ScreenCastsOnline Monthly Magazine: Review of SimpliSafe Alarm System

This month’s issue of ScreenCasts Online Monthly Magazine is now available in ScreenCasts Online Magazine App. In the May issue you’ll find an article from me about a review of the SImpliSafe Alarm System,

The monthly magazine is packed with streamable versions of Don’s excellent video tutorials as well as articles, reviews and tips from authors including David Sparks, Katie Floyd, Allison Sheridan, Wally & Wendy Cherwinski, Mike Schmitz, Frank Petrie and more.

The ScreenCastsOnline Monthly Magazine is available on the iTunes App Store, and is available for individual purchase or as part of a subscription which includes a free trial period. Find more info at https://www.screencastsonline.com/membership_benefits/

No Assistant, No Problem: Using a Calendaring Service

Last year I went out on my own and opened my own law practice. I’m currently an office of one which means I’ve had to rely on technology for administrative tasks and to increase productivity. One of the ways I’ve done that is by shifting as much of my scheduling as possible to an online scheduling service.

Soon after I went out on my own I found that managing and scheduling appointments and all the related follow-up emails and phone calls were wasting up a lot of my time. I was spending several hours a week scheduling appointments, coordinating schedules and sending out reminders. I also found that I was having a problem with no-shows and missed appointments when I forgot or didn’t have time to follow-up and remind people about their upcoming appointments.

I started searching for a service that would integrate with my calendar and automate as much of the scheduling and follow-up process as possible. After trying various scheduling services, I ultimately settled on Calendly for its ease of use, sleek appearance, and feature set.

Calendly connects with most cloud-based calendar services (iCloud, Google, Office 365 and others) so it knows your availability and can schedule appointments with you directly. You are then able to set up various appointment types and rules for those appointments. Rules let you set up your availability preferences as well as ask your invitee questions, and customize the confirmation and reminder email that is sent. This is great for sending your clients information prior to their appointment.

For example, I often meet with other professionals over coffee for networking and business purposes. I’ve set up a “coffee” appointment type with Calendly. I typically take these meetings between 8–9 am Monday, Tuesday, and Fridays and between 4–5:30 Monday - Wednesday. I’ve setup my availability preferences in Calendly accordingly so people can only schedule with me during these times.

There are a couple coffee spots in town that are convenient to my home and office. In addition to collecting contact information, I’ve setup Calendly to provide invitees with a multiple choice selection of the nearby coffee spots so they can choose where they would like to meet (based on the options I’ve provided.)

When someone would like to get together for coffee, instead of the usual series of emails or phone calls to schedule, I simply give them my Calendly link. They then see my availability, are asked for contact information, to pick a coffee spot and then the event is scheduled. Both the invitee and I receive an email confirmation. The event is automatically scheduled on my calendar and the invitee has the option to add it to their calendar. The invitee also receives a customized follow-up reminder 24 hours before our event with the option to cancel or reschedule the appointment if their plans have changed.

At this point, I have about a dozen different appointment types setup and customized in Calendly. Each appointment has its own URL for scheduling, so as a bonus tip, I’ve set up a TextExpander snippet for scheduling with optional fields that pre-populates and email and allows me to select the appointment type that is most appropriate for the occasion.

I’ve setup event times for coffee, lunch appointments, phone calls, and various types of client appointments all with customized instructions and details. For an individual account, Calendly costs about $100 a year and for me has been well worth it.

There are a few quirks with Calendly. For example, you can only schedule appointments and pull availability from one calendar. This is difficult for me because my availability is different when scheduling in-office appointments (where I have to coordinate with a shared conference room) and personal appointments. Calendly also could use some more granular control over availability settings. However, they do have an active user community and seem to be regularly adding features.

One thing to be aware of is the impression you are giving your invitee when you use a scheduling service. I tend to use Calendly most often with colleagues and other professionals and simply offer it as an option on my website for clients who choose to schedule online. I’m careful not to force my scheduling service on clients who might find it off-putting or impersonal. For clients who prefer a more personal touch, I usually will either personally schedule (or have my virtual receptionist schedule) the appointment and use Calendly as the back end so as to take advantage of all the follow-up features and information I’ve pre-programed in the Calendly system.

