The Best Tech Gift Shopping Advice: Decide Their Needs First

As the last few days of holiday shopping is upon us, then the post holiday “finding a deal” shopping in the near future, I wanted to offer a simple piece of advice for everyone to keep in mind. In my book “My Parent Plan” I discuss how parents can use the concepts of professional project planning to plan their family schedule. Those planning concepts can also be used for tech shopping. But they key concept is “defining needs”. In these tough economic times, we should take a step back when buying a gift to define what the needs to the gift recipient are. Holidays are a great time to get a gift that can make an impact in their life by solving a need.


There are many holiday guides available to share gift recommendations. I created the “TechMamas Holiday Tech Shopping Guide on SkinnyScoop with lists of holiday gift guides. But I am also working on shopping notebooks on Springpad. One of my notebooks was items I found on for home organization(I will also be doing notebooks on other websites with my recommendations). So also consider organization products for gifts that solve a need – but are also fun to use. Cool Mom Tech also listed “3 Springpad Notebooks that you’re going to love” . Infact, Cool Mom Tech also listed the very best apps and websites for gift organization for those looking for more ways to organize their gifts and best sites to get online coupon codes.  When I asked around for recommendations on teacher gifts, the feedback I received from friends that are also teachers are: handmade gifts are always special, but if someone is going to purchase a teacher gift – gift cards are highly appreciated. Mashable has lots of posts with recommendations on gift cards.


With technology, gift givers should take a step back from all the hype and decide what technology will make a real impact in recipients lives. Then decide which products have the features to fit that need. We are at a time where multiple devices have advanced features to fit technology needs. Don’t just buy the smartphone, computer or tablet that everyone has, take a step back and find one that has the right features for the right price. Then realize that many devices may fit your needs – so the next step is to find one that is well made and that fits easily in the gift recipients life/workflow. Another key thing to remember when shopping for technology is that “cheap” may also mean that the device may not have all the features needed or may not last. At the same time, there are many deals on technology across the web and at stores that everyone should try to take advantage of.


Myself and many of my friends use Microsoft Office products (and have kids that use XBox Live) so a Windows 8 device would enable us to easily adapt the device to what we are already using. On the other hand, I know other friends that already use Google or Apple centric products that would be a good fit for Android or iOS devices. There are even many of us that use devices with different operating systems because some of the features of the device fit with our daily workflow.


Another need to evaluate when buy a tech gift is if the device can be used for multiple purposes. The gift of a Bluetooth speaker has the benefit of connecting to multiple devicees to stream music either at home or on the go. Or how about high quality earphones with noise canceling that are not only great for listening to music or watching movies -but they can also be used to talk on a cellphone. Some eReaders are also tablets that can be used for apps, while some tablets also make good eReaders. But with eReaders it is important to understand the needs of the gift recipient. Do they read outside most of the time and need  a device that is light and has a long battery life? If so, an eReader will be a better fit for them then a tablet. But if they don’t have a tablet and read mostly at home – then a tablet with a comfortable screen to read is a better fit. Better yet, if you have a child, family member or friend that can benefit from assistive technology, holidays is a great time to gift them the gift that can help them in their daily lives. For example, the Livescribe Sky Pen has cloud and WiFi integration as well as syncing with Evernote.


How about friends or family that share not so great quality pictures from their phone and have digital cameras but never upload the pictures? If so, consider one of the new cameras that has WiFi so pictures can be uploaded directly from the camera (or use a WiFi flash storage card). Or how the gift of a real video camera to allow that special someone not only to take quality video of their family/friends – but also produce some of their own videos.


What tech are you shopping for this holiday season (or already purchased)? What tech will you be shopping for during the after holiday sales?


Happy Shopping To All!




Disclosure: This post is just my holiday tech shopping recommendations.


