Publishing Choices For Writers – Self-Publishing Print on Demand, Introduction

November 3, 2016

Under the self-publishing umbrella, there are many options for writers when they are considering how they want to get their work out into the general public. Traditionally, authors were limited with either working with a traditional publisher, or finding someone to help them self-publish their work. As discussed in other articles of this series, there are many different ways for authors to get their work out there depending upon each author’s individual needs.In the past, whether an author worked with a traditional publisher or self-published, hundreds of their books needed to be printed at any one time. With the advent of new technology, writers can now actually see their work in print prior to printing without sticking them with too many unsold copies of their book. In addition, they have the option to print a copy of a book only when one is sold. Authors can do this through Print-On-Demand (POD) technology.

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Print On Demand, as the name implies, allows an author to print as small a number of copies as they want, whenever they want, through a digital printing process. Because the book is being printed digitally, there is no need to set up the traditional offset printing presses, which would be cost prohibitive for a single or a just a few copies of a book. Once the set up is done for the digital format, it is done and can be used repeatedly whenever the need arises.Print On Demand solves many issues for new writers not being published by a publishing house. For example, prior to getting their work out to the general public, authors may want to have an advance review copy of their book for either their own review or to send to a book reviewer. Having an established book reviewer give a good review of a book prior to full printing is a good indication as to ultimately how many copies should be printed. In the alternative, a bad review might indicate the need to go back to the drawing (or in this case writing) board to clean up the work.Also, Print On Demand solves the storage issue for books for both a publisher and an author. In the past, whether published traditionally or self-published, when a book was done, there were copies hanging about until sold. Both publisher and author would have to warehouse them which could get expensive, although the author usually ended up with hundreds of books on their kitchen table or in their basement. With Print On Demand, a book is only printed when needed.

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At the same time, in order to see a copy of their book in print prior to printing the larger number of copies, an author would have had to pay an absorbent amount of money to a printer to get the single copies. Now, it is usually just a small set up fee to the digital printing company and an author has a book in print.All the above are some benefits of Print On Demand. However, it is not the answer to all publishing ills. In the other parts of the POD series I will discuss some negatives that may be deciding factors on not going with Print On Demand publishing.

10 Alternatives To Getting Rid Of Your Pet

August 12, 2016

So you’ve had your dog or cat for a while, and your life is changing, and now you think you need to get rid of your pet. But are you sure this is what you want to do? Getting rid of your pet is a very drastic measure. If you leave your pet at a shelter, you may think he will find a new home soon. But it is unlikely. Many high-kill shelters must euthanize animals each day in order to make room for new ones who have come in. Some animals are only at the shelter for four or five days before they run out of luck. Fifty-six percent of dogs and seventy-six percent of cats in shelters are euthanized… many of them healthy, well-behaved animals whose owners simply didn’t have time for them anymore. Even in a no-kill shelter, your pet may be doomed to live out the rest of his life in a small cage if he is not chosen for adoption.
If you are willing to try keeping your pet, there are many things you can do. Lets look at some of the most common reasons why people get rid of their pets, and how to get around them.Reason 1: I’m moving.
Solution: Bring your pet with! A quick Google search for “pet-friendly housing” will show you many different directories of rental housing that allows pets. Here are just a few that I found: People With Pets, Pets Welcome, My New Place, Pets911, Home With Pets, and Dog House Properties. And pet-friendly housing is not just limited to those sites! Many apartment buildings and complexes will allow pets. You may have to pay an extra security deposit. But in the end, it will be worth it, to keep your pet with you!
Here is something else you should know. If things get really bad and you have no place to live, you still may not have to give up your pet. Pets Of The Homeless is a website that works to help homeless people to keep their pets, or find temporary homes for their pets until they get back on their feet.Reason 2: I can no longer afford my pets.
Solution: Call your local animal shelter, or food pantry, and ask about pet food banks. They do exist, and are becoming more and more common! You can even make your own dog food, which may be cheaper in the long run. (Its not difficult! Dogs can eat much of the same things we eat!) Your local animal shelter, or your veterinarian, may also be able to tell you about free or low cost vet care for your pets.

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Reason 3: My new boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance/roommate doesn’t like pets.
Solution: Are you really going to sacrifice your pet on someone else’s whim? Are you sure you want to date someone or live with someone who doesn’t like pets? That’s a pretty big lifestyle change to make for someone else. If you’re sure you want to stick with this person, work out a compromise. Maybe your pet can be banned from certain areas of the house, like the bedroom or the kitchen.Reason 4: My new boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance/roommate is allergic to my pet.
Solution: As long as the person’s allergy isn’t life threatening, there are many things you can do to greatly reduce the allergens on your pet. Keeping your house clean is a giant step. Dust and vacuum frequently, and use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter if possible. You can buy an air filter for your home that sucks the allergens out of the air. A company called AllerPet makes a special liquid that you can wipe your pet down with regularly to get rid of the allergens on him. Sprinkling flax seeds in your pet’s food can also reduce the amount of dander he produces. The person may even be willing to take allergy medication! After all, many people have seasonal allergies and take medicine regularly. They don’t just get rid of the seasons!Reason 5: We’re having a baby.
Solution: Pets and children are a great combination! Most pets are perfectly fine around children, although they may be a little confused by the new arrival at first. You should always supervise your pet around young children. When your child is an infant, he probably won’t be unsupervised anyways, right? As your child gets older, you will have to teach the child to be gentle with the pets. Do not allow your child to pull your pet’s tail, poke him, pick him up, etc. Many people feel that a pet should be obligated to put up with whatever your child deals out. But that is not good for anyone involved! Teaching your child, from a young age, to be calm and nurturing around pets, is a great learning experience for the child. If you have a dog, you may want to do some extra training with him before the baby comes, to teach him not to jump up on you when you’re holding the baby, etc. Other measures may include banning the pets from certain areas of the house, hiring someone to come walk your dogs or clean up after your pets when you don’t have time to, etc.Reason 6: I have developed health problems.
Solution: Speak to your veterinarian, neighbors, friends, people at your place of worship, etc. You can probably find some volunteers to help you take care of your pet. Having a pet can be a source of comfort when you are ill. In fact, many studies have shown that people with pets have lower blood pressure, lower heart rates, and are generally more healthy, than those without pets. If your health problems are so severe that you must move into a nursing home, maybe you can find someone willing too foster your pet for you.Reason 7: My pet has developed costly health problems.
Solution: Speak to your veterinarian about this. They may be able to guide you to low cost veterinary clinics, veterinary schools that offer low cost treatment, etc. Many veterinary offices now offer payment plans for treatment. They may be able to help you find creative ways of raising money to pay for your pet’s treatment, too!Reason 8: My pet still isn’t house trained.
Solution: If your pet is suddenly having “accidents” around the house when he used to be house trained, there could be a medical reason. You may want to consult your veterinarian. If the house training has just never completely been accomplished, you may have to start over from scratch. For a dog, take him out more frequently and try to get him on a schedule. If you are not home during the day, and your dog is eliminating on the floor or furniture while you are gone, you may want to consider crating him while you are not home. For a cat, switching to a different kind of litter, getting a bigger litter box, or moving the litter box to a different area of the house, can help. Clean up accidents with a mixture of vinegar and water. This mixture gets rid of the scent of urine or poop, so that the pet doesn’t feel the need to “mark” that area again.

