About My Deconstructions

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 08:19 AM with 0 comments

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When I started writing here at The Hot Iron, the name came from the expression, “strike while the iron is hot.” Though my entry into the world of blogging could be considered more functional than creative, taking burning topics – whether business, technology or personal – and boiling them down was far from anything new to me.

Much thought has gone into the direction of my blog lately, which is one aspect of the thought into my greater self. As I have considered the focus on what I write, I have also focused on how I write, namely in the approach I take with covering a topic. The product of this quest is what I am calling My Deconstructions.

What is a deconstruction? As I write here and elsewhere, I will strive to take my analysis and reporting on a topic and conclude it by breaking it down into essential points and conclusions. In some regards it will be similar to my book takeaways; rather than rating a book I share what I gained from the time spent reading it. In some cases it is a summary, and in others I look back on something I took from it and am surprised I came up with it! The deconstruction may be takeaways, action items, next steps, essential components, revelations or something else I haven't thought of a category for.

Like anything, I have already started writing these and will see how it evolves. As a reader, whether your first time or as a long-time one (and I know there's a few of you out there), I welcome your thoughts and feedback as this new approach appears in my future posts.

Deconstructing Deconstructions

Why shouldn't what I write about deconstructions have one itself? As time is always of the essence, taking the time to make or reiterate the main points from something is always useful to whoever is consuming it. It also helps the reader understand your main points, as you never want to assume someone has gleaned them from reading your work. In the end the reader – you – will say if these deconstructions are helpful, and please let me know in the comments to this post either way.


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


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My Takeaways So Far From The Book 1 Page At A Time

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 at 03:08 PM with 3 comments

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A consequence of being in a routine is that our entire body can be consumed by it. Where things like repetitive strain injuries or simply being sore from sitting on our butt for a long time are obvious, what isn’t as apparent is the impact on our brain.

If you don’t believe me, here’s an example – you are buzzing along in what you do all day and someone comes along and asks you a question, and all you can do is stare back dumbfounded. They may have well as used a Sharpie and wrote it on a pool noodle and hit you with it. Call it brain fatigue, but does it show a sign your brain needs some exercising?

When I saw the book 1 Page at a Time – A Daily Creative Companion by Adam J. Kurtz sitting on the shelf at Judy Maxwell Home in Chicago, I couldn’t help but pick it up. (If you don’t know about this store, think Spencer Gifts with an old-world flair and a sharper edge; it’s also owned by actress Joan Cusack, so that adds to its eccentricity) It only took me flipping through the first few pages and I was sold. It is an adult workbook, with a page a day dedicated to a brief creative exercise to do in the book.

Each page presents a unique activity, from making a list to drawing a picture to whatever. Some are quick and easy, some require actual thought. As it’s a page a day, and I started late last year, I am not done yet – thus the “so far” in the title – but I have enjoyed every exercise so far.

Though I have much to go, I feel my takeaways from 1 Page at a Time will endure and be reinforced as I go through it.

Think Different – Borrowing from the infamous Apple tag line, this book does just that. It asks you to do things you most likely don’t normally do on a regular basis as part of your job or even for fun.

Challenge Yourself – As some of the activities have required me to sit back and ponder before putting pen to page, it’s been extremely helpful to have a challenge that is outside of my normal work and life challenges, which tend to be more technical, business and child-focused.

Draw – When was the last time you drew a picture? For the fun of it? This is probably why adult coloring books are all the rage these days. Where many of you reading this may not consider yourself an artist, the drawing I am talking about is not about being an artist. Rather, it is about expressing something with visualization.

On occasion a day or 2 go by when I don’t do a page a day, but then I catch up on them. I tend to do them in page sequential order, but there is no reason you can’t flip around and choose one at random. I never read ahead, as I like to approach these with some spontaneity.

I highly recommend getting a copy of 1 Page at a Time, or get 2 – 1 for yourself and 1 for a friend. If you have it and are using it, I’d love to hear what you think about it in the comments to this post.


