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Archive for the ‘Email’ Category

USE A PASSWORD VAULT!

05 Jun 2016

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of technical consulting for individuals and lots of small businesses. The one thing that is almost universal with all of those people is – they don’t use a password vault. But they REALLY need to use one.

Why? Because, if someone gets access to their computer, or steals their computer, or hacks it, those people can either lose all of their passwords, or worse, someone can login to many website and do malicious things. (Ya know, log into your bank, transfer money, send dirty or scam emails to hundreds of thousands of people, lock you out of your bill pay, etc.)

So – the best solution I’ve come across (and I LIVE WITH EVERY DAY) is LastPass. Right now – GO CREATE A LASTPASS ACCOUNT! – www.bit.ly/LastPassVault

Create a LastPass accont! - DaveTavres.com

Seriously. Right now. Go do it. Get started.

Even the basic free account will do more for your online security than you currently have with that Word or Excel file, or that book in the desk with all the family’s passwords in it.

Once you’re comfortable signing into the site and adding your accounts, you can move on to the really useful features like auto-login and shared folders.

What is auto-login? You install the Chrome or Firefox extension to your web browser, and when you go to a website that is listed in your LastPass Vault, LastPass can do an auto-login, or can let you choose the username and password to login to that site with. Not only is this a huge time saver, it’s far more secure than typing it out each time, or pulling up that file or book to find the password (when I’m standing at your desk and see the file or the book, now *I* know where to find ALL your passwords. If I’m not a good person, I effectively have access to ALL of your websites!)

Now you might ask, ‘What are shared folders?’ Good question!

If you upgrade for $12 A YEAR, you can have a single folder that is shared with your spouse, partner, friend, family, etc., and everyone can use that one folder for the commonly shared sites. The upgrade also lets you install the app on your mobile device to auto-login there too!

There are few things that I insist people do with their technology. This is one of those things. If you’re still using papers, sticky notes, books and a ‘clear-text’ file on your computer for passwords, it’s just a matter of time before someone steals your logins.

Create a LastPass accont! - DaveTavres.com

 

One-click unsubscribe

04 Nov 2014

Unsubscribe - DaveTavres.comOver the years email spam has gotten better and worse. ‘Better’, in that the “Unsubscribe” link that is required by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 has made it much easier to stop unwanted email. ‘Worse’, in that more companies/groups around the world can now get your email so much easier than before, so you actually get more junk email than ever before.

Another ‘better’ comes in the form of that wonderful “Spam” (or ‘Junk’) button in Gmail and other web-based email systems. When enough people click that button on the same email, the email service companies can easily flag that email address, or even the text of the message, to help find and filter those messages in the future. In some cases it also stops other junk mail from the same address from hitting your inbox at all.

Something many (legitimate) companies have implemented since 2003 is the “One-click unsubscribe” link in their marketing emails. I’ve put this to great use for a number of years now. While it isn’t always true ‘one-click’, sometimes it’s just two clicks – once to click the link in the email and a second click to confirm that you want to stop getting those emails. Here’s the rub though. When a legit company makes you re-type the email address to remove yourself.

Hertz junk mail - DaveTavres.comThis is bad.

The majority of companies do ‘one-click’ well. It’s easy to be removed, quick and painless. I honestly don’t mind automatically getting signed up for spam when I order from a company, as long as that magic link is there. But when I have to re-type my email address, that’s when I click the good ‘ol SPAM button. While it’s not a legal requirement to do one-click, getting flagged as spam should be a lesson to the company that they need to make it easy to remove myself.

Being flagged as spam is a BIG hassle for a legit company. I’ve worked on marketing email projects from the development side and can confirm that companies do not want to be flagged as spam. The more times your company is flagged as sending spam, the less likely your emails will get delivered in the future. And the companies get notified about every single message that gets flagged as spam. It’s for this reason that I mark emails as spam when they aren’t smart enough to auto-fill my email address in the ‘one-click’ process.

So, if you’re a company who sends out emails to thousands of users at a time, be sure to do it the right way – because users don’t care about what you want, they care about how easy it is to stop getting junk email.

