20 Awesome But Hidden Amazon Features You Can’t Afford To Ignore

Amazon is packed with cool features that can make your life easier. You’ve got your core set of Prime benefits, plus several newer Prime features that trickled in over the years. There’s a lot to love about Prime.

But what if you don’t have Prime? No problem!

Amazon still has dozens of other useful perks that you can take advantage of right now without paying an extra cent. You probably know about a few of these already, but I guarantee there are a handful you’ve never even heard of before.

Orders and Shipments

1. Shipment Updates via Text

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature shipment updates by text

Amazon offers free tracking on all orders, which is fantastic. But if you live in an apartment like me, you’re tired of logging in and refreshing the status every few hours to see if your packages have been delivered yet.

Or you live in a shady neighborhood and need to know when packages are delivered so you can notify your friend to pick it up for safe keeping while you’re at work.

Just go to the Shipment Update Settings page and add as many phone numbers as you want. Whenever Amazon detects a change in package status, updates are sent by text message (but only between 4 AM and 5 PM EST). Message and data rates may apply.

2. Order History Reports

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature order history reports

On the Order History Reports page, you can export a CSV file that includes all of your Amazon purchases between a start and end date. CSV files are viewable in all spreadsheet apps. Other report types include refunds, returns, or everything.

You can use these reports to see how much you spent on Amazon in a year, which could possibly open your eyes to a potential spending addiction.

3. Gifting Addresses

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature gifting address

Amazon offers two interesting features that work together:

  1. You can set a default shipping address for your account.
  2. You can connect with Friends and Family members.

When you check out, the “Select a shipping address” section of the process will have the option to select a recipient from among your Friends and Family. The recipient’s default shipping address also acts as their Gifting Address, which is where the package will go.

4. Amazon Lockers

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon locker checkout selection location

Amazon Lockers are bright yellow locker stations available all around the United States, though most concentrated in metropolitan areas. When checking out, you can have packages delivered to one of these lockers — almost like a temporary P.O. box.

This is an excellent option if you live in a neighborhood with high rates of theft. Packages must be picked up within three days of delivery. Learn more in our overview of Amazon Lockers.

Free Perks

5. Free Cloud Storage

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature free cloud storage

All Amazon accounts receive 5 GB of free cloud storage on Amazon Drive. This is a private file storage service similar to Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. If you have a Prime membership, you instead get unlimited photo space and 5 GB of space for files and videos.

If you need more space, paid plans start at $12 per year for 100 GB. After that, storage limits increase in 1 TB increments with pricing at approximately $60 per year per TB.

6. Coupon Discounts

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature coupon deals

Amazon has a coupons section where you can find discounts on all kinds of items: health, personal care, food and beverages, electronics, pet supplies, home goods, and more.

Most of the coupons provide tremendous value. For example, a quick peek shows a $2 Off coupon for a Head & Shoulders shampoo product priced at $7. Another coupon shows 30% Off for a 12-pack of Starbucks Refreshers priced at $18.

7. Deals on Used Products

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature warehouse deals

You probably already know about Amazon’s Deals, which include Deals of the Day, Lightning Deals, and Prime Early Access Deals.

But have you heard of Warehouse Deals? These are discounts on used and open-box products sold in one of four conditions: Like New, Very Good, Good, and Acceptable. These are a great way to save money for very little risk.

Payment Methods

8. Amazon Allowance

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature gift card allowance

Let’s say you have kids and you want to give them the freedom to shop on Amazon, but with an upper limit on how much they can spend. You can do this through Amazon Allowance.

First, set up an Amazon account for the recipient. Then, use Amazon Allowance to deposit funds into their Gift Card Balance. They can shop freely and never spend more than what’s on their Gift Card. Deposits can be one-time or recurring.

9. Amazon Coins

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature amazon coins

If you have any of Amazon’s many devices (e.g. Fire Tablet, Fire TV, Kindle Fire, etc.) and shop on the Amazon Appstore for apps, games, and in-app purchases, then you can stretch your money further with Amazon Coins. You buy Coins with cash and 100 Coins are worth $1 in the store — but when bought in bulk, Coins can provide a discount up to 25 percent.

10. Amazon Pay

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature amazon pay

Do you have credit cards and bank accounts tied to your Amazon account? Amazon Pay lets you use those payment methods when shopping on non-Amazon e-commerce sites, as long as those sites accept Amazon Pay.

The benefit is that you don’t have to type in your credit card numbers and bank account numbers on those sites, which limits the risk of identity theft. Amazon keeps your details secure.


11. Amazon TV Rentals

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature rent tv movies

If you thought video streaming was only available to Prime Video subscribers, here’s a surprise: it’s not! You can rent and stream movies, individual TV episodes, or entire TV seasons. You have 30 days from time of rental to start watching. Once started, you have 48 hours (for movies) or 14 days (for episodes and seasons) to finish watching.

You can also set a PIN on your Amazon account to restrict unauthorized purchases and set parental control viewing restrictions.

12. Book Previews

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature book previews

Thinking of buying a book but not sure if you’ll like it? If it has a Kindle version available, Amazon will grant you a sneak peek using its online book reader. The length of the preview varies, but I’ve often been able to read at least the entire first chapter this way. To launch the online book reader, just click on the book’s cover art.

13. Kindle Ebook Returns

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore kindle coffee mug relax

If you buy a Kindle ebook, get through the first few chapters, and realize it’s not what you expected, then you can always return it for a full refund — but only within seven days of the initial purchase. If you wait too long, you’re stuck with it.


14. Wish Lists and Idea Lists

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature wishlist idealist

When you come across something you want on Amazon, fighting the urge to buy it on the spot can be tough. One trick for spending less on Amazon is to utilize its Wish Lists feature: save it on a list for at least one month, and if you still want it, then buy it.

