Announcing dMorning Tech Creative Networking In Northeast Wisconsin

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, November 05, 2017 at 08:24 PM with 0 comments

screenshot of dMorning Web site

With great anticipation I am pleased to announce a networking event for people who work in the tech and creative fields in Northeast Wisconsin. Introducing dMorning.

So what is dMorning?

The idea behind dMorning is relatively simple - informal networking before the busy workday starts, with no set rules and no agenda. Since I moved to the Fox Valley of Wisconsin this past summer, I have been looking for something like this, as I work in the Web and I am looking to meet people who work in similar fields in my new home area.

In the past I have hosted a variety of meetups where I used to live in Chicago – some specific and some general – and I have found the latter to be more interesting. A casual gathering of people to talk about what they are working on, sharing stories and bouncing ideas off each other… this is something I have wanted to restart for a while, and why not here? My plan is for this to be a monthly event.

The first dMorning will be on Friday, November 17 at 7:30 am at All Seasons Coffeehouse in Appleton, which is conveniently located off I-41 at Wisconsin Avenue. I only say it goes until 9:30 am as that is likely as long as I will be there. There is no cost for dMorning, you only have to pay for any beverages or food you purchase from this locally-owned business.

What’s in a name?

You may be wondering about the name, dMorning. As I sought out a name for this, I didn’t want to pick something limiting. On the Web site at dMorning.com there are some ideas of what the “d” could stand for.

Hope to see you there!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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GoPats.com Announces Its Retirement As Patriots Fan Web Site

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, September 05, 2017 at 05:50 PM with 0 comments

the GoPats.com logo

After 21 seasons of serving the fans of the NFL’s New England Patriots, GoPats.com announces its retirement, according to its co-founders Mike Maddaloni and Clint Mills.

At the time of its launch in the mid-1990’s, GoPats.com was one of only a handful of Patriots fan sites worldwide. In these early days of the Web, with copyright laws still murky for online content, the site, originally called Patriots Unofficial, focused on original content, including its flagship column, Clint’s Corner. Even when the NFL and the Patriots encouraged fair-use of its logo and branding, the site remained true to its origins, even with the number of fan sites increasing.

The site first launched in “beta” in the fall of 1995, when Mike created one of his first Web sites as a way of learning the emerging Web technologies. Upon showing the Patriots page to Clint – whom he met at work and they became fast friends over the team, as Clint was a second-generation season ticket holder and Mike was a new one – he expressed his dismay that it was not worthy of the team.

Miffed at this, Mike told Clint to put his money where his mouth was and provide content to the site. An extremely loyal and knowledgeable fan of the Pats and all of football, Clint wrote an off-season article on March 13, 1996, and this date is considered the official launch of the site. The eponymous domain name was added in 1997 at Clint’s insistence, trailblazing in the trend of personal Web sites being branded with their own domain name.

From its humble beginnings just prior to the Pats second Super Bowl appearance – and loss – to winning its first in New Orleans in 2002, Clint’s Corner was published in 129 editions. Additionally, guest contributors including Frank Moore, Ralph Ingrassia and others made their mark on the site, all with original content. This made GoPats.com the go-to destination for reporting and opinion on the team long before the term “dynasty” was even considered. The site and his involvement was cited when Clint won the 1998 Patriots Fan of the Year Joseph Mastrangelo Trophy, which was presented to him by team owner Robert Kraft.

A bonus, if you will, of running one of the original fan Web sites to serve Patriots Nation was the engagement with fans, across New England and around the world. This included Pats fans and fans of other teams, and where the occasional exchange out of bounds, most all connections were positive. Sporting GoPats.com t-shirts and a large banner during tailgating and other events, including New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, helped Clint and Mike engage with fans from all corners of the globe.

