Kickstarter: A good place to kickstart your pop culture passions

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veronica mars kickstarter movie badges

Veronica Mars “Kickstarter” movie badges

Kickstarter is a funny little place with lots of funny little projects. You can get your movie/documentary/book/community service project funded or give funding to a project you deem worthy. It’s this wonderous concept we’ve been studying this week called crowdsourcing/funding. I’ve visited the site before when it’s made the news, like when the Veronica Mars movie and Zach Braff’s movie became Kickstarter-funded projects.

I’ve never donated to any Kickstarter projects, which I feel bad about because a former co-worker did a campaign for a book she’s writing and I meant to donate but forgot. Maybe it’s not too late …

Yet I was curious about other projects that I may feel compelled to donate to. This led me to search for projects related to my favorite bands, the Bee Gees and the Beatles. I’m a sucker for documentaries and books about these guys.

tragedy bee gees metal tribute

Tragedy, an All-Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees and beyond. I mean, how could you not want to fund this?

There were only two Bee Gees-related projects while there were numerous Beatles ones (not surprising, but it made me a little sad). One hilarious-looking Bee Gees project, “Tragedy: All-Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees and Beyond,” was trying to fund their CD/video/tour reached its $5,000 funding no problem. Meanwhile, the other project “The Whole World Was Dancing: The Dennis Byron Story,” did not reach its funding goal of $67,890.

By the way, if you didn’t know, Dennis Byron was the drummer for the Bee Gees during their super-hot “Saturday Night Fever” years. I have been a fan since I was 12 and I barely knew that. If I had to guess why Byron’s campaign to create a book and two CDs wasn’t successful, this would be one of the reasons why. Sure, the Bee Gees were mentioned in his project’s description, but I would have put their name in the campaign’s title as they have more name recognition. Also, Byron’s campaign’s price tag seems a little ambitious. According to Kickstarter stats as of March 5, the largest number of successful campaigns – 36,307 – were trying to raise $1,000-$9,999. It’s too bad too, because I’m sure Byron has a lot of cool backstage stories that would be interesting to hear.

good ol freda beatles

Good Ol’ Freda was a lucky girl who got to hang out with John, Paul, George and Ringo!

Meanwhile, among the plentiful Beatles projects, I found two projects that I was aware of and didn’t know they went the Kickstarter route. First was a movie called “Good Ol’ Freda,” which is about the story of the Beatles secretary Freda Kelly. Not only did the film get made, but it’s been shown at festivals across the U.S. and UK. Another Beatles project, “My Kid Brother’s Band,” is a documentary about Louise Harrison’s memories of her brother George. The Kickstarter campaign wasn’t successful, yet Louise apparently wrote a book with the same title.

When it comes to projects of my own I’d like to fund, I think perhaps I’d like to go the route of my friend and use it to publish my very own book. It’s always been my dream to write a novel, yet I think that dream will have to remain on hold because right now I’m pursuing another dream – getting my master’s degree!

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Searching for ‘Amanda Winkle’: Nothing risque, let’s keep it that way

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amanda winkle

My current Twitter profile picture shows up in a Google search.

Google searches have made it easier than ever to find whatever we are looking for. “Just Google it” has become the common response when someone is seeking the answer to something. However, those searches can also yield creepy results when you do a search on yourself.

When I searched for “Amanda Winkle,” the results that came up on the first page were tame enough:
-Links to Facebook profiles for those named Amanda Winkle – you won’t find me because I have my profile set up so it doesn’t show in a public search.

-Links to LinkedIn profiles for all the Amanda Winkles – you will find mine.

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My profile picture from when I worked at The Florida Times-Union.

-My Twitter account – though the girl with the Twitter handle @amandawinkle shows up one result higher than me. But I have more followers. Hope no one mistakes me for her (they shouldn’t because I have a detailed description and nice photo of myself). Meanwhile, she has profanity in her description.

-Also, my old author profile from when I worked at The Florida Times-Union shows up.
When I search for my email address, it says “no results found,” which is interesting considering my email address is with Gmail. Probably because I don’t put my personal email out there for the world.