On the other hand, the Idea Lists feature lets you create lists that are publicly visible. This comes in handy when others want to buy you a gift, such as for your birthday or for a round of Secret Santa. Unwanted gifts will be a thing of the past!

15. Baby and Wedding Registry

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature baby wedding registry

If you’re pregnant and/or engaged, you can use Amazon as a Baby Registry and a Wedding Registry. Most people already shop on Amazon so this makes it easy for everyone involved. If Amazon doesn’t carry an item you want, you can add items from other e-commerce sites.

The Baby Registry offers a 90-day return policy while the Wedding Registry offers a 10 percent discount for all items shipped by Amazon (20 percent discount if you’re a Prime member). Get started with our guide to starting a registry on Amazon.

16. Textbook Rentals

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature textbook rentals

Are you a college student? Textbook costs can eat away at your budget, causing you to spend far more money than expected. Not only are they expensive, but they have terrible resale value. Fortunately, Amazon has a Textbook Rental feature just for you.

To rent a textbook, add it to your cart but select Rent instead of Buy New. You’ll see a due date, which is usually at the end of the current semester. Shipping for textbook returns is free. If you don’t return it on time, you’ll be charged a 15-day extension fee, then the book’s purchase price.

17. Follow Brands and Interests

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature follow recommendations

A feature called Amazon Follow lets you “follow” various authors, brands, interests, and even other customers on Amazon. Doing so alerts you when new products are released, or in the case of customers, when they post new product reviews. For follow recommendations, check out this page. To manage follows, go to your Who I Follow account page.

18. Run Giveaways and Sweepstakes

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature giveaways

Want to run a giveaway or sweepstakes to promote your event, company, or organization? Amazon can do all of the hard work for you. Just pick a prize (here are all eligible items) and set up the giveaway details. Amazon will handle the entry requirements, winner selection, and prize fulfillment so you have nothing to worry about.

19. Amazon Help Co-Pilot

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore amazon feature copilot support

The immensely helpful Co-Pilot feature allows an Amazon support agent to take control of your web browser to help you out in a more direct way (e.g. show how to use a site feature).

Before control is given, the support agent will share an activation code that you must type in to confirm permissions. The code only lasts for five minutes, at which point you’ll have to re-enter another activation code to extend permissions.

20. Review Pre-Release Products

20 Awesome but Hidden Amazon Features You Can't Afford to Ignore tablet apps mobile entertainment

Have you heard of Amazon Vine? It’s a special program where Amazon customers can test and share their opinions on newly released (or yet to be released) products for free. This is an invite-only program that targets customers who regularly write in-depth product reviews. Perhaps it will give you the necessary motivation to take product reviews more seriously.

As you can see, there are many aspects of Amazon that you probably aren’t taking advantage of — and none of them require a Prime membership! Surprising, right?

How many of these Amazon features are new to you? Are there any other hidden Amazon features that we missed? Share with us down in the comments below!

Have A Hard Time Tracking Debts With Friends? Use What Do I Owe You

i owe you appLike most people, I enjoy going out to places with my friends. Restaurants, movies, overnight trips, amusement parks, paintballing – you name it and I’ll go. Going out as a group is great but sometimes there are complications, especially when it comes down to money.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll cover someone if they’re short on cash and I’ve been covered on occasion as well. However, if your group of friends (or family, coworkers, colleagues, etc.) is the type that expects everyone to be reimbursed perfectly, the whole act of tracking debts can become a headache. This is also applicable to roommate situations where different people are paying for different bills.

Fortunately, there’s a new website that aims to solve this problem. It’s called What Do I Owe You? and it’s an extremely simple solution that gets the job done – and it’s different from traditional bill splitters and budget managers.

i owe you app

Here’s the basic layout of the website. Don’t be turned away by its simplicity, though. Haven’t you ever heard not to judge a book by its cover?

The gist of What Do I Owe You? is that you can add or remove people from the group that you want to split bills with. Each person has a name (which is by default “Click to Edit“)  and a list of items that they’ve paid for. As far as I know, you can add as many items per person as you want.

When you’re done with all of the items for all of the people, a single “Who Owes What?” click will tell you what each person owes to whomever else.

i owe you app iphone

Editing people in the group is easy, too. To change their names, all you have to do is click on the “Click to Edit” and start typing.

The “Add Bill” button will add more input fields where you can more items that they’ve paid for. The text field is smart because you can start it off with a money value (like $40.00) and the rest of it will be ignored, so you can use that to describe what that bill was for.

i owe you app iphone

Here’s an example setup that I’ve created. As you can see, it’s as straightforward as can be. As far as I know, there are no limits to how many people can be added to the group. (I stopped at 25 because there will never be a situation where I need to track 25 casual debts with my friends.)

i owe you app iphone

And finally, once you click that beautiful “Who Owes What?” button, the site will tell you what each person owes and to whom they owe that amount. Again, it’s not very pretty and there aren’t too many bells or whistles that go along with it, but the information is accurate.

If you want to start over, there’s a Reset option. You can also send an IOU Email to an address, which presumably reminds them in a friendly way that they have a debt to settle. Perfect for people who don’t like face-to-face confrontations!

i owe you app

The last two features are what make What Do I Owe You? something that will be used by many people – mobile support and progress saving.

At the bottom of the site, there’s a link that lets you switch into a mobile version of the site. On some devices, the site may detect that you’re on a mobile phone and change its format accordingly. Either way, I’m sure there are many applications for this website while on the go, so having mobile support is aces.

Progress saving is also quite nice. If you want to do long-term tracking of debts, just update the bills and click “Save” at the top right. This will tie your progress with your browser using a cookie and all of your data will be reloaded whenever you come back. However, in case you delete your cookies mistakenly, the site provides a link that you can use to restore your progress.

