You Need A Web Presence…

… if you are in business for yourself or if you are an organization with a public face.

If you are starting your own business, if you do free-lance work (or want to), if you are an independent musician, actor, artist, writer, cartoonist, or self-publisher, you need to have your own website, so when anyone searches for your name in a web browser (sometimes referred to as “googling”) they will find you. That way, they can find you and contract for your services (and you can continue to pay the rent and feed the kids)

If you have a Public Service Organization, or a Charity, Fan Club, Guild or any other public organization, you need to a website so people will can find your organization online so they can join up or donate so your group can keep the lights on.

Libreleft books: My Business Blog

The First thing you need is your very own Domain Name

Domain names are unique. There can only be one Libreleft.com and I own that — so long as I pay my annual fee, no one else on the Internet can have that Domain Name.

In the beginning, Domain Name Registration was free, but now it will cost you something, and what it costs varies.

Don’t Use:

A lot of people choose one called GoDaddy because its cheap, but I heave heard such a variety of horror stories, I can’t possibly suggest that — in fact, I will always strongly advise against it. If you can find pages of horror stories about any service, it is probably a good idea to walk on by.

use

I am extremely happy with my Domain Registrar, Register For Less because they have proven very trustworthy from a privacy standpoint (at least until Edward Snowden tells me different — but I don’t think he will.) R4L has always offered Whois Privacy without charge.

Of course, I have no experience with any other Domain Name Registrar, so don’t take my word for it, do research :)

The second thing you need is a Web Host

If you are tech savvy enough to host your own website, you won’t need this article (although you probably know someone who does). If you don’t, you will need to contract with a commercial website Hosting service.on a local service, OR do so through a web platform.

Should you Hire a Pro?

It is certainly easier to pay someone to do it all for you, but there are a couple of things you need to be aware of before you do.

Even if you don’t know what HTML is, the first thing you must insist on is that you have access and control over the website you are paying for. The thing you don’t want to happen is that after you pay for your website but the web designer actually owns your Domain Name and has total control of your site. That can effectively force you to do business with that Web Designer forever and the biggest risk is that you build your brand but lose control of it.

Horror story: I know one non-profit organization that had a volunteer design its site and register the domain name… and when there was a falling out, the guy with the domain locked the organization out and the organization lost all access to its own online content and had to start over from scratch. They could have won in court, but most non-profits don’t want to or can’t afford to go that route.

I am not suggesting web designers are evil, but even the nicest web designer might not always be around. If your web designer controls the only “keys to” your site, and you lose contact with your web designer, you lose control of your site — and your brand. This can have the unhappy side effect of costing you work if your contact information changes.

It is important to have access to your own site after you’ve paid for it, even if you contract with your designer to maintain it, things change. If you suffer financial reverses, you might not be able to continue to pay to have this done for you. And you should always be able to switch to another professional should circumstances warrant it, or maybe you just want access so your grandkid can make regular updates for you.

Or should you Do It Yourself?

There are many different ways to do a website; some want lots of bells and whistles, so if you’re new at this, there will be a pretty steep learning curve.

When you have a domain name and a web host, you need to have something to put there. The most basic function of any website is to serve as a calling card that explains who you are and what you or your organization does and provide a way that your friends, clients and fans can contact you.

A Static Web Page

A basic website is built with a programming language, the current version of which is HTML5. It isn’t particularly difficult, but it isn’t easy either. I learned HTML from a startlingly easy to use set of online tutorials on an awesome website called HTMLdog. (I bought the printed manual to support the author, because it was worth it. And I plug it wherever I can because it was just that good. When I learned it was XHTML, but the whole site has been updated to the new HTML5 standard).

HTML is the primary language of the Internet… as far as I know email and blogs are written in HTML or a variant. So if you have the time to learn how to do it, you can build your own web page in HTML5. This is great for things that rarely change, like your mission statement or FAQ, sample work, list of credits or résumé.

Pretty nearly any website you have to log into in order to use gives the user the option of a profile page. Always fill these in, and include your contact information. If you want to be contacted, the more places people can find you, the better.

There are also web platforms specifically designed to serve as an online business card. Here’s my about.me page and my artist sister Liana Russwurm’s see.me page.

A Blog Web Page

Blog software has changed the Internet, because it makes it much easier to add new content to keep your website fresh.

There are lots of great blog platforms — WordPress, Tumblr, BlogSpot, LiveJournal — as well as some I’ve only just heard of, like Weebly and Overblog — so you can set up a free blog on a variety of web services. This is my historian-writer brother Lani Russwurm’s visual history blog Past Tense on Tumblr, and it’s previous incarnation on Wordpress and it’s original incarnation on blogspot.