Yet the search still looks for results for my email with spaces added. Most of the results are the same as what I found when searching “Amanda Winkle,” yet two videos I’ve uploaded to YouTube come up as the first two results (below)


Under an “Amanda Winkle” image search, past and current Twitter profile pictures of me pop up, as well as pictures of Amanda Winkles I don’t know. Interestingly enough, Pinterest photos I’ve pinned have also come up. It doesn’t really bother me and perhaps it’s just a setting that can be tweaked, but I didn’t know those photos were searchable on Google. Photos I’ve taken for the Times-Union come up, as well as photos from my current job at First Coast News.

Yet when I search for my full name, middle name included, a whole bunch of creepiness comes up:

-For free, U.S. Search can show you where I went to school, who I’m related to and places I’ve worked. For a nominal fee, they can show you more.

A whole list of “Amanda Winkles” shows up on pipl.com with links to our “background report” and “contact info.” Radaris.com has the same type of list.

Overall, I feel that my online reputation is pretty clean. I try to keep in mind that a variety of people – teens, adults and young kids – could see what I post on social media. I’ve taken down the more questionable Facebook photos from my early 20s and try and keep my swearing down to a minimum (this can be difficult to do during football season!).

It does worry me, not so much that my more personal information is out there, but that it could fall into the wrong hands. I guess this is just a risk we take living in this new digital age. The best thing we can do is to use the many tools at our disposal, such as a simple Google search, to monitor our online reputation.

Can’t go totally paper-less with Publix app

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publix app

Publix app welcome screen.

I love grocery shopping: Aisles and aisles of beautifully packaged food items that you can turn into a wholesome meal for your family! Following a recipe that will become a meal gives one a sense of control in a world where that’s hard to come by.

The problem? With my work and studies, I don’t really have time to go shopping as much as I would like anymore. So, on the off chance that I will have time to go to the store, I decided to download the Publix app to plan my next shopping trip.

To get started with the app, I set “My Publix.” You can either use global positioning or enter in your zip code to find the Publix that’s closest to you.

The feature I was most excited about checking out was Digital Coupons because I always forget to go online and “clip” the coupons before I go shopping. The app takes you to the Publix website to do this, which is convenient yet inconvenient. It’s convenient because you don’t have to remember the URL for the digital coupons yet inconvenient because you’re taken away from the app.

publix digital coupons

The Publix app takes you to its website to clip the Digital Coupons.

I have not tried to redeem the coupons I’ve clipped yet, but from my past experience in the store and from what I’ve read on coupon blogs, it does not appear that you can redeem the coupons straight from the app. You have to enter your phone number in on the payment keypad at the store to get to your coupons. I REALLY wish that the digital coupons were just clipped for you and all you have to do is redeem them, but maybe that’s just me being lazy.

Hate lugging around the weekly ads? Publix has you covered. You can pull up the ads by category on the app, including the almighty Publix BOGO (Buy One Get One Free). You can even add items from the ad to the “My Grocery List” feature with just a tap of a green plus sign. Great, right? However, when it comes to the coupons in the weekly ad, you have to return to paper land. The app will allow you to look at the coupons, but tells you to print them out to redeem.

Publix weekly ad on app

Sorry, you still have to print out coupons in the Publix weekly ad.

A quick note about how cool the “My Grocery List” feature is: If you have the app synced with your local Publix location, the grocery list indicates which aisle your desired item can be found in. This is a godsend for me, as I’m usually circling the aisles several times looking for what I need, even in my regular Publix.

The app’s ease of use returns when you look at Online Easy Ordering, Aprons Recipes and Pharmacy features. Online Easy Ordering takes you to the Publix website, where you can order Deli items, which I don’t do often but may come in handy around the holidays. Again, a convenient, yet not convenient, feature because it takes you out of the app.

Publix app Aprons Recipes

Yum! Look at that deliciousness in the Aprons Recipe feature of the Publix app.

Forget lugging around your Aprons Recipes book or cards, because the Publix app has that all covered. (By the way, if you’re not familiar with Aprons Recipes, they’re great. Not only does the recipe card tell you the

ingredients you need, but gives you a shopping list for the meal too.) I’m not sure if all of the Aprons Recipes are loaded in the app, but there are 976 there, so that should give you a pretty good start. Once inside any of the Aprons Recipes, you have the option to add all the items on the recipe’s grocery list to your own grocery list in the app.