Overall, a fantastic website. The graphics could use some polish (okay, a LOT of polish) but the functionality is great. If more people used the site, I’m sure the creator would keep it updated with new features over time. There’s a “Feedback” link in case you want to send in your comments and suggestions.

Image Credits: Wallet Bills Via Shutterstock

Analyze Your Site Traffic By Day Or Month And Prepare To Be Amazed

If I asked if you wanted an orange to eat, would you say yes? What if I asked you if you wanted a fresh navel orange, hand-picked from the orange fields of California? You’d be more likely to accept the offer, wouldn’t you?  Information is everything, and having all the information to make an educated decision is one thing that lies at the heart of any successful endeavor.

The same is very much true when you are collecting data about your website using Google Analytics. Every day as I try to dig into new areas of Google Analytics, or try to mix and match Google Analytics data in creative new ways, I always discover something new and amazing. This actually happened this month as I was taking a closer look at other dimensions that are available inside of Analytics. Two of the most interesting — and in my view the most valuable — dimensions that are available are “Hour” and “Day of the Week Name”.

In this article, I’m going to explain what those two dimensions tell you, and how you can combine them with other data to reveal a lot of amazing things about your website traffic, reader behavior on your site, and even how to better optimize the website when you publish certain types of articles or other content on your site. Just like on Twitter or Facebook, timing is often everything. The same is true about when you publish new content to your own site, and these Google Analytics dimensions can help you optimize that.

Understanding Hour and Day Dimensions

As people visit your website in greater numbers, there are certain patterns that will emerge if you know where to look. I covered a whole lot of those in our MUO Google Analytics Guide, which I highly recommend. While you can certainly view things like pageviews or bounce rates by the hour or week in the charts, that only tells you overall traffic trends by the hour or by the week.

What the Hour and Day dimensions give you access to is longer term patterns. Those dimensions will take traffic, social data, and any other metrics available on Google Analytics, and then calculate overall patterns over a longer range of time, and in my opinion, the longer the range the better. The more data you use with these dimensions, the more likely you’re going to identify extremely useful patterns that can improve your odds of success.

But first things first. Since you’ll be looking at hourly data, time zone matters a lot. So first check the time zone setting in Google Analytics by going to the Admin area, and clicking “View Settings” under Profile.


Under “Time zone country or territory”, you’ll see your current time zone setting. This is really only important if you’re looking at a website with a publishing schedule set up in a different time zone. You’ll need to correlate the time zone of the Analytics data with the specific time zone you’re thinking about to publish certain types of content.

Working With the Hour Dimension

The Hour dimension can be accessed by building a custom report. You access those by clicking “customization” in the top menu on Google Analytics, and then clicking the “New Custom Report” button. When editing the new report, you’ll find “Hour” available under “Other” in the dropdown for the Dimension field.

Even just a general Pageviews report based on the Hour dimension can tell you a great deal about your visitor patterns. Again, examining this data over a longer time period is best for finding patterns, so I’ve made my own analysis span over six months. What the data reveals below is that my highest traffic time periods are the afternoon, from 13:00 to 17:00. And then, interestingly, there’s another surge very late at night, around 22:00 (probably after the kids have all gone to bed and parents are getting online to do some research).
This is really only the tip of the iceberg through. Moving beyond pageviews, just think about what other metrics tell you when you look at it in terms of hourly patterns. For example, at what time of day do you seem to have the highest exit rates from your site? Mine appear to be worst just before and after midnight.
What time of day do you get the most new visitors? Using the % New Visits metric by hour, you can see when you have the highest rate of new visitors. In my case I get maximum new traffic before and after midnight, and well into the early morning.  It’s very common for a high rate of new visits from places like Google Search to correlate with higher exit rates, because a portion of those new visitors are “speed-clickers”, just clicking through to see if your article answers the question or interest they had when they conducted the search.

These are just a few examples of hourly trends you can use to learn more about visitor behavior and traffic patterns, but if you’re creative with the metrics or combination of metrics you look at, the possibilities are really unlimited.

Working With Day Dimension

If you want to look at larger patterns, an awesome one to explore is the Day of the Week dimension.  You can find this one under “Other” in the Dimension drill down box when you’re creating your custom report. The name of the dimension is “Day of the week name”.

Like the hourly report, the day of the week report by pageview is a quick way to see what day of the week you get the most traffic. Surprisingly, my own blog follows a pretty clear pattern from the start of the week having the most traffic, to the end of the week having the least. However, this definitely isn’t always the case. I’ve seen other sites where the middle of the week is clearly the busiest. It all depends on the niche or subject matter you cover, and when the people interested in your content are most likely to be spending time online.
Again, like with the hourly report, the weekday report sorted by exit rate can tell you what day of the week people tend to leave your site upon initially visiting it. You might think this should directly correspond with traffic levels, but that’s not the case. As you can see here, the entire weekend represents a time period with high exit rates on my blog, while more people tend to hang around at the start and at the end of the 5-day work week.
However, there’s a lot more that you can do with this beyond just standard metrics like pageviews and exit rates. What about learning what days more people share your articles, or what days your site seems to struggle more with page load speed?

Other Patterns You Can See

There are so many things you can analyze about your site using the day or hour metric that it’s a bit mind-blowing to consider it. There are a few more examples I wanted to share just to whet your appetite. When you have your report listed by day of the week, you can drop down the Secondary dimension box and select “Visitor Type” to see the specific days you have more returning or new visitors.
Doing this reveals that I get the highest number of new visitors at the very start of the week, from Sunday through Tuesday. Those also happen to be the days I get the highest return visitors, showing that both numbers correlate to overall traffic patterns. Nothing surprising there.
However, if you do something like sorting the report by other metrics, you can extract some pretty interesting data. For example, if I sort by average time on page, I learn that returning (loyal) visitors spend the maximum time on my pages on Thursdays, Sundays and Tuesdays, while new visitors tend to stay on the site the longest over the weekend, from Friday through Sunday.
This information can be really helpful for targeting those types of readers during the correct days of the week. Offer your loyal readers content that you know they’ll enjoy most on Thursday, while offering new reader-targeted content that might encourage them to become loyal readers, over the weekend.

