Writing Content for the Web

Writing Content for the Web

Writing content for the web needs to be as short and sweet and packed full of information as possible.

You have to understand that your “readers” are more likely to be scanners. The Pareto principle is at play here of course: 80% of your readers are looking for information, and gleaning it from 20% of their visit.

“on the average webpage, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely” –Jakob Nielsen

While that sounds great to someone who likes to write to provide large amounts of information, it’s a lot different than what most people were taught in school and requires a different way of thinking from traditional prose.

Writing content for the web requires writing from a new perspective. It abandons a lot of academic and journalistic rules and has become its own style. Your mission is to provide valuable, thoughtful, insightful information to your reader quickly and in small, bite-sized pieces.

  • Use short sentences.
  • Don’t use unnecessary words (that especially means jargon).
  • Don’t repeat yourself.
  • Write in the second person, meaning use the word “you.”
  • Use active voice.
  • Use lists and organize the information.
  • Use clear headlines and subheadings.
  • Use images, diagrams, video or multimedia.
  • Use LOTS of white space. Let your text breathe.

For an English major like myself, this is akin to turning chateaubriand into chicken McNuggets to hand out at the drive-thru. But it’s certainly useful and has its purpose, of course. The style of writing has been formulated not by academics or scholars, but by web designers and developers and SEO experts whose goals are far less poetic.

One topic per page.

 

Orwell and Hemingway

George Orwell with Ernest Hemingway in the background

There’s a very visual aspect to writing content for the web, which would delight ee cummings fans and designers alike, but it’s aimed to keep things as simple as possible, and easy to read.

When you write content for the web, a goal you typically have is to have your content seen. Therefore you’re partially writing for Google at the same time you’re writing for consumers.

In essence, writing for the web is a lot like the way that you have to talk to a four-year-old. Keep your message simple. Use small, easy-to-read words and sentences.

Also, realize there is no linearity to the internet. There is no telling where your readers will come from, so write as if the reader has no context.

Use alerts ‘read more’ tags and format your copy to be scannable

If your content is for a landing page, be sure to tell the reader what to do next. Have a call to action telling people where to go next. For example, read another blog post, sign up for your email newsletter, check out your app, get a quote, or just add a product to their shopping cart.

When you format your text, use all the tools at your disposal to make the copy interesting. Highlight it, bold it and throw in a blockquote or two to support it.

And, as illustrated by this article and endorsed by the US government, don’t forget to “chunk” it!

j.d. salinger

J.D. Salinger working on The Catcher in the Rye while in service in France

 

Look Out 2018, Here I Come

Look Out 2018, Here I Come

2017 has been the worst year of my life without question, and there have been some depressingly strong competitors for that title. And I hope I’m never able to revise that.

Despite my bellyaching, I have a lot to be grateful for and am grateful for all that I have. “Have” not just meaning material possessions, which ebb and flow through life for many people, but health, companionship, support, love, and many items that aren’t physical. Although some may embody a physical form, like my dog Annie, who has now made it to age 16, unbelievably.

As much as I have to be grateful for, I’d like to be grateful for more. And I don’t think one’s circumstances and self-improvement happen by chance. To the contrary; I’m always trying to be better, and our circumstances are a result of our decisions, for good OR bad. And optimization’s my thing. In fact, when times are bad like they’ve been at times I feel like my life becomes a series of platitudes and inspirational “Hang in There, Baby” posters.

But it works, because for the most part, those Tony Robbinsesque strategies really do change your perception. And to change your circumstances, changes obviously must be made. Sometimes drastic and often uncomfortable.

To prove it, here are ten things I’m going to work on in 2018 that are hard to do, but I believe pay dividends:

  1. Time Management

  2. Empathy

  3. Mastering my sleep

  4. Positive self-talk

  5. Consistency

  6. Asking for help

  7. Knowing when to shut up

  8. Listening

  9. Minding my own business

  10. Mastering my thoughts

Some of these will come easier than others but if I focus on all of them, 2018 should be brighter. I’m posting them here to remind myself, lest I forget and for accountability’s sake.

Anyone want to join me?

WordPress is a Cult

WordPress is a Cult

Yes, WordPress is a Cult

I recently got into a discussion on Twitter with Joost DeValk, the creator of one the most downloaded WordPress plugins ever, WordPress SEO by Yoast. It’s an awesome plugin and he’s been very successful in marketing it over the years. Like many people that are household names in WordPress, and not unlike WP itself, he was working on the right thing at the right time. I like Joost, and am not bashing him personally whatsoever, and I’m not even stating a cult is a bad thing, necessarily. To each their own. But he, and others, don’t seem ready to face facts and accept reality. Possibly due to pride, or some other reason such as relinquishing individuality and uniqueness. I’m no psychiatrist and don’t claim to be. But they are in serious denial if they claim WP isn’t a cult.

He spent the weekend at WordCamp USA, 2017 which was in nearby Nashville, TN this year. He hauled himself all the way over from Norway or Sweden or which ever nordic country he hails from. On his own dime, of course. WordCamps are weekend meetings of WordPress “fans” who gather to talk WP, attend a string of lectures, and hand out swag and drink a lot of beer together. It’s also primarily used to recruit and retain WordPress cult members. WordPress meetups are basically the same thing, and are held monthly all over the world. WordCamps are held annually, and are bigger deals, with “stars” of the WordPress world. My first WordCamp included Pippin Williamson who also is well-known in the “WordPress world.” I’ve attended quite a few WordCamps. Some valuable, some quite a waste of time for my level of experience. But I do enjoy helping others learn the ins and outs of the program and scene. It’s easy for someone who’s worked on it for years, like me, but can be intimidating for newcomers.

The definition of a cult, before I go any further, according to Merriam-Webster is:

A situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much.