The Pharmacy feature may be one of the coolest features of the app. To refill your prescription, you can either scan the bottle or fill out a refill form. I don’t really use the Publix pharmacy, but this is a pretty neat feature. Now why can’t redeeming coupons be that easy?

All in all, I’m glad I downloaded the Publix app for my future shopping trips. It would be nice to be able to ditch paper all together when it comes to coupon “clipping,” but at least I won’t have to carry recipe cards or grocery lists.

Being the new kid is still awkward in Second Life

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Who would have thought the virtual world could be just as awkward as the real world? This week, our Research Methods class was tasked with creating avatars and experimenting in the popular Second Life. After just a few hours of usage, I can’t say if I loved it or hated it, but I definitely had some weird moments in SL.

First, I started out by creating my avatar with my usual online alias, amandala85. (Oops, now you know who I am in SL!) On my first entry into SL, I was dropped onto a beach and I flew out of there, not so gracefully. Then I somehow transported myself to “London City” and changed my avatar to the “Steampunk look.” I could be wrong, but in the free version, I couldn’t find a way to make my avatar look more like me.

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Me in “London City” in my “Steampunk” outfit.

Just two people talked to me while I was in London. I told one of them I signed up in SL for my class, and one guy (I think; I couldn’t see his avatar) said via the typed chat window he came across SL while doing computer studies. Throughout my time in the game, I didn’t really tell a lot of people I signed up for class because I just wanted to blend in. Later, I saw several people in the open area and tried to “dance” like them, but I couldn’t figure it out at the time, so I left. Plus a nearby conversation about “stoner stories” was coming into my chat feed and that’s not really my scene.

Then I decided to go back to Welcome Point on Social Island 1. At this point, I ran into another girl avatar. I apologized, though I found that other people ran into me while in SL and said nothing (I guess manners aren’t necessary in the virtual realm). She couldn’t have been nicer and shared with me her folder called “Fave Freebies.” I asked her via the chat window (since I didn’t have my microphone function working) if she had any tips of where to go next and she said to visit “The Free Dove,” which has a lot of different free outfits.

Sure enough, there were plenty of outfits, and 80s music playing, in “The Free Dove.” Getting in touch with my inner girly girl, I started picking up and trying on outfits and I found a multi-colored one with wings. I thought, “what the hell?” and put on an outfit that I’d probably only wear at a costume party in the real world.

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I’ve got wings — at least at “The Free Dove” in Second Life!

Toward the end of my very first SL visit, I went to “Help Island Public.” I probably should have gone there first, but I didn’t realize there was such a place until later in the game. I saw two people talking near a bench and the girl said “my heart” and he said “is it broken?” I went over and introduced myself and then sat down on the bench. They were also very nice and said hello, but they totally stopped the conversation they were originally having. So I excused myself and signed out for the night.

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Well, this is awkward … You don’t really want me to sit down, do you?

SL overall observations
The weirdest thing to me in SL was that I had to trust other people I came across. Web 1.0 me, who used to go into AOL chat rooms all the time, wouldn’t have had a problem with that. But Web 2.0 me has been told to not accept invitations from people I don’t know because they could have bad intentions. Since SL was a foreign world to me, I had to rely on invitations and tips from other people.

Like I said, I would need a lot more practice in maneuvering my avatar and manipulating objects in SL. Being a newbie just made for a lot of awkward moments. I do see its research potential, as some of the conversations you can eavesdrop on are very interesting.

Survey results: Homeowners are satisfied, renters want to become homeowners

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The results are in! When I created my home ownership questionnaire a week ago, I wanted to see if there were any common demographic factors among satisfied homeowners, dissatisfied homeowners, neutral homeowners, renters/non-homeowners who are interested in buying a home someday, and renters/non-homeowners who have no interest in buying a home.

Well guess what? The “dissatisfied homeowners” and “renters/non-homeowners who have no interest in buying a home” groups don’t exist, at least in my survey results.

