Music to Your Wallet: 50 Places to Find Free Music Lessons Online

Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 6:28pm by Site Administrator

Learning to play an instrument can be expensive. The instrument itself is likely going to put a dent in your budget. Luckily, you don’t have to spend tons of money to learn how to play that instrument. The Internet has many websites that offer free lessons for almost any instrument imaginable. For the sake of brevity, this list just focuses on the most popular music lessons available online. Piano So you’ve just inherited your great aunt’s piano and you don’t know how to play? No worries…here are some great places to get started tickling those ivories.

  1. GoPiano.com. Piano lessons for the beginner or someone who could use some review are available here. A handful of lessons are available online with more gradually being added. If you want to order their CD with even more lessons, they request that you provide a donation to cover the costs.
  2. Free Online Piano Lessons. For the beginning student, this site offers lessons to get you started. In addition to these lessons, this site offers suggestions for other places to go for more lessons (not all are free).
  3. Piano Clues. If you want to learn to play the piano, organ, or electric keyboard, visit this blog. You’ll get lessons and tips to get you started and keep you going.
  4. Hear and Play. Learn to play piano by ear with four easy steps. You will need to register to get the free lessons, and not all the lessons here are free.
  5. Pianologist. Devoted to innovative piano playing, this blog gives lessons on a variety of piano styles. Also check out the links to free piano lessons and activities available on the Internet.
  6. GetPianoLessons.com. These ten detailed lessons culminate with an examination to see how far you’ve come. Using a combination of video, text, and photos, these lessons will have you playing the piano in no time.
  7. Sonny’s Piano Blog. You’ll have to scroll through some For Sale posts, but this blog offers free tips and lessons for playing the piano. The video format of the lessons make it easy to understand the topic.
  8. PianoMinds. This blog offers tips and lessons on playing the piano. You will also enjoy the YouTube tutorials this young man offers. Be sure to use the search feature if you are looking for specific topics.
  9. Here’s a useful site–free piano lessons and piano information. Learn about PlayPiano.com’s free lessons on this blog post. Not only can you get information directly from the website, but you can receive lessons by email, too.
  10. Piano with Nicole. While this blog is specifically aimed at teaching youth, there are lots of lessons to be gained by adults too. Don’t forget to visit her links for piano students section for links to more information for both children and adult learners.

Guitar Probably the most popular instrument to learn is the guitar. Here is a sampling of the many websites that offer free guitar lessons. Some are for specific types of guitars while others are more general.

  1. FreeGuitarVideos.com. Over 90 video lessons are available at this site as well as even more text lessons. They also offer premium lessons for a small fee if you want something more than what is available for no cost.
  2. Free Guitar Video Lessons. This guitar lesson blog is updated daily with new lessons. Learn how to play the guitar with a wide range of videos from various sources.
  3. Guitar MX. Learn to play with this site that offers both text and video lessons. Also available is a selection of shareware or freeware software programs to help you learn to play.
  4. Beginner Guitar Lesson Archive. With these eleven text lessons, you will be on your way to learning to play the guitar. As an added feature, you can submit your email address and get each of the lessons emailed to you each week.
  5. Justinguitar.com. Using a combination of text, video, and MP3 files, you can learn the guitar here. In addition to the general lessons, you can also get lessons in blues, rock and metal, jazz, and songwriting. The lessons at this site are free, but donations are gladly accepted from those who can afford to make a contribution.
  6. Jack Grassel Jazz Guitar. Click on the Lessons menu to get a dropdown menu from which to choose your text lessons on playing jazz guitar. Most lessons also come with suggestions for further reading.
  7. Guitar Lessons. These lessons are designed for the beginner and are specifically for electric guitar. You can even sign up for email notifications when new lessons are posted.
  8. Cyberfret. This site offers links to various free guitar lessons on the Internet. Sign up with your email address to receive free lessons, tips, and site updates.
  9. WholeNote. This "guitar community" offers all things guitar and is run by the contributions of the members. Free registration is required to get the full benefits of this community. Without registering, you still have access to tons of lessons ranging from the absolute beginner to advanced or choose specific styles of playing such as rock, acoustic, and classical.
  10. GuitarNoise Blog. Learn a little something about playing the guitar every week with this blog. Podcasts are also available.

Violin, Viola, and Cello These three stringed instruments produce some of the most beautiful musical sounds. These instruments require a lot of practice, so get started on your lessons now with these resources.

  1. Violin Masterclass. With these Quicktime videos, you can learn all you need to know to get started playing the violin. There is also a section just for children learning to play. Lessons are free, but donations are accepted.
  2. Violin Online. Learn how to hold and play the violin with these text and photo lessons. If you are new to music altogether, you can also learn music basics at this site.
  3. Learningviolin.com. View these eight lessons to get started playing the violin. In addition to the elessons, this site also offers book recommendations for both beginners and intermediate players and a FAQ section.
  4. Folk of the Wood. This site is still uploading all their lessons. Eventually, they will offer lessons grouped by beginner, intermediate, and advanced. For now, beginners can learn how to play the violin with their text and photo lessons.
  5. StringSavvy.com. Get free violin lessons at this website. The lessons have both text and video. Each lesson has a nice follow-up with questions about the lesson and additional homework you can do to enhance the lesson.
  6. 8notes.com. Check this out for free lessons as well as free sheet music for violin. There’s even a beginner’s course in music theory if you need to start at the very beginning. And you can get viola lessons here.
  7. Cello Lessons and Resources. Learn the basics of playing the cello or read about an adult just starting on the journey of learning to play with these handy resources. Scroll to the bottom for links to even more cello resources.
  8. How to Play the Cello. These 19 steps will get you started with how to hold the cello and identify the parts. While this is a great place to start, you will likely need another source to get you very much further with your lessons.
  9. Cello Heaven. This forum offers answers to many questions on how to play the cello. You will also find posts with instructional videos as well.
  10. How to Play the Cello. These fifteen videos will help you with many aspects of playing the cello. There’s even a video on the proper way to clean your cello.

General Music Lessons From music theory to a wide range of different musical instruments, you will find all sorts of free music lessons among these sites. Many of these resources offer multiple types of lessons.

  1. Berklee Shares. This site offers lessons in songwriting, music business, performance, music production, and music education. The lessons are available in video, audio (MP3), and PDF text files. all lessons are designed by the Berklee College of Music faculty and alumni.
  2. Practicespot. In a slightly different approach, this website offers tools, articles, and more to enhance your playing. You can even look up musical terms in their online dictionary.
  3. Gary Ewer’s Easy Music Theory. Take advantage of these 26 free lessons on music theory. Each lesson comes with an instruction sheet, a quiz, and an answer sheet.
  4. Musictheory.net. Enjoy these interactive music theory lessons. You can also use trainers or take advantage of utilities such as a staff paper generator–and it’s all free.
  5. Capotasto Music. This blog features tips for voice, guitar, violin, and ukulele. Click on the links at the right for free lessons specific to guitar, piano, and ukulele and to get free sheet music.
  6. May Music Studio. Learn to play guitar, drums, or piano on this site with free lessons. You can also learn about music theory, songwriting, and download free music software.
  7. Free Music Lessons Online! For now… This blog post tells you how to get free music lessons from YouTube. These lessons are all video-based, so you can actually see how to play the instruments.
  8. Your Daily Music Lesson with Walt. Read this blog for news and music lessons. Also, Walt has a daily Ustream lesson from 6:00-8:00 pm EST. While Walt plays guitar, the Ustream lessons range beyond just guitar and include piano and general music lessons as well.
  9. Top 40 Music Sites. Click on Lesson Sites to find lots of free lessons for a wide range of musical instruments and voice. You can use the search box or browse by category to find what you need.
  10. Vocal Training Warrior. Learn about how to get the most from your voice. Posts on this blog include using differing styles, proper posture, and diction.

Sheet Music Once you start learning your new hobby, you will need sheet music to help you learn. It’s nice to have a variety, so all the following sites offer free sheet music ranging from classical to modern music.

  1. Jaybuckey.com. Get free tablature and sheet music here as well as some free lessons. The focus of this website is on violin, guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, dobro, cello, and viola.
  2. Violinandviola Free Sheet Music. Download PDF files to get free sheet music for violin and viola. Teaching resources are also available for downloading.
  3. The Mutopia Project. Browse by instrument or composer or perform a search to find printable sheet music. With over 1300 pieces of music, you are sure to find something to make you happy.
  4. Werner Icking Music Archive. Find scores for a wide variety of instruments and voice at this site. It’s helpful to read the Introduction to the sheet music archive section before you begin downloading.
  5. The Stringstuff Page. Download free sheet music for stringed instruments at this site. There are also lesson sheets for violin and viola as well as exercise sheets for violin, viola, and cello.
  6. Calm-Down-Corner. This site offers intentionally short piano sheet music. In addition to the free music, you can also receive premium sheet music for a fee that will be emailed to you upon receipt of payment (in Euros).
  7. Piano Passion’s Guide. Take advantage of this comprehensive listing of free sheet music available on the Internet. Just in case you don’t have the correct software to view and print the music, there are links to those as well.
  8. Words and Music. Get free popular sheet music at this site. Download both music and lyrics from artists that range from the Beatles to Bon Jovi.
  9. AllPianoSheetMusic.com. Download free piano sheet music from classical composers. You must be a paid subscriber to access all sheet music, but many are available for free.
  10. PlayPianoTips.com. Get MIDI format hymn sheet music from this site. The files are provided by a company selling music lesson DVDs, but this music is available for free.
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Avoiding Financial Pitfalls During Divorce

Monday, August 22, 2011 at 5:53pm by Site Administrator

By Eliza Morgan

Divorce is a devastating time in a person’s life.  Unfortunately, divorce can also wreak havoc on your finances and can leave you without a safety net during a vulnerable time.  But, some good advice can limit financial hardship, which is especially important during a time in your life when you may not be thinking clearly.  Keeping tabs on your finances and credit history can mean the difference between a fresh start and financial ruin.

