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Exploding computers

| home worker, networking, website business | July 16, 2009

It’s not been a good week.  It started so well here in yours2share mansions, with the mention in the Sunday Times and a great new case study (not quite ready yet, but I’ll probably be posting it next week).

However on Tuesday afternoon, in the middle of a Skype call to a poor unsuspecting yours2share member, my laptop died.  A well looked after, 14 month old, Sony Vaio, protected by a surge suppressor, should not instantaneously fry its motherboard, but mine has.  Sony has not emerged from this episode well.  I called their customer support, already irritated by the 35p/min call rates, only to be left in a queue for eight minutes until I gave up.  Usually organisations that charge premium rates are ready and waiting with expert staff to help you, easing the pain of exorbitant phone calls, but not Sony.  The cost of the repair is more than buying a new  (non Sony) laptop with a better spec, so I won’t be repairing it.

Anyway, given that I run an on-line business, I have to be prepared for such eventualities, so I fired up the small laptop I use on the train.  To no avail, it is also terminally ill: and I later find out that the keyboard has a serious fault and has to be replaced, only it won’t be because it would costs far more than the laptop is worth.  Many thanks to Niels Van Minden of VMIT who helped me work out what is wrong.

Fortunately one part of my disaster recovery plan does work.  I backup all my files on-line everyday to ibackup and although I check every month to see they are there, I’ve never used them in anger before.  I’m pleased to report that ibackup works brilliantly.  Thank goodness.

This blog is written on an old laptop which my sister borrowed a year ago but never used.  So Windows, antivirus, and every other program has a year’s worth of updates…  It took all morning to do the simplest admin functions.  I’m looking forward to the weekend.

Now I have to find a new laptop, and one way or another, it’ll be here tomorrow.

yours2share on YouTube

| Boat share, Car club & car share, environment, fractional ownership, fractional rent, fractional resales, home worker, Horse share, Landshare, Property, sharing, template contract | June 15, 2009

I’ve finally managed to get yours2share‘s video onto YouTube!

If you want to see it in “high definition”, well much better quality, click here.

Family house sharing

| fractional ownership, home worker, networking, Property, sharing, template contract | June 10, 2009

house-share1

A few weeks ago I met Gemma Thompson, a life coach and owner of a local Suffolk magazine Roundabout at a WiRE business networking meeting in Suffolk.  I explained what yours2share is all about, as one does, and she surprised me by saying that she had bought a house with her parents and sister’s family, in which they all now live.

I had to find out more.

The arrangement came about when Gemma decided to move back to Suffolk with her nine year old daughter.  The house next door to her sister Emma was available to let, and she thought this was the perfect solution.  However her father thought Gemma wanted to move back to live with her parents was concerned that there wasn’t sufficient room.  He suggested that they all buy one property and live together.

Gemma liked the idea, but didn’t expect her sister, together with her husband and 16 year old son, to be interested, but they were.  Emma’s only condition was that she didn’t want to move away from the village of Alderton.  They thought finding a five bedroom house here would be difficult, but the following weekend the perfect house came onto the market. 90 days later in July 2008 all the three families moved in.

Everyone has their own bedroom, but the living room, dining room, kitchen and gardens are all shared.  They eat together about five nights a week, sharing the cooking between them but the arrangements are flexible.  All the food and household expenses are paid from a fund to which they all contribute every month.  They have regular meetings to discuss any issues. If someone wants to buy something for a communal room, say a new picture, everyone has to agree beforehand. Gemma, Emma and their father all work from home so they all need a working area.  They are just about to build a log cabin in the garden creating an office for them all.  Emma Aldous is a graphic designer, artist and photographer and their father works for Holiday Property Bond.

I was curious about how they managed times when one group wanted the house to themselves, maybe for certain visitors.  Gemma explained that they had all agreed to make themselves scarce on these rare occasions.  Whenever her sister’s in-laws come to visit, she and her daughter go out for dinner!

Gemma is clearly delighted with the arrangement and there are some obvious huge advantages:

  • Bigger house and garden
  • Much lower cost of housing, household expenses and food
  • More time with their family
  • More adult and children’s company for the children
  • Built-in babysitting and flexibility for single mum Gemma
  • As her parents get older, it will be easier for Gemma and Emma to manage
  • Advantages for inheritance tax

As I’m well aware, these arrangements can be fantastic as long as the people have thought things through properly at the outset, and have a proper contract in place.

At the beginning Gemma’s family had extensive discussions to work out how to make the arrangement work and this is defined in the trust deed and a financial document covering the monthly payments to cover expenses.  They worked their way through many “what if” scenarios.  One key decision was that no-one could leave the arrangement for the first two years, and after that the other owners allowed to buy out any leaver.  If this couldn’t be done, then the house would be sold.

It sounds like a model fractional ownership arrangement, long may it continue!

Remarkable Enterprising Women

| home worker, networking, website business | March 16, 2009

Sophie Garrett - founder yours2share

Sophie Garrett - founder yours2share

Many thanks to Enterprising Women, who have just made me Woman of the Week.  Enterprising Women is a great resource for female business owners in the East of England and it is now spreading out across the country.  As well as a comprehensive directory, the events section is useful.  I’m constantly advising women at WiRE networking  meetings to sign up and get their profile onto the EW website.  It’s free too!

