Cleaning up Facebook with FB Purity

Like many small business owners, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. On the business side of it, it does have some really great superpowers that allow me to reach & help lots of my perfect people through its promotion tools and targeting. But having to deal with the personal side of it can just be a sh*t show sometimes…until I found FB Purity.

It’s an astonishing piece of software that filters out what is not good for your best energy to be exposed to over and over and over again. It’s absolutely non-negotiable for me, as it allows me to hide and/and or control all of the ugliest parts of Facebook.

Below are a couple of videos to illustrate how to install it on your web browser software, and give it a whirl. You can always uninstall it, but I have a feeling that once you see what it can do, and how much easier it makes FB to stomach, you won’t want to be without it (I don’t like to imagine having to go back to the “old Facebook”.)

OR




Loom: Because a two minute video can save you a thousand words

Each day, I help someone—usually several someones—escape from tech purgatory.

You know tech purgatory, right? You’re doing something online (or offline) and just can’t get it to behave? You know if you just knew the secret option, the secret incantation or keyboard combination, you could get past this muddle and get on with the work you actually love doing. So frustrating.

I love to help with those muddles. To make the world right again, I could write a lengthy tome telling my folks they just need this-and-that setting, to do this/do that, stand on their head and rub their tummy, but that’s just one more novella they’d need to read to get out of tech purgatory, right?

You probably have your own version of this. If you’ve ever had trouble explaining how to sign up for your sessions, how to make one of your products work, or even just make clear what it is you DO, then you’ll get me when I say that a video is worth a thousand words. Maybe two thousand.

That’s where you and I can both use one of my favorite little tools, Loom. It’s a free service that lets you capture short videos with just one click of an icon in your web browser, or via a desktop app (for Mac, Windows, or Chromebook).

Once it’s installed (takes just a sec) you click, start the video, say/show what you need, and send them the link, all in the blink of an eye:

ONE:
Get Loom (just you – your viewer won’t need it)

Go to https://useloom.com (for Chrome) or to https://www.useloom.com/desktop (for your desktop/laptop) and follow the directions to download and install it.

TWO:
Start up Loom in your browser or desktop

OR

THREE:
Choose which of the three kinds of video you want to make, and Start Recording:

FOUR:
When you’re done, click the Loom icon again, or type Alt+Shift+L (Windows) or Option+Shift+L (Mac) to finish. Look for this box in the upper right:

 

FIVE:
Copy the link and send it to whoever needs it!  Here’s me in a short video that took me less than 2 minutes from start to finish:

From the moment I clicked the Loom icon on my browser to posting it here, 1 minute 45 seconds elapsed. The videos can be longer, shorter, or much more elaborate if you like (you can include screen captures, videos, etc.), but Loom’s strong point is the ability to just knock out a quick visual and share it with very little effort, so you can do more of it. Check it out. It’s super-handy and your clients will love you.

Love,
Margaret

 


LEARN SOMETHING NEW AND SAVE A BUNDLE

Looking for a fast, friendly, personal way to learn how to manage those online things you’ve been paying others hundreds of dollars to do? Reach more of the people that matter, start offering online workshops, finally start using video on your website, and more!  Save some money, time, and brain cells: I offer one-hour, 1-to-1 sessions to self-employed folks who’d like to do more, but without the pressure of a webinar or online group classes. Choose one from the course list, or request a customized session for exactly what YOU want to learn.
Let’s have some fun. What do you want to learn? >

Is your website still out there…or has it flown the coop?

When was the last time you went out to your website and just made sure it was …there?

Don’t laugh; you’d be surprised to know the number of folks who simply assume a website is a set-it-and-forget-it thing, and rarely even peek at it.

You may be equally surprised to learn how many perfect strangers will find your site on the web, will note that it is either completely blank or there’s a giant problem that makes it unusable, and will sigh and click off. Few will actually take the time to report this to you, even if they could see an easy way to do so. So a problem can persist silently for days, weeks, or months, your site broken or invisible, while potentially perfect clients come a-calling and are lost to you.

