Itai

Itai

Thank you for reading my Blog! Let's connect on Twitter as well: @ItaiBoublil.

Goodbye Princeton University, Hello NCLD.org

NCLD.org

NCLD.org

Today is my last day at work. Five years of working at Princeton University are coming to an end. I have been offered, and have accepted, a managerial position at the National Center for Learning Disabilities in NYC.  I am both excited and sad to leave. I feel sad because I am leaving behind a great group of colleagues with whom I connected, on both a professional level and a personal level. However, I feel excited because I will be joining an amazing team of talented people who are passionate about making a positive change in the lives of children and adults with learning disabilities.

My position will require the application of a vast spectrum of Inbound Marketing approaches. I will be a part of the online-marketing and engagement department and will be using methods such as SEO, content-creation, email-marketing, social media, lead-nurturing, and much more, to establish NCLD.org as a hub of information for parents, educators and children who seek information about Learning Disabilities. I always wanted to use my inbound marketing skills for a good cause, and now I get to do just that.

Of course, my new job will require me to commute to New York, with the help of NJ Transit rail system. I read, and heard, of all the horror stories about NJ Transit (stories such as standing all the way to NYC, delays, and whatnot), but I have also heard good accounts of NJ transit. I am hoping that my experience will contribute to the latter accounts and not the former.  I hope that using the early morning express trains will somehow reduce the chances of getting stuck inside a metal car with other angry commuters. Regardless what might be said about NJ transit, I think it will be a great way to catch up on my reading, unwind, or simply process ideas in my mind.

I am very excited about starting my new job tomorrow. There are a lot of challenges facing our team, but that’s what makes this opportunity so thrilling. This is particularly so since I am a person who thrives in a challenging environment!

The Strongest Man in The World. How Do You Define Strength?

How do you define strength?

Most people will define strength by pointing out an individual human being who is lifting some ridiculous weight for N amount of reps. They will even tell you that currently the strongest man in the world is Zyndrunas Savickas, which is all true. But, do you define strength by sheer power, or rather by sheer courage?

Let me give you an example: look at the two pictures below. Who do you think has more strength? Is it the 300lb behemoth that is pulling this massive track, or rather the anonymous man who is standing in front of a column of Chinese Type 59 tanks the morning after the Chinese military forcibly removed protestors from in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989?

Is this the strongest man in the world?

Is this the strongest man in the world?

Or maybe this is the strongest man in the world

Or maybe this is the strongest man in the world

What do you think?

Let me give another example: we are all familiar with the Arab-spring that began on December 18, 2010. Aren’t these people who decided to stand up against decades of dictatorship by ruthless, corrupt, ‘leaders’ and fight for their freedom the strongest men in the world?

Is this person the strongest man in the world?

Is this person the strongest man in the world?

This goes back to the question I asked in the beginning: how do you define strength? You can argue that strength can only be defined by sheer power, but I beg to defer. I think strength can also be defined by how courageous one can be. Standing in front of a tank in the middle of a chaotic situation shows a different type of strength. The type of strength most of us will never have the chance to reveal.

I would love to read your opinion on this one. Comments are more than welcome.

Increase Your Chances of Landing a Job With Resunate

Resunate

Resunate

Landing a job in this tight market is very difficult. Thousands of candidats send their résumés every day, hoping to hear back. Some do, but most don’t, which is why using a tool such as resunate may actually increase your chances of landing a job that fits your experience (disclosure: I never used this tool myself. It received good reviews on some of the social media websites, so I thought of sharing it with you).

Before You Start

I am sure there are dozens of tools out there that can help you build your résumé to match almost any position, which is all fine. However, I think there is one important thing you ought to keep in mind: applying to jobs that you are under-qualified, or even over-qualified, is not going to do you any good. Most likely you will find the position to be either boring, overwhelming or both. Before you use any résumé building tools, make sure you are 100% passionate about the position. Passion should be the main drive to get the position, not money.

What is Resunate

Resunate is a tool that scores your résumé against the job description. This is how it works:

Resunate

Resunate

The higher the score, the more likely your résumé will pass the screening. Again, I have never used this tool before, but it looked interesting enough to share. The video below does a good job describing the service. Good luck with your search!

