Super WiFi Value from Super 8 Motels

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 02:22 PM with 0 comments

On a recent trip my family stayed at a Super 8 motel. It was everything we wanted – close to where we were visiting, clean, comfortable and at a great price. But above all, for me it had one of the best WiFi signals I have gotten in any hotel anywhere in the world, as you can see in the screengrab below.

photo of Super 8 Motel WiFi signals

The debate about the price vs. value for low and high-priced hotels will go on forever. Most all higher-end hotels charge for WiFi, and will even go as far as charge you for each computer you want to access it. And don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a Westin over a Super 8 any day, but at the end of that day, if I just need to briefly get online (as was the case when I was at this Super 8) I am not looking to go through a process and incur a US$15 charge to do so.

Where value is in the eye of the beholder, the last I checked WiFi doesn’t have eyes.


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April Fools Day Blogging Thoughts

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, April 02, 2010 at 01:53 PM with 0 comments

photo of April 1 on the calendarIf you read The Hot Iron yesterday, you may have noticed my post for Thursday, April 1, 2010 was an outright April Fools joke. The idea that Google can predict what you want to search on is surely one of debate, but the connection between your brain and the browser is not quite there yet, at least at a consumer level.

After gauging the response to the post, as well as general commentary I saw around social media about April Fools Day and blogging, the question presents itself, “should you blog a joke on April 1?”

Analysis Paralysis

There is no shortage of opinion out there, and that can also relate to your blog as a whole as well as its individual post. When thinking about reactions to such a post of your own, there’s many angles to look at from. Some say you should ignore anything posted on April 1 in general, as it is a waste of time to sort through the jokes to find what is real. Others say your attempt at humor may not get through to an existing reader or a new reader, which could turn them off and away from your blog. Then others say that in a world where things are too serious, why not have some comic relief?

So summing it up, blogging on April 1 may be a no-win situation. But thinking about it more, isn’t that true for the other 364 days of the year as well?

Be True To Your Blog

My recommendation is to be true to the mission of your blog. By consistently writing relevant content and engaging with your community you should be in good shape. Over the long term, you should have increased readership – both in page hits and subscribers. Watching hits and activities on a day-to-day basis may not be relevant for you, as for whatever reason you may get people unsubscribing or a decrease in the number of hits. But like the stock market, you may have bumps along the road but over the long term you should gain.

Keeping true to The Hot Iron, I never try to take myself too seriously, so every once in a while snarky comments may come out, and yesterday that was in the form of an entire post. I will continue to strive to educate and engage in conversation, and hopefully you the reader will enjoy it as much as I do.


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Branding A Blog With Its Own Domain Name

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 04:00 AM with 4 comments

Blog name badgeShould a blog have its own domain name? The answer to this is obviously "it depends" as no solution fits for everybody. Let's take the idea of branding a blog step-by-step.

Start With The Brand

It is good practice to brand your blog. By giving it a name other than "company's blog" a brand name helps the blog stand on its own, which many times is the case. Many people come to read a blog based on its own content and not necessarily linked from your company's Web site. RSS feeds and social bookmarking sites may guide many readers to your blog, and people may be more likely to read it if they think there's a level of independence to the blog, and that it isn't just a mouthpiece for the company. If you are adding a blog to your existing Web mix, this is a way to add some energy and buzz from the blog, and to your Web presence overall.

The brand name for a blog can be something completely new to your company, or it could be something you already have. Many blogs are given clever names (like The Hot Iron!) or they can use the company's tag line for the blog name.

This also depends on how you may be marketing or positioning the blog. Many times a blog is the official company blog. In some cases, it is a company blog, but designated it is the opinion of an employee of the company. If you market your key people as individuals, you may want the blogs to have their name as the domain name, or some other phrase or moniker they may use. This will build upon their individual branding.

Then Add A Domain Name

If you go through the effort to brand the blog, ideally you want to acquire a domain name for that brand name, as you should for, at a minimum, to protect the brand. A unique domain name, separate from your company's main domain name, builds upon the momentum of brand name you have given the blog. This is not to say that if you call your blog companyname.com/blog it will not be popular or successful. A domain name also allows for additional blogs down the road.

Many times when a blog is added to a Web site, it may not be hosted along with the site and reside on different servers. If your company has the ability to manage the DNS of its domain name (if you don't know what this means, you probably don't have that ability!) you can add a unique domain name to the blog wherever it is hosted. If your blog is hosted at a blog service like WordPress, you can add a domain name or subdomain (e.g. blogname.companyname.com) and it is recommended to do so - otherwise the blog will have an address of blogname.wordpress.com; if down the road you want to host the blog itself or move it to another service, then its Web address will have to change. When a blog is added to a Web site, it may be running different technology than the Web site. Thus a simple way to manage this is to have a unique domain name for the blog. This actually reduces DNS management for the company's main domain name.

