Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is your password on the hackers top 25 list?

The end of year lists have started! Splashdata have published the 25 worst passwords for 2011.  The list was compiled based on millions of stolen passwords posted online by hackers. Here it  is:

1. password
2. 123456
3. 12345678
4. qwerty
5. abc123
6. monkey
7. 1234567
8. letmein
9. trustno1
10. dragon
11. baseball
12. 111111
13. iloveyou
14. master
15. sunshine
16. ashley
17. bailey
18. passw0rd
19. shadow
20. 123123
21. 654321
22. superman
23. qazwsx
24. michael
25. football

Did you see yours? If your password is on the list you might want to change it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Upgrade time

Back at work after a week in the south island so it was time to upgrade to iOS5 on my iPad. The little iPad was my "work" machine while I was away. Rather then a laptop I chose to take the smaller iPad with it's bluetooth keyboard - worked a treat. As I was relying on it there was no way I was going to upgrade to the new OS just before going away.
All up it took about 2 hours to do the downloads, perform the upgrade and connect to iCloud - sweet!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Where to post your status!

Confused by social media and not sure where to post your status. KISA sent me this handy flowchart to help you decide.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My old t-shirts remind me of websites

Its time to get out last summers t-shirts. The weather is warmer and more dependable.  I can categorise my old t-shirts as follows

  • quality t-shirts I want to keep
  • quality t-shirts that are already out of fashion
  • stretched saggy ones - poor quality
I'm always grateful when my quality t-shirts last a couple of summers. My biggest disappointment is when I love a t-shirt and it goes all saggy and baggy with just a few washes. Its not just the waste of money, its the waste of time - all that shopping time wasted!

Those t-shirts remind me of websites in that ...

  • when you commision a website that goes out of fashion next year, you are in for an upgrade earlier than you expected ... a waste of time and money.
  • your old, cheap website can quickly start to look like that saggy, baggy t-shirt which is not a good look for your organisation
  • your quality website will look good next year and the year after, it will be easy to update and you will wear it with pride
We strive to build quality websites and software for people. Looking back at last seasons websites I believe we achieved that goal, thanks to our customers for being open minded and make some tough decisions.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How people use websites and cloud software

This week we will be delivering a beta, or test version of the software we have developed to record patients (anonymously) who have agreed to participate in a double-blind medical trial.  We have already spent a considerable amount of time observing people using the website and using the results to improve the software.

One of the most significant lessons in all this "watching" is that people show us through their actions or behaviour, how they will use the website and often this differs to what they tell us they will do or want.

The research co-ordinators at Wellington ICU, who start using the software this week,  will be entering real data and giving feedback on the software. This is the 3rd stage of a simple process we use to find out how people actually use a website or piece of software. The 3 stages are:

Stage 1

During the first stage I gave a set of tasks to perform, on the website, to 3 people. Tasks like

  • log in to the website as a Research co-ordinator and invite other users within your site
  • randomise a patient and allocate a treatment pack to them
  • add 2 patients to the screening log
While my test subjects were performing the tasks I wrote notes on how they interacted with the website. We also videoed the session so we could go back and view the interaction. 

Stage 2

This stage was similar to stage 1 but this time we used people who would be using the software and had a background using medical trial software. Where stage 1 gave us information on how a person might interact with the software, stage 2 gave us information about how an informed user might interact with the software. An example of the difference is the people in stage 1 used the mouse to navigate the website and the forms, whereas the people in stage 2 used the mouse for navigation but used tabs for the forms.

Stage 3

In the 3rd stage the actual users of the software get a chance to "play" with it. The results of this stage are useful in familiarising the users with the software before they begin using it "for real" and they get to give us feedback. We use that feedback to correct any errors that may have slipped through our testing process and make subtle improvements to the website.

We use this information to make the website easier to use, make the software more efficient and to tell us if things are working the way the customer (or end user) is expecting them to work.

Aggregating Content

Our blog is undergoing a redesign ... not just the look but also the structure. In my mind structure/function and look must always go together, as to which comes first ... thats the topic of another post, not yet written.
It's getting:

  • a new name
  • new purpose
  • more people writing to it
Hope you like it and please, tell us how we are doing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Facebook face recognition is on - heres how to turn it off

Facebook has been really sneaky and rolled out a fabulous (!) new feature that helps friends tag you in photographs. They've kept it pretty quiet but this is how it works.