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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2 Ways to Export Your LinkedIn Connections And Information

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 10:23 PM with 2 comments

”LinkedInWith the news this week of Microsoft acquiring the business social media site LinkedIn for US$26.2B, the first thought I had was, “gee, when was the last time I exported my LinkedIn connections and information?”

As you read that, you may have thought, “gee, I can export my LinkedIn connections and information?” Yes you can, and if you didn't know that 1) you are not alone, as many people are unaware of this, and 2) you still can do it, and I'll show you how.

After all, they are your connections

As you have built your connections and updated your information in LinkedIn, you have compiled a wealth of data over time. For many of your connections, you may not have their business card or any other record of them outside of the site. With LinkedIn's messaging service, you may have been in communication with someone without ever sending them a regular email message. Many people also keep their LinkedIn profile more current than their resume.

With the reality of our reliance on Web services like LinkedIn, this is not surprising. Fortunately they also offer the ability to export key data – your connections and other information it has collected on you, such as your profile. If you have never done it, there's no time like the present, and here's the quick and painless steps to execute these not-so-obvious functions.

Exporting LinkedIn Connections

Whether you have a handful or 500+ connections (LinkedIn will only show you the true number you have and nobody else for some reason), you have the ability to export them. When you perform an export, key information you'll get is name, current employer and title and email address, as most everybody has this information on their own profile. Name and email is in my mind most important as you have a way to reach them.

Here's the steps to follow to export connections.

1. Log into LinkedIn using a Web browser and select Connections from the My Network menu.

Log into LinkedIn using a Web browser and select Connections from the My Network menu

2. Click the gear icon for Settings on the right side of the screen.

Click the gear icon for Settings on the right side of the screen

3. Click the link “Export LinkedIn Connections” on the right column on the screen.

Click the link Export LinkedIn Connections on the right column on the screen

4. You have the option to select the format you want your connections in. I have always selected “Microsoft Outlook (.CSV file)” as this gives me a delimited file I can easily open in Excel or Open Office. The other formats may better suit for importing into another program or Web service. Once you select your desired format, click the Export button.

Once you select your desired format, click the Export button

5. You will be prompted with a CAPTCHA for a “security verification” to ensure LinkedIn that you are a real human being requesting your contacts. Enter the CAPTCHA value and click the Continue button.

Enter the CAPTCHA value and click the Continue button

6. You will get a popup in the browser to save or open the file (the actual appearance of this will vary by browser). Make your choice, in this case I am going to save it.

Make your choice

7. Open this file in Excel or your favorite spreadsheet and you can browse and process your contacts.

Open this file in Excel or your favorite spreadsheet and you can browse and process your contacts

What you do with your contacts is of course up to you. Even if you have no immediate plan – or time – to do anything with them right now, you at least have a backup of the contacts your spent a long time curating.

Exporting LinkedIn Information

In addition to your contacts, you have profile information and activity performed on LinkedIn, such as messages, etc., which you can export as well, though you may have to wait at least 24 hours to get it. This is probably due more to load on their servers than an element of control (I hope!), but within a day you can get it all, and here's how to request and receive it.

1. Click on your picture icon at the top right of the screen and select “Privacy & Settings / Manage” from the menu.

Click on your picture icon at the top right of the screen and select Privacy & Settings / Manage from the menu

2. Scroll down the page and click the “Getting an archive of your data” link.

Scroll down the page and click the Getting an archive of your data link

3. Click the button labeled “Download” on the right side of the screen.

Click the button labeled Download on the right side of the screen

4. Wait. The message on the screen will say you will receive an email within 24 hours. In this case I got 1 email with a partial file within a short period of time, and then within a day I got a second email with a link to the entire archive of information.

Wait The message on the screen will say you will receive an email within 24 hours

So what's in this archive Zip file? In addition to any images you have posted (your profile picture, banner, etc.) there are several delimited files in CSV format with everything from profile information to what you have searched on. Take a look!