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Reason 9: I work long hours, and don’t have much time to spend with my pet. Its not fair to him.
Solution: While it may seem unfair that your pet has to spend time alone, it is still better than making him take his chances in a shelter! There are simple measures, such as providing stimulating toys for your pets, or leaving the TV on during the day, that can help your pet to feel less lonely. One nice thing you can do is buy your pet a special blanket. Sleep with it in your bed for a few nights before you give it to your pet. It will smell like you, and offer comfort to your pet when you are away from the house! You may also want to consider pet day care, or hiring someone to stop in during the day to play with your pets. Also, spending as little as fifteen minutes before you leave for work, just playing with your pet and spending quality time with him, can make a real difference. You don’t have to be a perfect owner and spend tons of time hanging out with your pet. He will love you the way you are… and again, it is better to be alone at your home than to die alone in a shelter.Reason 10: My pet has behavior problems. He bites/scratches/jumps on me, barks too much, etc.
You may want to consider a training class for yourself and your pet. Petco and Petsmart offer fairly inexpensive training classes. It can be a good investment! If you can’t afford this, then the library can provide books on dog training, and the Internet can provide websites with tips. Try Googling a specific problem you’re having. For instance, search for “teach dog to stop barking.” Spending ten or fifteen minutes a day working with your dog, and then consistently rewarding your dog for positive behavior, can make a huge difference.These are just a few of the common reasons why people consider giving up their pets. But remember, every problem has a solution. So, before you give up on your pet, please take some time to remedy the problems!

Mental Health Stigma

October 3, 2016

Despite the increase in publicity surrounding mental health and mental health issues, there is still a lack of understanding about mental health in general. For example, a research survey published by the government “Attitudes to Mental Illness 2007″ reported that 63% of those surveyed described someone who is mentally ill as suffering from schizophrenia, and more than half believed that people with mental illness should be kept in a psychiatric ward or hospital. Overall the results showed that positive attitudes to people with mental health had actually decreased since 1994 which is worrying indeed.Amazingly, many people still don’t understand that mental health problems affect most of us in one way or another, whether we are suffering from a mental illness ourselves or not. If we bear in mind that a quarter of the population are suffering from some kind of mental health problem at any one time, then the chances are, even if we personally don’t have a mental illness, we will know someone close to us who does, so it is our responsibility to understand what mental illness is and what can be done about it.Many people with mental health problems will often feel isolated and rejected and too afraid to share their problems with others purely because of the way they might be perceived. This lack of understanding means they are less likely to get the kind of help and support they need and are in danger of slipping even further into depression and mental illness. People need to understand that mental illness need not be a barrier to a better quality of life and that help is available and that most people with a mental health problem can regain full control over their lives if they get the support they need.

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A new guide to mental healthThe Royal College of Psychiatrists has produced a new guide to mental health which was published in November 2007 and is aimed at informing the general public about what mental illness is and is a big step towards tackling the stigma that is still attached to mental illness.The guide is written in an easy to understand format and over 60 mental health experts have contributed to it. The Mind: A User’s Guide contains chapters that cover a whole range of mental illnesses and includes a section on how the brain works, how mental illness is diagnosed, and how to cope with it.A Scottish surveyIn Scotland, a national survey of public attitudes to mental health Well? What Do You Think? (2006) was published in September 2007 and highlighted that although people living in socially deprived areas have a higher incidence of mental health, the level of stigmatisation is still no lower than in other areas. This suggests that being confronted with mental illness is not enough to change the attitudes towards it.There are also gender differences too. According to the Scottish survey, men with a mental health problem were more likely to be treated with suspicion than women and were also more inclined to avoid social contact with someone else with a mental health problem. Even out of those who displayed a positive attitude towards people with mental health problems, many said they would be reluctant to tell anyone if they had a mental health problem themselves which just goes to show that there is still fear surrounding other peoples’ perceptions of mental health.A CIPD SurveyA recent study conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and KPMG consultants surveyed over 600 employers and reported that doctors are not doing enough to help people with mental health problems return to work and that this is costing the business world billions of pounds. For example, only 3% of the participants rated doctor support as “very good”.It may be that doctors really don’t know what else to offer someone suffering from depression and anxiety other than drugs and time off work. Even more worrying was the fact that 52% of employers maintained that they never hired anyone with a history of mental illness which serves to perpetuate the stigma. On a more positive note, of those that did hire someone with a mental health problem, more than half said the experience had been “positive”.

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Changing attitudesA lot is being done by governments and organisations to try to change public attitudes towards mental health but is it enough? Until we all recognise that mental illness doesn’t discriminate, it can affect any one of us at any time regardless of our age, gender or social background, the stigma attached to mental illness is likely to persist.Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, it can affect any one of us at any time regardless of our age, gender or social background, and yet the stigma attached to mental illness still persists. Although a number of government initiatives, awareness campaigns and organisations have been set up specifically to tackle mental health stigma and change our attitudes towards mental health in general, there is still a long way to go.It is therefore up to each and every one of us as individuals to make sure we are well informed and understand the issues involved because only when the public are fully aware of the facts will mental health stigma become a thing of the past.

