Monthly Archives: March 2010

Finding the right images for your website or blog

Depending on the type of person you are, it is possible, you may find updating your website exciting or just part of the job. One thing that any style of person can agree on is finding images that match your written word can often be extremely difficult. As a matter of fact, finding the right image can often take exponentially longer than writing the content itself.

Lucky for all of us, there are numerous websites that make finding images just a little bit easier. When I am writing a blog post, I am often thinking about what type of images I can use to complete my exhaustive vocabulary (sarcasm), after all a picture is worth a 1000 words. After my text is complete, and I have considered what type of images I am looking for, I visit a few stock image websites that have plenty of royalty free images to choose from.

Below is my review of the Stock Image websites I use most often.

  1. Google Image Search – Rating 2 out of 5

    Google Images LogoThis is a quick hit or miss, there are often not a lot of images to choose from that you can manipulate for your website. For those of you familiar with Google’s Image Search you will know that with every search typically 1000’s of results are returned. However, just because an image displays does not mean you can use it. What you need to find are images that artists have indicated can be used for commercial reproduction and manipulation. In order to do this, you need to change your search filters to exclude images that you cannot use. To make this change you first conduct a Google Image search, and then click on “Advanced Search.” This will bring up a new page where you can define certain search parameters. One of the last options on the page is usage rights, I change this value to “labeled for commercial reuse with modification.” This indicates to Google that you only want images that you can manipulate and reuse on your website. Results of this type typically return less than 100 images. Sometimes you get lucky, most of the time you move onto the next option.

  2. iStockphoto – Rating 4.5 out of 5

    iStockphoto Account Sign UpThis is in my opinion the most cost affective, quality image search location on the web. Their photos are high quality, relevant and there is a large selection to choose from. Most images that you would use on a website or blog cost $1, if you are trying to use them for printing, they will run $5-$20 which are all very reasonable prices considering the other options available to you. iStockphoto also has a feature called “Lightboxes” which allow you to gather a group of images together, and then you can email them to other people for review. So often, when I am trying to narrow down to the final image to use on a website, I will create a Lightbox with a few images in it, and then email it to decision makes of the website. Allowing them to view the images, and voice their opinion on which images is the best.

    To create a Lightbox on iStockphoto.com is pretty easy, simply sign-up for an account via the link in the top right corner of the iStockphoto.com website. After your account is set-up, each image you search for will have an option to “Add to Lightbox” if you have not created a lightbox, or want to create a new one you will be prompted to do so.

  3. Big Stock – Rating 3.5 out of 5

    Stock Photos, Royalty Free Stock Photography, Photo SearchWhile Big Stock is not as popular as iStock or Google images, it still packs a powerful punch. The images are roughly the same price as iStock, and there is a little less variety, but overall it is a nice tertiary option when you cannot find the type of image you are looking for on the other two sites. One thing I notice about Big Stock is when you need a high quality image for printing you can get them a little cheaper at Big Stock. You need to purchase one of their larger credit packages to get the price lower, but when starting a business, $189 which gets you 140 credits goes a long way towards building out a quality website, along with a few print brochures.

By using the resources above you should be able to find the right image for each and everyone of your blog posts or website pages. Do not forget that a picture can tell a thousand words, so what are you missing out on by not including any images or the wrong image?

Grammar Check – Are you making these common mistakes?

I don’t consider myself a grammar expert by any stretch of the imagination; however, I am consistently shocked at how often some words get misused or misspelled. Many of the gems below came from Tweets over the past few weeks. I get that a tweet is 140 characters long and is basically a stream of consciousness. However, for most of you, your tweets are public. That means a potential client or employer could be reading what you are writing and it never hurts to sound intelligent. Some of the biggest offenders are:

  • Lose vs. Loose – you are not going to loose your mind, you are going to lose your mind. And if people keep making the same mistakes over and over again, you may wonder if they have a loose screw. If you lose a screw, don’t worry, just go to Lowes and buy another one.
  • Irregardless – this just flat out is not a word. Regardless of what you think, irregardless does not show up in the dictionary (actually it does, though only to tell you it’s nonstandard, improper, wrong)
  • Site vs. Sight – we sell websites. So when we refer to the product that we sell, we talk about sites not sights. If you need better sights, you can check out some products from Nikon. If you need a better site, you can call us.
  • There vs. Their – this has plagued people since elementary school, but is really quite simple. There is a place, their denotes ownership. If we are going to a meeting together, you will not see me their, you will see me there. And if the meeting is at a friend’s house, we can go over to their place together.
  • Your vs. You’re – Anyone ever told you that your the best? It really should be you’re the best. Because you are the best and since you’re is a conjunction of you are, then you’re should be used. If we are going to your best friend’s house, then your should be used.
  • To vs. Too – you are invited to a party, can I come too? Both correct usages. Too is usually used as also when adding or including some additional information. Whenever you want to include something else, think of it as adding; therefore you also need to add an extra o.
  • Anyways vs. Anyway – Anyways is incorrect, anyway should not have an s on the end. Ever.
  • Mute vs. Moot (or Moo) – I can’t type this without thinking of Joey from Friends. If you didn’t see the episode about Joey’s Moo Point, watch it on YouTube. This would all be a moot point if people would use this term correctly.