There’s usually a religious aspect connected to it, perhaps like Scientology, but there doesn’t have to be. And it’s usually held together by some dominant, often charismatic individual. Such as the recently passed Charles Manson, for his little cult back in 1960’s California. Or the Branch Davidians, whose members and their children met an ugly ending thanks to Bill Clinton and Janet Reno. The association of such men gives the term “cult” negative overtones. But it’s not necessarily a group of evil, crazy people. It’s a group of people/community that is simply obsessed with something to a rather unhealthy point, basically. That point is the source of the debate, I suppose.

WordPress, which I’ve been involved in for around 8 years now, completely fits the definition. When I mentioned that it was a cult, Joost’s reaction was that he resented the comment. My tweet was a response to a Tweet of his exclaiming “Ask not what WordPress can do for you, but what you can do for WordPress.” For no particular reason except a knee-jerk disagreement. In fact, his very next comment, which was his defense, was that he gives 20% of his earnings, no small sum to be sure, every year to WordPress because he believes in the product and community, proving my point exactly.

I’m not in the business of convincing self-deniers to change their views, but I dare anyone to provide a reason WordPress isn’t a cult. I’m ready to debate that stance quite easily. And I have an open mind; I can be convinced otherwise if given compelling enough reasons to the contrary. But I can’t think of any. If you know of any, by all means leave them in the comments section.

It relies heavily, almost exclusively, on the efforts, time and resources of people to sustain it, for free to the foundation. Donations always accepted, of course. It’s a billion-dollar plus business to be sure, so it’s not like the non-profit is in any more need than the NFL for funds. Matt Mullenweg, one of the developers who began WordPress 14 years ago along with another man, Mike Little, who never ever is mentioned or really credited for some reason, is the relatively reclusive and softspoken CEO who appears at WordCamps and is treated like a celebrity. The “leader” if you will, who hapily sits on many Silicon Valley boards for his extensive business acumen. I don’t support his managerial tactics much, which I’ve expressed many times. That’s not sour grapes, and has no influence on this essay, however, I assure you. I believe I’m entitled to that opinion, and as an MBA and experienced businessman, have somewhat of a credible background in that area. I’ve conversed with Matt when once applying for a job at Automattic, the self-named offshoot business of WordPress along with several others such as Audrey Capital, all quite profitable due to the association with WordPress.  Whether they would be so successful without that association is anyone’s easy guess. Incidentally, Matt explained the reason he wasn’t interested in having me join his company was due to not being involved enough with open-source. I hadn’t donated enough of my time and resources and paid my dues, in other words, even though I was highly qualified if not over-qualified for the position. No big deal.

But the people/developers that get wrapped up in WordPress get REALLY wrapped up in it. Tattoos of the logo on themselves, expensive treks across the US and even abroad to attend weekend WordCamps, etc… It becomes their lives. The unhealthy obsession earlier described.

WordPress, being open-source, is the real key to it’s success. Open source is the invitation to pour a lot of your life into sustaining it, along with thousands of others toiling away at keyboards around the world. At no charge to anyone but the donors themselves.

WordPress’ popularity is being in the right place at the right time, in my opinion. Same with a lot of internet businesses and businesspeople. I’m also willing to debate that statement at any time, and have a long list of resons to back the sentiment.

wordcamp

Come to a WordCamp, leave a believer

I recognized the fact it’s a cult several years in and noticed the very cultish characteristics that WordPress and its community has, and largely removed myself. I personally don’t like being that attached to something in that manner, as it almost represents an addiction. I still use the product and keep up with the development of it closely though for business reasons.

But contributing to core and hanging out in the forums to answer people’s questions a la WP customer service, is something I personally don’t have the time or desire to do. Mention that fact to hardcore WordPressers, and you’ll get a quick tsk-tsk.

Automattic, the company I mentioned that “runs” WordPress used to brag that it only employed around 100 people for a billion dollar-plus business. That is literally unheard of in the legitimate business world. That was also before Matt went on a hiring and M&A binge, scooping up some of the best individual devs and 3rd party companies around before competition hired them, which is what rich companies with no real organic growth strategies do, such as WordPress/Automattic. The lines between all the entities is legally definied, but quite blurred otherwise. The ability to acquire the best and most valuable because of all the charity it receives and, in fact, expects. If there was a WP commune in San Francisco, I assure you there would be a line of people around the block to move in. Many WP developers do, in fact, live a nomadic lifestyle. They’re young and unattached, except to WordPress.

In any case, facts are facts, and whether peole want to admit it or not, WordPress most definitely is a cult. That makes, and has donated to it, a lot of money by it’s generous contributors. If you’re interested in joining, attend a WordCamp and you’ll be happily recruited. You’ll be responsible for paying admission, lodging, travel, etc… however for the privledge of using the open-source code, however. Or you can sponsor a WordCamp, because sponsors are also required. There are many ways you can repay.

wordpress logo

My Musical Journey Through the 1980s

My Musical Journey Through the 1980s

The 1980’s were interesting from a musical standpoint. The 80’s just left the glittery, blurry-eyed and afroed polyester cocaine-addled disco era behind, along with an impressive flareup of actual punk, as opposed to the punk poseurs of today that would no sooner hit someone over the head with a beer bottle than stick a needle in a vein. Not saying either of those things are worthwhile, but they were characteristic of the movement, which is now thoroughly sterilized for the mall and pop culture of later rebellious and angst-ridden youth. The folk and novelty music movement was appropriately put in its place as well and mostly sold on K-Tel records and 8-track tapes on the American-made television, which had yet to embrace MTV and cable box’s offerings, which began a noticeable decline in American culture in nearly every way. But that’s another post.