In some cases, you may not be able to add a domain name to a blog, and the reasons can vary. Some companies may have it as policy that you cannot use another domain name other than the main one for the company's Web site. Seriously, this can happen, and was the case with a former employer. Even though we owned domain names for all of our branded products and services, they were not used - yes, the domain names did not resolve to anything! They did not want the brand to be splintered at all, even though in reality the company itself was heavily siloed into separate business units. Other companies may have other policies about managing DNS you will need to be aware of before making such a decision.

Another nuance to consider is the continuously blurring line between Web site and blog. In some cases, the Web site is a blog. A good example is the blog Dunkirk Systems, LLC and Visible Logic, Inc. recently build for the soon-to-be-bestselling book OUIJA - For The Record. This site has a few content pages, but it is primarily a blog and forum. It has one domain name and this is all it needs. There are a few content pages, but the overall goal and design were about conversation about the book, so as it is structured it works well to achieve this goal.

The Brand Beyond The Domain Name

If you do choose a domain name for your blog, ensure to carry it through in your other uses of social media. You can use the domain name in association with Google Feedburner to aggregate and promote your blog feed. Register accounts with associated social media sites - Twitter, etc. - and social bookmarking sites - StumbleUpon, etc. - to carry through and reinforce the blog's brand.

Whether you use a unique domain name or not, the design of the blog may or may not be consistent with the company's Web site. As the flow of a blog can differ from a traditional Web site, the current Web site's design and layout may have to be modified to be used for the blog. If you want the blog to be highly integrated into the Web site, then you may want a consistent design. If you do not, or are not sure, then you may want a unique look for the blog, although the company's brand would be present in the new design. There is a lot more to consider with design, though this post is about the brand name more than the look.

Whichever direction you choose, it in itself will not determine the success of your blog. Unique, interesting and relevant content published for readers published on a regular schedule is still the sweet spot of any blog!


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Do You Have Time For A Web Site

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, March 08, 2010 at 04:00 AM with 1 comments

photo of clocksIt is a question I often ask, but not always the same way:

Do you have time for a Web site?

The question is posed to prospective clients, which some reading this may think is ironic. However after building Web sites commercially for over 15 years now, every once in a while a Web site languishes from lack of or poor content, let alone varying oversight and management.

Web Sites Don’t Update Themselves

With the advancement of content management systems (CMS) and blogging platforms, coupled with RSS, content syndication and aggregation among others, it is easier than ever today to update and post content to your Web site. In some cases a Web site can be updated with little human interaction. Where you can bring in content from other places, your own custom-crafted messaging is vital to the success of your Web site. This is the reason people will want to visit your Web site more than once.

When planning for a Web site, most all consider the monetary cost of paying for the site to be built. They will also plan to write the initial content for the Web site, and for a blog they will write a few blog posts ahead of time to ensure there’s initial consistency. Once the site goes live and the last sip of champagne is drank, the work continues to write new content, review existing content, let alone reviewing analytics, modifying tags and meta data for SEO, and making other changes and responding to readers to ensure the success of your Web site.

A Plan That Works For You

Don’t let writing content for your Web site be yet another item on your burgeoning to-do list! Come up with a plan and process to ensure regular, quality updates to your Web site. Where content plans can cover several blog posts in itself, here’s some attributes to consider in your plan:

  • How often do you want to write?
  • What do you want to write?
  • Does everything need to be a long, extensive piece or can short updates be worthwhile ot readers? (Hint!)
  • How much time do you have available to write?
  • Ensure you review all content when significant business events occur (e.g. office address, company name change).

Keeping the content fresh on your Web site will be of interest to your Web visitors as well as the search engines. And these are certainly things to toast with champagne.


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Next likemind Chicago on Friday March 19

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 10:07 AM with 0 comments

likemind.chi logoThe next likemind will be Friday, March 19, 2010 in dozens of cities around the world.

In Chicago, it will be at Argo Tea, 140 S Dearborn St. at the corner of Adams and Dearborn Streets in the Loop from 8:00 am to 10:00 am.

I call likemind a gathering of creative-minded people, from various disciplines including Internet, advertising, art, social media, et. al. For more information on likemind, you can read this great article on likemind from the New York Times.

No RSVP is required. You are also welcome to join the likemind Chicago Facebook group.