This is a particularly touchy issue right now. Here’s why:

There are a lot of changes afoot in the website world in terms of updates and spiffing-up of the programming behind our sites. A lot of those updates are being done by website hosting companies—the place where your website “lives.” Usually that’s a good thing (they are great at that stuff) but lately I’ve been seeing these actions take place without properly notifying you that something potentially disruptive is about to happen.

Example: Several clients recently wrote to me in a panic when they learned — through the kindness of strangers — that their home page had dissolved into a mass of programming code. This coincided with web hosts updating a system (“PHP”) to the newest, securest, most fantabulous version…without notice. It just took a few minutes of updating and tweaking to bring it all back to normal, but up to that point, the public was seeing something very messy and unprofessional.

So…would you do me a bite-sized favor?

(and no, it has nothing to do with chocolate this time)

Go to your Google Calendar, iCal, to-do list…whatever you use to schedule important dates & events.
Create an appointment…call it “Website TLC” and make it a quick 15-minute “date” with yourself.
Try to get it onto your calendar in the next few days if possible.
When that appointment time comes, cruise on out to your main web address(es) and have a look-see.

The idea is to pop out and look at your website as a visitor might. Have a quick flip through the pages, make sure they’re seeing what you want them to see. Make sure (in particular) your site’s menu, slideshows, big images, contact forms, and any sort of sales/payment mechanisms are behaving themselves.

If you’re able, set up that calendar date with yourself so it recurs, becoming a (minimum) monthly reminder that pops up. Your website is a dynamic creature, and even if you haven’t been keeping it updated with new stuff regularly – something that has great benefits for your visibility – it deserves at least a check-in to make sure it’s happy and healthy.

If you see anything out of whack, talk to your usual web person or drop me a note.

Thanks. I feel better now. And I think you will too.

Helping declutter your mind in 2019: Nearly-no-brainer ways to keep your website safe

In early 2019 I’m already noticing an uptick in hacking attempts among my clients’ websites. How can I tell? Even though no one has yet been hacked, I monitor their security programs and see the same wave of attempted logins, brute force attacks, etc. It’s a shame; don’t these guys have anything better to do?

These jerks know what I know: There are some changes taking place that are creating opportunities to break into websites and do their dirty work.

I wanted to share with you the top five factors that create fertile ground for exploiting a website. I’ll keep it “geek lite” to avoid giving anyone a tech migraine. Please feel free to be in touch any time if you have questions.

1) Cheap or bad website hosting

There are a lot of good, smart, inexpensive website hosting companies — companies that store and ‘broadcast’ your site on the web. And there are a few that are inexpensive-but-untrustworthy. I write about a couple of them here. Some hosts are cheap but just don’t take good care of their clients’ data, and some don’t properly separate user accounts—which opens up opportunities for hacking. In one case in particular, a client’s site was repeatedly hacked until we moved it to another host. Since then? Nothing.

2) Easy-to-guess website logins (especially if you’re on WordPress, but other sites as well)

This is the most commonly jimmied “door” to your site because many people still use simple, easy-to-remember passwords like “bluepony5” and “mary*jane” and even, yes, “password2019” (#facepalm). It might save you the trouble of remembering a more complicated password, but it may also cost you thousands in getting your web presence back. (not to mention the fact that once hackers guess it once, they’ll try to find other spaces you frequent on the web and use it there too. They know you want to use that easy password all over…  🙂 Keep it complicated, folks. Use uppercase, lowercase, symbols, and numbers, and never—ever—use dictionary words.

3) Outdated software

Many of the websites we are asked to look haven’t been updated in some time. Old or outdated bits and pieces of your site’s machinery are a prime area for jerks to crash your website party. Every piece of your site’s technology—the framework (like WordPress), plugins, themes, programming—should be kept up to date to fix bugs and patch security holes they are constantly finding.

