Click here for a tailor-made "starter bundle" of RSS feeds on technology, business, entrepreneurship (and one on the Chicago business scene).

This short post was inspired by a recent chat with a friend which made me realize that my original RSS feed article should have made starting with RSS feeds even easier.

Happy Canada Day!  In honour of my bilingual, metric-system homeland, this post is on easy and free online conversions and translations.

  • Any time I want to convert anything online I usually run a Google search like "convert kilograms to pounds."  I usually find an appropriate converter within a few clicks but have recently settled on where all conversions are done instantly, on the same page.  No click-through, no pop-ups, no searching, just easy conversions.  [UPDATE August 2010: See comment for a helpful tip.  Thanks Jared!]
  • Translations are a little bit tougher.  I remember using many years ago, since the translations are generally accurate and thorough.  The price for high quality though was a limit on the number of translations you can do for free.  This is one reason why I have gravitated towards Google Translate over the past year.  It is one of those "good enough" solutions, not to be relied upon for high-quality or lengthy translations but just helpful enough to understand a quick word or general idea from any other language.  It is a tool that is useful but imperfect, and provides utility above and beyond a standard dictionary in that it allows you to enter whole web-pages and documents all at once.  You can see a terribly translated Spanish version of this website here, or a butchered French version here, for example.  The overall point is that Google Translate can instantly give you a basic understanding of almost any website or document regardless of what language you speak or what language it is actually written in.  I once needed to translate an entire English Powerpoint presentation to Spanish and uploaded the original Powerpoint document to Google Translate.  I had to go over every word and correct many serious mistakes to make sure it was professional-level Spanish, but the Google translation made for a great starting point and made the process a lot quicker overall.
An online coupon craze kicked off in late 2008 based on a simple economic premise that most of us are already familiar with: larger purchases yield lower prices per unit. 

What hoards of web services starting having success doing was using the internet to provide bulk buying without the bulk, giving consumers individual-level access to 50%-90% discounts.  Typical deals last for a limited time only--say 24 hours--and apply to a specific local service such as a restaurant, spa, gym membership, city tour, or haircut.

Groupon and LivingSocial were among the most popular in the United States in 2009, with Groupon joining Wagjag and in Canada in 2010 then buying Europe's Citydeal and Chile's ClanDescuento.

The list of social commerce players has exploded and become downright overwhelming in certain cities.  What does this all mean for you?  That answer depends on where you are.
  • If you're in a market that is "less developed," or you really like to just keep things simple, you're probably best off signing up for one or two major services, which generally provide the best deals.
  • If you're in one of the very-developed "social commerce" markets like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, or London, you could stop tracking all of the new sites and start having deals delivered to you that are specifically tailored to your tastes.  By setting up preferences one time with, you can outsource deal hunting and filtering, receiving only those deals that are relevant to you in one single email digest.  This can be helpful for those who like to minimize email and spam.  While Yipit is inevitably going to miss an occasional deal of interest, that's a price I'm willing to pay to save my inbox.
This gold rush has inspired rise to an army of  entrepreneurs who have had varying degrees of success.  One sign you're doing alright is if you inspire flat-out Chinese clones,  like Groupon and Yipit have already done.  I wonder if Yipit's Co-Founder minds?

Happy shopping!
One popular way to legally enjoy free music online, tailored to your taste, is trying out Pandora by clicking this link.  Just enter a song or artist that you like and Pandora will instantly create a radio station based on similar music.  If you want to refine your station further, you can add more songs or artists, or click "thumbs up" while listening to a specific song you like.  This will give you more similar music in your station, or a "thumbs down" will give you less of it.

I spend a lot of time doing work at my computer and enjoy listening to a calm mix of ambient background music.  If you like that kind of music as well you can listen to my "studious chill" radio station on Pandora by clicking here.

Note: While Pandora is only available in the United States for the time being, free software like hotspotshield may allow international users to access the service outside the United States.

    Adam Stober

    Inspiring novice and intermediate internet users to enjoy the best free or inexpensive products and services all across the Internet


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