5 New Toys You May Not Know About

Posted by Nessa | Tags: | Posted on April 9, 2010

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BlogSell

BlogSell is the next generation of managing blog income.  There are dozens of services out there that assist with buying and selling ads, but this one actually helps you keep track of all your banners and affiliate links, as well as various sources of blog income such as paid reviews, banners, and text links. Definitely a must-have for bloggers needing a more flexible platform for keeping track of their income sources, who want to do it all in one place.

Yola

Yola is offering something that most other web hosts and template services do not – free site hosting AND design for basic usage. The templates offered are actually very nice, but you can also purchase a series of upgrades based on what you actually need.  The price of custom design may be a bit steep for some people, but is still a lot less than hiring a freelancer.

FitClick

Move aside, Sparkpeople. No one really needs you anymore. FitClick is a free online weight loss service offering free weight loss programs, diet tips, and fitness/calorie trackers, with reportedly a much better user interface than Sparkpeople.  I’m not trying to call you fat, but umm…maybe you should take a look at this site.

MyPunchBowl

Party planning has never been sexier. MyPunchBowl is a free online party planner that lets you plan an event by recommending vendors, helping you to prepare lists, send out invitations, and shop for party favors and supplies. It even has a link to Facebook to help you promote your event.

ProjenyPM

This one was developed by a customer of IMH and introduced to me a couple months ago. It’s an online project management tool that goes above and beyond most other project management solutions out there, including the ability to manage employee timesheets, performance, and scheduling. This service is free for personal use, and moderately priced for business use.

8 Steps to Starting a Free Online Service

Posted by Nessa | Tags: ,, | Posted on March 28, 2010

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Working in the web hosting industry, I come across a lot of interesting sites and not surprisingly, I’ve found that a good number of new site owners have at least one of two goals in mind – to become well-known on the Internet, or to make money…sometimes even both.  It’s also not surprising to find out that less than an eighth of the people that have these goals will never meet them.

One of the more common trends I’ve noticed is the creation of free services.  No individual wants to pay for using things on the Internet nowadays, and anyone who has a choice between a paid and a free service will consider the free choice first.  Offering a free service also may mean big bucks for you in the long run, so if you were thinking about enhancing your presence on the Internet by offering a service, here are some tips to help get you started.

1) Come up with a solution

People turn to using services because they provide some kind of value that can help or solve a real-life issue. For instance, Mint.com offers free financial planning services. Facebook and MySpace offer social networking to help you keep in touch with other people. These services were unique to their time, which is why they are so popular – and now millions of people use them.  The first thing you should think about when starting any new service is what you can offer for people that may have a dilemma or need for efficiency. Stuck?  Carry a mini notebook around and jot down things that you do on a daily basis, then look back and think: Is there something on this list that would be easier to do or track if there was a something out there to help me out?  Also, don’t waste your time trying to clone free services that already exist unless you’re prepared to offer something that they don’t.  Instead, focus on coming up with something unique.

2) See what’s already out there

When I was in technical support, I would come across at least two customers every week that appeared to be starting some kind of social networking site, and some even admitted that they’re trying to launch the next MySpace.  Let’s get a reality check here – most of the popular social networking sites out there have been around for years and by now have millions of users, and are endorsed by multi-billion dollar companies.  You’re not going to have the next eBay or Youtube, so don’t waste your time trying.   When there are already hundreds of services offering the one that you’re trying to launch, you really need to know what you’re doing if you plan on being successful at reaching your target audience.  Your best bet at success is offering something that no one else does.

Instead, again, focus on bringing something new to the table or improving a service that isn’t as readily available.  One of the best ways to get attention for a free service is basing it off a paid one that is at least moderately successful.  The simple concept of something being free will entice your targeted audience to at least try it.

3) Figure out how you’re going to do it

Listen here, dreamer – if you want people to use your service, you have to do some a lot of technical planning.  Depending on what kind of service you’re starting, you may end up needing a design and custom content management software for your website, neither of which comes easy or cheap.  If you’re tech-savvy, expect to spend at least 10 hours a week for several months on development alone. If you’re not a technical person when it comes to programming and site design, well, let’s hope you have quite a bit of money saved up.

