Rocket League

I rarely have the opportunity to play games, but last night I bought Rocket League to go with my Xbox One and played it with Fletcher for a couple of hours. It was really nice to talk to Fletch over the headset while we battled other people in this rocket soccer game. Super fun!

Fitbit Blaze Watch Review

I have a fitbit blaze watch. I am not a huge fan of it, mostly because it’s not very accurate. The GPS always gives me different readings for the same 6 mile run I regularly do, and the heart rate monitor is very slow to catch up to my current heart rate and is often off by 30-40 beats. I would recommend a different watch like the Apple Watch instead.

Los Angeles Web Design

My Los Angeles based web design company has just gotten an awesome new tour of our office created!

Negative & Positive Reviews of My Performance as CEO

One of the “perks” of being a CEO is that people review your performance… publicly. I think most people would feel embarrassed by public performance reviews even if they are positive. I am sure most people would feel quite frustrated if a negative performance review came to light, and probably be downright livid if false negative performance reviews existed out there. However, this is just one of the things that comes with the job. From the perspective of the economy as a whole, I think CEO’s and everyone else should have public performance reviews – it would be extremely helpful to know about people’s previous work before hiring them. It probably would also encourage people to behave better… right now a lot of people screw over their employers then just move on to the next employer who doesn’t know about what happened at the last one.

When I first started seeing these reviews pop up, I thought they were competitors trying to sabotage Coalition. A few of them probably were. Later, I thought they were a bitter ex writing them (which several are). However, I do think some of the reviews have some valid points. Many of the reviews have positive things to say and I do really appreciate those and try to continue to do the things that they mention. A few positive quotes I’ve seen that I am trying to continue are:

  • “I really liked Coalition Technologies educational approach to SEO. They are very transparent and provide great reports on the work that they are doing. The team there did a good job of getting me results and teaching my team and I best practices so we could help ourselves too. I highly recommend Coalition for people looking for search engine optimization.” – Customer on Yelp
  • “Excellent Work-Culture, Exceptional People, Best Salary in the Industry and Awesome growth opportunities.” –  Employee on Glassdoor
  • I worked with Joel and Jordan on getting my new website designed, built and optimized.  In our first meeting, they took the time to understand all of my needs and really went in depth through all my requirements . There was a bunch of factors I hadn’t even thought of until they brought it up!  After my site was built, they didn’t just leave me alone to try to figure out how to get traffic to come.  They did search optimization and were able to help it rank pretty high for my keywords and actually get me new customers!  I strongly recommend their service.” – Customer on Yelp
  • “They have cutting edge SEO training and tools, and the team members were all very close friends. I have never worked at a company with a culture where people are so closely knit together.” – Employee on Glassdoor
  • “My experience with this company has been nothing but phenomenal.  From my first interaction with their sales rep to working with the entire design team.  Everyone was very professional, supportive and courteous.  I particularly liked the fact that they did stakeholder interviews before starting work on the project to ensure they understood exactly what we wanted our site to be. ” – Customer on Yelp

However, I have also received my share of negative reviews. Some of the comments I think are true and are things that either should be worked on or are necessary for other reasons:

  • One of our early clients, Charlie Dog, criticized the work quality on some of their pages. The problem here is that the client had only paid for a few hours of work to develop their site, then months later after they had made mistakes on their site themselves they wanted free work from us. My mistake was not to make clear to this client from the start that they pay for all hours we work… not just a flat fee then maintenance forever.
  • Reporting tools are time consuming. I agree with this, I am trying to find ways for our clients and our management to get better reporting while requiring less entry time for our team members.
  • Micromanagement – this is definitely something I need to improve on. It’s a tough balance between giving people the space to be creative in their work and making sure that work is done right and on time for clients.
  • The culture and the team are amazing, but the CEO is a dick. Probably true… I have worked hard to hire every single team member we have and I know we have one of the best teams in our industry. My weakness is that I am not great at managing people’s feelings although I have improved greatly so far.
  • Give people more time during initial training. I would like to do this and have been able to do so more now that I have hired a more full team.
  • Provide feedback privately – I have made this mistake multiple times of cc’ing other people on feedback.