When a someone posts a photo on Facebook, the photo recognition software tags friends in the photo with names that Facebook thinks match the faces. This is a great feature in iPhoto but creepy in Facebook. You can untag yourself in any photo but if you want to stop it happening at all you need to change your privacy settings.

How to disable automatic face recognition
You can disable the face recognition for your account by changing your privacy settings. Heres how:

  1. Go to "Account" ---> "Privacy Settings"
  2. Click on  "Customise Settings"
  3. Scroll down to "Suggest photos of me to friends"
  4. Click on "Edit Settings"
  5. Change "Enabled" to "disabled" and click on "Ok" to save

Hope this helps - email me or comment here on how you get on.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ICONZ Case Study

Just noticed this week that the case study ICONZ did on our hosting has been published. See

21 Social Media Terms

  1. Blog – A tool used by writers around the globe to connect with readers. The most popular blogging platforms include WordPress, Typepad and Blogger.
  2. Delicious – A free online bookmarking service. When someone tags an article, video or blog post with a Delicious bookmark, it’s the equivalent of getting a “vote.”
  3. Digg – Similar to Delicious in that people vote for articles, videos and blog posts. If your content gets enough Diggs, it’s promoted to the front page for millions of visitors to see.
  4. Facebook – A social network that connects people with friends, family and business associates. Facebook is the largest social network in the world with more than 500 million users.
  5. Flickr – A social network that allows users to store photos online and then share them with others through profiles, groups, sets and other methods.
  6. Foursquare — Foursquare is a mobile check-in service that allows people to get points every time they visit their favorite restaurant, bar, coffee shop or whatever. The more points you get, the more likely you’ll be the recipient of special offers from that establishment.
  7. HootSuite – HootSuite allows you to manage multiple social media profiles, pre-schedule tweets or posts and view metrics.
  8. Like – Instead of writing a comment for a message or a status update, a Facebook user can click the “Like” button as a quick way to show approval and share the message.
  9. LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site that is mainly used for professional networking.
  10. Reddit – Reddit is similar to Digg and Delicious. It is a social news site that is built upon a community of users who share and comment on stories.
  11. Skype – A free program that allows for text, audio and video chats between users.
  12. StumbleUpon – A platform that’s similar to Digg, Delicious and Reddit. When you rate a website that you like using StumbleUpon, you automatically share it with like-minded people around the globe.
  13. Technorati – Real-time search for user-generated media (including blogs) by tag or keyword. Also provides popularity indexes.
  14. TweetDeck – An application that connects users with contacts across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and more.
  15. Tweetup – A Tweetup is an organized or impromptu gathering of people who use Twitter.
  16. Twitter – Twitter is a platform that allows users to share 140-character-long messages publicly. User can “follow” each other as a way of subscribing to each others’ messages. Additionally, users can use the @username command to direct a message towards another Twitter user.
  17. Twitter Search – Twitter Search is a search engine operated by Twitter to search for Twitter messages and users in real-time.
  18. Vimeo – Vimeo is a video sharing service in which users can upload videos to be hosted online and shared and watched by others.  
  19. Webinar – A webinar is a live video event such as a meeting, training, or presentation that takes place via the Internet.
  20. WordPress – WordPress is a content management system and contains blog publishing tools that allow users to host and publish blogs.
  21. YouTube – A video sharing service where people can upload videos to be hosted online.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Email list growth tactics - level of effectiveness

In March this year Marketing Sherpa published the results from a survey on the most effective email list growth tactics. This survey was conducted amongst 1,100 marketers, to gauge how important a variety of tactics were considered to be, from the point of view of their respective organizations. Here's what they found:
Getting people to sign up to your newsletter is about building trust and offering value - such as offering a download - not simply throwing up a form and hoping that people will stumble upon it.

Facebook just got better for non-profits

Establishing new relationships and growing supporters are huge undertakings for non-profits. Social media tools, such as Facebook, are becoming critical in ensuring non-profits efforts are successful. This month Facebook announced its launch of a new resource centre designed to support not-for-profit organisations. The page, "Non-Profits on Facebook" offers tutorials, open discussions and educational material to specifically help not-for-profits.