When you decide it’s time to end your marriage, there are several things you can do immediately to safeguard your finances:

Establish Responsibility

Look at all your bank accounts, mortgage, credit cards, utility bills — everything.  Know who has personal responsibility for each account.  Even if you’ve already decided who gets your property, you still need to establish sole responsibility.

Dissolution

Dissolve ALL joint accounts (mortgage, credit, utility).  If your spouse has access to your account, he/she has access to your money/personal information.  However painful, be sure you do this together with all the proper paperwork in place so everything is legal.   You need to close these accounts and open individual accounts.  Divide any remaining funds evenly.

Sell the House

This is the best and simplest solution for shared real estate holdings.  It is also the most equitable because it enables you to split the proceeds.  You don’t know what the future can hold and if you’re name stays on the deed, you are responsible if anything happens to the house.

Documentation 

This is especially important as you begin divorce proceedings.  Make sure all financial arrangements are made and all paperwork processed and filed.  You may need this information in the future and it’s good to have it ready now and can be used in court.

After you’re divorced, you must be vigilant:

Watch that score

You should already be doing this every year but it’s especially important to monitor your credit score after your divorce.  Your credit score can drop after a divorce.  And, you’ll be able to monitor activity on your accounts to ensure there is no unauthorized activity.

Tell your creditors

To head them off before the collection calls start on accounts no longer yours, call your creditors and tell them you’re divorced.  This may take a while and it’s a good idea to notify them in writing as well as over the phone.

Divorce is a complex and emotionally-charged process.  It can be difficult to "play hardball" when you’re hurt but it’s imperative for your future financial health.  Amicable divorces happen when both partners come to the table prepared, reasonable and rational.
 

Savings and Retirement Plans for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 5:54pm by Site Administrator

By Eliza Morgan

If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, you are the one who’s in control regarding your financial future.  There is no one else to rely on when it comes to saving and planning for the future, so you must take on this matter yourself.  The thing is many traditional savings and retirement plans are unavailable to you due to income limitations.  Here are a few savings options for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

 

Solo 401(k)

A solo 401(k) plan is a great alternative to the traditional 401(k), and was created for self-employed individuals, entrepreneurs, and small business owners with no full time employees.  The only exception to this is if the small business owner’s spouse is an employee.  Solo 401(k) plans have simplified administrative rules, unlike their traditional counterparts.

The advantage of a solo 401(k) is that it is simple to use and maintain.  You may contribute up to $13,000 of tax-deferred income, in addition to up to 25% of profit from your business.  As long as you contribute no more than $41,000 annually, you fall within the limits of the solo 401(k).  The amount you contribute to a solo 401(k) is completely discretionary and can be decreased or suspended at any time.  Additionally, loans against your plan, as well as hardship withdrawals may be allowed.  Rollovers from previous 401(k) plans are allowed as well.  

There are a couple of drawbacks to the solo 401(k).  Naturally, there is a cost to establish and administer a solo 401(k), which may or may not be desirable for the individual investor.  Solo 401(k) plans may not ultimately end up meeting your needs for you and your business.  If your business grows, you may end up needing to hire on additional full-time employees.  When this happens, you are no longer eligible for a solo 401(k), and must revert to a traditional 401(k), which is far less simple to administer.

SEP IRA

An SEP IRA, or Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Account, is a savings and retirement tool that can be used by both small business owners and self-employed people as well.  SEPs are considered part of a profit sharing program, and the employer may contribute up to 25% of a qualifying employee’s income to the fund.

SEPs are affordable and simple to administer, and is an excellent benefit to provide to employees.  If an individual is self employed, they are still able to put aside a little over 18% of their net profit, which is a powerful savings tool indeed.  Contributions to the plan are tax deductible, and standard income tax applies to the money once it is withdrawn for retirement use after the investor reaches age 59½.  Additionally, its high contribution limits make it very attractive ($46,000 in 2008).

One of the drawbacks of this type of retirement plan is that it is seen strictly as a profit-sharing plan, so employees must have another savings vehicle if they wish to put more money away on their own.  There is no catch-up payment clause for those who started saving later in life, as there is with the solo 401(k).

SIMPLE IRA

Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLE) IRAs are fairly simple to administer, no-hassle IRA plans that offer a great benefit for employees in your small business.  Recommended for businesses with 10 or fewer employees, it s a great savings tool to offer for employees, and benefits both parties in the process.

SIMPLE IRAs allow employees to contribute up to $10,500 of their annual income to the plan.  Employers match this amount as part of the process.  Employees are then vested and are eligible to receive this money upon reaching retirement age.  Contributions are tax deductible.

For business owners, the drawback of this type of account is that the employees doesn’t have to earn his or her vesting, but is vested once the account is opened.  That means matching someone dollar for dollar who may not be around to help you grow your company may not be a sound investment.  SIMPLE IRAs are also very strictly administered and cannot be rolled over, nor can a traditional IRA or 401(k) be rolled into a SIMPLE IRA.

SOLO DB Plan

This plan is a slimmed-down version of a standard defined benefit plan.  If you are looking to save a whole lot of money over a short period of time and have the resources to do so, this is the plan for you.

Like other retirement plans, contributions are tax-deferred and the money is available to you once you reach retirement age.  These plans are very popular with people in business for themselves who are over 50 years of age, due to the ability to save vast amounts of money in a short period of time in order to meet future income requirements for retirement.

The drawback for this type of retirement account is that investors must be willing and able to contribute ongoing mandatory contributions of at least $45,000 for five consecutive years to keep this plan going.  For many, this amount of money is simply not possible.  For the well-compensated small business owner or entrepreneur, however, this account could be just perfect.

 

When GTD Goes Too Far: How To Avoid Productivity Paranoia

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 1:34am by Site Administrator

Anyone interested in improving their productivity has no doubt heard about the Getting Things Done philosophy. Created by

David Allen

, this workflow program advocates a five step process to getting your daily to-dos under control. For many, it’s helped them turn their chaotic and unproductive work hours around and get their careers and jobs under control. But for others, productivity management has taken over their lives and their well being. If you feel yourself slipping into this kind of productivity paranoia, it’s not too late to salvage your sanity and your productivity. Here are some tips for getting your obsession under control.

  • Stop wishing you had more time. You can only fit so many tasks into so many hours in the day. Having one or two more hours isn’t going to make you any happier in the long run. If you’re going to plan your time, plan for the time you do have, not what you don’t have. Assign yourself an appropriate amount of tasks for each day that you can actually get done. If this means some things don’t get tended to, so be it. It’s not the end of the world.
  • Don’t quantify your output. You may feel good about getting more things done in a day, but getting more done isn’t really what it’s all about. The quality of your work is what really matters, and chances are pretty good that if you’re clamoring to cram in as much as you can, the quality of each of those tasks is suffering. Instead, pride yourself on the quality of the work you’ve gotten done each day.
  • Take a break. That’s right, take a break, as in stop working. When you get things done ahead of schedule or just have a few spare minutes, don’t try to cram them full with even more tasks. Reward yourself with some time away from your desk and your omnipresent task list. If you can’t bear to just do nothing, then add break times to your to-do list so you can check them off as if you’ve accomplished an important task.
  • Realize that getting more done isn’t the only thing that makes you an asset. Do you brag to others about how much you work or how much you managed to fit in one day? This shouldn’t be the quality by which you define your worth as an employee or a person. Being a hard worker is a great quality to have, but if you’ve become paranoid about your productivity, chances are you’ve taken it too far. Loyalty, creativity, and good leadership skills also help to make a great worker, so take a few minutes to reflect on what other assets you bring to the table besides your ability to multitask.
  • Stop the guilt trip. Didn’t get to everything on your list today? Don’t beat yourself up about it. You’re only human, after all, and even the best of us can’t meet goals that are unrealistic. Stop making yourself feel guilty for everything you didn’t get done and start thinking about all the things that you did get done instead. Chances are that you’re not giving yourself credit for having done a whole lot of work.
  • Narrow down what works for you. There are literally hundreds of GTD techniques out there, so many, in fact, that you could spend days reading about them. Many addicted to productivity spend an awful lot of time trying to find ways to squeeze extra minutes out of their days. Whether you use sticky note reminders or an elaborate online to-do list setup, find what works for you and stick with it. You’ll save yourself the stress of worrying that you could be using a better method and you’ll get the extra time to spend connecting with friends or doing small tasks.
  • Enjoy your time away from work. Many who are used to days crammed with back-to-back tasks find it hard to take a load off and enjoy a quiet evening at home with family or a vacation that doesn’t involve staying in constant contact with the office. The reality is that we all need a break and working too hard can lead to numerous stress related illnesses that can not only put a crimp in your productivity but in your health and well-being as well. Change your mindset when you leave the office and let yourself enjoy just doing nothing if only for a few hours a day.
  • Keep track of your accomplishments. For many addicted to getting things done, the to-do list is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it helps motivate and keep track of what you need to accomplish. On the other, it can make you feel terrible if you don’t check off every box by the end of the day. Break out of this guilt and let yourself relish in your sense of accomplishment for what you have gotten done instead of what there is still to do. Attempting to tackle everything is an unrealistic goal, as there will always be more work to do, so work your hardest, finish what you can and let that be enough.
  • Make things simple. If you know you have to get something done, you don’t always have to write it down or make sure it gets put into your PDA. Sometimes, the most productive solution is to just do it. For many, letting go of the lists and the calendars can be hard, but it can also help you to break the habit of turning your life into a to-do list instead of something you should be enjoying.
  • Time is worth more than money. You might pride yourself on working hard for every dollar that you earn, but at the end of the day those dollars don’t mean much if you don’t have guilt-free time away from work to enjoy them. Time spent with people you care about or doing things you love is just as valuable as time spent completing lengthy to-do lists. Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to make yourself feel bad for not checking off each one of those tasks.