Another example might be selecting the “Actions per Social Visit” metric, which could reveal the days of the week you’re getting the most social activity on your articles — i.e. the days when people tend to share them the most.
Running through this custom report, I’ve discovered that I get the best share rate on Thursday. This provides me with an opportunity to not only target readers that are more active on social networks during that particular day (posting social network promotions), but it also shows you what other days you may need to work on for increasing social activity on the site.
One last example might be checking how your web server is performing during the week. You can see this by choosing the Avg. Page Load Time metric on the custom report editor.
Sorting by this metric in the “Day of the Week” report reveals that my server really strains on Fridays and Sundays. When this doesn’t correspond directly with traffic, you may want to explore other causes for it, as there could be solutions that could improve page load on those days. Page load has SEO implications for your site, so it’s an important metric to follow (and improve).
You might even break down the page load metric by the hour, to see what time of day you seem to be having the most issues. Again, this should correspond with traffic.
When it doesn’t, it’s a clue that you could have other issues going on with the server during those times — maybe you’re on a shared web server and other sites are bogging it down during those times.

Final Notes

As you can see, hourly and daily dimensions can help you break down your website metrics into much more meaningful data. By mixing and matching that data, you can better understand a whole lot about how and when traffic is arriving on your site, and how readers are behaving at different times. You could explore things like the particular days you get specific referral traffic, the hours of the day certain sections of your site tend to perform the best, and so much more.

Do you use hour or day metrics when you explore Google Analytics? If so, what sorts of things have you analyzed and what did it tell you about your site? Share your own experiences and ideas in the comments section below!

9 Ways To Become More Popular On Facebook [weekly Facebook Tips]

9 Ways To Become More Popular On Facebook [Weekly Facebook Tips] Facebook LikeFacebook is different things to different people. It’s used to stay in touch, play games, share news and stories, or promote brands. What unites almost everyone who regularly uses Facebook is the desire to be popular and Liked.

The problem is that Facebook guards updates and doesn’t automatically show everything to everyone. The algorithm that determines how many people get to see a post is called EdgeRank and it pretty much is a black box. Nobody knows exactly what will make something go viral on Facebook. However, there are a few things you can put on your checklist to significantly improve your chances to become popular.

This article provides a summary of the wisdom from science and social media experts.

Be Upbeat & Positive

Good news spread faster and farther than anything else on social media, which is in contrast to traditional mass media. Psychologists explain that we care how our friends and peers react to what we share. Since we generally want our friends to be happy, we prefer to share something that makes them feel good. Consequently, you will literally be liked a lot more if your updates are upbeat and positive. Frankly, this one shouldn’t come as a surprise as the same is true for how you behave in ‘real life’.

9 Ways To Become More Popular On Facebook [Weekly Facebook Tips] Girl in Hammock

There are some things, however, you should not share on Facebook, regardless of how positive or exciting they are.


Studies show that people are much more likely to share or Like content that arouses a strong emotional reaction in them. This includes science articles that leave them in awe, as well as posts that excite them or make them laugh. Although content that triggers strong emotions like anger or anxiety tends to do well, the more positive a story is, the more likely it is to be shared.

9 Ways To Become More Popular On Facebook [Weekly Facebook Tips] Why Do People Share

See Upworthy’s entire How To Make That One Thing Go Virual slide show.

Appeal To Your Friends & Followers

Being positive and having the potential to trigger strong emotions is worthless, if you fail to capture the interest of your friends and followers. Know what they care about and feed their interests. Or build the audience that genuinely cares for what you have to share. Consider targeting different types of updates to different groups of friends.

9 Ways To Become More Popular On Facebook [Weekly Facebook Tips] Light Bulbs

There are a few things that really annoy people on Facebook; avoid them like the plague.

Know Who Your Friends Or Followers Want To Appeal To

Now this one is a little complicated, so bear with me. People won’t just share something because it impressed them, they also want to impress others with what they share. In other words, if they think a person they really care about will Like what they are reading right now, they are much more likely to share it. So try to craft your Facebook updates in a way that make the social cognition regions in your readers’ brains fire! Or in simple terms: appeal to the friends of your friends!

Be Fresh!

Always strive to post about current and exciting things! We all love to be entertained and learn something new. And don’t forget to add your own unique twist; it will make you memorable.

9 Ways To Become More Popular On Facebook [Weekly Facebook Tips] Green Grass

Use Visuals

People don’t read, unless a great headline or a visual catches their attention. Pictures have been found to work best, better even than videos. So put an effort into finding or creating great images for your Facebook updates. Note that with the News Feed changing, pictures will be granted more space; you can now use up to 600 x 600 pixels.

9 Ways To Become More Popular On Facebook [Weekly Facebook Tips] Ladders and Clouds

If you decide to use visuals, be very careful not to breach copyright laws. Here is a list of things that might get you banned from Facebook.

Be Brief!

While you’re putting more effort into adding good images, cut down on the amount of words you are using. Although Facebook doesn’t have a character limit, it appears that even 140 characters are too much. Also note that text describing a picture won’t show as caption, instead it will be overlaid at the bottom of the image. Around 80 characters are said to work best.