Black History Month And The First Black Republic: A Link Long Forgotten

August 27, 2016

In February each year, Americans of African descent join all other Americans to celebrate Black History Month. In many quarters of the United States and other parts of the world, celebrations of this historic event take place. Accordingly, the significance of observing a black history for a full thirty days should be viewed and manifested in many more ways than merely recalling the Emancipation Proclamation that “freed” black people from the shackles of slavery. Certainly, “a black history” in its entirety transcends the Civil Rights Movement that legally “ended” black-white segregation particularly in the United States.Even more so, the emphasis of honoring a Black History Month must be placed far above President Barrack Obama’s assumption of the presidency of the United States as the first African American to do so. Although a well-orchestrated “million-man” march on Washington in 1963 marked a pivotal point in the black man’s liberation struggles, it does not nearly define the essence of observing a full month of black history as an end in itself.It is common knowledge that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s headed by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was at the height of the black liberation struggles. As significant as this historical event may seem, it was but a part of the global picture of the black man’s struggles for freedom.Therefore, it must never be seen as a cut-off point where the battle for ‘equal rights for all’ ended. It goes without saying that to assume so would equal to a presumption that with the passing of the Civil Rights Act, the struggles for equal rights and justice was over for all people of color. The truth is that to this day, there remain many more challenges for descendants of freed slaves. Lest I be misunderstood, this is not to argue that the achievements of Dr. King and the likes of him do not hold very significant place in the annals of black history. They certainly do, to say the least.My concern here, however, is about perception, especially on the part of those who were (and still are) direct beneficiaries of the resulting effects of those great movements and concepts. Take (for example) in contemporary America, how does the average African American relate all of his rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States to an opportunity for success? How does the average African American utilize his god-given ability to learn and sharply compete in a world plagued by rivalries and fierce competition? How do the legacy of Dr. King & the Civil Rights Movement on the one hand and the legacy of Dr. Carter D. Woodson & Black History Month on the other, influence the ambitions of black people to attain formal education and other technical skills? What necessary measures are needed by descendants of free slaves that will ultimately gravitate them to better paying jobs and other luxuries of life? Working towards conclusive answers to these inquiries will go a long way in making Black History Month the single most proficient way to immortalize all liberation movements that fought to attain equal rights and justice for all people. Besides accentuating a commitment to perpetually keep alive the legacies of Dr. Carter D. Woodson, Activist Frederick Douglas, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others, this will ultimately keep their heavenly spirits in absolute balance and unending joy and happiness!Black HistoryIt is in this respect that I strongly believe that in paraphrasing the history of black liberation during programs marking the observance of Black History Month, the story must be told as accurately as possible by, at least, highlighting significant details. As the old adage says, “that which is not done legally, is not done at all”. In much the same way, a history not completely retold is, at best, a history not told at all! More often than not, stories after stories of great black heroes in nearly every aspect of American and world history are told each year as we observe Black History Month. Interestingly, mentions are never made of the significant transition from slavery to freedom and the subsequent demonstration by the early freed men to self-govern.A case in point here is the display of magnificent skills and bravery by a handful of the emancipated slaves who, using their god-given talents, institutionalized a nation state and subsequently declared a free and independent state nearly a hundred and sixty-five years ago. In consequence of the repeated failures of keynote speakers at Black History Month celebrations to dwell on the single most important achievement of blacks, the number one success story of those noble men and women are hardly bought into the spotlight. It is appalling that at programs commemorating Black History Month, we repeatedly hear of a few great black inventors, singers and the likes but black political geniuses who founded and declared political independence of a sovereign black state as early as the mid 19th century are never mentioned for once. I am uncertain of what the opinion of my readers might be on this, but I sturdily feel that the quest and subsequent attainment of political independence for an all-black republic nearly two hundred years ago, supersede all other achievements in all black history. I stand corrected!The gravity of this arduous achievement may be better understood when one considers, for example, the establishment of the first Negro Republic of Liberia in the first half of the 19th century (J. Horton & L. Horton, Slavery And The Making of America, 95). Following this remarkable achievement,it took more than a hundred years for the first set of black nations on the continent of Africa to gain political independence from their European white colonial masters. Here in the United States, it took unreasonably longer before the first civil rights act was singed into law. Ultimately, when it came to the pursue of happiness and the right to liberty for the early black man, what more could be more fulfilling than the right to self-governance? Regrettably, emancipation accounts are repeatedly narrated during these great black national events far short of this indisputable account.

