Category Archives: Personal

The Problem with Total Surveillance

20140529-201524-72924452.jpgI was talking with someone a few weeks ago and the NSA and how the government is snooping on email and social media and all those sorts of things. He mentioned that he finds that most times he bring things like that up, it’s met by the all too common refrain “If you don’t have anything to hide, then what’s the problem?”

Let me tell you what the problem is. Context.

Look, I truthfully don’t have anything to hide. I’m not doing anything illegal, I’m not sleeping around, I’m not hiding money anywhere, I’m not living in fear of the government finding out some deep, dark secret that is going to get me in trouble. What I am afraid of is someone from the government seeing a random email, text message, chat, etc. and taking it out of context. Because then I have to go defend myself from their innuendo.

Let me give you a perfect example. I have a Gmail address. I was lucky enough to get on the gmail train early and I have my name @gmail.com. Unfortunately, I have a pretty common name, and lots of people with that name either forget to type more than just the name @gmail when signing up for things, or go ahead and do that so that they don’t have to deal with the emails. Lots of other folks, when sending email to the Mike they know, manage to only type the name @gmail too. Continue reading

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Next Stop Oregon!

oregonAs if to prove that old axiom about mice and men, roughly 3 years after moving to South Carolina because we wanted to be in the South, we now find ourselves on the verge of moving about as far away from the South as we can without leaving the country.

Yes, my wife has accepted a job at the Oregon State Alumni Association. You can read more about her thoughts over on her own blog, I won’t try and speak for her.

What I do want to say about it is two fold. First and foremost, a bit of career advice. When you build good relationships with your co-workers, or other contacts, opportunities tend to find you. In this case, her former boss in Ohio wound up out in Oregon and approached her about applying for this job. When you combine that with my own experience of being recruited to my last two jobs by people I had met at conferences, the importance of relationships cannot be overstated. Continue reading

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Places to See Before You Die, Or Not

BW Ice

Robert Reid has a problem with the idea of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

 

Awhile ago, I floated the question on Twitter about what it takes to say you’ve “been” to a place. Does walking across a border or an hour in an airport terminal “count”? Where’s the line?

Someone suggested using this definition: that you’ve only “been” somewhere if you had some experience there worth sharing. That, to me, seems like the ultimate point of travel. But too rarely do we hear of such experiences from bucket-listers’ jet-set cousins, what I call the country collectors.

Many of these folks wear the tally of the countries they’ve visited as badges of honor. Adding to the total in as little time as possible often means horribly ill-timed flight connections and a couple of hours spent outside the terminal, before moving on to the next destination. Guinea-Bissau? Check!

Continue reading

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A Friendly Reminder About The Date

Closed

If you are ever going to pick a day to stop believing everything you see on Social Media sites, tomorrow would be a great day to start.

Consider yourself warned.

Personally, I’ll probably be avoiding Twitter, and others, tomorrow. It’s just too much work weeding out the chaff. I’m going to consider my online presence closed, unless something really interesting happens, that has nothing to do with April Fools.

Besides, tomorrow is also the 14th anniversary of my first date with the woman who is now my wife, which is a much more important thing for me than any prank could be. You may have your own thoughts on our first date, but I like to think that we started out on a “fun” day and have never stopped having fun!

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SEO Question

So, if there are any SEO “experts” out there willing to answer a question for me, I’m seeing some really odd Google behavior from one of my sites.

The site in question is www.childabusesurvivor.net.

The problem is this. Once upon a time my site was in the top three hits on Google for “child abuse survivor”, which would make sense, since that is actually the title and URL of the site. Here in the last few months, that has changed. My site doesn’t appear at all for that search. (It is still number 2 on Yahoo and Bing). That made me think that perhaps I was doing something that was hurting my Google rank, so I started to look more into it. First, I checked to see if the site was listed in Google at all. Searching for “site:childabusesurvivor.net” on Google shows me the site, so I know Google sees it. I can look at Webmaster tools and see where it’s getting some clicks and appearances in search, but none of those appear to be the home page. They are searches for various terms that point directly to a single post. There aren’t any search result appearances for the front page.

So it’s being indexed, but Google has apparently decided to push the home page of the site aside in the search results.

In fact, if I go to Google and search for the URL, “childabusesurvivor.net”, that site doesn’t appear in the results. Continue reading

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Useful WordPress Plugins

This is, apparently, what happens when I hot town the day before a training gig, and it’s a rainy Sunday. I start playing around with some ideas that had been running around in my head about the blog.

The first one, was taking the standard WordPress category page and trying to make it a bit more useful. By default, when you click the drop down list and hit one of the categories. WordPress would take you to a page with all the posts in that category. I wanted something more. I found a plugin called WP Custom Category PagseSocial Netwokring page, which has the latest links at the top, then the posts from this blog. I’m hopeful that will provide more usefulness to anyone who happens upon those pages, a sort of place to start when looking at that subject.

The other plugin I’ve added is Responsive Sticky Slider . This plugin allows me to define a category to be used as a slider of featured posts and then use a shortcode on a post to drop the slider in place. I went ahead and created a category just for that slider, and populated a few of the posts that people have hit the most in the past week or two. I also made that post sticky on the front page so it’ll always be on top. Since I’m using the category, it makes it really easy for me to leave that post up there, and switch out what posts show up there. I’m hoping that will help highlight some good tips and tricks that are sitting way back in the archives of the blog. (I have been doing this for more than 12 years now, there’s a lot back there!)