But – don’t just start throwing a bunch of junk together. You need to site down with a pencil and paper and plan out all the major aspects of your website before you get started.  This tends to be the most time-consuming part of the entire process if you’re doing this all yourself, because you have to think about how everything is going to tie together as far as programming, layout, and security.  Then there’s the actual doing of all this, which takes even more time.  Be aware of exactly what you’re needing and how long it’s actually going to take. Once you have a plan, start on it as soon as possible.  It helps to make an outline of what needs to get done, and then set deadlines for those items.

4) Think about maintenance

Running a service doesn’t end at its launch, that is, if you want your users to continue using it.  You need to think about how you’re going to support and maintain your service – your users may try to contact you every so often if they need help, or the site itself may eventually need maintenance and updates performed.  If you don’t think you’re going to be able to maintain the site yourself, see if you have any friends that will be willing to help out. Depending on how successful your service ends up, you may eventually need to hire staff members to help you maintain the site.

5) Make it free for them, but profitable to you

You’ll want to make all this worth your time, otherwise you’ll probably end up giving up.  Free services are almost always supported by paid ads, which offer a per-click or per-sale incentive for you.  Always consider putting ads or endorsements on the site that will bring in money, but make sure they are relevant to what your service is offering and they don’t affect the usability of the site.  Search places like Commission Junction for affiliate programs or other services that you think your users will find helpful. Either way, find ways to make your site profitable, whether it be supported by ads, or giving the option for users to upgrade to a paid service that offers a few more features.

6) Cover your ass

Believe it or not, people can pretty much be sued for anything nowadays, regardless of how stupid it is.  I’m not saying that you need to hire a lawyer, but you need to make sure your bases are covered when it comes to dealing with people that are either just out for money, or want to take things to the extreme by holding you accountable for their problems. Anytime you offer a service, you’re going to have people who are not satisfied.  Therefore, you’ll want to draft a Terms of Use and/or legal document on your site specifically stating that you’re not responsible for what your users do, or how your service works.  Basically, don’t offer any kind of guarantee, and let your users know that they are using your service at their own rish.  The exception is in cases where personal information is stolen, as if you obtain and store such information on your site you are responsible for its security.  That also brings up the point that you should avoid obtaining personal information for your members that isn’t necessary for then to use your site.  If you do have to obtain such information, take a few extra steps to secure it and cover yourself against liability by encrptying information and getting PCI certified by a trusted provider.

7) Make it known

You need to get the word out about what you’re trying to do, and set it up far enough in advance to where people are actually looking forward – and waiting anxiously – to using your service. This means using Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks to tell everyone about the site, and reach out to other blog owners that may be interested in posting about it.  You’ll want to start letting people know about it at least 2-4 weeks before your expected launch date.  Your site should have a visually-friendly page up indicating what services and features you will offer, when they will be available, and that it’s free.  It may also be worth setting up a mailing list that people can opt into so they are notified of updates, and purchasing ad space on more popular sites, which can eventually pay off if your service is a success.

8) Stick with it

One of the hardest parts of starting anything is sticking with it. In this case, you may be looking at a project lasting six months to well over a year.  If you think about giving up, motivate yourself by thinking about how much money you’re going to make, or how you’re going to be helping people.  If you find yourself in a bind, consider getting help or making your goals a little more realistic.

10 Excellent Open Source Alternatives

Posted by Nessa | Tags: ,, | Posted on March 6, 2010

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Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that I’m a huge fan of open source software. I don’t think it’s smart for people to drop upwards to thousands of dollars on software unless they have that kind of money to waste, or have a need that isn’t being met by the open source community.  And then there are the less legal alternatives, which I’m not against, but then again I can’t promote them here, either =)

So here’s a nice list of open source alternatives for people who want to save money by using open source software.

1) Use Linux instead of Windows

The transition from Windows to Linux is not as hard as you may think it is. When people think Linux, they think of an ugly black and white command prompt. This may be true if you’re thinking of running Linux as a server, but as a desktop you have a GUI similar to Windows and Mac, in the form of KDE or Gnome.  If you have applications that require Windows, you can usually run them by installing a program called Wine.  It can take a little getting used to, but for those buying a new PC or refurbishing an old one, Linux is the route to go if you want to save money and get better performance, security, and stability than you’ll ever get with Windows.  For newbies, I’d recommend Ubuntu or Fedora.