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I hesitate not to argue further that this (outright) failure by renowned speakers during Black History festivities to make mention of The Declaration of Independence of a free & sovereign black state on the West Coast of Africa by emancipated slaves is like an attempt by a serpent to move past its head. What this does invariably is making an attempt similar to presenting a specialized profile of a region without reference to the inhabitants of that region. What other achievements could be greater than the attainment of political independence for a people held in bondage for hundreds of years? Just as they remained fully cognizant that generations after generations of their ancestors were held in oppression for nearly three centuries in the Americas, many of these black heroes got first-hand experienced of slavery as well. Pursuant to their personal experiences of the greatest human tragedy in all of history, the freed men never took for granted the right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness.It is out of this concern that as America observes Black History Month each February, I wish to bring into focus an often ignored (but the single most significant) achievement of the black man in the post emancipation era. I have spent a number of years working in public related institutions where the observance of Black History Month is taken seriously each year. Institutions and individuals at all levels in society often attend programs commemorating these events. Many invitees at these functions participate in activities ranging from singing church spirituals to celebrities performing popular stage shows. Often, top academia are called to present “professional” research papers on various topics in black history. It is astonishingly disgusting to note that even at such well organized and intellectual events, the attainment of self-governance by free black slaves are never indicated, much less discussed. Until the meaning of Black History Month fully encompasses the single most significant achievement of freed slaves, the salinity of the observance itself will remain far-fetched.The more I ponder over the inept approaches used by heirs of those great black heroes and the failure to duly memorialize their ancestors, the greater I sense some irresistible urge to bring into the spotlight the forgotten link between Black History Month and the early successes of people of color in their fight for equal rights and self-governance. Overall, the first and foremost agenda item for those black pioneers was a genuine quest for self-governance and the pursuit of happiness that would include the right to freedom and justice. By way of emphasis, I reiterate here again that it is important that the history of the African American is not told until someone forcefully and truly tells the entire story. While the intent of this brief article is not to retell black history, I shall endeavor to speak briefly to the necessity of bridging a significant link (long broken & forgotten) between Black History Month and Liberia, the first black republic.As I do so, some efforts will be made to expound on the extended determination for freedom by an oppressed people and the glaring similarities between the former and the latter. To enhance this review, let us slip back into history for a short while.The oldest recorded history of what is known today as Black History Month dates back to 1915 when one Dr. Carter D. Woodson and Rev. Jesse E. Moorland co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, acronym ASNLH (biography.com/blackhistory: 1/20/2011). Primarily, the objective of the Association was to research and bring awareness to the ignored but important and crucial role blacks played not only in American but also in world history. In just one year, Woodson published his findings in the Journal of Negro History. The intent of that publication was to cast out all misconceptions about the Negro. Additionally, it attempted to educate black people about their cultural background and to instill in them some pride in their race.Carter Woodson himself, who was the second black man to receive a degree from Harvard University, was the son of a former slave. He understood the importance of education and advocated the preservation of one’s heritage. A fraternity group called PSI Phil created Negro History & Literature Week at Woodson’s request in 1920. In just six years later (1926), Woodson changed the name to Negro History Week. He then selected the month of February primarily to honor two men whose actions radically (but positively) changed the future of all (black) Americans. The one was President Abraham Lincoln, born on February 12, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation and the other was Frederick Douglas who was born February 14. Douglas, too, was a tireless advocate to end slavery.Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, provided learning materials to teachers, black history clubs, and the larger community. In 1950, Dr. Woodson died but his legacy continued as cities and organizations through out the country adopted the celebration of Negro History Week. During the Civil Rights Movements of the 1950s and the 1960s, the observation of the week gained prominence as the focus turned more and more on the significance of black cultures (biography.com/blackhistory: 1/20/2011).This, in effect, moved the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) to change Negro History Week to Black History Week. The ASNLH is now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH). The week was extended in 1976 to a one-month long observance.It is little wonder, therefore, that today Black History Month is celebrated through out the United States by not only school kids, but also by everyone in the USA including teachers & university professors, doctors, lawyers, paraprofessionals, economists, politicians, men, women and everyone in between.When President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 (J. Horton & E. Horton, 187), major revolutionary changes ensued which brought some level of freedom and sanity to enslaved Africans for the first time in over two hundred years. However in the decades following, the freed men were left with daunting challenges including the need for food, adequate shelter & clothing, and (perhaps more importantly) the natural urgings for self-governance.The Founding of Liberia: “Land of the Free”I was born and raised in Liberia; a small West African country with a population of under four million people. As a child, I attended public school where I learned first to write and then speak English under American English instructors. All through grade and junior high school, my instructors were American volunteered teachers (Peace Corps) who were exceptionally inspirational and who proved to be true fountain of knowledge for kids of my age. We learned to write and (tried) to speak the American version of English as opposed to the British style. We were taught the American way of doing arithmetic. We studied American literature and read great American folktales such as those of Paul Bunyan and Gulliver’s Travel. In grade school, we learned and recited the four seasons and other climatic conditions of the United States. Exclusively, we used American textbooks and learned a great deal of everything American, though we were not American children.Outside of our academic milieu, we again tried to do everything American, from soul music to soul limbo on the dance floor, for instance. When we honored calls from our teachers to perform a chore after school at a teacher’s house or when we were asked simply to complete a special assignment, we were always given something to eat or drink as some form of positive re-enforcement.In a way, this helped us as kids to acknowledge American generosity. At grade school level and with limited English vocabulary, these gestures gravitated us to our American tutors and allowed a bond of relationship that did not exist between some of my peers and their biological parents. Some children my age and some older kids went the extra mile and dressed the American way as they spent their last dollar (allowance) to purchase fancy baggy pants and go-go shoes. With the passage of time and as we became little more fluent at speaking and writing English, the bonds of teacher-student relationships between our American teachers and some socially ambitious students became stronger. Our utopian view of America broadened as we grew older. A substantial number of these kids later married to their former instructors who now live happily as couples in the US today.I have deliberately drawn my childhood experience into this discourse simply to draw attention to the conspicuous similarity between the cultures of Liberia, the first black independent state, and the people of the United States as viewed from the perspective of the African American community. Prior to the overthrow of government in 1980, the official currency of the Republic of Liberia was the United States dollar. This reality is rooted deeply in the fact that Liberia was founded by former slaves who shunned mediocrity and rose above pettiness to establish a sovereign state. Since independence in 1847, nineteen of Liberia’s twenty-two presidents were emigrants who were sons and grand sons of former slaves from the United States. As a nation state, Liberia has played and continues to play pivotal role in international relations. As a founding member of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union), Liberia helped champion the liberation struggles of many former European colonies in all of Africa.If part or all of the essence of observing Black History Month, therefore, is to be interpreted to mean honoring the achievements of a segment of God’s creation who were held in bondage for centuries, then why has Black History Month been so distinctly unable to link to Liberia as a shining example of black achievements? If Liberia, in the history of humankind, was the torchbearer of black freedom, independence, and self-governance, then why do planners at Black History Month festivities pay death ears and play blind eyes to the crucial relationship between two sisterly establishments that are so culturally interwoven?According to Dr. Carter Woodson, co-founder of Black History Month, the number one goal of observing black history is to bring awareness to the crucial roles blacks played in both American and world history. Incidentally, a major part of such roles was played decades earlier by the establishment of the first Negro republic. Hence, if the organic laws of Liberia have anything to do with proclaiming equal rights and justice for people of color everywhere, as they certainly do, then the ASAALH as parent organization of Black History Month Festivities, must step up to this challenge by calling a spade a spade. Let each annual observance of Black History Month include public proclamation about the founding of Liberia (Land of Liberty) as the first significant step of the Blackman’s march to freedom and equality. It is not enough to argue, as some may be tempted to, that because Liberia is not a part or territory of the United States, due credits for successes of the black liberation struggles should not be extended thereto. Under whatever canopy, such argument would not hold air because, as indicated supra, the first written account of self-governance by a group of blacks was that occasioned by the establishment of Liberia, a nation founded by former slaves from the United States. I am strongly convinced that the resolve of an oppressed people to meander their way out of slavery and established a constitutional democracy is a milestone worth emulating, even so at all commemorations of Black History Month. In essence, when it comes to the political achievements of black ancestors, there must be no boundaries even as to politics, economics or other non-political occurrences.

