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Google Tag Manager – Getting Started

Google Tag ManagerGoogle Tag Manager has been around for a little while now but I notice many people or companies are kind of nervous about getting into it. Up until 1-2 years ago, there weren’t many easy-to-understand resources on the web to explain the tool concisely, however, this is not so much the case today.

Rather than me go through an explain what it is I will refer you to these great resources around the internet.

About Google Tag Manager

The first video by Jason Whaling explains what Tag Manager is and why you should be using it.

Getting Started/Setup

The second video is by Loves Data, Benjamin explains how to get started with Google Tag Manager from when you sign up, find the code to place on your website and connect to Google Analytics.

WordPress Installation

During the sign up on Google Tag Manager, you will need to place some code on your website.  For those using WordPress there are plugin’s to help you do that but if you are using the Avada Theme, as many people do, you can follow the instructions that are described in the following useful video:

I hope these simple Google Tag Manager tips are helpful in setting it up on your website.

If you aren’t used to the Google Tag Manager interface and want to learn more there are many resources over YouTube and on other websites. Generous experts will often share their ‘recipes” which you can use inside your own Tag Manager account, these are always super useful.

Good luck and enjoy.

By |2019-02-27T21:45:56+00:00February 27th, 2019|Technology|0 Comments

Financial Services Compensation Scheme Scam Email

I received a scam email from someone who claimed to be from the UK’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme which I have been following up with the organization who has now handed it over the police. A journalist at the Financial Times, Rachel Addison, picked up the story. The text of the email is below.

It was pretty easy to know that it was a scam, as follows:

  1. It wasn’t addressed to me personally, just a “Good Day”.
  2. English is very poor including many spelling mistakes. “Hope to read from you soon” – LOL.
  3. Some text copied from the website, some obviously weren’t.
  4. I’ve never had any relationship with this organisation.
  5. Going through their LinkedIn page there is no one of that name there.
  6. Most telling is reviewing the email headers which is a reply-to email address of a company in Russia.

Obviously, the best policy is to not to click on any of the links, do not reply to their email or phone them, mark the email as junk and ensure it’s been deleted. If they are fraudulently impersonating an organization then you could report it to them.

FSCS Scam

By |2019-02-05T23:35:10+00:00February 5th, 2019|Technology|0 Comments

Apple Products

Apple ComputerToday was a bad day on the stock market as Apple announced a slowdown for what it relates to the Trade War with China but generally, there is a slowdown in that sector. Consumers don’t appear to be buying as many iPhones as they used to, waiting for longer periods of time to update their technology, also, everyone who wants one probably has one by now.

I reflect on this relating to my opinion of Apple.

iPhones

I am still on the iPhone 6 and have no plans on upgrading as they are extremely expensive for something I don’t use that often, I am not a power user.  The latest iPhone’s can be anything from CAD$649 to CAD$1029 depending on whether you trade in your old model, that is way too pricey to make a frequent investment.  I don’t need to upgrade to use the latest camera or any of the built-in tool that the newer models come with as long as I can run the few apps I need on the device. I wouldn’t consider moving away from Apple right now because I don’t like the Android Operating System at all and have bought apps needed for my business that I don’t want to have to re-buy again for another OS.

iPad

I have a really old iPad which cannot install the latest apps now but I am happy with what I use it for.  Basically, I read comics, books and magazines on it in an app that doesn’t need upgrading for the time being. Because of the weight of an iPad I find it more enjoyable reading from my desktop computer than my heavy iPad so I feel, for such minimal use, it’s not worth upgrading. A new one would cost minimum CAD$999, eeek.

Mac

I have just bought a new Mac Desktop but that was thanks to our moving company destroying my old computer and the insurance providing the funds to buy a new one.  I had my old computer for 8 years. Compared with PCs they are horrendously expensive to replace.

Summary

So, for me, upgrading is all about price.  Apple is obviously better quality than PCs but there is a hefty price to pay for that luxury. So, I won’t upgrade that often.  Now, Apple could bring down its prices and I would be tempted to buy more frequently and maybe that would tempt other people to do the same which could be a boost for the company but right now they don’t make that possible for me.

By |2019-01-03T23:15:55+00:00January 3rd, 2019|Technology|0 Comments

Scam Amazon Emails

This is the time of year when email spam increases as criminals try their best to extort money from shoppers in search of deals.  It is definitely worth being careful with every email you receive, to scrutinize it accordingly.

Some of the ways you can do that are to ensure your email program or webmail doesn’t automatically download images.  An image is used in messages to ping back to those who sent it to confirm its been opened. Once they confirm it has been opened they will likely send you more spam, or your email address will go on a wider circulation to other spammers.

I will check my webmail before downloading into my email program. That way I not only address the spam I have received but also delete any other rubbish.

Do not be tempted to click on any of the links inside the message if it looks suspicious. For example, if you get an email from what looks like PayPal about your account then login through your browser to review any actions you need to take.

I am using an Amazon related email I have received this week to evaluate whether it’s spam or not:

primawards.com

You will not that this is a play on Amazon’s branded Prime Awards product, but the spammer has dropped an “e”.