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My Takeaways From The Book Fierce Leadership

By Mike Maddaloni on Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 08:11 AM with 1 comments

As the use of jargon is more and more frowned on in the business world, taking its place are common words which express the same thoughts, just with more sincerity. When I heard of the book Fierce Leadership by Susan Scott, I wondered if “fierce” was jargon or not, as I had no idea the reason for the use of this word. As I read the book and learned about the author, it became clearer.

Fierce is actually the name of Scott’s consulting business, as well as her approach with dealing with what it seems like everything. She feels it is necessary to be brutally honest and direct in everything you do, and this is quite apparent in the stories she tells and quotes she uses throughout the book.

There are a few takeaways I had from this book. The first is to always be direct and frank in dealing with people, and to merely deal with people. Many times people skirt issues and avoid conflicts as much as they want resolution to them. Rather than let issues drag on, it is in the best interest of both parties to confront issues, as unpleasant as it may be to do so. A second takeaway is to come up with your own style and process for dealing with people. An example from the book is when Scott and her colleagues interview someone for a job and all interviewers have pens – if someone puts down a pen on the table, the interview is over. As blunt as that sounds, it doesn’t waste any more time for anyone at that table, including the interviewee. She also says anonymous feedback in employee reviews are pointless, for if someone has something to say, they should say it and people should know where it comes from.

As blunt as the ideas in Fierce Leadership are, they have apparently worked well for Scott and her firm, and like any advice, these ideas should be considered and applied as appropriate to someone’s style. I was given a copy of her book by a publicist, and I enjoyed reading it and her philosophy. If you are seeking options on how to deal with people you work with, I recommend giving this book a read.


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Comcast Rebranding As XFINITY And Your Email

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 08:25 AM with 3 comments

XFINITY logoFor years I have professed here at The Hot Iron about getting your own domain name for your personal email. As products and services are bought and sold and rebranded, the main domain names for the email service may change, and as a result your email address may be forced to change. As low-cost as it is to own a domain name and straightforward as it is to use as an email address, many still do not.

If what I have said already is not enough reason, here’s another reason why you should do this. Last week Comcast announced it is rebranding its TV, phone and Internet services as XFINITY. Seriously. They say the company name will remain Comcast, but these services will have the new moniker.

There’s plenty of conversation out there about the new XFINITY name and Comcast’s reputation, and I am not seeking to contribute to that at this point. However, it is not known if Comcast plans on retiring the comcast.net domain name for its customer’s email addresses. As previously stated, they have done this before, eliminating the attbi.com when they acquired AT&T Broadband. From a technical standpoint, they can support any number of domain names for email – Yahoo! still supports rocketmail.com for its Yahoo! Mail service – however from past history they have decided not to. If they continue their past practices, many people will be forced to change their email addresses.

Changing an email address is a pain. So why not make one final change, to an email address with your own domain name? Another advantage of using your own domain name is you can change email service providers, but not change your email address. There’s no time like the present to look up the availability of a domain name and make it happen!


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On the iPad and Iterative Design and Web Sites

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, February 03, 2010 at 04:21 PM with 0 comments

photo of a pad with the letter i on it, thus an iPadAs several people have asked me about my opinion about the iPad, I figured what better way to answer them than on The Hot Iron? While collecting my thoughts on it, what I am presenting goes beyond the device itself, but is related to how and why it is here.

Before I start, let me say I own an original iPod Shuffle and an iPod Nano. I don’t own a Mac or an iPhone, the former as I am content with my Windows PC and the latter is due to it being a locked device to the shaky and overpriced AT&T network. I will also say to satisfy the FCC hawks that I have no direct connection or direct financial stake in Apple. Working in tech my entire career, I also understand a little on how Steve Jobs thinks, and my opinion will come out as you read this.

On The iPad Itself

When I saw the announcement of the iPad, I admit I was not blown away by it, but I was also not repulsed by it. It seemed to me a larger version of the iPhone, allowing for full Web browsing and book reading, which is not an unfair description.

Here’s what I said to PSFK’s Purple List, which was posted on their blog the other day:

“In the short term, Apple fans and early adopters will gravitate to the iPad, though many I have talked and my own belief is that people prefer the portability of the iPhones. In the long-term the impact of the iPad will be in the advancement of other hardware manufacturers’ own foray into tablet devices.”

It’s a nice device but not for me. It will have its market but I don’t think it will take off in its current version as some may think. And this is about all I have to say about the iPad.