New Book: The Essence of Islamist Extremism (By Dr. Irm Haleem)

The Essence of Islamist Extremism (By Irm Haleem)

The Essence of Islamist Extremism (By Irm Haleem)

Dr. Irm Haleem’s book is finally out! The Essence of Islamist Extremism is a

conceptual analysis of radical Islamist rhetoric drawn from temporally and contextually varied Islamist extremist groups, challenging the popular understanding of Islamist extremism as a product of a ‘clash-of-civilizations’. Arguing that the essence of Islamist extremism can only be accurately understood by drawing a distinction between the radical Islamist explanations and justifications of violence, the author posits that despite the radical Islamist contextualization of violence within Islamic religious tenets, there is nothing conceptually or distinctly Islamic about Islamist extremism. She engages in a critical analysis of the nature of reason in radical Islamist rhetoric, asserting that the radical Islamist explanations of violence are conceptually reasoned in terms of existential Hegelian struggles for recognition (as fundamentally struggles against oppression), and the radical Islamist justifications of violence are conceptually reasoned in terms of moral consequentialism.

;

Why am I so thrilled about this book you ask? One good reason is because Irm is my wife. I was there throughout the process of writing this book. I watched her spend hours at Widener library (Harvard University), and later Firestone library (Princeton University) conceptualizing her ideas, reading hundreds of articles and books and devoting her entire life to finishing this masterpiece. There were many obstacles along the way, but she didn’t give up. She kept fighting. I am so proud of her!

The book itself introduces a fresh approach to the Islamist Extremism discussion. A lot has been said, some more racist than others, but no one really provided an analysis of the real big pink elephant in the room. The Essence of Islamist Extremism does just that!

Follow this link to order your copy of the Essence of Islamist Extremism (amazon link)

WordPress 3.3 Erased Social Media Sharing on My Site

Wordpress 3.3 Erased Social Media Sharing on My Site

Wordpress 3.3 Erased Social Media Sharing on My Site

The new WordPress 3.3 upgrade offers some nice features, no doubt. The team at WordPress did a great job polishing their CMS. But there was a cost, for me anyway, to this upgrade. Apparently, ALL the Google+, retweets, and Facebook sharing that my posts accumulated over the years are now gone. Vanished.  Man, I thought to myself, that sucks! Nothing I can do about, right? I wonder if anyone else suffered the same problem. hmm…

Anyway, a friend sent me this video that made me feel a little better. It features some astounding moments (hence the name…) that I am sure will make you smile. It is too bad Yahoo doesn’t offer the option to embed videos.  The most astounding moments of 2011. Enjoy!

Twitter is Dead, Long Live Twitter!

Twitter

Twitter

Today was a very exciting day for all marketers around the world. Today was the day Twitter reinvented itself with a new design, updated its iPhone app AND launched (limited to a few companies) the most anticipated feature of the year: Twitter brand pages for businesses. I spent most of the day in NYC so I was late to read all this exciting news (and maybe it is better this way), but when I did get to read it I was so thrilled. Especially the last part, Twitter brand pages for businesses.

There were rumors about twitter brand pages for businesses back in April, but I must admit that I never even thought it was going to be this exciting.

I think this post summarizes everything you need to know about the new Twitter brand pages for businesses. There is no point for me to repeat it.

The feature that I think is the most exciting one is the embedded tweets feature. Giving your readers the ability to reply, follow, favorite and re-tweet without even leaving the web page is a huge advantage. I cannot wait to see how companies and bloggers are going to leverage this one. Below is an example of what I am talking about:

 

That’s all people. It is time to hit the bed. In the meantime, enjoy the video below. It tells today’s story in less than two minutes.

PS: I might have some exciting news to share with you soon… :)

Google’s New Changes to SERP Do Work!

Google

Google

I finally had a chance to test google’s new changes to SERP with a blog post I wrote yesterday. I wanted to test how ‘fresh’ content that appears in SERP really is. I was taken aback. I typed “Pro HDR App”–the title I used for the blog post–in the search box 12 minutes after I published the post, and lo and behold, it was right there! 12 minutes!