Increasingly non-blogging websites like Flickr and GoodReads are allowing users to blog as well.

A blog can be used to discuss and share some of your work with your fans, as cartoonist Nina Paley does, or it can be entirely new content with a view to finding an audience, as my humorist (and/or science fiction) writer brother Larry Russwurm does

I like Tumblr for my visual blogs; I like the archive features (users can look at thumbnails of your entire blog, and I also like the ability to password protect content and allow people to see it without having to register or log in (sometimes called a “registration wall” because users must register (which entails giving out personal information) as well as using a password to access protected content). You can also use it like a regular blog, alothough if you want to have comments, you need to use Disqus to do it. If you decide to use Tumblr, 10 Tips For Problogging On Tumblr has some excellent advice.

My other favorite is Wordpress, which can be used in different ways:

  • You can set up an entirely free blog ~ my first blog is still at WordPress.com. When your free blog starts getting traffic, WordPress will start posting ads there, so you needn’t feel guilty about getting a “free lunch”.
  • If you decide to go ad-free, you can subscribe to a commercial package from Wordpress, which gives you the ability to post your own video (you can only embed from YouTube in the free version) and you can even get your domain name from there
  • You can download the WordPress software (free as in gratis and free as in freedom) from WordPress.org and create a website to host yourself.
  • Even if you choose to blog on WordPress.com as a trial, and decide later you want to self host, you candownload the whole thing and reconstitute it as a self hosted blog if you wish.
This is my Gravatar on my Author blog, but I also use it anywhere anywhere I need an avatar image.

This is my Gravatar on my Author blog, but I also use it anywhere anywhere I need an avatar image.

An avatar — that little photo of you that appears on Facebook, or Twitter or wherever — is the visual manifestation of your “brand.”  It should be your logo if you’re an organization or a business; if you’re an independent contractor or creator, it should be you. Either way, it should be consistent, because like any brand, people will see in a blink that it’s you. Whether or not you use WordPress, you should sign up for a Gravatar; that way when you make comments in many places, your chosen image will accompany what you write.

recommendation

Many of my blog articles (like this one) are something I’ve written because I know someone who needs the information. A lot of people use FaceBook as their calling card, but do you really want to mix your business and personal contacts? If you are using facebook as your business presence, it is necessary to use a Facebook Page, because what you post on your personal page can not be seen outside Facebook.

One of the things I dislike most about Facebook is that all posts you make there are not seen by everyone in your friends list, and Facebook is forever twiddling with the Timeline order in which your posts appear.  And of course, posts can easily get lost. It can be virtually impossible to try and find something you posted on Facebook a while back. Things don’t just disappear off a real website or a blog under your own control.

Even if you’re a big Facebook fan, it’s possible to set Wordpress or Tumblr blogs to post to Facebook.

If all you want right now is a basic online “calling card” my own recommendation would be to choose the blog software you like best and use that to make a static web page. Later on, if you want to expand it into a blog, you’ll be halfway there.

Licensing your Tumblog

copyright jail ~ by question copyright

Tumblr is full of people exuberantly infringing copyright as they share culture. Rather than risking copyright infringement, I prefer to stick to free culture works ~ which are either licensed to share or in the public domain.

I also take care to credit and attribute anything I reblog, even if it is public domain work.

Many Tumblr themes come with a built in Copyright All Righs Reserved declaration.

But if you’re like me, if you think culture should be shared freely, you don’t have to leave your tumblog locked up in copyright – you can give your Tumblog a free culture license instead.

Tumblr allows users to publish our blogs under any license we like.
Here’s how:

There is a menu at the top of your dashboard that has a gear icon (second from the right)

When you click the gear you get a menu
>choose EDIT THEME

Now you’ll be in the customize menu, and in the left sidebar at the top you will see “Custom theme” and directly under this
>>click the link that says Edit HTML >

In the Edit HTML sidebar hold down the Control key and press “F” (for find)
and a search bar will appear at the top of the sidebar

in the search box type © 2014
> press the down arrow and it will take you right to the place that says © 2014

This is where you can type in the details of the license information you wish
to replace © 2014 with:

<a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en_US”><img alt=”Creative Commons License” style=”border-width:0″ src=”http://i.creativecommons.org/l/by/4.0/88×31.png” /></a><br />
<a href=”http://YOURtumblrNAME.tumblr.com/” rel=””cc:attributionURL””>The NAME OF YOUR TUMBLR</a> by YOUR NAME HERE is licensed under a <a href=””http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en”” rel=””license””>Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License</a>

which will look like this:
Creative Commons License
The NAME OF YOUR TUMBLR by YOUR NAME HERE is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Have fun spreading free culture!