There’s still more that I want to play around with, on all of my blogs. So I’ll be taking what I have done here and tweaking it going forward, trying out some new things, and maybe cleaning up the layouts. Right now the Photography blog is the one that I love the way it looks, but then again, that one has images for everything, so it would look better. That’s blogs twentyfourteen theme and featured post slider is what got me thinking about doing that with my other sites as well. So, if nothing else, playing around over there is giving me lots to think about. That’s not a bad thing. Sometimes, you have to experiment a little in order to spur some creative thought.

Do you have plugins that you love that help you make your site more useful, or help you highlight some of your older content?

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Looking back on 2013

Usually on the blog, today would be the day I put up a collection of the favorite photos I took during the year, but since I have an actual photography page this year, I decided to just post that over there. Go check it out if you want to see my year in pictures. ;-)

As I was putting that together, a couple of thoughts occurred to me about the year 2013. Continue reading

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One Reason I Love the Internet

Cross posted from my Child Abuse Survivor blog, with the following further thought. This is also a good example of why which social network you choose to use, matters. If I had decided that I didn’t like the way Facebook worked, and decided I was going to delete my ccount and move to Google Plus, or only using Twitter, I would have missed this. It’s not about the tools, it’s about the people you want to connect to. Go where they are.

Light a Candle for me

Last Thursday my grandmother passed away. She had been ill, and was 93 years old so it wasn’t a shock, but it was still a sad occasion, obviously. I was teaching an online course for a client on the West Coast so while I found out during an afternoon break, I wasn’t really done working until close to 8PM my time. So it was a bit later when I got time to return phone messages, after which I turned to Facebook as a way to let some of my friends know what was going on.

When I got there that night, something interesting was in the process of happening. I took a look at the Facebook profiles of a couple of my cousins, and realized that we were all doing the same thing. We spent much of the night looking at Facebook, sharing stories and photos with each other. Even though we are spread all over the place, the technology of Facebook allowed some of us to connect right in that moment and mourn our grandmother, instead of having to wait for all of us to travel to the funeral.

As it turns out, it was also the day that Nelson Mandela passed away, which made it even more interesting. Not only were my cousins, aunts, uncles and I sharing thoughts about my grandmother that night, but much of the rest of the world was also sharing thoughts and stories about Mandela on Facebook and Twitter. I got a really good glimpse at the ability of the internet to connect us during a world event, and to connect a small group over their own event, at the same time.

It was a vivid reminder of why I started a website in the first place and why I still see online social networking as such a powerful force for good in our lives. Sure, it has the potential to be a dangerous place too. Just like any relationship, we have to be careful who we connect with. But it also provides us with a chance to connect with people who share our interests regardless of geography. Whereas in the past when there had been a death in my family, I would find out about it and then spend the evening apart from my family, and only really get to share those stories and memories if I could happen to travel for the funeral, this time all of us could jump on Facebook in different states and across time zones, and connect.

Think about that for a minute. Thanks to the internet, we’ve eliminated the obstacles of distance and finding a mutual time to talk, or the time it would take for mail to get delivered, when it comes to staying in touch. We’ve even eliminated the obstacles of not having someone to share ideas and thoughts with. You’d be hard pressed to find a subject that someone isn’t blogging about, or doesn’t come up on Twitter. When a world event like the passing of Nelson Mandela occurs, we turn to Twitter to see what other people are saying about it, or get more information. When it’s something closer to home, we turn to the same place, where we can communicate with the group all at once.

I’m very glad that Facebook helped me stay in contact with my family at a crucial time, and I’m very glad that being part of the online world has helped me stay in touch with far-flung friends and family. I’m just as glad that being part of this online world has brought people into my life who I wouldn’t have met anywhere else. Both of those things have made all the spam, technical issues, and trolls worth it.

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Thoughts from Vacation – Everyone is in Customer Service

As part of the on going series of things I took the time to notice while away from work and computers for a couple of weeks, I want to talk about cruise ships. Namely, I want to talk about the people who work on cruise ships, because no matter what your job title might be on a cruise ship, your number one priority is making sure your passengers have everything they need. That means that, even if you’re “just” doing laundry or stocking one of the bars, or any number of other behind the scenes types of duties, you should always be aware of what passengers are around you, and make sure you greet them in a friendly manner, and are responsive to any requests that they have.

I found this to be an interesting dynamic. Cruising in a highly competitive industry. I mean if you want to take a cruise in the Caribbean or Mediterranean, for example, there are a ton of options for you.  It’s not like only one cruise line can take you there, and it’s not like you don’t have a ton of different options for your itinerary. There’s a high probability that aside from schedule and ports, the deciding factor for which cruise line you choose is going to be which one you trust to give you a good experience. And, once you do have a good experience on one cruise line, you’re very likely to stick with them. So, there is a lot of pressure to make sure passengers are having a good experience, and the responsibility for that goes all the way through to every member of the crew.

I’m not sure that other industries quite understand that they are, as well, in the business of making sure their customers come away with a good experience. Far too often I’ve heard people who work behind the scenes in law firms, or technology companies, who really don’t have any idea who their customers are, or what kind of experience they are getting. That’s someone else’s responsibility. I’m here to fix the computers, deliver the mail, write the code, I’m not responsible for customer service.

Yet, you are. If you write code that doesn’t work the way a customer expects it to, you’ve just failed at providing customer service. If you are unorganized about getting the mail to the proper person who can get your mail and handle it correctly, or you’re lax in keeping technology running, thus preventing your attorney from responding to an email you are responsible for a lack of customer service.

Heck, if you just aren’t providing a friendly greeting to customers in the hallways or meeting rooms of your office, you’re missing out on the chance to improve their customer experience. Your organization exists to give your customers an experience that makes them want to pay you. If you don’t see providing customer service something that every single person is responsible for, someone else will be giving them a better experience very soon.

 

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