2) Use Gimp instead of Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop will run you between $700 and $1000, maybe less if you purchase from an independent software distributor. If that’s a little steep for you, consider using Gimp instead. It has a lot of the same functionality of Photoshop, and can read files created in Photoshop (.PSD) as well.  My sister is a photographer and just when she thought she was used to Photoshop, I introduced her to Gimp so she can do her photo editing outside of school, and she said it does as good of a job as Photoshop does. Similarly, I hear that Inkscape makes an excellent alternative to Adobe Illustrator.

3) Use OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office

My Dad, who has headed the IT department of his company for years, didn’t believe me when I told him that the thousands his company was spending on Microsoft Office licenses every couple years could be a waste of money, since OpenOffice has the same kind of functionality. The base package of OpenOffice contains alternatives to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access, all of which have the same familiar interfaces and support for files created in their proprietary alternatives, but without the expensive licensing costs and resource requirements. The  software in OpenOffice also has a number of features that the other does not.

4) Use Thunderbird or Evolution instead of Outlook

Outlook sucks. I can’t tell you how many calls I got about it when I was in technical support, where email would suddenly stop working and the customer wouldn’t want to believe that their beloved Outlook was the problem. It usually comes bundled as part of the Microsoft Office suite, but you can buy it standalone. Why would you want to? Thunderbird is free, and a lot more efficient, feature-rich, stable, and secure than Outlook. Love the Outlook feel? Evolution is the Linux alternative to Outlook, only it doesn’t suck as much.

5) Use ClamAV or AVG Instead of Norton, TrendMicro, or McAfee

I’ve heard from many people that even though ClamAV is free, it’s better than its leading enterprise alternatives. It also works on Windows (Via ClamWIN) and Linux. Need a firewall too, but don’t want the steep cost of Norton Personal Firewall? Consider APF or Smoothwall.

6) Use Turbocash instead of Quickbooks or Microsoft Money

I personally haven’t used Quickbooks before, but I heard it’s comparable to Turbocash, which is perfect for smaller organizations or individuals needing software for finance management.

7) Use VirtualBox  instead of Microsoft Virtual PC, VMWare, or Parallels Desktop

I generally used Virtual PC in the past to play with other operating systems, but you may find a use for it if you’re a software developer or you have applications that work on one OS but not another. Virtual PC usually ends up being free quite some time after its initial release, but it only runs on Windows. VirtualBox is open source and runs on Linux, Mac, and Windows, and supports a large variety of guest operating systems.

8) Use OpenVZ instead of Virtuozzo

Virtualization with something like Virtuozzo isn’t the same as using something like VirtualBox in terms of mass-management of virtualized servers. If you’re offering VPS hosting or need to run multiple servers on one, you’ll want to use something like Virtuozzo.  Virtuozzo may be the best, but OpenVZ doesn’t fall far behind at all…and it doesn’t carry the multi-thousand dollar licensing costs.

9) Use OpenWorkBench instead of Microsoft Project

I’ve always found web-based software like dotProject to be more effective for project management, but if you need a more local solution for your PC, try Workbench instead of spending dough on Microsoft Project.

10) Use Partimage instead of Norton Ghost

Norton Ghost will generally cost around $70, but Partimate is free and essentially does the same thing. I’ll mention though that Norton Ghost only works on Windows, and Partimage only works on Linux. So Partimage is something you’d consider using if you’re switching from Windows to Linux and can’t use Norton Ghost anymore.

Who Gives a Crap About “The Cloud”?

Posted by Nessa | Tags: | Posted on February 11, 2010

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That was my question all through HostingCon last year. Almost every pillar seminar had some mention about “the cloud” outside of any context that meant anything other than finding an excuse to talk about cloud hosting.  But really, who cares about cloud hosting?

No really — I’d like to know who thinks cloud hosting is really worth its hype and would benefit a hosting provider offering shared hosting services.

You need special hardware and software to efficiently support a cloud hosting platform. It’s not like a cPanel server you can turn on and set up – and I so far haven’t come across any [good] user-side control panels available for cloud hosting. That means that you’re going to have to find a way to come up with your own.  Since the hardware is also specialized, I’m sure the scope of vendors is limited, and those vendors probably take full advantage of that by cranking up their prices.