Google's New Changes to SERP

Google's New Changes to SERP

Takeaway

This is really a no-brainer. Blog more often. Pick good keywords. Be relavant. I know it sounds simple, but to do so, as a marketer, you’ll need to develop a good content-creation strategy. Personally, I really think a good content-creation strategy is one of the hardest thing to do as a marketer. Don’t get be wrong, you can create crapy content and publish dozens of articles each week, but what do you think is going to happen? Nothing! No conversions. Low to none CTR. A total disaster to your brand. There are many ways to create a good content-creation strategy, but that’s is a topic I’ll need to cover some other time. The point I want to emphasize though is that Google’s new changes to SERP do work, and as a marketer you need to learn how to turn these changes into an advantage over your competition.

How Do You Do It

There are a few ways you can use these changes to your advantage. These are just a few examples I can think of, but feel free to add yours in the comments:

  • Product launch: if you are a blogger, you can take advantage of a new product launch event (let’s say iPad 3, for example) by creating content around this event, and strategically choosing your keywords.
  • Breaking news: do you have a new product you are planning to announce? Good. Now get to work and start creating content around this product.
Can you think of more examples? 


Pro HDR App (Review)

 

Pro HDR App

Pro HDR App

The new iPhone 4S is known for its great camera ( 8 megapixle resolution, f/2.4 apature, improved backside illumination sensor, excellent auto white balance, advanced color accuracy, face detection, and reduced motion blur), but in order to take a picture that will include all these great features you need ‘something’ that will give you an edge. You need an app.

I was a bit skeptical before I purchased the $1.99 Pro HDR app. I didn’t want to pay money for something I either won’t use, or worse, find to be a piece of junk. The Pro HDR app ended up to be a success, and after a few tries I managed to master all of its functionalities.

 There is a Learning Curve

There are a two things you’ll need to keep in mind when using this app:

  1. It is more about the photographer than it is about the app. Yes, the app will do some amazing things, but you need to keep in mind your part in the process of taking the picture. For instance, it is important to stay motionless during the two second period shot. Doing so will result with some nice photos.
  2. If you are planning on taking a penalty kick during the next FIFA world-cup, you can scratch it off of your list (until you invest in a good DSLR camera that is). Instead, try to focus more on portraits, or outsides photos (sunsets, forests, etc). I found it to work the best.

Samples 

Below are two samples of before and after photos I took the other day. I really like the sharp colors of the after photos. I think the app did a great job with balancing light and exposure. Also, you’ll notice that the after photo is framed. This is one of the built-in features the app offers. 

 

Before Using Pro HDR

Before Using Pro HDR

 

After Using Pro HDR

After Using Pro HDR

Before Using Pro HDR

Before Using Pro HDR

After Using Pro HDR

After Using Pro HDR

Conclusion

I really think this App worth the $1.99 I paid for it. If you enjoy photography, and if you want to develop your iPhoneography skills, this app is for you. You can purchase the Pro HDR app here.

Siri on Your iPhone is Nice. But What About Siri on Your Mac? (Watch How)

 

Siri

Siri

 

I love the Siri feature on iPhone 4S. It is easy to use, it can save time, and most importantly it is innovative. But what about having a Siri on your Mac? It would be nice to be able to add an event to iCal, or check your emails by just speaking a command to your mac, wouldn’t it? Well, apparently the smart minds at Apple thought about it, and the new Lion OS does in fact have this application built in. The video below shows how to set it up.

 

Use Speakable Items To Bring Siri’s Functionality To Your Mac

 

A Suggestion/Letter to AT&T ( @ATT )

 

AT&T

AT&T

I finally purchased the new iPhone 4S, and I could not be happier. This meant I had to switch my T-Mobile account to an AT&T account, which I had no problem doing. I selected the plan I thought will serve me best, and just like that my two year ‘relationship’ with AT&T has begun. In the past few days I logged into my AT&T online account numerous times in order to familiarize myself with all the new rules (mainly phone usage, and data usage). I found the experience to be much more user-friendly than the T-Mobile account experience, but that’s beside the point. What caught my eyes was a plan named Rollover Minutes. A simple plan that let subscribers carry over minutes from one month to another. I thought it was only fair, especially with customers, myself included, who don’t use all of their minutes.

And then it hit me

 

When I was in the process of finalizing my decision about which mobile carrier to select, the one thing I kept comparing was the data-plan each of them offered. They were all pretty much the same. Shocking, I thought to myself. All are competing for the same market, but none of them offer any special, groundbreaking, incentive to pick their service over the other.

