to the same level of subscribers pretty quickly. My guess is that I’ll be back to this same levels within 3-6 months, so that’s about the cost for moving if you’re curious. Which like I said before, if you research it, that’s actually pretty good.

I believe this is also the very first time ever that FollowSteph has had less email newsletter subscribers than my company LandlordMax Property Management Software email newsletter! By the way the company email newsletter is also managed by Aweber and has been for at least a year now. In any case I don’t expect that to last very long, usually blogs get more subscribers than company newsletters, regardless of how good they are. What’s nice though is to see both of them growing on a daily basis!!

And on that note, I welcome back everyone who has transitioned! I also look forward to posting quite a lot starting now. And later this week, I will start to post one interview a week from my book Blog Blazers which you can find on Amazon here. The list of bloggers I interviewed can be found here (and I will be posting in the order of the book). So it should be quite a lot of fun. There’s lots of great interviews in the book.

Until then, here’s goes to the first post using Aweber!

Moving Email Newsletter to Aweber From Feedburner

future and past

Today’s post is more for the people who follow this blog by email, those who have subscribed to the email newsletter to receive emails of the posts. Basically the recent closing of Google Reader has made me realize I can’t hold off moving away from Feedburner any longer. It’s pretty clear that Feedburner is on it’s last leg and that Google will drop it shortly. Another example of some of the risks of hosted services.

In any case, as a result I’ve decide to transition over to Aweber (affiliate link). I’m going to import the email list into Aweber, but the downside is that Aweber requires that everyone re-opt in to get the email newsletter. In other words they will not send you any new blog posts by email unless you confirm your subscription. They do this as a policy to prevent spam on their system. Otherwise anyone could just import any list of emails they wanted and Aweber’s email service quality would go down. The downside is that you’re almost guaranteed to lose some subscribers along the way, and as unfortunate as that is, I don’t think I have a choice.

Therefore please accept my apologies for this inconvenience, and please do go ahead and re-opt your email newsletter subscription when you receive the invite. I look forward to continuing to post many articles in the future. Also starting next week I plan to post one chapter of my book Blog Blazers each week (an interview a week). You can find the list of people interviewed for the book here. If you can’t wait, or you want a hard copy, you can order the book on Amazon here.

In any case, I do appreciate your patience, help, and understanding in transitionning to Aweber. And if you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to contact me. In the meantime expect to see an invitation email to the new email newsletter service later this week.

And thank you for following FollowSteph.com!!

Google Reader Alternatives – Not Everything Should Be Hosted


First let me preface this article by saying that although I believe SaaS, cloud services, and hosted services can be very good and wise decisions in some situations, in others they can also be very terrible options.

Not to rehash the past, but I wrote a previous post called What are the Risks of Cloud Services? I explain when it’s good to use hosted services and when it isn’t. They have a time and place, and running core and critical business functionality and data is generally a bad place to use cloud services. I won’t go into the same arguments again, I’ll just recommend you read the article if you haven’t already.

That being said, many people are about to be cut off from Google Reader at the end of the month. There’s only a few days more before their Google Reader service goes away for good. Luckily they gave us a month’s notice, but you can’t always expect this from every company. Additionally we’re very lucky that for most people this is a convenience rather than a critical service. Unlike say the core data for a property management company were you store your accounting, leases, tenants, late rents, etc., Google Reader is mainly just a place where you manage a large the reading of a large number of websites in a convenient and easy way. I personally use it and loved the service. I used it every day. I will definitely miss it.

The problem with a hosted service is that they decide when you can no longer use the service. NOT YOU!! It could be tomorrow, or in the case of Google they can give you a grace period to do what you need to. And in this case, we’re actually even more lucky in that Google offers the ability to backup the data. The big problem however is what do you do with the backed up data? It’s not an industry standard. Generally there is no way to backup the data, and in most cases you have no warning at all.

So what’s happened in the last while is that a bunch of people are trying to create products and services to fill in the void created by Google Readers dismisal. But before continuing, you should be congnicent that if it wasn’t such a big service from a big company, most likely the users of Google Reader would be out of luck with no alternatives. The norm for online services is that you lose everything when the service closes and you normally have no warning. It’s very very common! Just this month alone I personally read (who knows how many I didn’t see) about at least a dozen web services that have closed down on Hacker News which is a place where you can find a lot of interesting news from the Startup community.