On the networking theme, I saw a link to this blog about word of mouth recommendations a few minutes ago and it made me think.  It’s about the need to be remarkable yours2share gets much of its membership through word of mouth, so thankfully I must be doing something remarkable some of the time.  I’ve just got to try to be remarkable all of the time.

WiREd!

| Car club & car share, home worker, website business | October 1, 2008

As I’ve explained on various previous posts, I’ve been taking every opportunity to attend networking events in Norfolk for the last six months.  This is bearing fruit as I’ve noticed that many more new yours2share members come from Norfok than would be otherwise expected.

One networking group, WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise), has been particularly interesting, so when the opportunity to run the Norwich branch arose, I thought I’d take it.  I’m sharing the position with Naomi Hobart of Creative Smile and I think it’s going to work well.

So if you run a business in or around Norfolk, and are female, please join us when WiRE Norwich restarts on Monday 20th October 2008 with a meeting from 1900 to 2030 at the Kings Head in Brooke, just south of Norwich.

From then on, WiRE Norwich network will meet on the third Monday of every month.

WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) business networking events in Norwich, Norfolk are run by volunteers; please confirm your booking by emailing sophie@yours2share.com or booking on-line. Please let us know if you need to cancel.

Networks are for WiRE Members only but guests are welcome to attend twice before joining. Click to join WiRE.

Improving yours2share’s website: Romanian style

| home worker, website business, webstuff | September 26, 2008

Earlier this week, yours2share’s website underwent a fairly major set of improvements.  I’ve been working on these for about five months and I can’t tell you how relieved I am that they have been implemented with relatively few issues arising.  (I can’t believe I’ve just written that, I left a full time job in IT two and a half years ago, and I’m still conditioned to rephrase problems and bugs as issues!)

The underlying software of yours2share is coded in perl.  Had I known three years ago how hard it is to find perl coders I probably wouldn’t have gone down this route.  But you live and learn.  Most perl experts in the UK appear to work on contract for specialist IT companies and their rates are, well, interesting.

I wasn’t too enthusiastic about getting major software development done on-line but I had to find another way.  I’ve been working with my developer in Romania for five months and I’m impressed.

I’ve never spoken to him: our communication is entirely by email and Google chat.  If I’d realised this at the outset, I’d have been even more rattled, but it works well and one fantastic aspect is that both he and I have a record of everything we have discussed so misunderstandings are much reduced.  He types faster, better English than me when we chat on Google.  The only downside of using Google chat is that long sessions are exhausting.

Working “alongside” him on Monday night reminded me of many previous “go live” implementations in my previous life.  It was like having one of the many excellent IT contractors I’ve worked with over the years sitting next to me.

So what have we done?

yours2share remains free to use and I want to keep it that way.  But people can now pay extra if they wish to make their ad stand out, or put their contact details onto it

Ads are sorted by the date last updated, which I hope will encourage people to come back and keep their ad up to date, and ads can now be viewed in the currency of the visitor’s choice – my American members will like this.

There are Googlemaps within each ad showing the location and the search function is greatly improved – the old search functionality used to drive me mad.  Finally we’ve improved the security on the validation process.

yours2share “freecycles” to Norfolk

| environment, home worker, sharing | March 17, 2008

I’m kind of glad this week is over. We’ve moved house, yours2share and two dogs from West London to Norfolk. My desk is now a packing case free zone, but my access to the internet is a BTopenzone hotspot outside a training centre in a nearby village because we have no broadband yet. Why it takes ten working days from the point when the line is active is completely beyond me: the phone line was transferred immediately.

As part of the move we got rid of a lot of clutter that we had collected over many years. This involved heavy use of eBay, the rubbish tip, and a great service called Freecycle. If like us, you have stuff that has no value (you’ve checked on eBay) but seems too good to throw away, then Freecycle is what you need. Freecycle is a network of groups where you can post ads for items you are willing to give away provided someone comes to pick them up. So you don’t even have to take things to the tip. Last week, we freecycled a washing machine, dryer, cooker, keyboards, lots of china, a whole set of kitchen units and about fifty plants.

At the One Life Live exhibition a couple of weeks, several people asked me if yours2share was the same as Freecycle. Initially I was thrown by this question as yours2share is designed to help people share assets, not give them away free. But then I realised that the mentality is similar: both Freecycle and yours2share enable people to make the most of resources. Freecycle by giving away items that you would throw away anyway and yours2share by sharing items when you aren’t using them (admittedly this is not usually free of charge!)

Networking with social entrepreneurs

| home worker, website business | February 20, 2008

A few months ago I decided that I had to make a concerted effort to get out and meet people in order to spread the yours2share word. I’ve taken up every networking opportunity I can. The very first was a networking event held by Enterprise Nation in London in early December – it was an enjoyable meeting as everyone there works from home like me and was delighted to get out and meet people. I also met several people with whom I might work in the future and some who were actually interested in sharing something.