From a technology point of view, GoPats.com was a groundbreaking media platform. It was a content management system (CMS) and blogging platform long before those terms became mainstream. The site could be updated from home or the parking lot right after the game. Its integrated email list informed hundreds of fans of new content to the site and incorporated leading-edge design and functional features to remain a current platform and offer the ultimate user experience for Patriots Nation.

clipping of Mike and Clint with the Pat Van

That was then, and this is now. As time went on and as Mike and Clint went from single guys with plenty of disposable time to family men, it impacted the frequency of publishing and overall updates. A short-lived news blog, Out In The Loop, was added in the mid-2000’s but it didn’t keep up with the fandom landscape, which evolved ahead with more advanced Web sites, mobile apps, social media as well as cross-media business ventures. In recent years the site design was updated to keep it as an archive site, but the demand for knowledge on Bill Parcells “buying the groceries” during the 1996 season waned. Even the above-shown tailgating van is no longer in service, however one of its “PAT VAN” license plates is on display at the official Patriots Hall of Fame at Gillette Stadium.

In its retirement, the domain name GoPats.com will redirect to the very post you are reading now, which lives on Mike’s blog, The Hot Iron, which itself has been publishing for over a decade. Could GoPats.com ever come out of retirement or serve another purpose? Any reasonable offers starting at 7-figures will certainly be considered!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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The Simplest Web Site Content Plan

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, March 05, 2017 at 06:55 PM with 0 comments

image of content plan model

Quick – how accurate is your Web site?

My deepest apologies if I caused you to have anything from a puzzled look on your face to a panic attack. But if you own a Web site and have any sizable amount of content, it should be periodically reviewed to see if it needs to be updated.

Where there are tools available to help this – perhaps within your content management system (CMS) where you update your content, or external, third-party tools, I’d like to share a basic, straightforward and low-tech way to remind you to review your content.

From Louisville With Love

In a past role I managed the technical environment for our Web site and Intranet, working with staff from Marketing together as the Web team. One day someone from the facilities department stopped by my desk, and the brief conversation we had went something like this:

Julie (not their real name): “Hey, Mike.”

Me: “Hey, Julie”

Julie: “You know the Louisville, Kentucky office moved, right?”

Me: “Yea, I saw that someplace… why are you asking me?”

Julie: “Because the old office address is still on the Web site – you do something with that, right?”

After that thrilling conversation, I got on the phone with my marketing counterpart (we’ll call her Natasha) and has basically the same conversation with her, however I said Julie’s lines. This was followed by a few choice adult words by both of us, then Natasha proceeded to make the change to the Web site.

Maintaining With a Plan

Still on the phone, we both could hear each other exhale. We were glad we were able to make the change quickly, then the conversation continued around how much other outdated content was out there, updating it, and a plan to do both of these tasks moving forward.

As with many Web sites out there, content has many owners. The marketing teams for each product managed their own content, and Natasha was responsible for the overall “corporate” content. We didn’t have a feature-rich CMS for the site that could alert us to “expired” or “expiring” content, nor were there many decent comprehensive content tools at the market at the time – and we looked – so we had to come up with our own solution.

What we came up with was straightforward yet highly effective, and it came about with these steps.

1. First I listed all pages of the Web site and put it into a spreadsheet. As we had a Sitemap page it made this task easy.

2. Natasha then took the spreadsheet and added a column called “frequency” and proceeded to make the frequency of how often page content should be reviewed (e.g. weekly, monthly, quarterly).

3. I took a look at her revised spreadsheet and made suggestions regarding the frequency – remember, I am much, much more than just a technologist!

4. Natasha, using the final spreadsheet as a guide, created calendar alerts with links to the pages as reminders to review the content.

That was it, and it worked.

Of course some content would be reviewed more frequently, namely when it was modified or other business triggers occurred. The point of the above exercise though was to ensure that, on a regular basis, all of the Web site content would be reviewed for accuracy. In addition to this, I would perform regular link checks to ensure the content was technically connected.

What Works For You?

As you are reading this, I hope you are thinking of the content of your Web site, as there is no time like the present to be thinking about it! In addition to the site itself, your extended Web presence includes your social media profiles and feeds. As it’s easy to tweak one or more and forget about the others, perhaps this “detached” solution of using your calendar will work for you too?

