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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2 Questions I Ask Anyone Thinking About Blogging

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 08:26 AM with 0 comments

photo of a hand showing the number 2

As someone who is been blogging now for over eight years personally and has built commercial blogs for many clients, I can to get asked by a lot of people about blogging. Many of their questions get down into the weeds and minutia and details of a blog, everything from readership to monetization. As they spout these questions I sit back listen and then a smile usually comes over my face. I wait for them to pause and then asked me what I think.

When it's my turn, I look them straight in the eye and I tell them I'm going to ask them 2 questions that are most likely unrelated to anything they've already brought up so far. Those questions are:

1. Why do you want the blog?

It's a simple enough question, but this is something that will lead to eventually creating a vision and mission statement for the blog. For the eventual reader of the blog, this will tell them why they should not only read post the blog now but why they should come back and read in the future and even subscribe to its RSS feed or by email. Having a mission statement and goals for the blog will be is important as it helps not only to drive content but also to motivate the writer.

2. Are you prepared to commit to writing on a regular basis?

As a blog is a Web site that is regularly updated with new content, ideally your blog should also be updated on a regular basis. So the question I ask people is if you are ready to write on a “regular basis.” What is a regular basis? That is really up to the writer if it’s once a day, several times a week, once a week, every other week, etc. Whatever it is, it should be have some consistency to it. If you have been a regular reader of The Hot Iron you will know that I have change my regular basis many times over the years and now try to commit to at least once a week, but even that for myself is sometimes a challenge with my personal and professional schedule. That is why I like to ask people that question in particular.

And that is it

Note these questions do not address anything about the topic of your blog, the voice of your blog, the technology used for your blog or anything of such. As you embark down the path of deciding if you're want to have a blog of your own, I like to pull it up to the 50,000 foot level and ask basic questions and then from there determine if blogging is something that you want to pursue.

So what do you think – are these basic enough questions to ask people or are they too simple? Or do you think that they are right on the mark? I welcome the thoughts of people who were considering blogging as well as people who have been blogging for many years on questions of people should consider before they go down the path I've enjoyed very much – a great journey of creating and writing a blog.


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


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My Takeaways From The Book Scrum by Jeff Sutherland

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 12:21 PM with 0 comments

Imagine a workplace where not only you can work without impediments to your progress, but one where you have a say in what and how you do it? And to top of it you’re much more productive and successful and so is your ultimate business customer.

So what’s the catch? You simply have to drop the current way you work and adopt something called Scrum.

What is Scrum? The origins of the word come from the sport rugby, where a tight formation of players move and work together to get the ball forward. The term Scrum here has its origins on software development, where a small team of people work closely together to build software. The difference is in how they build it – using an iterative cycle of a few usable features at a time rather than defining everything upfront, then months (or years) later receiving software with all of the features.

The later process I described above is commonly referred to as “waterfall.” As one giant cycle produces all software (or the falling water) and the remaining project time is used to fix bugs and make changes in the business process (or the water flowing from the waterfall). It is far from a perfect system, especially as it doesn’t take into consideration business changes, let alone end users not always knowing what they want, both upfront or a year from now!

The former process I described above is Scrum, and was created in the 1990’s by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. This book, Scrum: Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, is written by Sutherland, and presented in a format to introduce Scrum to the wider world outside of software.

As someone who has built software all of my professional career and then some and has used scrum formally in some of my past roles, I was interested to read this book, not only because it is written by one of the co-founders of Scrum, but to learn more how it can be used in other aspects of business and life.

Among my many thoughts from reading Scrum, I have the following takeaways:

  • Building software – or anything really – is a journey – It’s hard to be perfect and know upfront everything you will possibly need in software you will use. Rather, admit it is a journey, build it over time, and get it closer to your needs while getting functioning features along the way.
  • You have to be committed to Scrum to reap its true potential – Dipping your toes in the Scrum swimming pool will not give you the benefits of it. You have to fully commit to it. If you are hesitant to commit, read the book.
  • If you don’t do it someone else will – Scrum as a framework is always gaining in popularity, and the number of people becoming certified in Scrum as well. If you or your organization is resistant to it, realize more organizations are always adopting it.
  • I want to be Scrum Certified more now than before – after reading the book and hearing Sutherland’s stories of Scrum’s successes in business and beyond, I really want to take formal Scrum training and become certified more than I did before reading the book.