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Now let us return to the brief review of the establishment of Liberia as the first black independent nation founded solely by African Americans with support from the American Colonization Society, ACS. The ACS was co-founded by Henry Clay, John Randolph and Richard Bland Lee and officially established in Washington D.C. on December 16, 1826. This was nearly fifty years before slavery was outlawed in the United States. According to Wikipedia, the ACS was principally founded as a vehicle to support the return of black people to what was considered “greater freedom” in Africa. With support from prominent activists including Paul Cuffe, a mixed race and a wealthy New England ship owner, the ACS received support from many black leaders and members of congress for an emigration plan. “Under the protection of Captain Paul Cuffe and his crew of seven, eight adults and twenty children crammed aboard the seventy-foot brig headed for their new homesteads” (Paul Cuffe, Black Entrepreneur and Pan-Africanist, Thomas 101). From 1811 to 1816, Cuffe financed and captained successful voyages to Africa. Between 1820 and 1822, the ACS in conjunction with prominent black leaders and activists, founded the nation of Liberia with the sole purpose of repatriating from the United States all freed men of color. Eventually, the dreams of Entrepreneur Cuffe became a reality (Thomas 119).Superficially, the role of the American Colonization Society in the repatriation efforts of Africans appeared genuine with a purported claim of giving black people the opportunity to live “fuller lives” in Africa. However, as it played out, no sooner did it become evident that nearly all of the advocates for the repatriation of blacks who participated in the resettlement arguments did so for motives far unrelated to genuine concerns for the black man’s right to life and liberty. For example, the American Colonization Society and the Quakers or various Christian leaders who supported the abolition of slavery in collaboration with ordinary slaveholders, saw the resettlement of freed slaves to Africa primarily as the safest way to abort perceived threats from free blacks to the (American) society. Although members of the ACS officially denounced slavery in all its form, many were openly racists as they argued that blacks would be unable to fit into the white society of America.As we observe Black History each year, it is important that we soberly reflect on the colossal controversies in history that have attended the denial of the rights of the black man to live freely, independently and happily. Unlike the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and the 1960s, the resettlement efforts in the pre-revolutionary civil war era resulted from a variety of motives. As mentioned above, many slaveholders and some abolitionists held strong views that blacks could not achieve equality in the United States, no matter what. In addition, there were those who became progressively more apprehensive that increasing number of free black slaves would eventually encourage slave revolts, while others out-rightly perceived the Black man as a burden to society and a threat to white workers because they (black) were paid much lower wages. As above mentioned, some members of the ACS who denounced slavery in all its form, were openly racists. They, too, argued likewise.In consequence of these pathetic accounts in the archives of black history, it is my fervent opinion that the concluding paragraph of this article calls into focus the broken & forgotten link between the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASAALH) and Black History Month on the one hand, and the Republic of Liberia on the other. Besides being a torchbearer of freedom for people of color, the Republic of Liberia was founded for and by African Americans nearly two hundred years ago. When Dr. Carter Woodson and Rev Jesse E. Moorland co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History back in 1915, they did so to spotlight the many roles black people played in the world that were often ignored or never referenced. In black history, therefore, Liberia was the first symbol of black freedom and independence and if Black History Month annually recollects eminent black achievements in history, then the former and the latter are closely related. They both exemplify the success stories of all black people. The two are directly related. Link them!The End

The Basics of Direct Mail Lists

October 17, 2016

Direct mail lists provide opportunities for businesses to acquire, retain and create loyal customers. Yet which lists are typically the best performing lists? How do you go about finding mailing lists? And once you’ve found a list, how do you know if your investment paid off?Direct Mail List BasicsDirect mail lists generally fall into three categories:
Company owned lists: These are direct mail (or email) lists that you’ve created on your own. Many online business include an opt-in box on their website so that customers and visitors can choose to provide their email address in exchange for information, news, white papers and other gifts. Companies can also create their own “house lists” as such lists are called by using records of previous purchases and leads to create a basic mailing list. For direct mail, you can use physical addresses without tacit permission. For email marketing, always use an opt-in method and only conduct permission-based marketing to avoid getting branded as a spammer.
Response lists: Response lists are rented by companies that specialize in mailing lists, called list brokers. Such a list is based on past purchasing or response behavior and may include catalog mailing lists, direct mail or direct television buyers, or magazine subscribers. Many companies make money by renting their list out to other companies. The idea behind using such a list is that past purchasing behavior is the best indicator of future purchasing behavior. In other words, if someone responded to a direct TV ad for jewelry, chances are better that they’ll respond to another offer for jewelry. List brokers often add additional selections for an extra fee, such as 3 month buyers. This allows you to target people who have recently bought such an item. Again, based on years of data from many industries, these are people most likely to respond again to similar offers, which is why direct marketers seek out such lists.
Compiled lists: Compiled lists are created or compiled from public records. Such lists used to be based on DMV records but now are mainly typed into computers directly from telephone books. Sometimes public data such as census data is appended to the list, providing some ability to sort by income and other factors from census data. Compiled lists are the least expensive but also the least likely to respond to specific offers. Going back to the jewelry example, you may rent a compiled list of people living in a high income zip code, thinking that they are likely to buy jewelry from a direct mail order catalog. But you have no way of knowing from the compiled list if such people are comfortable shopping online, by phone or from a catalog. A response list indicates that in the past, such consumers have done so – and are more likely to do so again.

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There are general list brokers who offer a wide range of mailing lists and specialist such as Market Data Retrieval that focus solely on industry, such as education in the MDR example. Ask colleagues for the best list brokers in your industry.Renting Mailing ListsOnce you’ve found a company offering lists, search their catalog or talk to a list broker on the phone. Share your ideal client profile; who are you targeting? The list brokers will suggest several lists and email or fax you data cards. Such cards provide the facts about the list: who is renting it, whether it is compiled or response, and data selects available. Data selects are optional methods to use a computer to narrow down the most likely prospects to respond to your offer. Select may include age, gender, products purchased, or recent shopping behavior.Lists have a base cost per thousand. Typically list companies will not rent fewer than 10,000 records, so take the cost per thousand records, multiple that by 10, and that gives you the minimum amount of money you will have to spend on a list. There may be additional charges added on for various selections or to actually generate the list from the computer.Make sure that the list has been updated recently. Good list companies run their lists through several databases obtained from the Direct Marketing Association and the US Post Office. These include removing the names of deceased persons, updating lists with the new addresses of people who have moved, and suppressing (removing) people who have requested to be on the “Do Not Mail” list or preference list from the Direct Marketing Association. All of this may add costs at the beginning of a list rental process, but think about the money wasted mailing pieces to people who cannot respond. If they’ve moved, died, or hate junk mail, why mail to them in the first place? You’re spending money on the creative design, the printing, the mailing house costs and postage, so save the money and don’t mail to those people.Testing and Use of Direct Mail ListsAlthough the minimum amount of names on n a typical direct mail list rental is around 5,000 to 10,000 names, many companies will allow you to rent a smaller segment for testing. Be sure to code your direct mail pieces with a unique phone number, source code or another method to track responses so you can see which list performed the best.

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Mailing lists are rented for one time use or multiple, unlimited uses. You’ll be asked up front to specify which use you intend and most companies ask for a sample mail piece. One of the most frequently asked questions people new to direct mail ask me is, “Why can’t I just pay for one time use and then reuse the list, since most lists are provided electronically nowadays?” The answer is simple: you will be caught! Mailing list companies include addresses called “seeds” on their list which look to you and me like just any other name on the list, but actually go back to the company or to someone employed by the company to monitor the list. If you’re caught using a mailing list more times than you paid for it, you are subject to legal prosecution, fines or both. It’s not pretty. Don’t do it.Direct Mail in Today’s MarketDirect mail has been around since the late 1800′s when catalogs opened a world of new goods to rural Americans. Although a large number of consumers have moved their shopping online, many still prefer to look at an old-fashioned catalog before buying. Direct mail can entice and invite consumers to visit a website to order. A good mix of old-fashioned direct mail marketing, postcard marketing, and a robust website with search engine optimization techniques in mind is a winning combination to acquire, retain and create loyal customers – and make money in the process.Get Marketing Help – Fast