Interact With Your Friends & Followers

Essentially a no-brainer, but communicating with someone is more engaging for them than being talked at. Involve people in your updates, ask a question, let them fill in a blank, have them write a caption for a funny photo, or challenge them to another activity. Telling people something you would like them to do will significantly increase their interaction. Sometimes life is simple.


Everyone is busy and all our Facebook News Feeds are flooded with updates. The best time for your posts depend on where your audience is located and what their Facebook habits are. Generally, weekend mornings tend to work best.

9 Ways To Become More Popular On Facebook [Weekly Facebook Tips] Best Time for Facebook Update

See the entire Your Way to Facebook Success Infographic.


Being popular on Facebook or making something go viral is hard work. Moreover, it requires quite a bit of skill and a lot of luck. However, if you follow a basic and smart recipe, practice a lot, and continuously learn from your own experience and that of others, you will eventually have a breakthrough. Never give up!

What is the Facebook success you are dreaming of?

Image Credits: Like via Shutterstock, Girl in Hammock via Shutterstock, Light Bulbs via Shutterstock, Green Grass via Shutterstock, Ladders and Clouds via Shutterstock. This post was inspired by an article on The New York Times and contains additional ideas from a Pagemodo Infographic, DashBurst, and an Upworthy slide show.

The Makeuseof Toolkit Against Online Trolls [part 1]

against trollingHow many Internet arguments have you witnessed? Or better yet, how many Internet arguments have you participated in? I visit a number of forums and communities on a daily basis, and I see arguments all the time. But what really bugs me are the people who make unfounded arguments and think that they’ve won.

You might know these kinds of people as “trolls” – people who will come up with any and all types of nonsensical logic. And then there are times where people will make baseless arguments unknowingly.

I’m going to be writing a 3-part series on battling Internet discussion trolls. Together, these make a toolkit you can use any time you come across a troll, to make your life easier. The posts are formatted for ease of use: you can quickly send a link to just one of the sections, to show what logical fallacy (or “crappy argument”) you’ve detected in the discussion, and hopefully raise the level of reasoning. With this toolkit, you will never lose an argument to another troll again.

Using The Section Links

You can share a link to a specific section in this article by using the “link to this section” links in the header of each section:

  • Right-click “link to this section.”
  • Select “Copy Link Address.” Some browsers may call it “Copy Link Location,” or something similar.
  • Send the copied URL so the other person learns about the logical fallacy you believe you’ve detected.
  • Done!

The ad hominem (link to this section)

Ad hominem is short for the Latin argumentum ad hominem, which literally means “to the person.” The ad hominem is a way of discrediting a claim by attacking the character or beliefs of the person supporting the claim rather than disproving the actual claim itself.

From my experience, this is the most common form of argumentation that you’ll find on the Internet. Why? Because it’s easy and makes you feel good about yourself. Some examples:

  • In politics, someone might discard a Presidential candidate’s suggested policies because he had an affair.
  • In gaming, someone might brush aside another player’s gameplay suggestion because he is of a certain race or ethnicity.
  • In academia, someone might ignore or neglect a particular hypothesis because the proposal came from a person of religion.

against trolling

In its most basic form, the ad hominem is little more than name-calling and flaming. Saying someone is wrong because he is a “f–ing idiot” is this fallacy in a nutshell.

The Strawman Argument (link to this section)

The strawman argument occurs when someone misrepresents his opponent’s position and then attacks the misrepresented position – in other words, he builds a strawman that he can attack. By defeating the misrepresented claim, he creates the illusion of having defeated the opponent’s original claim – but in actuality, he hasn’t.

In Internet discussions, particularly those of a political or religious nature, the “strawman” has become something of a synonym to “logical fallacy,” but be aware that it’s a specific logical fallacy that deals with misrepresented claims. To be true, though, people will create strawman arguments frequently because it’s an easier way to combat a claim than to deal with the actual issues at hand.

  • Suppose Person A wants to relax gun laws. A strawman argument would be if Person B misrepresented Person A’s position by slightly altering the claim away from “relaxing gun laws” to “unrestricted access to guns.” His argument might be that if we granted guns to everyone, society would plummet into chaos – which is obviously not what Person A originally claimed.

defend against troll

If someone tries to misrepresent your position, tell them to discredit your actual claims, not the ones that they’ve created for you.

The ad populum (link to this section)

The ad populum is short for the Latin argumentum ad populum, which literally means “appeal to the people.” This is otherwise known as the “bandwagon argument”. The ad populum is when you claim that something is true because it is either popular or believed by many people. The error here is that a logical statement’s truth value cannot be determined by its popularity. It’s either true or it’s not – regardless of who believes it to be true.

You might have used this one (or heard it used) when you were a child. My parents would often keep me from participating in certain activities and I would argue “why not? Everyone else is doing it!”  I thought it was a good argument back then. Now I know better.

  • If you’ve ever heard someone say something along the lines of “a thousand people do X. A thousand people can’t be wrong, right?” then you’ve heard the bandwagon argument.

defend against troll

If someone throws away your particular position on the grounds that it’s an unpopular or minority position, enlighten them with this explanation.

The No True Scotsman (link to this section)

The No True Scotsman fallacy occurs when you appeal to a sense of purity or completion in the original claim to exclude all cases that may be possible but do not fit the claim. Here is the famous exchange from which the name of this fallacy is derived:

  • Person A: All Scotsmen enjoy haggis.
  • Person B: My uncle is a Scotsman, and he doesn’t like haggis!
  • Person A: Well, all true Scotsmen like haggis.

When someone’s position or argument has been undermined by a counter-example, many will instinctively defend their position using the principle of the No True Scotsman. Like most of the popular logical fallacies, this one is also easy to use because it requires little logical sense. Instead, it just excludes particular cases that don’t fit the original argument.

defend against troll

The burden, then, falls on the two people to arrive at a proper definition of “Scotsman” before they can continue with the argument. Sometimes, people will confuse “No True Scotsman” with “Begging the Question,” a logical fallacy that will be covered in Part 2 of this series.