Scrum: Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time is a great read, for those who work in business or any organization. I wish I had this book years ago when I was starting my Web consulting business – not just for building the Web software but for the overall running of my business. It is packed with stories of its successful use in various industries. Though it is very supportive of Scrum, it is not a “fluffy” and rah-rah story – it gets straight to the point and reinforces all that is stated. The book concludes with a step-by-step plan for deploying Scrum.

This is the part of my book takeaways where I disclose why I read a book. As I said, when I heard of it, I needed to get it and bought it myself, and for 2 reasons. The first and most important is that I wanted to read the story. The second and anecdotal reason is that I once worked at the same company as Jeff Sutherland, and we once had a brief work-related phone call. As I read Scrum, I could hear his no-nonsense style, which added to the reading.

As I conclude this post, I have not decided whom to give the book to, as it is something I do after I read one. If you are interested let me know. If you have read the book, or based on this are interested to, I welcome your thoughts 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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New Approach To Managing My Email Inbox To Zero

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, July 07, 2015 at 09:42 PM with 0 comments

screenshot of my new email foldersOver 6 years ago I wrote about a process I had then been following for almost a decade – managing my email inbox to zero. The idea was straightforward – your email inbox is not a to-do list or anything else. You take mail from it, and do something with it, just like the postal mailbox at your home. Doing this is something I continue to do – dare I say obsess over – now for over 15 years.

Like any process, a better way to do something comes along, including how I was managing my email. Where the basics of keeping the inbox to zero still applied, the one part that wasn’t working for me was the filing of emails. It became clear that while email is not a good task list, it is also not a good archive, especially how I was managing it. So I came up a new process I’d like to share with what I did with the emails I wanted to file.

A Better Way To File

While archives of email folders are searchable, have date/time stamps and so forth, pouring through email messages and threads was becoming more and more inefficient for me. To start, I had my email stored offline in an email client software, Mozilla Thunderbird, on my PC. If I needed something while away from it, I couldn’t. Even with all of the emails I had in the archive within Thunderbird, I rarely would have to go back far in time for something. Needless to say, I was continuing to save email message after email message, and it was cluttering my hard drive more and more.

The change to my filing was in 2 steps – the first was to eliminate Thunderbird from the picture and only use Web-based mail. The second was to create folders for email messages I was saving for a particular month, and only keep the current month and 2 past months in Web mail. Once a new month rolled over, I would create a new folder for it, then go through the oldest folder and either delete or save to my PC archive the individual email message as a PDF file. The accompanying photo to this post shows how my mail folders look – the “_201507” is the current folder, and those prefixed with “X” (namely so they will appear at the bottom of the list) are for the last 2 months prior.

I started this process back in March, and now we are at July. I have since cleared out 2 months of old emails, and probably only saving half of them. I have at ready-access email messages I need through Web mail and on my mobile device, and I have a more robust archive of my “stuff” on my personal hard drive.

In short – so far, so good.

Now I will get back to the 17 messages in my inbox. In the meantime, I’d welcome your thoughts on my revised approach, and feel free to leave them 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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Revisiting My Web Site Redesign Checklist

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, May 01, 2015 at 12:22 PM with 0 comments

photo of The State of Your Web Site Web Redesign Checklist

There comes a time when we reevaluate something we are doing. This thing may be an ongoing activity or something is simply still “around” that requires little to no attention, but is something we are aware of. The thought process involved in determining to continue or suspend something can be interesting in itself, and can lead to a go or no-go or a change to what it is we are doing.

Among my seemingly too many projects and activities is something I am still proud of, but wondered if I should keep it out there. About 5 years ago I launched The State of Your Web Site within my former Web consulting firm. It is a checklist of 34 items which I felt are important to the vitality of a Web site. As I later wrote in a post about the process of creating it and naming it, a lot of work went into it. That being said, should I still keep it out there in the Internet eye?

The evaluation process boiled down to 2 points – 1 for and 1 against it. The con is the amount of time that Is needed to keep something like this current, as tools and technology and trends are always evolving and changing. As it is almost 5 years old now, there are some parts of it that are in need of updating. The pro, however, is that people still seek my advice on their Web site, despite that I no longer offer that as a service any longer (if they need someone, I simply refer them to Visible Logic). For that reason alone, I felt it was worthwhile to keep The State out there, and to spend some time to update it and keep it fresh.

