Fees: the death of your brand’s reputation

We’ve all been there: going through the checkout process buying an airline ticket, or a ticket to a concert and at the last possible second: a booking fee or a caredit card fee or any other number of stupid fees that they can concoct. This is awful for business and I encourage you to build your costs into the fees you charge your customers/clients.

I’ve long had thoughts about fees charged by service providers but a recent experience annoyed me enough to want to write about it.

I booked a trip to Boston to be with family up there over the 4th of July (which always gives me mixed emotions). Owing to the holiday, flights were fairly expensive, so I opted for the cheapest ticket which happened to be with Spirit Airlines.

I was happy with Spirit, having nabbed a reasonably-priced flight over the holiday weekend and everything was going well until it came time to check in.

During the check-in process, Spirit let me know that there is a fee for checking a bag. Okay: that’s to be expected given the current climate in the airline industry and the fact that this is a budget airline. However, what I was not prepared for is that aside from a free, small personal item, they also charge you for your carry-ons. And they’re not cheap. Continue reading “Fees: the death of your brand’s reputation”

Mechanical music

Using 2000 marbles and a hand-crafted machine, Wintergatan has made an enormous music box that is mesmerising to watch

My wife happened upon this YouTube video today and I was just blown away by how creative it was.

Wintergatan is a Swedish folktronica band that have spent the last two years ago building a giant music box out of wood, metal and LEGO that uses steel marbles to play instruments including a bass guitar, vibraphone and drums.

I have watched this several times, in awe at how each marble is lifted into place and rhythmically fired towards an instrument to hit the right note at the right time. So creative.

Continue reading “Mechanical music”

Get a short URL from YOURLS in Zapier

With the incredible Code by Zapier app, getting a short URL for any URL you have is very easy using the API in YOURLS. I used this strategy to promote new content from my websites on social media using the item’s short URL.

I love automating things. For a few years now I’ve configured my site using Jetpack’s Publicize module in conjunction with Buffer to automatically post new content to my social networks. However, there’s a couple of limitations with that approach:

  1. Publicize seemingly won’t let you use the post’s short URL,
  2. You have little control over when these posts go out on social media.

With my new found love of Zapier, I sought to rectify both of these issues. Continue reading “Get a short URL from YOURLS in Zapier”

My unremarkable story of becoming a WordPress core contributor

My story of becoming a WordPress core contributor is a big deal for me but very insignificant to anyone else. Nonetheless, this is how it happened and why you can now rest in the knowledge that WordPress uses standard terminology for “front end” and “back end” and a WordPress post embed won’t cause an authentication dialog box to show up in certain situations. You’re welcome.

It has been a goal of mine to become a WordPress core contributor for a few years now. I’ve tried on a couple of occasions but made more of a concerted effort last year.

I was aware of the Good First Bugs list and started there at the onset of the WordPress 4.5 development cycle in January 2016. I opened each ticket to see whether a patch had been submitted. I found a couple where patches were not present and where not much in the way of changes were required in order to put forward a suitable patch, thus increasing my chances of putting forth an acceptable patch. Continue reading “My unremarkable story of becoming a WordPress core contributor”

Automate your life or business with Zapier

Zapier is in the business of connecting over 500 of the most popular online services by connecting triggers (such as new Stripe transactions or new Instagram posts) and creating actions from them (such as publishing tweets or entering transactions in QuickBooks) which can make predictable, repeatable business and personal tasks much easier by automating them.

It is no secret that I’m a huge fan of automation. I’ve previously discussed how to create items on your To Do list from form entries and how to automatically track all of your deliveries in an iPhone app. So when I decided to move my accounting to QuickBooks and employ my mother-in-law as my accountant to maintain my books, I sought to overhaul how my books were managed and to make the process as easy as possible for my new accountant.

