Should my blog be self hosted or through a service provider

Nearly everyone has a blog in some form or another. I so often see individuals, and even companies use a service provider to manage their blog. This is referring to the many popular ones such as Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous, and so on. They’re easy to use, simply provide some basic information and they’ll set you up with a ready to use blog with easy configuration. However, my biggest concern is ownership of data. Who owns the data you post? With the recent Facebook privacy issues becoming a hot topic, it’s time to step back and evaluate the information you post online.

WD HDD 3 x 640 GB
Creative Commons License photo credit: Forrestal_PL

This blog is hosted through Dream Host. I pay a monthly fee for shared space on a server. They provide the tools to assist me in installing the WordPress application, the SQL database to house the information, and ongoing backups. That middle part is the most important one, the SQL database. This means that I own my data. Every comment, picture, post, link that I post on this blog is kept in a database, that I own, can save and archive.

Here are some basic questions to ask your provider. You may have to pull up the dreaded terms of service to answer these questions.

  1. Who owns my data?
  2. Can I export all my data into a file for future use and backup?
  3. How much control do I have over the configuration?

What do you think? Am I being paranoid or is there legitimate concerns?

FAQ: How do you fix all these Word, Excel, and PowerPoint problems?

The MS Office suite can be a pain in the butt at times. Even the most basic activities can easily be messed up or corrupted with bad data. Over time, a lot of formatting and hidden data is entered into a document. After a while, the document is filled with headers, styles, formats, hidden text, hidden meta data, etc. This is problematic especially if templates are not used but old documents. For example, when a previous used document is reused again for new purposes, the existing errors are carried over to the new document. Additional user errors are then added and the process repeats. After a while, a document is almost unusable.

Creative Commons License photo credit: TheBrady

Here are some good practices:

Do not cut and paste from different documents.

Cutting and pasting carries over previously used formats. If it’s not compatible with the new document, the application attempts to use a similar format. If there are hidden data and formats, those are also carried over. When possible, copy or cut, and use paste special –> unformatted text. You’ll then have to restyle the text to your new document.

Use document styles when possible.

Rather than making ad hoc document formats, like fonts, colors, borders, etc., try to use defined styles. If it doesn’t exist, define a new style and apply it to the text. Using styles allows you to make changes to one style, which will update the entire document.

Start over from time to time

We’re not always able to follow these practices and are in a rush to meet a deadline. This results in sloppy document practices that carry over. When time is available, start with a fresh document and follow the above practices. Take those old documents out of commission and archive them. Don’t use them again.

Any other tips?

Making a Social Media Script

матрациEvery time I work with an organization on setting up their social media presence, I typically start with defining their business objectives, goals, and expected outcomes. This is used to tie together a social media strategic plan that aligns their mission, vision, and values with social media.

The implementation part is similar to many organizations. Most of it is fairly painful to go through the mechanic process of signing up for service, creating a profile, setting up the account.

  1. Identify name, try to make this consistent across sites.
  2. Create a blog.
  3. Create a Twitter account.
  4. Create a FB fan page.
  5. Create a YouTube account.
  6. Register with as many accounts as possible. Try this service.

How many of you would find a detailed checklist useful in your efforts? My vision is to create a screencast of signing up for each service.

FAQ: How do you do all your magic?

a wave of Concrete and Glass!
Creative Commons License photo credit: catchthefuture

This is a series of Frequently Asked Questions. I find my peers, coworkers, and friends asking the same question over and over. I always seem to have the answer. Naturally, I’m often asked:

How do you do all your magic?

I’m no Harry Potter or Warlock. It’s no secret. I don’t have a bag of tricks or keep a book of knowledge around. In fact, if you ask me point blank with no time to figure it out, changes are, I’ll tell you I’ll get back to you. Instead, I am an expert at looking things up. Instead of trying to learn everything, I simply learn how to search to do things. There will always be someone that can do things better than you. Why reinvent the wheel? About 99% of things you want to do has already been done.

Want to cure cancer? Look it up here.

Refocus, Refine, and Energize

I got challenged by my brother today to be more consistent in blog posts. It also coincided with a video I was watching by Gary Vee:

I really like him because I think he’s ADD like me. Rather than putting together a plan, I’ll just take his ideas and use it as my own. I need to evaluate where I am and how to take this blog to the next level. First step as David recommended is to just write. It may seem a little unfocused but in order to build a masterpiece, you first have to gather material. Overtime, I will focus and refine.

Invest in AAPL instead of buying Apple

This is yet just another obligatory review of the iPad. I’m sure there are thousands of unboxing videos, app reviews, and fanboy videos out there. So why bother with yet another review? This is about how one Apple, or rather technology fanatic has completely drank the kool-aid and joined the consumerism bandwagon.

