I do my best not to mix politics with my business, and hope to never have to do so again. However, there are currently 2 bills pending in the United States Congress that directly threaten every website, including both mine as well as my clients.
From Wikipedia: "Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions, social networking spam, television advertising and file sharing network spam."
It's everywhere, and seemingly impossible to avoid. Over 95% of all email is now spam of one sort or another, with over 100 billion spam messages being sent worldwide every day. The average email account receives over 400 of these irritating (and sometimes dangerous) messages per day. Just about every method has been tried to stop (or at least slow down) the onslaught, and yet it persists.
However, there are some simple things that can be done to keep your own inbox relatively spam-free. There are three points at which you can stop spam: The first, of course, is to prevent the spammers from getting ahold of your email address in the first place. Doing things like removing your email address from your website (or using phoenetics and spaces to spell it out, like "cgaba (at) brainwrap (dot) com") can help a little bit with this, but have the downside of making it more difficult for your customers to actually get ahold of you, so I'm not sure how useful that is.
I’ve been in business for over 10 years now, and in that time I’ve learned many lessons about this business—and about running a business in general. One of the most important ones, especially these days, is also one of the first: BACK UP YOUR DATA.
Unfortunately, last month I made a mistake that I don’t think I’ve done in years: I performed a significant update on a clients’ site without making sure to back up their data first.
Fortunately, it turned out that I did have a backup of the data in question—from over a year earlier. Thankfully, in this particular case, nothing had changed with that data over the course of the year, so I was able to restore it to the original state for the client seamlessly. Unfortunately, I lost almost a week’s worth of working time hunting down the solution.
I confess this incident to make two points: First, that even those of us “in the business” sometimes forget to back up our data—with potentially devastating results. Secondly, in case you haven’t gotten the point yet: BACK UP YOUR DATA.
There are any number of methods for this—external hard drives, USB thumbdrives, DVDs, or even online storage services. There’s also a bevy of software solutions which can streamline and automate this process for you, regardless of which operating system or platform you’re using.
If you know anyone living in Pennsylvania--or if you just happen to follow such things--you probably heard something about the Great Lower Merion School District WebCam Scandal of 2010®, otherwise known as WebCamGate.
For those who haven't heard about this incident, the nutshell version is that a school district in Pennsylvania has, for the past few years, participated in a "one-to-one" laptop computer educational program throughout their high schools. Every high school student throughout the district is given a laptop to either replace or enhance the traditional textbook curriculum, giving them the ability to do homework, write essays, do online research and so forth while also learning more about the use of technology in the classroom. These sorts of programs are becoming more and more common throughout the country as schools try to tear down the "digital divide" between wealthier and less-fortunate students, giving everyone equal access to the tremendous amount of information and power of the web.
Each of these is what's called a Top Level Domain, or TLD. Domains ending with .COM are generally intended to be used for commercial businesses, which is why they're the most commonly seen domains in the United States. Domains ending with .NET are usually intended for networking services and internet service providers such as Comcast or AT&T's residential email addresses. For instance, an AT&T employee who also used AT&T for their home service would use firstname.lastname@example.org for their business email, but email@example.com for their residential address. .ORG domains are usually intended for non-profit organizations.
However, there's nothing legally preventing anyone from using a .ORG domain for a for-profit business, or a .NET domain for a nonprofit group. Many companies snap up all three variants in order to help protect their branding.
Now, there are other TLD's which are restricted to certain entities. For example, .GOV can only be used by divisions of the federal, state or local government (Whitehouse.gov or Michigan.gov, for instance). .EDU is restricted to public universities and other educational institutes, and .MIL is restricted to divisions of the U.S. military.
However, in addition to the "big three" (.COM, .NET and .ORG), there are several other TLDs which are available for just about anyone to use, including .BIZ, .INFO. .US and .TV, as well as a whole host of other, more exotic international TLDs which are rarely used in the United States (and which tend to cost considerably more).
Why would I want to add a mailing list/newsletter?
Focus on your customers: Well, first of all, let’s call it what it really is: Targeted email marketing. Unlike spam, which is sent in carpet-bomb fashion to millions of people whether they want to receive it or not (and usually offering spurious products or services that the recipient has little or no desire to purchase), targeted email newsletters are sent only to existing clients or others who have expressed an interest in receiving occasional information from the sender. In other words, you’re sending your newsletter only to those who have either been customers of yours in the past, or who have expressed interest in possibly becoming one in the future. Using professional-looking newsletters to stay in touch with your clients helps build stronger customer relationships, and keeps them in the loop for future developments.
Customize the look and feel: You spent a lot of time getting your logo, color scheme and site layout looking the way you want. With rich-text newsletters, you can include photos, graphics and embedded links to jazz it up and call attention to the information you want your customers to know about.
Expand your potential market: Email newsletters are inexpensive, so you can prepare and send them more regularly and for far less expense than printed versions. You can create multiple sub-lists for even greater control over which clients receive which mailings, allowing you to target your messages with more detail. It allows your customers to forward the newsletter to others, broadening your pool of potential business. Adding the “Subscribe” button to your website lets anyone who’s interested in learning more about your business do so easily, without needing any additional sales pitches on your part.
Track your results: With built-in tracking reports, you can see instantly who’s received your newsletter, who’s opened it, and which links they’ve clicked. This helps you modify your website and product & service offerings to get the most effective business response.
Know who’s on the move: In addition to keeping track of who’s receiving your mailings, you’ll also know when your customers have changed their email address with “bounce” reports. This gives you a heads-up on making sure that your contact information is up to date, helping prevent communication misunderstandings in the future.
Save on printing and postage: No stamps, no printing, no ink or toner needed. No extra charges for altering text, changing fonts or colors. No wasted paper or paying extra for unsent copies. Oh, and one more thing: Unlike third-party mailing list services which can charge up to $150 per month, there are no monthly fees! Once the mailing list database and script are set up, you can send practically as many newsletters as you want to as large of a permission-based* list as you need for no extra fees.
Give me a call at 248 545-7570 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about adding a Rich-Text Mailing List/Newsletter solution to your website!
Brainwrap Web Design has been in business for over 10 years, but in many ways this is like starting my own website all over again. The general content is pretty much the same, but everything under the hood (coding language, server configuration, site features and so forth) has been completely overhauled. Hopefully I won't have to do this again for another 10 years--this one has been a major project...
The most obvious changes, aside from the cosmetic tweaks, are the addition of a bevy of so-called "Web 2.0" features such as this blog, social media links (Twitter, Facebook, etc), and the RSS feed.
I should note that I've put "Web 2.0" in quotes because the truth is that there isn't any true, single definition of what that term means. As Wikipedia (itself an example of "Web 2.0" at work) defines it:
The term "Web 2.0" (2004–present) is commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing,interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Examples of Web 2.0 include web-based communities,hosted services, web applications, social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, mashups, and folksonomies. A Web 2.0 site allows its users to interact with other users or to change website content, in contrast to non-interactive websites where users are limited to the passive viewing of information that is provided to them.
Of course, there's also a better definition of what the term means: Nothing whatsoever, a pure piece of marketing jargon, according to the guy who actually invented the World Wide Web in the first place:
Perhaps the most common criticism is that the term is unclear or simply a buzzword. For example, in a podcast interview, Tim Berners-Lee described the term "Web 2.0" as a "piece of jargon":
"Nobody really knows what it means...If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along."
So, call it what you will--"going web 2.0" or simply getting around to a long-overdue update of my own website, I've finally done so.