Category Archives for The Online Life

5 Annoying Things Internet Marketers Say and Do

It’s always sad to find someone who appears to have something good to say, and then end up having to opt out of their email list. Often it’s due to the barrage of emails. But it’s also because of the annoying “tricks” they pull. Here’s my 5 annoying things Internet Marketers say and do

  • Emails that begin with “Real Quick” … and then point you to a 20 minute video to watch.
  • This is coming down real soon … overdoing the “scarcity emotional trigger” so much that is it pathetic, in email after email
  • This is very important, click on this link right now … giving you no context on what the topic is and why you should even care
  • This is why I do it .. It’s never for the money, but for the adorable picture perfect family
  • I’ve found the secret! … You found the ultimate secret to success last week too, what makes this one this week any better?

What’s annoying to you?

Yes, You Have to Manage TWO Passwords

No matter how much I emphasize how important it is to keep them safe, inevitably I get an email from a present or past client asking me to resend their passwords to them. Often it’s the hosting password that is forgotten as it is not used as often as the WordPress admin password (or some other CMS admin password). Since I’ve observed confusion on what each password is for, I decided to write this post.

Why Two Passwords?

Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Joomla or WordPress make it easier for non web designers to edit their websites, not only do users get easier to use WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interfaces, but you are often skipping the step of having to upload your work from your local computer to server (using the dreaded FTP that seems to stymie a lot of people). So where does the two passwords come in?

  1. Password #1 is the password to your hosting account. Here is where you manage the billing for your account, setting up email accounts and other hosting features usually through a cPanel. Often you manage your domain from this account as well. Once your website is set up (eg. WordPress is installed and configured) this password is not needed very often, however it’s important to keep track of.
  2. Password #2 gives you access to your CMS (such as WordPress admin). If you want to add a page to your site or shuffle the order of your sidebar widgets, this is where you want to log in. Some people refer to a system like this as a “backend” as “I’m having trouble logging into my WordPress backend.”

Systems such as WordPress, can be thought of their own little eco-systems. The web server and hosting account doesn’t really know about your website, it just serves up files to browsers as they are requested.

Yes, You have to Keep Track of Your Passwords

And writing them down on scraps of paper is not a proper password management system. We all have passwords, we have to remember. I have hundreds. I don’t recommend using the browser to remember your password (when it asks whether to remember the password for a given site I say never). I use different browsers and computers and it’s not particularly secure. If you are looking for a password manager, I use Password Safe but RoboForm is really good too.

Use Secure Passwords

Many systems today have indicators telling you whether your password is weak or strong as you create one. Some enforce “strong” passwords, you have seen these I’m sure: eg: has to be at least eight characters, contain 1 digit, 1 uppercase character and 1 special characters. These restrictions are not there just to make your life miserable, there is a reason for them – the more you can adopt these guidelines for all your passwords the more secure you will be.

Overwhelmed by Technology – Trends to Watch

Happy New Year! This is the first of a series of blog posts on trends to watch in 2011.

Overwhelmed by Technology or Do me

Last year I did a number of posts on Facebook and Google changes. The comments on my Facebook post were interesting, especially on the concept of a Facebook email account. Many just didn’t like the idea of yet another email account to manage. This sentiment echos other comments I heard, people are just overwhelmed by the technological change. If you are on any marketers’ email list, as I am, not a day doesn’t seem to go by, when you get emailed about some new earthshaking technique that you would be a fool to ignore. Witness the latest Brendon Bruchard campaign on becoming an expert, echoing many marketers out there, and many are saying to become an expert, you need to master video.

What’s kind of interesting is that the technology has really become easier. In particular wordpress makes it a lot easier to put together websites, and hand held video recorders with YouTube puts video in reach of many. What’s confusing is all the noise about HOW to use the technology effectively. Unfortunately there isn’t single right path for businesses. What may work for one may not work for another. But marketers and web consultants learn “a way” and that is what they promote as the latest, must have technique.

So what is the common reaction to the confusion? It’s “do me”. More and more, people are not willing to invest the time to learn the basics, and they are increasingly willing to hire it out. Pure education on how to market on the internet may not sell as well unless you offer a packaged service as well. Due to this trend, for my business, I’ve started offering services building optimized websites for this very reason.

