Working Remote Done Right…

Let’s face it, the world changed. Since Covid ended, we’re all working differently. Work from Home doesn’t mean you necessarily have to work from home. The truth is you can work from anywhere. Last week, I worked from my Mom’s place in Lititz, PA, and I’ve worked a few times at Wine & Whiskey’s guest house (you do read their blog, don’t you?), even at White Horse Beach in those cute Calico Seahorse Cabins.

The thing is, working remote, at least for me, is a lot more than firing up my Lenovo W530 and starting to peck away. I do a lot of EDI (electronic data interchange to you luddites) which involves tons of drag and drop. Hence, I prefer not to be using a tiny old laptop screen to do it (Honest, it’s got nothing to do with my aging eyes). I like to carry a flat screen monitor around so I can actual work effectively.

For the record, if you’re going to tote a external monitor around, you’ve got to be careful; very careful in fact. LCD monitors are extremely easy to break, especially if you bang the unprotected corner of it into something hard, like your garage wall. Like it did, the first time.

The second time around, I decided to go with a monitor case. My choice was a 24″ monitor case from Curmio for $35. It’s decent, but I think it only does a marginal job at protecting the edges, so I added a couple strips of pipe insulation to protect the edges. Now it’s easy to carry, and keeps the monitor safe.

I went with a $95 Acer R240HY monitor at Amazon, opting to spend less. It’s decent, so if you’re interested, get it here. I bought it on Prime Day, so you’re probably going to pay a bit more. So far, it works fine.

I like to keep my laptop elevated so it’s even with the screen of the monitor. For that I carry a lightweight laptop stand, like this Ergpollo version (mine doesn’t have a name on it, and I’ve had it for years).

Get yourself a decent keyboard and mouse. Only heathens use laptop keyboards and touch pads. Personally, I use a left hand mouse and really love my Contour Unimouse, which is a little more expensive, but for me well worth it. Heck, I am using it 9 or 10 hours a day. The keyboard is a simple Logitech K120 for $12, which I selected as it’s spill proof. I am dangerous with a cup of coffee, or anything liquid.

Team i all up with a nice rolling laptop bag. I can’t help you with what I bought as mine used to be my mothers and is likely very out of date. Never fear, Lifewire has a review of the top six rolling laptop bags here.

Now all you need is a comfortable chair and functional desk and you can work in style just about anywhere.

Now all you need is a comfortable chair and functional desk and you can work in style just about anywhere.

Unboxing the New WP Gutenberg Editor

Wow, just when I’d thought the way forward in online web publishing was to get rid of “blocks” WordPress brings them back. Not utterly thrilled with that, on first glance, but hey, at least we now we’ve got a better representation of what the content will truly look like when published, before we hit the publish button.

(BTW, there’s a good bit from WP on what’s in the Gutenberg Editor here…)

When you first use the Gutenberg Editor, you will get a demo page showing the basics.  It looks like this:

It’s actually a good place to start, showing you a variety of the blocks that are available. When you look closer, you will find that you’ve got some new features in your right margin. There is both a tab for Document properties, which is mainly the old publish options, and a new tab for “block” properties, such as text size, drop cap, color, etc. (in a basic paragraph context). Standard stuff, although they have added and advanced dropdown which will allow you to apply a custom CSS style

Another interesting feature is the block option dropdown on the block itself (the jury is out on whether this should have been on the right margin block menu in my mind, but hey, it is where it is). This menu gives you neat things like the ability to duplicate a block, add to “Reusable Blocks” and “Remove Block”.

So how about adding a different block type?

First, hover over the left side of the block.  A gray + button will appear. Do your click thing there…

Now you’ll have a menu full of different predefined blocks.  Embeds like Vimeo, Soundcloud, Meetup, etc., widgets for whatever widgetized plugins you’ve got, formatting, layout, as well as any custom blocks you’ve stored.

A word of advice. Working with images, I like to float text next to an image.  It took me a little while to figure out the process here.

  • From previous block, hit enter.
  • To the right side of the new block click the image icon and import.
  • Choose a size, like medium in the block properties menu on the right side margin.
  • Choose your alignment (right) at the top of the image block.
  • Now click the image block and two blue dots will appear.
  • Hit the enter key.
  • You will now be in the paragraph block to the left.
  • Add your text.

So What’s It All Mean

I’ve been saying for a decade that WordPress was not a blogging system, it is a content management system.  This change brings a whole lot more functionality to the product and makes it a much more professional system.  It is more complex, but they have done a good (but not great) job of providing an easy path for less skilled users to follow to get up to speed. 

The thing Gutenberg does very well is it provides developers a way to more easily work with the system to develop cool functionality. It seems much more straight forward, and I’m excited to develop some new functionality to see how it really works.  For now, there’s still a lot to learn.

Maintenance Plan for Small Business Websites offers a Maintenance Plan for Small Business Websites

I just added a post about maintenance plans for small business websites on my business site, If you own a site, you definitely need to read this one.

Let me say this clearly: your website is often the first place customers go before they call you.  What do you think they do when they see a broken website?

They go elsewhere.

You invest in your website and you invest in your brand.  That means you need to ensure they’re being properly maintained.  At the very least:

  • Update software and plugins regularly.  If not monthly, certainly quarterly.
  • Keep your information up to date – do a monthly check that your info is correct.
  • Check that all means of contact through your website work – check all forms are properly submitting, emails are being received, etc.
  • Know when your domain expires and be sure it renews well ahead of time.