Deconstructing a Web Content Plan

In this hyper-speed world of content development, it’s not unusual to have inaccurate or incomplete content out there, exposed, for all to see. By coming up with a straightforward and highly usable plan, you will be able to get ahead of long-standing errors and omissions in your Web presence.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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7 Netflix Parental Controls I Would Love To Have

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 04:36 PM with 0 comments

”Netflix

I remember when I had my first cable TV box back in the late 80's and saw a lockout switch on the back - you could select channels you wanted to block, then flip the switch in the back of the box and you couldn't tune them in. You could even put a padlock over the switch to secure it.

How I wish I had something equivalent to that for Netflix today.

The idea of parental controls for technology today - from computers to mobile devices to apps and Web sites on them - is one of interest and concern for parents. As much as we want to watch all of what our kids get into and trust them completely, neither are realistic. We can always remove the devices from their hands, but with schools using more Web and app-based educational tools, the devices will be within their reach more and more.

Going into this list, I have no illusions (delusions either) that any form of parental control functionality will be perfect. That being said, they can begin to make an impact and provide some form of management without needing to watch over their shoulders 24/7. Plus any controls are technology chasing technology and a moving target, and even these things are for right here, right now.

In somewhat of a top-down order, here;s my 7 suggested Netflix parental controls.

1. Separate Profile Passcodes – Netflix has the ability to create a unique profile for individuals who share an account. Where there is the ability to set a profile as a Kids one, there is no stopping my Thing 1 or Thing 2 from browsing Mom or Dad's profile. If each had a unique passcode (or password or PIN) then you could limit them to their own profile. Of course if they watch you enter your passcode, the idea is moot.

2. Disable Profiles – Once you lock down profiles (or at least your own), having the ability to lock or disable individual profiles is ideal. Is Junior grounded for a week but still has homework on the iPad to do? This would be a great way to keep them from getting entertained by Netflix programming.

3. Deselect Shows or Series – Don't want your princess watching Mako Mermaids until she is older? Having the ability to browse to a show or series and click a “disable” button and then show the profiles which you want to block it from will give you piece of mind.

4. Limit Number of Shows Watched – Do you have a little binge-watcher in the making? Setting a limit on the number of shows watched over a particular period of time (day, week, month) will not only limit their screen time, but will also give them some self-training in managing their own time.

5. Limit Time Watched – In addition to the number of shows watched, you could limit overall time by period as well, with an option to let them finish watching a show in progress (or not) or not even watching one longer than their set time limit.

6. Remove Search – By removing the search option within Netflix, it will limit them to browsing which may force them to watch something presented early to them. Of course search requires spelling, though it's unclear if spelling “My Little Pony” benefits their education.

7. Reporting – She watched the same Monster High movie 33 times? Having the ability to see what shows were watched – and when – is helpful in determining how to set parental controls, in essence how much of a challenge you have.

Deconstructing Netflix Parental Controls

Online streaming, or video on-demand as was called when I had that cable TV box, is prevalent today. With more people “cutting the cord” from cable TV, services like Netflix are the de facto form of entertainment for kids and adults alike. I am not talking here about auto-pilot filtering of content, rather tools being available where I can set them for my children as I see fit. And I'd be willing to pay a little more for these tools, too.

Do you think these would be helpful for you as a parent? Or for yourself too? Or do you have any other suggestions? I welcome your thoughts and ideas in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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3 Challenges of In-App Web Browsers

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, March 13, 2016 at 03:52 PM with 1 comments

”screenshot

Quick – how many Web browsers are on your mobile phone?

Now I realize this question may confuse you, but please read on, as I may be talking about something completely new to you or something you know about but didn't realize its full impact and the challenges that come from it.

The Mobile Web Is Still a Thing

With the growth of mobile devices and apps, many predicted the Web would be less relevant. With advances in Web design, namely the concept of responsive Web design, where a Web site will adapt or :respond: to the size of the screen it is presented on, Web sites are still viewed on mobile devices, and this will certainly continue.