Being productive is great, but when it starts causing you to stress out endlessly, it may be time to take a step back and reevaluate. There will always be more to do, and basing your happiness on getting more done in a day is going to result in disappointment. Make your to-dos manageable, and make time for the things that really matter in life, like family, friends, and enjoying the benefits of all that hard work. In the end, that’s what being truly productive is all about.

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Calculate This! 100 Financial Calculators Every Entrepreneur Needs

Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 1:27pm by Site Administrator

By Eliza Morgan

Many entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of having a separate accounting department, instead doing their own number crunching. It’s not always easy, but you can make it less difficult by making use of the huge number of free financial tools for businesses that are available on the Internet. Here are 100 calculators that can help you get and keep your finances in order.

Business Operations

Don’t get caught off guard by the unexpected financial pitfalls of owning a business. Keep one step ahead with these useful business calculators.

  1. Break Even Analysis: Figure out how much you’re going to need to sell with your business just to break even. This can be helpful in creating a starting point for your sales goals.
  2. Business Valuation: Whether you are just curious, or want to sell your business, this calculator can help you determine the value. Just enter your cash flow and your expenses to get an estimate.
  3. Working Capital Needs: Find out what your business will need to keep going with this helpful calculator. It will take into account your short-term monetary obligations and figure out how much capital you’ll need so you won’t fall short.
  4. Financial Ratio: Sometimes there are areas of your business that will need special attention relative to others. Figure out what those are with this financial ratio calculator.
  5. Cash Flow: No matter what type of business you are in, keeping your cash flow in check is essential to a healthy business. See how much your business is generating with this calculator.
  6. Buying vs. Leasing: Sometimes it can be tough to figure out whether simply buying equipment you need will leave you better off in the long run than leasing. Put your costs into this calculator to find out which would suit your business’ needs best.
  7. Profit Margin: This calculator can help you determine how much you should be selling your products or services for to achieve a desired profit margin.
  8. Inventory Analysis: Keeping a not-too-little, but not-too-much balance of inventory can be tricky business. This calculator will help you figure out how to time your orders and how much to keep on hand.
  9. Sales Per Employee: Figure out what your salespeople are averaging with this simple calculator.
  10. Operating Profit Percentage: This calculator will help you compare your sales with what is left after the cost of your goods and operating costs.
  11. Return on Assets: See how well you’re managing your company with this calculator that compares net income to total assets. You’ll be able to find out how much you’re getting for every dollar.
  12. Debt to Assets: This calculator can help you determine to what extent your company is financed by loans and other sources of debt. The lower the number, the better your chances are of staying afloat financially.
  13. Starting Costs: Figure out the starting costs for your business idea before you start so there won’t be any surprises and you’ll know how much you’ll need to get things off the ground.
  14. Conversion Rate: Unsure how updating or changing your website will or did impact your business? Use this calculator to see how improving your online sales can affect your business.
  15. Pay Per Click ROI: Are your pay per click ad campaigns really paying off? See if your advertising is worth the investment with this calculator.
  16. Email ROI: The same goes for your email ad campaigns. This calculator will let you know if you’re generating enough sales or if you need to find another marketing strategy.
  17. Business Location, to Rent or Buy: Use this calculator to find out if your business would profit more from renting a location or buying one outright.
  18. SAP Value Calculator: The SAP Value Calculator for midsize business reveals how strong your business is today and how much additional value you can gain by improving your infrastructure.
  19. Double Your Money: Determine how long it will take you to double your money with this simple calculator.

Loans

Unless you’re bootstrapping it, or you’ve come into quite a financial windfall, it’s likely that your business will need a few loans to get up and running. Here are some calculators that can help you figure out how much you can borrow and what your payments will be.

  1. Commercial Loan: This calculator can help you determine your debt service coverage with a new loan, which can in turn help you determine if you’ll be approved.
  2. Alternative Payment Frequencies: If you’re not sure what payment method will work out best for your loan, try out different combinations with this calculator.
  3. Amortizing Loan: Use this calculator to determine how much money you can borrow based on the monthly payment you can afford.
  4. Balloon Loan: This calculator can help you determine if a balloon loan (short term but payments are based over 15 year period) might be better for you than a standard loan.
  5. Credit Line: Not sure how much money you can qualify for? Your line of credit is based on the value or your business or home and this calculator can do the math for you.
  6. Enhanced Loan Calculator: This calculator makes it easy to change all the elements involved with getting a loan (monthly payment, amount of loan, interest rate) to find the best combination for your business.
  7. Existing Loan: If your business already has an outstanding loan, you can use this calculator to determine how much longer you’ll be paying on them based on your balance and the amount of your monthly payments.
  8. Loan Comparison: Don’t let loans confuse you with different rates and terms. Compare loans directly with this calculator.
  9. Loan Prequalification: Use this calculator as an initial step in determining what kind of loans you can qualify for.
  10. Small Business Loan: Determine the best monthly payments on your small business loan with this useful calculator designed especially for businesses.
  11. Loan or Line of Credit: Use this calculator from Bank of America to find out if you should get a loan or a line of credit for your business start up or expansion.
  12. Term of Loan: Determine what length of loan you should apply for using this simple calculator.
  13. Blended Rate Calculator: Calculate the effective interest rate on multiple loans.
  14. Loan and Line Payment: Use this calculator to determine the amount of money you’ll be making as payments on your loan or line of credit.

Debt Management

Don’t let your loans get out of hand. Use these calculators to figure out the best way to pay back your loans and other debts.

  1. Business Debt Consolidation: Have multiple business credit cards or loans holding debt for your company? Use this calculator to find out if you’d be better off consolidating your debts into one monthly payment.
  2. Credit Assessment: Get a quick credit assessment with this easy-to-use calculator.
  3. Accelerated Debt Payoff: Get rid of your debt even faster using this calculator which will help you create a debt payment plan that can potentially save you money in interest fees.
  4. Credit Card Minimum Payment Calculator: While it might seem easier to just pay the minimum on your credit card balance, it can end up potentially costing your business thousands more. This calculator can help you determine the true cost of minimum payments.
  5. Credit Card Optimizer: This calculator helps you create the best distribution of your credit card debt to minimize how much you’ll pay out.
  6. Credit Card Payoff: Want to eliminate your credit card debt? This calculator will show you what it will take to pay off those cards.
  7. How much do you owe?: Not sure how much debt you actually have? Use this calculator to figure out where to begin paying off your debts by finding out where you stand.
  8. Credit Card Debt Roll-Down: You can get your debt under control and keep your business afloat. Here you’ll find a calculator that will help you determine what debts to pay off first to get you on the road to financial freedom.
  9. Credit Card Calculator: Choosing the right business credit card can make a big difference in the financial future of your business. Use this calculator to make the decision a little easier.

Investment

Make your business and personal investment tracking easy with these investment calculators.

  1. Asset Allocator: Whether you’re investing for your business or handling your personal finances, this calculator can help you determine the best way to spread out your money.
  2. Compare Investment Fees: Investing can pay off in the long run, but it often comse with some fees that can add up over time. Use this calculator to see what you’ll be paying over the lifetime of your investments.
  3. Investment Loan: Thinking of making a substantial business investment? Use this calculator to help you figure out if it’s a smart move.
  4. Investment Returns: See the big picture with this calculator that shows the impact of inflation, taxes and time horizon on your investments.
  5. Taxable vs. Tax Advantaged Investments: If you’re not sure what kind of investment is best for you, use this calculator to see the different between taxed, tax deferred and tax-free investments.
  6. Investment Savings and Distributions: Whether you’re designing retirement plans for yourself, clients or employees, use this calculator to determine how long your investment will last once you start cashing in.
  7. Interest Rate Converter: Compare the dividends from several interest rates at once with this calculator.
  8. Investment Offering: Use this tool to see both sides of the investment coin. You can calculate what investors in your company will get and what your company will have to give up to accommodate them.
  9. Landlord Calculator: Real estate can be a good investment, but is it the right one for you? Use this calculator to find out if being a landlord could be a moneymaker for you.
  10. Self Employed Retirement Calculator: This calculator will let you determine the maximum contribution you can make to your self employed 401(k).
  11. Risk Tolerance: Determine what kind of investments will be best for you based on how much of a risk you’re willing to take with this online calculator.
  12. Investment Goal Calculator: Make sure your investments are on track with this calculator.
  13. IRA Stretch Calculator: Stretch your retirement savings as far as they will go with this calculator.

