Archive for December 2010

An open letter to all Force Field members

Today OnForce suddenly, and without prior warning, removed a number of Force Field members from the OnForce forums, platform or both, myself included.

I originally composed this Saturday, November 27, 2010 for release early next year. In light of recent events, I am compelled to officially post it now. It will also be posted in the Force Field Forums.

 

 


 

 

I’ve kept my promise to them [OnForce] about not using my media outlet against them, but it is becoming more and more difficult to remain silent outside the “force field” of the inner circle of OnForce only techs simply because what they are doing IS having a direct effect on the industry as a whole and when that happens it becomes publicly debatable.

It is my responsibility as a news source for tech businesses to report responsibly on everything that goes on in the industry. The whole FF concept is designed to be “pro tech”, to educate and inform for their protection and success.

At this point I need to make an honest, open confession here.

I have, since the beginning, reported on the good and bad of EVERY other company out there, including various nationals. Everyone, that is, except OnForce.

There has been plenty to write about them, both good and bad, but I only blogged or promoted the good. When they sent out a press release, I posted it, blogged about it or mentioned it on the show. When they released an OSMI report each quarter, I promoted it. All of my personal comments or concerns in disagreement or protest were kept in private areas only, either in the OF forums or in the private OF User Group area in the FF forums. I did NOT disparage them publicly.

It has been brought to my attention that this isn’t fair. Some of OnForce’s competitors seemed to notice this. How could I say that I am reporting without bias when I treat OnForce differently from the competition?

The truth is, they are right. No matter what OnForce thinks (and from what I’ve been told they don’t think very well of me) I have favored them and protected them while reporting on the less popular activities of others, including their rivals.

For instance, I have been somewhat critical of ServiceLive at times, yet they were willing and did come on the show to answer some very tough questions (and they answered them well, I might add). This was the interview I tried to have with OF but in the end they wouldn’t talk to me. The result was something rather interesting. Although SL is not considered the “top tier” from the techs’ perspective, they actually gained a little respect among listeners for their willingness to communicate with them and be upfront about where they stood at a time when OF remained silent on so many hot button issues.

OnForce could have a strong ally here, disagreements and all, if they would only choose to communicate. Even if they view me as an enemy, which is not how I view myself, It would serve them better to adopt a more tried and true strategy. There is an old saying: “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”. There is a lot to be said for that. It just isn’t their way.

I’ve written about Microsoft, Apple, Time Warner, SCO, Service Magic, ServiceLive, Barrister, Endeavor, Dell, HP, AOL, Robin Robins, and many other companies, organizations and national service providers, both news and comment that often put them in negative light. I have also written about OF. The difference is that, of all those entities, I never reported anything other than what OnForce officially released themselves. In other words, I never actually reported or commented publicly on anything OnForce said or did that did anything less than to promote them.

That, of course, is bias. In the role of a media outlet, I am favoring one company over others. It’s wrong, and it’s not fair to the other companies or the techs who listen to and read what I write and say.

I didn’t really think that I was biased. In the beginning there wasn’t anything really at issue that anyone would be that concerned about. My commitment to OnForce when I started The Force Field podcast was that I would not use it as a soap box to rant publicly about internal issues. This commitment I kept. I kept it on the belief that eventually OnForce would collaborate with me to use FF as a way to communicate with and help the techs on their platform work with the platform for the benefit of both parties. If you read back through my posts in these forums, you will note a common and reoccurring theme about communication and collaboration.

Unfortunately, as the years have rolled by, OnForce seems to have shied away from this concept. Communication with us has never really been great since Jeff Leventhal stepped down as CEO and it seems with every new feature we ask for, two are altered or taken away to prevent us from having an “unfair advantage” over the marketplace (or something like that). It also seemed as though they were less and less interested in collaborating with me. Now we are at a point where events dictate techs be informed about real concerns and risks of using the platform without some protection and that is something that needs to be communicated.

If it were, say, Barrister I would be blogging about it immediately, because it is news and the techs need to know. Yet with OnForce I was still silent, because I wanted to be professional and responsible.

All this time I thought I was doing the right thing. Then something happened that made me realize the truth. I was wrong.

About a week ago a long time tech and member of the OnForce forums was banned. He mentioned this in a private area of the FF forums and asked if anyone else was banned or if he was the only one. As part of a new system for promoting the FF forums the title and a short description of the thread topic was relayed on Twitter.

Now, keep in mind that this particular thread was in a private area, so it was not publicly accessible. However, someone from OnForce replied to the tweet and expressed disappointment as they “expect more from me”, apparently meaning that by simply reporting the incident (Just the fact someone was banned, but no name and no opinion), I was somehow not handling my position responsibly.