4) Out of date programming

Behind your beautiful website, no matter what kind, is programming (or “scripting”) language spewing out thousands of lines of code that make things go. For WordPress sites, for example, that workhorse is called “PHP.”  That programming needs regular updates as well. In a huge current example, the team behind PHP has just stopped supporting (protecting) the version that runs behind more than 60 percent of websites that use it, and everyone should update it. This is something that can be updated via your website hosting company, but needs to be done carefully to be sure your existing site won’t be broken by the new version…there are even little programs to check whether your website guts are compatible with the new versions. Ask them (or us) about it.

5) Running a site that’s not “https” (and the “s” is for SECURE)

Take a look at your own website, specifically look at the top of the screen where it displays your website’s address: http://(your website address).com

If you do not have the “s” in https, or if you’re seeing a “not secure” message, that’s trouble. That goopy part of your web address means all communications between your website browser software and the website you’re viewing are encrypted/safe from prying eyes. It’s remedied by installing something called a secure certificate on your website hosting account. This is another thing that needs to be wrangled with your website host…but if you have questions, let us know.

If you need help deciphering what any of this means to you, or if you’d like to just have this automated so it’s all just taken care of — leaving you time to create, write, and run your business — we do that for a lot of people, so just get in touch with us. We have subscription plans for as little as $25.00/month to keep an eye on things for you . . .so you can turn your eyes to the work you actually like doing.

Stay safe out there, everybody  🙂

How to prepare for a Zoom/video meeting so you’re not pulling your hair out

Many of my people either already use Zoom—the groovy online tool that lets you do video conferencing on the web—or a similar service like Skype or GoToMeeting. They give people like us the ability to hold meetings with faraway clients, as well as offer workshops, classes, coaching sessions, group meetings, and any number of other business-building offerings. I previously wrote about business-building ways you can use Zoom, currently my method of choice.

Using any of these services requires “bandwidth” —a good internet signal. They’re sending a lot of bits and bytes over your internet connection, whatever it might be. Just keep that in mind if you are sharing your internet signal with Netflix, mobile phone(s), tablets or Kindles, an online-gaming teenager, a neighbor stealing your signal, and more.

If your computer is using a wireless signal and sharing that with all of those things, your video connection can be very choppy, with lots of freezes and hiccups. Super-frustrating, especially if you’re doing coaching, a workshop, or other services that people expect to be smooth and problem-free.

Also, if you’re a person who habitually has lots of software applications and documents open at all times, this too may work against you as Zoom competes with all of them for memory.

For the record, here are some things I do when I’m about to go on a Zoom call/conference, or hold one:

30 minutes before:  I turn off the power to my wireless router, wait 20 seconds, and power it back up. These devices often have software updates that take place when you “cycle” it like this, and it gives your router’s brain a refresh.

30 minutes before: I restart my computer or laptop completely. This can clear out memory caches, stuck software, and other stored stuff that might interfere with my computer’s memory or signal.

15 minutes before:
I walk around and do the following:
Turn off my wireless printer.
Turn off my iPad, Kindle, and my husband’s laptop  🙂
Turn off the TV and leave it off.
Put my mobile phone on airplane mode. If I need to make a call (say, if my meeting attendee doesn’t show up) I can.
Make sure I know where my wired headset is. (I have a noisy Mac, so a headset is essential…and a wired headset doesn’t need any signals)
Test my video and audio on my computer by going to Zoom and trying them both out
Turn off ALL OTHER APPLICATIONS that I’m not using.
Pause things that might decide to auto-update while I’m talking, such as Dropbox synching, system backups, and virus protection updates

5 minutes before: (these are the non-tech things that are just nice)
Pour a glass of water
Hang a “do not disturb” sign on my doorbell, front door, office door, and have a chat with my dog, Gordon, about barking 🙂
Review my notes and make sure I have something to write with, and on.