To view Web sites on a mobile device, like on a PC or Mac, you use a Web browser. This in itself is an app, and on the iPhone the “native” browser is Safari and on an Android phone, it's Google Chrome. As well, you can install other browsers like Opera or Firefox. Just as on the desktop or laptop computer, some people just use the native browser and others use another. Some use more than one, realizing one may present a Web page differently than another – that difference can be slight, or to the extreme the Web site functionality may not work at all. Unfortunately there is no strict standards that a Web browser must follow to display Web pages, thus the differences.

The More Not The Merrier

As you may guess, the more Web browsers there are, the greater the chance these differences – or errors – may occur. I personally have encountered this many times as a regular Web user, as well as someone who owns and builds Web sites.

To compound the number of apps out there that are Web browsers are apps that serve a unique purpose but also have a Web browser built into it.

Again, my apologies if I have confused you... Web browsers in apps? Which ones? And how many different ones? And why? Where I have some answers to these, I am not a mindreader, though as someone who has designed products as well as software, I will share with you my thoughts as to why, and their impact.

As for the which and how, the image at the top of this post shows 8 apps I currently have installed on my iPhone that have an in-app Web browser. Eight! One is Safari, the iPhone native Web browser, and the other 7 are inside apps. As for the why, this depends on the thought and design of the app owners and developers.

Here's one thought as to why: the chief reason is the user experience – click a Web link in an app and you stay within the app. Granted you can launch a separate Web browser on your mobile device, but the user is then leaving your app, where you want them to stay. Talking with some Web app owners off-the-record, they have also said this, as well as functionality of the app they would like to leverage in the Web browser. So as I said, they have their reasons.

Challenges All Around

After this setup, it may already be obvious as to what the challenges to in-app Web browsers are, and who they impact, including:

Challenges to App Users – Thats you and me folks, the end consumer of these apps and their browsers. There's a real-world example tha

t happened to me that first brought this to my attention.

I went to an eCommerce Web site to make a purchase, one I have been to man times on a mobile device as well as my Mac. However a popup window that normally comes up as the last step of the process to complete the order did not appear. I tried and tried a couple of times and it still did not complete the order. It wasn't until I realized I was in an in-app Web browser and not Safari, which I had used in the past. I then opened Safari on my iPhone, tried the order again and it worked just fine.

Even for someone like myself who considers himself a high-end user, I didn't think twice on what app I was really in, and once I did, it still didn't matter, as I wondered why the Web page didn't work?

Challenges to Web Site Owners and Developers – One of the greatest challenges to those who run and build Web technology is that their Web sites and Web applications work in browsers. This may be even more challenging than the site being of value and compelling to the end user.

Going back over 20 years there have been the need to test and verify Web sites on all PC and Mac Web browsers, as well as on other computer operating systems, which back then you could count on one hand. Add to it mobile devices, tablets, watches and multiple brands of browsers on each, not to mention different versions (not everyone is on the latest version!) it can be overwhelming.

Overwhelming, and expensive. The need for a quality assurance (QA) lab, equipment (basically at least one of each piece of hardware), staff, third-party consultants, services and software... you don't even need to be technical to realize the magnitude of it.

Challenges to App Owners and Developers – If you decide you need/want a Web browser in your app, you are basicaly doubling the functionality to build and support in your app. A Web browser is a beast all into itself – and now you have one. You need to test your browser with the latest Web technologies and standards, consistently. You also need to keep up with the competition – standalone Web browsers – as to their features and how they deliver Web pages. And where you have the staff to develop your app, you will need to expand it for the Web browser functionality as well.

This goes beyond the technology and into your product management and development. Where it may be ideal to have that tightly integrated browser, the overall question must be, at what cost?

Supporting not Scaring

As business needs and technology are always a moving target, it's good to have an idea of what may be in case you ever lose scope or focus on it. I hope after reading this I haven't scared you – saying you have almost a dozen of something when you had no idea can be a bit much.