Upon checking the tweet, I noticed there wasn’t even a link to the post anyway, since the title and thread description exceeded the 140 character limit.

At first I thought I just needed to be more careful about the forum tweets. But something about that whole exchange with the individual from OnForce really bothered me. Yes, I was being lectured, but why? What did I do that was wrong and irresponsible?

Then it hit me. I did nothing wrong. All the tweet did was report facts. Sure, there was more to the story. Yes, the facts  painted OnForce in a less than positive light. But everything posted was true. There was dissent, someone was banned for it and a question was asked if that individual was the only person to be banned (nothing to say why or that anyone agreed or disagreed with their decision to ban the individual). So, why was OnForce upset? Why, because it was negative publicity.

Suddenly it dawned on me. I’ve been looking at this all wrong. I have a responsibility to report the facts and treat everyone fairly. Yet I’ve been reporting and commenting on other companies while OnForce was given a free pass. I am protecting them from the same public reporting and scrutiny I give everyone else. What is worse, After all the snubbing and the cold shoulder I keep doing it!

I have been doing a great disservice to the techs who trust me to provide them with the information they need to utilize platforms like OnForce profitably without getting burned. OnForce is for some but isn’t for everyone and everyone needs to know how it works and how it doesn’t so the ones who need it can use it and those who don’t won’t be disappointed or learn the hard way, like I did.

I made a commitment to OnForce when I started this project, but they never kept any of their commitments to me when I joined this platform. This has been a one-sided relationship from the day the original OF staff left, and frankly I am tired of towing the line. I realize that my responsibility is not to OnForce, it is to YOU, my fellow techs in the field. All my private rants aside, by censoring myself publicly to favor them I have not been reporting responsibly.

The Force Field was a name carefully chosen to refer to both the “field force” of service techs and a “force field”, or shield to empower those techs in the business of field service and to educate and inform them for their protection from the elements in the industry that can hurt or destroy their profitability and their businesses.

There will come a time in which I will have to make the choice to openly and honestly report what OnForce says and does, positive and otherwise, as I do with all other companies and I will have to decide where my loyalties are. As OnForce becomes more influential in the industry and as their initiatives unfold and begin to impact techs in positive or negative ways, it will need to be openly discussed within the IT community. I won’t be able to ignore that much longer.

If I don’t do it, someone else will. For OnForce’s sake, better me than them. When that does happen, I will still keep the core commitment not to use my resources to personally attack them in a hateful or spiteful way. That was always the intention of the commitment I made and I intend to keep my word. I don’t, and never have, hated the platform, in spite of their past slights against me as a Buyer and a Provider. (I will say, however, that because of poor experiences in the past I will likely never accept another work order and due to poor performance of the last tech and the way their Market Support handled the issue it is doubtful I will ever route another one as a Buyer).

However, my loyalties are with my peers, not the platform, so when that time comes I will not censor myself any longer. I will present the facts, report my own experiences and offer comments and opinion as I deem necessary, albeit respectfully and responsibly so.

I know that when the time comes, it is highly likely OnForce will remove me from the platform. It is something they have wanted to do for a long time now, but since I abide by the rules and have done nothing wrong, there is no justification for it, so they are somewhat stuck at the moment. When the time comes they will take advantage of the opportunity and they will ban me permanently – even though I will have done nothing wrong.  I understand this and, when they do, that is their right. It is also my right to speak the truth, so when they ban me from the forums it will not profit them. It will be a decision they will make in haste, as such decisions often are. After they ban me there will no longer be a relationship. Then my commitment to them will end.

 

 


 

As of today, my commitment to them has ended.

Rick

The Power of Data

Authors: Bill

OnForce is currently analyzing the last three years of data to spot trends and predict 2011. What’s your 2011 outlook?

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5 Easy Services to Accept Credit Cards as a Computer Technician

Authors: Bryce Whitty

Accepting Credit Cards seems to be a question that is frequently asked on the Technibble forums. The members of our great community often chime in and mention the credit card service they are using. I have compiled this information into one easy to read post.
There are many other services out there, but these are some of the options that Technibble members are actually using.