 

Superintelligence

I am reading a book right now titled “Superintelligence” that analyzes the prospects of artificial intelligence reaching human or higher levels in the near future.

We are getting very, very close to what is called the “intelligence explosion”. Computer hardware and software and biological- machine interfaces are improving at an exponential rate right now.  We now have robotic arms and hands that can be entirely controlled with the mind for disabled people, remote controlled (and sometimes autonomous) warfare, machine learning software, genetic / evolution based software, self driving transportation, and tens of millions of working industrial robots.

computation-power-over-time-superintelligence

 

As you can see from the graphic above, exponential increases will take us from one day saying “Oh look at my cute robot pet dog!” to literally several days later kneeling to your new robot overlord. Approximately six hours after artificial intelligence reaches human level intelligence, it will be as far above us in intelligence as we are above ants.

The point when artificial intelligence reaches superintelligence is the time when humanity will either very quickly go extinct or will never have to work again (but will probably be in a heavenly zoo of sorts).  My opinion leans towards immediate extinction; an artificial intelligence will be programmed to have a goal of “improve” or “survive”. Each new version of artificial intelligence will be built by the last one, hence our programming directives like “no harm to humans” probably would not stick. When the superintelligence needs to built spaceships to seed other planets, it will not hesitate to strip mine Earth. It will not think twice about humans or other species. Do human construction workers think twice about an ant hill on a plot of land where they are building a house?

The next question is should this impact how you live your life? I don’t think so. Even without superintelligence, you could die randomly in a car wreck, or of a heart attack, or some other disease. I am happiest when I am working towards a goal and taking reasonable breaks on my way to explore new things.  I will just keep on truckin.

Stephen King’s “On Writing”

I am reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing” now and am enjoying it. He talks about some of the basics of what makes a good writer  (build your toolbox, read 4-6 hours a day, know the fundamentals, write constantly, read Strunk & White, avoid -ly’s).

I have been trying to read all non-fiction lately and it has been tough. Stories are how people learn and books that aren’t stories are much slower.  Without a plot to drive the reader through the book, the reader needs his own motivation.

 

Stranger in a Strange Land

I have been reading Stranger in a Strange Land before bed each night and am loving it. Great book!

Great Business Litigation / Defamation Attorney in Phoenix AZ

I recently dealt with a difficult libel legal issue in Phoenix, Arizona. I won’t get into it too much, but I hired an excellent business litigator named David Enevoldsen who did a superb job of handling my case.

David Enevoldsen is an attorney with a lot of experience and expertise in business litigation and defamation cases.  When I called him about my case, he patiently explained to me all of the points of law and issues that I was going to deal with. He presented my options to me in a clear, concise, reasonable manner which really helped me to deal with my case in the best way possible.

Over the ensuing weeks, David was very helpful and thoughtful in his analysis, planning, negotiations, and general work he did for me. Even though I never actually met him in person since I am based in Los Angeles, he gained my complete trust because of his great responsiveness, honesty, and knowledge of the law.

No one likes to have to go to court, but if you find yourself in a difficult legal situation in Phoenix Arizona, make sure you call David Enevoldsen first. His contact information is below:

David Enevoldsen
Attorney
Enevoldsen Law Office, PLLC
2121 South Mill Ave., Ste. 102
Tempe, Arizona 85282

Shopify vs BigCommerce vs Magento

If you’re looking to build the ultimate online store, you need the ultimate shopping cart solution. Just one problem: They all claim to be the best. Shopify heralds itself as “the #1 eCommerce solution,” while Magento boasts of being “the most flexible enterprise-class eCommerce platform to power your business,” and BigCommerce strives to create “the world’s leading eCommerce platform.” It’s like walking through Brooklyn. Every ristorante in town claims to have “the best pizza in New York,” but obviously they can’t all be right. Well, it’s time to put the debate to rest. As the founder of one of the nation’s leading SEO, design and development firms, I have worked extensively with BigCommerce, Magento and Shopify, and I have explored every major feature of every major platform. So when it comes to Shopify vs BigCommerce vs Magento, who offers the best service for the best value? Let’s look at them one by one.

