I haven’t been doing a lot of freelance over the past couple years, but I have just finished a great site called CarnivalGlass.com – a WordPress site with Woocommerce Paypal Adaptive integration.
First off, I should explain that Carnival glass is moulded or pressed glass, always with a pattern and always with a shiny, metallic, ‘iridescent’ surface shimmer. It is highly collectible, and is generally broken down into “antique” from around 1900 to the 1950’s and “contemporary” which is anything up to present day.
The site is built on WordPress, using the venerable Woocommerce ecommerce engine for shopping cart. The site functions as a marketplace, so payments are setup to go directly to different owners, using a neat Woocommerce with Paypal Adaptive integration. It’s also making use of the USPS API to pull real time shipping prices.
The Woocommerce Paypal Adaptive integration allows the site to take payments and provide a portion of the sale price to the site, and deposit directly into the account of whichever seller owned the piece. Basically a marketplace. with a multitude of sellers, but without the hassle of disbursing payment manually.
Challenges on the project included some issues with shipping classes from the post office, basically Woocommerce was grabbing the first price it saw, instead of the preferred Priority Mail 2 Day price. Another major issue was our need to reconfigure the search function to return specific results, rather than the standard “fuzzy” results.
Since initial launch, we’ve been working on fine tuning and SEO. I’m pleased to report that the SEO results on individual products is excellent. The main keywords for the site are an ongoing project.
I’ve got to say this was one of the most enjoyable web development projects I’ve done in quite a while. Great customer, interesting requirements and a beautiful end product.
I noticed the other day that rather than becoming easier, corporate communications have become significantly harder. The dream has always been one universal way to contact people and share information that allows everyone who needs it to get it, while maintaining corporate security. Instead of creating this, we’ve ended up with a Tower of Babel in which we are forced to seek out and actively watch numerous applications.
For example, on any given day these sites/apps/programs for Corporate Communications
The Slack Channel for my local dev team
The Slack Channel for my global dev team
Skype to converse with a specific team in India
What’s App for management discussions
Google Hangouts to interact with the Customer Support Team in India
Text from a handful of management types who don’t like any of the previous options
There are more that I use less frequently. My point is that rather than simplifying communications over time, we’ve complicated them, and in doing so, increased the likelihood that important messages will be missed.
The problem is that rather than committing to that one “killer app” which has failed to materialize, we’ve Balkanized our communications and compartmentalized our information.
What’s needed? I’d say that one “killer app”, but time has shown that’s not the solution. Better, we need to be smarter about what we use. While it’s nice to let teams choose their apps to help facilitate communications that will work for them, we need to remember that we can also be creating barriers within our organization.
The solution comes down to people making better decisions. We all need to collectively stop asking “can we” and think more in terms of “should we.”
Self-Publishing Advice from the experience of my first book
I had the wonderful opportunity to guest lecture at Emerson College this week on the subject of “Self-publishing”. It caused a bit of retrospection, it being a full year now since I published Blue Ice.
My most important self-publishing advice, the elephant in the room, as voiced by one of the students: “If you had it to do again, would you self-publish, or go with a traditional publisher?”
That really gets right to the core of the matter. Personally, if there were a publisher who was willing to offer an acceptable deal, I’d definitely go with them. Two words: “Marketing Budget” strike true with me. I don’t miss having to deal with an agent, having to respond to publishers, etc. and wonder if anything was going to happen. I do miss having someone who will actually handle the marketing. Someone who can run ads, etc.
As a new writer, the first and most important task is to get your name and your book out there. To build readers, to find a market. Who better to do that than a marketing department.
That said, I can’t imagine myself hat in hand trying to find an agent at this point. Maybe if one came after me…
Some other general advice that may or not be of use to you if you do choose to self-publish:
Find an editor you can work with and hang on to them. Pay them well, they’re an important team member.
Hire a real professional copy editor.
Find the best graphic designer you can and pay for your cover design. REALLY – books are judged by their covers, and you’re not going to get anyone to read your book if you’ve got a crappy cover.
Seriously consider putting your book into the Kindle Select program – it will make it available for free reading to Kindle Prime users, and you’ll still get paid $2.99. More eyeballs is a good thing.
Looking back at 2013 for me personally, I’m amazed at the improvements in my life, and I’d like to both acknowledge and give thanks. Let’s take a look at the picture of where I was just a scant year ago:
Living with my mother after separating from my wife.
Didn’t have a steady job.
Saw my kids on weekends, if that.
Was barred from buying health insurance by the State of Massachusetts (a joy many in the US will come to know in the coming years).
Had massive IRS problems.