Keep in mind, these are fast, easy and convienient ways to start accepting credit card payments but if you are doing a large amount of credit card payments (say, $75,000+ per annum) then it may be cheaper to talk to a bank as their fees are lower in the higher turnover areas. For everyone else, here are some good options to get setup quickly and cheaply:
 
Paypal – http://www.paypal.comSupports Many Countries
Paypal is by far one of the quickest and easiest ways to start accepting credit cards. However, it isnt the cheapest.
A great way to start accepting credit card payments onsite is to create a Paypal button either on your on your main site, or on a hidden mobile friendly page. To set this up:

  • Log into Paypal, click the “Merchant Services” tab up the top
  • Click “Buy Now buttons” on the right hand side under the “Website Payments” heading
  • On the “Create Paypal payment button” page, choose “Buy Now” as the button type, make the item name something like “YourBusinessName Payment” and leave the item ID and price empty. You will need to set the currency though.
  • You can leave everything else as the default and click “Create Button”. Take the code given to you and place it on your website or a mobile friendly page (that may have this button as the only thing on it so it loads quickly on your phone).

Their fees and pricing can be found here.

 

ProPay – http://www.propay.com – USA & Canada
ProPay seems to get the most mentions on the forums. They have no setup fee but there is a small annual fee. They have no monthly minimums or long-term contracts.

They allow you and your clients to pay via Phone where you enter the credit card number on the keypad.
They also offer an iPhone attachment for free (you pay $14 shipping though) that turns your iPhone 3G or 3GS into a mobile credit card terminal which would allow you to take credit card payments while onsite. If you dont own an iPhone 3G or 3GS, they also have a mobile web interface where you can enter in credit card numbers through your phones web browser.

One thing worth mentioning is that some technicians who make use of ProPay had to pay a $1000 reserve because they deem “Computer Repair, Web and Graphic Design” as high risk. I dont know whether this will apply to all computer technicans or the decision was based off other factors specific to the members on the forums. However, one technician managed to get the reserve down to $500 because he was using the ProPay card reader.

Their fees and pricing can be found here.

 

Intuit – http://payments.intuit.com – USA & Canada (Canada only some features)
Intuit, the makers of Quickbooks got a few mentions on the forums. They offer an iPhone credit card reading attachment, a bluetooth card reader for non-iPhone devices and a bluetooth card reader with printer, also for non-iPhone devices. You can make payments via their web page or download an application that works for many smart phones including the iPhone, Blackberry, HTC, Palm and more.

There is a monthly service fee of $12.95 but no monthly minimums or setup fees.
Their fees and pricing can be found here. (click the pricing tab)

 

Squareup – http://www.squareup.com – USA
I was thinking of giving Squareup a miss because some people had questioned their reliability because they are very new on the scene. However, after asking around on the Technibble forums and the Technibble twitter, it seems a lot of technicians are making use of it. If you do over $1000 in credit card payments within the span of 7 days, the money will be held for thirty days and then put in your account.

Squareup offer a free card reader that plugs into your Apple device (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) or your Android OS phone (Motorola, HTC, Samsung etc..)

Their fees and pricing can be found here (goto the ¢ tab).

 

Tyro – http://www.tyro.com – Australia
Tyro is an Australian based company that provide credit card terminals for shops, mobile based terminals that make use of GPRS while you are onsite and a web interface for everything else. With Tyro, it appears you need to pay for the terminals which are $520 for the ethernet version, $680 for the WIFI version and $780 for the GPRS model. Tyro is more expensive than the super cheap and easy startups that exist in the USA, but in Australia there isnt a whole lot of choice.

Their fees and pricing can be found here.


I tried to find some recommended options for our UK readers. However, all of the UK technicians I asked on our forums and twitter said they just use Paypal. If you know of some great UK services for accepting credit cards, please leave a comment below.

© Technibble – A Resource for Computer Technicians to start or improve their computer business
To get started with your own computer business, check out our Computer Business Kit. 5 Easy Services to Accept Credit Cards as a Computer Technician

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Getting Paid as an Independent Contractor

Authors: Bill

Economic conditions have made non-payment and late payment issues common and it has a huge effect on independent contractors with real-life consequences.

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Geek News Central Live 24 Hour Podcast

The Force Field on GNC 24 hour Podcast

The TechPodcasts Network Geek News Central 2010 24Hr Podcast Marathon Hosted by Todd Cochrane is streaming live at http://www.theforcefield.net.

Each year Todd Cochrane, host of GNC performs a live podcast for 24 hours for charity. This is the fourth year we are carrying the event. This year GNC is raising funds for The Coalition to Salute American Heroes (CSAH).

The Force Field will be featured on a half hour segment of the event from 11:30 PM to 11:59 PM EST tonight 12/18/2010 and I will be on for a live interview. You can watch on the FF front page, enter the chat and call in during the open line.

Watch and listen live now and if you want to make a donation you can even chat, e-mail or call-in via U-Stream.

Top 5 Ways To Get Backlinks To Your Business Website

Authors: Bryce Whitty

Guest Post by Bryan Vest: Bryan Vest is a web developer/SEO specialist who enjoys writing articles to help make techs websites succeed.