I welcome your thoughts on multiple Web browsers in the comments of this post. I promise not to scare you anymore now... on this topic anyway!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Google Contributor Offers Interesting Approach To Blog Revenue

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, February 07, 2016 at 11:46 PM with 2 comments

Would you pay money to read The Hot Iron? And what if by paying you saw less ads on the site?

I know I have asked this question before when I added CentUp to this very blog. Another new revenue model for writers has come about from Google called Contributor. As I have no illusions (delusions?) of grandeur in earning a living from this very site alone in itself, I was more intrigued to try it to how it really works.

How It Works

Google Contributor allows a Web user to contribute money monthly for ads to not be shown on Web sites it visits. The ads specifically are ones from Google’s own ad services, AdSense and DoubleClick. So if a banner ad comes from another source other than Google (and there are many) that ad will still appear. In the place of the ad it may be blank or a thank you message for supporting the particular Web site.

From the Web site owner’s perspective, if they are displaying on their site through Google, rather than getting the money for someone seeing and clicking on an ad, they are getting money from the user’s Contributor account, in a sense offsetting the cost of the ad usually paid by the advertiser.

A few items of note on Contributor. Currently it only works in the US. By someone contributing money, either US$2, US$5 or US$10 a month, they are still going to see ads. As shown in the chart below, by contributing those 3 previously mentioned dollar figures, they will see respectively 5-15%, 15-25% or 25-50% fewer ads. These fewer ads are across all Web sites with Google ads not just one in particular. So if you contribute $10 a month, thinking it will all go to me for reading The Hot Iron, it will not.

”screenshot

Is It Worth It?

That’s a great question – is it worth it? I honestly don’t know, as I have just set it up on the blog, and I have also signed up as a Contributor at the whopping US$2 a month level.

Here is a screenshot of this blog with an ad appearing at the top:

”screenshot

Here is a screenshot of this blog without an ad appearing at the top:

”screenshot

I know – the difference is amazing!

It will be interesting to see how often I notice the ads not there. Last year was the 20th anniversary of the Web banner ad. As I heard somewhere – and I forgot the source – it was marking 20 years of people ignoring banner ads! So even if it technically works, it will be interesting to see if anyone notices.

Are you a Google Contributor? Did I convince you to join, or not join? I welcome your thoughts in the comments of this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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First 2 Steps To Take To Start Blogging

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 09:53 PM with 0 comments

photo of 2 feet

As follow-up to my inquisitive and popular blog post on 2 questions I ask anyone thinking about blogging, namely to those who are still interested in blogging after reading it, I now would like to offer advice on how to get started with your blog.

First, setup a free blog at Wordpress.com

You need a blog in order to blog. A blog is a Web site with a content management system (or CMS) which is software on a Web server that allows you to easily publish what you write.

If you have been to a blog site before, there is a good chance it’s on Wordpress, as it is the most well-known and used blog CMS. Wordpress can be used for entire Web sites as well, and not just blogs, but we won’t get ahead of ourselves too much here. Another reason for using Wordpress.com is in its portability potential. If you build a blog at Wordpress.com and in the future you decide you want to move it to another Web host, you can literally export the site and move it. Note I have oversimplified how I described this process and some technical expertise is involved.

Plus, creating a blog at Wordpress.com is free, so if you start one and realize it’s too much for you, there is no major financial commitment.

Register and set a domain name for your blog

Where I just got done telling you to create a free blog, now I am recommending you spend a little more on a domain name.

By registering a domain name for your blog and tying it to your Wordpress.com blog, you gain in several ways. By default, your blog will be named something like myblogname.wordpress.com, but myblogname.com is a more unique name and easier to remember. Also, if you decide to move your blog in the future, you can keep the same Web address – you will not be able to keep myblogname.wordpress.com as that is not your own domain name, wordpress.com.

A domain name also a unique name to your blog. Where it may be presumptive that your blog will be a runaway smash hit on the Internet. If you have peered around The Hot Iron there are plenty of articles on getting your own domain name and other benefits of doing so. You can register a domain name many places, and I always recommend name.com and note I did not get paid to say that!