This article first appeared in the April, 2017 Issue of ScreencastsOnline Monthly Magazine. ScreenCastsOnline monthly magazine is packed with hints, tips, articles and links to streamable versions of ScreenCastsOnline tutorials and delivered monthly. Find our more at https://www.screencastsonline.com/membership_benefits

Mac Power Users #379: Workflows with Liana Lehua

This week on Mac Power Users, Liana Lehua shares her hardware and software setup, apps, and workflow for television production. We also share our hopes and dreams for iOS 11 and other Apple products at this year's WWDC.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Fujitsu ScanSnap ScanSnap Helps You Live a More Productive, Efficient, Paperless Life. 
  • Fracture Bring your photos to life.
  • Freshbooks: Online invoicing made easy.
  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore.

Katie's Week in Review: May 28, 2017

It’s hard to believe that May is almost over and WWDC is just a few short weeks away. Things are buzzing in The Apple community. Here are a few links of note for the week ending May 28, 2017:

  • Apple’s HR head Denise Young Smith moving to newly created Inclusion and Diversity VP role - 9to5Mac - Denise Young Smith is moving to a new role at Apple. Smith will now run diversity programs under the newly created position, reporting directly to Tim Cook.
  • Apple officially launches ‘Today at Apple’ with special events at all 495 stores worldwide - 9to5 Mac - The new effort plans to bring educational sessions to Apple sStores with topics ranging from photo, video, music, coding, art, design and more. The efforts seem to be focused on turning Apple Stores more into a meeting and idea centers rather than just retail shops.
  • Nokia and Apple sign agreement, settle all litigation - Apple PR - Remember Nokia? While they aren’t as active in the phone business anymore they apparently still hold a lot of patents. The two companies have settled all litigation related to patent disputes and agreed to a multi-year patent deal in a move the companies say “moves their relationship from being adversaries in court to business partners.”
  • Supreme Court Just Killed Marshall Texas Patent Troll Business - The Mac Observer - Oddly enough this case had nothing to d with technology. However, the big takeaway here is the Court ruled that patent infringement cases must be filed where the defendant is incorporated, not just the patent-friendly Eastern District of Texas.
  • Introducing Travel Mode: Protect your data when crossing borders - 1Password - We’ve spoken a lot on MPU recently about keeping your data secure when traveling across borders since our electronic devices are subject to search and seizure. 1Password has introduced TravelMode, just in time for WWDC, to allow users to remove sensitive information while traveling and re-download it once they’ve reached their destination. Smart.
  • Mossberg: The Disappearing Computer - The Verge - Walt Mossberg, penned his last weekly column before his retirement. I’ve followed Walt for years and will miss his regular presence in this space. Thanks for everything, Walt. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement.

Wemo Bridge Will Bring HomeKit Support in The Fall

Add this one to the "Finally." category.

Belkin announced today that a new Wemo bridge is coming to bring HomeKit compatibility to Wemo smart plugs and light switches. Home Kit compatibility has been one of Belkin's most requested features and was originally mentioned over a year ago but put on the back burner. 

The HomeKit bridge is a hardware accessory that connects to the home's network via an Ethernet cable. Unfortunately, there are still many unanswered questions in the somewhat vague press release. The bridge is said to release "late this Fall" with pricing to be announced. It is also unknown exactly which products the bridge will work with.  

I've had somewhat hit and miss luck with the Wemo line of products. Currently, I have several older Wemo switches (now replaced by the Mini Smart plug) that I use with the Wemo App, Alexa and IFTTT. It's uncertain whether the HomeKit Bridge will support older switches.

We're making progress, but it still feels like very early days for home automation.

 

 

No Assistant? No Problem. Using a Virtual Receptionist

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that last year I went out on my own and opened my own law practice. As an office of one, I no longer have the luxury of an assistant. This means I’ve had to rely on technology to fill in some gaps and increase productivity. One of the ways I’ve done that is by hiring a virtual receptionist to handle my phone calls.

In my business, if you don’t answer your phone people will quickly move on and call someone else. I knew very early on it was important to have all my calls received during business hours answered live by a friendly and helpful voice. However, I also knew that voice couldn’t be me or I’d never be able to get any work done. One of my first splurges as I was setting up my new office was to hire a virtual receptionist. There are a number of services available, I use Ruby Receptionists.

