Fancyhands: A Review of My Last Two Months of Tasks

I am a big advocate of low-cost virtual assistant program Fancyhands: $35 per month for up to 15 tasks requested by email. I’ve posted some pretty complicated requests over the last 6 months or so that I’ve been subscribed. People ask me about the service often, so I thought I’d show readers here how it’s been going over the last few months. It’s been interesting. Like so many things in life, I think you may get out of it what you take the time to put in.

Below is a picture of my email inbox, with a search for the Fancyhands threads. Below that is a more detailed discussion of each request, but the high level take-aways seem to be: I’m not remembering to use anywhere near my full quota, many of the tasks I request aren’t working out so well but the ones that are working out have been great.

You might think: Marshall, you need to make simpler requests – those are the ones that get the best results. But you’d be surprised at the crazy requests I’ve gotten great results from in months past! Like: send me a spreadsheet of every daily newspaper in the US, its name, its location and its URL. No problem! That was great. I think it depends largely on who happens to answer my request on the other end. I’ve gotten some really sophisticated responses and some really frustrating ones. Continue reading “Fancyhands: A Review of My Last Two Months of Tasks”

New Policy: I Will Not Blog What I Can Tweet

I read someone say on Twitter the other day that they really appreciate it when bloggers just share news on Twitter if it’s short enough it can be reported in 140 characters or less. Writing a post about it for nothing but pageviews, when you really didn’t need to go on and on is just poor manners.

So now I will just Tweet news when it’s short – and I’ll include a link back to this post explaining why for the first few times I do that. Maybe. What do you think of this idea? It does neglect RSS readers, Facebook users, etc. There is that. If it decreases the amount of click-bait BS around the web though, that could be a net win, no?

How to find good blogs on almost any topic (Updated)

People come to my site every day to find out how to find good blogs on a topic of interest – and I just noticed that this article about it was written more than 5 years ago! It’s time I update it.

Five years later – only a handful of these methods below still work! It’s something I’ve needed to do a lot since then, though, so I’ve actually built a technology myself that I offer to my consulting clients and others. Update: Check out my startup Little Bird if you have a business need to find the top blogs in a field.

Presuming you’ve just got a casual need, though. Here’s what I suggested 5 years ago, now updated with some notes.

It’s true, almost every field of interest has bloggers now! So how can you find blogs about whatever you are interested in? Here are a number of ways I recommend:

  • Go to Technorati’s Blog Finder and search by author-submitted tag regarding entire blogs as opposed to individual posts. You can view these in order of “most authority” (inbound links) or “most recently updated.” This looks like it could still work, but I wouldn’t depend on it. Technorati, unfortunately, has become primarily an advertising network in recent years. Give it a shot though and let me know how the results are!
  • Here’s another cool service that didn’t make it, this site isn’t even online anymore: The other end of the spectrum, methodologically, might be Top Ten Sources. A fairly broad number of topics are covered here, with an expert human editor maintaining what they believe are the top ten blogs in their area of expertise. From Second Life to the Opera. For good times check out photoblogs and MP3 blogs. Since both of these are multimedia, the Top 10 pages themselves are less impressive than the individual blogs and feeds. I just subscribed to the OPML file of the Top Ten Photoblogs and yay am I excited.
  • This remains one of my favorite free methods and still works quite well: Look at what other people have tagged with the terms blog and your topic of interest in See, for example:
  • Still smart: When you find blogs you like, check if they have blog rolls – a list of their favorite blogs – in the sidebar. Or, check to see who is linking to the blog you found already by searching for their URL in Technorati, Icerocket or another blog search engine.
  • Haven’t done this in years: If you are looking through a large number of blogs and want to evaluate the quality of them, I like to open the Technorati Mini on my desktop and drop in blog URLs as I find them to see if other people are linking there. This only works when Technorati works, of course, and that’s only part of the time.

Well, there’s a few tips. Hope they are useful.

Another method I like: Take blogs you have found that you like, copy their URLs and paste them into a Google search. One of the links on the results page should be Similar. Like this. Give that a try.

If you’re doing this for work though (and you should, reading top blogs and finding industry leaders on Twitter can lend you a huge information advantage) then send me an email. I’ve been finding the best blogs for people for years on a variety of topics and can do a better job, faster and cheaper than just about any other method you’re likely to find.

Tracking Startup Incubators: Three Helpful Resources

A few weeks ago ReadWriteWeb’s Audrey Watters wrote up a report ranking the top 15 startup incubators and accelerators in the US. I asked the virtual assistant program FancyHands to build me a Twitter list of all those top organizations and an OPML file of their blog feeds. I was just sharing those with my friends over at the very cool mobile app shop Night and Day Studios and thought, heck – I should post them here too.

I’m pretty excited about these. If you’re a startup, an investor, and incubator person or a tech journalist – I think these will help you peek inside and track what some of the very top organizations serving tech startups are doing each day.

So here’s the Twitter List: Top Tech Incubators.

Click Follow This List on that page and then you can either visit it on your list of Lists you’re following or you could use it to populate a column in Tweetdeck or Seesmic if this is super important to you.

If you’re the feed readin’ type (and you know I am!) then here’s an OPML file you can download locally, then subscribe to in any feed reader: StartupIncubators.OPML

That’s uploaded to Google Docs, let me know if you have any problems with it. Once you download it, you can upload it into an RSS reader. For example, in Google Reader the Manage Subscriptions link in the bottom left column will show you an Import/Export link.

And regular readers here will know that when I see a list – I think Custom Search Engine! Want to know what kinds of work any of these incubators has done regarding a given topic? Just search inside their web site archives using this handy dandy machine: Top Tech Incubators CSE.

I’d recommend including the command -“hacker news” if you don’t want the results to be flooded with news stories from YCombinator’s wonderful site Hacker News.


Let me know if there are any issues with these, I hope you find them useful.

Here’s where credit is due for the rankings, according to Frank Gruber of TechCocktail:

As a part of his field work for the Kauffman Fellows Program (not to be confused with Kauffman Foundation), Aziz Gilani from DFJ Mercury, working in partnership with Tech Cocktail and the Kellogg School of Management, set out to determine the best startup accelerator programs in America and rank them. Assisting in the evaluation effort were Professor Yael Hochberg and MBA Candidate Kelly Quann from Northwestern University. Together there were numerous interviews with VC’s, Angels, and program graduates performed and then the data was aggregated. This is the first high-level published report of the findings – Aziz Gilani will be sharing a more detailed look at the findings in July, so stay tuned.