god save the queen

Which is largely what we get from musical history. If you hear music from the 1980s these days, it’s usually in a Wal-Mart or as a backdrop to some “retro” commercial and is one of a lot of crappy artifacts that somehow have persisted into the 2010’s and beyond. “Girls just want to have fun,” and that bubblegum crap sucked back then, and it still sucks. I don’t know who makes the decisions to keep those songs alive, but they must be a deaf associate of the devil himself. If you blindfoldedly threw a dart at a list of songs from the 80’s you’d likely hit better efforts. The world at large was celebrating Madonna, Bon Jovi, and hairspray, while I was sitting in a dark room in rural Virginia quietly listening to The Smiths and Jesus and Mary Chain.

the smiths

I present here a Spotify playlist I’ve put together from the 1980’s that I feel represents a pretty unappealing but bubbly and poppy era much better. Better than the brown and rusty, dirty yellow 1970’s for sure, however. What persists in my mind from 1980’s pop culture, which I did my best to remove myself from in every way and did an excellent job of, was neon dayglo colors, jelly shoes, Wayfarers, raggedy girls fashions along with ultra-tight designer jeans, mesh shirts, acid washed denim and really gay and stupid men’s hairstyles. This of course was a time that calling your friends “gay” and “a retard” was a funny, largely innocent slight to them and not a reason for snowflakes to incite riots in the streets as it’s become today. Cultural shifts at work. The Meatmen wouldn’t even be able to record in a studio today, most likely.

What most people think of when they describe the 1980’s music scene is synth, electric drums, glam, and quick little pop hooks, with a visual that quickly sold. The 1980’s were the end of “ugly” bands, with the advent of MTV. If you weren’t TV-friendly and didn’t have ultra-strong musical chops, or really strong connections in the business, you could forget it. Every song had a video to accompany it, and the video sold the song. Marketing took a stranglehold on music in the 1980’s and hasn’t let go since. It’s how people today like Russell Simmons can make so much money selling awful “music.” He’s a great marketer. In my opinion, MTV ruined the interesting, if not exciting, direction music was heading in, despite the company abandoning the video music format that made it so popular. Many, many great artists were left in the dust. Luckily the internet has leveled the playing field once again.

A lot of these songs weren’t part of my library back then although I thought they were commercially catchy and appreciated them on some level. Mostly their B-sides and more obscure songs from the artists, maybe. What I preferred never made it onto the radio, and I didn’t have the resources to compile a comprehensive library of the better music available. Few did, and that doesn’t just mean money. Accessibility was a real problem in the 1980’s before the internet. We quickly forget what it was like to procure Grateful Dead tickets on the morning they went on sale over the phone, or a cassette tape that wasn’t in the Billboard top 10 if you lived in a small town. CD’s weren’t even mainstream at the time, until the late 80’s. A good CD player in the early 80’s would set you back $1000, which is like a billion dollars in today’s money. And no respectable artist would sell out to a point they had the option to release their songs on a compact disc back then anyway. That was for the Debbie Gibsons of the world. That, of course, changed quickly.

Frankie Says Relax

I didn’t listen to many of these songs back in the 1980’s as I did with say, The Smiths or Let’s Active, but they are at least some of the better songs from the 80’s, which should be curated and kept on life support by someone. The way I procured music is unlike any way children will ever have to again in history, which was to order vinyl albums from NYC or LA out of hand-typed underground magazines I got from basically head shops and subculture establishments in college towns and big cities and record them to tapes in my dorm room. I still have my JVC tape player, incredibly.

I didn’t receive any radio stations worth mentioning in boarding school which was in the middle of a huge farm, and at home, in SC we didn’t have any good radio, and we only had two places to buy tapes and albums in my hometown anyway. And they sold whatever was playing on the radio, which was typically pop garbage and heavy metal for stoned teenagers that drove custom vans. I ordered tapes via mail order from Britain and bootlegged tapes. I also managed to have roommates and friends in boarding school with awesome musical taste who I could record from and did often. I still have those tapes floating around somewhere, with the Dead Milkmen and T.S.O.L. well-represented.

The metal scene, which should be mentioned, had some standouts, depending on your definition of “heavy metal.” Back then I didn’t care for any of it, except maybe early Van Halen(Diver Down), AC/DC(Back in Black) and bands with guitar gods at the lead, which was a prelude to my guitar obsession which has since permeated my life. This was around the time I began learning to play the guitar seriously. (I’m still working on it.) But I recognized the virtuosity of Eddie Van Halen and appreciated the simple riffs of Angus Young. Johnny Marr’s guitar work wasn’t lost on me, either.

Embed from Getty Images

Led Zeppelin, Rush, the Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton and a handful of other legendary bands were indeed awesome in their own right, and still are, but just didn’t appeal to my state of mind and demographic at the time, which is why I’m not talking about them much. But there was some good stuff here and there during the decade, and I did attend quite a few of their concerts during that time. The Rolling Stones, the Who and even Paul McCartney before becoming a knight put out some good work. And don’t forget Michael Jackson and the Quincy Jones and Motown empires. I’m coming mostly from an “alternative” background, however. And although I did own their albums, they weren’t played nearly like the bands mentioned here.

The journey of good, alternative music in the 1980’s went something like this:

College radio stations would play local bands that were on their way to becoming regionally and even nationally known and played at fraternity parties and campus parties that were regional. Even some well-to-do boarding schools landed some big names. My own high school had REM booked until the school feared it would draw undesirables from nearby Charlottesville/Univerity of Virginia and got another band at the last minute. Think The Replacements, Husker Du, Violent Femmes, B-52s, the White Animals, etc… College prep students would pick up on these groups and music from hanging out on colleges, as we were able to do with a great deal of relative independence, and have older siblings in college that were among the musically privvy. The prep school kids took that music home with them, and it filtered into local private schools, and from there into the “alternative” kids of public school several years later. I had almost graduated from high school in 1988 before the Violent Femmes or Psychedelic Furs hit my hometown’s alternative scene, for example, and that was mostly because of their songs appearing in John Hughes pop films, like Pretty in Pink.

