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MailChimp Review

On 30, Jul 2012 | No Comments | In Technology | By Daniel Kao

While looking around the Internet for an alternative to phplist, I came across a mail service named MailChimp.

Basically, if you are unfamiliar with either service, both provide a way to manage mailing lists by allowing people to subscribe/unsubscribe to email updates whenever you send them. Phplist, while it got the job done, just wasn’t very friendly to the average user.

Phplist is an php application which needs to be installed on a server, because phplist only provides the application, and not the server.

Then I found MailChimp. Finding MailChimp was like finding the perfect match to what I was looking for. It allowed me to create a custom subscribe page and easily manage and email subscribers.

Integration

At first, I was skeptical that something like this would be easily integrable with a custom-designed existing website. But after the initial registration process, I found that it was very possible to integrate it with a custom html page with a simple php form action. I also found the page customization feature on MailChimp very easy to use.

Campaigns

I was a bit confused when I saw the term “campaign” used instead of something more clear, like “message” or “update”. But after I figured that a campaign was simply an email update to all the subscribers on a list, I quickly began playing around with the settings. The campaign editor has a huge variety of designs to choose from, which can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t have a particular color scheme in mind. The built-in email WYSIWYG editor is very coherent and easy to use.

Reports

This feature of Mailchimp impressed me the most. It gives you realtime, constantly updated statistics as to how many people have opened and read your campaign, as well as the statistics of clicks on links you may have provided in your campaign. This data can be very valuable for determining the reach and popularity of each of your updates.

Conclusion

MailChimp is definitely a very powerful, polished web-application that helps you maintain and stay connected with a group of subscribers. It’s got great features and a smooth interface that is unobtrusive and easy to use.

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No More Excuses

On 22, Jul 2012 | No Comments | In Productivity | By Daniel Kao

I hate excuses. Especially when people use excuses to excuse themselves from responsibility. It’s much more effective to work through whatever inadequacies you may think you have than to be crippled by an excuse for the rest of your life.

People like giving excuses cause it’s easier than learning how to overcome inadequacy. We find it easier to complain than to gain.

So today, released onto the very pages of this blog, is a big, fat, red pill. This post will contain some of the most common excuses that I hear, and how to overcome them. You’ve been warned. After reading this, do not ever use these excuses ever again.

 

“I suck with names” – I used to say this one all the time myself, telling people I met up front that I probably wasn’t going to remember their name. Then I realized how stupid that statement was, because I was essentially giving up the possibility of learning someone’s name by saying that. Remembering people’s names, even if you’ve only met them once, isn’t even that difficult, but most people just give up.

  • Be motivated to remember people’s names. The main reason why we don’t remember names is because we don’t care enough. If I were to tell you that you would get $100 for remembering my name, I bet you wouldn’t forget my name even if you tried.
  • Use the person’s name. It becomes easier to remember someone’s name if you say it verbally yourself.
  • Ask the person about their name. This is especially helpful if you meet someone who has a name you may not be used to. Asking them the history / meaning / spelling of their name are all ways to help you remember their name.
  • Link the face to the name. Faces are always easier to remember than names. Therefore, it helps to visualize people’s faces while trying to remember their name.

 

“I suck at time management / I’m too busy” – The reason why most of us have problems managing our time is because we’re used to other people managing our time for us. So when we don’t have somebody to tell us what to do, we often end up wasting a lot of time. Time management has a direct relationship with what activities you do and your motivation for doing them.

  • Learn to do things because you love to do them, not because you’re forced to. In terms of education and schoolwork, view your education as an opportunity to learn and invest into yourself, even if you may not enjoy the particular subject at hand.
  • Stay focused on the purpose behind everything you do. Looking at the bigger picture will help you stay motivated on a day to day basis, and keep you from burying your face too closely in the details.
  • Try different time management strategies. Most of us probably keep some sort of todo list somewhere, but if that isn’t enough for you, there are also tools such as Evernote and the GTD method using Evernote. The Pomodoro Technique is another strategies that a couple of my friends swear by.

 

“I’m not ready” – Then get ready. Whenever I hear something like this, it usually means much more than not being ready. People who use this excuse often are not even in the process of getting ready, and it actually reveals a lack of effort or determination to get ready.

  • Figure out what it means to be ready. It is always helpful to have a goal that you want to achieve. Having clear, defined goals is always the first step to scoring. It’s hard to score a goal you can’t see.
  • Take active steps to get ready. Take intentional actions in order to achieve the goal in the aforementioned step.

 

“I’m too lazy” – A lack of motivation will always discourage you from doing something. Strangely enough, the people who say that they are too lazy to do things are the ones that complain that they are bored. Either way, this excuse reveals a lack of motivation.

  • Decide objectively whether the action at hand is worth your time. Consider many points of view. Sometimes these actions are things that we know we should do, but we just lack the motivation to do them. Hopefully assessing the value of an action is enough to get you to stop being lazy.
  • Find motivation and accountability. If you want to do something, but often struggle with actually doing it, finding a community that you can run (metaphorically or physically) with is often the best motivation and accountability you can find. It is even more effective when the community you find is already doing the things you want to do.

 

“Not my fault” – Okay. Things that happen sometimes will not be your fault. But using this excuse with someone else is often pushing full responsibility onto someone else, which hopefully will turn out fine. But if you care at all, it would be smart to communicate what you know and help clear things up instead of taking the three word escape pod.

  • There is no such thing as over-communication (which is much different than repetition, aka “nagging”). If something is unclear, it is always better to verbalize what you are thinking instead of operating off of assumptions.
  • Talk directly to the person in question. Gossiping about a problem only creates false assumptions and unnecessary antagonism. If you have a problem with someone, communicate with them.