This is where Zapier comes in. I had long known about Zapier since it was a fledgling service, aiming to join up the mountain of online services which provide and/or receive information but don’t necessarily speak directly to one another. For example, you might want to create a new tweet every time you posted a new image on Instagram or create a new message in Slack whenever you received an email matching a specific set of criteria, such as a new statement notification. Continue reading “Automate your life or business with Zapier”

A call for WordPress developers

I’m in a position now where there’s simply not enough hours in the day to complete all of the work that comes my way. If you can help, let me know and let’s see about working together.

I’m fortunate enough to have been working with WordPress for a number of years now and have built up a good client base to support my business.

However, add that substantial growth to having a wife and now, two young children and there’s simply not enough hours in the day. In order to keep serving my existing clients, responding to new requests and growing the business, I am needing to rely more and more on others to help me complete the work that comes my way.

I’m looking to build a pool of freelancers (not agencies) that are very proficient with WordPress whom I can send work out to. You can take as much or as little work as you want as your schedule will allow. Continue reading “A call for WordPress developers”

This is what the websites of central governments should look like – a homage to gov.uk

gov.uk is the gateway to everything that the UK Government has to offer online and since 2012, it has been a shining example of how so much information can be well organised and provided for people for all abilities (both technical and physical) to use.

Government is not usually at the leading edge of, well anything, but not least technology.

As the noughties rolled on, the UK Government had a wealth of information online, but it was so fragmented that you couldn’t be sure if you were reading the most up-to-date information or whether you were getting the information from the right source.

This is very typical of most governments in the modern age. If anything, we were probably ahead of most just by having that information online somewhere as opposed to other countries which may have been slower to put this information online.

In 2011, the Government Digital Service was created with a mandate to completely revolutionise the Government’s digital offerings and to adopt a “digital by default” approach where every service and piece of information is planned from the outset to be available or delivered digitally. Continue reading “This is what the websites of central governments should look like – a homage to gov.uk”

Why Uber should and will win out over cabs

Uber isn’t killing the livelihoods of cabbies and taxi owners. They’re doing that to themselves by refusing to innovate and rise to the challenge presented by Uber.

I’m betting that a good portion of Uber’s income goes straight into the pockets of lawyers. For years now, Uber have been defending their service in countless nations, states, counties and cities in expensive and protracted lawsuits.

For those who have been living under a rock for the past 5 years, Uber is a service that connects people who need a ride with people with a car. It’s similar to the very familiar concept of taxis, except that one must privately order a ride from an Uber driver rather than hailing an Uber on the street.

Uber has been immensely successful and taxi drivers and owners rightly see this as a threat to their livelihood. Someone came up with a better way for connecting drivers and riders than the centuries old method that most cabs continue to employ. Now anyone with a smartphone can quickly and easily say where they are and where they want to go and an Uber will typically be able to pick them up within a few minutes. Continue reading “Why Uber should and will win out over cabs”

Free high-security SSL certificates through Let’s Encrypt

Let’s Encrypt is making the Internet much more secure by providing strong SSL certificates completely free.

Ever tried installing an SSL certificate on your website? Sucks, doesn’t it? The whole process around procuring and installing SSL certificates is so archaic and cumbersome that it sends shudders through the body of anyone facing it.

After Edward Snowden let the world know that everyone is watching everything you do online, we started to realise that we should be able to use the Internet without every benign and every private bit of data being visible to others. The answer to this problem: encryption.

Encryption scrambles data between the provider (say, a website, server or application) and its end user, such that if the data is intercepted anywhere between the two, it can’t be read. If you own a website, the way you encrypt data sent to and from it is through an SSL certificate.

Late last year, several do-gooders came together and agreed that the status quo for producing and installing SSL certificates was terrible. So they set about changing it, and with the vision of allowing anyone to produce and install an SSL certificate with the greatest of ease and with zero cost, they created Let’s Encrypt: a non-profit certificate issuing authority. Continue reading “Free high-security SSL certificates through Let’s Encrypt”