1 minute before:
Breathe deeply, and remember how lucky we are to work for ourselves, bringing our best energies and talents into the world to do something great.

Enjoy your trouble-free Zoom session!

Panic is purely elective: Bringing your site back from a WordPress 5 update

If your WordPress-based website auto-updated to the new version of WordPress before you were ready, give this simple trick a try before you panic. I’m referring to WordPress 5, which I talk about a bit in this post.

In many cases, there’s nothing at all wrong. It’s just that you’re viewing the site through the “block editor” in the new software, and some WordPress sites and themes just still spit up hairballs.

If your website person is asking for hundreds or thousands to put it right, consider doing this little trick first to see if you can return things to normal. (It may still be that things have gone wrong, but at least you can try a two-minute trick before going down that road.)

And of course, you can always contact me for a non-geeky, plain English, calming & comfortable conversation about it any time.

WordPress 5.0: The pain, the gain, and why you shouldn’t update yet

This post is especially for my beloved folks out there whose professional websites are built in WordPress – about a third of the world’s websites by some estimates.

Today is the day the benevolent geeks in charge at WordPress released their spiffy new version, WordPress 5.0. You’ll start seeing the graphic above (absent my embellishment…) when you log into your site.

I see you yawning out there. Software update? Dull!  But bear with me for just a second.

It’s not like most web software updates, which just replace the old with the new, in a calm and orderly fashion, like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. This one has the potential for causing some mischief that could be, shall we say, “stressful.”

It’s all about “Gutenberg,” the editor. That screen you’re on when you’re creating or editing website posts and pages? That. I wrote about it this past Fall and posted a little introduction to it here in my post, “Guten-who?

The good part:

It’s pretty neat. The new one uses a system of blocks to let you arrange things on the page in ways you sometimes couldn’t before, embedding different kinds of content (pictures! text! columns! yay!). For non-technical folks who would love to be able to easily create and edit their own pages, and do more than just the one-long-column-of-text thing, it’s going to be awesome.

The bad part:

Many website designs, frameworks, plugins, add-ons are not compatible with it and thus your site might spit up hairballs when it’s installed. That could mean anything from “no effect whatsoever” to the white screen of death, with no way into your site. Especially if your site is more than a couple of years old and hasn’t had any sort of updating of its “guts,” it could be messy.

It is already causing a bit of mayhem, the same sort of mayhem you might expect if you decided, for example, that you wanted your own personal pet rhino. It’s very possible upgrading to 5.0 right now will break your existing website into smithereens unless you follow some special procedures – and who has time for that right now right before the holidays, seriously?

For the do-it-yourselfers:

But okay, to stay solution-oriented: I’m going to list these procedures below for those who care for their own sites. Before updating, you’ll want to do things like:

  • Take a complete backup of your site and download it to your own computer. NOT just your files and database. The whole directory. Your website host can point you in the right direction there.
  • Update your website’s “theme” – the design framework that it’s running (in your Dashboard, go under Appearance>>Themes to see what I mean) – to the newest version available.
  • Also update your site’s “plugins” (Dashboard >> Plugins) which are the little programs that enable your site to do things like cool contact forms, shopping cart, security, automatic backups, etc.
  • Install a little plugin called “Classic Editor” to switch your editor back to the way it was.

See what I mean? Who has time? Even after all of that, it may still alter your finally-beautiful website, so have your web person’s email handy and consider letting them know before you plan to do that (or have them do it for you, and save a few brain cells).

BUT once the WordPress gods get the kinks worked out, it’ll be a pretty nifty little update to WordPress that’ll help zillions of people work with it more easily and create more beautiful things with it. Totally worth it. No, I mean it, it’ll be good for a lot of people.

They are already apparently working on a revision to fix some of the bugs, and should be publishing a cleaner version (or two, or three) of it in January 2019.