And…

The purpose of cloud hosting is expandability and reliability. You have multiple servers working in tandem serving sites, so if one server has a problem, the others pick up the slack. Then if you plan on doing what other hosting providers so, you’ll charge your clients based on how much system resources they are using instead of changing their hosting plan every time they have a burst of traffic. The part about the stability is great – but the same can be achieved by load balancing.  And not limiting a user’s resources but charging them for what they actually use is great too – until they use too much, especially in conjunction with other users on the system who are coincidently “overusing” resources as well.  But you’re probably losing money, and fooling those customers into thinking that they can get away with running that junk on a shared server.  Thank you, Mr. Over-Cloudy Shared Hosting Provider, for providing a false sense of need to your customers so they cause a problem for the rest of us when they decide to switch hosts.  

I don’t know how they do it in the cloudy wonderland up there, but in the real world of hosting, if one of my customers is burning an excessive amount of CPU cycles, they’re not going to be on one of my shared servers – they’re moving to a dedicated server.  If a site gets enough traffic to warrant VPS or Dedicated hosting, why would you willingly keep them on a shared server? You’re stunting your revenue by 1) allowing high resource customers to pay for shared hosting, even if the cost fluctuates based on their usage, and 2) decreasing your shared server capacity so you end up needing more servers to accommodate users that shouldn’t be on them to begin with.When a server runs out of resources it runs out of resources – whether it’s one server or 10 servers “clouded” together.

Cloud hosting tends to only beneficial to the customer, who is certainly getting the better end of the deal by costing you money.  I’m just going to put it out there that while customers probably like the concept of cloud hosting, most probably have no idea what it actually is, and wouldn’t notice any change in hosting quality from that of a standalone or clustered hosting solution.  So I’m sure you could actually just run their site off a crap dedicated server with 100 other customers and randomly change their hosting bill every month to make it look like they’re getting cloud hosting, then laugh while they talk about how awesome it is to be on the cutting edge of technology.  Heh.

That also brings up a customer service point about cost.  I checked a few pricing points for cloud hosting providers, most of which charge on a percentage of RAM and CPU cycles used per month.  To me, that just screams customer service problems. Most of the time when I try to tell a customer that they are using too much CPU on a shared server, the first thing they do is either deny it, or blame it on us.  You can imagine what would happen if a customer’s traffic quadrupled one month and they look at their bill, suddenly realizing that they were charged more.  A majority of your customers are likely non-technical and therefore not going to understand why their hosting charges changed.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against cloud hosting, I just don’t care for it, and I’m tired of hearing about.  If you’re a hosting consumer and looking for hosting and your site is as massive as Google, you could benefit from a dedicated cloud hosting solution. But otherwise, just stick with the simple stuff. Standalone and clustered servers have been used for years, and tend to be very reliable if managed efficiently.

I mean, people thought the iPad was going to be the next best thing but it turned out to be a piece of shit.

Fun With cPanel Mailing List

Posted by Nessa | Tags: , | Posted on February 10, 2010

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Last month cPanel hosted a webinar for cPanel 11.25 where there were reportedly over 2000 attendees from all over the world. One thing I guess they didn’t realize is that the list email address for all the attendees, webinar[at]cpanel.net, has a reply-to that posted a reply all to anyone on the list, unmoderated. Oops.  It all started this morning when I checked my email, to find an email from the webinar mailing list to the webinar mailing list, apparently directed as a reply to someone else:

Mario,thank you, appreciate it :)
You aren’t by chance attending webhosting day in Germany, are you ?
I pre-registered, but am not 100% sure to attend yet.

This email was obviously referring to Mario Rodriguez from cPanel/r1Soft . The best things about this is that it seemed like there was an actual conversation going on, as there was a good flow of sequential events. Here was the initial response to the mysterious emails:

Why am I receving this email ??

Well, duh, you’re on a mailing list. Obviously one that is not configured properly to moderate posting. Now we’re starting to realize this:

Looks like this is a mailing list which is circulating replies!