In general, the outlook was bleak, and people often asked me how I maintained such a positive outlook. The answer is simple: when when you’re surrounded by problems, it’s easy to find success. Just start solving the issues, and you’ll quickly start putting together a bunch of games in the win column.
As I sit here at years end:
I have a wonderful job working with great people like Slava Brodskiy and David Zakur at Lycos.
I have a nice house on a pond where life is wonderful.
Both of my daughters are living with me full time.
While I haven’t completely paid off the IRS yet, I have a deal with them and the contents of my checking account isn’t disappearing regularly anymore.
I finally got health insurance again in Sept., even if it does get cancelled again tonight via Obamacare.
After 15 years I finally own Reel-Time.com thanks to Kelly Conlin.
Re-kindled friendships with old friends like Graham Pettingill, Jay Groccia, Kevin Condon and so many others.
Reconnecting with relatives I haven’t seen in years thanks to my cousin Susan Haun.
Many wonderful memories of living with my Mom, and the knowledge that my daughters finally have gotten to spend time with her.
Finally got to meet Karl Susman face to face after years of friendship via the Interwebs.
There are so many other triumphs, I can’t name them all. I am utterly thankful, especially to friends like Jim Spencer who helped get me interesting and good paying freelance work, Slava Brodskiy who hire me at Lycos when I needed an opportunity.
The key for me has always been having a network of good friends. For all of you, I am truly grateful.
There was a post on Facebook “21 Habits of Happy People” and it’s worth all of us taking to heart for the New Year. My old friend Bruce Wells sums it up wonderfully:
One of the nicest things I had said to me in 2013 was from a co-worker. She recently asked me, “How did I always stay so upbeat?” The question kind of surprised me. I am human, I have bad moments and days. I reflected on the question and answered, “It’s all about attitude. You can decide how you deal with any given moment in your life. I just decide (generally) to have a good day every day”. I thought about the question she asked as I read this article. The article definitely explains this better than I did with my brief answer. Take a few minutes to read this. Absorb what it is saying. Make a commitment to try to live each day by the concepts expressed here. It wont happen overnight. Just continue to work on it day to day and see the results. If we could all work on this the World would become a sooooooooooo much better place. Peace, Love and wishing you an amazing and fabulous 2014.
I couldn’t agree more. Decide to have a good day every day.
Okay, here’s one to help you get in touch with your inner Worcesterite. You might be from Worcester if:
You know that they had to fill the Polar Soda Polar Bear with foam because Worcesterites had gone “Catniss” on him on more than one occasion.
You know that the Polar Soda bear is named “Orson”.
You know that Worcester has 7 hills like Rome, and has 9 colleges within it’s boundaries.
You can name the 7 hills of Worcester. (Hancock, Bancroft, Newton, Green, Chandler, Union or Sagatabscot and Mt. St. James, Pakachoag or College Hill. – although Airport Hill ought to also be on the list…)
Worcester is one of many cities claimed, like Rome, to be found on seven hills: Airport Hill, Bancroft Hill, Belmont Hill (Bell Hill), Grafton Hill, Green Hill, Pakachoag Hill and Vernon Hill. However, Worcester has more than seven hills including Indian Hill, Newton Hill, Poet’s Hill, and Wigwam Hill.
You can name the 9 colleges of Worcester (WPI, Clark, Worcester State, Becker, Mass College of Pharmacy, Holy Cross, Quinsig, UMASS Med School, Assumption College – Anna Marie is in Paxton, and doesn’t count – sorry…)
You remember shopping at the Worcester Center Galleria.
You don’t need the Food Network or Guy Fieri to tell you where to get the the best hot dogs in the world.
The mere mention of “best hot dog” elicits strong emotions in you as you know the discussion will soon turn into holy war between disciples of George’s Coney Island Hot Dog or Hot Dog Annie’s (but a shout out here to upstart tube steak artisan The Dogfather). I will settle this here and now by reminding everyone that Annie’s is in Leicester, hence not technically in Wormtown and that The Dogfather is on wheels.
Back in the day, you made a run to Clinton and paid exorbitant prices for beer on a Sunday.
If you’re from the West Side, you remember going to the Tatnuck Friendlies after a football game at Foley Stadium.
You know that all buses go to City Hall. Or at least they used to…
You have eaten at one or all of the following after 2 am.
The Midhaven or The Acapulco
You’ve seen a movie at one of the following:
Showcase Cinema, Main St. (now the Hanover)
White City Cinema (where Bugaboo Creek Steak House was)
Webster Square Cinema (right next to the Mobil Station)
You ate at the El Morrocco and know that it was Rodney Dangerfield’s favorite restaurant in the Boston area.