And while I have you all thinking about the words you are using, be on the lookout for these sneaky words that look very similar when typing a message, but have very different meanings.

  • Out and Our – the t and the r are right next to each other on the keyboard, be careful which one you actually hit.
  • Now and Not – I have received messages from people that say “this is not a problem” when they actually meant “this is now a problem”. Obviously the words are very similar, but they have very different meanings.
  • You and Your – there is nothing technical about this one, just makes you sound less intelligent if you accidentally mistype the word you mean to use.

So take some time to actually read what you write. Read it out loud if you need to. If it is an important email or document, have someone proof read it for you. It never hurts to check your work

Lessons Learned from Guests and Opportunities

Guests Working SignMany years ago I worked for the Ritz Carlton Hotel chain in Atlanta, Georgia (The one off Peachtree Street if you know the area). Anyway, there were several wonderful things about working for a large hotel chain, and a few not so wonderful. One of the great aspects was being able to travel the globe and stay at some of the greatest hotels in the world for next to nothing, more on that in another article.

One of the “opportunities” of working for a hotel chain was their corporate training. I believe when I started at the Ritz, the training was 5 days in the classroom before you ever learned anything specific about your job. During these days of training, you learned the Ritz Carlton way, which helped ensure every “guest” that walks through the door was treated with the same high level of service regardless of which employee, in any of their hotels, they encountered during their visit.

One of the items I remember most during the training was the auto-substitution of words into our vocabulary. Just like Microsoft Word allows you to auto-correct certain words, the Ritz ingrained into each employee the use of certain words. For example, you were never to tell anyone that there was a “problem”. You were to explain that there was an “opportunity” in X, Y, and Z. Another word they ingrained was how you refer to someone paying to stay at the hotel. You were not to use the words, client, customer, buyer, patron, idiot, moron, consumer, visitor, company etc. The only acceptable term for a paying visitor to the hotel was “guest.”

At the time, the Ritz Carlton was ahead of the game using this philosophy of altering employee’s mindset when it comes to the vocabulary they use. Automatically by using the word “opportunity”, you feel more at ease. Just think of the emotions you feel during the following statements:

Statement #1
“We have a problem, there is a lion running through the library!”

Statement #1
“We have an opportunity, there is a lion running through the library!”

The first option makes you want to run screaming into the streets, the second makes you want to call your PR company to get pictures of this awesome event.

The same holds true for guest, when thinking of the visitors to your hotel as guests, you immediately correlate with them being guests in your home. In many ways they are exactly that, guests in your home.Employee Motivation for Small Businesses As an employee you spend the majority of your waking hours at work, it might as well be your home. So anyone that comes into it is immediately your guest.

So, most of you already had probably already heard about the Ritz fancy vocabulary as it has been the study of many discussions and research over the years. However, I wanted to lay the foreground for the next portion of the discussion. Which is how we refer to or handle individuals that pay to use our service or products.

Regardless of the word we use to refer to those individuals that pay for our server, we should think how does that word make us feel when we use it?

  • Does the word give us a positive feeling? (Opportunity)
  • Does the word bring about a negative emotion? (Problem)
  • Is the word we use internally, the same word we would use in front of the paying individual? (Guest)
  • Do we have nicknames for these individuals depending on their behavior? (P.I.T.A.)
  • How does the paying individual refer to themselves in context? (Customer, Client, Guest)

By now you should have a feeling one way or the other on the words that you use to refer to people who pay for your service or product. Is your term derogatory, or is it something that provides a positive emotion for both you and your paying individual? Would you use this same term in front of your paying clients?

By setting the tone internally for how you reference paying clients, you can help guide the internal motivation of your company. It is time to make sure that internal motivation is a positive one.