The Slippery Slope (link to this section)

The Slippery Slope occurs when someone argues that if A were to happen, then an unwanted outcome B is bound to happen, thus A should not happen. It’s easy to see why someone would want to use this to attack a point.

You’ll hear this logical fallacy committed a lot in the political realm. When certain changes or propositions are made, there will be a lot of hypothetical situations used to argue the validity of a claim or position. Unfortunately, there is no way to test whether or not a hypothetical statement is true or not, thus this cannot be used as a proper means of argumentation.

against trolling

There are situations in which the Slippery Slope can be a strong point, but it depends on the warrant. If someone can positively demonstrate a process such that A will always lead to B, then it may find traction. If someone tries using the Slippery Slope argument against you, then the burden of proof lies on them to demonstrate the validity of the slope’s slipperiness.


This toolkit is all for you. It’s meant to help defend you against the trolls who will throw illogical reasoning at you in the name of winning. In response, you can help raise the level of discussion by linking directly to these fallacies, inviting the other side to make a better argument. As an added bonus, you’ll know which fallacies to avoid when you’re crafting your own arguments!

Look out for Part 2 in this series, which will be published in the coming days. We’ve got plenty more logical fallacies that you can use to identify and make the Internet a better place for intelligent conversation.

Image Credit: Argument Image Via Shutterstock

5 Awesome Things To Listen To On Spotify That Isn’t Music

what to listen to on spotifySpotify is best known as a great online service for listening to all the online music your heart desires. If you’re opting for the free version of the service, the vast musical collection comes at the price of a few ads here and there. But if you’re opting for the paid version of the service, not only do you get an ad-free experience, you also get to take the music with you offline, by using Spotify’s mobile app and selecting which playlists you want to listen to offline.

A fact that might not be as well known as offline listening is that you can take advantage of that feature with more than just music – with Spotify being home to audiobooks, standup comedy and more.

Rather than drown out chatter on your commute with music, why not opt for an audiobook instead? While Spotify itself has yet to delve into the audiobook world, thanks to the public domain, there’s already a significant collection of classic novels, plays, poetry and more. And it doesn’t end there. Spotify also houses a significant collection of standup comedy, with some of the biggest names in the business.

And if you’re in the mood for something completely different – you can even listen to NASA recordings of the Apollo Missions and more.

Listen To Classic Literature

what to listen to on spotify

There is no shortage of classic literature that’s in the public domain on Spotify. A quick search turns up a few of our favorite classics, and then some.  There are a few ways you can find them. The first is to simply think of classic books you’re interested in finding, and look them up. You can also use a great online service like the Gutenburg library to think of titles you want to look up.

Another great way to discover what’s available on Spotify is to use the related artists feature. When you look up any given book, click on the artist name (in other words – the person who is reading the audiobook) and you’ll find a bunch of related artists who have recorded audiobooks of their own.

To get you started, we’ve got a list of some of the most popular classic lit titles that are available on Spotify:

Aside from novels, you’ll also find a few interesting plays that are worth listening to, among them:

There are also some great lists compiled by other people including a list of spooky stories and poems on Spotify, 21 classics and a William Shakespeare list.

Listen To Vintage Radio

listen on spotify

In addition to classic novels, you’ll also find an interesting collection of vintage radioshows (complete with their original ads) featuring the likes of Errol Flynn and more. One vintage radio playlist has almost 2,000 tracks on it with shows including The Phantom of the Opera, Sherlock Holmes and more.

Listen To Comedy

listen on spotify

In the mood for something a little less serious? Spotify’s standup comedy collection is impressive and will leave you in stitches. Search for your favourites, check out related artists, or even start a radio station using one stand up comedian for an endless playlist of hilarity. The caliber of standup comedians you’ll find on Spotify is impressive including:

Listen To NASA Missions

listen on spotify

And in the spirit of Monty Python, and now for something completely different. An absolute hidden gem on Spotify is some NASA recordings, among them, recordings from The Apollo Missions.

The recordings are a fascinating peak into a world we rarely get to see and with Spotify’s offline feature, you can take the NASA recordings with you everywhere you go.

Learn a Language

what to listen to on spotify

If you’d like to brush up your language skills, Spotify can be a useful companion to lessons you’re taking elsewhere. With the app, Listen Language, you can find recordings that will help you learn English, Spanish, French, Italian, Greek, Swahili, Hebrew, Arabic and much much more.

Can you think of other interesting things to listen to on Spotify that aren’t music? Let us know in the comments.

10 Websites For Daily Tips & Time Saving Nuggets Of Information

Tip (noun) – A small piece of useful advice or information.

Knowledge (noun) – Everything that is known.

Going by their meanings, the two words are quite similar. But the way we interpret them is sometimes different. Knowledge conveys a larger body of useful information. A tip is something that seems almost inconsequential in comparison. Till you make use of it of course.

Daily tips are almost like ‘inside information’ or even recommendations that can help us take shortcuts through whatever we are attempting. It could be dicing potatoes or creating a startup. Tips are always welcome; in fact we are always in search of them. Perhaps, that’s why these ten websites can help us out with their collection of tips.


daily tips

The site is a free reservoir of daily tips you can dip into and come out with a few gems. The focus is mainly on homemaking tips ranging from crafts to household DIY tips. Enter your email address and let your missus get something useful to ponder over every Wednesday. The site has been online since 2006, so you can expect a rich variety of tips to choose from.