One of the more poignants one that recently caught my attention and pretty much inspired this post was called My Startup Has 30 Days to Live. You can read the discussion from Hacker News here. Specifically one comment from patio11 drew my attention, also known as Patrick Mckenzie, where above suggesting they stop taking money unless it’s absolutely necessary to pay employees, he also said:

“It sucks. It will be better, very soon. You don’t have to be scared: this is routine and, while it doesn’t feel like it, you’re actually in very good position, both absolutely and relative to many other people.”

The key comment being “it’s routine”. That this is common. Many online companies close. The problem is that we haven’t experienced it as users enough yet. Much like most people don’t really realize computers and especially harddrives do fail, and quite often. I know more than a few people who have lost all their pictures and videos because they assumed computers just always worked and didn’t need to do any backups. Until digital cameras really became mainstream, most people didn’t really feel the pain when their computers failed because most of the data wasn’t as critical, or shall we say important to them. It’s different now, so people are going through an education process and are learning that you need to backup your data, that computers do fail and it can be very painful.

And with that in mind, I was quite surprised, well ok I wasn’t surprised by it but rather surprised that we’re still repeating the same mistakes when I read the following comment about one of the latest Google Reader replacement options called Sismics Reader which is a software you own and manage on your computer (I have not tried their software so I cannot say if they are good or not):

“This looks pretty promising. Judging from the demo, they have the UI close enough. They need to offer it as a service, though. I like that I have the freedom to run my own server, but I really don’t want to have to bother in practice.”

Basically you want to use a hosted services to replaced the hosted service that was just closed down and for which you’re now trying to scramble to find an alternative solution, because you were lucky enough to be able to backup your data, even if you have no place to restore it to yet.

Cloud and online services can be good in some situations, but we still have to learn that they have a place and time, and that time and place is NOT always!! We internally for LandlordMax use cloud and hosted services for a number of things including email delivery, email newsletter management, version control, and so on. But each of these systems can either be replaced within minutes to a day, or use a standard data structure where the data can also be pushed to another service right away. For example we use Subversion which is one of several industry standard systems for managing programming code. We do regular backups, and if our host goes away, we can move to another service within minutes. In fact we could host it internally on our own computers but we don’t for reasons that are more beneficial for us specifically. The key is that we’re not locked to the success of another company. Losing our programming code overnight would be catastrophic for us, so it’s critical that this data never be locked out. We need to make sure we have regular backups and alternatives should something happen.

With all that in mind I’m personally more interested in a Google Reader replacement that I can own and manage myself. There are just too many startups right now clamoring for Google’s fallout, and I suspect a LOT of them will be gone within the next year or two. And at that point, it’s right back to the very same situation as today. And the next time we may not be able to transfer the data to another solution. I don’t expect these new solutions will support each other’s data formats, assuming you can even export any data at all. At least with a software solution you own and manage you can continue using the software for as long as you need or want. If the company closes, discontinues the software, etc., you can still continue using the software for as long as you want. A small difference with a very big implication!

Online and cloud based solutions can be good, just be careful not to assume they are always good because this is not always the case. And if you haven’t already read my article about the risks and when it’s good and when it’s not good to use a hosted service, then I suggest you do so sooner than later.

And hopefully a good Google Reader alternative will appear soon. From what I’ve seen there hasn’t yet been a good solution to transition to yet. Every comment and suggestion I’ve seen so far about Google Reader alternatives has been about making due with what they have. There’s been no obvious goto solution yet. Right now it’s still really about just good enough until someone releases something worthwhile.

PS: In all this we never even mentioned issues such as what happens if you get locked out of your service. What if for example Google decided one day to lock you out of your Gmail account? What if your credit card failed and you didn’t notice until after they closed your account and deleted all your data? Just a few other things to look out for…

Printing is Broken on Mac OS X with Java 7

Confused Programmer

Printing on the Mac OS with Java 7 has been broken for a long time, months in fact. I don’t understand how this can possibly happen. After all printing isn’t exactly a small issue, and the Mac isn’t exactly a small market. So how can this be? For months? I don’t get it…

Specifically the font attributes are not honored on the Mac OS. Java seems to make the proper OS calls but for whatever reason the Mac OS just ignores those calls. Here’s the official bug report. To quote:

“Call to MacOS native function CTTypesetterCreateWithAttributedStringAndOptions did not produce the expected result.  Although the font dictionary was passed in options, for unknown reason, it is ignored.  Fix is to add the font dictionary in the attributed string and use CTTypesetterCreateWithAttributedString.”