Social Is The Future of Search And SEO

One key topic discussed at social media conferences is SEO, search and influence. At the recent BlogHer Pro conference in San Francisco, the lunchtime keynote subject was  Growing Your Audience and Influence with Social + Search with speakers Duane Forrester of Bing, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes and Elisa Camahort of BlogHer.  While Elise Bauer explained that she focusses on good content rather than over analyzing if her posts are SEO friendly, she also revealed that over 80% of her traffic comes from search engines. Many conversations about the content on her site, including recipe questions, happen on social networks such as Facebook. Duane Forrester predicted that in the future, social will be the most important part of search. He also mentioned that each social network platform has value in sharing content and conversations, but you need to determine which platform provides the best value for your brand.  Elisa Camahort added, “Twitter is good for brand awareness, Facebook is good for influence because it consists of your friends.” Everyone also discussed how Pinterest can generate lots of traffic because it is a visual platform that benefits posting content with pictures.


I have personally witnessed the power of social when it comes to sharing content. I use multiple social media platforms including Twitter to share my blogging content and when that content is “retweeted” it magnifies my reach. I also find more and more content on the web via the social streams of my friends. This confirms what Forrester said, that social is becoming the most important part of search on the web. Forrester also mentioned the new Bing Social Sidebar.


I also had the opportunity to talk with Kari Dilloo from Bing (who also presented on the BlogHer Pro panel “Growing Your Reputation: Working with PR and Media Professionals as Part of the New PR Food Chain“) about Bing Social. She explained that Bing Social Search has the advantage of pulling information from across social networks (including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Klout and Quora) when doing a search. Dilloo explained that Bing is looking at reinventing search and seeing where search is going to make it easy for people to find info they are looking for.


Bing social search

Photo Credit: Bing Search Blog



When doing a search on Bing, the left hand side is the web search. In the middle is a snapshot view that includes visual maps, pictures and even links to sites such as Wikipedia. The far right hand side displays a social search column with results from friends and other social networks that recently discussed the topic being queried. For example, a search for a Mexican restaurant will result in a listing on the left hand side bar of local restaurants with links to menus and phone numbers. These businesses will also be identified on the map in the middle column. The far right hand side bar displays a list of restaurants being discussed by those in the searcher’s various social networks. This allows a true social experience when performing a search on Bing, including who blogged or tweeted about the topic. The cross platform result provides new opportunities for those creating social media content on particular subjects to have their content discovered in searches by others interested in the same topic.



Bing social search



When I searched on Bing  for “gadget gifts”, I saw that my friend Jennifer Comet Wagner shared a post from her blog titled “Tech Gadget Gifts for Teens and Tweens“. Because I trust her opinion, I was more influenced by her post then by the general web search posts.  I review technology so my kids are used to seeing all the gadgets I have tested. For their holiday gifts, I needed a fresh perspective. On Jennifer’s post that I found from Bing, I discovered two fun tween/teen gift items I had not heard of and were perfect for my son: an ePillow for when he reads eBooks on his tablet and OWI Robotic Arm Edge for some Robotics fun. As a blogger, I realize now more then ever that social is an important part of how my posts will be found.


But more then that, as Kari Dilloo shared in the “How to Build Your Reputation” panel, research is very important part of building the right reputation. She explained “My advice is to do your research and make every conversation count. Whether it’s small talk at conferences or over twitter, etc, seek out the people and/or companies you admire and be armed with ideas that could spark a mutual brainstorm.” Social search can also benefit this type of research not only to find what is on the web, but also what your friends and social networks have to say on the topic.


Are you more influenced by what your friends share on social networks or from search engine results?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All of my words are my own.


AT&T Wish-a-Day Tech Granted to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital

In November I went to a conference called Camp Mighty which was a wonderful weekend event offering inspiration on creating life lists. Part of Camp Mighty’s mission is charity, and more involvement in charity happens to be one of the top items on my life list. Lucky as it was, I had the opportunity to work on my charity life list item by participating in a program Camp Mighty partnered with AT&T on  called Wish-A-Day. AT&T worked with the Make-A-Wish foundation to grant one wish a day for a month to underprivileged children suffering from life-threatening medical conditions. To learn more about how you can make a wish come true, visit this link: Wish-A-Day Sweepstakes from AT&T. But I had the chance to make one local organization’s wish come true.