Search engines often use the number of links a website has from other sites as a major factor in your page ranking. Even Google’s description of their PageRank system says that, “Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B”.

Now before you start rushing out to spam as many links as you possibly can on every blog and forum you can possibly find, you need to know that not all links are created equal. For example, lets say you own a computer repair website. A link from another computer repair website will hold more weight with Google than a link from a home improvement website.

There are other contributing factors to the weight of a link, but we will start off with the basics. Now here are the top 5 ways to get backlinks. There are definitely way more ways out there you just have to be creative, but this will be the main 5 you will see just about everywhere.

5. Blog Comments and Forum Signatures – There are a lot of “SEO experts” and web developers that believe that blog comments and Forum Signatures are the best way to get backlinks. However, these are beneficial, but “spam commenting” is not the way to go. If you can’t add something valuable to the blog post, or offer a different point of view, don’t comment. This will get you more damage than good in the end. A good way to get high quality backlinks from blogs without putting your link actually in the post is to put your name as the keyword you are targeting and your URL as the website. For example, I am currently working on a new site targeting “Temecula Web Design” here would be a good way to get a backlink that bloggers will approve of.

As you can see it will give you a nice link back to your site without causing the blog to look like its filled with spam.

4. Directory Links – Submitting your site to directories can help you. However, like blog comments not all directories are created equal. Some directories (paid or not paid) can give you a high quality backlinks (DMOZ, Yahoo, and Business.com). For free directories you will want to make sure that more than just the home page of the directory is indexed, and that the directory has been around for at least one year if you are interested in a high quality link. The common misconception is that Google ranks websites as a whole when in fact it ranks web pages. Knowing this if you submit your site and end up on page 200 with no ranking then that link will count for almost nothing.

3. Reciprocal Links – Partnering with sites that are directly related to the subject of your site can help you. The idea here is “You scratch my back, I will scratch your back”. This is when another site links to your site while you link to theirs. This however should be used in moderation. If you have to many reciprocal links, especially if they are not directly related to your site, can actually do more damage than good. This method may require some work since not a lot webmasters are willing to link to their competition. However, if you can find sites related that are not in direct competition with your site you can hit a gold mine of links.

2. Article Posts – Article posting has huge potential to launch your site to the top of Google in the event that one of your articles gets posted on a popular site. A popular way is to contact bloggers related to your subject and ask them if they would publish an article (with your anchor text backlinks). This will actually receive a great response because to bloggers well written and unique content is what they are all about. With some time this method could be like finding oil in your back yard. Not only will you have a link on the site you wrote the article for, but there are a lot of blogs out there that just copy content from other blogs. Generally those webmasters are to lazy to remove the backlinks giving you even more links from other sites. I myself have seen a high quality article go from 1 backlink to 12 in 1 month. The best part is that the sites you get those from are all relevant to your targeted keyword as well.

1. Blog With Quality Unique Contents – It is a well known fact that Google loves blogs! If your content is truly unique and well written you will naturally receive backlinks from other sites. This is the liquid gold of backlinking. Now this method requires the most work and will take the most time, but if you do it right and spend some time on it you can easily get 20 to 30 backlinks from a well written blog post. There links are almost always on relevant websites to since they are coming from webmasters that find your information useful to their viewers as well. Over time you will naturally receive high quality backlinks boosting you to the top of Google ranks with ease.

Guest Post by Bryan Vest of Temecula Web Design

© Technibble – A Resource for Computer Technicians to start or improve their computer business
To get started with your own computer business, check out our Computer Business Kit. Top 5 Ways To Get Backlinks To Your Business Website

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Latest OnForce Product Enhancements

Authors: Diana

You gave us feedback. We listened. In our latest release that was issued on Sunday, December 5, we made some enhancements that we think will help support quality experiences for service professionals, service buyers, end users and OnForce. Here’s a taste of some of the latest updates… Improved check-in and check-out process. For service professionals, […]

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The Opportunity Cost

Authors: Bryce Whitty

The Technicians on the Technibble forums brought up a very interesting topic about the “opportunity cost” of the things we do.

A good example of explaining “opportunity cost” is if a person invests $10,000 in the stock market, they deny themselves the interest that could have accrued by leaving the $10,000 in a bank account instead. The opportunity cost of the decision to invest in the stock market is the value of the interest they could have earned if they put it in the bank.

So how does this apply to Computer Technicians? Someone on the Technibble forums mentioned the idea of pre-making lengths of RJ-45 network cable and packaging them individually (such as 1m, 5m, 10m lengths). The margin would be fairly high on the products because when you buy network cable and the plugs in bulk, they work out to be fairly cheap and you can charge more for a pre-packaged cable.