The major phone companies, Verizon and AT&T, offered pretty much the same data-plan, and phone services. What surprised me the most was that in a world where everything is controlled by data, both companies did not manage to reach some sort of a customer-incentive plan that will make customers jump and say “wow, now that’s worth it”.

AT&T Rollover Data-Usage Plan?

AT&T Rollover Data-Usage Plan?

And then it hit me. Why not have a plan, such as the rollover-minutes plan I mention earlier, that will allow subscribers carry over their unused data?  They can call it a Rollover-Data plan. I don’t work for AT&T, but if I were one of the company’s strategic planner, this is something I would have suggested.

If you are an AT&T customer, I’m curious to hear your thought? I added the @ATT twitter name in the title, so if you Re-tweet this post it will (hopefully) catch AT&T’s attention and maybe they can do something about it ( a one in a million chance, but hey..:-)

 

 

iGenius: How Steve Jobs Changed The World (Watch)

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Like many other Apple fans around the globe, I was impacted by Steve jobs’ death. Somehow I had this growing feeling that the world had lost more than just a man, it had lost a genius who truly changed–and would have continued to change–the way we live our lives.

I recently finished reading Walter Isaacson’s book, “Steve Jobs”, which details the story of Steve Jobs over nearly 600 pages, and after reading it my admiration to him has risen to a new level. But this post is not about the book (which I highly recommend). It is about a movie that came out days after Steve jobs’ death, a movie called iGenius. A 43 minutes about the man who changed the world.

A disclosure: The movie is not a good supplement to reading the book. The book puts Jobs’ story in a whole different light.

 

Strength Comes in All Shapes & Sizes

When I am not ‘playing’ with numbers and doing other maketing goodies, I enjoy coaching people in the gym. I say coaching because my training philosophy revolves around teaching trainees the proper technique and form of each exercise, and since most of the exercises my trainees follow (e.g. Deadlifts, squats, C&J, etc) involve simultaneously moving many muscle groups, technique and form are on top of my list.

I am big believer that if you focus on the technique and form of the exercise, strength will follow. It is very easy to increase weight on your squat with poor form and technique, but you need to remember that there will be a point where the heavy weight will take over and squatting 405lb will be something you will only watch on YouTube videos.

Technique & Form

I was fortunate to have a great coach who also happened to be an olympic weightlifter back in the old Soviet Union. He started training at the age of 10, competed for the first time at the age of 12, and eventually was training with the Soviet Union Olympic Weightlifting team. He moved to Israel around the late 90′s, and when I was there from 2006-2007 he took me under his wing and taught me everything I know about technique and form. More importantly, he taught and instilled in me the skills of analyzing different body types.

What does it mean?

Some people are taller than others. Some have shorter arms, and some have wider backs. All these body-types need to be taken into consideration when you are teaching exercises such as Deadlifts, Squats, and the most complex one, C&J. For instance, a trainee with longer legs will postion his feet differently than a trainee with shorter legs when training Deadlifts or Squats. This gets more complicated in the C&J movement, which combines power-movements such as the Deadlifts, the jump, the ‘pull’, the ‘catch’, the front-squat, and the ‘jerk’.

If this isn’t enough, our bodies are divided into three types: ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph. You can have a combination of types, such 1/2 ectomorph 1/2 mesomorph, but for the purpose of this post let’s keep it at three.

An ectomorph is a typical skinny guy, lightly built with small joints and lean muscles. Usually ectomorphs have long thin limbs with stringy muscles. Their shoulders tend to be thin with little width, and they find it very hard to gain weight.

Mesomorphs, on the other hand,  have a large bone structure, large muscles and a naturally athletic physique. Mesomorphs are the best body type for weightlifting (specifically bodybuilding) since they find it quite easy to gain and lose weight. They are also naturally strong, which is the perfect platform for building muscle (I happened to be a mesomorph).

Unfortunately, this is not the case with Endomorphs. The endomorph body type is generally soft and they tend to gain fat very easily. Endomorphs are usually of a shorter build with thick arms and legs. The bright side of being an endomorph is that their muscles are strong, especially the lower part of their body, and thus they tend to possess the look and strength of a powerlifing athlete.