Taxes

Unfortunately, taxes are an inevitable part of any business’ day to day life. These online tools will help make paying them just a little more painless.

  1. 1040 Tax Calculator: Keep up with your personal taxes using this calculator.
  2. 457 Payroll Deductions: Not sure how much of a difference changing your withholding will make? Use this calculator to figure out the difference before you make the change.
  3. Estate Tax Planning: Don’t let your children or grandchildren get burned by the estate tax. Determine what you’ll be liable for long before it becomes an issue.
  4. Net to Gross Paycheck Calculator: This calculator will help you learn what you need to earn each paycheck to meet a net amount.
  5. Self-Employment Taxes: Self-employed individuals are subject to different taxes, so use this calculator to figure out what you can expect to pay.
  6. Home Office Deduction: For those running a business from home, this calculator can help you determine if you can use your home or business costs as deductions on your taxes.
  7. Marginal and Effective Tax Rate Calculator: Estimating what percentage of your income old Uncle Sam is going to demand at the end of the year is essential to avoiding that end of the year tax surprise. Instead, this calculator will allow you to estimate the amount which will give you time to sock the necessary amount away.
  8. Gross Up Calculator: Use this calculator to determine the payroll taxes that should be deducted from bonuses and taxable benefits given to employees.

Personnel

Make the business of doing your payroll easier with these free calculators.

  1. Paycheck Calculator: Help calculate your or your employees’ take home pay after taxes and other deductions.
  2. Wage Conversion: Save yourself the mental acrobatics when converting wages from one periodic term into another (weeks, days, months, etc), making comparison and rates easy to calculate.
  3. Aggregate Bonus Calculator: Figure out an employee’s annual bonus with this calculator.
  4. Flat Percentage Bonus Calculator: Another bonus calculator, this one is based on a flat percentage instead.
  5. 401(k) Planner: Get your financial future on track with this 401k planning calculator.
  6. Salary Wizard: Find out if you’re earning what you’re worth as a freelancer or if you’re paying your employees enough with this salary calculator.
  7. Office Space Calculator: Not sure how much space you’ll need? This calculator will let you know how many square feet you’ll need for your business based on the number of employees you have.
  8. Annual Stock Option Grants: Use this calculator to see how your and your employees stock options might improve over time.

Personal Finance

Don’t lose track of your personal finances because you’re too busy with your business finances. Make use of these simple tools to manage your finances at home.

  1. Checkbook Balancer: Keep your personal budget balanced with this quick and easy calculator.
  2. Home Budget Analysis: Keeping track of where your money goes can be hard as it often goes out as fast as it comes in. Use this budget analysis tool to get a handle on your spending.
  3. Life Expectancy: Get an idea of how much you’ll need to plan for with this life expectancy calculator. Based on your health and lifestyle it will give you an estimate of your life expectancy.
  4. Net Worth: Determine your net value and how it can change with this calculator.
  5. Should my spouse work?: For many couples, especially those with children, the decision for one spouse to stay at home can be a hard one. See if your spouse can afford to stay home or should go to work with this calculator.
  6. Social Security Benefits: Get an estimate of your potential social security benefits with this calculator.
  7. Roth IRA Calculator: See how investing in an Roth IRA compares with taxable investments.
  8. Retirement Planner: Keep your retirement plan on track with this easy-to-use calculator.
  9. Retirement Income: How much will you have to live on when you retire? Use this calculator to figure out what your retirement savings will provide you with.
  10. 457 Savings Calculator: Use this calculator to figure out if a 457 savings plan can help you create a better retirement.
  11. Cost of Living Calculator: Compare the cost of living between different cities in the United States.
  12. Earning Potential: This calculator can help you estimate how much you can expect to earn over the course of your lifetime and what you can do to make the most of that money.
  13. Human Life Calculator: Use this calculator to determine how much life insurance you should be carrying.

Miscellaneous

It seems like there’s a calculator out there for everything, and here are a few more that can help you with your business.

  1. Basic Calculator: Meet your most basic calculator needs anywhere you have internet access with this online calculator.
  2. Basic Financial Calculator: This financial calculator can do all kinds of simple financial calculations.
  3. Compound Interest: Determine the compound interest on your holdings in a savings or investment account.
  4. Future Value: This calculator is used to determine what a sum of money deposited today will be worth at some point in the future based on a specific discount interest rate.
  5. Present Value: This calculator is used to determine what a sum of money to be received in a future year is worth in today’s dollars based on a specific discount interest rate.
  6. Music Business Profit/Loss Calculator: For those trying to make a music business or band the sole source of income, here’s a calculator that will help you determine which gigs are worth it and which you should pass up.
  7. Postage Calculator: Figure out how much you’ll need to spend on postage for bulk mailings or to send products to customers with this calculator from the US Postal Service.
  8. Carbon Dioxide Calculator: Environmentally conscious businesses can use this calculator to figure out the amount of carbon dioxide released by business operations and take measures to offset it.
  9. Best Workplace for Commuters Calculator: Also for the green business, this calculator will give you an estimate of the financial, environment, and traffic benefits of joining the Best Workplace for Commuters program.
  10. Small Business Safety Calculator: Workplace related injuries can be costly. This calculator can help you understand just how much you’ll owe even with accident insurance in place.
  11. Calculator.com: Find all kinds of calculators on this one convenient site, everything from lease calculators to feet into inches.
  12. Currency Converter: Doing business overseas is easy with this currency conversion calculator.
  13. How long til you become a millionaire? Use this calculator to find out how long it will take you to make the millions you’ve been working so hard for.
  14. Time Value Calculator: Figure out what your time is worth with this calculator that takes into account your spending habits and taxes.
  15. Gas Guzzling Calculator: Commuting to the office or to meet with clients? Find out how much the price of gas is hurting your bottom line with this calculator.
  16. Movie Star Comparison Calculator: See how your business revenues compare to the salaries of the biggest celebs with this just for fun calculator.
  17. Coffee Habit: See how much that morning Starbucks is really costing you with this calculator; money you could be putting in your business or your savings account.

52 Creative Ideas for Finding New Clients

Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 2:13am by Site Administrator

As a bootstrapper, you know that clients equal business. Without them, you’d just be another one-man (or woman) shop with an office trying not to go into debt. Fighting for and retaining clients against your competition can be a struggle, just like recruiting new employees or searching for a job yourself is a frustrating battle. With this list, we want to help you take a step back from the front lines and get a little creative. Read below for more than 50 ideas on how to find new clients the smart way.

Online Tools and Resources

Utilize the Internet to connect you to clever tools and resources that will help you find new clients.

  1. Make sure your website is in working order: If you hand someone a business card, they probably won’t call you right away, but they will check out your website. If you have an amateur online set up, you won’t come across as cutting edge or professional enough, even if your physical office space is in great shape.
  2. Start blogging: In addition to setting up a professional looking website, start a blog on which you regularly post articles about your field. You can dispense free advice or discuss industry news in a more casual setting than if you met face to face with a new client. You’ll increase your online profile by reaching out to readers all over the world.
  3. Maintain a strong presence online: Regularly visit other blogs and websites in your field and comment on different posts and message boards. Most sites will allow you to link back to your own blog or website. Becoming a known fixture online is free advertising, and others will come to recognize your level of expertise.
  4. Hot Gigs: This online staffing exchange can help you find new clients looking for qualified vendors and project managers.
  5. Word of Mouth Marketing Association: This online community supports entrepreneurs by allowing them access to a job board where they can find new clients. Business owners can also read articles, share tips and meet up at events through the organization.
  6. Web Designers: 5 Steps to Dozens of New Clients: This detailed article from Interspire.com reveals 5 Internet-based tricks and tools that Web designers can use to win over new clients.
  7. Free Tips from the Marketing Mentor: The Marketing Mentor Ilise Benun sends out free tips to subscribers who want advice on attracting new clients.
  8. YouTube: Direct a YouTube video that showcases your company’s services in a creative way. You can embed the video in your website or blog, e-mail it to friends, family and clients, or just wait and see how popular it becomes on its own.

For Freelancers

Freelancers in search of new clients should check out these job boards, which post resumes, offer tips for finding new gigs and encourage networking throughout the freelancing community.

  1. 37signals Gig Board: Clients can search this job board for freelancing help with copywriting, Web design, programming and other techie tasks.
  2. Writerlance: This site is "connecting writers with buyers." Sign up to start placing your bid on quality projects.
  3. Guru.com: Guru.com boasts that it is "the world’s largest online service marketplace." Register your skills here to meet new clients.
  4. sologig: Sologig posts "superior projects" for "independent talent." Browse through the job listings and place your bid on top projects which could lead to long lasting client relationships.
  5. Freelancers Network: This UK-based network is worth checking out if you live in the area or feel like you can compete with British professionals from home.
  6. iFreelance: Use this site to find new gigs and start an ongoing business relationship with new clients.
  7. eLance: Web programming, design, writing, sales and other jobs are available here. Register online for a clever way to meet new clients.

Marketing Strategies

Without a solid marketing strategy, you’ll never be able to reach out to quality clients. This list documents clever ways to modify your marketing plan so that your business achieves maximum exposure.