My task was choosing a charity to donate a generous amount of AT&T devices to. I was more then thrilled to pick an organization that is near and dear to my heart: Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and the pediatric programs at the Stanford University School of Medicine.  I had my three boys at the hospital and received great care. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Child Life team of specialists work with the children throughout the hospital.  They do everything from preparing kids for procedures, helping them understand their disease, to creating play opportunities in the Forever Young Zone playroom. Pictured left to right is Debbie Burkholder,  Assistant Director – Children’s Fund, Colette Case, Director – Child and Family Life Services who met me at the AT&T store to pick up their devices and Beth Blecherman,





Their wish was for tablets (such as the iPad) to help children staying in the hospital and (pay as you go) AT&T Go Phones to help parents of children.  Here is information on how their tech “wish” devices will be used and the video of the fun event:


The Department within Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital that will be using iPads for the Child and Family Life Services Department.  Certified Child Life Specialists use the IPads to prepare children, at their developmental level for procedures and surgeries, using photo albums, sounds (like MRI), miniature medical equipment, dolls, etc.

They explained” An example would be preparing a child for an MRI scan.  We would show them the photo album that explains about  their MRI, let them listen to the sound of the MRI, have them practice staying still and then deciding on a coping mechanism such as watching a movie, or thinking of a favorite place while they have the scan.  If the child understands the procedure and can stay still, we do not have to give them anesthesia which then reduces the risk to the patient and costs less money to do the test.  The child also feels a sense of accomplishment which can carry over to other tests, etc. they may have.  We also use the IPads for distraction, so if a patient was getting stiches in their foot, we might have them play a game on the Ipad with them while the stitches are being put in.”


The AT&T Go Phones will be used by the Social Services Department within Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.  They  will let parents who need to stay in touch with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and their doctors but do not have a phones.





More information on the Wish-A-Day Sweepstakes (ends Dec. 20)  from AT&T can be found by clicking here.  The Camp Mighty website link is here for those wanting to work on their life list. The Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital’s website is Philanthropic support to the Lucile Packard Children’s Fund can be found at ( The children’s fund provides care for all children who come to Packard in need of medical treatment regardless of a family’s ability to pay. It also provides services to children and families not covered by insurance, like child life services, the chaplaincy program, and medical interpreters.  Additionally it supports innovation pediatric research to find new discoveries for advanced treatments and cures for pediatric illnesses.


Disclosure: This is a volunteer project I did to give back to my community.


Tips To Tell Your Kids About SandyHook And How To Help

*PLEASE check the bottom of this post to see how you can help. UPDATE: A Noah’s Ark of Hope Trust has been created by the family of Noah Pozner.

It was a heavy heart that I write this post about the terrible tragedy (shooting) that happened yesterday at a Connecticut school.  Words just can’t describe the pain that anyone who knows about this is feeling. Our sympathies go out to the families of the victims, as a community we are mourning for their losses. Yesterday I started off my sharing the important resources parents can use to help find the words to explain this tragedy to this kids including Common Sense Media’s “Explaining the news to your kids” and NASP’s guide with tips for parents and teachers to help children cope with a national tragedy (that Jessica Seinfeld shared on Twitter).  Fellow parent blogs such as Cool Mom Picks ” How to talk to your kids about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting” and  TechSavvyMama’s “Sandy Hook School Tragedy: Helpful Tips for Talking to Your Kids“.

UPDATED: Here is a good perspective on “How Not To Talk To Your Kids About Sandy Hook Shooting


Parents of tweens/teens need to also understand that older kids with smartphones need extra tips because they will be flooded with information. My tween first saw the news about the shooting on the news app from his phone. But when he kept reading about it, he found some platforms that had inappropriate information about the shooting. So I told him what many social media parents are sharing with each other: read the facts only – then turn it off. Don’t go to the forums or curation sites for extra facts. I simply told my tween son that in this case it is best to talk to Mom and Dad about the situation so we can all heal as a family. We also talked about it to our 9 year old twins, also just explaining the facts and then the great safety procedures set up at their school. But we also had to explain that sometimes tragedies just happen.