My home has an Apple Airport Extreme wifi base station networking several devices:

  • Lexmark Wireless printer/copier/scanner
  • Work computer with second monitor
  • MacBook Air
  • MacBook Pro
  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Tivo
  • Two external hard drives

Steve Jobs sold us the laptop and then a mobile phone. That wasn’t enough. He wanted more. He wanted to manufacture demand for a third product, the iPad.

A tweet today by Erica Douglass really

Wouldn’t we all be better off if we learned how to invest our money instead of mindlessly spending it on overpriced consumer gadgets?

That really hit the spot. She is right, we’ve all gotten on this bandwagon to buy, buy, buy. We all would have been wealthier had we instead in Apple instead of buying Apple products.

Change your passwords, or you’ll be hacked

John from One Man’s Blog posted a very scary article on how he’d hack your weak passwords. Using sniffers and other brute force tools, he’d hack into low priority sites. Rather than hacking a bank account, which has greater tracking and security, he’d start with these low priority accounts, like Flickr. If you’re like most people, you might use that same password for your important accounts: banks, credit cards, medical records.

Pay particular attention to the difference between using only lowercase characters and using all possible characters (uppercase, lowercase, and special characters – like @#$%^&*). Adding just one capital letter and one asterisk would change the processing time for an 8 character password from 2.4 days to 2.1 centuries.

Below is just a fun illustration of some of the worst passwords. Please don’t use something like this below. Take a moment now and update and change your passwords. Next post will be on optimal password strategies.

How the iPad will Revolutionize the Way We Use Computers

The Apple tablet, officially named the iPad, was announced with mixed reactions. Unlike the iPhone announcement, this product was something that people didn’t really need. Steve Jobs asked the audience if there was room for a third category of mobile devices, in between the iPhone and Macbook laptops. Visionary Jobs believes so. He believes that there is room in the consumer and business marketplace for a tablet computer that handles functionality better than a mobile phone and a laptop. Specifically, the iPad is better a browsing the web, reading email, watching movies, viewing photos, and reading books.

Adactio's iPad (or perhaps his mum's)
Creative Commons License photo credit: Richard-G

“Last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it” -Wall Street Journal

Most of the naysayers attacked the iPad for lack of a camera, being on the AT&T network, and most commonly, “I don’t need this.” It’s difficult to imagine using a product that has yet to truly exist in the market place. The iPad is a mix between an iPhone and a full MacBook. Can it function as a complete desktop replacement? Maybe not immediately, but possible in the next few versions. Remember that Apple is a for profit company and uses features to differentiate its product line and force its consumers to upgrade almost every year. Sure, the iPad could have all these features and yes the technology exists, but from a business perspective, it makes more sense to roll out functionality with each new version to maximize sales.

So how will the iPad change the world. I’m going to take a big leap of faith and call it out right now. The iPad will revolutionize the way to manage and process information.

Canon Cat Work Processor
Creative Commons License photo credit: splorp

Way before the iPhone made it out, a fellow by the name of Jef Raskin, came up with the idea of an information appliance that has just one function. The gadget would be so easy to use that it would require no user manual and so intuitive that a user can pick it up and perform the function. Of course, carrying around a device for every function wouldn’t be practical. Traditional devices like a BlackBerry has a fixed keyboard that doesn’t change. The iPhone’s touch interface changes depending on the application or function desired. It can be a keyboard, a number pad, or just a single button. By using a soft interface, the software changes to adapt to the user’s needs.

Computer users say that the iPad can’t accomplish the tasks that a desktop or laptop can perform, such as complex word processing, spreadsheets, or presentations. The traditional computer operating system relies on a menu system and task bar to access fixed functions. File -> Save As. Edit -> Copy -> Edit -> Paste. To learn the software requires memorizing where functions are and what order to process. It’s not intuitive. As the software deviates away from the traditional office applications and into applications such as Photoshop, video editing, sound editing, the menu system becomes more complex.

The iPad begins, but has not yet, addressed this issue. As Raskin envisioned, the software is so simple that you instantly know what to do. The future of software is not more functionality and features, but a smarter human interface, eliminating the tech geeks. Want to insert a picture into a document, just drag it and place it exactly where you want it. Want to make it bigger, just use your fingers to stretch it and position it.

Mètode #1
Creative Commons License photo credit: PaRaP

My first reactions of the iPad software says it’s just an enhanced version of iPhone software. Sure, there’s plenty of room to go. However, how many iPhone applications require a manual to operate? Very few. This is a first step into a future where application experts are obsolete and the democratization of computing. How do we achieve this? We find the best and brightest interface engineers and ask them to build software from scratch, throwing away how software has been done in the past.

What do you think? Should software really be simple and easy to use? Or do we need all the functionality and features that currently exist?