  1. Create an e-mail campaign: Web-based tools like Breeze can help you design and create attractive e-mail campaigns that you can use to announce your business deals, special events and other news-worthy items that will attract new business.
  2. Find New Clients: Check out this article by Bernadette Doyle to learn how to successfully market yourself and your company so that you become attractive to your specific audience.
  3. New Client Marketing Institute: Turn to this website for free how-to articles that will help improve your marketing strategies and attract clients.
  4. MarketingProfs.com: This online networking community of marketing professionals hosts a job board, blog, information about upcoming special events, and features lots of valuable marketing resources and forums that promote communication among business owners.
  5. CPA Marketing Challenge: Clients Quick and Easy: This guide offers fail-proof advice on how to attract clients you’ll work with forever.
  6. shoutlet: This social media marketing tool allows entrepreneurs to manage contacts, newsletters, mailing lists, tracking tools, and digital content storage capabilities.
  7. New Clients Now! Marketing Strategies for Freelance Success: Freelancers have unique marketing needs, and this article reveals simple but effective secrets for success.
  8. Entrepreneur.com: Utilize this valuable resource for all kinds of articles and advice on marketing, attracting new clients and other topics related to owning a growing business.
  9. As your business grows, advertise to existing clients: Just because you’ve had the same client for 5 years doesn’t mean they remain aware of your company’s most recent progress. Continue to market to existing clients by notifying them of new services, special deals and more.
  10. Become an industry expert: Check out this article from Write2Market.com for tips on how to gain publicity and a new client base by becoming a go-to expert in your field.
  11. The Freelancer’s New Client Primer: Great tips supplied in this article include perfecting the art of selling, building rapport among industry professionals and developing a relationship strategy.
  12. CafePress.com: Design and order your own promotional items to hand out at trade shows or to give as gifts for existing clients.

Networking Ideas

Let these tools and guides inspire you to tap into all of your contact resources to network, network, network.

  1. Reconnect With Your Alma Mater: Ework.com writer Rob Einaudi urges professionals to go back to school in the search for new clients. He notes that "many alumni associations have large databases containing a wealth of useful information and contacts."
  2. Keep your portfolio in the trunk of your car: You never know when a new opportunity might strike. While it’s best not to show up to a wedding with a bulging binder under your arm, make sure you have a few examples of some of your best work, and keep the phone numbers of references handy in case a new business relationship materializes.
  3. LinkedIn: This popular online social network connects professionals, students and alumni. Become a member and set up your own profile to strengthen existing business relationships or start new ones.
  4. Capazoo: This online social networking community supports blogs, videos and music files so that you can reach your customers more creatively.
  5. Doostang: This career hub doubles as a networking site for those looking to expand their audience and professional contacts. Doostang is currently invite-only, so ask around to see if you can score an invitation.
  6. Gather: Members of this social network can post photos, engage in group chats, upload videos and make new contacts.
  7. Attending Trade Fairs/Exhibitions to Meet New Clients: Discover what other professionals have to say about networking with potential clients at trade shows.
  8. 10 Tips for Successful Business Networking: Nervous about getting out in the real world to meet new people? Use this guide to arm yourself with solid networking strategies.
  9. Networking Tips: How to Work a Room: Check out this article from the University of California – Berkeley’s career center. Great tips include: "check your attitude", "practice and perfect your self-introduction" and "risk rejection".
  10. Meetup: Meetup connects people who share the same interests, business-related or otherwise, and encourages them to organize real world events to network, communicate and foster new relationships.
  11. Business Networking for Entrepreneurs: This resource from About.com has lots of clever ideas for giving your networking skills a boost. Learn about "the importance of being memorable" and "how to cultivate a network of endless referrals."
  12. Ryze: This popular business networking site connects users to new clients and business partners through its professional online community.
  13. How to Network: For Introverts: This article from BusinessPundits.com coaxes shy business professionals into the profitable world of business marketing.
  14. 8 Networking Tips: Ideas like "brainstorm for contacts" and making sure to follow up are simple but extremely effective strategies that will help you find new clients.

Guides

Read these articles and guides for quality information on seeking out and retaining profitable clients.

  1. How to Attract New Clients to Your Work at Home Business: Work-at-home professionals sometimes don’t get as much respect as entrepreneurs who operate out of a traditional office. Use this guide to develop a marketing plan that will bring clients to your home office.
  2. How to Land New Clients Fast: This step-by-step article urges business owners to "be bold, be creative" and "give up your fears, doubts and insecurities" before actively pursuing new clients.
  3. 101 Ideas to Get More Freelance Work and Generate New Client Leads: Save this resource from FreelanceSwitch to get lots of clever ideas for bulking up your business and fostering relationships with newly acquired clients.
  4. Five Ways to Cross-Promote to Attract More Customers While Spending Less: Start a partnership with another company in your field or active in a different industry to sponsor an event, engage in product sharing or refer customers back and forth.
  5. CareerJournal.com: This "executive career site" from the Wall Street Journal includes a job board, a collection of business-related tools and many other resources to help your business grow.
  6. Small Business Resource Center: Nielsen’s Professional Network publishes this online collection of articles, tools, job classifieds and other resources to increase your presence among potential clients.
  7. Target Ideal Buyers to Get More Customers: This post from the StreetSmart Marketer blog dispenses critical advice for recognizing "ideal buyers," who are "easier to sell…more profitable" and "likely to become the best clients."
  8. Business Planning: Pitching successful campaigns to clients all starts with a solid business plan. Use this guide to develop an effective, workable strategy that will attract the clients you want.
  9. 21 Strategies to Attract New Clients: This article is full of ideas for bringing new clients into your office.

Get Involved

The following ideas will help you get out of the office and get involved with the community.

  1. Leverage Your Hobbies: MsMoney.com suggests that entrepreneurs take a look at what interests them outside of work, and then take steps to pursue it professionally. Rob Einaudi writes, "if you are an avid skier, perhaps a ski resort, tour company, or retailer you frequent could use your services. The fact that you already "speak their language" will make you a top candidate."
  2. Volunteering: Use a site like Volunteer Match to find volunteering opportunities that match your interest and are located in your area. Volunteering is a great way to meet individuals from all walks of life and develop with them a special bond.
  3. Donate your services: If you don’t have time to give up your weekends or evenings to helping with a volunteering project, consider donating your services, whether it’s printing services, marketing assistance or legal help to a charity in your area. You’ll enter into a whole new world of valuable networking and new business opportunities.
  4. Join a professional organization: Join up with the local chapter of your field’s professional organization. You’ll meet other professionals at all levels at special events, lectures and more.

Review of “Escape from Corporate America”

Friday, May 27, 2011 at 5:20pm by Site Administrator

Pamela Skillings has produced the “how-to” book for anyone who dreads going to their miserable job. Escape from Corporate America outlines what the downtrodden toiler needs to do to actually get up out of his or her cubicle and chase down his or her dreams. Everyone has been there before; you hate your job but you feel like you’ll stuck there forever. Skillings has verbalized our collective feelings in her easy-to-read guide.

Outlining the reasons that we feel helpless and powerless when we toil away in cubicle land, Skillings has provided the kick in the pants many of us need to regain control over our work life. She doesn’t leave you feeling worse about yourself, which is what many of these types of books wind up doing. On the contrary, she addresses our feelings and then makes us realize that we have the capability to actually make the life changing move.

Immediately, Skillings connects with her readers as she says, “I wrote this book because I know exactly how you feel.” We learn that she was a high-powered mover and shaker in the corporate world but felt that her creativity was being sapped on a daily basis. Tired of just thinking about changing careers and idly threatening to do so, she talked to the right people that could help her go through with it. She is not trying to act like she’s better than us because she actually did the make the big move, rather she keeps her humility in tact as she continually sympathizes with our situation. Over and over, she asks why else would we be reading this book if we weren’t ready to grab hold of our lives and leave Corporate America behind us?

Escape from Corporate America is not a rant about what’s wrong with big business. She doesn’t trash capitalism or anything like that. She even cites some great companies to work for. The essence of her message is that as individuals we have to make changes to better suit ourselves. The message is clear that Corporate America isn’t going to look out for the little guy and take care of us through all our travails. Only we can provide the sense of fulfillment that we crave. Beautifully juxtaposing the corporate world and the salvation that awaits us when we do leave adds the extra incentive we need to make our move.

 

Skillings would be better suited make a more stark contrast between the two worlds presented in her offering. Sometimes, the reader feels unsure about how bad Corporate America really is. Nobody wants to sit and read outright bashing of establishment, but sometimes it helps to keep the blood flowing if there are two sides. It also helps when one side is so atrocious that we loathe their existence. Skillings lacks this clarity at times.

Escape from Corporate America is a must-read if you’re considering changing careers and working for yourself. At times, this book can be your best friend when everyone else is telling you that you’re crazy for going down this road. Skillings has come up with a homerun.

To buy the book and read more words of wisdom from Skillings, check out her motivational blog.

 

 

50+ Google Reader Productivity Hacks

Sunday, May 15, 2011 at 6:33pm by Site Administrator

Google Reader is already a tool that can be used to boost your productivity throughout the day by letting you view your favorite blog’s feeds and posts in one spot: through your Google account. But for those of us who tend to get bogged down in a lot of useless subscriptions and really need to cut down on the minutes (or hours) we spend procrastinating each day, there are a lot of little hacks to make Google Reader more productive. We’ve compiled a list of over 50 of our favorites here.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Use these basic but necessary keyboard shortcuts to make searching, organizing, sharing and reading your feeds more efficient.