Web Directories – Performance, Purpose, Problems – A General Guide to Web Directories

August 18, 2016

The path to building a successful web directory is far from a simple task. It requires a certain amount of devotion to take a web directory script and transform it into a heavily used directory. Web directories contain more complexities than meets the eye, and I have learned first hand that the development of a quality web directory is no walk in the park. But a good web directory is worth its weight in gold, for both webmasters & internet surfers alike. Let us enter the world of web directories.A web directory acts much like a search engine, but on a much smaller scale. Web directories are essentially a categorized index of websites that have been submitted by website owners. Directories normally have search features, allowing users to search through the entire index, just like a search engine. The main differences between a directory and a search engine is that very few directories contain the amount of links that a search engine does. Search engines also collect data from websites, which is used to categorize and rank them. Directories lack the ability to “crawl”, or exam websites as search engines due, therefore the only information a directory contains on a particular website is the information that was submitted by the website owner. Most directories use meta tags and keywords to search for websites, where as search engines use complex algorithms that take into consideration much more than meta tags (the value of meta tags in search engines has actually declined). Web directories are not the most popular internet search tools because huge search engines like Google and Yahoo are much more convenient to use and contain a vast amount of resources available to be searched. The largest and most popular web directory is the Open Directory Project (DMOZ), whose links are indexed by Google, Yahoo, and the majority of other search engines. Google and Yahoo both have their own web directories as well. Though independently owned web directories may not be so popular for internet searchers, they do have their benefits for webmasters & surfers alike.Web directories can have several purposes, it all depends on what the administration’s intended goals are. Some web directories are purely advertising hot spots, while others focus on driving targeted traffic to the directory. Some directories are free, some paid, others both. Directories can have broad topics, or specific topics. Lets start with the different types of web directories.First, we have what is commonly referred to as a “niche” directory. Niche directories have a specific topic, or niche, and the links found within the directory reflect that. Examples of a niche would be automotive directories, sports directories, shopping directories, web promotion directories, etc. Niche directories are most beneficial to internet *searchers; they have a specific topic and therefore *surfers and *searchers have a better chance of finding what they want. In a human edited niche directory, you are very unlikely to find spam sites as well.We will label the next kind of web directory as a “Free for All” directory. Free for all directories have no specific topic. They are very broad in their category selection and links are usually hidden behind several sub-categories. Free for all websites can benefit webmasters so long as the “no follow” tag is not applied (page rank increase), however it is in your best interest to avoid free for all directories for several reasons. Using a free for all directory to search for a website is more likely than not going to require you to sort through heaps of spam. A lot of free for all directories are not human edited due to the massive amount of link requests they receive, and websites are not carefully examined before being approved into the directory. The link quality of some free for all directories is extremely poor. Also, a lot of free for all directories extract data from other directories; how original. No sense in supporting the lack of creativity or devotion in such web directories. Despite a flood of low quality free for all directories, there are some very good ones available. A well organized, human edited (human edited = higher quality links) free for all directory is a great place to search for websites. It also serves webmasters with increased website exposure and if they are lucky, the directory is indexed by Google and other search engines, therefore improving its ranking on search engine result pages.

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The final type of web directories that will be examined are the poorest quality ones. Often referred to as “link farms” these directories are not human edited, due to contain high quality links, lack organization and unique features, and more often than not they become blacklisted from the major search engines. Searching these type of web directories is useless, and it’s highly recommended that you do not support such sites. Furthermore, if you are a webmaster, submitting your website to link farms will substantially decrease your popularity amongst search engines. These directories due more harm then good, and consequently give other directories a bad name.Whether you are submitting a website or searching for one, you will achieve the best results with a high quality niche directory. Webmasters, here are the common submission options for most web directories: Free submission: Submit your website to the directory for free. Simply fill out the form and wait for approval. A “no follow” tag is often placed on free submissions. Regular Submission: A small fee is usually necessary for regular submissions. Regular submissions can sometimes use the “no follow” tag. The main benefit is that submission approval times are significantly faster for regular submissions. Reciprocal Submissions: Free submissions that require a reciprocal link of the web directory to be placed onto the website you are submitting. Reciprocal submissions sometimes use “no follow’ tags, but often do not. Cost is free with reciprocal submissions. Featured Submissions: Paid submissions that grant you premium listing (websites listed in special section of category, generally above regular links), fast submission approval, and paid submissions do not place “no follow” tags on your links, meaning you gain a back link for search engine ranking benefits. Featured and regular submission fees are generally charged per year, and prices vary depending on the directory and the traffic it receives.Web directories have benefits for both webmasters and internet users. For webmasters, web directories main benefit is website exposure. Webmasters submit their websites to directories to increase their exposure. Not only can they receive traffic from people using the directory, but they can also benefit from a back link; a link to their website indexed by Google. Google ranks pages in several ways, but back links is one of the most important. A quality back link to your website increases your Google page rank. Enough quality directory back links, and your on your way to the top spot in Google search results. Bottom line: Web directories can increase your websites exposure by sending targeted traffic your way. For people using web directories as a search tool, web directories can offer you a big advantage over search engines. Search engine indexing is a big contest between website owners and therefore a lot of high quality content gets left out of the search engine result pages. Top results often go to corporations, big business, or highly devoted marketers. What about the little enthusiast and personal websites that contain valuable knowledge otherwise unavailable on the web?Well, a lot of these quality content websites can be found in web directories. If you are having trouble finding what your looking for in search engines, try searching for a niche directory and I bet you will find what your looking for. Furthermore, using web directories supports smaller businesses and helps the little guy out. Not everyone has the time or money to spend on internet marketing or website promotion, and web directories are a great way for these small websites to gain some exposure. Big search engines have monopolized the internet search market, and it makes the relationship between big search engines and website owners way to critical. Google doesn’t like you, and your sales drop 75 %. Now that does not seem right, does it? If more people frequented web directories, directory owners would gain a larger slice of the search engine market.There is a large number of web directories on the internet today that have been blacklisted by Google. It is best to avoid these directories at all costs; having your link listed there will most likely negatively affect your search engine rankings. But how do you know which directories to submit your URL to and which ones to avoid? These guidelines in rating web directories may help:1. Organization- Web Directories should be well organized and categorized.- Categories should be, neither, too broad nor too narrow. Category organization is important, but a directories search feature holds more value for finding links.- Links should be easily accessible.- Links should be posted into the correct category. If they are not, this is a sign of automated link approval, which should never be used in a directory. (Even the largest, most powerful of web directories are human edited).