I had 30 total respondents, half of which fell into the “Experienced homeowner/New homeowner (owned their home less than five years)” category, while the other half of the respondents identified themselves as “Renter/I do not own my own home or pay rent.” (Chart below)

inital_responses_homeowner_survey
The 15 homeowners responses ranged from “Neutral to Very Satisfied” – none replied that they were dissatisfied with homeownership. The 15 renters/non-homeowners replied either “Yes” or “Maybe” to the question “Do you wish to purchase a home in the future?” (graph below)

do_you_want_to_buy_home
Though my survey is a relatively small sample of people, I found it very interesting that none of the homeowners that responded were totally dissatisfied with owning a home, while the renters/non-homeowners I surveyed either want to purchase a home in the future or are not completely closing the door on the idea of home ownership.

Other interesting data from my survey results:
-Of the six homeowners who replied that they were “Very satisfied” with their choice to purchase a home, four of them were in the 45-54 age bracket, one was in the 55-64 age bracket and one was in the 25-34 age bracket. Perhaps extreme satisfaction with home ownership comes with being an experienced homeowner? I would love to interview these folks and get the experiences behind the data.

homeowner_satisfaction
-Most of the new and experienced homeowners – 13 of the 15, to be exact – were married, which makes sense. Financially, the responsibilities a home can bring seems to be easier when shared between two people. Kudos to the single homeowners because I couldn’t imagine caring for a home all by myself!

-Five of the respondents said they have kids in their household. Four of those respondents were homeowners, while one is a renter.

-By far, among homeowner and non-homeowner respondents, “Putting money toward something you do/will own” was the most appealing thing about owning a home.

Things I would have done differently in setting the survey up
-When it comes to actually analyzing the data, Qualtrics did a beautiful job of giving me plenty of charts and graph options to illustrate my results. To get the raw data, I had to look at each response individually and record them. I’m not super-experienced with Qualtrics, so maybe there is an easier way to do this, but I did not figure it out on this go-around.

-I had Skip Logic set up to take dissatisfied homeowner respondents to the question “What about owning a home does not appeal to you?” Since no one replied that they were dissatisfied with home ownership, I got no responses for this question. It would have been interesting to see what people disliked, along with what they liked, about home ownership. (Empty graph below)

empty_graph
-When taking my classmates’ surveys, I noticed that I forgot to set up a “Male or Female” demographic question. Not a horrible omission, but it would have added another interesting layer to the data. Also, I would have added more employment options such as “Retired” and “Stay at home parent.” These other responses just did not come to mind when I was creating that portion of the survey.

Concluding thoughts

The results of my survey, while a small sample, give me hope for home ownership in America. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who dreams of having a home someday, and it’s also nice to know that home ownership can be “very satisfying.” Like myself, it may take some of us a bit longer than others to get there, but our dream home is out there waiting for us.

Survey: Who wants to be (or already is) a homeowner?

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amanda jacob house

My husband Jacob and I in front of my parents’ old house. Someday, we’ll have a home of our own!

For many of us, the phrase “American Dream” usually conjures the vision of a dream home, perhaps with a white picket fence. Through the years, I have heard many people offer different opinions on the pluses and minuses of home ownership.

“I don’t want to worry about making repairs myself or doing landscaping,” I have heard apartment renters say of their desire to steer clear of home ownership. “Paying a mortgage toward something you will own makes more sense than paying rent, which is like throwing money away every month,” experienced homeowners have said to me.

After much agonizing over what I would create a survey about for this week’s assignment, I figured it would be a great idea to take these opinions I’ve heard about home ownership over the years and try to measure them quantitatively.

Many of my classmates chose to create surveys about social media use, which is great and makes perfect sense within the context of our degree program. However, I thought if I created a survey with social media as a topic, the results of the survey may skew pro-social media since many of us would likely be taking each other’s surveys and we are all pretty into social media. So I thought home ownership would make a good “general interest” topic that I could survey classmates and non-classmates alike about.