I tend to train all three types. Why? Because all three offer a different level of challenge. What is important to remember is that regardless of the type of body you train, form and technique should be the cornerstone of your training philosophy. Without it, your trainee will never get stronger and eventually injure herself.

What led me to write this?

It was a picture I saw (image below) that led me to write this post. All athletes in this picture are the best in what they do, and they all possess different strength, size and shape. Regardless of your body type, strength is something we all have. Train smart.

Strength Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

Strength Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

 

 

 

 

Where Should You Post Your Status?

How do you decide where to post your next status?

How do you decide where to post your next status?

Google+, Twitter, or maybe Facebook? How do you decide where to post your next status? I came across this funny, somewhat eye-tricking, image that I think gives the answer. I wouldn’t take it fully seriously, but it still provides (for us geeks) a good laugh.

Check it out (click the image to view a larger version):

 

Where Should You Post Your Status?

Where Should You Post Your Status?

What If Facebook Was Real Life?

Facebook in Real Life

Facebook in Real Life

 

 

I read a funny article the other day about how Facebook would sound like in real life. The content is very entertaining, and  I encourage you to read it. The video below illustrates the point in the article. It is amusing on one hand, but also makes you wonder about our ‘social’ realm vs. our ‘real’ realm.

For instance, imagine a scenario where you are walking on the street and a total stranger approaches you and start asking about your sexual orientation? How will you react? My guess is that you will first be shocked, followed by a disapproval. This is what I call the ‘real’ realm‘, a realm where sharing personal information is considered a taboo. But what happens when we ‘enter’ the social realm? In this realm we find ourselves sharing more personal information than a stranger should know. Birthdays, workplace, religion, politics, interests, music, all are shared and are opened to the public to view. Look at your Facebook profile for example, how much of your private information is exposed to the public? My guess is enough to draw a nice profile of who you really are.

My question is simple: how come we are willing to so easily share this information on a social network, but feel repulsed if anyone asks us these questions directly.

Now watch the video and see what I mean:

 

 

My Tehran For Sale (Watch Full Movie)

فیلم سینمایی تهران من حراج- My Tehran For Sale

 

Marzieh is a young female actress living in Tehran. The authorities ban her theatre work and, like all young people in Iran, she is forced to lead a secret life in order to express herself artistically. At an underground rave, she meets Iranian born Saman, now an Australian citizen, who offers her a way out of her country and the possibility of living without fear.

 

The Fairytale of A Magnolia Bakery Cupcake Breakfast

People who go to heaven receive the same Magnolia bakery cupcakes box

People who go to heaven receive the same Magnolia bakery cupcakes box

 

 

 

A glance at her holiness

A glance at her holiness

 

 

 

Drums and horns are playing in the background right now, people are cheering and throwing flowers

Drums and horns are playing in the background right now, people are cheering and throwing flowers

 

 

 

Behold!  The brownie is from Magnolia bakery as well

Behold! The brownie is from Magnolia bakery as well

 

 

 

No comment

No comment

 

 

 

Hey! Don't judge!

Hey! Don't judge!

 

 

 

I admit nothing!

I admit nothing!

 

 

 

No fingers were bitten in this picture

No fingers were bitten in this picture

 

 

 

I mean it, not a single one. That's how good I am with desserts

I mean it, not a single one. That's how good I am with desserts

 

 

 

THE END. Now if you excuse me, I am going to slowly slip into unconsciousness

THE END. Now if you excuse me, I am going to slowly slip into unconsciousness

The Power of Brands (An Experiment)

The Power of Brands

The Power of Brands

Brands are fascinating. Some brands are so powerful, they impact almost every purchase decision we make in life. To put it to the test, I would like to run a small experiment with the readers of this blog to examine the affect brands have on our decisions.

In the image below you will see two phones. One is titled ‘iPhone‘, and the other is titled ‘Android‘. Both phones are identical in their size, shape, weight, design, and anything else you can think of. The only difference is the brand’s name.

The question to you, all things being equal, is which of these two phones will you choose? You can place your answer in the poll provided under the image.

The Power of Brands. Which Phone Will You Choose?

The Power of Brands. Which Phone Will You Choose?

Vote Here:

Which Phone Will You Choose?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

I will post the conclusion of this experiment later in the week, but it will be interesting to see what you think, considering the two brands are identical.

