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Medical Device Online Marketing: Part 1

The nice thing about the Professional Writing degree I’ve been pursuing  at Towson University (and finishing, graduation in three weeks, yay!) is the freedom to chose my own topic for many of the projects and papers I’ve written. To fully take advantage of these open-ended opportunities I’ve worked on answering questions and solving problems that have plagued me in the professional world. For one of my last papers, I am examining a problem that has been bugging me since I’ve started working at Medical Device Depot – enhancing online marketing capabilities for the niche field of medical device sales.

Selling an EKG machine or a blood pressure gauge is obviously not as simple as marketing a t-shirt, food, or something that most people in the world have a need for. Initial thoughts into the topic may bring up the question – is there really a market for medical devices? Considering the success of the company I work for, I can definitely say yes to that. The problem becomes reaching out to the target audience, of which a significant portion are older people who think iPads and laptops are scary monstrosities.

Although doctor’s are more inclined to stick to traditional non-online methods than other interested customers, the ever-widening generational gap for healthcare workers brings more people online. Medical devices are no longer becoming stand-alone, as an increasing number of machines are utilizing laptops and PC’s to enhance the potential and capability of medical devices. EKG’s can be viewed and printed on bigger laptop screens, data can be transmitted wirelessly through the internet. The list goes on. Although a significant portion of doctor’s may prefer to keep their practice as technology-free as possible, the younger generation is rising up and embracing the courtship of medical device and computer/internet technologies.

With laptops, bluetooth and wi-fi gaining an increasing presence in the healthcare industry, it makes sense that medical device stores can tap into this field to market goods. Shopping sites like Nextag and Amazon are starting to realize this as well, with more and more webstores offering categories for medical devices. When also considering that the target audience for medical devices extends far beyond doctors (physical therapy clinics and dentists just to crack the surface) there are many people out there searching for new devices.

The question therefore becomes: how do you reach these people? The same way you reach out to people looking for non-esoteric goods. Well, sort of. I’ll elaborate further in a later post.

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Filed under Social Media, Technical Writing

Brookstone iPad 2 Bluetooth Keyboard Case Review

Technology gurus suggest that tablets like the iPad2 will eventually replace laptops in the ever-shrinking world of portable computing. While the iPad2’s precise touch screen may antiquate the bulky laptop for casual computing, touch screen keyboards are not designed for long periods of typing. The Brookstone iPad 2 Bluetooth Keyboard Case not only solves the physical keyboard problem, it pulls double duty as a protective hard leather cover.

Simplicity is the key component; just slide your iPad2 into the book-like case, insert the latch to keep your tablet locked in place, and unfold the keyboard onto any surface – the device works equally well on a desk or lap. Bluetooth connectivity eliminates the need for physical connection; just follow the easy one-time installation procedure and you will quickly be typing like a laptop. With 40 hours of battery life on a single charge, you’ll soon forget the touch screen keyboard ever existed.

Although the keyboard features all standard laptop keys, squeezing the keyboard into the compact case results in a noticeably smaller typing surface. Although the keys function perfectly, their small shape may cause problems for large, non-dexterous hands.

At $99 the keyboard case includes both the quality manufacturing and hefty price tag common with Brookstone gadgets. However, if you are serious about using the iPad2 for typing, the keyboard case, combined with a writing app, will keep your laptop gathering dust when it comes to casual computing and note taking. Rest in peace, laptop.

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Filed under Misc. Reviews, Reviews

WYSIWYG Web Design

wysiwyg / Adjective: Denoting the representation of text on screen in a form exactly corresponding to its appearance on a printout.