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- Poor quality and spam links should not be accepted into any decent web directory.2. Advertisements- A quality directory should contain a free submission option, so it is necessary for directories to offer sponsored listings and sale advertisement space. However, the page should not be cluttered with ads. This is a sign that the directory administration is too focused on making a quick buck than enhancing the internet experience.- If the directory has a specific topic, or niche, than the advertisements should pertain to that topic. Off topic and irrelevant ads do not belong on niche directories.3. Page Rank (PR)- Rumor has it that it’s possible to fake some page rank indicators. Make sure your page rank comes from a reliable source when examining the PR of a web directory.- Page rank is important factor in website popularity. However, directories that boast high page ranks, or have their page rank in the directory name or slogan typically use the page rank factor to compensate for their downfalls. It’s like bragging…and you want a modest web directory. Find a directory that shares and uses their page rank to the benefit of directory users, not a directory that clearly lacks in features but boasts a high PR.- Directories that display website links within a category in descending order of PR are less desirable than those that display links based on popularity (unique hits). Most desirable first, not highest PR; very beneficial to new websites attempting to build initial PR.4. No Follow Tag- A web directory that uses “no follow” tags on all links is useless.- “no follow” tags are acceptable on free submissions. Reciprocal & featured submissions should not be tagged as “no follow” links. This gives value and meaning to featured (sponsored) & reciprocal links, while controlling the amount of links indexed by search engines to a reasonable number.- In a quality directory, do not fear a “no follow” on your free submission. A good directory brings in targeted traffic, and though you may be missing out on that back link, there is still a lot of potential for increasing traffic.5. Reviews, Marketing, & Promotion- Search around for reviews and recommendations on web directories. There are some really good resources when it comes to choosing quality directories.- A web directory should be marketed to both webmasters & internet surfers. If a directory only attracts webmasters, what kind of web traffic is it likely to bring? Look into how the web directory is promoted and marketed.
These 5 guidelines can help you distinguish between low quality link farms and high quality, effective web directories. I hope this information helps you in your website’s marketing and promotion campaign, in terms of website directory submission.Teal Reid, SYC Automotive Directory Administrator

Put Power Behind Your Nutritional Information

September 21, 2016

Nutrition information and natural remedies are now being used by a large population in the United States and throughout the world. People are looking for alternative ways to create health or recover from long standing illnesses. Drugs have been applied for around a hundred years and we all know that they are good for emergencies and for short term use to get past health dangers.If you are sick or have certain body conditions that are creating pain, then consider learning enough nutrition information that will help you eliminate that sickness or pain. Learning the basic principles of nutrition is not hard, but it does take a little effort in finding the right nutritional course that teaches practical ways of applying nutrition.Nutrition is actually a science, which can get quite complex in theory. Nutrition information is concerned with the chemical make up of food, how this food is digested, how it is absorbed and used by your body. It is all about how it is used to promote health, and how it is used to prevent and eliminated illness.

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Applying practical nutrition stops the beginning of inflammation. This prevents the formation of disease. If disease is developing or well established, nutrition can reverse these conditions. But it can only do this if not to much tissue or cells in that area have not been destroyed.Inflammation comes from excess acid in your body. This acid is created from the foods you eat. Eating certain foods leave an acid residue in your cells that then travels into the liquid surrounding your cells – lymph liquid. In the lymph liquid, this acid can damage the surrounding cells and tissue and in doing so starts the inflammation process.Many scientists and medical researchers have uncovered the basic principles of the acid-alkaline body. Maintaining an acid body, which many people have, is what creates and maintains various deadly diseases. Most pathogens like an acid body. Cancer thrives in an acid body.Nutrition gives you the information you need to know on how to maintain an alkaline body. It gives you the information on what foods are acid and alkaline. Eating the right foods is how you maintain your health. But, nutrition information goes further in explaining how your body uses the foods you eat and how your entire body functions with this good food.Nutrition says your body is bioelectrical. Your body is run by electrical and chemical reactions. You need to discover what foods support these electrical and chemical activities. Without the right electrical activities in your body, your cells will not get the right nutrition, which is necessary for your survival. Nutrition is also about discovering what food, nutrients and minerals your body needs and what illness you develop if you don’t get them.

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Learning natural nutrition information is now possible online. In the past it was difficult to learn nutrition without going to school. Finding courses in practical nutrition can be difficult but what you and most people need is to learn is nutrition that you can put into practice. Find the time, find the course, and find the health that you need with the right nutrition course.

Understanding Science – Its Application in Daily Life

August 29, 2016

Science is derived from the Latin term ‘scientia’, which means ‘knowledge.’ It is a systematic explanation of every element present in the universe. To understand the subject, you simply have to look around you. Everything you see, whether it is your computer screen, a pen, papers, your pet, the sun, or other things are all elements of science. Science covers everything from the smallest particle in an atom present in the circuits of your computer, to the complicated electrical fluctuations and chemical interactions within our bodies that enable us to read and perform other normal activities.The Characteristics of ScienceScience helps in answering questions in a simple and logical manner. It can also lead to advancements in technology, and help us improve our knowledge on enormously useful and important topics, like the environment, natural hazards, our health, and others. Science is the reason for the developments in the modern world, and scientists across the world continue to work, to unravel the mysteries of the universe. A multi-faceted and complex subject, science has fairly straightforward basic characteristics.

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Science limits its focus to the natural world, avoiding supernatural explanation about any given matter. It educates us about the natural world, what it is made of, what it contains, and how it works. It is more than a collection of factual data, and science is a long road to understanding the universe. It identifies answers by carrying out tests rather than speculating results. Observations and ideas form an integral part of science. Scientific ideas are accepted because they go through rigorous testing processes, but the emergence of new perspectives and evidences make these ideas subject to revisions.Fields and Branches of ScienceScience is commonly classified under two major categories: Social sciences (study of societies and human behavior), and natural sciences (study of natural phenomena such as biological life). Other disciplines in the subject include applied and interdisciplinary sciences, such as medicine and engineering. Although these scientific disciplines have their own expertise and nomenclature, they often include other inter-related disciplines.

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Formal science is another branch of the subject, which includes mathematics, logic, and statistics. Formal sciences are crucial in the formulation of laws, hypotheses, and theories related to social sciences (the manner in which humans or animals think or act), and natural sciences (the explanation about how everything works). Each discipline of science has sub-divisions that focus on particular sections of the subject.Why Study It?Science offers wide scope for people who are interested in exploring the mysteries of the universe. Getting science help will ensure that you better understand the natural world and how it works. A good science tutor is greatly beneficial for students who find the study of science difficult.

Benefitting Health With a PhD in Health Education

October 19, 2016

Imagine this real case scenario: In Africa, many people die daily due to malaria. This can be avoided by the use of mosquito netting, which protects the malaria-carrying mosquitoes from biting them. However, people are still ignorant and uneducated about how these nets can save their lives, and go on living without them.Now, picture this: If the people in Africa were educated from young about the dangers of these deadly insects, they would take precautions to save themselves. If, with that knowledge, they also knew that mosquito netting can reduce the number of incidences, many would be alive today.