Some of the resources published and available through the Non-profits on Facebook page include:

The Guide for Non-profits includes set-up instructions in addition to best practices for using the network and connecting with online communities.

The new resource center already has more than 425,000 Likes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Understanding Facebook Pages for Business

Are you on Facebook? What about your business?
If you’re a business owner you really need to set up a Fan Page or else you risk being left behind as more businesses shift to social networks like Facebook. My upcoming workshop is a guide to understanding business "Pages" on Facebook.

The workshop will look at:
1. The difference between personal and business pages
2. How to setup your business page
3. What privacy settings you can use to prevent or control access to your personal information

Before attending the workshop you should have a personal Facebook page, known as a Facebook profile. If you need help with setting this up you can download my "Signing Up to Facebook" guide from the free resources on our website.
Ideally you will have some personal experience of Facebook but you don't need any business experience of Facebook.

The workshop details:
4:30pm on Wednesday 23rd March 2011
4:30pm on Wednesday 30th March 2011
At Spiral, Level 1, 240 Jackson St, Petone
Will run for approx. 90 minutes.

Arrive early if you would like afternoon tea which will be served from 4pm.

The cost to attend is $80 for the public. The event is free for Spiral clients.
Please rsvp to

Christchurch and Twitter

An aerial shot of Christchurch from a helicopter carrying Pri... on TwitpicIt takes just seconds to post a status update to Twitter which means Twitter can break news even before the news stations. Within minutes of the earthquake in Christchurch people were tweeting about the disaster. At a time when many people in Chch didn't have radio or television coverage Twitter provided status updates for them via their mobile phones.

You can find out whats happening in Christchurch by searching for the hashtags
  • #christchurch 
  • #eqnz
or looking at the twitter handles:
The Japanese earthquake is #eqjp

... and if you don't know what these #tags mean you can go on over to the Twitter glossary and look them up.

Cloud Computing & Disasters

We are all reeling from the results of the latest earthquake in Japan coming so soon after our dear friends and families in Christchurch had the ground and their lives shaken.  Once we are over the shock it would be a good time to start thinking about disaster recovery and being prepared. We've put a bit of thought into disaster recovery and backup.

After the shock of Christchurch we, like so many others, took stock of our emergency plans. Our first priority is our people so we have upgraded our emergency kit, adding more water to it, extra food for us, and dog food for Myst. We've also made it easier to find in case its surrounded by rubble. After looking after the team here at Spiral our focus will shift to looking after our customers interests. People use our software to:
  • update their websites
  • manage their membership databases
  • manage and sell products online
  • send email newsletters and promotions
This software resides on servers in Auckland and Sydney.  If there is a local earthquake we are confident that a customer with electricity and a computer they will be able to use our software immediately. Both server sites have off-site backups.

We write software that runs in "the cloud" so it's only logical that a lot of our processes are managed by cloud software.  We also use other peoples cloud software, namely
  • Basecamp for project Management
  • Highrise for our Customer Database
  • Google Apps for documents, calendars and email
  • Xero for financial reporting and invoicing
  • Nautilus (our software) for updating website content
Our team can work anywhere from Napier to Petone to Canada to the UK. Supporting the flexible working arrangements we have implemented was the major driver behind setting all this up. While setting this up we have accidentally created an amazing disaster recovery situation. If our building in Petone was damaged by fire or natural disaster we would have all our critical data available immediately and could be back in operation as soon as we had access to electricity.

As for that server in Auckland - we deliberately commissioned the servers that your software, databases and websites are on in Auckland, rather than use another excellent provider here in the Hutt Valley. We backup all our data, and your data, to our local server here in Petone to cover any Auckland disaster.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

We are looking for someone who wants a FREE website

Each year we do a pro-bono project for a community organisation. So far we we dont have a deserving candidate for 2011. Take a look at some of our past pro-bono work and apply to us at Spiral if you think we can help you.

Rotary Club of Hutt Valley - 2010

The Rotary Club needed a website to:
  1. Encourage people to visit the club 
  2. Show the clubs history and provide a place to expand the historical information about the club
  3. Support new and existing members
The website meets the goals plus it provides a "members only section" for club notices and information.