Thrifty Fun

daily information

This tip collection website gives you great ideas and solutions to everyday problems. The site which has been there for quite a while has a community behind it. You can subscribe to their Thrifty Fun Newsletter and stay updated with the latest tips from around the web. To add a dash of fun there is also the ThriftyFun weekly contest where $25 dollar prizes are up for grabs for the tips that receive the most “Thumbs Up” ratings. You can browse through the 80,000 strong assortment of tips by date or topic. You can also put in your questions too.


daily information

Did you know that there’s a difference between the terms ‘organic’ and ‘natural’?

Call this a tip exchange and you won’t be off the mark. TipWriter welcomes you with a large tag cloud of tip topics. Some tips are brief, some are detailed enough to be linked to external content. But most are good enough to remember and use. You can log-in with your Facebook account and share your own tips.


daily information

Nobody has all the answers but the web at least provides a way to get to some of them. The daily tips site has ‘Gurus’ or guides catering to the topics on the site and there are lots of them – from accounting to yoga. Across the topics, you can access more than 100,000 tips every day. New tips are added daily. You can subscribe to the tip of the day feed or the newsletter.


daily information website

Tipstrs is geek centric with tips collated from the world of computers and technology; though the site also has collections on other topics too. How to hack a locked iPhone and how to access private Facebook photos are sure to garner eyeballs. You will find tips like these in the Hot Categories.


daily information website

You can submit your own tips here, but the site seemed to have been quite choosy about publishing them because the stats show that only 9000 tips had been Okayed. DayTipper is dormant now, but the tips should remain handy for all time to come. DayTipper has interesting sections like a Hall of Fame and a Hall of Shame that can be read alongside the sections called Staff Picks and Undervalued. (Read Directory mention)


daily information website

This site is more current and it is also in beta. TipsBase is an online community where you can find and share tips, tricks and advice on any subject ranging from autos to video games. The site also has a revenue sharing program generated from the AdSense revenue on the site. As I haven’t tried it, I really can’t say more on it.


10 Websites for Daily Tips & Time Saving Nuggets of Information tips08

This daily tips based site has completely gone green. It covers tips on living a green, eco-conscious life with a simple layout and a minimal fuss interface. You can add your own tips or read the ones that have been submitted so far.


10 Websites for Daily Tips & Time Saving Nuggets of Information tips10

Perhaps the only thing that’s more important than saving the planet is saving money. This site gives you 6,804 ways to do it. Take your pick from the tips submitted by the online community. (See Directory mention)


daily tips

We have featured this neat video site many times before. It deserves a mention here because the 5 min duration long instructional videos are perfect as tips. The videos are regularly updated and they are quick to load, view, and understand.

There are a few more websites on daily tips around the web. But these seem to be the pick of the lot. Of course, when it comes to technology, you shouldn’t go far from the blog (and our own collection) you are reading right now. Pausing the shameless self-promotion, which other site have you bookmarked for a daily dose of tips? Let us know.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

How To Get Your Facebook Birthdays Into Google Calendar Without Apps

facebook birthdays into google calendarAre you sometimes a little forgetful when it comes to your friends’ birthdays? Or do you just like having all the important dates filed away in the same place? Whichever category you fit into, you’ll love this neat little trick. Facebook has lots of information on our friends, including their birthdays, and it’s surprisingly easy to now get that information somewhere useful like your calendar.

It used to be the case that Facebook birthdays could only be exported by use of an application like FBcal. Nowadays they’ve enabled a native way to get an iCal feed or an .ics file so that you can import them into your favourite calendar as you please.

Web iCal Calendar Or .ics File?

The exported .ics file is a static collection of birthdays as they appear today in Facebook. This means that any friends you add later on Facebook won’t be listed in your imported Birthday calendar.

The web iCal feed however, will update when you add or remove friends from Facebook, making it more useful in the long term. However, you may have your reasons for using a .ics file and we’ll show you how to access both.

Finding Your Birthday Feed Or .ics File For Export

Head to your events page in Facebook by going to the Home page and clicking on Events on the left. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Birthdays“. Scroll down again to the bottom of this page and click on “Export Birthdays“.

facebook birthdays into google calendar

You’ll be given a webcal URL which you can use to import your Facebook birthdays into Google calendar. If you want to import the web calendar feed to your calendar, simply copy this URL and move on to the importing step.

facebook birthdays in google calendar

If you want to import an .ics file, copy the URL and paste it into the navigation bar of your browser (without hitting enter). Highlight the part of the URL that says “webcal://” and delete this bit. Then hit enter and your browser will download the .ics file to your computer where you can save the file or open it in your local calendaring application.

facebook birthdays in google calendar

Saving the file means you’ll have it available as a backup later if you need it – it’s also what you’ll need to do in order to import into Google Calendar.

facebook birthdays in google calendar

Importing Your Birthday Calendar Or .ics File Into Google Calendar

To import your web iCal calendar feed into Google Calendar, you’ll need to look on the left at your calendar list and find the section for “Other Calendars“. Click on the drop-down arrow and choose “Add By URL“.

How To Get Your Facebook Birthdays Into Google Calendar Without Apps FacebookBirthdays Add By URL

Take the URL you have copied and paste it into this dialogue. It will show up in the list as “Friends Birthdays“, but you can edit the calendar to change the name if you like. A similar scenario is available in Outlook or iCal if you prefer to use these services instead.

To import the .ics file into Google Calendar, follow the steps above, but instead of choosing “Add by URL” choose “Import Calendar” and navigate to the .ics file you downloaded before.

As mentioned briefly, it’s also possible to import .ics files or iCal web calendars into other calendaring software directly, such as Outlook or iCal. However, many iCal users find it’s best to create and import calendars with Google Calendar and then sync Google Calendar with iCal for backup and local use.