We’ve finally reached a point in time that I fantasized about as an adolescent: when I can pull up any song I want at any time. That’s a luxury that only people from my generation and prior know exists. I recall well lying in bed as a teenager and imagining the future when something called YouTube and Spotify existed.

bee gees

These guys were a big deal.

So How’s The Marketing Going?

So How’s The Marketing Going?

Marketing Accountability

So time to check in with results since my last post. I’m doing pretty well, actually. I’m growing my Twitter base in a hockey stick fashion and getting a lot more eyeballs on my LinkedIn profile, Facebook pages and groups and my numbers on my marketing blog and here are starting an upward trend. The key is consistency. Finding a sweet spot as far as types of content that resonate with my audience and discovering what times of the day is best to send it out. My biggest challenge is having a toddler to watch after, which I cherish and comes as my top priority, so at that expense go my marketing efforts. I can’t stay consistent just yet because I have other priorities.

iphone looking at twitter

In addition to marketing that site, I’ve also burdened myself with hosting a Product Hunt Hackathon here in Louisville, and I’ll be building a product myself, which will be an audible desktop penpal setup, and down the line have it work with Alexa and iOS software. It’s for the blind or illiterate who would like to have a pen pal but would rather speak their message to their pen pal instead of writing it and mail it and wait. It’s just a side project to mess around with. I’ll have it hosted at penpals.fun. So I’m putting that on my plate along with looking for a full-time job and taking care of a 2-year-old, a 16-year-old dog and a cat. And sometimes, apparently, a very well-fed possum.

product hunt

What’s the biggest benefit of this marketing effort is that I’m learning a TON of digital marketing tips and techniques and staying on top of the bleeding edge marketing stuff. Machine Learning and AI and VR marketing, for example. I’m able to stay on top of the latest marketing trends and automation tools and am trying out a bunch of them to see what works best for what type of work. A lot of what’s out there is the same version of a product, with small iterations changed and a different feature here and there. I’m finding a lot of money doesn’t need t be spent to access some pretty powerful tools, and for a usually reasonable fee, you can get your hands on some really powerful gear. Google is especially generous with their software.

So I’m still forging ahead, and making gains, which are humble but what’s to be expected in the embryonic stages of such an endeavor. I’ve done this enough to know that it takes time. Tha’s the biggest power the internet has: the effect of time.

 

Cranking Marketing up to 11

Cranking Marketing up to 11

MarketingDesk.io

If you’re in the marketing business, you surely are familiar with what the marketing landscape looks like online: it’s packed with tools, tips, articles, software, and “pros” offering advice and products to help you learn more about, boost and help you and companies with all types of marketing. Sounds great, right?

Problem is, there are a lot of different types of marketing. Inbound, content, SEO, SEM, digital, automation, branding, product, email, affiliate, and over a hundred more at least.  And then subcategories of those. It gets to be messy fast, and marketers being marketers, many of them are in it to make a buck or two. Or a lot more. And the range of knowledge and experience and authenticity of those marketers that want to help you is all over the place. People with no marketing experience at all, who’ve gotten their “skills” from reading other people’s articles, to marketing professors who are into academic marketing, to legitimate digital marketers, to hobbyists, to…. You get the point. A lot of what you see online is about affiliate marketing, which personally I’d put near the bottom of the list of legitimacy, to more academic and B2B marketing/digital that incorporates a bundle of skills which includes SEO, content, SEM, display, and a pretty big marketing mix. That may or may not include developing one or more sales funnels that rely on inbound marketing using platforms like HubSpot and Salesforce. I’d place that somewhere near the top, alongside “academic” marketing, although academia is woefully outdated and out of touch with the realities of practical marketing in the modern world. It’s where much research and marketing studies are generated, alongside consulting firms that release complex case studies like McKinsey.

What you tend to learn in school is purely theoretical, with possibly a few case studies and maybe some real-world experience comprised of teamwork, working on an actual marketing problem that a business is willing to let students work on for free/experience. That’s typically found in graduate-level work at the better schools, and even then, it doesn’t teach you much of anything about real digital marketing whatsoever and what the skills and tools are you need to know to get a job doing it. You have to teach yourself or learn on the job, which is more and more unlikely that you’ll find an employer willing to pay to train you in 2017 when there are a lot of people that already are trained. My tenured professor wife knows nothing about business itself and wouldn’t know what she was even looking at if you showed her a Google Analytics or Infusionsoft dashboard, or anything about SEO at all, for example. It’s the same with law school; it doesn’t teach you lawyering or how to practice law, just the dry research and academic aspects. It’s also why we’re seeing people like Steve Wozniak and organizations/companies like Google funding and setting up schools and other training programs that simply leapfrog underperforming, overpriced colleges that aren’t preparing students for actual work whatsoever.

There’s also a wide range of quality when it comes to marketing programs in Universities as well. Top-tier schools, of course, will offer that in spades, but 80% of marketing degrees come from schools most people have never heard of, in accelerated 1-year programs that aren’t really worth much all.  And even if they do offer a respectable opportunity to learn marketing, that’s not to say the students will take advantage of it. I cite my own experience of teaching marketing management at a local University to 35 students as an adjunct professor. The top students were motivated and walked out with some good tools and knowledge. The bottom never bothered to even learn the definition of marketing, even though I told them repeatedly if they only learned one thing in that class, the definition of marketing should be it. And the last question on my final exam was: “What is the definition of marketing?” Guess what? People still got it totally wrong.

