Friday, May 31, 2013

Add a Placeholder Video to your Hangout on Air's Event Page

As a new user to Google+, one thing that many people find confusing is that an Event page is not the actual Hangout on Air (HOA). I'll often see comments like "Where's the video?" on the event page 2 or 3 days before the actual event.

Many of these users expect the Event page to be like a television station - there's something always playing, but they're show will start at the advertised time. To help educate visitors, I created this video which I place in my Event's YouTube URL:

Now the visitors know to tune in at the scheduled time to see the live HOA.

Other things you could do:

  • create a "commercial" with your participants that will explain what they can expect when they tune in at the proper time
  • run a related video
  • run a cartoon or movie
  • run your favourite music video
If you want to create your own video, one of the easiest ways is to use YouTube's Slideshow tool. You can create slides in your favourite graphics editor (or PowerPoint), save them as files and upload them. (Tip: use music from YouTube's library so your video won't get pulled for infringement). Or create something in a movie editor and upload.

Easier still, just link to the video I created and paste it into your Event!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Using Google Calendar for Time Based To Dos (Reminders)

For me, there are 2 types of ToDos - checklists and reminders. Checklists include things list:

  • books to read
  • movies to see
  • items to pack for a vacation
  • stuff to fix around the house.

Reminders are the things you do at a specific time (like on your way home):

  • pickup milk
  • go to the bank
  • drop off a prescription
  • mail a letter

I like to see these things in my calendar so I can plan around them, but I don't want them to be included in my personal or work calendar. Especially if I'm sharing my calendar with others.

My solution: create a separate calendar called Reminders. When I create a reminder (e.g. pick up milk at 5:30 p.m.) I enter it in my calendar and assign it to Reminders. When the time comes, I'm notified with all the features of a calendar appointment (popup, email, SMS).  Don't worry about the end time of the appointment  — you're only concerned about being notified once it starts.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Creating Filter in Gmail to Flag your Newsletters

A couple of incredibly power features in GMail is filters and labels. With a few clicks, you can setup filters to quickly organize messages by assigning useful labels to them.

A handy filter I've created allows me to quickly identify Newsletters. These are messages I receive weekly or monthly that I quickly peruse and then delete:

  • weekly flyer from Best Buy
  • travel deals from Expedia
  • Costco News
  • YouTube notices (someone has subscribed to your channel)
Most people understand how to create filters and people will spend hours ensuring they have a filter setup to address each message. But there's a way you can combine a number of filters into one instead of creating individual filters.

Let's look at the list above. I want to create a filter that will assign the Newsletter label to any messages send by these companies. First I need to identify the return email address:

  • Best Buy (
  • Expedia (
  • Costco News (
  • YouTube (
Normally you would create a single rule for each email. First you identify the criteria the filter is to look for:

Then you indicate the action that should be taken:

Now, instead of creating more filters that will do the same, you can combine all the email address together in the search criteria by separating each email with the word OR (in all caps).

Now I have one filter where I once had four! All that's left is to select all the messages, read through them and delete!  :-)

Tip: If you have a large number of emails to filter on, edit the list in a text editor (the filter field is very small). When the time comes, you can add your email at the beginning of the list.

What kind of message can you filter with this?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Meetings - Finding the Right Time

One of the biggest challenges when arranging a meeting is finding a time that works for everyone. Typically you'll send emails back and forth to try and find a time that works for everyone. There's got to be a better way!

Google Calendar

Let's start with the basics. If you're sharing your Google Calendar with another Google Calendar user, you can do a suggested search. However, most of us are often trying to organize meetings with people who we don't share our calendars with. If you want, you can make your calendar available to the public (choosing whether your appointment details are visible or not) and let people subscribe to it. You can also embed your publicly available calendar on a web page or Google Site where anyone can see your availability.

This is a great feature when you want to post your baseball schedule or other activity to a web site. However, the one disadvantage of this method is when you click on an event, it will try to add it to your Google Calendar. If you don't have a Google account, it will prompt you to create one.


Doodle ( is a free web service that asks the question "Which time works best for you?". You start by selecting a number of dates and times for your attendees to choose from. You email a link to them and they select the ones that work best for them. As they make their choices, you can see which date/time is the most popular. When you've chosen your date/time, Doodle can send an email  to the group letting them know or you can add the date to your Google calendar or a Google+ Events page.

Advance feature: if you login with your Google account, you'll be able to see your own schedule when choosing dates (ensures you won't be double booking yourself) and you'll be able to directly add the chosen date as an appointment to your calendar. You'll also be able to look back on any of the polls you've created.


A great replacement for Google Calendar's Appointment Slots, YouCanBook.Me is a free web service ideal for those who want to schedule certain times for visitors to choose from to book an appointment. Unlike Appointment Slots (which is only available to Google Apps for Education/Business), you don't need to have a Google account.

Logging in with your Google account allows the service to see your Google Calendar. You then select the days/times people can schedule appointments with you. Once you're done, you can either point them to a page created by YouCanBook.Me or you can embed it on your own site. As appointments are booked, they are greyed out.

There are lots of features that come with the basic free version of YouCanBook.Me - you can schedule lunch breaks, set a specific date range to be available (so you don't book during your holidays), customize the form, confirmation message/email, logos, etc.

Upgrading to a paid version allows you to have payments processed through PayPal, send followup emails/sms, remove YouCanBook.Me branding and more.

Look at their demo page and discover some exciting ways you can use the service!