This next piece of information is something that I share with an even heavier heart. One of my dear social media (VDog) friends lost a nephew who was in one of the classrooms at SandyHook. There is a Facebook page created to share the information about how to help:


Please click on the FACEBOOK PAGE: “How to Help VDog and Noah’s Family” to find out more information on how you can help.



The Facebook page also has addresses on where to send cards including:


  • If you would like to send a card, letter, expression of love, to Victoria or Noah’s family in CT – please send them here: Friends of Maddie, 1534 North Moorpark Road Suite 284, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360. Paypal donations instructions to the family are on the “How to Help VDog and Noah’s Family” Facebook page.
  • Toy donations can be made to Toys for Tots or your local children’s hospital. Other Monetary donations are to be sent to: Sandy Hook School Support Fund C/O Newtown Savings Bank, 39 Main Street, Newtown CT 06470



Photo credit: Il Volo Facebook Page

The  “How to Help VDog and Noah’s Family” page also has comforting prayers. I was comforted today by a song my 9 year old son decided to write that included lyrics he heard on another song: “light inside you and me”.  We can all honor the lights of the beautiful souls lost in the shooting by lighting a candle in remembrance.







Building Success: Using Bing Webmaster Tools


As part of my preparation for BlogHer PRO, I had the opportunity to speak to Duane Forrester, Sr. Product Manager with Bing’s Webmaster Program. He will be leading the lunch Keynote titled, “Lunch, and Keynote Brought to You by Bing — Growing Your Audience and Influence with Social + Search”.  Forrester explained to me the details of his personal journey: to share with others how to build success and how to leverage your business assets to become successful. He also believes that to deliver a quality product you need to have customer interaction.  His two books, “Turn Clicks Into Customers: Proven Marketing Techniques for Converting Online Traffic into Revenue” and “How to Make Money with Your Blog: The Ultimate Reference Guide for Building, Optimizing, and Monetizing Your Blog” detail how a business can increase customers and generate revenue with blogs.


We discussed many different topics related to blogging and one was of particular interest. Forrester discussed the new features of the Bing Webmaster tools including the “Link Explorer, SEO Analyzer/SEO Reports, and updates to current tools such as our Keyword Research Tool (beta), and our URL Removal Tool.” Bing Webmaster tools (available to anyone) detail standard info including queries, your site’s ranking and where you were shown. The tools also send alerts and when combined with Bing crawler you can proactively manage bandwidth by time of day. Another option is to set controls that someone else manages for your website. With Link Explorer you can not only see who is linking to you, but also who is linking to your competitors. BingBot offers the ability to have a crawler fetch your blog’s URL then have a search engine assess the code on the page and come back with a status. For example, you can watch out for signs of hacks in your websites such as really long links. Forrester shared important advice for all bloggers: we should get to know what “normal” code looks like on our website so we can spot when it has been hacked.


In addition to all of these tools, Bing is now the first search engines to provide SEO advice to users. This is accomplished with SEO Analyzer, which scans a URL then shares what SEO work needs to be done.This tool helps you know what SEO work needs to be done now, helps you learn more about SEO from a trusted source and can help you test fresh areas of your site quickly.
When I checked out the Bing Webmaster Tools online, I was happy to see blog posts from the Bing Webmaster blog that explains key product areas. For those who want to find out more, there are Bing Webmaster Guidelines blog posts and  free recorded webinars . The Bing Webmaster Getting Started Checklist is a great place for the user to start outlining the process and tools to build workflow. This checklist covers areas such as how to configure your site reports and data, Webmaster diagnostic tools and SEO Analyzer.


Here are some of the blog posts that are great resources not only for Bing Webmaster tools but also for SEO and reporting:


For more information, check the BlogHer Pro live blogs.


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.