Jackson Street - 2009

Jackson Street is a heritage precinct managed by a locally elected board and funded by a levy on local landlords. Many people contribute to making Jackson Street a success story. The street is growing in popularity, not just with the locals with people coming from outside the region to visit the street.
The old website was dated, boring and did not reflect the old world charm and diversity of the street so we revamped it.

MIRO - Mainland Island Restoration Operation - 2008

MIRO (Mainland Island Restoration Operation) is a volunteer group who work in partnership with Greater Wellington Regional Council in East Harbour Regional Park. To:
  • protect and restore the natural forest and lakes ecosystem of EHR
  • eliminate pests, both plant and animal 
  • see vulnerable trees, birds, insects and fish flourish again
  • reintroduce native species lost to the Park
The website was designed to:
  • encourage new volunteers
  • support the existing volunteer network
  • provide news about events and projects 

The website includes our CMS and is simply maintained by one of the volunteers.

What we are looking for in a pro-bono project
As software developers we excel at providing software that meets the needs and goals of the organisation we are working with. We can provide:

  • software development
  • website management software
  • websites
  • facebook pages
  • database management software
and maybe a sprinkling of Twitter.

We work best with organisations that have a person committed to managing the web presence of their organisation and have strong content writing skills or the ability to engage a content writer for the website.

To submit your organisation for consideration please email Audrey with a short paragraph about why you need our help.

Sorry! you need TWO email addresses

Email is here to stay, until we can find a better (quicker?) method of remote communication, you better get used to it and you need to show your customers you know how to use it correctly.

If you think you can get away with as your business email address AND your family email address - think again. As I have mentioned in previous posts it is important for your professional image to use an email address for your business that uses your domain name. Professional  email addresses look like:
  • etc
Unprofessional email addresses look like

they just don't cut it in todays business world.

Business vs Personal
You can split email communication into two types - business and personal. Don't confuse them! Having your business email send to your personal, or worse family, email is confusing and unprofessional. Having your personal email sent to work is wasting your time and what happens when you sell the business or leave? Take the example of the CEO of a small 15 person company. She has as her email address. To provide continuity of service and proper support for important customers the new CEO will need to receive the previous CEO's emails - do you really want your private life paraded in front of a stranger?  

There is no excuse for not having your very own email address. The proliferation and ready availability of free email addresses from Yahoo and Google mean its easy, quick and free to setup your own email address. You don't even need your own computer - you can use a computer at work, at a friends or in a public place like the library.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Opens & Clicks for Mailroom Users

A brief explanation of the Opened & Clicked terms in Mailroom.

Opened means someone has opened the mail (hopefully to read it). This statistic does not include emails that have been read in preview mode. The best way to treat "Opens" is to look at trends and remember they will actually be higher than recorded.

Total Opened
The total number of times your campaign was viewed by your recipients. This means that if you send a campaign to 2 recipients and one reads your email twice while the other reads it once, the total opened will be 3.

Unique Opened
The unique opened does not take repeat opens into account, meaning the figure represents the total number of recipients that actually opened your campaign.

The Clicks data provides a number of important figures about the links in your campaign. As an example, "2,481 (14.28%) recipients clicked 7 links" tells us the following:
A total of 2,481 recipients clicked at least one link.
This resulted in a click-through rate of 14.28%.
All up, 7 different links in the campaign were clicked.

It may be a link to your website or an extension of the article in the newsletter. You can deliberately encourage "clicks" by putting a summary of the article in the newsletter with a link to the full article residing on your website or blog.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How to look like an amateur - is this you?

Heres some tips to looking casual and amateurish:
  • Don't get a domain name
  • Have your car sign-written with your yahoo, gmail or paradise email address
  • use your ISP email address on your emails eg
  • Get the wrong domain name eg use when your are a company and should use
I see examples of these nearly every day. Having a domain name, which will cost you between $40 & $70, is worth it just for the level of professionalism it adds to your business on your email communications. Heres how to look professional:
  • register a relevant domain name for your business
  • use it as your email address eg
  • keep your Yahoo, GMail & ISP email addresses for your personal stuff
TIP: You can create an email alias to combine your personal and work email addresses yet still look professional.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Confusion about virtual servers could undermine your decisions

There is misconception and confusion regarding shared servers vs virtual servers. Having a basic understanding of the difference will help you quickly make good decisions about your website or web application hosting.  Virtual servers provide the most robust, dependable solution available at this time while shared servers (if not set up 100% correctly) have the potential to open your website up to poor performance or at worst, to hackers.