Read the whole thing over on – it’s worth it…

The Forgotten Phone Book

How do your customers find you?

One of the things I love about my job is getting to know small business owners and finding out how their businesses work.  It never ceases to amaze me the interesting niches so many of you have found and the interesting clienteles you serve.

When I started in business there were tons of businesses named “AAA Construction”, or “AAAA Window Treatment”.  Business owners did this because they wanted to be sure they came up first in the Yellowpages.  The difference between first position and 8th position on the page could be THE difference in their business.

Today we have a similar problem. While customers don’t actually pick up the yellow pages anymore, they do go to Google, and in a lot of ways they use it exactly like they used to use the Yellow Pages.  Think about it, how would you find a septic pumping service?  You’d probably go to Google and type “septic pumping”.

Google might help you out with a few local results, but I think most of us would then go to a better search “septic pumping Sutton Massachusetts” in my case.  That is most likely going to give me a list of people who do septic pumping in Sutton.

An interesting thing happens though.  While Chase/Harris Septic is located in Sutton, the first company with a search result is Wayland Septic.  Wayland is about 45 miles from here.  Why is that?  Because Wayland Septic has spent the time to optimize for the keywords “Septic pumping Sutton MA” via this page.

The local company is showing up #7 on that search page.  Does that affect their business?  Do you think Wayland Septic is getting more business due to their search position?

Of course, on both accounts.

Try these searches:

Dog Grooming Worcester, MA – See Dog DayzGrooming is either 1 or 2 in the actual organic listings (there may be a directory site or two above).

Buy Carnival Glass – this is a tough worldwide market with thousands of competitive sites – but comes in at #2. right after EBay.

Now think about what other terms your customers might be using to try to find you, and instead may be finding your competitors.  Are you missing out?

If you own a small business, and haven’t optimized your site for local search, you’re missing out on business. Contact me and I can get your phone ringing with new business.

New Site:

Together with Steve Salloway of Davis Advertising, I launched Virtual Ad Club today.  The site is an online community for advertising professionals, inspired by the old meatspace group, the Worcester Advertising Club.

The site will cover general advertising, account services, martech and media ends of the business, as well anything else that generally fits under the general category of advertising.

The site is a WordPress backend, with BBPress forums attached.  This is the first time in a while I’ve worked with BBPress and I must say it has come a long way.  I’m not certain it’s everything vBulletin was, but I think in this case it’s going to fit the bill nicely.

As a bonus, I’ll be writing the occasional bit on martech, which I’m really looking forward to.

If you’re an advertising professional, Virtual Ad Club is the place for you!

Google Will Mark Non-HTTPS Websites as Insecure

Mark Cahill can migrate a Wordpress site from http to https for you

Google, the gift that keeps on giving.

Like that kid that reminds the teacher she didn’t assign any homework before the long weekend, Google again costs website owners money and wastes their time. So now site owners like me need to migrate a WordPress site from http to https.  What are we to do?

Google announced some time ago that their Chrome browser would start marking all sites that do not use the https protocol. as insecure this July. Further, SearchLand has been reporting that for sometime Google’s top search results have returned more than 50% https sites.  In other words, their algorithm is favoring HTTPS sites.

Mark Cahill can convert a wordpress site from http to https for youFor site owners, this means they’ll likely need to buy SSL certificates, install them, and convert, then debug, their sites to get the coveted padlock showing in the Chrome browser.

In a word, this really stinks for owners of large, non-ssl sites.  Like me.

You see, back in the day, we said SSL was only required if you were doing ecommerce and we built our sites accordingly.  Hence we’ve got massive sites like that have gig upon gig of content laden with possibly externally linked images, that won’t pass for HTTPS.


So how do you migrate a WordPress site from http to https?

  1. Setup the cert, do the redirects, import all external image content (or remove it if there are copyright issues), setup the site again in webmaster tools, then hope the change doesn’t roll the dice again on your current search engine rankings.  See you in a couple months…
    I should note here, the problem is external images, not adding the cert.
  2. Ignore it and let Google make an example of you.
  3. Mark Cahill can migrate a wordpress site from http to https for youHire an outsourced team of monkeys to manually find download and replace the images and hope they don’t screw up.
  4. Hire a real engineer to do the migration programmatically.

I was able this morning to update to use the new protocol, and was able to get a script to move the images and rewrite the links in my wordpress setup.  That’s a big thing, as the site had over a thousand posts, with a similar number of images that had been linked from around the web.  As you’ll see, I’ve now got the padlock showing next to the URL in the browser.  Then I did the same thing for and this afternoon I’ve got two more sites on tap.

The short version is this:

The change to SSL/HTTPS can be done, but it’s really not a do it yourself thing if you’ve got externally linked images and you aren’t an engineer.   I can migrate a WordPress site from HTTP to HTTPS quickly and easily at an attractive price.  Contact me

New Site:

Wordpress site with woocommerce Paypal Adaptive integration

I haven’t been doing a lot of freelance over the past couple years, but I have just finished a great site called – 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.

Give it a check and enjoy!


Communications Nightmare

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
  • Corporate email
  • Text from a handful of management types who don’t like any of the previous options

The Corporate Communications NightmareThere 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.”

Just a thought…

Thoughts on Self-Publishing

Self-Publishing Advice from the experience of my first book

Available at

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.



A Surprisingly Good Year

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.
  • I released my book last May.
  • 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 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.

Cheers and Happy New Year.