Again, what you do with this – and when – is up to you, but it is yours, and now you have it in your digital hands.

Deconstructing Data Exporting

Since LinkedIn launched in 2003, many, including myself, assumed the service will always be there, every time we want it, as it has been. In the recent past it has added and even removed features, like Answers, where many posted a lot of information. Where it's their platform, at least they realize it is your information and make it available to you. With the unknown of the future, plus a future under Microsoft's ownership, why not get a copy of your LinkedIn information today?


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


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Ridin’ Writer’s Block Out

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, June 05, 2016 at 08:24 PM with 5 comments

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A few days ago I experienced something I never have before in my life. And looking back now, that was ok.

I had writer's block.

Over the last decade of blogging I have grown to love writing. What started out as cranking out a few paragraphs for my first dozens of posts here at The Hot Iron has grown to a passion for writing out – ok printing, but on paper – what I have sketched out and organized in my head and then type up to post. This is a similar approach I take with writing for my day job, as well as guest posts I have made on other blogs and sites.

As I write this in the first week into June of 2016, I look back and I did not post anything on the blog during the month of May, making for one of the longest recent stretches for me. Where I can say with confidence I did a lot of other things over the past month, both professionally and personally, I did not spend any “me” time to write. With that as a cloud over my head (ok, a thin cloud, but sun-blocking nonetheless) I tried to force the issue and do some writing.

A window of opportunity presented itself, with a meeting being canceled during noontime, and I saw this as my chance to get in some writing. I grabbed my notebook, pen, and headed for one of the few local Starbucks where I have written much of what I have written in the last year. After pouring a little whole milk in my grande dark roast I spotted an open seat at the tall table where I like to sit, put my stuff down, took a sip as I opened my notebook... and just stared at the blank page.

And I stared for what seemed like an eternity. I had a couple of topics to choose from, however nothing seemed to go from my brain to my hand to my pen. I even tried to go back and look at something I had started previously, and simply X'ed it out writing “trash” over it. Trying harder to focus didn't work either, as my mind was more focused on the sounds of the espresso machine and Frappuccino® blender, not to mention the people walking outside of the store. I was besides myself as I had been able to focus while sitting at this very same table where in the past the other 5 stools were occupied by police officers and I was able to tune them out! Realizing I had spent about 40 minutes and was only able to choke out not even 1 page of something I haven't looked back on yet, I closed my notebook, grabbed my coffee and made my way back to the office.

Not My Time

As I sauntered back to the office, frustration segued to reality as it came to me – this was not the time to try to write. Where everything else lined up into place – an hour of time, dark roast available brewed and not as a pour over – the one thing that was not ready was my brain. I had too many things on my mind, everything from the work I had to go back to when I returned to the office as well as everything else going on in my life. Forcing it right then and there wasn't going to change the situation, so I just needed to find another time to do it. Like right now, several days later, where the words are flowing faster than I am able to type them.

In the end I simply need to ride out writers block. And that phrase – ride out – came to me as well as I was walking back to the office, where the only real thing I was concerned with was avoiding panhandlers and other pitch people on the sidewalks. Of course my brain, which was schooled in 80's rock music, quickly dropped a needle on an old REO Speedwagon album, playing “Ridin' The Storm Out” over and over as I wrote this. However unlike the other day, the song served as an inspiration and not an impediment.

Deconstructing a Writer's Block

Over the years I certainly wouldn't say every time I sat down to write was an ideal time. This one time was the worst of them all. No beating myself up over this “lost” 40 minutes is necessary either. Had it not been for it, I wouldn't have written what you are reading now, or thought of that REO Speedwagon song, or gotten myself psyched up to write some more. The creative process can't always be controlled.

If you're not familiar with the song in my head, you can watch the video embedded below, or if you can't see it you can click on this link to view it on YouTube. Interestingly, this video was recorded on my 18th birthday.


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


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My Digital Backup Strategy

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, April 25, 2016 at 06:05 PM with 0 comments

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Do you know where your files are?