This Also Works For Facebook Events

This process has been possible for Facebook events for a while now, as seen in 10 Ways To Use Facebook Without Going To Facebook. You can find your Event calendar feed by going to Home > Events > Export (which hides at the bottom of the page). Then follow the instructions as above.

facebook birthdays into google calendar

Bonus Tip For Google Calendar Users

Don’t forget that with Google Calendar you can get notified by email or SMS in advance for important events. You could choose to be sent reminders in advance for those really important birthdays!

Hopefully, this trick to import Facebook birthdays into Google calendar will keep you organised and out of trouble with your friends. Now you just have to hope they’ve all used their real birthdays on Facebook!

Yuletube: Replace Mean Youtube Comments With Christmas-related Words

While Christmas might have come and gone, there are many people still in the holiday spirit and enjoying this time of the year. One thing that can quickly get them out of their cheery mood and upset them is the comments section of numerous YouTube videos. Regrettably, YouTube users use foul and obscene language while posting comments on others’ videos on YouTube. Not only is this hurtful to the person who has uploaded the video, but it is also upsetting to read the mean comments that people are targeting at strangers.

Needless to say, if Santa were to browse YouTube this time of the year, he would be very upset. Here to help save you and Santa from viewing those unpleasant comments is a browser tool called YuleTube.

mean youtube comments

YuleTube is a free to use browser tool that replaces mean and obscene YouTube comments with Christmas cheer. The tool basically comes as an extension for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari. The extension for each browser can be downloaded right off the extension’s website. After you install the add-on, you should restart your browser. From then on, whenever you check out YouTube and its comments section, you will find Christmas-related words in the comments.

These words are actually replacing the objectionable words in those comments. This means that you do not have to read those unpleasant words left by strangers on YouTube as comments. A demo video on YuleTube shows Santa’s frown turning into a smile after reading these Christmassy words in the comments.



  • A user friendly browser extension.
  • Compatible with Firefox, Safari, and Chrome.
  • Prevents you from reading mean and obscene YouTube comments.
  • Replaces the objectionable words in YouTube comments with Christmas related words.
  • Similar: Facebook YouTube Comment,

Check out YuleTube @ http://yuletu.be

7 Citizen Journalism Websites For Crowdsourced News

crowdsourced newsCitizen journalism may or may not be true journalism; in fact a lot of it is not. But it is a concept that has been embraced by the open nature of the web. Think of citizen journalism as ‘open source’ news reporting and you wouldn’t be far off the mark.

Citizen journalism in the simple sense is news collected and published online by people like you and me. We aren’t reporters by any stretch, but citizen journalism websites gives us an opportunity to speak as interested observers. It is freedom of speech without any censorship in its unadulterated sense.

Citizen journalism as first witness accounts or even as second hand reporting has gained credibility thanks to many media channels. The common man as a commentator or a reporter also goes where walking-the-beat journos sometimes can’t. So check out these seven social news websites for a week long reading of news put together by citizen journalists.

Now Public

crowdsourced news

A multimedia news site with 5 million readers puts it in the top bracket of citizen journalism news coverage. NowPublic.com says that it receives news from 6,000 cities in 160 countries. The crowdsourced news site accepts news, views, photos, and videos from its legion of contributors. News items range from 250 words to 600 words in length. You can also check out Examiner.com, a sister site which is more selective about news but has a payment model (North America only) that’s still lacking in NowPublic.com.

CNN iReport

crowdsourced news site

CNN iReport is an example of a mainstream news media company that’s also tapping into the power of citizen journalism. CNN says that the stories in this section are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they post. Only the ones marked with a ‘CNN iReport’ badge have been vetted by CNN. News contributors are also awarded honor badges for their contributions and some of them make it to the “˜Superstar’ list. As a part of CNN, the citizen generated news content gets its share of eyeballs.

Digital Journal

crowdsourced news site

You will be known as a Digital Journalist and you will be paid (by way of a share in ad revenues) for your contributions. I write for them occasionally and can say that the level of professionalism is pretty high. Digital Journal is based in Canada and it started out as a technology news site. You can sign up, read and write news stories, and also start a blog. It is among the earliest citizen journalism sites on the web. Digital Journal, like all community based websites, tries to promote interaction among its members.

All Voices

crowdsourcing news

Allvoices.com is probably the only crowdsourced news with a cartoon section. Otherwise, it follows the pattern of a usual contribution run news website. Apart from crowdsourced news, some events are also posted automatically from news RSS feeds (marked as Mainstream News).


crowdsourcing news

Newsvine is a collaborative crowdsourced news website that’s owned by MSNBC. Newsvine is well regarded as one of the top most user generated news websites. News is a combination of contributed content (links and detailed articles) and mainstream news from Associated Press. Newsvine pays contributors from a share of the ad-revenues. Newsvine also maintains a leaderboard reflecting the popularity rank of all its contributors. When you join, you will be taken to the Greenhouse where new users are announced to the community.


crowdsourcing news

Wikinews is as good a place as any to try out your journalism skills. The moot point of Wikipedia’s sister site is that it stresses on neutral, unbiased reporting. Opinionated news articles are ruled out. As is true of any wiki, you have to follow strict content guidelines. But if you have an internet connection and an eye for news, this is a place to get a global audience. Check out the Water Cooler link where you can discuss issues beyond the news.


crowdsourced news

Demotix could really make a scribe out of you as they provide a platform for licensing your contributed news stories to media channels (200 of them). The U.K based Demotix is a citizen journalism website plus a photo agency. The community is a 17,000 strong group of “˜street journalists’ from 190 countries. The Wikipedia page on Demotix makes for an interesting read and also captures how amateur journalism can leave an impact.

Do you think that these seven websites can make you shout “stop the press”? There are a few more crowdsourced news sites with citizen journalism content out there. Let us know about the ones you read for the news. And if you are thinking of becoming one yourself, read the Top 5 Online Resources for the Citizen Journalist.

Image Credit: Shutterstock