So the point is, it’s like wading through an ocean of misinformation and an overabundance of barely-relevant information and tools and advice, much of which contradicts or is poorly-communicated to the point of being utterly confusing. I know this because I’ve spent the past 6+ years online plowing through it all on almost a daily basis. I also have an MBA with a concentration in marketing strategy. I’ve also taught marketing management at the University level, as I mentioned And if that wasn’t enough immersion, I’ve been married to a marketing professor who I traveled alongside with through her Ph.D. program and all which that life entailed. Marketing has been the world I’ve inhabited for nearly a decade. And I’m presently on the hunt for a digital marketing job now myself and am preparing myself for such a role so when I get one, which hopefully is soon, I can hit the ground running in every way.

What I’ve decided to do is create a website that will be the headquarters for a digital marketing hub, with a Facebook page and a Facebook group to supplement it, and grow a community around it for relevant discussion and ideas. It’ll take time to grow organically which I realize — I don’t plan on advertising to grow it or worry about monetizing it or anything, and I’ve built some decent sized communities online before for various concerns like web development and design, so I know what it takes and what to expect. And that’s fine; what that strategy eventually yields is high-quality and manageable, which are among the most important criteria.

Plus I think it’ll not only be fun but will serve as a great resource for my new digital marketing job. If I get the one that I really want and think I have a great shot at, it’ll be perfect. And it’ll be something rewarding I can share and work on as a highly productive side project as well.

So if you’re into digital marketing or any type of “legitimate” marketing, come take a look, join and participate! And let me know what you think; criticism and ideas are the driving force behind its growth and quality standards. There will be tools, tips, strategy, discussion and marketing resources galore.

marketing desk

One of Those Rare Days

One of Those Rare Days

I don’t post much personal stuff on this blog, ironically, because there are better places to record those types of things, and I know no one cares about it anyway. “Ask not what you can do for the internet, but what the internet can do for you” is most people’s attitude, so I’d rather provide informational posts of value rather than useless personal blather. I’ve managed a personal blog since 2010, so I’ve learned what sells and what doesn’t. Which is a good lead-in to this post.

Today was one of those days that I’ll remember for a long time, for two reasons.

When I first moved to Louisville back in 2011/2012 – I can’t even remember off the top of my head anymore because I don’t generally spend a lot of time looking in the rear-view mirror, I set out to find who the movers and shakers are in the tech and business scene here. Louisville isn’t a massive city, so it wasn’t too hard to pinpoint a few dozen names who were making things happen here. Who’s been having successful exits, who’s in the 40 under 40, etc… And one of those people kept popping up, all the time on my radar. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and even work with quite a few of those impressive people, but never that one guy who really impressed me among the top few. But I’ve followed his work this whole time, in a professional-stalker manner (I’m intentionally not mentioning his name because that doesn’t seem polite or appropriate).

And today I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to him for an hour or so about working with him, just sort of randomly. I’m in the job market now, looking for digital marketing work, and it just so happens he’s in the market for a digital marketer. He’s the Managing Director and was a co-founder of the business, which has been on the Inc. 5000 six times and has won many awards and is simply a great tech firm with some of the biggest brains in Louisville, with operations overseas that employ around 1,200. But that I was in that room telling him how I could help him was a strange experience, after following his body of impressive work for so long. Which brings me to the second reason.

I realized I know a lot more about digital marketing and marketing in general than I thought I did after that meeting. Sort of like reverse-imposter syndrome. While I thought the meeting might be a humbling experience(the man has been described to me as a “genius” by others), it proved the opposite and was more encouraging than intimidating. I’m sure that has a lot to do with his obvious humility and character. But it shouldn’t be such a surprise, since I have an MBA in marketing strategy, have taught marketing management, and for years now have lived and breathed the exact work they’re having pain points and problems with, if not decades when talking about writing compelling copy and following bleeding-edge tech. And it’s not exactly a crackerjack operation. So the same strange meeting also yielded the realization I’ve been selling myself pretty short. Which is a nice sensation-don’t get me wrong.

My little business operates at a $95/hour rate, which I haven’t had a problem getting, once qualified clients are located. That’s the hardest part, which is the same issue many businesses have, including the one I was exploring today. But it may be time to reevaluate some avenues I’ve been feeling out because I think my capabilities and skills are above where I’ve been punching. Which is a great epiphany to have, but makes your mind spin with new opportunities. It’s exciting to think about what the future may hold. We’ll see what doors today open.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————–

FOLLOW UP:

SO. Here’s what happened. This is my email to the Managing Director of the firm. 

Dear XXXXXX

For professional reasons I just wanted to document what transpired regarding my consulting engagement offer with GlowTouch Technologies, so hopefully, the situation doesn’t reoccur, to record it for my reference, and make sure the event doesn’t just vanish into the ether.

On October 17 you verbally extended an offer for a three-month engagement after interviewing and gathering information with you and Paul Kuamoo to identify areas for optimization via data collection, analysis, and marketing strategy implementation and techniques for your customer support division, including writing SEO optimized blog posts. I was to increase conversion rates for your sales department by identifying and executing marketing methods and was allowed three months before reviewing the measurable results and effects of my efforts. For my work, we agreed compensation would be $5000 per month, and I was to begin on October 23 at 1:00 pm to provide time for you to prepare your marketing team for my complementary insertion and due to the fact I had prior commitments before that date and time. After the three month engagement, we would review the outcome and situation to see if my continued efforts would be of utility in a full-time capacity or not.

On October 20, after I appropriated some necessary software and developed preliminary strategies to hit the ground running with as little friction as possible on October 23, and declined two other procured but scarce consulting offers to focus intently on the quarterly GlowTouch Technology engagement, we discussed the agreement once again. You informed me you had alerted GlowTouch Technology’s marketing team that I would be helping them in a consulting capacity, and their reaction to your presentation was revolt. Your solution was to immediately remove me from the verbally agreed upon engagement and put your staff on a type of notice, with the mention that my services may or may not be needed at some undefined point in the future.  