You know, all of those bits and bytes that make up video of your baby’s first steps, PDF files of your tax returns, those songs from high school you can’t get out of your head. You know... your life!

As our lives become more and more digital, there is more involved in managing those files – our digital assets – so we know what and where they are, and more importantly they don’t get lost forever. In other words, they need to be backed up.

Been There, Lost That

Over the years I have had my fair share of lost data, files, information – whatever you prefer to call it. From misplacing floppy discs to hard drive crashes to not being able to restore deleted files, there are many things I have lost in part or whole. In some cases there were copies of the files elsewhere, whether on another computer, server or in paper form. And in some cases there were not.

From my own experiences and observing and helping others who have lost data and files over the years, I have evolved my backup strategy. This strategy has also morphed based on my computer usage coupled with advances in technology.

Backups from Micro to Macro

I will now share with you my current backup strategy which I have been using for several years now. I will start with the “micro” or day-to-day elements, traveling to the “macro” or more involved.

Keeper VaultKeeper is a secure app and service I have used on a daily basis for years, yet I am surprised I haven’t written about it before… no time like the present I guess.

Keeper has its roots in secure password management, and that is when I started using it several years ago. Where we don’t often think of logins and passwords as something to backup, try losing some sticky notes or that unprotected spreadsheet of logins and see what happens.

I went with Keeper for 2 reasons. First, only the end user can access their data, not even the Keeper staff. You can read more on the nuts and bolts of how Keeper works here. In short, it’s very secure and I like that. The second reason is I met Keeper’s founder, Darren Guccione, years ago at a tech networking event as he and Keeper are based in Chicago. I met someone passionate about technology, security and consumer usability, and I was sold on his solution to all of them.

Recently Keeper began offering file storage, where you can get space to store files through their digital vault. I began using it but nowhere as I should. I have stored things like a picture of my AAA card, so in case I lose it or am not carrying it on me I can retrieve it on my mobile device, as well as through a Web browser or client program on a PC or Mac – giving me access to these files and information virtually anywhere. You can get a free trial of Keeper or pay US$30 for a year of full features. For me, Keeper is some of the best money I spend on technology.

Mozy Pro Online Backup – I don’t keep a lot of files on my computer, something I’ll get into more later. But I do have some files on it, what I call my “active” files – ones I have recently worked on in some form or another. To ensure these files are always backed up and nothing is lost, I use online backup.

Mozy Pro is an online backup service from data storage giant EMC which I have used for years going back to when I had my own Web consulting business. Mozy has a consumer version called Mozy Home in addition to Pro, but I am only referring to Pro here as that is the only one I am using. I get 20 GB of file backup space for around US$150 per year, and you can pay more or less for more or less space.

With online backup, I can backup files continuously while my Mac (or a PC) is on as a background task. This is convenient as I don’t have to think about it. If I do work on a number of files at once, I can choose to run a manual backup to ensure those files are backed-up and I don’t lose my changes.

Of course the key to any backup is that you can restore a file or files from it. Mozy Pro allows you to do that on an individual or multiple file level. As well, it can give you a bulk Zip file of all files – I know this first hand as once I hosed my new PC’s hard drive when I tried to encrypt it, and had I not done backups before the encryption to Mozy Pro I would have lost all of the files.

Select Files to Protected Portable Drive – I keep a WD Passport hard drive with password –protection on hand to make periodical, manual backups. This drive is small in size but very convenient to work with. The version I have is 500 GB (or half a terabyte) but now you can get them with up to 3 TB (terabytes) for a little over US$100. As convenient as the size is that I can password-protect the drive so any local backups are secured.

Off-Site Networked Drive Backups – Earlier I mentioned I only keep so many files on my computer. This is because I have a NAS, or networked attached storage (NAS), drive at my home. This is my home server, where I store files as well as photos and music and any other file types I have and can access this password-protected drive on my home network. As this is where the majority of my files are, it’s needless to say they need to be backed up.