Exact! In fact, it is a mailing list bad configured…that is sending replies to all members !!

This someone set up a bad forwarder =)

It seems cPanel listing is sending reply to all members.

Looks like a group mailing list to me =) Perhaps an oversight on cPanel’s part?

Let’s also keep in mind that most of these people are technical staff from various hosting providers. Naturally, now that we know there’s a problem we’re going to take full advantage:

Hello from Russia! :)

Hello from Brazil :¬)

A bit of spam before it gets fixed then….http://amplicate.com/rocks/cpanel

Personal Spam also? You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/******** Cpanel and systems administrator for over 10 years ;)

Greetings from Greece too :))))))) Should I spam this list with an incredible offer for .eu domain registrarion for 5EUR/yr exclusively for list members? :)))))))

I took it that they wanted me to come to Germany…boss said no, though =(

Awww, where’s the fun in that?

Anyone in London Fancy meeting up for Lunch this week?

I’m not in london but I wouldn’t mind lunch. a/s/l? just kidding =)

I can’t make it to London but if anybody is in Aruba lunch is on me! (playing the odds here ;)

By now, cPanel acknowledged that there was a problem:

I am working on this right now, my apologies for the inconvenience.

Yes, sorry for the confusion and mass emails. We will have it fixed shortly.

And then you have the people who start to get a little pissed:

Please DO NOT send any more replies.

Seriously, stop sending emails to the list. It’s obvious no one knew about it and it’s obviously not correctly setup since no one opted in and there isn’t an opt out link.

It does look like it is configured to relay email to everybody if you send an email to the list. Just hold off sending emails and in a little bit somebody from cPanel will fix it. I am sure they didn’t mean to set it up so that everybody gets emails from the list. No reason to flood the inboxes of everybody else :)

Man my blackberry is going to go off every minute now with twitter spam and .eu domain spam. Bah Thanks cPanel ;)


And then the emails stopped so cPanel appears to have fixed the problem. Kind of fun while it lasted…

Software Development: Outsource or Open Source?

Posted by Nessa | Tags: | Posted on February 2, 2010

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There are a lot of aspects of my job that I feel could be better automated to save me some time. It gets to the point sometimes where I generally end up writing my own scripts to perform the more repetitive tasks, but when it comes down to it, every large company needs an internal application of some sort – whether it’s to track data, house documents, or just make information available. In my case working at IMH, getting an application to manage our servers, IP address allocations, and almost every aspect of our systems, was fairly impossible, so I had to to write it myself. The application I designed over a year ago is still in use today, and has widely expanded as our needs became more defined.

So that brings up the question – when should you purchase, outsource, go open source, or develop your own?

Purchasing

Purchasing would fall along the lines of buying software that was already developed to meet the needs of general buyers. For instance, WHMCS is targeted specifically for hosting providers who would have a general need to manage hosting accounts and billing.  When you purchase an application, you’re usually getting it “as-is”.

Cost

It tends to be cheaper to purchase software than outsourcing or “in-housing” its development. This is because the company you’re getting it from already has the software, and now they’re pretty much sitting back and making money from it. Keep in mind though that a lot of paid software has open source alternatives, which will be reviewed later in this article.

Support

One of the main reasons companies choose to purchase software is for the security of knowing they get support for it from the company itself, assuming that support actually comes with the software. You’ll want to check on your support options before buying anything, as some companies do not include support as part of a software purchase, or limit the support to a certain timeframe.

Updates and Expansion

Generally the developers of purchased software will be responsible for updates and security patches, which will either be a good thing of a bad thing. The bad part is that you have to wait for them to do it, as their software will most likely be closed source to where only they can update it. The good part is that you know that they are responsible for fixing the problem, and you can usually hold them accountable for doing so.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing would basically entail hiring a third party company to do software application development for you. You’d need to describe exactly what you need the application to do, and hope that the company you’re hiring is on the same page.  I generally recommend using caution in outsourcing software development that your business may be fully reliant on for its operations.

Cost

Developing an applications tends to be very costly. A custom CMS can cost you hundreds or even thousands, so you’ll want to be sure it’s actually worth spending money on. You also need to have all your ducks in a row – in other words, you need to know exactly what you want the application to do while keeping in mind that if your needs change, you’re probably going to spend a good amount of money getting your application changed by the company that wrote it, if they’re even willing or able to change it.