I’m still currently available and willing to assist GlowTouch Technologies with marketing issues. However, my experience causes me to suspect the misalignment within your marketing department may be a result of using an agile methodology which tends to separate duties over time within operational sectors, resulting in inefficiencies. There may also be managerial issues at play, but I have no way of pinpointing them without assigning myself to research and inspecting where the business problems may lie.  

In any case, I wish you the best of luck in your efforts and pursuits and hope you find the solutions and results you’re seeking. It was a pleasure to finally meet you, and I truly hope our paths cross again.

Best,

Michael

11 Great Uses for Siri + Bonus Tip

11 Great Uses for Siri + Bonus Tip

11 Practical Uses for Siri

Siri has been a tool that has been out for a long time, relatively, and in the beginning was little more than a buggy gimmick. Which is why I never really bothered to use it and subsequently trained myself to ignore it. But during that time, Apple has improved it immensely, and there are a ton of very good practical use-cases that are worth training oneself to use, whether for productivity, ease of life, organization or even to save a life. I’ve been using apps to perform several of these tricks, but Siri can easily replace them with a better system, and she works with other apps, appliances, and your iPhone or Mac to become a powerful assistant, which most people have on them at all times.

So, in no particular order, here are

11 great and practical uses for Siri:

  • 1. Do basic math. Tips at restaurants, splitting tabs, double-checking receipts, and other quick mathematical questions can be asked, and immediately answered.

 

  • 2. Estimate your time of arrival. If you use Apple Maps, which I sometimes do but must admit I’m loyal to Google Maps, you can simply ask Siri “What is my ETA?” and she will tell you your approximate time. Pretty handy.

 

  • 3. Tell Siri to call you a nickname. This one is more for fun, but if you ask Siri a question, she’ll answer with your nickname. In my case that would be The Big Daddy. But be careful because this new name will show up in your contact card, so if you share your contact card with a job prospect, for example, they may start calling you by your cute nickname. Just a warning.

 

  • 4. Open your apps. If your apps are a mess or you’re lazy, you can just say to Siri “Siri, launch ___” and it will open automatically. Pretty handy, especially if you’re like me and have hundreds and hundreds of apps, even if you only use a fraction of them at any time. It stinks when you’re trying to find an app quickly and fumbling around with screens.

 

  • 5. Location-based reminders. This is a good one for when you’re on the move and can’t write down a note or reminder, like when you’re driving. For example, if you’re cruising along and suddenly remember that you left a load of wet clothes in the washer, you can tell Siri “Siri, remind me when I get home to change the laundry.” And via GPS and detecting your home network, she will pop up a message reminding you to do so. Or, if you need to get gas the next time you leave home or wherever, just say “Siri, when I leave here, remind me to get gas.” Just be sure to clear these reminders, or she will nag you about it every time.

 

  • 6. Set and delete Alarms. Many people use Siri to set an alarm, but you can also use her to delete all your alarms, which are automatically saved when you create one. They aren’t all active, of course. But in addition to telling Siri “Siri, set an alarm for 30 minutes from now,” you can also tell Siri “Siri, delete all my alarms,” which will erase the endless list of alarms you’ve accumulated for all those naps.

 

  • 7. Call Emergency Services. This is good for the infirmed, elderly, or klutzes who might find themselves trapped under something heavy. But here’s an important part you have to remember. This works with iPhone 6 and above which can activate Siri by simply saying “Hey Siri.” Tha’s one part. But if your phone is across the room and you’ve been immobilized, learn to say “Hey Siri, call 911 ON SPEAKER.” You have to say “On Speaker” or else you won’t be able to use it. Very important!

 

  • 8. Email, text, and voicemail. I have shied away from using voice-to-text because it hasn’t been successful for my accent in the past. But after living away from the South for a while and Apple improving voice recognition, this isn’t an issue any longer, so it’s something I intend to use more often. Typing long messages on a tiny keyboard is, frankly, a frustrating pain.  And texting and driving is a death wish. For texts, you can simply say “send a text message to Hank and tell him I want to eat lunch with him later.” and Siri will do it. Of course, you can also use Siri to place calls, place calls using the speakerphone, make emails and all that.

 

  • 9. Weather Updates. The weather here in Louisville isn’t as unpredictable as it is in other places I’ve lived in coastal areas, but this can still be helpful when needed. All you say is “Siri, what’s the weather going to be like this weekend?” or whenever you’re interested in, and she’ll tell you.

 

  • 10. Create and manage lists. I love lists, and use them a ton for my poor memory/crazy life. Organization is important to efficiency, which is important to saving time, and time=life. And often money as well. I use Notebook a ton, which is a great integrated app, which now works with Siri. Just say “Siri, add ___ to Notebook.” You have to be sure to say “To Notebook.”But for Apple’s Reminders app you’ll need to go into the Reminders App that Apple provides, and create a list, such a “To Do” or “Groceries.” Then you simply say “Siri, add “potatoes to my Groceries list” or “Siri, add pay my cable bill to my To-Do list.” And boom- she does it. There are a lot of creative ways to use this feature, in conjunction with lists eve. If you enter the address of your hardware store, you can use geofencing to tell Siri, ” Siri, when I go to the hardware store, remind me to buy a hammer,” and she’ll add it to your list. And you can keep adding items, and when you arrive at the hardware store next time, you’ll get a ping with your list of reminders.