SO, TO RECAP:

  • Don’t push that blue “update to 5.0” button. Just don’t do it. At least not for a month or more.
  • If you can’t resist, take all of the steps above FIRST and light a green candle, burn some incense, recite some incantations from the Necronomicon, etc. If you’re not a WordPress geek, coordinate with your web person before you do.
  • Wait until late January at the very earliest. There’s no compelling reason to upgrade right now. None. So let the dust settle, let the geeks pick it apart and let WordPress fix all the bugs.

If you are hosted by Hostgator, and here are all the reasons I still advise against that, you may want to check with them to make sure it’s not going to automatically update itself.

I’ll update this post as things get sane again.

Peace, all.

P.S. If you’re interested in having us do regular updates to your website so you don’t have to worry about this (including security, backups, updates, and all those geeky things), please reach out.  Learn more about how to buy an hour, or five, or ten, to make sure you can focus on doing the work you love rather than trying to be a website expert too.

25 things I do to preserve energy, time, and optimism for my work

There are a zillion vampires that will rob your business of energy, time, and optimism if you let them. Here are 25 things I do to keep them at bay.

Guten-who? What to do when WordPress makes its big change

Folks who have websites built in WordPress will see a big change this Fall with the new “Gutenberg” design/editing system. Not time to worry yet though…

Six fun and powerful little tools that are day-makers for people like us

This morning I had an email from a client who was stuck in techie purgatory. She needed to find a way to have just some of her blog posts appear on her website’s home page, but have the whole collection appear on her Blog page, and to top it off, her blog images weren’t displaying when she tried to share them to her Facebook page…basically, everything was misbehaving for her.

Typical of many of my self-sufficient clients, she didn’t want me to wave my geek wand and fix it; she wanted to understand it and know how to fix it herself.

I could’ve sent her a lengthy tome about this-and-that setting, do this/do that, but this is the kind of situation that is best solved by showing, rather than telling.

If you’ve ever had trouble explaining to one of your clients how to get on your webinar, how to make one of your products work for them, or even just what it is you DO, then you understand this—sometimes, video is best.

Enter one of my favorite little tools, Loom. It’s a free service that lets you capture short videos with just one click of an icon in your web browser. You click, start the video, say/show what you need (screenshare, or you talking, or both), and send them the link, all in the blink of an eye. I’ll show you a teensy video at the end of this post I made in Loom and embedded in my blog post in just under two minutes total.

Whenever I use it, it brings to mind all of the small tools that make formerly-time-consuming tasks so easy and fast now, creating more time for me to work with the people I care about (and have a free evening to read books on the back porch). I wanted to share a half-dozen of them with you here that I really couldn’t function without. None of these are affiliate links, by the way; I just think they’ll rock your world:

Privacy Badger

Not technically a time-saver, unless you count not having to deal with ads shoved in your face every time you turn around. I should confess that I hate being tracked by marketers when I’m online. (It reminds me of the scene in the film Minority Report, when Tom Cruise is walking through a sea of customized virtual ads popping up in front of his face.) Privacy Badger is a little gizmo you add to your web browser with a click that “…stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web. If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, it automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser. To the advertiser, it’s like you suddenly disappeared.” Perfect. It has cut down on a huge amount of ad clutter and junk for me, and I’m grateful. Check it out.

Boomerang for Gmail

I’m a Gmail user, and I have to confess that I probably couldn’t get through the day without Boomerang (or something just like it). Boomerang is a little extension you add to Gmail that lets you do magical things like:
schedule the redelivery of emails back to you if you’re busy
schedule outbound emails for a certain day/time
set reminders for yourself to respond to an email/look for a reply
undo the email you just sent (!!)
attach notes to yourself to an email
pause your inbox for a while so you can breathe
…and a lot more. I love it so much I wrote a gushy post about it here last year: https://websitesforgood.com/tools-for-tiny-businesses-i-heart-you-boomerang/

