Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Web Secret #282: Surprise Industries

I do not like to be surprised. When I turn on my laptop, I want it to turn on, when I go on vacation, I want the 4 star hotel to be a 4 star hotel,  when I code a website, I want it to work.

But when I surf the Internet, I want to be surprised. As much as possible. Because surprise makes me smile.

Amazingly, there is a company that is entirely devoted to creating surprises, the aptly named Surprise Industries. Three young women entrepreneurs founded SI, a New York company that plans surprise events for individuals and businesses. Think trapeze lessons, private beer tastings and a zombie birthday party complete with actors in costume and a terrifying alleyway ambush--the possibilities are endless.

The clients themselves can be the surprisees, or they can hire the company to surprise someone they know. Surprisees have no idea what they're paying for, aside from some hints, a location and an arrival time. They're asked what kind of experience they want (adrenaline-spiked, romantic, mysterious) and what the occasion is. Then, Surprise Industries' team, including 13 part-time "agents of surprise" on call for emergency brainstorming sessions, makes it happen by contacting the right people and putting together the surprise.

The trio has planned surprises for family reunions and vacations, as well as corporate team-building activities and company events. SI Founder Tania Luna has even given a TED talk about the story of her surprising life. The talk has over 400,000 hits:

It turns out that SI has inspired a movement. People want to surprise themselves. In their blog, SI reports the story of Jia Jiang who has been pursuing an unusual goal: his aim is to get rejected 100 times. He’s been rejected by zookeepers who wouldn’t let him feed a lion, by a radio station who wouldn’t agree to feature him in an on-air interview, and by Domino’s Pizza who wouldn’t let him deliver a pizza.

It all started on July 4th of 2012 when he had an epiphany. He realized his fear of rejection was preventing him from achieving his dreams. Jia decided to embark on a “rejection therapy” quest in the hopes that he would become desensitized to rejection, and would be liberated to pursue the life he wanted.

After a year of making difficult asks, Jia has actually had a surprising amount of success. A Krispy Kreme employee created a reproduction of the Olympic Rings symbol out of donuts, just because he asked. He’s also managed to speak over Costco’s intercom, sit in the driver’s seat of a police car, and fly a plane, among many other adventures. Jia says he’s surprised by the amount of success he has had (where "success" means having his request be met, as opposed to the "success" of being rejected). His stories are evidence that people will surprise you, if you only let them.

Thank you, Surprise Industries, your existence surprised me.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Web Secret #281: Humans of New York

How do you create an epic, life-changing, influential blog? One that is avidly followed by well over one million people.

I wish there was a formula that I could share with you. This much I know:

It would have to be passionate.

It would have to be unique.

It would have to be moving.

It would have to be like Humans of New York (HONY.)

HONY, like many of the blogs I have featured on iWebU, features a deceptively simple idea. Brandon Stanton, a 29-year old self-taught photographer, arrived in New York City in August 2010 with the aim of photographing 10,000 New Yorkers and plotting their portraits on a map of the city. Below each photograph, he posted a snippet of the dialogue he had with each of us subjects.

That's it, that's the whole idea.

Wait, I'll let him explain it:

Here are three examples of a HONY post:

A beautiful old woman recites a poem.

A doorman explains why he admired his father.

A girl asks Stanton to photograph a man named Mark.

It's hard to analyze why HONY works so well. I think it's about the quality of each photograph. The humanity inherent in each subject. The thoughtfulness of each caption.

Stanton is now famous, and the blog has been featured on TV, the Wall Street Journal and will soon become a published book.

There are eight million stories in the naked city; this has been one of them.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Web Secret #280: Blogging for EAPs

I maintain a list of blogs created and maintained by employee assistance programs (EAPs).

That's a lie. There is no such list. Even though there is probably no better way to showcase expertise, few and I mean very, very few EAPs have a blog of high quality. In fact very few EAPs have a blog of any kind.

So when I see someone, anyone, do a really nice job of blogging about EAPs - well, I have to blog about it.

I had never heard of a Canadian EAP called Aspiria. And I still wouldn't - except that I use StumbleUpon and up popped a blog post "Top 10 Reasons for an EAP – Insight from an EAP Expert Part 1."

The posts are written by Aspiria CEO Charles Benayon and he has done everything right. First and foremost, he has written an interesting and informative blog post - anyone in the market for an EAP would find it extremely helpful. His layout is graphically pleasing. His color palate is bright and reminiscent of his Aspiria website color scheme, achieving an overall visual branding. Subscribing to the blog is simple and right there at the top of the post.

Canadian EAPs have consistently trumped the rest of the world in their early and effective adoption of social media and technologically cutting edge service delivery. But you don't have to be Canadian, nor at the helm of a large EAP to create an effective blog.

You just have to write well, create compelling content and sign up at or

Then put your blog URL in the comments section of this post. Who knows, maybe I'll write about it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Web Secret #279:

Many therapists carry two cell phones, one for their patients and one for everybody else. They do this to protect their privacy. Some also do it because they work with volatile, potentially violent clients and it is a matter of safety to maintain a separate phone number.

But carrying two cell phones is a pain in the neck, and expensive. There is another way. It's called - it's a virtual phone number and it takes seconds to set up.

Why use it?

Power and Flexibility
  • Choose your area code
  • Forward the calls to any phone
  • Separate business and personal calls
  • Simple to insert greetings, route calls and manage callers
  • Voice mail and call logs for each number
  • Know which phone line is calling before you answer
Privacy Options
  • Inbound Caller ID options
  • Outbound Caller ID Privacy options
  • Control your availability using Do Not Disturb settings
  • Block specific callers from contacting you
Your iNumbr gives you control over how and when your calls come to you. iNumbr lets you pick any phone where your calls can be forwarded. You can filter your calls as you wish -- by caller, by time of day or even allowing you to decide “on the fly” whether or not to take a call.

An plan can be had for as little as $6.99 a month.

Much cheaper than a second cell phone.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Web Secret #278: Tile

I don't lose important items like my laptop, my table or my smartphone. 

But in my personal life, I am surrounded by people who misplace their stuff, (and other critically important items like house keys and car keys.) When these unnamed people go crazy looking for these lost possessions, they stress me out.

Plus I am tired of paying the deductible to my insurance company to replace lost/stolen iPhones. And get this - some of my teenagers (you know who you are) -  are no longer insurable because there has been one too many incidents...

So imagine my excitement when I read about a small startup called Tile that raised a record-breaking $2.68 million for its small, Bluetooth-connected devices you can affix to anything you don't want to lose, such as your keys, laptop, or luggage. Here, let them show you their amazing product:

Tile will start shipping this coming winter, but you can preorder Tiles via at a cost of $18.95 per individual Tile. Once the company starts to ship, the Tiles will retail for $25.00.

It's the perfect Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/birthday gift for your errant children.