 

  • 11. Home Automation. You can buy smart lightbulbs now that connect to your iPhone. Philips Hue and LIFX are the big dogs in this space, but the LIFX bulbs have been deemed brighter and have more features than the Philips Hue. And you don’t need a hub to use them like the Philips Hue; you only use your HomeKit app. And like everything on this list, you can control them using nothing more than Siri.Here are some other appliances you can use with Siri around the house:Thermostats: Nest: http://amzn.to/2ps9WTu ; Ecobee2: http://amzn.to/2q2YiAA ; Honeywell (least expensive) http://amzn.to/2qnBChrWall outlets: KooGeek (works with Homekit as well) http://amzn.to/2ps2Xdp. WeMo also will do this but you need to be using Amazon’s Alexa/Echo for that. These allow you to plug in any kind of appliance and then be able to control it remotely. Make sure to set the device into the “on” position so that it can be controlled via the smart plug.
  • BONUS TIP! A TON of people uses PayPal these days to transfer money. And you can use Siri to make it even easier. Simply say “Siri, send $20 to mom using PayPal,” and confirm your payment with Touch ID or log in to the app with username and password and voila! Mom is $20 richer.Plus much more can now be controlled by using nothing more than your voice with Siri. It’s very cool, easy and affordable if not free. Why wouldn’t you?awesome uses for siri 
How to Easily & Safely Delete All Emails From Your Gmail Inbox

How to Easily & Safely Delete All Emails From Your Gmail Inbox

How to Delete All Emails From Your Gmail Inbox

You may have a lot of unnecessary emails in your Gmail inbox, or have an old Gmail account that’s been idle for some time accruing emails that are now just old junk like I just had. I hate setting up new email accounts if I don’t need them because I already have more to my name than necessary. And I also hate to have a bunch of old junk taking up memory and creating visual clutter.

Repurposing the Gmail accounts seems like a better idea since generally, you already have them customized and set up to your liking and can remember the address and login better since you’ve already used them at some point, plus the available names you’d probably want to even use with a new Gmail address are long-taken. And even if you do set up a new Gmail account, Google hounds you to create a new Google+ persona, and on and on. Not worth it, usually.

Problem is, when you go to your inbox and check the box to highlight all the emails in your inbox for deletion, it only checks 50 of them at a time–the ones that are on the screen before you. That can be adjusted to a degree by going into settings and expanding that number, but if you have thousands and thousands like you probably do, that’s inefficient plus an unnecessary waste of time and energy.

So, what’s the solution? It’s surprisingly simple.

In the mail search bar above everything, type “before:_____” with the space representing the date you want to delete all your email prior to, in this format: YYYY/MM/DD. Most likely that would be today’s date. Then hit the Search icon/magnifying glass, or hit Enter.

select date

This will bring up all emails before that date. Click the box above all the selection boxes to select all:

select all mail

An almost unnoticeable message will appear above your inbox asking if you want to select all messages that meet that criteria. Yes, you do:

select all conversations

Then simply click the delete/trash can icon:

delete emails

Depending on how many emails you’re deleting, this may take a while. There will be a small “loading” message at the top indicating that it’s at work:

loading

You may need to refresh your page or inbox, but all your emails will now be deleted from your Gmail inbox. Clean and ready to use anew:

ta-daAnd that’s it!

Image Optimization Tips for the Web

Image Optimization Tips for the Web

Image Optimization Tips for the Web

 

Before Getting Started, Some Things to Know:

Why is image optimization SO important?

It’s very common for images to be the biggest weight for websites when they’re loading. They slow down page speed dramatically if not prepared for the browser correctly. Fortunately, it isn’t hard to optimize your images before uploading and posting them, but it does require some diligence and discipline. It’s important enough that it’s worth making a habit to practice each and every time, however.

Image optimization comes down to 2 criteria:

  1. Optimizing the # of bytes to encode each image pixel
  2. Optimizing the total # of pixels

The filesize is simply the total # of pixels multiplied by the # bytes used to encode each pixel. Therefore, posting images with no more pixels than needed to display the asset at its intended size in the browser is optimal. Don’t make the browser rescale them because it uses CPU resources and displays at a lower resolution.

SEO – Google and other search engine providers take page load speed into account in their ranking algorithms. If you want to be competitive and rank highly consistently, then making your site as light as possible must be a priority. That means, you guessed it, optimizing your images.

User experience – Your users expect your page to load as fast as possible. As in under a second. If it doesn’t, it causes them anxiety and they may very well leave your site. Obviously that’s something you don’t want. There have been studies showing how much revenue large retailers lose due to sites being fractionally slower, and while that may not be the nature of your site, it’s illustrative of the impatience users have these days.

The Basics of Imagery on the Web

There are several ways to display graphics online, for our concerns. And there are several formats we typically use these days. Some are more well-known and common, like .jpeg/.jpg and .pngs. But .gifs are making a comeback and the best way to really handle many graphics is none of these, but .svg, or scalable vector graphics, which is just code. As is CSS which, if you’re good enough, you can create animated graphics with as well pretty easily. But CSS3 can also be easily used to produce gradients and shadows that not only generate a lighter footprint, they’re easier to change on the fly if needed as well. Buttons and such UI elements are easy to make via CSS and much lighter, look better, perform better and can be edited more easily than using linked or embedded images. Web fonts are also a good choice to improve usability and performance.

Vector and Raster Images

Vector images are created with a series of points and lines, code really, that are ideal when dealing with geometric shapes because they’re zoom and resolution-independent, and look sharp and crisp at any size on any screen. They also can be a considerably smaller file size than a raster counterpart.

Raster images are created by encoding the values of each pixel within a grid, and at small or large sizes can look very choppy and jagged. Pixelated, in fact. They take the formats of jpeg, png, gif, tiff and jpeg-xr and WebP, which are newer.

Generally, vectors are great for logos, text, icons, etc… and raster is better for intricate images like a photo of a landscape, for example. Often, you’ll need to save several versions of raster images at different resolutions to deliver the best user experience.

Note: When we double the resolution of the physical screen the total number of pixels increases by a factor of four (double the # of horizontal pixels times double the # of vertical pixels) So a “2x” screen doesn’t just double, but quadruples the number of needed pixels.