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BigCommerce hasn’t been around as long as Shopify, but already it has made quite the name for itself. With over 40,000 stores and $2 billion in sales, it may soon become the most successful eCommerce platform in the world. But the question remains: Is it the best? According the BigCommerce website, “We power some of the world’s most successful online stores,” but what sets the company apart from the pack? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

The Pros

Ease of Use. If you’re intimidated by the prospect of building an eCommerce website, BigCommerce is—without a doubt—the solution for you. The ease of use is unparalleled, and even if you consider yourself a lost soul in the world of computer technology, you can build your BigCommerce website in the matter of minutes. The point-and-click content management system is so simple that a child can use it, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to settle for an inferior-quality website. Try it for yourself and see how easy it can be to build a professional eCommerce business from scratch.

Customization. To expand on the first point, let’s assume that you have a highly specific branding vision in mind. You want as many customization options as possible at your disposal, but you don’t want to deal with any complexity in accessing these options. If this hits home for you, go with BigCommerce. BigCommerce has one of the best selections of themes, templates, options and apps, sure to satisfy even the choosiest of business owners.

Search Engine Optimiation (SEO). In the world of online business, SEO is paramount, because it’s not enough to simply build a Web store. You need to rank highly for relevant search queries if you hope to stay afloat. Thankfully, BigCommerce goes above and beyond the basics of SEO with its search-friendly link-structure, custom XML and HTML sitemap configuration, and full customization for title tags, meta descriptions, alt image attributes, blog integration, and marketing features.

The Cons

The Price. Even though BigCommerce doesn’t charge transaction fees (which is a massive advantage), it doesn’t compare with Shopify or Magento in the pricing department. The most cost-effective plan is $29.95, which is good, but not the best. In addition, the top tier plan is nearly $300 per month, which places BigCommerce in the mid-range of affordability. Not ridiculous, but not exactly a superior value.

Customer Support. Perhaps the biggest gripe when it comes to BigCommerce is the customer support. You can reach customer service by phone only between certain hours each day. While the competitors offer 24/7 customer service, BigCommerce still lags behind in this area. So if you have a serious problem after regular business hours, you may lose some business while waiting for help to arrive. This is especially problematic for large businesses.

BIGCOMMERCE TOTAL SCORE: 9/10

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Shopify has been around since 2006, and it remains one of the top eCommerce solutions for businesses large and small. The company has powered the likes of General Electric, Amnesty International, CrossFit, Tesla Motors, and even Encyclopaedia Britannica, and it continues to be a dominant force in the eCommerce world. Shopify is hands down one of my favorite shopping cart solutions, in no small part for its ease of use, pricing and versatility, and I consistently recommend it to clients both large and small.

The Pros

The Price. With Shopify, you can get any business going for as little as $24.95 per month, but the real advantage is in the more advanced plans. For about $79 per month, you can enjoy 5 gigabytes of file space and unlimited product listings. This is perfect for most larger online businesses, and you just won’t find a comparable shopping cart plan for this price. Even the best Shopify plan, geared toward the most powerful corporations in the nation, is only $179 per month. That’s downright incredible.

The Themes. Obviously you want your website to look amazing, and with Shopify, you can enjoy some of the most professional-looking themes of any eCommerce platform. What this means is that you can create the kind of website that looks as though it were professionally developed by a team of expert Web designers, even without the added expense of custom development.

The Features. With Shopify, you can accomplish just about anything. In fact, it almost boggles the mind. Set up your website with ease, list products in a matter of minutes, manage your orders, track your sales, list discounts, communicate with customers, achieve high search engine rankings, implement a product rating system…the list goes on and on. You can even implement a custom blog for your business website. It’s downright awe-inspiring.