What is Net Neutrality?

I don’t have broadcast TV. My old analog set is too old to get digital broadcast and I don’t have cable TV. But I watch TV about 7 or 8 hours a week, because I stream Netflix through my Wii. Aside from being totally out of the loop for certain large sporting events (the Giants won right?) I don’t miss it.

And I’m not alone. Lots of people use the Netflix instant queue, for $8 bucks a month it’s a total deal. Great service that makes Netflix a growing company to watch, and some of that money hopefully finds its way back to the artists. Everyone is happy, right?

Well Comcast, isn’t. It increased the fees it charges to carry all that streamed video over its network. This is against the principles of net neutrality and so the dispute is being watched carefully by netizens like me.

What is net neutrality exactly? Some proponents would tell you that net neutrality means a free and open internet. Umm yeah, what does that mean? I mean we aren’t in China, don’t we already have that?

To understand the issue, you need to focus your attention on the infrastructure of Internet. All those web pages, all those videos, are actually comprised of little packets of data that transmit over the internet and then get assembled into something understandable by your computer and browser. Companies that are the business of transporting those packets to your computer include Comcast and other ISPs (Internet Service Providers). You can think of Comcast as the newspaper boy, who gets a stack of customized newspapers delivered to him in the morning and then pedals around to get each custom newspaper to the right house. Now turn those newspapers into tomes the size of phone books and you might get why Comcast is unhappy. Of course the fact that cable TV subscribers such as myself are canceling in record numbers has absolutely nothing to do with it…

Net neutrality says that each packet is treated equally on the internet, regardless of where it comes from or where it goes. For example: there’s no “fast lane” for those that pay more. There’s no commute hour higher bridge tolls. And there is definitely no blocking of certain packets (this is what is meant by “free and open internet”).

Net neutrality has come up before when an ISP (yes Comcast) was caught slowing down certain “peer to peer” traffic (big downloads such as movies via bittorrent) back in 2007 until the FCC ordered them to back off which pushed the whole issue into court. ISPs such as Comcast and AT&T have asserted that they should be able to charge tiered pricing since they have invested in the infrastructure. Will they succeed in getting their way?

Facebook Changes – Out From the Walled Garden

Facebook VS. GoogleA few weeks ago, I wrote a post called “Google is Shaking Things Up” where I reviewed some of the major changes Google has implemented in 2010, including the new focus on local search. Google’s furious pace of changes is being easily matched by Facebook, as the two tech titans are squaring off in an epic battle that will be one to watch, the missing gmail import skirmish perhaps a taste of things to come.

2010 is the year that Facebook came out from its walled garden, it’s no longer just a destination site that you hang out in, now Facebook is out and about in the wild. It started with the April announcement of a partnership with Yelp, Pandora, and other sites to share your data with those sites via a feature called “instant personalization“. Later I started noticing that you could use your Facebook login details to log into, among other sites.

Facebook Like ButtonBut what really got Facebook out into the Internet wild was the “Like/Recommend” buttons that was a hit with many websites. Corporations rightly realized this was a way to get site visitors to spread the word about their messaging and web content among their friends and the buttons were adopted like wildfire. The premise is core to the basic Facebook philosophy, in that people trust referrals from friends above all else. Contrast this with the Google philosophy, which is about discovering what is popular and authoritative in the websphere and getting that in front of the searcher.

If you are interested in adding the “Like” or “Recommend” Facebook buttons (there is no difference between the two), first read through this problogger post that might help you decide whether they are right for your website. The post pushed adding the Facebook like button to this blog further down my todo list as testing showed that tech topics tend to do better on Twitter than on Facebook.

Facebook MessagingThe latest from Facebook is Facebook messaging. Facebook users have always been able to message one and other privately, the new feature takes that one step further with the addition of an externally available email address that matches your username, and also by interweaving your chats and texts into one central place . This is a shot across gmail’s bow (even with the recently introduced “priority” feature) and it could be a category killer impacting yahoo and hotmail as well. I wonder what it will mean to the email marketers, as facebook messaging prioritizes messages from your friends above any emails you get by being on a list.