Although I’ve been experimenting with HTML & CSS since High School, it was not until my later undergraduate years that I really started to dive into the building blocks of website creation. After all, as an English/Communications major I needed to supplement my abstract writing skills with something practical that I could put on a resume. Taking the time to learn website coding payed off well for me; it helped land me a job as a webmaster for Medical Device Depot, a medical equipment store where I alternate between updating the company website and tinkering with Mac 1200 EKG Machines. Did I mention I also assist with their advertising? 🙂

Anyway, when I started working on their website and fixing product pages, I grew very familiar with wysiwyg web building. Wysiwyg is an awkwardly short way of saying “what you see is what you get.” In other words, you use a robust HTML editor to sort of paint a picture of what you want on your webpage. When you’re done, the HTML editor generates a lot of (horribly written) code and you end up with a nice literal representation of what you designed. Incidentally a lot of blogging sites, including WordPress, utilizes a wysiwyg-style editor for users to design blog posts. If you’ve ever started (and subsequently abandoned after one week) a blog, you may have used a wysiwyg editor without realizing it.

Note that I said the code was horribly written. Unfortunately even the most robust HTML editor cannot keep up with the constantly changing human brain, and the right combination of erasing and re-inserting data can result in an awkward mess that can be difficult to fix in the limited editor program. Wysiwyg editor’s do not always like the idea of the undo button. They may get violent with you if you try to undo a mistake, resulting in an even bigger mess than what you began with.

Take a chart or table for example – you want to create a very even 4 column x 3 row table to display data, say different dimensions and sizes on a piece of furniture. You might tell the wysiwyg editor to create this table, and viola the table appears. However, if you make one simple misstep or need to change the table dimensions halfway through entering data, then your local wysiwyg editor may decide to turn your table into a piece of abstract art that you cannot fix unless you obliterate the entire table and try again. This is why some web designers shun wysiwyg and stick to doing all of their coding by hand with good ol’ notepad (or notepad++).

I respect the viewpoint of those web design purists, and I agree that wysiwyg has it’s faults. Yet those user-error faults won’t stop me from using it. This is partly because I’ve worked with my local wysiwyg editor for almost two and a half years and I know every pitfall to avoid. But mainly it is due to the fact that, because I am pretty good at coding HTML by hand, I can dive into the HTML code and fine-tune those silly coding errors as they appear. If that table example I described above occurs to me (and it occurs often), I can just look at the code, add or remove a <td> or <tr> tag, delete that moronic fixed-width cell padding the editor likes to toss in and viola – awesome looking table. Well, nowadays I just insert my homemade table code when I need a table, but that’s the general idea.

Sure the wysiwyg editor may create some unnecessary header tags or throw in a silly amount of <br> (blank line) tags that may cause a purist coder to faint, but that’s ok. I don’t need super awesome neat looking code. Website visitors don’t see that stuff. No, I need code that works. And if you take the time to develop your skills with HTML produced via wysiwyg and handmade code you’ll get code that works with minimum frustration.

In related news, this blog post is a fancy way of telling the world that I’ve started experimenting with Adobe Dreamweaver. I look forward to using Dreamweaver, which incidentally allows for an amazing blend of wysiwyg and hand-coding, to make websites in the future.

It also helps that I can put it on my resume.

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Filed under Web Design

The Art of Review Writing

One of the last two professional writing classes I’m taking to finish my degree involves writing reviews. Although I mainly took it because I needed a final elective and it sounded interesting, I’m learning quite a lot about writing in general.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that you learn from doing. The more you write, the better your writing becomes. Yet in a world where everybody and their mother wants to become the next Stephen King, I prefer to take a more…practical approach. Although I enjoy writing stories and poetry as much as the next bookworm it sadly does not pay the bills. Hence my education and class writing has always leaned towards the practical side of writing. You’d be amazed at what jobs you can earn with good writing skills and a little creativity.

Writing reviews is one such method of practical writing. The idea is simple: you have an opinion on something and you want to share that opinion with the world. Sure you could write a simple Facebook or Tweet that says “OMG Hunger Games is the best (or worst) movie (or ripoff of Battle Royale) ever made.” Yet when you do this you ignore the obvious response – why? That ‘why’ is the key to writing a good review. If you can come up with a well developed argument for your opinion, you say far more than a one sentence post on a social network ever will.

There is also the obvious advantage that reviews are very easy to get published. After all, reviews for everything from the latest movie or restaurant to the chair your sitting on is subjected to some sort of criteria and rating system. They also make very good blog content, which is why I’ve been posting reviews I wrote for said review writing class here on my blog.