The Cons

Limited Customization. Okay, so Shopify is pretty amazing, but it’s not perfect. Case in point: customization. You can edit the PHP and HTML, but the process is a bit tricky and inefficient, and unfortunately, there aren’t as many themes to choose from. Now don’t get me wrong. The available themes are fantastic, but there just aren’t as many available. So if you have specific branding needs, you may need to hire a Shopify designer to assist you.

Limited Reporting Options. If you run an eCommerce business, reporting is everything. You want to know who visited your site, where they came from, what they viewed, how many sales you made from month to month, what your top products are, and whether certain products are seasonal in their sales potential, just to name a few of the major factors. Unfortunately, the reporting features for Shopify are still fairly limited, leaving you with a bit of guesswork at the end of the day.

SHOPIFY TOTAL SCORE: 8/10

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Magento is a bit trickier to assess. Granted, it’s one of the oldest and most successful eCommerce platforms in the world, but there are multiple versions of the software. The Magento Community Edition is free but lacking in customer support, while Magento Go is geared toward small businesses and Magento Enterprise suits large corporations. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, but this can also be a blessing in a disguise. With Magento, it’s much easier to choose a plan based on your individual needs. You have absolute freedom here.

The Pros

Professional Customization. Okay, so technically, I already listed customization as a winning point for BigCommerce, but let me explain. BigCommerce is great for amateur customization (i.e. selecting themes and features), but Magento is hands down the best when it comes to professional customization. If you’re a developer who likes to tinker with every aspect of your website, go with Magento. Even Magento CE (the free version) allows you untethered control over your website.

Reporting and Inventory Management. If you like to keep very close tabs on your sales, trends and financial accounting, Magento is second to none. The reporting and analytics are a cut above the rest, and you can easily use the comprehensive data to manage or alter your business operations at any given time.

The Cons

Ease of Use. Magento offers some excellent customer support (assuming you’re using Magento Go or Enterprise), but the content management system is a bit more complex than what you’ll find with Shopify or BigCommerce. Take note of this if you prefer your experience to be simple and streamlined. Magento is intended for slightly more advanced Web users.

Discrepancies Between the Different Versions. Unfortunately, the three versions still function as separate software, so if you decide to upgrade from CE to Go, or from Go to Enterprise, you may find yourself with a bit of a mess on your hands. For instance, the plug-ins that are available to CE users are not transferable to Magento Go, and the whole thing can get a bit frustrating.

MAGENTO TOTAL SCORE: 7.5/10

Shopify vs BigCommerce vs Magento – The Winner?

So when it comes to Shopify vs BigCommerce vs Magento, unfortunately there is no clear winner. It quite simply depends on what you demand in an eCommerce provider. If you favor ease of use, go with BigCommerce; if price is your top concern, go with Shopify; if you crave the utmost in customization, choose Magento. Finally, if you need a bit of help building, designing or marketing your website, contact Coalition Technologies. We have partnerships with all three of these leading eCommerce providers, and we can help you to multiply your traffic and sales. Call us for a free quote at 1-888-800-9101. Don’t leave your success to chance.

Housing Prices 2013: Los Angeles vs Seattle vs Dallas

I have been thinking about buying residential property in Los Angeles or Seattle or Dallas. I just went and looked six places today (all condos and one rambler) in Los Angeles.

Here are some of the differences:

  • Los Angeles
    • Median price: $685,000
    • Median price per square foot: $407
    • Median sale price vs list price: 100.4% (wow!)
    • Average # of offers: 4.6
    • Average down payment: 27.8%
  • Dallas
    • Median price: $250,000
    • Average # of offers: 1.3
    • Median price per square foot: $133
    • Average down payment 16.5%
    • Median Sale vs List price 96.9%
  • Seattle
    • Median price: $475,000
    • Median price per square foot: $338
    • Median sale versus list price: 100.6%
    • Average # of offers 4.3
    • Average down payment 20%