 

Thanks, Dave

17 Sep 2013

InboxIn the era of text messages, email and online profiles, all of our communications are automatically tagged with our identities. Whether by a phone number, or more likely a name programmed into a device that corresponds to a phone number, a name attached to an email account or a name, photo and an ‘About’ page that tells your friends more information about you than most of them know anyway, most communication we have with others in this digital life has been pre-announced, announced and probably even preconceived. So do you still need to sign emails with a salutation and name?

"Hey Marty,

When I get more details, I’ll let you know what the next steps are.

Thanks,
Dave

Is it enough to just give the facts, the comments, the notes, the details… and leave it up to the reader to look at the “From” address? Or the auto-signature? When someone opens an email or a text message, is there any possible chance that they don’t already know who the message is from?

Certainly in ‘personal’ correspondence your acquaintances know who you are – even the customer service person who reads your email question knows who you are before they open the message. So what’s the importance of the salutation and closing?

Not too many years ago, when people still got letters – hand written letters – it was possible that you weren’t immediately notified of who sent you a card or letter, unless they put their name in the return address corner of the envelope. If you didn’t get that address introduction, you were more likely to start reading the scrawl or missive by instantly looking at the bottom of the text to see just who signed it… then you’d start at the top.

While I rather enjoy saying “Thanks,” followed up with my next on the next line, as a way of formally closing my interaction, more and more I feel it’s redundant and out of place. I often think to myself “Do I really need to sign my name? I interact with this person 10 times a week and I often haven’t written something worthy of a ‘formal’ closing.” Fifty percent of the time, I still add a farewell and sign (type) my name. I think it feels more personal.

So is there an official etiquette for digital communication between known parties? If there is, I’d like to know what it is. And why I should follow it.
Thanks,

 

Mobile phone apps and security

11 Apr 2012

People love their smartphones these days… and with good reason. They can be amazing tools for business and fun distractions from the mundane parts of life – like standing in line at the post office or waiting to be picked up from the airport. There’s a problem though. Those fun and handy apps can be setting you up for embarrassment, failure or good ol’ fashioned identity theft.

Live Free or Die HardIf you saw the movie “Live Free or Die Hard”, you’ll recall the premise that one bad guy who sold software to large companies and government agencies had a back door entrance into those same secure systems – allowing him to take control of everything from street lights to phone systems to fire alarms. Yes, that idea is somewhat far-fetched, but that’s because [most] large corporations and government offices pour over software to insure that it’s safe to run in their systems AND that it doesn’t allow for hackers to get in and access private data. But… what if they did that on a smaller, but huge scale? Like… mobile phone users?

Mobile phone game cradleMillions of people install and play Angry Birds, but it would be a good guess that 99% of those people did NOT look at the security and permissions needed to enjoy that game. Angry Birds is not one to worry about, but there are PLENTY of others you SHOULD worry about! Today, everyone and their dog now publishes mobile applications. Some let you fake-burn ants with a digital magnifying glass, others record your voice and change it to sound like a chipmunk and some let you track your weight loss or scan barcodes to lookup prices. Simple, fun or useful tools – at least, we hope so. Some apps that are probably installed on your phone right now have access to your address book, emails, photos and text messages – and can very easily download that data to a server in any country in the world. Hopefully they aren’t using it to send spam, or worse… (Remember when Paris Hilton’s phone got hacked? That was just the beginning.)

Motorolla Triumph - AndroidI recently got a new phone that was better than my ancient one, and I happily started installing apps that I couldn’t run before. This new phone included a flash for the main camera which, as many people are aware, makes a great flashlight when you’re fumbling to get your key in the doorknob or looking for that piece that fell under the couch. The problem is this – WHY does an app that just needs to turn on the light, need access to your precise GPS location? WHY would it need full internet access? WHY would it need the ability to read and write to your memory card or see the phone numbers of incoming/outgoing phone calls?! I am NOT exaggerating! I refused to install at least 8 different flashlight apps because they wanted access to do waaay more with my phone than just turning on the light!

There are NUMEROUS apps out there that ask for these permissions and more, that people just don’t pay attention to when installing that ‘fun game that everyone loves.’ Don’t be fooled – just because it’s available on the the iTunes App Store or Android Marketplace does NOT mean it’s trustworthy! And NO, just because an application has over 2 MILLION downloads also does not mean it’s safe! However, there are plenty of apps that ask for lots of permissions – but they offer more than just a silly game – they’re useful, they can be a great resource and some even come from reputable companies.