Zoom

I have lost track of the number of people who’ve said to me, “Oh, Zoom, right — I’ve been on a group call on Zoom but figured it was too complicated to use for my little business.” It’s a videoconferencing tool anybody can use to connect with people all over the world with just a couple of clicks. With a very short learning curve (think minutes) you can expand the reach of your service business from your town to the entire planet. Even in the Free version, you can host an unlimited number of online meetings (think one-to-one or one-to-many coaching, workshops, webinars, trainings…), with 2 to 100 participants if your session is less than 40 minutes, and unlimited session time if you’re just doing one-to-ones. Try a free account and check it out. I’m happy to show up and be your guinea pig, or you can check out my quickstart 1-to-1 session on using Zoom to grow your business here!

Acuity Scheduling

It would take me 500 words to explain how much Acuity has transformed my business, my productivity, and my stress levels. Without it, I used to spend a lot of time doing…well, the tasks to the right. With it, my people (clients and inquirers) can quickly view my availability, self-book their own appointments, reschedule them with a click, receive reminders, fill in intake forms, make payment for paid services, and about a hundred other things that used to take time and bandwidth. For…$10 a month. (or free if you choose that kind of account.) If making appointments is part of your work, it’s worth a look…they’re also amazing at the art of very personal and entertaining support. Check it out.

If you don’t need fancy things like reminders, rescheduling, etc., check out other systems like Calendly or Setmore from this page: https://zapier.com/blog/best-appointment-scheduling-apps/

Loom

Finally, circling back to Loom.

I explained it above, but I’ll show you the results here:

From the moment I clicked the Loom icon on my browser to posting it here, 1 minute 45 seconds elapsed. The videos can be longer, shorter, or much more elaborate if you like (you can include screen captures, videos, etc.), but Loom’s strong point is the ability to just knock out a quick visual and share it with very little effort, so you can do more of it. Check it out.

FB Purity

Oh, what a life saver for those of us who want to use Facebook for business or personal reasons…  F.B. (Fluff Busting) Purity is a browser extension that lets you customize Facebook in amazing ways. It alters your view of Facebook to show only relevant information to you. It lets you remove the annoying and irrelevant stories from your newsfeed such as game and application spam, ads and sponsored stories. It can also hide the boxes you don’t want to see on each side of the newsfeed.

CNET described it better than I ever could: “The interface is extremely intuitive. Apart from having the option to hide a multitude of stories including profile updates and tagged photos, you can hide the suggestions box, sponsored box, and the “get connected” box in the right-hand panel of the screen… Facebook has the ability to hide some of this for you (not the side panel though)… having all these options clearly marked in one place with checkboxes is very practical.”

The ability to hide the more annoying and useless-to-you aspects of Facebook, while still having the option to display them, is an incredible time- and energy-saver. You can even filter out posts by keyword (to avoid politics, celebrity news, so-and-so’s tweets, etc.) so you never see them and have to cope with the associated emotional distraction. I couldn’t work without it.


Those are my favorite tools today, though I’m discovering new ones every day. I would estimate that using these tools has helped me recapture at least three hours every week–and BAM, there’s three hours I can spend on working with the people I love, exercising, meditating, building income, or just playing with the dog if that’s what I need for my mental health.

Got any great little tools that YOU use and couldn’t do without? Please share with me! I’m always in the market.

Love,
Margaret

 


LEARN SOMETHING NEW AND SAVE A BUNDLE

Looking for a fast, friendly, personal way to learn how to manage those online things you’ve been paying others hundreds of dollars to do? Reach more of the people that matter, start offering online workshops, finally start using video on your website, and more!  Save some money, time, and brain cells: I offer one-hour, 1-to-1 sessions to self-employed folks who’d like to do more, but without the pressure of a webinar or the geek-speak of online classes. Choose one from the course list, or request a customized session for exactly what YOU want to learn.
Let’s have some fun. What do you want to learn? >