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As the examples given, the education of living healthily is extremely important. Even without such an extreme case, health education helps us maintain a healthy life. Health education refers to learning about how health can be promoted, restored, and maintained. ‘Health’ does not only refer to the physiological aspect; it also includes the psychological and spiritual aspects.A profession in this field is where one educates others about health and wellness. Being in this profession demands a big heart and dedication towards helping others live a good life. While many might come in as volunteers, having a PhD equips you with the proper knowledge and credentials to educate others on health and wellness. You will also be able to conduct researches, formulate, implement, and evaluate health interventions, one like the mosquito netting example. Of course, this would mean that you would continuously be monitoring and correcting interventions so that society will be more aware of their health, which on the long-term is beneficial to our future grandchildren as they would have known how to live healthily.

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Lastly, with a PhD in Health Education, you are also able to advance your career in the field of health education. This field is never outdated as our society is constantly seeking methods to improve their lives and well being. At the same time, you are also able to discover ways to improve your own mental, physical and spiritual health.

What Is the Relevance of Technology?

October 19, 2016

“Technology in the long-run is irrelevant”. That is what a customer of mine told me when I made a presentation to him about a new product. I had been talking about the product’s features and benefits and listed “state-of-the-art technology” or something to that effect, as one of them. That is when he made his statement. I realized later that he was correct, at least within the context of how I used “Technology” in my presentation. But I began thinking about whether he could be right in other contexts as well.What is Technology?Merriam-Webster defines it as:1a: the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area: engineering 2 b: a capability given by the practical application of knowledge 2: a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge 3: the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor Wikipedia defines it as:Technology (from Greek τέχνη, techne, “art, skill, cunning of hand”; and -λογία, -logia[1]) is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments. The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas: examples include construction technology, medical technology, and information technology.Both definitions revolve around the same thing – application and usage.Technology is an enablerMany people mistakenly believe it is technology which drives innovation. Yet from the definitions above, that is clearly not the case. It is opportunity which defines innovation and technology which enables innovation. Think of the classic “Build a better mousetrap” example taught in most business schools. You might have the technology to build a better mousetrap, but if you have no mice or the old mousetrap works well, there is no opportunity and then the technology to build a better one becomes irrelevant. On the other hand, if you are overrun with mice then the opportunity exists to innovate a product using your technology.

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Another example, one with which I am intimately familiar, are consumer electronics startup companies. I’ve been associated with both those that succeeded and those that failed. Each possessed unique leading edge technologies. The difference was opportunity. Those that failed could not find the opportunity to develop a meaningful innovation using their technology. In fact to survive, these companies had to morph oftentimes into something totally different and if they were lucky they could take advantage of derivatives of their original technology. More often than not, the original technology wound up in the scrap heap. Technology, thus, is an enabler whose ultimate value proposition is to make improvements to our lives. In order to be relevant, it needs to be used to create innovations that are driven by opportunity.Technology as a competitive advantage?Many companies list a technology as one of their competitive advantages. Is this valid? In some cases yes, but In most cases no.Technology develops along two paths – an evolutionary path and a revolutionary path.A revolutionary technology is one which enables new industries or enables solutions to problems that were previously not possible. Semiconductor technology is a good example. Not only did it spawn new industries and products, but it spawned other revolutionary technologies – transistor technology, integrated circuit technology, microprocessor technology. All which provide many of the products and services we consume today. But is semiconductor technology a competitive advantage? Looking at the number of semiconductor companies that exist today (with new ones forming every day), I’d say not. How about microprocessor technology? Again, no. Lots of microprocessor companies out there. How about quad core microprocessor technology? Not as many companies, but you have Intel, AMD, ARM, and a host of companies building custom quad core processors (Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, etc). So again, not much of a competitive advantage. Competition from competing technologies and easy access to IP mitigates the perceived competitive advantage of any particular technology. Android vs iOS is a good example of how this works. Both operating systems are derivatives of UNIX. Apple used their technology to introduce iOS and gained an early market advantage. However, Google, utilizing their variant of Unix (a competing technology), caught up relatively quickly. The reasons for this lie not in the underlying technology, but in how the products made possible by those technologies were brought to market (free vs. walled garden, etc.) and the differences in the strategic visions of each company.Evolutionary technology is one which incrementally builds upon the base revolutionary technology. But by it’s very nature, the incremental change is easier for a competitor to match or leapfrog. Take for example wireless cellphone technology. Company V introduced 4G products prior to Company A and while it may have had a short term advantage, as soon as Company A introduced their 4G products, the advantage due to technology disappeared. The consumer went back to choosing Company A or Company V based on price, service, coverage, whatever, but not based on technology. Thus technology might have been relevant in the short term, but in the long term, became irrelevant.In today’s world, technologies tend to quickly become commoditized, and within any particular technology lies the seeds of its own death.Technology’s RelevanceThis article was written from the prospective of an end customer. From a developer/designer standpoint things get murkier. The further one is removed from the technology, the less relevant it becomes. To a developer, the technology can look like a product. An enabling product, but a product nonetheless, and thus it is highly relevant. Bose uses a proprietary signal processing technology to enable products that meet a set of market requirements and thus the technology and what it enables is relevant to them. Their customers are more concerned with how it sounds, what’s the price, what’s the quality, etc., and not so much with how it is achieved, thus the technology used is much less relevant to them.

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Recently, I was involved in a discussion on Google+ about the new Motorola X phone. A lot of the people on those posts slammed the phone for various reasons – price, locked boot loader, etc. There were also plenty of knocks on the fact that it didn’t have a quad-core processor like the S4 or HTC One which were priced similarly. What they failed to grasp is that whether the manufacturer used 1, 2, 4, or 8 cores in the end makes no difference as long as the phone can deliver a competitive (or even best of class) feature set, functionality, price, and user experience. The iPhone is one of the most successful phones ever produced, and yet it runs on a dual-core processor. It still delivers one of the best user experiences on the market. The features that are enabled by the technology are what are relevant to the consumer, not the technology itself.The relevance of technology therefore, is as an enabler, not as a product feature or a competitive advantage, or any myriad of other things – an enabler. Looking at the Android operating system, it is an impressive piece of software technology, and yet Google gives it away. Why? Because standalone, it does nothing for Google. Giving it away allows other companies to use their expertise to build products and services which then act as enablers for Google’s products and services. To Google, that’s where the real value is.The possession of or access to a technology is only important for what it enables you to do – create innovations which solve problems. That is the real relevance of technology.