Constructing the survey was daunting at first, but once I figured out how I wanted to structure the survey, it flowed very well. I intended to use Survey Monkey, but I wanted to use the Skip Logic feature so each question would flow to another one based on each participant’s response. Yet Survey Monkey’s free account did not allow for using Skip Logic on questions, so I switched to Qualtrics and was able to use Skip Logic beautifully.

In getting the results back, I would like to see if there are any common demographic factors among each group I’m measuring – satisfied homeowners, dissatisfied homeowners, neutral homeowners, renters/non-homeowners who are interested in buying a home someday, and renters/non-homeowners who have no interest in buying a home.

As for which group I personally belong to, it depends on my mood. I am not in any of the homeowners categories as of yet because I’ve never owned a home. I’ve tried to join that group and it hasn’t worked out before, but sometimes I wonder if that’s not a blessing in disguise. After all, there are positives and negatives to owning a home (or not owning a home).

RELATED: Take my homeownership survey!

Dunkin’ Donuts SEO: Battling Starbucks and staying true to ‘donuts’

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dunkin_donuts_what_are_you_drinkinAll over the world, there are a LOT of places to get coffee – grocery stores, gas stations and mom and pop cafes. Of course, there are also the big-boy multinational chains like Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Burger King.

Let’s face it though: while Dunkin’ Donuts has to think about all its competitors, the company is really in a coffee war with Starbucks. For goodness sake, they’ve got a “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Starbucks” T-shirt for sale in their online store.

Since Dunkin’ is going to coffee war with Starbucks in apparel and, in recent years, blind taste tests, the company should be ready to do java battle in search engine optimization (SEO). “Coffee” is a search term I thought Dunkin’ would be all over since “America Runs on Dunkin.’” When one does a Google search for “coffee,” Starbucks’ homepage is the seventh result on the first Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Dunkin’ doesn’t come up at all on the first or second SERP.

However, when examining Dunkin’s source code, the word “coffee” is present countless times, in the meta description and elsewhere. So, aside from keyword stuffing, which is frowned upon by Google, what can Dunkin’ do to move up in the results?

Other than continuing to create organic, engaging content in its Behind the Beans blog, probably not much. “Coffee” by itself is a very broad search term, and it says something that even Starbucks (which has “Coffee” in its company’s name) came in seventh on the first page.

Dunkin’ should stay true to the user experience, something Google echoes in its SEO starter guide: “Search engine optimization is about putting your site’s best foot forward when it comes to visibility in search engines, but your ultimate consumers are your users, not search engines.”

Yet Dunkin’ does have other coffee-related terms that I did not think of covered in its meta description:

-“Iced coffee,” for which Dunkin’ comes up fourth on the first Google SERP.
-“Hot flavored coffee,” which brings up Dunkin’s website as the first result on the first Google SERP.
-“Regular/decaf coffee,” which nets no Dunkin’ results on the first or second SERPs.


Time to make the DONUTS (not doughnuts)!

As for Dunkin’s OTHER big product – ahem, “donuts!” – there’s no surprise that the Dunkin’ website comes in as the second result on the first Google SERP (just behind the Wikipedia entry on “doughnuts.”)

So, what about that other spelling – “doughnuts?” Dunkin’ does not have this particular spelling anywhere in its homepage meta data. In spite of this, Google has the Dunkin’ homepage on its first SERP for the term “doughnuts” as the seventh result.

This seems like an on purpose omission on Dunkin’s part. They spell “Donuts” a certain way and perhaps, they don’t want to dilute their brand by including a spelling of “doughnut” they will probably never use.

Dunkin’ runs on the web
Here’s how Dunkin’ fared on Google with other search terms I thought they may use as part of their SEO strategy:

“hot coffee” – not on the first or second SERP; appears once in homepage source code.
“iced latte” – first result on first SERP; appears once in homepage source code.
“Coolatta” –  not the first result, but dominates the first SERP; appears once in homepage source code.
“Munchkins” – sixth result on the first SERP (“Wizard of Oz”-type Munchkins come first); appears zero times in source code (surprising since Munchkins are signature Dunkin’ item).
“breakfast sandwiches” – third result on first SERP; appears once in source code.
“flatbread sandwiches” – fourth result on second SERP; appears zero times in source code.

dunkin_donuts_munchkins