Want to write something practical? Try a review sometime. It’s an excellent exercise in writing.

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Filed under Reviews, Writing

Epica’s Design Your Universe – Quantum Physics Clash with Metal

How often do you hear the words “symphonic metal band” and “quantum physics” in the same sentence? According to guitarist and lead screamer Mark Jensen, Epica’s musical goal in Design Your Universe is to bring this unlikely combination together in an attempt to show that every person is connected on a “subatomic level.” Ok, add “subatomic level” to the list of big phrases as well. Although their overall message sounds rather bombastic, the album manages to deliver the unique blend of dynamic choir and high-intensity sounds that Epica fans have grown to love.

For the unacquainted, Epica’s music straddles the lines of several different musical styles. As a symphonic metal band, the death grunts and indistinguishable shouts are more subdued than pure heavy metal. The high-intensity metallic sounds flirt with both progressive rock and show tunes, helmed by female lead singer Simone Simons. The result is best described as metal for people who don’t like metal. Those who like their music loud and fast-paced yet get scared away by death grunts and insane shouting.

Speaking of shouting, a constant nitpick by the metal outsiders who like Epica is the death grunts provided by Jensen. Although present in several tracks, the grunts never take central focus, and those critics must once again ask themselves: can any other band possibly hope to integrate such diverse styles as opera and metal as well as Epica? Consider the shouting level higher than the grunt-subdued album Cosign to Oblivion yet less than the grunt-heavy Divine Conspiracy.

In an attempt to further distance Epica from being pigeonholed into a single musical style, Design Your Universe includes lengthy rock & roll guitar solos, a first for the band. However a newcomer would not think this new. The solos blend in well so well with Epica’s music; one would think the rockin’ riffs have been a part of their melting pot of musical medley all along.

Despite her recent medical problems, Simone Simons’ voice continues to handle the pop and operatic vocals well, with several powerful songs like the back to back “Resign to Surrender” and “Unleashed” joining forces with slower tunes like “Tides of Time” and “White Waters.” Simons again proves capable of handling any tempo thrown at her.

As for the “human connection” theme, the connections Jensen promises are buried within the deep lyrics if one wishes to go searching for them. However it is far too easy to get lost in the fast music and harmonious sounds of Simon’s voice. The repeat listener will be highly rewarded with finding new meaning behind each song with each successive listen.

Sometimes the human connection angle becomes a moral statement instead. Is “Martyr of the Free Word” supposed to be about bringing people together through speech, or general support for the idea of free speech itself? Who cares? It’s far more entertaining to get lost in the sound of Simone Simon’s angelic voice, accompanied by a majestic choir.

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Filed under Misc. Reviews, Reviews

Five Guys Restaurant Deserves its Boasts

Upon first examining the interior of Five Guys Burgers and Fries (commonly referred to as Five Guys), you will quickly see a number of awards and acknowledgements wallpapering the white and red interior tones. A first-time customer might well consider Five Guys to be one of the most arrogant restaurants in existence with newspaper articles and award titles abound displaying such merits as “Burger of the Year” and “Juiciest Burger Ever!” After trying one of their burgers, you will likely agree.

The menu for Five Guys is deceptively simple. The main feature of a burger, fries and drink (Coca Cola® products) are supported by hot dogs and, for the vegetarians, grilled cheese and veggie sandwiches. Yet, despite the menu’s simplicity, first-time customers will require a few minutes to plan out their selection. That is because of the wide variety of toppings available to complement your juicy burger. Although cheese and bacon cost extra, the rest of the 12 traditional burger toppings and 3 sauces including favorites like lettuce, pickles, and A1 Sauce are free, and the chefs will generously load them onto your medium-cooked burger. With no limit to the number and variety of toppings you can select, even the pickiest of foodies receive a burger that meets their exact specifications. Although it takes several minutes for your burger to be ready, perfection cannot be rushed. Hamburgers are made fresh on the grill after you place your order, and complimentary peanuts and free drink refills are available while you wait.