Support

Before outsourcing application development, make sure the people doing it are able and willing to support it as well. This means, if there’s a bug, security issue, or a problem with the application itself, they are able to address it.  That being said, you’ll definitely want to know what kind of support you’re going to get when you outsource application development from a third party.  Are they willing to help you if you have a problem?

Updates and Expansion

I’ve seen a lot of our customers get stranded with insecure or buggy software because they purchased it from a third party that either went AWOL or isn’t willing to update it. The first thing you’ll want to check on when negotiating development is whether the company is able to accommodate your changing needs as a company, and if they will be responsible for software updates and security patches if needed. This means that you’ll really want to choose a reputable software developer or an actual company, rather than an individual that you know nothing about that was hired as a freelancer.

Going Open Source

Open source software is a huge thing nowadays – almost any major enterprise software has an open-source alternative that is just as functional, without the cost. For example, you can easily save a few hundred bucks by opting for Open Office instead of Microsoft Office, 0r using Gimp instead of Photoshop. While this may not be practical for everyone, it’s certainly something to take a look at. You’ll also probably find that your company’s CMS needs are already met by the open source community. So you might want to check around sites like osalt.com or opensourcecms.com to find something that’s right for you.

Cost

Open source software literally costs nothing. You may at one point need to pay for addons or modifications from third parties that build on the application’s functionality, but those are completely optional.

Support

One of the things about open-source software is you basically get the support you pay for – none. The license that the software is released under generally covers the fact that the producers of the software can stop development of it at any time, that the software is provided “as is”, and there is no official support for it. The good thing is that so many people use open source software that you can usually find answers in the documentation, support forums, or online support groups, which are actively maintained by thousands of people. Just keep in mind that there is no guarantee of support, but getting support is generally not a problem.

Updates and Expansion

Open source software is essentially managed by the open source community, so and people make changes to it all the time. The advantage to open source software as opposed to proprietary or outsourced applications is that the source is literally out there – anyone can update it and fix bugs and security issues, and release it either independently or through the developer. Most open source software (WordPress is the best example) has a large user base that develops plugins that can be easily used to expand the functionality of an application. Therefore, problems are generally fixed very quickly since everyone has access to the code, as opposed to waiting for the developers to fix it themselves.

I could really go on about open source software, but that’s not the focus of this article. You can read on about there here:

http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=376255

http://open-source.gbdirect.co.uk/migration/benefit.html

In-House Development

At some point during your research on software solutions you may become aware that your needs are too specific to your business’s design to where there’s literally nothing already out there for you, and you don’t want someone else to manage your application for you. This is when you either hire an in-house developer that works specifically for your company (not outsourced) or use a skilled person you already have, to create an application for you.  Most of the internal applications we use in the system administration department at IMH are either internally developed, or open source. It gives us complete control of what features we need.

Cost

It’s hard to calculate how much internally-developed applications cost to make. I’d say that if you have a full time developer that you pay $45,000 per year, that’s how much your application costs per year, which is probably too much. Our systems department at IMH is not dedicated to development, but most of us have programming skills so we spend an average of 1-2 hours a day on development among doing our other work.

Support

The only really annoying thing about application development is that you always have people nagging you for changes, features, and bug fixes. The good thing is that if I wrote something, I can fix it. But no one else can…and that tends to be a problem if I’m busy or not around. I them become the go-to guy whenever there’s a problem, and I’m also the person that is held responsible if productivity, security, or anything else is messed up as a result of a problem in my application. Therefore, if you’re going to invest in custom development, be prepared to have to support it and accept criticism and suggestions from picky users – though that doesn’t mean you have to indulge them.

Updates and Expansion

The biggest advantage to in-house development is that you really have complete control. You know what the applications needs to do, and if those needs change, you can do it yourself. This tends to provide the most value for companies that have needs that are too specific to be met by commercial/proprietary or open-source software.