Shared Servers
Shared servers are an older technology where many websites/companies shared a server and even a database. The software running on the server portions up the server and shares slices of it to the multiple users. When the server fills up you need to setup an additional server or add more resources in a tricky process that can involve periods of down-time. Its a bit like cutting up a cake, there is only so much to go round and when its all gone you have you have to make another one if you want more cake.

For startup companies, a shared server keeps the initial capital outlay down - we started like this. As soon as we were able we purchased our own dedicated server and moved all our websites, databases and applications onto our new dedicated server.

Dedicated Servers
Dedicated servers are owned by one company. They are dedicated to running just that companies applications/websites or they could be dedicated to running a single website/application. When we setup our dedicated server, we called it Kauri for strength and growth. Kauri is still running and many of our customers still have websites hosted there. It's working well - even better since we moved all our databases and some of our bigger websites onto the virtual server we commissioned earlier in 2010.

Virtual Servers
Virtual servers look like a dedicated server from a software view. They are totally autonomous, like Kauri. The key difference is in the hardware. Instead of the server software sitting on just one hard (physical) server, it sits across a bank of servers which can be added, changed or removed without impacting on any of the individual virtual servers. The changes are managed by the server software, in our case, the world leader VMWare.

Large organisations have been using virtual server technology for years so it was exciting to find a similar offering in the SMB market. We commissioned our new server, called Pounamu, in early 2010 and experienced an increase in dependability measured by less call-outs for our team. The benefits of a virtual server, and why we have one are:

  1. Dependability. If any one of the physical servers in the array has a problem the software switches the work-load off that server and spreads it across the rest of the servers. Then the problematic hardware can be replaced or fixed without affecting the performance of your website in any way.
  2. Scaleability. Many websites start of with a small amount of traffic. Later, some experience significant growth and may need more disk space or processing power. With a virtual server additional CPU, RAM or storage can be commissioned and operational in as little as 2 hours! A process that used to take days.

With the virtual server technology, we can have a new dedicated server setup and running an application in a couple of days or changes made to cope with a sudden increase in web traffic in just 2 hours - it's  phenomenal!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Are you using The Web or The Internet?

If you are using The Web then you are also using The Internet but if you are using The Internet you may not be using The Web. People often use the the two terms interchangeably but at Spiral it's important we define the two terms correctly so we can focus our services where our expertise lies - on The Web. So what's the difference?

What is The Internet?
In a nutshell, The Internet is a massive network of networks. A worldwide infrastructure that connects millions of computers and networks. Information travels across this infrastructure via a number of different protocols of which HTTP (The Web) is just one. These protocols include:

  • HTTP - Hypertext Transfer Protocol
  • HTTPS - Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol
  • Telnet - bidirectional text communications
  • USENET - distributed discussion system. Often used for news servers.
  • FTP - File Transfer Protocol
  • IP - Internet Protocol
  • SMTP - Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. For delivering mail.
  • POP - Post Office Protocol. For retrieving mail.
  • IMAP - Internet Message Access Protocol. For accessing email from multiple devices.
History of The Internet
The architecture and design of the Internet was conceived in 1973. Email predates the Internet, it started in 1965 as a way for multiple users on a computer to communicate. 
In 1983 the Internet proper was born when the global network switched to using TCP/IP for communications (still in place today) and the University of Wisconsin created the Domain Name System (DNS). The World Wide Web was released in 1992.
What is The Web?
The World Wide Web (WWW) is a way of accessing information across the Internet. A turning point for The Web was the release of the Mosaic web browser in 1993, making it easier for regular folk to use the web.
The Web uses the HTTP protocol to share information over the Internet. You  use your web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari etc) to access web pages that are linked to each other via hyperlinks. Those pages may also contain text, images, video, sound etc.

Queen Elizabeth II sent her first email in 1976.