One of the Technicians on the forums chimed in with this:

Once you tack in your opportunity costs (Your time not spent doing other things) and what your time is worth making your own cables for lengths shorter than 6′ is a waste of time.

Lets say that you sell network cables at $1 per foot. It takes you a minute on each end of get the wires in the right order and crimp the plug on them so that works out to 2 minutes per cable. If you sold twenty 5-foot cables for $100 and our material costs was $28 then you would have made an easy $72 for 40 minutes of work.

However, if you had purchased these pre-made cables at the same material cost of $28, you would have had these cables already in you inventory and earned $66 of your normal $100 per hour rate while you used that time to repair a clients computer.

Total cost of making them yourself:
$100 income – $28 expenses = $72 profit (at a loss of 40 minutes of time)

Total cost of purchasing the cables:
$100 income – $28 expenses = $72 profit
$72 profit +$66 you earned having used your time and skills for repair work instead = $138 profit

In this situation, the opportunity cost of making cables is the loss of $66 you could have earned if you used your diagnostic and troubleshooting skills for fix computers instead.
The figures change a bit when you are making a small amount of very long cables because then it might be worth it. A few technicians recommended Monoprice.com as one of the cheapest places to get network cables (I haven’t used it, but a few forum members have). In this example, if you were to purchase those twenty 5-foot cables from Monoprice, the total cost would have been $13.60 for the cables and about $6.60 shipping equalling $20.20 in total.
Is 40 minutes of your time worth $20.20? Probably not.

I understand that many people will make cables if they have no other work to do, but that time could be used far more effectively by reading a marketing book or doing something else to improve your business – which will in turn bring you more income.

There comes a point in the life of your business when your time and skills are too valuable. Of course, a lot of people just do it for the love of the work, and thats fine too if that is what makes them happy. I must admit I do this myself in certain areas, we just need to be aware that there is an opportunity cost in the decisions we make.

Special thanks to everyone in this thread for bringing up the topic.

© Technibble – A Resource for Computer Technicians to start or improve their computer business
To get started with your own computer business, check out our Computer Business Kit. The Opportunity Cost

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CompTIA Disappointed in Senate Failure to Nix Onerous 1099 Filing Rule

The Senate on Saturday failed to pass amendments that would have repealed the new form 1099 rule, which, beginning in 2012, will require all businesses to file a form 1099 when they pay any business or individual $600 or more for goods and services during one year.  Todd Thibodeaux, President and CEO of CompTIA, issued the following statement.

“CompTIA is disappointed in the Senate’s failure to repeal the form 1099 rule and urges the full Congress and the President to work together to repeal the onerous reporting requirement.  This requirement, which was included in the health care reform legislation, represents an undue burden on small companies.  Increased compliance costs, like the ones included in the new 1099 rule, will short circuit many small businesses at a time when they are looking to reboot.

“The bottom line is that this new requirement could cost small businesses thousands in additional compliance costs.  A $600 printer bought from Costco, for example, could cost $200 more, after you add in the time it will take to file a Form 1099.  Our estimates show that the additional compliance costs that businesses will likely face will be greater than the $17.1 billion in revenue that the Joint Committee on Taxation expects this provision to raise.

“Democrats and Republicans from both Chambers have voiced their opposition to this arduous requirement.  During a press conference last month, President Obama agreed, stating that the rule ‘appears to be too burdensome for small businesses’ and ‘involves too much paperwork.’

“Given the current economic climate, it is important for policy makers to do all they can to help small businesses –the engines of our economy – succeed.  CompTIA calls on Congress and President Obama to support small business by repealing the form 1099 filing requirement.”

About CompTIA
The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a non-profit trade association representing the information technology (IT) industry.  CompTIA represents over 2,500 IT companies. Our members are at the forefront of innovation and provide a critical backbone that supports broader commerce and job creation. These members include major computer hardware manufacturers, software developers, technology distributors and IT specialists that help organizations integrate and use technology products and services.  CompTIA is dedicated to serving its membership by advancing industry innovation and growth through its educational programs, market research, networking events, professional certifications, and public policy advocacy. For more information, visit www.comptia.org or follow CompTIA on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/comptia.

CompTIA’s Public Advocacy group focuses on a broad array of issues affecting the IT industry, with particular emphasis on representing the interests of small and mid-sized IT companies and entrepreneurs, supporting an innovation and competitiveness agenda and addressing secure technology issues such as cybersecurity, data breach, privacy and more.  For more information, visit http://www.comptia.org/publicpolicy.aspx

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