10 Things Blogs Do That Annoy the Sh!t Out of Me

Posted by Nessa | Tags: | Posted on January 24, 2010

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Since having started a blog of my own a few years ago I’ve become acquainted with hundreds of blogs. I can usually tell within 3 seconds of visiting whether or not I’m going to bookmark it or go elsewhere.  After a while I kinda figured out what it is that makes me tick about the practices of other bloggers:

10.  The massive and unnecessary use of stupid and pointless plugins

I’m going to say that I hate snap, or anything else that disrupts my ability to enjoy my visit to a website. Unless the plugin is providing some kind of useful functionality, it’s considered pointless, and a waste of resources and precious website space.

9.  Sites that just link to other sites

There are blogs, and then there blogs that think they are blogs.  When all you do for your ‘articles’ is link to other blogs that you wish you’d written yourself, all you’re doing is telling your readers that you royally suck at being a blogger.

8.  Ugly Themes

Ugly bloggers make ugly blogs…it’s a fact.  If you don’t know much about design or how to theme, just use one of the bazillion free themes for your blogging software available online.  With all the high quality themes available (for free at that), there’s no excuse for having an ugly blog.

7. Posting stuff that everyone already knows

If you’re looking for PHP blogs, chances are you already know and take an interest in the PHP language.  What I don’t like to see is “Hey, I’m a PHP expert…and this is how you use the phpinfo() function”.  Building on the basics to enforce functionality is good, but when the content of your site matches the content of, say, a dictionary or manual, it raises the assumption that you really don’t know anything about your niche. Post things that you think will be of interest to your readers, that they can’t find on hundreds of other sites.

6.  Animations

When I see animations I look back at this one site that I created in eight grade where I used this bright green HTML template with a floating genie and a bobble head moving across the page.  The site is actually still up and running with Angelfire after almost 7 years, surprisingly, and with no way for me to remove it since they obviously don’t clean out their servers.  Any who, unless the overload of animations is pertinent to your site or one of your posts (or you’re 6 years old), no one cares to see them.

5.  Forced flash intros

Have you ever had to site through the previews at the movies?  I mean, seriously, can I get a skip button or something?  If you force people to watch your irritating Flash intro so you can remind people what website they went to, who you are, and the fact that they want to kill you, they won’t stick around for it to end.  Unless there’s porn afterwards.

4.  The “i p0wned you” sites

Real hackers don’t brag about what they do… they usually post their findings for educational gain.   Most of the hacker sites out there are just script kiddy junctions full of general information that doesn’t help anyone, or hacks that never happened.  Honestly, unless you hacked Google or something, no one really gives a shit unless you’re willing to share the wealth and educate others on how you did it.

3. Music

We’ve all done it – you have that little music player in the corner of your site blasting away songs from the 90′s that you think your visitors want to hear while they’re reading about toilet seat covers.  Well let me tell you something – they don’t. Especially for those of us who surf the Internet all day when we’re supposed to be working, there’s a bigger inclination to turn our speakers off than listen to your music.

2. Talking advertisements and greetings

“Congratulations. You’re won an IPOD nano…” is all that comes to mind with this one. No one is winning anything, and I don’t need you to talk to me about how happy you are for me to visit your site.

1. Popups

It’s a universal truth – people hate popups. Obviously there’s some issue there when browsers are now stocked with popup blockers to keep that crap from hitting the screen.  It’s even worse when you get a popup that launches other popups, forcing you to acknowledge that you did in fact close the previous one.

The LA Experience

Posted by Nessa | Tags: | Posted on October 5, 2009

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The company let me come to Los Angeles at the end of September.  Before you continue reading I should let everyone know that I’ve never been outside Hampton Roads without a parent or sudo guardian present (this includes our trip to DC for HostingCon in August 2009).

So I land in LA on Monday night off of a delayed flight from Cincinnati. I checked into the Westin airport hotel and after dropping off my stuff, I changed and then left the hotel to explore the area and see what’s around. Now don’t get me wrong, the hotel is really nice, but the area around it is pretty scary. This is where I learned that I shouldn’t have picked an airport hotel. Within 20 minutes of leaving the hotel I got hit on four times – One guy asked me if I wanted to make $200 in 30 minutes, another guy followed me three blocks into a bar, one couple stopped me on the sidewalk and asked if I wanted to come with them to have some “fun” and another guy tried to get a copy of my room key.