Ready to blog in no time

Setting up a blog on Wordpress.com and registering a domain name can all be done in under an hour. Configuring your blog and performing some customizations may take a little longer, and that all depends on how much you want to do, though I wouldn’t focus too much on the look of your blog and rather on its substance – the writing!

I hope this has helped, and please share a comment to this post once you do it and share the link to your new blog for all to see.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Web Content Horror Stories For Halloween

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 09:20 PM with 0 comments

photo of plastic Halloween Jack-O-Lantern” title=

Come gather children and adults, huddle by the flickering fire, sip on hot apple cider, all while I, in the shadowy light of the fire, tell stories this Halloween season – true stories, horror stories of Web site content!

The Scream

Many, many years ago I worked for a tech consulting firm that was undergoing rebranding. This exciting process was to include a new look to the Web site. As we were in the business of building Web sites, we were going to build out the ability to maintain the site as well. Note this was years before the term content management system, or CMS, was ever in vogue.

The project was assigned to myself and another senior guy I will call Rocky. There was a little bit of competitiveness between us, partly due to our own cockiness and confidence in our abilities, not to mention he was a Packers fan and I was a Patriots fan, but I digress. In some regards I think that's why both of us were put on the project. We would be building the technology, integrating the new branding and graphic design from the marketing firm and designing sample content, as the president of the company would be writing all of the content, as this is what he told us.

Despite our attitudes, Rocky and I worked very well together. We built out the front-end, back-end, database and sample “lorem ipsum” content. And we did it all on time.

Here's where the story gets scary... the president asked to meet with us at a predefined time in the project plan to review our progress. To his surprise – which quickly and surprising to us we saw on his face – we showed him a, for the most part, complete Web site. All it would need is a few small adjustments... and a lot of content.

Though we were in a brightly-lit office, the room got suddenly dark and eerie. The typically congenial voice of the president got heavy and creepy. Then, timed with a hypothetical clap of thunder, the screaming began.

As time and attempts to forget about this have clouded specifics, in general our frightening leader said, “how dare you finish on time when I didn't even start to write the content!” What? We were numb to the proverbial “second one” he was ripping into us, and it seemed like hours afterwards we were still stunned. Then, after he left, we laughed, hysterically, for what also seemed like hours.

The Original Blank Page

It was a work day like any other, multitasking away in and on my Web consulting business. A friendly chime sounded as my often co-collaborator and an amazing graphic designer n her own right – we'll cal her Sierra – called as we were partnering on a Web site proposal. It was mostly written, reviewing back and forth by email, and we were meeting to make a final walkthrough together before submitting it to the prospective client.

As we went through the proposal line-by-line, word-by-word, it was almost as if a light springy piano tune was playing in the background by none other than Liberace himself. As we got through the end of the document, where we listed references and example Web sites, we both paused as we were reviewing the list. Even though we were on the phone, over 1,500 miles apart, it was as if we were in the same room, pointing to the same spot in the document.

Just as Sierra began to say what I was thinking, it was as if Liberace was vaporized to dust and the Phantom of the Opera took over at the bench and with the flick of some switch, the piano became a pipe organ, and the Phantom played the most sinister music known. Then Sierra spoke, "THIS Web site... when was the last time you looked at it?” The silence over the phone was broken by more organ music, which was timed with each of us typing the Web site's URL into our Web browsers.

As we navigated beyond the home page the music got louder and more daunting, as we looked at empty page after empty page, with nothing on them at all – not one word of content! The shrieking in our voices was beyond our control. This Web site had been live for almost a year with several completely blank pages, to which we could not believe. My gut reaction took over, as I logged into the CMS for the site and placed some basic “coming soon” messages. There was no way we could use this great looking Web site with blank sub-pages as an example of the great work we did. Where the placeholder text was not the ideal situation, it was really all we could do, and in the end turned out to be sufficient as we won the proposal.

Only a Few of Many Stories

Over the years I have encountered Web content horror stories, almost from the time I started creating Web sites. I share these stories not to criticize people or to make fun of them, rather to serve as a cautionary tale of the importance of content development for Web sites. It is not something to do casually – or not at all – and is vital to the success of your site.