Once I made this decision, another “pro” came to mind – this is a good way to keep my own Web skills sharp. As I am still in the profession of building great Web sites and Web applications, to have a “home” for my research and thoughts would be an ideal use for the checklist.

The first step of this process is to do just that – establish a new location to host and offer The State of Your Web Site. This will be the place where, when I review the checklist items and update it, I will post and announce the updates. What better place than right here, at The Hot Iron? Going forward, you will be able to find the latest post on The State at thestateofyourwebsite.com. Right now that link points to the very post you are reading. If a new post had more current information, the link will redirect to it. By clicking on the image at the top or this link you can view the original version of The State – as I said, it came out in 2010, and the list does need some updating, but as you review it you will find some “timeless” items to consider for your Web site.

As I work on updates to The State I of course welcome your thoughts and comments on it – on the list overall to specific elements within it. You can leave them as comments to this post or contact me directly. Your feedback will be vital to the validation of changes to The State of Your Web Site, and I thank you in advance for your time.


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


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photo of television test pattern art at Columbia College in Chicago

Where the Anchorman movies were a good laugh, weaved in between the puns was a story of both the “golden age” of local broadcast television and the genesis of cable television, which had a transformative effect on local television.

As I grew up in western Massachusetts, the local TV station to watch was WWLP channel 22 in Springfield, MA. It was an NBC affiliate who consistently was the ratings leader for news and local programming. Part of that local programming included editorials by the station’s president, Bill Putnam, which were highly informative, opinionated and entertaining. When I heard that Putnam and his then business partner (and now wife) Kitty Broman Putnam wrote a memoir about the formation and the behind-the-scenes of the operations of WWLP, I had to get a copy of it. That memoir, How We Survived in UHF Television A Broadcasting Memoir 1953-1984, includes insider information and photos about not only the founding of the TV station, but the UHF television band and entities like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Though there are many tales which are local to western Massachusetts, from places to politicians, it is a book for anyone who is interested in broadcast communications and its history. For someone like myself who is interested in that and local history in general, it is an interesting tale, spanning over 30 years, of the creation, evolution and positioning of a local television station during a time when broadcast television was evolving and positioning as well. It was of course interesting to learn the why’s and what-else’s about the TV station that I probably spent too much time watching during my own evolution and positioning.

Learning the “inside baseball” of WWLP (whose call letters come from Putnam’s full name, William Lowell Putnam) was of course a great takeaway for me from this book, but there were others that make this an interesting read for others, including:

  • Entrepreneurial ventures come different forms - When you think of a business labeled with the word “entrepreneur” one often thinks of a small space with a shoestring budget in a remote office. This was the case with WWLP, whose studios were atop a mountain and was built by Putnam and other staff. Where what you saw on TV looked polished and expensive, it was far from that, and the station also had a stable of investors who help funded the lean operation. Plus in those days, long before high-definition television, studio sets could have been made of cardboard colored by markers and you wouldn’t know the difference.
  • The tools are always getting better - This is a term I use quite a bit, especially when describing the evolution of my former Web consulting business, where changes in technology often drove changes in the business model. The same can be said for television, whether it was in broadcast transmitters or from black and white to color pictures. Being aware of these changes and having the capital – both money and time – to address and adapt to them is important in the survival and thriving of any business.
  • You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em - Putnam, Broman and company sold WWLP in the mid-1980’s and got out of broadcasting altogether. This was in the early days of the large expansion of cable TV across the US. Though local broadcast stations would get their signal carried on the cable, the revenue model for those same local stations was not defined, nor was it understood what the real impact of cable would be on broadcast. With this on the horizon, Putnam got out of the business early, at a time when he was able to sell for a good profit.

Though How We Survived… hasn’t made many national top-seller lists, it is an entertaining read. It starts technical where Putnam goes into the definitions of what the story of people and places is about. It then ends with recipes by Kitty Broman, who in addition to her leadership role hosted a daily TV show. One thing the book doesn’t do is get into too much detail about all of the various on-air personalities, and only mentions a few of them. One is Bill Rasmussen, who was the sports director at WWLP prior to founding ESPN.

As I do with all of the books I read, I like to give them to others. I am giving this to my friend Tom, as he grew up watching WWLP like myself, and lived near the access road to the mountain-top studios.