Screen Resolution Total Pixels Uncompressed file size (4 bytes/pixel)
1x 100 x 100 = 10,000 40,000 bytes
2x 100 x 100 x 4 = 40,000 160,000 bytes
3x 100 x 100 x 9 = 90,000 360,000 bytes

Optimizing Vector Images

This is something that I, as your designer/developer will handle and worry about more than you but it’s good to be knowledgeable about what’s going on, and the usage of svg is becoming more widespread, so you’re more likely to cross its path than in the past. So I won’t go into major depth here, because it’s a large, complex subject, but you should at least be able to recognize it when you see it in the wild.

SVG is an XML-based image format. They should be minified to keep their size as small as possible, and they should be compressed with GZIP. All modern browsers support svg files, and they’re created using vector software like Adobe Illustrator, or you could code it up by hand if you wanted in a text editor. Illustrator is easier. There’s a lot of unnecessary metadata that’s created however, that can be cleaned up by running it through a tool like SVGO. There’s a plugin for Illustrator as well that I personally use.

Optimizing Raster Images

A raster image is a grid of pixels, and each pixel encodes color and transparency info in RGBA form (red, green, blue and alpha, which is transparency).

You’ll see “Lossless” and “Lossy” used a lot when trying to decide how to optimize raster images, but what do they mean? They look made up (and probably were, like “performant” and “canonicalization” and other words developers just dream up).

  • Lossless – describes an image that’s processed with a filter that compresses the pixel data.
  • Lossy – Processing an image with a filter that eliminates pixel data.

Any image can go through a Lossy compression process to reduce its file size. But there is no “optimal” configuration for all images. It depends on the contents of the unique image and your own criteria.

You’ll usually see lossy methods being applied with jpeg images in Photoshop, for example, when you’re saving the image for the web, and are given the option to customize the “quality” setting with a slider or set of numbers. The best way to determine this is really to just experiment and see what looks best with the largest file size savings, which in Photoshop may be seen in the bottom left corner of the screen.

This is as good a place as any to mention that when you upload an image in WordPress, it automatically is saved at 80% quality and at various sizes, which can be controlled in the admin panel. Out of the box, WordPress saves three other versions for you at a thumbnail size (150×150), Medium (300×300), and a large (1024×1024). But that can be changed to be anything and number you like of course, as can the 80% quality setting. Image file size is but one easy way to speed up your WordPress site. If you’re looking for other ways, here’s a very good pdf guide on ways to speed up your WP site:

Optimize WordPress Speed eBook

 Here’s another good article I came across that helps explain best image optimization practices for the web.

Selecting the Correct Image Format

OK, this is what I believe what most people are intereested in. In addition to Lossy and Lossless considerations, different image formats support different features like transparency and animation, increasingly important things for the web. So the “right format” depends on the desired visual results and functionality.

Format Transparency Animation Browser
GIF Yes Yes All
PNG Yes No All
JPEG No No All
JPEG-XR Yes Yes IE
WebP Yes Yes Chrome, Opera, Android

TIFFs are very heavy files and very high-res. Unless you’re doing some professional work or have a one-off, very good reason, you’re not going to need to use a .TIFF file.

GIFs are very trendy right now for short clips of animation on the web. However, they are limited to a maximum 256 colors, and a PNG-8 delivers better compression for small color palettes. Only use GIFs when animation is required. For longer animations, consider using HTML5

WordPress Websites

There are a few things I do to WordPress websites to help lighten the load as far as images are concerned. Images account for so much weight on websites, every little bit/byte counts. But the web is a visual medium, and the use of graphics is crucial for so many reasons. A better user experience, SEO reasons, shareability, and images just make websites so much more dynamic.

For SEO and accessibility reasons ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be mindful of your ALT tags! Bots can’t see images, so they rely on what you tell them the image is of to decide what to do with it. Make sure you complete them.

WordPress plugins that help optimize load time by compressing, lazy loading and other tricks are widely available. I’ve settled on using WPMU’s Smush.it Pro to compress images, which is a premium plugin, and I put it on clients’ sites as a courtesy because it’s so good and what it does is so important. I have had some issues with it from time to time, but the headaches that arise are worth the savings in file size, to me. (The plugin is high quality from some reputable WP developers; what it does is just complex and it gets snagged sometimes. I can live with it.)

I’m currently installing RICG Responsive Images, Media Library Thumbnail Enhancer, Gzip Ninja Speed Compression, Comment Images by my buddy Tom McFarlin, and for lazy loading, A3 Lazy Load for clients on an as-needed basis, which are all image-related plugins. Not necessarily for strict optimization, but valuable plugins nonetheless.

OPTIMIZATION TIPS

  • Use vector formats when available and appropriate. They’re future-friendly, light, easy to manipulate and change and look awesome on retina screens.
  • Minify & compress your assets. SVGs, PNGs, JPGs and GIFs can easily be shrunk significantly and doing so should become part of your workflow.
  • Don’t be afraid to dial down the quality settings on raster images; the quality remains high but you reduce the number of bytes significantly. Human eyes just aren’t all that great, unfortunately. Even though our screens are getting to be insanely high-res.
  • Remove unnecessary metadata like geo information, camera information, etc… there are tools to do this which I’ll provide in a resources addendum.
  • Serve scaled images, and automate as much as you can. There are lots of great optimization tools around, many for free, and many built right into editing software, waiting to be used.

A guide to choosing which format:

RESOURCES

Compressr.io – A web app I use all the time to smush images before uploading. It works great.

Other optimizers and smushers:

jpegtran

OptiPNG

PNGOUT

TinyPNG

TinyJPG

PNGGauntlet

JPEGmini

OptimizePNG.com

PunyPNG

Yahoo! Smush.it

And other stuff:

Bulk Resize Photos

Retinize it – Photoshop actions for slicing retina graphics

We love icon fonts

Iconic – I own these so if you ever want to use them let me know.

Animaticons – These are just too cool not to mention.