 

“I don’t have enough money” – Poor you. People are always complaining that they don’t have enough resources to accomplish what they want to do. But it’s stupid to complain about what you don’t have when you aren’t even utilizing what you do have.

  • Spend consciously. This is not necessarily being stingy with your money, this is about being aware of where your money is going and being sure that you are spending efficiently on what you actually need / truly care about. Prioritize the things you buy.
  • Educate yourself on how to manage your finances and be conscious with your spending. I recommend “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi.

 

“I’m too tired / didn’t get enough sleep” – I’ve heard this often, especially because I’ve been surrounded by overachieving Asians most of my life. This is usually a indication of poor time management or poor priority management.

  • If you wouldn’t wake up early for it, you shouldn’t stay up late for it. If you find yourself wasting time online instead of going to sleep at night, and then feeling extremely tired the next morning, it would probably be smart to consider whether your night surfing is worth your time.
  • If you’re just actually too busy, take time to reconsider the things you invest your time in, and revisit the “I’m too busy” excuse above.

 

“YOLO” – This is actually an excellent excuse to go on adventures.

What are other excuses you need to stop using? Let’s hear about them in the comments.

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What Really Matters

On 17, Jul 2012 | One Comment | In Education, Life | By Daniel Kao

Humans like to focus on externals.

We love investing in external indicators for something internal. External indicators present a quick, scalable way of judging a person’s characteristics.

Practically every job in today’s world requires some sort of college education, sending people all across the world to get a spot in some type of college institution. That way, people can obtain a degree that serves as an entry on their resume to satisfy the education requirement for a specific job.

Hiring managers use degrees in order to differentiate between job applicants and filter out people who may not be capable of a position. To them, having degrees/internships gives them a sense of security regarding what you are capable of doing. Especially for young people who have had very little work experience, the degree is perhaps the only thing a hiring manager sees.

But as you gain more experience working, and establishing a reputation for actually being a valuable individual to have around, education becomes less relevant.

A popular saying that I have heard circulating around states that people with a college degree earn a million dollars more in their lifetime than people who don’t. To me, that is a completely ignorant statement that relates two mostly irrelevant variables. Correlation does not always indicate causation.

As a general statement, individuals who attend institutions of higher education have a better understanding of the job market, investing in their future, and taking advantage of what institutions may have to offer them. Not to mention that in order to receive admittance into such institutions, they already have to indicate their abilities by performing in high school or some other way.

Thus, I believe that the difference of making an extra million dollars over your lifetime is the same difference that attracts people to your character, not having a piece of paper to vouch for your character.

Place value on how you can actually learn and grow; not on the degree.

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My Computer

On 09, Jul 2012 | 2 Comments | In Technology | By Daniel Kao

Since one of my most viewed posts to date has been about finding a laptop for college, I have decided to write a post about my own setup.

I use a Lenovo Thinkpad R400 for traversing the Internet and being productive on a daily basis. The computer is about two years old, but I have been constantly upgrading hardware and software elements to keep it running in top shape. I have upgraded the RAM a couple of times, as well as equipped it with a Solid State Drive.

Hardware Specs: 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 8GB RAM, 256GB Crucial m4 SSD, 500GB Toshiba HDD

Personally, I’m a fan of the Thinkpad series for a variety of reasons, including their durability, “upgrade-ability”, comfortable keyboard and trackpoint, among other things. The ability to have a dock is also notoriously useful. When I’m at home, I generally will dock my laptop into the dock, instantly connecting it to my dual monitor setup, keyboard, mouse, tablet, printer, and other peripherals. That way, it feels almost like a desktop computer when I’m at home.

Being an older thinkpad model, it isn’t the lightest nor thinnest computer out there, but it’s manageable in terms of size and weight. Battery life runs about 4 hours on average off of my 6-cell battery pack, so not terribly impressive there either.

In terms of software, I use a combination of Windows 7 and Ubuntu depending on the task at hand. Windows is used for the more casual emailing / chatting / browsing, while Ubuntu is dedicated to the programming side of things. (Who doesn’t love the linux terminal?)

What are you using? Feel free to comment if you have any questions.

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Why We Often Waste Time

On 07, Jul 2012 | No Comments | In Education, Life, Productivity | By Daniel Kao

Ever since a young age, we have allowed programs and systems to manage our lives.

We all know the feeling of wasting an afternoon on the computer, not really doing much besides endlessly browsing Facebook and randomly surfing the internet. We spend half of our time online on “social networks” that prove to be quite anti-social. So we mindlessly browse around, refreshing the page every 2 minutes, hoping to see something new scroll across our newsfeed.

We are so accustomed to having our schedule managed for us that when we have free time, we don’t know what to do with it. So we occupy ourselves by doing the easiest thing possible, which often is some sort of mindless activity such as watching TV, randomly browsing Facebook, or doing nothing at all.

We find ourselves often bored, because we have nothing to occupy ourselves with. We don’t have enough personal projects or things to do to keep us occupied. It’s a trend that seems to happen every year, as students all across the nation begin their summer breaks. All of a sudden, they are no longer given homework, tests, or academic projects to manage their time.

I’ve realized that people who have found their passions find themselves in boredom far less frequently. The reason is that people who have found passion and purpose are always taking steps in regard to their purpose. If you often find yourself bored with nothing to do, it’s probably a good indicator that you’re used to other people managing your time and telling you what to do.

But at some point in life, something clicks and people make the shift to being intentional about what they want to do, setting clear goals and steps to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, we’re not taught how to manage our time growing up, and so it becomes a cycle of trial and error in order to be productive and creative with our time.

When and how did you learn to manage your time? and what difference did it make?

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