Nearly two years ago I wrote about the pain in the a$$ that is wireless printers. They’re still a pain, but I thought I’d share a little trick that I’ve found that makes them a whole lot less bothersome: configuring a static IP address for them.
HP has a decent video on how to manually setup a static IP address for your printer which you can see here. On many of their newer printers, if you go to the web page for the printer (it’s current IP address), it’s even easier than that, you just find the link for “create a static IP address for printer”, click it, and it will do it all for you.
For other printers, Google “configure static IP address <your printer model here>”.
The static IP address will keep you from losing contact with the printer every time the power goes out or the router is restarted. Thus you spend much less time getting the printer to work.
Oh that this trick fixed the printer cartridge problems as well!
No need for a review, I reviewed Grace Potter last month, and there is precious little I could say that has not been said before about The Allman Brothers. I will share this video of Grace and Benny Yurco on stage with Les Brers playing The Weight. Trully moving…even if the smartphone video howls and is generally a C- effort (but it’s still the best of the stuff I find on Youtube).
Just a year ago, I proclaimed my freedom from the Tyranny of the Commute in a post on this blog. The chief culprit in the absurdly long commutes I’d suffered for over a decade was the incredulously Rube Goldberg style design of the the traffic pattern at the on ramp to Rt. 95/128 north coming from the Mass Pike. Numerous merges and crossover created an automotive version of a battle royale; a free for all in which everyone lost…
This past July, as a test, Mass Highway made a minor adjustment to the traffic flow.
They reserved the right lane of Rt. 128 for traffic merging on from the on ramp.
The put up a programmable billboard with 2 clear messages, using 4 simple words:
They painted traffic lines on the on ramp to try to get drivers to merge into a single lane prior to hitting the final on ramp.
The results were astounding. No traffic backups that I can remember for July or August. Instead of my normal 1.5 hour commute, it has been taking me an hour, or less.
This morning was the big test. School is back in session. The normal backups along the Mass Pike occurred, just after Rt. 495, at the Reservoir, then again just after Rt. 30. Prior to the change, this would be a clear indicator of at least a 30 minute backup at the tolls. This morning, not a single car waiting, everyone sailed through.
There is hope for music after all, and it comes in the form of a hippy chick from Vermont
Rock isn’t dead; in fact it turned up at one of the least likely venues, Tanglewood in Lenox, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra on Monday night and it came on the bus that brought Grace Potter and the Nocturnals to town.
From the minute they took the stage, the crowd was on their feet, and they remained that way the whole way through the band’s energetic 2 hour plus show. From the start, with an up beat “Medicine” off the band’s eponymous 2010 album, Grace had a hold on the crowd.
You like the way she makes you feel
She got you spinning on her medicine wheel
She’s crossing me with magnetic sand
She hypnotize with her mojo hand
The early set was laced with material off the latest album, “The Lion, The Beast and the Beat”, released in late 2012, with “Never Go Back”, “Timekeeper”, “Keepsake” all featured prominently.
From there, Grace launched into a request for “Treat Me Right” a song off her first album, released in 2005 entitled “Nothing But the Water”. Here their jam band roots shown, with a well matured, smoky, sultry version of the song, delivered down tempo. A thoroughly different treatment than the album, or the earlier faster paced, heavier versions of the song.
Over the past couple months I’ve had a customer with on going issues. The biggest single issue was the site was slow to respond in the afternoon. The site is built on WordPress, and this was a nationally known WordPress hosting company.
Whenever we asked them about the issue, we got the standard response that it was due to “your code”. However, they could not point to a simple example. We’re talking about the site taking 10-15 seconds to respond during peak business hours. My customer wasn’t sure who to believe.
The symptom was clear: the shared server was likely overloaded. I looked at the error logs in cPanel and I could see they were hosting a whole lot of domains on the server, and that there were a lot of scripted attacks going on across the spectrum of sites that were hosted there. The same external script hitting site after site after site…
Honestly I did everything in my power to make the site function fast. I cached the heck out of it, minified the css and script files, etc. using W3 Total Cache.
The hosting company continued to argue the problem was code alone. However there was one telling fact: they refused to tell us what the Server Load Average was. Dead give away right there. They either weren’t even looking at the server, or they knew they had a problem.
Their entire hosting service got the blues two weeks ago when “something” happened and they were down for the better part of a day. A major hosting company down for a the better part of a day! So my customer decided it was time to move.
The new server, another shared box, at 1and1.com (I am not recommending them, but I do use them for many things) immediately proved my case; site response improved to 1.5 seconds per page load. Not bad, and in that case, I had not even turned on caching!
The short version is this: hosting companies are a dime a dozen. If you think you’ve got a slow server and the hosting company isn’t doing anything, move. It may be the only way to prove you’re not the problem.