How to Eliminate Spam from WordPress?

eliminate-spam-from-wordpress-blogSpam has overtaken the world, one form, one registration one email at a time. In reality, spam is actually losing the war against those who appose it, but their gorilla efforts still continue. The key is to understand what tools are at your disposal to eliminate spam from your WordPress blog.

If you are anything like me, you despise spam or anything that remotely resembles spam. In my effort to remove it, I will go to great lengths to report a spam email, website or comment on my blogs. As a hosting provider Net Solutions and ProFusion Products also go to great lengths to ensure our clients email is relatively undisturbed by email spam.

That being said, some spam still gets through, and one place I notice a lot of consumers complaining about spam is from their WordPress blog. Most of these claims are due to a lake of education on what can be done to avoid spam on a blog. Once your blog is properly configured you can eliminate spam registrations and comments completely. However, this is done at a cost.

Before we can eliminate spam from your blog, let us first look at the source of spam, and then we can evaluate how to remove it.

  1. The primary source of spam is via comments to your blog posts. Spammers have built automated routines to scour the internet looking for the specific code related to a WordPress comment box. The spam routine then auto-submits a comment typically with a link back to the spam website. Ultimately spam bots go through this effort, to try and generate traffic or links to their parent website.
  2. The other source of spam submissions is during the registration process. Depending on how your blog is configured you may require visitors to register before they can comment on your blog, or before they can become a member. This form can also be discovered by Spam routines, and the spammer can then become a member of your blog.

Both of the above scenarios trigger an email to be sent to the blog administrator indicating a comment has been submitted or a user has registered. Often times the submission is composed of complete gibberish, making the administrator leery that something has gone wrong with the application. In reality, nothing is wrong, the spam routine simply enters gibberish in an effort to see if the submission process works. Often once they know it works, they will return with a second spam bot to complete the process more professionally with more detailed information.

WordPress Blog LogoNow that we understand how spam is caused on a WordPress blog, let us look at what the built in options are for eliminating spam.

  • From the admin panel of your blog, if you go to Settings and then General, you will see a list of options. One of the options is “Membership” with a check box for “Anyone Can Register” by checking this box you allow spam bots and regular users to register on your website.
  • From the admin panel of your blog, if you go to Settings and then Discussion, you will find numerous options that control the hoops people need to jump through to comment on your blog. If you want to lock down the site so no one can comment simply uncheck the box for “Allow people to post comments on new articles”
  • Another option in that same section of the admin panel, is a combination of the two items above. The first option would be to not allow anyone to register, and then in the second screen select “Users must be registered and logged in to comment” This way you can control who can add comments. Now, if you have someone you want to allow to add comments, simply login to the admin panel and add them as a user. This allows you specific control over who can comment on your blog.
  • There are numerous other variations that you can control from the settings > discussion admin section of your blog. Try using them to see if you can configure your blog to meet your website visitors needs while reducing the volume of spam.

Now the important piece to understand when making the adjustments above, is the configurations that eliminate spam also eliminate the ability for your average website visitor to make a comment. So if you want visitors to your website to be able to add comments, then you need to be aware that spam submissions will also come along as an unintended consequence. If you do not want visitors to comment, then you may as well lock it down so that spam bots cannot complete the forms either.

Another option that is available, for the more advanced user of WordPress is to look into third party tools that allow you to add CAPTCHA code to your website. CAPTCHA may mean something to you when you think about that funky security code you have to complete when submitting for something online.
Example CAPTCHA CodeYou can see an example CAPTCHA code in the image to the right.

CAPTCHA is great, because spam bots typically cannot complete it, while your average website visitor can complete the CAPTCHA code. That being said, not everyone is average, nor is CAPTCHA code created equal. Some people simply find CAPTCHA too difficult and quit as soon as they see it, others try to complete it but fail a couple times and then quit. So adding CAPTCHA can lead to a decrease in user comments and registrations.

If you are interested in adding CAPTCHA code to your blog, you need to find a 3rd party plug-in for WordPress or build your own. Keep in mind that each of these plug-ins are developed by a 3rd party, and not supported by WordPress, Net Solutions or ProFusion Products. If you elect to add this code to your site, you are responsible for the outcome, and any support would be provided by the inventor of the 3rd party code.

Two very popular CAPTCHA code options are listed here, with links to the download page where you can acquire the software. If you need help installing the code, or configuring the options please contact your system administrator or website hosting company.

  1. SI CAPTCHA Anti-Spam – This is what we use on the Snoitulous Ten blog
  2. Simple CAPTCHA This one is also popular on the internet

Best of luck to you in your effort to eliminate spam!