Bruce Lee, The Lost Interview (Video)


Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee wasn’t just a phenomenon martial artist, but also a great philosopher. The ‘the lost interview’ video, shown below, gives a glimpse into the mind of a great martial artist and philosopher. There is one quote  (starts at 15:35min) that is just astounding and transcendent, it never fails to have an impact on me. In 20 seconds it reveals an entire Philosophy.

 

Restaurant Review: The Istanbul Restaurant (North Brunswick, NJ)

 

The Istanbul Restaurant Coffee

The Istanbul Restaurant Coffee

Last Saturday Irm and I, accompanied by our friend Poshak, dined at the Istanbul restaurant, a place recommended to us by our neighbors.  We arrived at the restaurant around 2:45PM, and had no problem finding a table.

Since I was born and raised in a culture that is influenced by Middle Eastern cuisines, there are a few dishes I normally test to determine their Middle Eastern authenticity. The dishes are: Falafel, Kibbe, salads. I also test the authenticity of the spices used for meats. Most Middle Eastern restaurants that we have visited in the past have yet to pass this test (with the exception of one), and we were hoping for a positive outcome.

Appetizers

For our appetizers we ordered 4 dishes: falafel, kibbe, Lahmajoun, and mixed salads. The mixed salads contained 5 items: hummus, lebni, ezme, eggplant sauce, and babagannus. The appetizers were supplemented with a homemade Turkish bread, and a bowl of delicious olive oil.

The falafel was superb! I have eaten a lot of different falafel dishes in dozens of places, but only a few places managed to impressed me the way this place did. For the most part, business owners either buy falafel that is frozen, or lack the basic knowledge of preparing this simple, but yet, delicious dish. The chef at the Istanbul restaurant did a great job creating the perfect mix of ingredients, resulting in a very tasty dish.

 

The Istanbul Restaurant Falafel

The Istanbul Restaurant Falafel

Growing up in the Middle East, I have tasted some great Kibbes, and thus my standards are quite high. I’m thrilled to report that the kibbe at the Istanbul restaurant was the best kibbe I have tasted in a very long time. It was made with real bulgur, had the right filling and the prefect texture. If you have never tried this type of dish before, the Istanbul restaurant is a good place to start.

The Istanbul Restaurant Kibbe

The Istanbul Restaurant Kibbe

The Lahmajoun is a popular Middle Eastern dish and, just like the Italian pizza, can be found in every corner in those countries. As far as the Lahmajoun served on our table it was satisfying.

The Istanbul Restaurant Lahmajoun

The Istanbul Restaurant Lahmajoun

I definitely recommend the hummus, lebniezme, eggplant and babagannus salads dish. My only grievance was with the hummus, which was not quite satisfactory. The rest of the salads were very tasty.

The Istanbul Restaurant Mixed Salads

The Istanbul Restaurant Mixed Salads

Finally, I want to talk about the bread. If I were asked to describe it in one word, I say delicious! It was truly an authentic homemade Turkish bread (sorry, no picture). We enjoyed it very much.

Entrés

We ordered three entrés: the Istanbul combination, Adana kebab, and the veci guvec (see pictures below).  

All three dishes were absolutely delicious! I especially ordered the Istanbul combination because I wanted to sample the variety of meats they had to offer. I must warn you though, it is a big dish that you probably won’t be able to finish by yourself (I didn’t, and that tells you something). The veci guvec (all vegetarian) dish that our friend ordered was very tasty too. In fact, Irm tasted it and liked it so much that she said she would order it on our next visit.

The Istanbul Restaurant Istanbul Combination

The Istanbul Restaurant Istanbul Combination

The Istanbul Restaurant Adana Kebab

The Istanbul Restaurant Adana Kebab

The Istanbul Restaurant Veci Guvec

The Istanbul Restaurant Veci Guvec

Needless to say, all meats passed the authenticity test I mentioned earlier. They were all perfectly seasoned and grilled to perfection.

Desserts

There is something to be said about a restaurant that bakes its own desserts. The Istanbul restaurant offers a vast variety of them, but we only had ‘room’ for two: the baklawa with walnuts, and the Kunufe. No matter what you do, you MUST order the kunafe. It was absolutely delicious.