Have I convinced you to read this book? Have you read it? I welcome your thoughts 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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My Blogging Guest Lecture At University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh #uwonewmedia

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, February 13, 2015 at 04:54 PM with 0 comments

photo of Mike Maddaloni presenting at UW-Oshkosh

Photo credit: Wilke (‏@Wilke_411) via Twitter

Yesterday I had a distinct honor to guest lecture to college students on the topic of blogging.

I was invited to speak to 2 classes at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh by journalism professor Dr. Sara Steffes Hansen. As part of her classes where she is teaching the students all aspects of blogging, each student is building a real, public blog. What better way to learn blogging than with real-life experience?

As someone who has his own blogs and has built blogs for clients, I have learned on the job about blogging as well as keeping up with trends and changes to blogging over the years. One challenge was focusing on key elements to share with the students and keep it to a brief presentation with time for their questions. Another challenge was that I would not be able to be physically in the lecture hall on the Oshkosh campus, yet deliver my messaging in an interesting and engaging way.

As with my own writing style, I decided to tell the story of how I got into blogging myself and then focus on areas that I felt were important to the students, including the art and science of writing and writing on a regular basis, plus some key pointers about blogging such a sharing and social media integration.

For the presentation itself, I created PowerPoint slides and used technology from Personify to literally insert myself into the PowerPoint presentation so that when the students were looking at the screen they saw both the slide material as well as myself, as you can see from the picture above. As the Personify technology is extremely unique in itself, I'm already writing another post on using Personify and how I was successful in conveying myself, my style and my message to the students remotely – watch for it soon.

I have posted the slides from the presentation to SlideShare and you can link to it here or view embedded below. I kept the slides at a high-level and spoke to the details so that the students did not have to read slides, and by using the unique Personify technology I was able to make that happen very well. If you look at the slides and are wondering about the references to Ernest and Edgar, those are to 2 “other” famous Chicago-area writers, Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Rice Burroughs, as I used them as examples of different approaches to writing.

Thanks again to Dr. Hansen, the team at Personify and the students who asked great questions and shared the presentation on social media. It was great getting back into the classroom and I am looking forward to my next opportunity.


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


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My Takeaways From The Book One Word That Will Change Your Life

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, February 06, 2015 at 04:52 PM with 0 comments

Goals by nature are complex. At least that’s how I see them. As they segue to an action plan to achieve them, they must be clear and not too wordy, yet not vague or they will lose their meaning. Often times goals are “boiled-down” to a phrase or even one word for marketing and promotional purposes as a simple rally cry to those who are a stakeholder to these goals.

In the book One Word That Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page (not the guitarist), they propose you simply have 1 word as an overall goal for yourself for a year. They present a rather simplistic yet thoughtful process by looking inward, opening yourself up to discovering the word, then applying it to your year.

As I read this several takeaways came to me, including:

  • You need to find a process that works for you – The steps in this book may work for you, and also they may not. Sometimes it takes a book like this to help you though such a process.
  • Divine intervention is not for everyone – The book is based on faith in God in order to open one’s self to ”receive” their word for the year. This may be a turn-off for some, perhaps those who do not believe in a supreme deity. That being said, if you are a spiritual person, you can still follow this process without acknowledging a god to open up and find your word.
  • Maybe simple is all you need? – If you are typically someone who does not set goals, or are someone who belabors the process to do so, following a simple process in this short book may be exactly what you need.

As simple as the concept is for One Word, the book is as short. It was written to be read in less than an hour, and tells a good story on how the concept was formed, how it works and how it has been used by others. One Word was another book I owned and found when I moved – note there are more to come! I don’t recall the inspiration for getting it, but my guess it was its process meaning around goal-setting.

So I set a phrase and not a word

As I started 2015, I thought about this book that I had read a while back and decided to open up and see if I could come to a word to guide me through the year. As I reflected on where I was and what I was doing, what came to me was not 1 word but 3, and after trying to come up with a good 1 word for the 3, I decided to stick with the 3 – mix it up. As I am creeping up to my sixth decade on this planet, I often find myself getting a little stodgy and repetitive. I could be going to the same stores or reading the same blogs and sites or simply doing the same thing. Why not mix it up, expose myself to new things, foods, places, people, even if the change is slight. This way, I am making small, incremental changes in my life, which won’t seem as obvious while in the process.