And this only affects the Mac, it works fine in Windows or with Linux. The following code shows how to replicate the Java 7 printing bug on the Mac OS:

Font font = new Font("Times", Font.BOLD, 24);
Graphics2D g = (Graphics2D)graphics;
g.drawString("Hello World", 10, 10);
// Increase font by 10 - Mac OS ignores this next line of code.
g.drawString("Hello World in a bigger font", 10, 100);

The weirdest part of this whole issue is that it’s really only broken in Java 7!! Of course it’s the only stable release of Java. How does that make any sense? It still works on Java 6 which is no longer supported (past it’s End of Life). For Java 8, which is still in beta and does NOT have a stable release, it seems to be working. However for Java 7, nope. Nothing. Nada. Huh???

In case you want to read further information from the better links I found on the issue, they are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Just a few links. So it’s not exactly an unknown issue. Many people are struggling with it.

That being said, several people have found workaround solutions, including us here at LandlordMax Property Management Software. A common solution I’ve heard is to create an image of what you want to print and print that image. It makes sense and it will work because you’re bypassing the font attributes. I’m not a big fan of this solution, especially since it doesn’t really scale well to multi-page report printouts that we need in LandlordMax.

So what we’ve been forced to do is create a temporary PDF file of the report, ask the Mac OS to print the file using the system command lp filename.pdf, and then delete the temporary file. This works pretty well, the only downside is that the Page Setup and printer setting options that comes along with most programs are not available because we’re not really printing from the software itself, nor can we pass them on to the system command. It’s not ideal, but it’s the only way to print within Java 7 on the Mac OS.

We added this workaround in the software with Java 7 Update 17. Unfortunately s far as we can tell the bug has been around at least since Update 9, but probably earlier. I just checked and we’re now at Java 7 Update 25, and guess what. Still no fix! No mention of the issue either.

The big question now is whether this is a Java (Oracle) issue or a Mac (Apple) issue? In either case, I would think both companies should want to fix this issue right away. It’s not exactly a minor issue. I don’t understand what’s holding up a resolution to this issue. It makes absolutely no sense to me. This is core functionality that affects both their users in a big way. It’s not a little bug, it’s huge! Printing is important, even in today’s digital world.

Hopefully Apple and Oracle can put their differences aside for a little bit and resolve this issue. It’s affecting a lot of people and we don’t deserve to be the collateral damage to their war against each other.

Lines of Code Revisited Again

LandlordMax Rental Property Software - Lines of Code

Again, just like last time, I completely agree that Lines of Code (LOC) is not an ideal metric to measure the scale of a system because of all the varying factors. However this is all I have so I’m going to do the best I can with what I have.

As many of you already we’re hard at work on a networked and multi-user version of LandlordMax to which you can see the daily status update here. It will be released as a minor update, that is a letter increment rather than a full version number increment. The main reason for this is to assist people in moving up to the networked version with the lease friction and costs possible.

In any case, I thought I would share with you today the scale of this effort. Yes again I do realize LOC is not the best metric, but it’s really the only metric I have which can show the scale of the effort. As you’ll see, the amount of new programming code included between each version is fairly close. This is NOT intentional by any means, and I hadn’t realized it until I generated this chart today, it just happened that way. Anyways as you’ll quickly see, the difference in LOC between the last version, version 6.05d, and the upcoming version 6.05e is about the same as a full version number release!

Of course a lot of that effort is specific to the networked offering and the as such the desktop offering will only get some of the benefits, but regardless it’s still a major effort.

All that to say the upcoming networked version 6.05e is a major undertaking, probably more than most people realize. Offering networking capabilities along with multi-user support is definitely a lot more complex than just letting multiple users connect to the same database, especially when you’re dealing with complex data that many of the users connected to the same system at the same time will be sharing and modify on a regular basis. You have to deal with a lot of synchronization issues, especially when it comes to modifying and saving existing data which I won’t get into today.

And if anyone has any suggestions on other interesting metrics I can fairly easily, please let me know. I’m always interested in learning more about our system.



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