One person fell into both categories: Tom Howat has a dog that he might need to find someone to share with him, and he works for Network2012, a networking community for social entrepreneurs. I had to look up the meaning of social entrepreneur: then I found that I am probably trying to be one! Emma Jones at Enterprise Nation is also one – and I never knew! She is trying to use her entrepreneurial skills to enable people to work at home.

Just so you know, Wikipedia defines a social entrepreneur as someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change.

Well it seems to me that we have a problem in that we don’t share enough stuff, and I’m doing my bit to change this. I’m still not sure about my entrepreneurial skills; I’m working on them. However as well as the “problem” element of not sharing, there is also the massive lost opportunity in not sharing. So many wonderful assets, property, boats, motor homes, cars are sitting idle for the vast majority of their life.

And to continue with the networking aspect of this piece, Tom was kind enough to include a mention of yours2share in his latest newsletter, which has increased visitor numbers to the site pleasingly. So networking does work.

New blog (with all the old posts)

| home worker, website business, webstuff | February 13, 2008

Welcome to the new yours2share blog, which has all the old postings from the old blog but is now a fully fledged self hosted WordPress.org blog rather than a WordPress.com blog which is rather like a second class citizen.

I’ve begun to promote the blog on Feedburner, Technorati etc and realised that there are so many things that only work properly if at all on the self hosted version such as StatCounter and Share This

Fortunately migrating from wordpress.com to selfhosted wordpress is relatively easy. You can export all your posts and comments out and import them into the new blog. But I still had to edit my accounts with Feedburner, Technorati, Zimbio and few other places. As I hadn’t been going that long it wasn’t too bad, but having realised my mistake I decided it was better to move as soon as possible.

So my advice for anyone thinking about a wordpress blog is go for self hosted, particularly if you already have a hosting set up.

yours2share at the One Life exhibition

| Boat share, Car club & car share, Dog sharing, fractional ownership, home worker, Horse share | February 7, 2008

Today I’ve had one of those days when I start off thinking I’m doing one thing, and end up doing something completely unexpected.

I was called last night by the organisers of One Life exhibition at Olympia in three weeks time. They were selling the last few stands and as one would expect, there was a bargain to be had.

However I need an exhibition in three weeks time like a hole in the head at the moment. We are moving house in a month, although we don’t where to yet and the sale has some tricky legal details. Thankfully it is well worth our while moving. So I disregarded the One Life idea. But this morning I mentioned the idea to my partner Larry, who then convinced me this was a fantastic opportunity – which I kind of knew – but didn’t want to acknowledge.

When there is only one of you running a business, exhibitions are hard work. I don’t like to attend with less than five people on the stand. It’s exhausting, people need breaks, the stand must never be left unattended, and no-one must be left on their own. But I think I’ve found enough people, so I’m pretty pleased. Most difficult was finding someone to look after our two dogs for three days – but I’ve even managed this. I’ll admit a degree of smugness. I wish the solicitors, removal companies, buyers and tenants involved in our house move were as easily organised.

So why was I so interested in One Life? What has changing your life, by retraining, travelling, volunteering, redressing the life/work balance or whatever, got to do with sharing stuff. Well, more than you might think. I’ve realised after talking to lots of people who visit yours2share, that many people who advertise with us are looking to change their lives. They’ve identified what they want to do, and if they can’t afford to do what they want alone, then sometimes they can see a way forward if they could find a partner. They are looking for the needle in the haystack, but then that’s what the internet is for. yours2share helps them to identify the needle.

We have ads from people looking for partners to own and run a dog rescue/kennels/pet shop, own and run a centre for healing, share their farm, share their Provencal home for several months a year, share an ocean-going yacht to travel round the world, and many others. Or maybe they want to learn to fly, sharing a light aircraft is a good way forward, or perhaps they want to ride more often, so they could share a horse.

Anyway I’ll be there on stand 34 at the One Life exhibition, Olympia, London from Friday 29th February to Sunday 2nd March 2008, with four other people (fingers crossed). We would love to see you there.

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  • New blog (with all the old posts)

    by on February 13, 2008 - 0 Comments

    Welcome to the new yours2share blog, which has all the old postings from the old blog but is now a fully fledged self hosted Wordpress.org blog rather than a Wo...

  • Sharing in action

    by on January 31, 2010 - 1 Comments

    Do you share a house, car, motorhome, boat, aircraft dog, horse or anything else? I’m always looking for examples of sharing in action to blog about on yours2sh...

  • Newsletter archive

    by on February 18, 2011 - 0 Comments

    I've been writing a newsletter for yours2share for nearly four years now.  Except for the first few months all of them have been managed through the excellent C...

  • Home sharing

    by on June 11, 2010 - 1 Comments

    A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our couch surfing experience with Australians Jeff and Gerda.  As we chatted over dinner, conversation turned, as it so ofte...

  • Successful horse sharing

    by on March 26, 2010 - 0 Comments

    yours2share now has well over 300 horse share ads, from all over the UK, from Devon to Ayrshire and Cardiff to Surrey (lots and lots there!) I’ve recently spo...

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