Have you registered for your email account yet? It’s being rolled out in phases, but you can register now at: (I wonder, will having a gmail account delay or hasten the time I get my invitation?) Otherwise you can wait until a “Claim Your Facebook email” link shows up in your Messages view.

Effective Online Communications

I admit it, I’m a closet trekkie, in fact I like anything science fiction related .. as long it’s not too gory. Remember “Star Trek: The Next Generation” from the late 80s? Like the decade itself, “Next Generation” was an Utopian view of a possible future, where Mankind had solved hunger and other current global issues. I think I have seen most of the episodes, and one thing I noted was the communications between the characters.

For example, the Enterprise is facing certain destruction and Capt. Piccard contacts Geordi, the chief engineer of the ship and tells him he has 30 seconds to put in place some technical wizardry to save the ship. And Geordi says “acknowledged”. Not “I think it is possible, Captain” or “Yes” or even “Why”? Just that he understood the communication. There is a certain syntax in how the Enterprise team communicates with each other that facilitates smooth operations.

These days, much of our business communications are done over a variety of medium, and not face to face. Additionally, these days, short and sweet is preferred (140 characters or less), so getting your point across quickly is essential. In this global economy, you are often dealing with people who do not speak English as a first language so an ability to clearly communicate will help you have Enterprise’s smooth operations in your own business.

Here are just a few tips, I mostly focus on emails but some these can be applied to blogs, blog comments, social media and yes, even phone conversations.

Don’t write a book Long paragraphs in emails that ramble from point to point will not get you clear responses. And I have found that other cultures will just ignore them rather than asking questions to try and understand, possibly because they don’t want to come across as not intelligent.

Use white space People scan, rather than read every word, when they read online, so break up your paragraphs – especially if there are multiple points or concepts. 4 to 5 sentences per paragraph is a good rule of thumb. Use sub headings, bolding, stars and other attention getting formats (used judiciously they can be quite effective, but don’t go overboard!) I’m not afraid to have a sentence stand off by itself to make it stronger … although I have been dinged by reviewers for that.

Set some context Even though it may seem repetitive, set some context up front to remind the person about the goal on what you want to accomplish. Ie. “This email outreach is for the September 24th event I’m planning. ” Many people work on multiple things at once, a reminder of the project helps.

Avoid open ended questions Offering a choice of options can be much more effective than “What do you think we should do?” especially if you are the service provider and it is your area of knowledge. If you respond with a question to a request .. it might help to explain why are you are asking the question.

Agreed For IM conversations and email threads, I’ve found this single word quite handy as a quick way to signify that you agree with the point. This lets the people know they don’t have to keep convincing you of their opinion. I’ve also used “Acknowledged” as well, as in “Acknowledged .. will review this afternoon”.

Choose the right media As the kids know, email can be slow, if you are finding that you are getting into a lot of back and forth over email or the communication just doesn’t seem to be gelling, pick up the phone or get on an IM chat. There have been people I have worked with where I avoided email with them, it was most effective to talk to them on the phone.

Remember what your English teacher taught you Avoid long, run on sentences, use a spell checker, use proper grammar.

Know your audience Email can be used for formal communications, so keep the Internet lingo (ie. LOL) to minimum in these situations. My son tells me that I’m “old school” for spelling out most things in chats, tweets & texts (for example: I use “you” rather than “u”), but to be honest, I do this so I don’t have to think about whether it is appropriate or not.

These are just some tips to communicating effectively online, comments welcome!

Web Projects as an Deep Water Oil Rig

Imagine a world where large critical projects never catastrophically fail. No huge BP oil spills. A world where T-mobile Sidekick users didn’t wake up one day to find their phones had lost (literally) their life into the great bit bucket in the sky.

Why is this so hard to get right? In the software arena, missed project deadlines, or worse buggy software, are chronic problems that have plagued the industry since day one.

In the web space, projects suffer even worse. Often, unlike their software brethren, web projects don’t have dedicated QA (quality assurance – testing), network and deployment topology is a neglected after thought, and the under-resourced team has to live with a schedule that basically consists of “get it up ASAP, we will fix it later”.

Some days this is cause for despair. If a big company like BP can’t get a drilling project right, how can we keep a large web application smoothly running, given all the cards stacked against it in the first place?