For myself, I will use the hashtag #mixitup to mark things new and different for me.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on the concept of One Word and the book itself. Have your goals so far this year been a challenge and you’re looking for something new? Or have you followed One Word and chose your own? Please share 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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Viivant Powerbank Unboxing and Initial Thoughts Video

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 09:26 PM with 0 comments

photo of Viivant Powerbank batteries

It’s a power grab out there, and it’s every woman, man and child for themselves!

No, I am not talking about politics, rather something even more daunting of a challenge – the battery life of mobile phones and other portable devices.

The more we use these devices, the more we need them powered. In addition to this take into consideration that these devices can drain power from batteries unbeknownst to us, due to everything from leaving features turned on when unneeded to poorly written software running on them. Add to it that batteries are not made to last forever as well as many devices are not made to let you change the battery, it is no surprise a market has been unleashed over the past years for portable, external battery chargers.

When I heard about the Viivant Powerbank product line, I was interested to see what they were bringing to the marketplace for batteries – from design to features. I just received a Viivant Powerbank set to evaluate, and below is the video of the unboxing of the batteries (yes, 2) and my initial thoughts and impressions. You can view the embedded video or click here to view the Viivant Powerbank unboxing video on YouTube.

My initial thoughts can only be related to the appearance of the batteries, prior to me putting them to the ultimate test of charging my various devices around the household. As I mentioned there are 2 batteries – a larger one which can charge a device up to 7 times and has the ability to charge 2 devices at once. It also has a stylish case and power remaining display. Also included is a smaller, short cylindrical battery which can hold a single charge for a single device. It also has a color indicator for charging, but the light is within the case and is only illuminated when something is plugged into it.

Compared to other batteries I own and have seen, these are very comparable in size and weight. The larger battery has a unique design to it, and the fact it can charge 2 devices at once is an extremely functional and needed feature. I am also impressed that both of these are bundled together – most other batteries I have seen are only sold individually, and I bought my own current high-capacity battery and smaller-capacity ones separately. Couple this with competitive pricing on Amazon, the Viivant Powerbank batteries are also a very affordable option as well.

Next Stop, Wonderland

As I write this I am charging the batteries and will put them to the true test. I plan to report on how they do – either here and/or on my Twitter account @thehotiron.

I must also note that I did receive these batteries from Viivant for evaluation, and there was no expressed or implied contract as to how I use them or what I say about them. Why am I saying this? Read this post here on The Hot Iron about the FTC and I’ll leave it at that and wait for these batteries to charge.

Do you own a Viivant Powerbank? Are you considering getting one? Do you have any questions for me as I evaluate them? Please leave your message 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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Mixing It Up In 2015 And The Hot Iron Turns 8

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, January 02, 2015 at 07:52 AM with 0 comments

photo of 1983 Boston Red Sox program

Happy 2015! As today, the second day of January, officially marks the first business day of the year, and by now most have recovered from the merriment of New Year’s Eve, I would like to wish you all a great new year.

Where rolling to a new calendar also comes with resolutions, mine is simply to mix it up in 2015. I started the new year off much differently than I did in past years: sans kids, just me and my lovely wife at a Spanish restaurant, where just about every year that I can remember has involved Chinese food (a Boston tradition) and the past several years have been with our kids, even if they were sleeping in the next room. This was a fun change, and a great way to ring in 2015.

So in mixing it up in 2015, I am not looking to make major strategy changes, but smaller, incremental changes that I see as adding up to something bigger and better. Maybe I take a different route to go someplace, or a different approach to reaching out to someone, or simply wear a different color socks on occasion – I am hoping to stop and think when I get into doing something routine or that comes too natural to me, and think how to change it in some way.

The Hot Iron at 8

December 30 marks the official anniversary of the launch of this little blog which is now 8 years old. It’s almost wild to think I have been at this, at varying degrees, this long. Writing is something I have enjoyed more and more over time, and it has been both a creative outlet as well as a way to vent some of my frustrations over business and technology – the overarching theme of this repository. Whether this is your first time reading or you are a long time subscriber – thank you!

I have written an anniversary post of mixed sorts over the years, and if you’re so inclined you can read them for the following anniversaries of The Hot Iron: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.


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


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