A word of caution when placing your order: Five Guys believes in the phrase “bigger is better.” Their ‘little burger’ is actually a tasty robust burger with a patty bigger than your standard fast food fare. With the ‘regular burger’ consisting of a double burger with two patties, be sure to bring your appetite with you. This philosophy also applies to their fries. They come in two sizes, regular and large, or to be more precise, extra large and ludicrous respectively. As a point of reference, the drinking cup that the crisp fries come in will be overflowing in the brown bag containing your meal. It is not unusual to, after taking out and eating the fries in the cup, refill the cup back to full with the fries still remaining in the bag, and refill it again halfway. And this is the “regular” order of fries. A small-sized fry option would be convenient, as the “regular” portion alone comfortably feeds two people.

Five Guys is not a clean and proper dining experience. The burgers are big and messy; keep napkins on hand if you add sauce to your burger, for the cooks do not hesitate to pour it on. These burgers and fries are for diners who are not afraid to get their hands greasy.

With an order of a regular burger, fries and drink totaling $10 and pocket change, the price is a bit higher than the average fast food meal. However, if you like your burgers big and bold then grab your appetite and drop in. After enjoying the “burger of the year” you will never look at a $1 value burger the same way again.

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Filed under Misc. Reviews, Reviews

Postmodern Influences on Exposition

A short postmodern discussion I wrote for theory of exposition class. I’m thinking about writing a postmodern essay sometime, but I need to look into postmodernism a bit more.

Defining postmodernism carries with it many of the same headaches that go with defining exposition. Although there are many similar explanations that follow the same ideas and logic, coming up with a singular, defining explanation is very difficult. Modern thought and traditional values hold less value in postmodernism, and in many ways this postmodern movement is an assault on traditional belief. Once you move away from this viewpoint however, defining postmodernism becomes a hazy subject. These viewpoints stem from differing ideas on where to go from modernism. By defining the situation as multiple theorists coming up with different ways to put the ‘post’ in postmodernism it is easier to examine the big picture of postmodernism and its varied approaches.

The one thing most people can agree upon is that postmodernism is a movement away from modernism. A modernist viewpoint of a family could be seen in a traditional nuclear family, with clearly established gender roles and social hierarchy. A postmodern viewpoint would turn this nuclear family upside down and suggest “Alternative family units, alternatives to middle-class marriage model, multiple identities for couplings and childraising. Polysexuality, exposure of repressed homosexual and homosocial realities in cultures.” (Irvine)

The chart I just quoted from provides one of many examples of postmodern alternatives to modernism. While the postmodern alternatives are very different than modernist beliefs, there is a pattern that arises in this chart. For each modernist view, the postmodern alternative is almost exactly the opposite stance of the modern view. Although in many ways postmodernism seems like a direct attack on modernism, I believe the term ‘rejection’ as it is used in the first two chart examples is more suitable. Postmodernism is an attempt to move as far away as possible from modernism, holding no similarities in the process.

This lack of similarities brings forth a problem when comparing postmodernism to exposition. While exposition has evolved and changed greatly over the years, oftentimes attempting to be different than past incarnations, I would not say that exposition at any point in its evolution has attempted to reject each and every value from a past incarnation. Even the most modern forms of exposition carry traces of elements from the oldest theories of exposition.

One could try to define exposition by tracing its history and changes over time. In order to comprehend the exposition of today, and to better understand how it has evolved, it would necessitate understanding that which came before it. Likewise, to define postmodernism, as I said before, you would need to determine what constitutes modernism. Yet for both exposition and modernism there is no clear distinction of what came before. As the website questions: “Was there ever a pre-postmodern consensus about history, identity, core cultural values?”(Irvine) I don’t think it is safe to believe that postmodernism necessarily clarifies or complicates our understanding of exposition, rather, it simply encourages us to approach the idea of defining exposition from another angle. An “out with the old and in with the new” sort of angle I think, though I would need to study postmodernism a bit more before I can state this with certainty.

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