Trust - Honor - Honesty - Liberty - Rights

The take-away from this is – beware. You wouldn’t hand your phone (or phonebook) to a stranger at Disneyland while you went on a wet ride – so why are you doing it when you install applications without learning more about them (or the company/person who wrote them)?

 

Social marketing and the small business…

02 Apr 2012

CokeIt’s been a good five years since “social marketing” really took off in a big way. Big, no HUGE corporations use it in one way or another. It likely doesn’t help their bottom line, but Coca-Cola, Microsoft, NASA, General Electric and even Yahoo and Google use Facebook. So WHY don’t small businesses who actually NEED the help? The simple answer is: knowledge.

FacebookMost (not all) small business owners are intelligent go-getters who want to succeed in their chosen area of commerce. Those in the retail sector should be the first ones with a Facebook and Twitter accounts, but so many just don’t bother… or, they have the accounts and just don’t use them. As a geek, it’s frustrating to see those entrepreneurs leaving money on the table. If it’s good enough for GE and Coke, why not the local tire shop or tea room? Or for that matter, why not the local artist who sells prints at the weekend sidewalk markets?

TwitterAgain, “knowledge” is the short answer. Most of these businesses either think it’s a fad or that it wouldn’t bring them much business. Twitter claims more than 50 million daily users and Facebook has over 460 million daily users. That’s Million. Each DAY. If it’s a fad, I think it’s doing better than the pet rock. Businesses who aren’t active with their social media are telling customers (and potential customers) that they do business the old way – so don’t expect online coupons or special discount codes via txt message – just go buy from them because they’re there. The money they’re leaving on the table are the potential sales that are being gently reminded that their business is open and wants to serve their customers.

Two minutes - 2 minutesSavvy small business take advantage of discounts, services and offers that save them money. A six-month discount on phone service could save them a few hundred dollars. $25 off coupons at Office Max adds up. So something that is close to free – such as social marketing – should be a no-brainer. These days, just about every business knows that they have to have even a basic website. Yet sooo many small businesses just don’t want to take the time to understand the basics of Facebook. Sure, getting it setup PROPERLY may cost them a few hundred dollars to up front, but maintaining it themselves costs – $0 – the only real cost is a tiny bit of time each week – as little as two minutes. Yes, 2 minutes.

Two minutes by a business owner once a week means logging onto their Facebook page, clicking in the “What’s on your mind” text box and writing just one sentence that is relevant to the product or service they offer. If you’re a tea room you might write “Got in a fresh order of Caramel Rooibos tea today – stop by and have a cup.” If Social marketingyou’re an artist maybe a link to one of your pictures and a note like “I first had the idea for this image in 1991, but didn’t paint it until last year.” What’s the point of this? It’s engaging. It reminds people that you’re there. It’s short and easy to ‘consume’. Potential customers don’t get slaughtered with a 30 second ad, they don’t have to invest more than a few seconds to read it, and sometimes, people actually pay attention! (Then maybe pay for your product.) If they don’t buy this time, maybe next time – or maybe when a friend says “I’m in a mood for mexican food” and the potential customer says “Hey, I just saw the special today at La Sirena Grill is a Blackened Salmon Burrito… mmmm”. They just might stop in… But if that friendly ‘reminder’ isn’t there, what are they chances they end up at your place?

What's on your mind? - DaveTavres.com

Besides just having a Facebook page, it has to have the right name.

A page name that doesn’t look right when a potential ‘marketer’ (fan) tries to mention you in their posts means you won’t get those ‘free’ clicks… or traffic… or marketing. For example. Goodwill’s main Facebook page is called "Goodwill Industries International, Inc.". Most Facebook users are not going to post: "Anyone want to go to Goodwill Industries International, Inc. with me today?" (In fact, it won’t even pop up as a suggestion!). If their page name was just “Goodwill”, they would get much more social engagement… like this: "Anyone want to go to Goodwill with me today?"

I’ve been in the software industry and building websites, setting up Facebook, Twitter and many other social media sites for businesses for years. The ones that embrace it and USE it, sometimes enjoy it and always benefit from it.