Unlike other Baklawas I have had in the past, I liked the fact that I could actually taste the big chunks of walnuts.The Baklawa with walnuts was good, but offered no match to the delicious Kunufe.

The Istanbul Restaurant Kunafe

The Istanbul Restaurant Kunafe
The Istanbul Restaurant Baklawa

The Istanbul Restaurant Baklawa

As for their Turkish coffee, Irm felt that it left a lot to be desired. Irm, who has tasted the best of the Turkish coffees, thought it lacked some quality. She felt that this is one thing the restaurant needs to pay more attention to, given that it is a Turkish restaurant.

The Istanbul Restaurant Coffee

The Istanbul Restaurant Coffee

The Verdict

Overall, the Istanbul restaurant scored high on my list of places to eat. It offers plenty of authentic Turkish dishes, and leaves a taste for more. I give it a 4 stars rating.

Rating: 

Google+ vs. Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Everyone Else (Review)

Google+, The New Kid in the Neighborhood

Google+, The New Kid in the Neighborhood

It is no secret that I love Google’s new addition to the social media realm. In case you are wondering, I am talking about Google+, the new contender in the social media arena. There are many reasons why I find it better than the others (namely, Facebook and Twitter), but mainly, Google+ is innovative and technologically refreshing in comparison to the unchallenged ‘king’ and ‘queen’ of social media Facebook and Twitter.

Some people look at Google+ as a direct contender to Facebook, and lack to see the big pink elephant in the room: Google is not ‘fighting’ Facebook. In fact, Google is not ‘fighting’ Twitter, nor is it ‘fighting’ any other social media platform out there. Google is, instead, redefining the field of social media, and it does it with its most powerful ‘weapon’: its search engine. The one (most powerful) element that other social media platforms don’t have is control over what shows and what does not show on Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Google is changing that, and that is part of Google+.

Since its launch in early July, 2011, there have been dozens of articles praising and criticizing Google+, so writing another similar post wouldn’t make any sense. Instead, I would like to focus more on some of Google+ features that really strike me as innovative, and most importantly, as common sense.

The Most Obvious One: ‘Circles’

‘Circles’ are brilliant. The reason is that they turn your Google+ into either a Facebook-like stream or a Twitter-like stream. If you wish, you can even create a ‘work’ stream, sharing information only with your co-workers and turning it into workplace wiki. It is also brilliant in the sense that it solves two problems with one solution: how to switch between your ‘Twitter-hat’ and your ‘Facebook-hat’ without leaving the platform. In other words, you can share your conversations only with your friends-circle (Facebook-hat) or, alternatively, you can share it with your ‘the-rest-of-the-world’ circle (Twitter-hat). Solve two problems with one solution. Brilliant!

Admittedly, it may take time to get used to switching between the two platforms of Facebook and Google+ (partly because we have consumed so much Facebook over the years, that it takes time to adjust to a new system), but once you get more of your friends to join Google+ you will find ‘circles’ to be a brilliant solution.

Consider these two examples:

You can even share information on your stream only with a few people, and only these people will get to see what you wrote. See this illustration below:

Add People to ConversationsAdd People to Conversations

Add People to Conversations

Alternatively, you can add an entire ‘circle’ to the conversation. For instance, “family & friends-circles”:

Share with any 'circle' you'd like

Share with any 'circle' you'd like

Editing and Re-editing Statuses

One thing I passionately dislike about Facebook and Twitter is the inability to edit what you posted. There is nothing more annoying than posting a status on Facebook and finding, a moment later, that you misspelled a word. Twitter has the same problem, but for the sake of this argument I will stick with Facebook only because it is a much larger platform, and also because it allows 420 characters in its textbox. The problem magnifies itself when you post a comment and later find out that you either misspelled a word or said more than you wanted to say.

Google+ solves this by providing the option to edit; you may edit as many times as you’d like, and this includes your posts as well as your comments. I cannot believe that Facebook hasn’t picked-up on this simple, yet important feature. I don’t condemn Twitter for not adding this feature, because with only 140 characters, misspelling is not necessarily a flaw, but a necessity (‘great’, for example, is ‘gr8′).