Image Credit:
Public Domain Copyright Jail by Nina Paley @ Question Copyright

Phishing: Catch of the Day

Don't get Hooked! (cc by laurelrusswurm)Unlike the Nigerian Scams that try to con people out of money by dangling a large mysterious financial windfall that the grifter will send after you give them a wad of cash, a “Phishing” attack uses bait to hook people, so they can get your personal information for Identity Fraud.

One things you can do to protect yourself when getting email that looks legitimate but that asks you to do something you shouldn’t ~ like giving personal information to a stranger ~ is to hover your cursor over the link you are supposed to click. If the text of the link is different than the actual link, don’t do it.

Phishing attacks pretend to come from someone we trust.  In Canada we pay our taxes to the Canada Revenue Service, so when a Canadian gets an email from them we pay attention.  Thiis is a phishing email I received that pretends to be from CRA:

*Claim Your Tax Refund Online*
We identified an error in the calculation of your tax from the last payment, amounting to $ 146.00.  In order for us to return the excess payment, you need to create a Tax Gateway account after which the funds will be credited to your specified bank account.

Please click “Get Started” below to claim your refund:

Get Started <http://www.cunningruse.com/.tax/>

We are here to ensure the correct tax is paid at the right time, whether this relates to payment of taxes received by the department or entitlement to benefits paid.

An email from the Canada Revenue Agency is likely to make us a little nervous, because most of us will wonder what we have done wrong on our tax return.  But when we read this, we discover it isn’t anything terrible, but an error in our favor which brings welcome relief.  The amount owing isn’t big enough to look fishy, just a small correction.

The crooks who sent this hope our little bit of fear followed by relief will cloud our judgement, so we will click on the link that will take us to a place where they can extract our personal information.  After all, we will be giving the information to the government.

The “Get Started” link actually will send you to a different web page… which hovering reveals leads to www Cunning Ruse dot com.

If your bank, or the government, or any reputable retailer wants your personal information, they will not ask for it through email, because email is not safe, private or secure. Anyone who asks for your personal information in unencrypted email is either foolish or a setting you up for a scam.

Don’t do it.  Privacy Matters.

Privacy vs. Telemarketers: Canada’s “Do Not Call List”

Although I still have misgivings, I am about to register my telephone number on Canada’s National Do Not Call List (DNCL).

I know, you are wondering: if this can stop telemarketing calls, what’s not to love?

In order to register on the National Do Not Call List (DNCL) personal information will be collected, used and disclosed by the National DNCL Operator in order to register, verify and de-register residential, wireless, fax or VoIP telephone number(s) on the National DNCL. The numbers registered by consumers on the National DNCL will be disclosed to telemarketers and clients of telemarketers and other subscribers to the National DNCL to prevent telemarketing calls to those numbers. The numbers may also be disclosed, on a confidential basis, by telemarketers and clients of telemarketers and other subscribers to the National DNCL to another person involved in supplying the subscriber with services to enable compliance with the National DNCL Rules.  In addition, personal information will be collected, used and disclosed by the National DNCL Operator, the CRTC and/or its Complaints Investigator Delegate in order to investigate complaints regarding violations of the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules, to administer and enforce these rules, and for audit and quality assurance purposes. Personal information may also be disclosed to Canadian and/or foreign law enforcement agencies for the purpose of administering or enforcing any law or carrying out a lawful investigation.

The catch 22 is that I must first allow my personal information to be “collected, used and disclosed by the National DNCL Operator in order to register, verify and de-register residential, wireless, fax or VoIP telephone number(s) on the National DNCL.”

If that isn’t bad enough, the National DNCL will then “disclose my registered phone number to telemarketers and clients of telemarketers and other subscribers to the National DNCL to prevent telemarketing calls to those numbers.”

“The numbers may also be disclosed, on a confidential basis, by telemarketers and clients of telemarketers and other subscribers to the National DNCL to another person involved in supplying the subscriber with services to enable compliance with the National DNCL Rules.

In addition, personal information will be collected, used and disclosed by the National DNCL Operator, the CRTC and/or its Complaints Investigator Delegate in order to investigate complaints regarding violations of the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules, to administer and enforce these rules, and for audit and quality assurance purposes. Personal information may also be disclosed to Canadian and/or foreign law enforcement agencies for the purpose of administering or enforcing any law or carrying out a lawful investigation.”