  1. /: Use the forward slash to move your cursor to the search box and start looking for new stuff or saved items.
  2. g then u: Type g then u to go to your subscriptions.
  3. g then d: This shortcut will take you to the recommended page. If there are no recommendations, typing g then d will take you to the browse page.
  4. 2: Press 2 to see your subscriptions in a list view or headline view.
  5. ?: Find more keyboard shortcuts just for Google Reader by pressing the question mark.
  6. Shift-s: Pressing Shift-S will share or un-share the selected item.
  7. s: Star and un-star your highlighted items simply by pressing s.
  8. Shift-o: Open up the highlighted subscription or folder with this shortcut.
  9. g then h: Press g then h to go back to the Google Reader homepage.
  10. g then shift-s: This shortcut will take you to the "Your Shared Items" page.
  11. shift-n/p: n/p stands for Next/Previous, and using this combination will select the Next/Previous selection or folder.
  12. v: Open up the original page of the selected item in Google Reader.
  13. e: Quickly e-mail a page or other selection by pressing e when you’re in Google Reader.
  14. r: Check to see if anymore unread updates have been added when you hit the r button in the navigation.

For Firefox

Firefox users like their browser’s speed and ability to add on new scripts or buttons. Check out several Google Reader-specific hacks for Firefox here.

  1. Enhance Google Reader Preview: This script adds a Preview button so that you don’t have to open up an article or post all the way to read it.
  2. BlogThis2Me: The BlogThis2Me script lets you "blog Google Reader’s "BlogThis!" to your own blog system, not to blogger.com," as long as you have Firefox and Greasemonkey.
  3. Smart Google Reader Subscribe Button: this script "adds an overlayed check icon when you’re subscribed to at least one of the feeds that the site advertises via auto-discovery."
  4. Gbutts 1.5.1: Gbutts is short for Google buttons, and you can add your Google Reader button, as well as any other Google buttons, to your Firefox address bar.
  5. Better GReader: Better GReader works with Firefox adds a menu with extra options and features like Smart Subscribe, Preview Inline, Optimized Skin and others.
  6. Google Reader Watcher: Google Reader Watcher is an add-on that makes Firefox check your Google Reader for unread fees. This download does not require Greasemonkey.
  7. Quick Hide Message: Shave off milliseconds with this script, which "quickly hides the message displayed in Google Reader after performing renames, folder changes," and other actions.
  8. Auto Add Feed: The Auto Add Feed script only adds feeds to Google Reader, instead of asking you where you want it to be saved.
  9. Title Unread Count: This hack moves the unread count in Google Reader to the front.
  10. Greasereader: Add even more hot keys to your Google Reader systems by reading this guide.
  11. Google Reader All Starred: Extract all of your starred items as links from Google Reader so that you don’t have to download each one.
  12. Google Reader Read by Mouse: Set up this script so that you can use a mouse-only system to read your feeds. It uses mouse buttons for the following actions: next item, previous item, and more.

Real Time Savers

If you’re serious about making your Google Reader visits more efficient, learn how to categorize by priority, use the "next" bookmarklet, and implement scripts that let you autoscroll, review your subscriptions and more.

  1. Categorize by priority: Stepcase Lifehack recommends categorizing your feeds by priority so that you don’t get bogged down in irrelevant articles.
  2. Google Reader Autoscroll: The autoscroll script lets you "view and mark items as read by means of a mouse wheel and keyboard shortcuts."
  3. Mark All as Read: If you only want to read one article from a feed, you can mark everything else as read to weed out your extra entries.
  4. Google Reader Scroll Reducer: With this script, you’re able to comment on and view the original site without having to scroll to the top of page to get to the URL.
  5. The "Next" Bookmarklet: The Google Reader Blog discusses this hack, which "allows you to use Google Reader through just one link — clicking on it takes your browser to the next unread item in your reading list."
  6. Review your subscriptions: Are you still getting subscriptions for some obscure hobby you were only interested in a year ago? Go through your subscriptions and delete any that you don’t really want emptied into your account regularly.
  7. Print Button v2.0: The Google Reader Print Button v2.0 allows users to print either the selected content or everything that’s displayed on the page in Google Reader.
  8. Gmail + Google Reader: Add Google Reader into your Gmail account so you don’t have to constantly switch back and forth.
  9. Google Reader Filter: Get rid of duplicate and unwanted content with this script.
  10. Tag your items: Take advantage of the tagging feature on Google Reader. It’s there to help you stay organized and more productive.

Social Media Hacks

How much time do you waste each day checking all of your social media accounts? These hacks let you sync up Google Reader with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google Chat and more.

  1. Google Reader + ma.gnolia: This basic script lets you add a Google Reader post to ma.gnolia.
  2. Google Reader Digg News: Add a Digg button to your Google Reader posts with this script.
  3. Tumblr: Sync up your Google Reader and Tumblr with this script. You can attach your reblog button or Share-on-Tumblr at the bottom of articles on Google Reader.
  4. Managing Your Shared Items: This post from the Google Reader Blog shows you how to add and remove friends from your Gmail or GChat account.
  5. Google Reader and Flickr: Now you embed Flickr videos into your Google Reader, so you don’t have to switch back and forth to share with extra friends or read their comments.
  6. Facebook Sharer + Google Reader: Share your favorite posts and articles with Google Reader friends and Facebook friends.
  7. Google Reader + del.icio.us: Use this script to define tags and links for a faster way of posting to del.icio.us.
  8. Google Reader + Twitter: Use this script to add reader posts to Twitter.

Add-Ons and Solutions

Try out these add-ons to customize your Google Reader experience and streamline your Google accounts.

  1. Google Reader Notifier: This extension keeps you updated by showing you how many unread items you have in your account.
  2. Add a Search: Add a search engine to your Google Reader account to make searching for items faster.
  3. Google Reader Optimized: Use this script to view Google Reader in a larger space. The last official update was in 2006, but Google Reader users have submitted updates.
  4. Google Reader Romeo Script: Check out this script to access Google Reader from your cell phone — if you don’t have an iPhone.
  5. Google Reader Button for Internet Explorer: IE users can add on a Google Reader to their browser using this tutorial.
  6. iPhone Skin: iPhone users can easily view Google Reader on their phones with this special skin from developer David Cann.
  7. Iris: View your Google Reader subscriptions in a Firefox sidebar.
  8. Go behind the scenes: If you want to know how many people have subscribed to a certain feed, you can use this tutorial to speed up your search times.

50 Awesome Tools for Researching Your Family’s History

Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 5:56pm by Site Administrator

By Eliza Morgan

Researching family history used to mean spending hours pouring through archives in libraries and public records. With the growing power of the Internet, however, now you may not even have to leave your home to find the information you need about your family. There are loads of sites dedicated to helping people build their family histories, find records and even learn the origins of their family names. Here are a few sites where you can start your search to build a bigger, better family tree.

Websites

These major sites can be a great starting points for your genealogical research.

  1. Ancestry.com: Ancestry.com is one of the largest genealogy sites on the Web, with billions of names that you can search through to find your relatives as well as gain access to historical records, genealogy communities, family tree makers and much more.
  2. RootsWeb: Unlike many of the online genealogy sites, RootsWeb is free to use, and you do not need to pay a monthly or yearly fee for access. Users can browse through searchable databases of historical and genealogical information as well as create online family trees to display their findings.
  3. Geneaology.com: This membership-based site will allow you to search through information, build online family trees, subscribe to certain types of information, and even look at celebrity family trees.
  4. SurnameWeb: This online genealogy project is based solely on the history of your surname. Simply enter in your last name and you’ll get access to loads of resources that can help you trace your name’s history and find others with the same name.
  5. Family Tree Maker Online: Get access to more features online with the website for this popular software choice. Owners of Family Tree Maker can meet and talk to others with the program, read a blog about new features and learn more about genealogy.
  6. US GenWeb Project: This project is dedicated to keeping genealogy research free of charge. It compiles loads of free resources and archives by state as well as providing access to special projects the group works on.
  7. Cyndi’s List: Don’t waste your time scouring the Web looking for genealogy resources. This site organizes just about anything you could need into one large comprehensive guide to the best of genealogy on the Web.
  8. Lost Cousins: Find your long lost cousins with this site. Enter in your family history and the program will put you in touch with anyone else out there who shares the same ancestors.
  9. WeRelate: This wiki project is sponsored by the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy and has grown to become the largest genealogy wiki out there. You can add your own family history to the site and look at the information provided by millions of others.
  10. FamilySearch: This site is home to one of the largest collections of genealogical research tools available. Even better, it’s free, so you don’t have to pay to look through their records.
  11. GeneaNet: Go international with this multi-lingual genealogy site. You’ll be able to search through information, chat with others and build your own family tree online.
  12. Genealogy Today: Here, researchers will find both pay and free databases for their use as well as access to loads of informative articles, guides and helpful information.

Archives and Records

Get access to all kinds of historical records through these online archives.