Boo!


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Put Your Smartphone Lock Screen To Work To Save Your Device

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, October 22, 2015 at 02:36 PM with 0 comments

photo of iPhone 6 in leaves

Whenever someone gets a new or upgraded mobile device, the first thing they do is customize it. From app icon placement to wallpaper images, they do all that they can to make it suit their needs... or ego, or both.

I’d like to share a mobile customization that you can easily do, and it can help you get your device back in case it is ever lost or stolen – customize the lock (or security) screen with your contact information.

It Works!

This idea is actually nothing new for me, as it dates back before I had an iPhone, and even back before I had a Nokia – going back to almost 6 years when I had a Palm 680 smartphone. In those golden years, the lock screen of the Palm allowed you to customize a text message, of which I did with with my name, phone and email address. All was good until one night when I was running late to do the lights and sounds for a friend’s improv show, and in the process of running from the train to the theater, I dropped my Palm device. This I didn’t realize until right before the show started, as I reached to silence a device that was not there. As I had my contact info right there when the kid who found it turned it on, he was able to email me, and we met the next day to get my phone back. Phew!

Create Your Own Image

With today’s popular phones, you can do this with customizing the background image – or wallpaper – on the phone’s lock screen, as you can see that I did on the above photo of my iPhone. In this case, I used PhotoShop, the graphic design software, to create an image to fit on the lock screen, and added the text I wanted. If you don’t have graphic design software, you can still do this a variety of ways, including these tips for the iPhone, Android or Windows Phone. If this is beyond your tech savviness threshold, you can just print out a piece of paper with your info on it, take a picture of it, and save it as the lock screen wallpaper.

But Wait, What About Find My Phone Apps?

Yes Virginia, there are apps and core functionality of devices that allow you to track your device using GPS. And yes, these apps can work to help you retrieve your device. But if someone finds your phone, and when turning it on sees you name, this can be a deterrent to them to whatever nefarious things they may have considered doing to it. Plus they may even get in touch with you prior to you yourself realizing it is missing or can get to a computer to use that find function.

Will You?

Sometimes the simplest solution is the most effective. Your lock screen doesn’t have to be as simple as mine – it can have style, and your contact information as well. If this has convinced you to create a custom lock screen, please let me know in the comments to this post. As well, if you would never consider doing this, I’d like to know that too.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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It’s OK To Lie On Web And Mobile Security Questions

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, August 04, 2015 at 12:13 PM with 0 comments

lie!

Your first love. Your first pet. Your first car. And Mom – what was her last name before she got married?

The preceding paragraph was not a trip down memory lane. Rather it is a list of some of the most commonly asked questions on Web sites and mobile apps to verify who you are. Where at one time a simple username and password were enough, now you could be answering one of almost a half-dozen questions and answer pairs to log into an online service. With everyone wanting a higher degree of security, these types of extended login functions are becoming more commonplace.

But I have a secret to share with you. Lie!

When these challenge questions started popping up on online services, I pondered their need, as well as the fact that more personal information about myself would be out there in random databases, and probably not encrypted or secured as well credit card information (or as well as credit card information should be secured!). Though these seem harmless questions, the information can be very personal, yet for some reason we share it.

That’s when I decided to lie – rather than put my Mom’s maiden name on the Web or app form when it is asked, I lied. Instead I put in something different altogether. For ease of remembering, I often use the same answers to similar questions, bit if I am using an online service I may not go back to, I will completely make something up.

The advantage to using a made-up answer to a security challenge question is that should this information get hacked into or otherwise compromised, further personal details of my life are not out there. The disadvantage to this is you will need to remember or log somewhere these questions and answers. Granted there are online secured “wallets” for this type of information, but those too need passwords and perhaps challenge questions and answers too.

Until something better comes along for secured access to online services, username, passwords and challenge question and answer pairs will be prevalent. By using an answer other than the truth, you can feel a little more private. Plus nobody has to know your first pet was a French poodle named Fifi Petunia Marmalade.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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