The backup process for my NAS drive is similar to the previous step, where I back it up to hard drives, but with a few twists. I use a Windows PC to run these backups using a program called Robocopy which comes with Windows. It allows me to make a file-by-file mirror of my NAS drive onto the external portable hard drives I have. Following this mirror backup, these drives are then secured in separate, off-site locations under lock and key and additional security. Where I don’t want to say where exactly they are stored, one location may be a bank safe deposit box. Maybe.

For these backups, I typically do them monthly, or more often if I add more files to the NAS drive, like family photos. I will do one backup at a time, namely so that one of the backup drives is always secured in the event of some form of loss or disaster, such as a roof leak and subsequent home flooding, while in the process of performing a backup. After performing one backup and securing it, I will then strive to do the other one within a week of the first.

Deconstructing Backups

Backups are only as good as they are current or accurate, and that you are able to restore from them. This is why I use a variety of backup methods to minimize and reduce potential errors.

I welcome your thoughts and opinions on my digital backup strategy, how it compares to yours, or if it has inspired you to create a process of your own. Please share this 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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Why Chicago Needs Dedicated Festival Grounds

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, April 04, 2016 at 06:40 PM with 2 comments

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The motto of the city of Chicago, Illinois is “urbs in hortu” which is Latin for “city in a garden.” The motto for Chicago is not “festum in urbs” or “festival in a city,” yet festivals large and small draw people to the city – to visit as well as to live – and contribute tremendously to the unique place it is.

It is the large festival concerts that of course draw the largest crowds, including myself. For me personally, there is nothing else like watching live music with tens of thousands of strangers, to say the least! As great and memorable as these festival concerts are – the likes of Lollapalooza, Pitchfork and Riot Fest – they also have an impact long after the last note is played and people leave, namely in the physical damage done to where the concerts are held, which is in public parks across Chicago.

The damage to parks is eventually fixed, and the cost is mostly covered by the concert promoter. However in 2014, the concert and amusement festival Riot Fest, which called the city’s northwest side park Humboldt Park its home for the past several years, was denied a permit to return there after neighbors complained about damage not completely repaired and other issues related to crowds. The 2015 concert was held on the other side of the city in Douglas Park.

I can understand the issue of park damage. Lollapalooza, the annual concert that consumes Chicago’s Grant Park along Lake Michigan, takes most of the park out of commission – including use for locals – for many weeks to repair the damage, which in their case and for Riot Fest is usually due to rain and millions of footsteps wrecking grassy areas which need to be replanted or resodded. It’s not only an inconvenience, but people are denied access to a park they pay for with their tax dollars.

While existing spaces and places make a great setting for concerts, namely in aerial photos of the crowds, a solution that could make everybody happy – from concertgoers to neighbors – would be a permanent festival location for such events.

Dedicated festival grounds

What you say, Mike, build out an open space for multi-stage concerts or other large festival activities and events? Yes, I am, and allow me to make the case for such a venue.

There’s plenty of space in Chicago. If you’ve ever traveled across this fair city, whether by train, car or even over it by airplane, there is all kinds of “vacant” land across the city. I use “vacant” in quotes as clearly someone owns it. But it is there, and not being used.

This is not an original idea. The concept of space for events is nothing new. The Midwest is dotted with fairgrounds, with indoor and outdoor facilities. Growing up in Massachusetts, the Eastern States Exposition grounds hosted not only the Big E, the annual 6-New England state fair, but events large and small throughout the year. Also, about 90 minutes north of Chicago is the Summerfest grounds along lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is designed and used for varying sized events.

Can be designed for its use. By building out a space for such events, it can be designed for multiple stages and the crowds that will stand and watch them and walk around, ideally not on grass but asphalt. Not to mention having some “permanent” fixtures like real bathrooms! Perhaps the event organizers, including Lollapalooza’s Perry Farrell, could have a say in its design too?

Can be designed to scale. Not all concerts and festivals draw the same size crowds, and the venue can be designed and built to accommodate different sized crowds.