  1. Library of Congress Local History and Genealogy Reading Room: Take advantage of one of the largest libraries in the United States through this website. You’ll gain access to any genealogical resources the library has and learn a little more about researching family histories.
  2. National Archives and Records Administration: While not always the easiest information to peruse, the National Archives are full of records that can be a big help in your quest for information about relatives.
  3. Social Security Death Index: If you’re looking for more recent relatives, the Social Security Death Index can be a great way to find them. Records go back to 1937 and cover any relatives who were given a Social Security number.
  4. Internment.net: Search through thousands of cemeteries nationwide for the graves of your relatives. You can find out birth and death information as well as additional information about family connections through this site.
  5. Access Genealogy: This free online resource is full of archives you can use. It covers everything from Census records to genealogical records for African Americans.
  6. Footnote: Footnote is an original and innovative site that lets users from all over the world upload original documents and photographs. You may even be able to find some that belonged to your relatives. It’s a great way to learn about your own history as well as that of others.
  7. Genealogy Bank: You’ll be able to search through the archives on this site to find information on your family history. Perhaps one of the best features, however, is the timeline creator which lets you build a timeline of important events in a family member’s life.
  8. Find a Grave: Learn where even your most distant relatives were laid to rest with this tool. If you have photographs you can upload them to the site as well as obituaries and other death information.
  9. DocumentsOnline: Those doing research on relatives from the UK can take advantage of this large archive of records that has been digitized and is available through the website for researchers.
  10. JewishGen: If you are of Jewish heritage you may be able to find information about your ancestors through this site. You can search through records from a number of countries and get in touch with others keeping records of their family history.
  11. Global Gazetteer: Find the homes and resting places of your family members using this site. It has satellite images of locations all over the world to give you an idea of where you’re from.
  12. Census Links: Census records can be tedious to go through, but this site combines many links to sites all over the world to make it just a little less painful to research.
  13. The Records Room: This site combines links to records like birth certificates, census reports, marriage and divorce papers, and much more to make finding the information you need easier.
  14. Vital Rec: Here you’ll find vital records on births, deaths and marriages across the US as well as information on how you can request copies of this information.

Crests and Coats of Arms

Find out what coat of arms represents your family name with these helpful resources.

  1. House of Names: Memorialize your family crest with merchandise from this site. You can get high quality print outs or even mouse pads with your family logo.
  2. All Family Crests: Here you’ll find a simple search tool to help you find a crest, if there is one, that matches up with your family name and you can print it out for free.
  3. Coats of Arms and Family Crests: Find simple renditions of your coat of arms with this easy-to-use site.

Charts and Forms

Keep your family tree information organized and accessible with these tools for charting relationships online and off.

  1. OurTimeLines.com: Here you’ll be able to generate interesting webpages that can give you some insight to the lives of your ancestors. It shows how your life or the lives of anyone in your family fits into major events in history.
  2. Online Family Tree Maker: This free software allows you to connect with others who may already have parts of your family tree online or to start your own. People can then search through your tree for information and you can do the same with theirs.
  3. Geni.com: This sleek and easy-to-use site gives you access to an online family tree maker. It’s private, so only people in your family will have access to the information.
  4. Genealogy Forms and Charts: Get all the charts and forms that professional genealogists use through this site. They’re free to download, print and use at your discretion.
  5. My Family Health Portrait: Chart your family’s medical history with this site. You’ll be able to see where certain risks for illnesses may have come from and create a more comprehensive family health history.
  6. SharedTree: This open source site allows users to create free online family trees and to share their information with other researchers.

Networking

Meet others looking to find out more about their family histories on these sites. Who knows, you might even find a distant relative!

  1. CousinConnect: On this site you’ll be able to submit questions about family members you’re looking for or search through other peoples’ queries to see if you can answer any of their questions.
  2. GenCircles: Here you’ll be able to upload your family tree and share it over the Web. You’ll also be able to talk with others using the program and exchange information and ask questions.
  3. Past Connect: Looking for long lost family heirlooms, photos and documents? You may be able to find them on this site, which collects and lists loads of information floating around out there and can put you in touch with the current owners.
  4. National Genealogical Society: Meet and greet thousands of people nationwide who are into researching family histories with this site.
  5. GenSwap: This feature of Family Reunion.com allows users to exchange their information for help or information from other users out there.
  6. Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness: This organization is dedicated to helping members get the information they need through exchange. One member will do work in their neck of the woods in exchange for help doing research for another member.

Web Tools

These tools can help inform you and make your research a little easier.

  1. Diigo: This Web highlighter and sticky notes app can help you keep track of all the information you’re finding on different websites all over and keep it organized and easier to reference.
  2. Roots Television: This site is entirely dedicated to genealogy and features a number of informative videos that can help educate you on how to improve your search techniques.
  3. One Step Webpages: Steve Morse has taken the work out of accessing loads of online records. Here you’ll find records like those from Ellis Island broken down and ordered so that they’re much easier to look through.
  4. WorldCat: This resource will make it easy to find books, movies, articles and more at a library near you, or let you know where the nearest location of these items is. There is a Firefox plug-in for this site as well.
  5. Family Tree DNA: Take genealogy to the next level by tracking not only records but the actual DNA of your family as well. This site provides the largest resource of DNA records to date.
  6. PAF 5.2: The Church of Latter Day Saints has put together this great research tool. It’s free to download and use, and can help you organize and find loads of information.
  7. Pedigree Soft: Organize your family history with this free software. You can also share it with the world by uploading it to the web.
  8. Clooz: This database program makes it much easier to keep track of all your genealogical information with loads of templates for storing records as well as convenient reports you can print out.
  9. Bygones: Take advantage of this freeware program which is designed to help researchers take and keep together their notes from genealogical research.

The 100 Most Useful WordPress Add-ons Available

Saturday, April 23, 2011 at 5:34pm by Site Administrator

Shuffling through the thousands of WordPress add-ons and widgets takes up way more time than most bloggers have. To give you a jump start on improving your blog on everything from understanding how to market to your readers to learning new formatting tricks, we’ve generated this list of the 100 most useful WordPress add-ons available so that you can stop searching and start blogging. Publishing and Formatting Make your blog easy to read and manage with these super smart formatting hacks.

  1. Post Thumb Revisited: Turn your posts into thumbnails for easy display and organization.
  2. Exec-PHP: This plugin adds the php code into your posts and widgets.
  3. WP Post Icon: To make designing your blog less complicated, use this add-on to pick certain topic icons and images which will be automatically inserted when you write a post.
  4. DJ E-mail Publish: This app sends your new post to all of your other blogs via e-mail.
  5. Mowser WordPress Mobile: Accommodate your iPhone and BlackBerry readers by installing this plugin, which redirects them to Mowser.com, a site that displays blogs in a mobile friendly format.
  6. WP Widget Changer: Set up different widgets for each page without having to change the anchor widget’s code.
  7. Collapsible Elements: Use Collapsible Elements to add a button to create a code for multiple collapsible elements.
  8. WP CSS Text Stroke: Make your pages easy to read even when text appears " on a non-uniform coloured background." Text will show up as black letters on a white background.
  9. Raw HTML: Bloggers wanting more control over formatting can use this plugin to any coding method, including raw HTML when writing posts.
  10. Google (XML) Sitemaps Generator: If you want a sitemap that works with Google and your WordPress blog, as well as Yahoo! and MSN Search.
  11. Advanced Excerpt: Publish excerpts without ruining HTML markup or messing up your formatting.
  12. WP-Table: Create functional tables for your WordPress blog with this app without having to manually write in plain text mode or risk messing up your formatting.

Comments and Reader Communication From feeds to comments, keep in touch with your readers by taking advantage of these applications.

  1. Get Recent Comments: Easily view your most recent comments with this app.
  2. Add to Any Subscribe Button: Readers using any feed reader will be able to subscribe to your blog easily with this plugin.
  3. DeCat: If you want to leave out a post or category from your RSS feeds, hide it with this app.
  4. DMS Guestbook: This customizable guest book lets bloggers set hidden text like IP addresses, design their own language templates, set up mandatory fields in the guest book and more.
  5. SimplePie 2.1: Manage your feeds by setting up multiple templates, accessing support for several different feeds, automatic set up of cache folders and more.
  6. RSS Image Widget: Display images from your posts in RSS feeds with this widget. The SimplePie plugin is required.
  7. Top Commentators Widget: Originally designed as the Show Top Commentators plugin at the Personal Financial Advice site, this app has been adapted for all WordPress blogs. You’ll be able to display your blog’s top commentators, which advertises archived posts, encourages readers to comment and more.
  8. Comment Sorter: More effectively manage and organize your comments with this add-on.
  9. Contact Form 7: This contact form works with AJAX and features spam security from Akismet. Bloggers can also set up multiple contact forms with this app.
  10. Vote It Up: Let users vote for or against your posts with this simple add-on.
  11. Ajax Comment Posting: This user-friendly Ajax comment app lets readers post comments without having to refresh the page. It also double checks reader’s comments to make sure they filled out the form correctly.
  12. Easy Gravatars: Give your readers the opportunity to leave a more personal impression when they comment on your blog. This app allows gravatars to be displayed when readers comment on your posts.
  13. Quick SMS: Readers can now get in touch with you via your cell phone when you install this app. Messages are sent directly to your registered mobile device via supported networks all over the world, including the UK, India, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, the U.S. and more.

Understanding Statistics Get to know your readers and revamp your marketing techniques when you use these apps that collect information about visitor demographics.

  1. Official StatCounter Plugin: Features that come with this plugin include an invisible counter option, a configurable counter, search engine wars, keyword analysis and statistical information found on popular entry and exit pages.
  2. Feed Master: Feed Master is another app that lets you understand your reader demographics.
  3. StatPress: Designed just for WordPress, this app displays information about your readers, so you know which kinds of Web surfers you’re attracting.
  4. FeedStats: Find out exactly who your readers are by researching their stats with this button.
  5. Googmonify: This marketing tool allows bloggers to add Google AdSense units into your posts as well as give you "accurate" information about your readers’ statistics.
  6. WassUp: This real-time plugin features a current visitors online display system and a visitor details view that lets you analyze reader data and stats.
  7. Counterize II: This statistics counting add-on has no external libraries, "and can display total hits, unique hits and other statistics in WordPress webpages."
  8. GeneralStats: This plugin "counts the number of users, categories, posts, comments, pages, links, tags, link-categories, words in posts, words in comments and words in pages," giving bloggers an inclusive look at their reader demographics and an analysis of the blog itself.

