Four Tools For Building Cool Stuff Online: Or How To Start Thinking Outside The Box


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I went to the Supercharge conference the other day in Wellington. This was a business conference… nothing to do with literacy, numeracy or even education (I know… thank goodness right…?)

Lots of cool stuff. The coolest though was the 40-minute presentation by Justin Wilcox of Customer Development Labs.

At the start of his presentation, he said that in the 40 minutes that he had to speak he was going to do the following:

  1. Come up with a product idea.
  2. Get some customer feedback.
  3. Build a website
  4. Launch the product

Considering that by the time he had said all this he only had about 35 minutes left I think we were all rather skeptical.

But he pulled it off. And these were the tools that he used:

1. Customer Discovery Ninja

Just this on its own was very cool to see in action. The Customer Discovery Ninja is a tool that allows you to connect to potential customers in North America. They sign up because they have time on their hands and get a small reward for participating.

Justin had decided that he wanted to create some kind of Fitness Tracking App, so he had selected various categories and subcategories in the Customer Discovery Ninja. And ended up with something relating to fitness, weight loss, and diet as the key areas.

From there, he opened the phone line and waited for the call. 10 minutes later someone connected and we listened to him interview a guy in New York who was struggling with diet and weight loss issues.

After a few minutes, it was clear that what this guy needed was not a fitness tracking app, but some kind of product that allowed him to track what was working when it came to diet.

So based on the dialogue, Justin switched away from his initial idea to the diet tracking idea. And then he had about 10 minutes left to do everything else.

2. Instapage

And this is mostly what he used: Instapage. Within about 2 minutes, he had built two landing pages for his new product. Instapage allows you to create web pages via drag and drop.

And then he  created an alternate version of the page so that you could do A/B testing. Instapage makes this really easy. I haven’t tried any of this yet, but based on the demo I think it’s all doable.

3. Powtoon

From here, Justin wanted to jazz up the landing page a bit with a short animated video. For this he used Powtoon. Powtoon advertises itself as an alternative to Powerpoint. It;s drag and drop like Powerpoint or Keynote, but you end up with a animation at the end.

So another 2 minutes to create a short animation. And then he imported this into the Instapage landing pages.

4. Celery

Finally, he wanted a button on the landing page to take pre-orders for the product. So he used Celery for this. Celery is very simple. It’s just a button for taking credit card information for pre-orders. Buyers don’t get charged until your product launches.

And then he launched it.

So Justin didn’t actually create the product, but he did something that was in line with the lean startup method: Come up with a minimal viable product idea and then see if anyone would buy it.

From here, he would be able to take pre-orders to fund the development of the actual product.

It was fast and dirty. But it was impressive.

Justin practises what he preaches as well. And you can have a look at his series of books on how to implement this kind of thinking at his website here: The Focus Framework.

This stuff is cool. I wish I knew this when I started in business. Talking to Justin afterwards, he said that everyone wishes the same thing. And that we all come to these conclusions late.

In my field, we tend to be good at what we do. But this is only in terms of our technical skills. We get professional development and training in these areas.

But we are often rubbish at the skills we need to use our technical skills to build and run a sustainable business. We don’t know how to make a buck… to put it in crude terms.

Most of all, I think we need this kind of thinking in education: Customer validation, lean startup methodology, designing a minimum viable product, product testing.

And then quickly pivoting when it’s obvious that something isn’t working. Unfortunately, the regulatory environment (both TEC and NZQA) act in ways that run counter to this kind of thinking.

This is not their fault. But it’s time to start thinking outside the box.

Really thinking outside the box.

Literacy & Numeracy Jobs Wanted: Setting Up LN Job Board


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Are you looking for staff with literacy and numeracy expertise and credentials?

If you have a literacy and numeracy related job to advertise, I will post it here for free. The same thing applies if you are looking for a contractor or consulting expertise relating to adult literacy and numeracy.

At the moment, I am only interested in jobs offered, not jobs wanted.

This is an experiment… And I’m happy to give it some time and energy thanks to the responses I got the other day (check out the comment section if you’re interested).

For the present time, I’m happy to post any literacy and numeracy related positions, jobs or contract work. I will post positions for literacy and numeracy related work in New Zealand, Australia, for online or remote work, and internationally if I get them.

This includes work where the job is for someone who is a dual professional, e.g. a specialist in some content area other than numeracy and literacy, but who has the skills to embed literacy and numeracy into that content. NCALNE qualified trades trainers and vocational tutors fall into this category.

And of course, I’ll post jobs that are for literacy and numeracy specialists.

Terms and conditions are whatever I feel like at the time and I reserve the right not to publish your company’s job or position if I think it’s dodgy or breaches my sense of ethics or any other rules I make up at any later stage.

Possible ideas for job postings could include any or all of these:

  • Vocational and trade-related training at levels 1 and 2 where literacy and numeracy are embedded.
  • Workplace Literacy (WPL) and numeracy education.
  • Intensive literacy and numeracy (ILN).
  • Adult literacy and numeracy education including professional development and related employment or contract work.
  • Any other foundation learning focused training where literacy and numeracy are required or desired.
  • Any management, support, coordination, or consulting positions where the focus is on supporting tutors or trainers in any of the roles above.

How do I do I get a job posted here?

For the present time, if you want to post a job here you can leave a message in the comment section of this blog post (or any post on my blog), and we’ll work out how to exchange the info.

I’ll probably ask you for the following:

  1. An relevant image that I can upload, e.g. your company logo or branding.
  2. The text for the job advertisement.
  3. An expiry date for the post.
  4. A commitment to answer any questions that people leave on the site regarding the job.
  5. A commitment to come back and comment when or if the position is filled.

I’ll probably just post your text “as is” but I also reserve the right to edit it or make comments as well.

If you think this is useful to someone, particularly someone in management who might not regularly see my blog, please consider sharing this post with them via one of the sharing buttons below. Or just message them with the short link to this page: http://wp.me/p1JmwP-LP

If I get any traction with this I may revisit my idea for some kind of voluntary “opt in” register of LN credentialed professionals who are currently active. Thanks for the support so far.