Better accommodations for inclement weather. It’s rare than a little rain (or a lot) doesn’t fall on an outdoor festival event. This can be factored into the design of the venue with shelters and indoor facilities.

Better offering of VIP services. In addition to general admission tickets to such events, VIP tickets are more and more commonplace. Designing this into venues can provide a greater experience, at a greater cost, for VIPs, which can contribute more to the cost of the venue itself.

Better transportation planning. Or maybe simply “transportation planning” as such a venue would have planned transportation options – not to mention working in public transportation, paths and parking to accommodate it?

For all of these great reasons, it doesn’t mean that it will just happen. Especially in a city like Chicago, with burgeoning deficits, its politics and everything else making headlines, it could take years for something like this to ever happen. Plus, the city has a long history of hosting great events with little physical traces of them years later, such as 2 World’s Fairs in 1893 and 1933.

But nothing is ever easy, and because of it, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about it. “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized.” was a quote from Daniel Burnham, the famous Chicago architect and author of the Chicago Plan, a design for the city that was implemented in part, just like there would be some compromise on such a venue.

Could this happen in Chicago? Should it happen? Does the city have more pressing priorities? I welcome your thoughts and opinions on my idea 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 0 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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My Takeaways From The Book Manage Your Day-To-Day

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 08:22 AM with 0 comments

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So, how is your day going?

Whenever asked that question, or just now as you read it, you may have begun it with a sigh or groan, or some insincere sense of enthusiasm. As much as we can plan days and focus on whatever we need to do, there are plenty of factors working against us and disrupting our momentum. These disruptors will never go away, and our only choice is to try to bring elements in to manage or counter them.

When I heard about the book Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus and Sharpen Your Creative Mind I said to myself, “self, how can I pass on reading this?” The book is a collection of writings and interviews with 20 “creative minds.” Where some I have heard of, like Seth Godin and Tony Schwartz, most of the rest I had not. Yet each of the contributors were very intriguing, yet practical. Manage Your Day-To-Day is a good read that gets you thinking about your own routines and practices and how to get the “most” from them, whatever “most” means to you.

As I read the book, my takeaways from it were not from the specifics of the book, rather from its big picture, and are as follows.

Misery loves company, but only if you want to be miserable together – As I read the dozen pieces from the 20 authors, nobody was saying that they have overcome chaos and their lives are exactly as they want them. Yet they did admit to challenges and offered both general and specific advice on how they are conquering what challenges them.

You deserve a break today – How many times have you been working on something and someone asks you about lunch, and you are thinking, “gee, I just had breakfast!” (Ok, you can put your hands down now.) I have written man times here at The Hot Iron about the creative process – or if you are so inclined, simply thinking – and the need to get away to change the scenery, recharge the brain and come back with a fresh focus.

In my current role, in the employee handbook for my firm it actually mentions taking breaks during the day just for that reason. As a matter of fact, I am writing this very blog post on one of those breaks. And on the way to the Starbucks where I am writing this, I was able to easily think through something for work that my brain kept tripping on. Where I thought I dropped the ball on something, I actually did not, and completely followed through. A nice thought to have in my head as I return to the office.

Where was Scrum? – As I read this book after reading Jeff Sutherland's book on Scrum, using Scrum would be a perfect way to help you manage the creativity. As a matter of fact, I recently setup my own scrum board for myself, with tasks such as writing this blog post and fixing the closet doors in my kid's bedroom.

I recommend Manage Your Day-To-Day for anyone who is looking for ideas and encouragement on improvement of their productivity or just to add some calm into their lives. This book is one I bought myself after reading about it somewhere – sorry, I forgot, as I have had the book for a while. As I always pass along books, for this one I placed it on a shelf in the kitchen of my office with other books people have left there as a mini-library. It will be interesting if anyone takes it, and even more so if they took it after reading this blog post!

Have you read Manage Your Day-To-Day? I welcome your thoughts on the book 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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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.

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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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