Connecting with the Outside Online Community From photo sites to Facebook, use these add-ons to connect with the outside online community via your WordPress blog.

  1. Fu4ny’s Blogroll Widget: Organize your blogroll in XHTML with this widget.
  2. Your WordPress Is In My FaceBook: Start blogging through Facebook with this app.
  3. WordPress Fotolog Widget: Fotolog users can use this unique widget to display thumbnails of recently added Fotolog photos.
  4. Amazon Showcase: Whether you’re selling items on Amazon.com or just want to highlight a particular product, use this widget to display items clearly.
  5. MyTwitter: Twitter users can show readers their recent "tweets" on their WordPress blogs with this app.
  6. Link Harvest: This smart tool "will go through all of your posts and pages and compile a list of all external links. Then it will create a live updating linkroll for you, based on your actual linking activity."
  7. Blogroll Autolinker: Turn names from your blogroll into links that appear when you write about or refer to the selected author.
  8. Sociable: This very simple tool adds links to your posts which connect readers to sites like Facebook, Digg and StumbleUpon.
  9. Slashdigglicious: Make it easy for your readers to submit their favorite posts to social bookmarking sites when you install this app.
  10. FlickrFaves: Recruit new readers by publishing your favorite Flickr photos on your WordPress blog.
  11. jPic WordPress Widget: Use this widget to link to photos you find on the Web.
  12. Facebook Comments: Sync up your Facebook comments with your WordPress blog using this plugin.
  13. Wordbook: Update your Facebook friends with your most recent WordPress posts. Bloggers can also add posts via Facebook Mini-Feed.

Marketing Add-ons Use these tools to spread the word about your blog in general or about each of your posts.

  1. Digg This: Many bloggers already have this button at the end or beginning of each of their posts. The code for adding it to your blog can be found here.
  2. Reddit for WordPress Plugin: Don’t limit your readers to just Digg-ing you; add this Reddit button to improve your ranking on other sites too.
  3. Gregarious: Gregarious lets bloggers easily add buttons for different social bookmarking sites like Digg and Reddit. Bloggers can choose to customize the buttons’ designs and play around with the Share This plugin.
  4. Del.icio.us Bookmark This!: Encourage your readers to vote for your posts on Del.icio.us by adding this app.
  5. Live Space Sync: WordPress bloggers and Live Spaces users can connect their accounts to update posts on both sites.
  6. Bookmarkify: This app is able to connect readers to over 50 social bookmarking sites where they can add your posts and improve your ranking.
  7. Email+ from Grouptivity: Get the word out about your blog by adding an "Email this" button after each post.
  8. LiveJournal Crossposter: This app automatically updates users’ LiveJournal profiles with their newest WordPress blog posts.
  9. Last.FM Events: If you’ve got a gig coming up on Last.FM, advertise to your readers with this widget.
  10. WP Tags to Technorati: If you’re tired of coming up with new tags for every bookmarking site and blog directory, use this add-on to automatically create Technorati tags from your posts.

Moneymaking Apps Monetize your blog by making the most of programs like AdSense and Kontera. These widgets and add-ons will make it easier to manage your funds.

  1. AdSense Manager: Add a flexible AdSense widget to your WordPress blog with this plugin. You can easily manage ads and show all your readers that you’re open to displaying their logos and messages…for a price.
  2. Kontera Ad Wrap: Manage which pages and parts of your blog display your Kontera ContentLink ads with this app.
  3. All in One Adsense and YPN: This open source plugin "is able to automatically insert Google AdSense ads or Yahoo Publisher Network (YPN) ads into your posts on the fly."
  4. AdSense Revenue Sharing 1.1: If your blog is run by or written by several different people, use this app to divide up revenue from AdSense profits.
  5. Are PayPal: Use PayPal to monetize your blog with this app.
  6. Who Sees Ads?: Control which readers can see your ads by using this add-on.
  7. AdServe: As WordPress’ official advertising server, AdServe lets users set up banner campaigns and easily track statistics.

Adding Style and Customizable Plugins Personalize your blog with these simple plugins and widgets that give your pages a fun but sleek look.

  1. Countdown Timer: This feature is especially attractive for bloggers tracking weight loss progress or budgeting goals. You can add several different dates to which you’re counting down.
  2. bSuite: This set of apps gives bloggers more control over designing their pages "and leverage[s] WP as an application platform."
  3. Image Caption: Titled images will be displayed as a caption when you install this application. Image Caption also supports MyCSS, custom CSS, and automatically formats captions so that they are displayed in the appropriate width and height on your blog.
  4. Add Your Own Headers: Design your own headers by background, text, image, and other options. Bloggers can also add tags to the headers with this plugin.
  5. Feed Styler: Create a different design for your feeds with this app.
  6. File Icons: This add-on displays icons by CSS before links that appear on your blog.
  7. WP Vivitiger Image Resizer: Cut and crop images so that they fit into your blog more cohesively.
  8. WP Vault: Use this tool to "upload and store any type of files" you want. The Vault also lets bloggers browse files with Ajax, resize images to make them load faster, organize files with tags and more.
  9. p2p Converter: Convert posts to pages with this simple add-on.
  10. Extension Manager: Manage your blog’s themes and add-ons with this valuable tool. Admins can also easily search their account for different plugins.

Organization Make the most of WordPress features like categories and archives by supplementing them with the following tools.

  1. Extended Live Archive: Organize your past posts with this in-the-works plugin.
  2. AddThis Sidebar Widget: Clean up your pages by adding this widget, which "adds the feed subscription and/or social bookmarking buttons from AddThis to your sidebar."
  3. Advanced Category Excluder: Implement CMS-like functionality into your WordPress blog and regain full control over your page organization and category listings.
  4. Flexi Pages Widget: This "highly configurable WordPress sidebar widget" lists pages and sub-pages, allowing for easy navigation and organization.
  5. Admin Links Widget: Add links to certain administrative functions on your sidebar.
  6. No Widget Category Cloud: Organize your categories in a cloud-like format without installing a widget.
  7. Cleaner Dashboard: Tidy up your dashboard with this tool, which removes WordPress Nws and gives your sidebar four columns.
  8. Smarter Archives: Use a template tag to organize your archives page. Bloggers will see a row for each year and then a link to each month in the above year.
  9. Flexo Archives Widget: This expandable archive display lets bloggers display the number of posts written each month and saves room on the page.

Multimedia Have fun sharing videos, songs and other multimedia favorites with your readers by implementing these add-ons.

  1. WordPress Video Plugin: This add-on makes it easy to add videos from sites like YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo! Video, SlideShare, Metacafe and more.
  2. IM Online: This add-on shows readers when you’re online so that they can reach you via instant messaging on AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, Jabber, Skype and more.
  3. 1 Bit Audio Player: 1 Bit Audio Player is touted as a "very simple and lightweight Adobe Flash MP3 player with automatic JavaScript insertion." Readers can listen to previews of music files that you link to in posts.
  4. Inline mp3 Player: Connect links to mp3 files to media players that let your readers listen to music easily.
  5. XHTML Video Embed: Add Flash content to your blog with this plugin.
  6. EasyTube: This add-on "allows WordPress users to easily embed YouTube and Google Videos using one simple tag."
  7. Viper’s Video Quicktags: This popular add-on makes adding videos from YouTube, Google Video, IFILM, Metacafe, MySpace and Vimeo extremely easy. Users just have to paste the video’s URL into a prompt box.

Security and Spam Protect your blog from copyright infringement and spammers by installing these WordPress add-ons.

  1. ©Feed: Add this plugin to your blog to protect yourself from copyright infringement. You can also search online for writers ripping off your content.
  2. Feed Footer: This app lets you add copyright to your feed, HTML to your footer and display ads under blog posts in your RSS feed.
  3. Tinfoil Hat: More effectively control how much of your information is sent over the Internet by WordPress.
  4. Math Comment Spam Protection: Require your readers to answer a simple math problem in order to ward off comment spammers.
  5. Simple Trackback Validation: This security add-on "performs a simple but very effective test on all incoming trackbacks in order to stop trackback spam."
  6. WP-Spam Free: This popular add-on is advertised as "one of the most effective anti-spam plugins for WordPress." It protects bloggers against automated spam bots without prompting readers to solve math problems or enter in keywords.
  7. Chap Secure Login: This privacy application encrypts your admin password when you work over an insecure network.

Miscellaneous From automatic updates to creative navigation systems, here are more WordPress plugins that will make managing your blog simple and improve reader usability.

  1. Plugin Updater: This plugin adds an "update now" button so that you can instantly update all of your WordPress add-ons easily.
  2. Redirection: Keep track of 404 errors and maintain "full logs for all redirected URLs."
  3. WordPress Automatic Upgrade: Automatically upgrade your WordPress installation by adding on this tool, which also backs up your database and files.
  4. Random Posts Widget: The Random Posts Widget "displays a list of random posts on your widgetized sidebar," giving your readers a fun way to "channel surf" your blog.
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