During business hours, my phones are forwarded to my virtual receptionist. A small team of receptionists, who have been trained with instructions on how I prefer my calls handled, will warmly greet my callers, determine the nature of the call, handle simple inquiries, pass calls along to me as necessary and take messages if I’m not available. They can even offer to book appointments using my scheduling service (look for a post on that later.) Most importantly, even if my callers didn’t get to speak with me, they feel like they’ve made a connection and are less likely to move on to the next attorney on their list.

Ruby is not the cheapest service available. I currently pay between $250 - $350 a month for the service and likely will have to increase my plan soon due to increased call volume. (Which is probably a good thing.) However, Ruby’s reputation for customer service is legendary. I regularly receive compliments about my receptionist and clients wanting to meet him/her when they come to my office.

Although the service is a significant monthly cost, it’s a fraction of the cost of an employee. Best of all my virtual receptionist never takes a lunch break, never calls in sick and is always at their desk to answer my calls.

If you’re considering a virtual receptionist you need to have realistic exceptions. This is not an employee in your office, they do not know your clients or your business. They can answer a few simple FAQs that you provide, but cannot provide a lot of information or detail to you clients. Their primary function is to triage calls and pass them along.

The virtual receptionist service has worked well for me and has become an essential part of my office. I can’t imagine answering my own phones or doing business without them. Maybe one day I’ll have an in-house receptionist. But for now, a good virtual receptionist service is money well spent.

Disclosure: This article was written independently. However, Ruby Receptionists has since become a sponsor and offers my readers $75 off their first full month’s service.

This article first appeared in the April, 2017 Issue of ScreencastsOnline Monthly Magazine. ScreenCastsOnline monthly magazine is packed with hints, tips, articles and links to streamable versions of ScreenCastsOnline tutorials and delivered monthly. Find our more at https://www.screencastsonline.com/membership_benefits

Mac Power Users #378: More iOS Hidden Features

This week on Mac Power Users Clayton Morris returns to share more underutilized iOS features, tips, and tricks.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Freshbooks: Online invoicing made easy.
  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore. Save up to 20% using this link.
  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. 
  • Marketcircle We help small business grow with great Mac, iPhone and iPad apps including Daylight and Billings Pro.

Star Trek Discovery Trailer

The First Look trailer for Star Trek Discovery dropped last week on YouTube. I’ll admit I haven’t been particular excited about this new Star Trek Series. It’s the first time Star Trek has been on the air since Enterprise (which I also wasn’t initially a fan of) went off the air in 2005.

The fact that this series is exclusively airing on CBS All Access in the US and Canada feels like the show has been handicapped out of the gate. I can’t expect anyone but die-hard fans will subscribe to the $6 per month subscription service to watch the show. Candidly, I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to pick up an All Access subscription to watch it.

The show is being produced in partnership with Netflix. Other countries will be able to watch the show on Netflix 24 hours after the CBS All Access premiere. Presumably, Star Trek Discovery will be available on Netflix and other services after some delay - but no official word.

As always, there’s an Incomparable Podcast episode dedicated to an analysis of the trailer that’s worth a listen.

Somewhat related, There’s also a trailer for the upcoming comedy series The Orville - which is a Galaxy Quest-esque Star Trek spoof starring Seth MacFarlane coming to Fox next year that looks quite entertaining.

CMD-D Automation Conference

Sal Soghoian is the master of automation on the Mac. David and I were privileged to speak with him on Mac Power Users earlier this year.

Last week Sal announced the first-ever CMD-D: Masters of Automation Conference. Taking place at the Santa Clara Convention Center on August 9, 2017. CMD-D is designed for anyone who uses automation, creates automation or develops software.

Attendees will learn about powerful automation capabilities hiding in plain sight, user-friendly Automator power-tricks, the latest developments for cutting-edge dual-platform automation for macOS and iOS, and more. Registration for CMD-D is open today at http://www.cmddconf.com/.

CMD-D has a few powerhouse names behind it. In addition to Sal, Jason Snell is slated to host a discussion on automation and its future as part of a live Six Colors Podcast. Paul Kent, who has decades of experience producing macWorld expo and Naomi Pearce are collaborating with Sal on the project.

For more information or to register, visit http://www.cmddconf.com/.