On Iterative Design

You’re probably wondering that is all I, Mike Maddaloni, has to say? Actually, that’s it, for I feel this first version of iPad is really about getting out there and seeing how it is received in the marketplace. I can somewhat speak from experience as the Shuffle and Nano in my home are only a few years old and far different from the current models. Apple is a product company and they need to sell units. What better way to do so than under the moniker of innovation?

What Apple has done is put out an initial, well-styled and designed product. They will next put out another initial, well-styled and designed product with iterations in its features, but not quite perfect. Where critics will pick apart each new version, it will certainly draw customers, and as a result sell more products. Granted Apple is not the only company who does this, but among all of the style and black clothing, Apple is a business. This in itself is a topic which could be debated on and on and on.

On Web Sites

Rumors are swirling as to why the iPad’s browser will not support Flash. Today, Flash is the main way people view video content on the Web. It has not always been that way, and it won’t necessarily always be that way. Talk of how the next version of the HTML Web programming language supporting video will address this issue has been one answer, but asking any programmer you will find few thinking about HTML 5.

My rumor to add to the mix is AT&T couldn’t possibly handle the network traffic of full-screen, high-definition video. As Apple continues to be tied to AT&T, this is a sacrifice anyone who owns an iAnything will have to deal with.

I don’t see this as much of an issue for those who build Web sites. In general, you should accommodate for those who don’t want to see Flash or don’t have its browser plugin. Sure, all Flash Web sites are still popular, but it’s nothing I recommend to my clients at Dunkirk Systems, LLC, and here’s a prime example of why. I doubt the iPad will push new ways to view video on the Web. Apple has its own Safari browser and QuickTime video format, and these could be a contributing factor as well.

In other words, I am not losing sleep over the launch of the iPad, nor is it making me sleep easier. I am more curious to see, as I was quoted, what the competition comes out with as a result of this high-profile device.


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High-Tech Delivery Can Overshadow Message

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 04:00 AM with 1 comments

Marshall McLuhan is famous for the quote, “the medium is the message.” My short definition of the meaning of this quote is that it isn’t necessarily what is being said, but how it is said. I thought of McLuhan on a recent ride on Chicago’s Red Line subway, where I saw the following notice.

photo of CTA HDTV kiosk in Chicago

The notice reads of upcoming route cuts on Chicago’s CTA system. What it doesn’t say is why, and not saying it is not at issue as it has been widely reported in the media and blogs around the Windy City of the CTA’s budget “issues” and the need to cut service to balance its budget.

As I read this notice, the words were not as important as what I was looking at. The notice is displayed on an HDTV encased in a protective kiosk to ideally prevent it from damage and vandalism. The cost of such a display unit was adding up in my head along with other budget numbers I have read in the previously-mentioned stories. In the end I did not see a notice of services changes, rather an expensive display device.

The irony in this thinking is it came from me, a career high-tech professional and Web consultant. I have discussed such display units with clients. However this is not the only example of using technology that in the end has bothered me. A few weeks back I received an onslaught of phone calls for the eventual winner of the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race, Scott Brown, on my Chicago 312 area-coded business line! Somehow my number was derived from some computer-processed algorithm which followed me, who used to live in the Bay State, to the Land of Lincoln. Months prior to this I received letters form now-defunct GM brand Saturn to my Chicago home thanking me for my loyalty to them. I bought a Saturn in 2003 and dumped it in 2000 (with emphasis on the word "dumped"), yet they were still able to find me.

All in all, no message will resonate with everyone it is presented to. But as we progress into more tech-driven message delivery, we should be cognizant of the sincerity of this message, which can be compromised using modern, inexpensive means. Surely a hand-written note from the CTA, Scott Brown or Saturn would have been perceived by me to be the same as the automated message. Before pressing the send button or making that buying decision, think about if you have to justify the medium as well as the message.


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Selling The Web Design Business Kit from SitePoint on eBay

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 06:54 AM with 1 comments

It has served me well, and now it’s time for it to be in the hands of a start-up Web design and development business. I am talking about The Web Design Business Kit from SitePoint, which I have just posted for sale by auction on eBay. Below is a photo of the 2 binders and CD-ROM which make up the Kit.

The Web Design Business Kit from SitePoint on eBay

The Kit consists of processes and procedures for owning and operating a Web design and development business. It is a step-by-step process that takes you through the business process of building a Web site and is supported by documentation and files in Excel and Word you can use right away in your business. Note the files are in Australian MS format but can easily adapted to US format. I purchased the Kit brand new a few years ago and learned quite a bit from it. The version 2.0 of this sells for almost $250.00. The content in the Kit is timeless.

The auction closes next Monday night, February 1, 2010, and bidding starts at a penny for this great buy.


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