It is the very transient nature of the web that saves us. Sure the code was slapped up there ASAP and sure it was hacked and tinkered with to massage it to ever changing requirements (“well now that I see it … it needs to …”), but web infrastructure often doesn’t last. Web sites are continually evolving and changing. A project is doing well if it lasts more than 3 years without a major rewrite. Vendor platforms get swapped in and out like a new pair of shoes.

With the web we can tear down the foundations and rebuild at the whim of the latest VP. It just takes money. We don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike BP. And given the chaotic nature of the web .. that’s a good thing.

The row over Facebook’s instant personalization feature

Have you opted out of the new Facebook instant personalization feature yet?

Last week Facebook introduced a new feature that “allowed non Facebook partner sites to personalize your experience using your public Facebook data”. The partner sites listed are Microsoft Docs, Pandora, Yelp.

The fact that the default setting was “Allow” immediately touched off a furry of posts that urged friends to: “Go to Account > Privacy Settings > Applications and Websites and uncheck “Allow”. Please copy & repost.” I got at least 4 of them in one day. I did wonder whether most actually read through the feature, or just participated in the knee jerk reaction “there goes Facebook trampling on my privacy again”.

It’s easier to opt out than to think through the ramifications, which are pretty broad. First of all you have to think through what about you is public, not just public public, but to your network. Someone who is not my facebook friend can see quite bit about me because he is in my “network” (depending on how your privacy settings are set). And if my facebook friends don’t opt out, they can still share my public info with these sites, even if I opt out, to prevent that I have to explicitly block the actual applications. So perhaps it is time to review those settings again to more tightly control what is public.

Do I really want the guy in accounting to know I listen to speed death metal? That I gave a poor review to a steak house because I’m a militant vegetarian (for the record I like trip hop, electronica, folk and do eat meat). Do I really want my facebook identity linked with my yelp persona? A site that that tinkers with review placement?

I’ve done all of one (yes just one) yelp review, and I use more than pandora, so it’s not likely not that big of an issue for me, but sharing data like this is huge and will have unanticipated rippling effects. In the end it’s a control issue. Better make sure those electronic footprints show up where I want, so let’s opt out in a futile but proud gesture.

BTW, anyone see the South Park Facebook episode? Great episode, unfortunately overshadowed by the episode 201 controversy.

Twitter and Facebook, the new virtual watercooler

I have no idea of how many telecommuters are out there, but I do know their numbers are increasing. I’ve been one of one for many years, I WFH (work from home) 4 days a week and visit the office 1 day a week. The one thing you miss with working with virtual teams is those more casual conversations that used to happen in the hallways and around the watercooler (or break room).

It seems for some of us, that twitter and facebook is the new virtual watercooler. For me at least it’s a handy way to track the goings on of my mostly past colleagues (and a few that are still present).

I know that one of my overseas colleagues is mad for cricket and tweets on the fortunes of his home team. I wasn’t surprised when one of my past colleagues was quoted in the Economist on his views on Cloud Computing, because I have followed his writing efforts on twitter. A past member of a team I managed has turned into quite the wine connoisseur. This is all courtesy of social media.

While not a substitute for real world interactions, Twitter and Facebook are not a bad placeholder for the social discourse I miss by not getting out of the house.

Google dropping support for IE 6

As a Google apps user I recently received an email from Google advising me that support for IE 6 (Internet Explorer), along with some other older browser versions (Safari and Firefox 2.0) would be dropped in March. If you are a user of Google apps, docs and sites, not to mention gmail, you will need to upgrade.

No one really should be using IE 6. Its security failings are widely known and missing features such as tabs should goad anyone to upgrading to IE7 or IE8, if they wish to continue using Internet Explorer, rather than Firefox.

In fact a recent eWeek article tied google’s recent announcement to the gmail Chinese hacker incident, where hackers that originated from China got access to gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents, apparently exploiting security holes in IE 6 to place some malware for download onto user’s computers. Google in their blog simply points out that the web is evolving at a fast rate and the newer browser versions offer a better experience.

The change will first roll out on google docs and sites on March 1st and then work its way through calendar and gmail through out 2010.

Bottom line? It’s time to upgrade.