Then the next day I go to pick up my rental car and since I lost my wallet the weekend before, Bank of America issued me a temporary debit card, but it doesn’t have my name on it and therefore the car rental place wouldn’t take it. I ended up having to call our EVP Sunil to bail me out. Then I got to the LA office and it was such a relief. Keeping in mind I’ve never personally met most of the LA office staff, I didn’t want to leave the office because, f***, LA is scary.

That night Jeremiel and I hit up the Standard in downtown LA which is so far probably the sexiest non-nightclub bars I’ve ever seen. The place is a hotel but the roof is a cute little bar with a ton of sofas, water bed pods, a bar, a pool, and a fireplace.  Basically like an upscale boom boom room.

But then the next day….

I was on my way from the hotel to the office and the GPS drained the battery on my cell phone.  Not having anything other than printed directions from Map Quest and no way to call anyone, I ended up cruising the streets of LA, Hollywood, and various other mexican-sounding cities before a gas station attendant led me back to Marina Del Rey, where I coincidentally stumbled upon Glencoe Ave and got to the office. Apparently everything thought that I got wasted the night before and was passed out somewhere or that something bad had happened (what would make them think that?), and people were worried because my phone was off.  A few minutes after getting to the office Shelby and I left to go to the LA datacenter.

download Gosford Park

The nights following, me and various people from the LA office went out to some neat places, including Liquid Kitty, Bigfoot Tavern, Don Antonios, and C&O Trattoria, probably the best Italian place in the US that I’ve been so far. I also saw Donna from That’s 70′s Show standing outside some bar down the street from C&O but I didn’t even recognize her until Sunil and Shelby were like “dude that’s the chick from that 70′s show.”  On Sunday, my coworker Paul took me through Hollywood and the beach areas. I got a picture with Edward Scissorhands, and a tour of the homes in Beverly Hills. Afterwards we went to this Korean Restaurant which was so far the best Asian food I’ve ever had.

That night at the airport though I hear the guys in front of me mention that James Franco was “over there”, so I glance around and sure enough, there was James Franco and two security guards a couple bag check lines over. I almost freaked out but I’d heard that it’s not cool to do that in LA since celebs are around all the time, and I didn’t want to look like such a girl.

I got home and it took a week to get used to VA Beach again, especially the traffic. I’m glad to be back though…I’d definately visit LA more, but living there is another story…

download Heavy Load

my phone died, and

Mozenda.com Will Scrape Your Data

Posted by Nessa | Tags: | Posted on June 14, 2009

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I was looking around for some web data scraping software and came across Mozenda.com, which is a [paid] Web Scraper and web data mining software that parses web data in a variety of formats, like CSV, RSS, and XML.  I signed up for the trial and the software really did do what it claimed to, and was really easy to use.  The guy that heads the service offers a cool demo here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKrdFiilqXM

Only real downside is the pricing…most code gurus can probably come up with a more basic yet less costly way of doing the same thing.  Pricing starts at $49.95/mo and goes up to $1995/mo, but also has an option to pay as you go.  For  a business this would probably be petty cash and worth the expense, but for the average blogger like me, it’s a little out of the price range.  However, I probably could never code an application or service as feature-rich as the product that Mozenda provides which is why I was considering them.

For those of you wondering WTF I’m talking about, data mining is simply the process of collecting and organizing data, in my case, from other websites.  When you have a handful of 100+ sites, it’s more efficient to have a bot do it for you, kind of like what search engines use to index millions of sites on the Internet.

v-nessa.net is de-Googled…again

Posted by Nessa | Tags: | Posted on June 14, 2009

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So I now know what happens when you don’t upgrade WordPress for half a year.  Yes, I admit that my site’s theme was hacked with some nasty Javascript inserts that ended up getting me tagged by Google for the second time now.  Luckily nothing was that much out of place,but a couple of my posts were altered to become permanent stickies, and the dates were changed. No worries, everything is should be back to normal now.

…But…my Twitter account was suspended for “strange activity” and has yet to be reinstated by the Twitter staff.  I also found out that my roommate hates me because I party with his ex-girlfriend who happens to have been a friend of mine since high school.   To top off the week, I finally get to the beach today only to find out that there are no wave. This week has just been full of fun.

daybreakers move