National Do Not Call List

So the deal is, to stop telemarketers from abusing my privacy, I must first give up my privacy by handing my phone number over to an absurdly long list of faceless people and agencies:

  • National DNCL Operator
  • telemarketers
  • clients of telemarketers
  • other subscribers to the National DNCL
  • another person involved in supplying the subscriber with services
  • the CRTC
  • CRTC Complaints Investigator Delegate
  • Canadian law enforcement agencies
  • Foreign law enforcement agencies
Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian

Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian

Canada has been a world leader in the field of Privacy Law, with both federal and provincial privacy commissioners.  Recently I heard Ann Cavoukian talk about how we deserve to have our privacy protected, and that corporations need to implement “Privacy By Design.”

Still, handing over personal data feels like the opposite of personal privacy protection, particularly for someone whose only “loyalty” membership is with my bank that knows how I spend my money.  What is the point of protecting personal information from Facebook and the like if I hand my data over to a government agency that promises to pass it to the very telemarketers I wish to discourage?

Why Now?

Today, I just had a call from a telemarketer who curtly informed me that they “have no list.” When I started to explain the “Do Not Call List” he hung up on me at “Canadian Law.” The alacrity of his hangup suggests the DNCL might actually work. 

So maybe it is time to give the DNCL a shot. If it works, the only disadvantage I can see is that my husband will lose out on the entertainment value he currently derives from telemarketer baiting. When he has time, he makes them work hard, answering questions, providing information, and generally toys with them for as long as possible. The theory is that the best way to make them stop is to cost them money, but the problem is that there are just so many of them — for every company you teach not to call, hundreds or thousands of new ones pop up every day.

experiment

These days it seems as though I’m getting a handful of telemarketer calls every day. Total strangers are calling me up and very often asking for me by name, so they already have some of my personal information. For the past few years I’ve interrupted telemarketer pitches at start with the instruction to “remove me from the list”. I can’t really say whether or not if that helps, because the number of telemarketing calls seems fairly constant, but that’s just an impression; I don’t have any hard data.

Telephone modele U43 MGR Lyon (Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr Rama)To frame this adventure as an experiment, beginning tomorrow, on May 21st, 2013, I will start making a log of all the telemarketing calls we get. A month later, on June 21st, I will register with the DNCL and log the telemarketing calls we get over the following month.

I’ll let you know how it comes out. :)


Image Credits:
Screen Capture from Canada’s National Do Not Call List (DNCL) website

Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian at the 2013 #GOopendata Conference by laurelrusswurm licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Telephone Photograph by Rama, found on the Wikimedia Commons, released under a Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr License

the SPAMbucket #1

When I receive email like this from a total stranger:

“Sorry to disturb you ,
I have a question- have you seen this picture of yours in attachment??
Three facebook friends sent it to me today… why did you put it online? wouldn’t it harm your job? what if parents see it? you must be way cooler than I thought about you man :))))”

. . . the stranger’s intent is clearly to get me to open the attachment. Doing this is guaranteed to be good for the spammer, and bad for me.

I don’t want malware, spyware, viruses etc on my computer.

Don’t do it.

DELETE IT

Rule of thumb:

NEVER open an attachment

in an unsolicited email from a stranger.


Also: I’ve just turned off comments on this blog due to absurd quantities of comment spam. For reasons I don’t understand, the Wordpress blacklist isn’t working, so I can’t even train it to filter.

If you want to post a real comment, send me an email, and I’ll post it.

Facebook Permissions

Yes I am on Facebook. One of these days I’ll explain why. Meantime, I’ll share advice as needed :)

Facebook Apps ask for your permission to post in your name to your friends.

You may not realize this, but the app/games proceed to annoy your friends with requests to play the game.

As far as those being annoyed can tell, it is *you* sending them these annoying messages. Sometimes friends will complain, sometimes they just unfriend.

Just sayin’.


Update

It occurs to me I should have mentioned how to block annoying Apps, especially since Facebook doesn’t make it easy to figure out how to do this, presumably because the corporation receives buckets of cash from the App companies.

When you are at “home” in Facebook, look to the left hand sidebar where you’ll see a heading called APPS, and under it you’ll see “APPs and Games”

Click it and the first heading will be “Invites from friends”

It lists all the “invites” you have received here, beside the avatar of the person who supposedly sent it to you.

Hover your mouse over it and a blue background will appear behind the entree as well as a small blue “x” in the top right hand corner. You don’t actually see the “x” unless you hover, and you don’t know what it gives you unless you click it. Sneaky, eh?

Click on that little blue “x” and you will be given the options to:

  • Hide the request
  • Block the person responsible for the invitation
  • Block the APP — this is the one that will block all future requests from *anyone* playing/using this app.
  • Ignore all requests from the person

TechDITZ Glossary Entry: APPS

— This is simply an abreviation of the word “Applications”which means software programs. Facebook and others make the distiction between “games” and “Apps” because the assumption is that apps are actually useful.