The illustrations below show the edit mode in your ‘status-update’, and also in the ‘comment-update’:

You can edit statuses

You can edit statuses

 

You can edit comments

You can edit comments

 

‘Sparks’

Remember the ‘most-powerful-weapon’ I mentioned earlier, ‘Search Engine’, well, this is where Google really flexes its muscles and pushes the competition aside. In my opinion, it is the most interesting feature of them all because it involves Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and blogging. There has never been a better time to focus on your website SEO than now. Blogging? You better start soon, if you haven’t already, because Google+ ‘Sparks’ is redefining the way we’ll consume information. Big statement, you say. Test it for yourself. Search any topic (type SEO for that matter), and you will see the latest SEO posts appear in your ‘sparks-stream’. How latest? When I searched for SEO at 9:55AM, I noticed a post that was published at 5:09AM.

How is it different than Facebook’s search engine? Well, Facebook’s search engine is a closed system, i.e. it relies only on what ‘Facebook-nation’ (so to say) is sharing. In other words, it does not rely on the web for information, instead, it uses the information it finds inside Facebook (profiles, pages, groups, etc).

‘Sparks’, on the other hand, uses the entire web for information. Now that’s powerful! Pick a few topics that you’d like, and get the news straight to your ‘Sparks-stream’. What I really like about ‘sparks’ is that it provides fresh content from the web, making it ideal for consuming news in any language that you choose.

I read many comments on the blog-sphere saying that ‘Sparks’ is useless. I beg to defer. ‘Sparks’ is brilliant, and I think it will change some of the SEO rules we learned thus far, and will emphasize the importance of blogging and ‘fresh’ content. Imagine, you can add any topic from the entire web! This is powerful.

The illustrations below show how recent the content is, and also the use of different languages to consume information:

Google+ Sparks

Google+ Sparks

 

Google+ Sparks

Google+ Sparks

 

Let’s ‘Hangout’ With ‘Hangouts’

What I like about ‘hangouts’ is the ability to add up to 10 people into one conversation or, to use Google+ term, ‘hangout’. This is something I cannot do with Skype (unless I purchase the premium package, which I won’t because of its cost) or Facebook (though I strongly believe that this will change soon).

The possibilities of Google+ ‘hangouts’ are endless: family, friends, conference calls with some of your co-workers, and probably a dozen more options you can think about. But this is not what is really great about ‘hangouts’. In a sense, Skype does the same thing, so where is the competitive advantage? The brilliance in ‘hangouts’ lies in the fact that you can use it anywhere in the world, from any computer (assuming the computer has a mic and camera). If you want to use Skype, for example, you need to download Skype into your hard-drive. With Google+ the service is in the cloud, and all you have to do is log-on and start ‘hanging-out’. A perfect solution if you travel around the world and want to stay in touch with relatives and friends.

Google+ 'Hangouts'

Google+ 'Hangouts'

 

Privacy Settings

For a great article on Google+ privacy settings, read Ron Arden‘s (eDocumentSeinces) recent post: 3 Security Tips to Help You Navigate Google+. It covers some important information you’ll need from the onset. In a nutshell, Google made it quite simple to set your privacy settings. Unlike Facebook, Google+ privacy settings are straight forward and easy to use.

For example, one thing I don’t like receiving are social-media emails. When you join Google+, receiving all notifications by email is the default mode. You can change it:

Steps:

  1. While on Google+ page, click on “Google+ Settings”:

    Google+ Settings

    Google+ Settings

  2. You will ‘land’ on Google+ window that looks like the illustration below. Simply uncheck all the email notifications, and you are all set to go.

    Google+ Settings

    Google+ Settings

 

 Am I a Facebook Defector?

The more I use Google+, the more I want to stay with it. This is usually a sign that a platform is working, and in the case of Google+, it is working very well! The design is minimalist with plenty of white-space, which I am sure nobody is going to complain about. The more I use Facebook, the more I see how it’s beginning to be reminiscent of ‘MySpace’. I think Facebook was late in implementing all the changes demanded by its ~700 million users, and unless it changes soon to look more like Google+, I predict that others, like myself, will migrate to Google+ permanently. It won’t happen overnight, but I suspect that it will happen.

So, to the question ‘Am I a Facebook defector?’ I think the answer lies in wether or not my Facebook friends will start using Google+. I am hoping they will start (or at least give it a try) after reading this post.

What is your experience with Google+?

Click to add me on Google+