Usually, just by looking at the low quality of the email received you should be able to tell that it’s spam, for example, bad English, terrible design. Amazon hires highly professional designers and marketers for its email marketing so just assess whether you think a manager there would signoff on such dodgy looking work. You can look up design quality and use of the English language without downloading images, which you souldn’t do unless you are sure it’s not spam.

Here are a couple of basic steps to assess whether the email is spam.

Step One: Lookup the domain’s WhoIs record

There are a number of WhoIs services to lookup a domain such as whois.com.

Initially, I will look up a legitimate Amazon company domain name first.  You can use this information to compare against the potential spam email domain.
WhoIs Record for Amazon.

Now, look up the above primawards domain’s WhoIs record (the domain I got from the email address it was sent from, so just use the portion in red info@primawards.com). You can see that the registrant has a gmail address, Amazon would not use Google Mail in their communication and definitely not as a technical contact. The address registered in the domain is clearly not an Amazon office, look it up in Google Maps to clarify that. Spammers will often use a false address or even a Post Office Box, that could even be false.
WhoIs Record for primawards.

You will see that the spammer used Namecheap to register their domain. You can double check with the provider that Amazon normally use (Mark Monitor) against what this spammer has used.  Now you have the domain provider you may contact them to do something about it, read NameCheap’s excellent blog on this subject, the company is very good at following up with these type of complaints. Please ensure you contact them only about NameCheap related domains.

Step Two: Look up addresses given in the email

To make themselves look more legit spammers will often provide 1 or more physical addresses in their emails.  Simply copy and paste them into Google Maps and you will find out they absolutely do not belong to an Amazon office.  Will use the addresses in the spam I received:

616 Corporate Way Ste.2-9092, Valley Cottage, NY 10989 – this looks like a USAMail facility, a company that redirects mail. Definitely not an address that Amazon would use.

3901 SW 47th Ave #405, Davie, FL 33314 – I can’t tell what is at this address, a small business park but definitely not registered to Amazon.

Another common theme with Spammers

One of the things that stick out for me is the TLD (top-level domain) spammers are using.  If anything has an .icu .bid .sport or others that are not .com .org .net then that will raise an alarm bell with me.  In fact, I have blocked all .icu domains all of which go to my Junk box automatically. Look for your internet service provides FAQ’s on how to do this.

Don’t be a victim of spam, take control of your Inbox

By |2018-11-16T00:33:26+00:00November 16th, 2018|Technology|0 Comments

Epilepsy and Social Media

There is a trend on social media to post animations that are very “psychedelic” in nature but some of them can trigger an epileptic seizure or fit. In some cases, which have caused some media attention, people put those types of animations for the purpose of targeting specific users in order to make them sick.

Video AutoplayI feel those who upload these animations fall into the following categories:

  1. General users who think they are fun not realizing the consequences
  2. Social Media managers who think they are attention-grabbing not realizing the consequences
  3. Those who shamefully place them on social media with the sole purpose of doing harm.

Examples of the triggers of photosensitive epilepsy are described in this article by the Epilepsy Foundation. Some of the triggers they list are as follows:

  • Flickering light
  • Flashing
  • Intense strobe lights
  • Visual patterns with stripes

Hopefully, no one wants to do any harm to people and those with epilepsy do not want to get a seizure. Seizures are not amusing, feel uncomfortable for days, and can be fatal.  So, here are my suggestions on what can be done.

General Social Media Users

Simply review any animations you upload to social media to ensure it won’t do any harm to those who have taken the time and trouble to view your posts. If you think you have to upload the animation and there is a possibility it might cause harm please display a warning.

Social Media Managers

Before anything is uploaded to social media it should go through a QA process, not just the text but also any videos, graphics or animations.  You are probably checking to ensure it aligns with the company brand and goals, a company goal should be not to cause distress in your clients, potential or otherwise.  Please include the possibility of harmful animations in your workflow.

Those With Epilepsy

To safeguard yourself getting a seizure a fail-safe protection is to ensure animations do not load automatically, in other words, you need to click on a play button to run them. Every social media company should have this option in the settings of your account. Following is a rough guide for the most popular platforms:

  • Twitter Desktop: Profile and Settings > Settings and Privacy > Accessibility > Ensure “Video Autoplay” is unchecked. This will apply to videos and animated gifs.
  • Twitter App: Settings and Privacy > Scroll to Bottom and tap Video Autoplay > Choose Never
  • Tweetdeck: Settings > Settings > Turn Off “Autoplay GIFs”.
  • Instagram App: Click on Profile Icon (bottom right-hand corner) > Click on Menu icon (top right-hand corner) > Settings > Cellular Data Usage > Ensure Use Less Data is turned off.
  • Facebook Desktop: Settings > Videos (bottom left-hand side) > Auto-play Video’s should be set to Off.
  • Facebook App: Settings and Privacy > Settings > Videos and Photos > Autoplay > Tap Never Autoplay Videos
  • LinkedIn Desktop: Click on “Me” in top right menu > Settings and Privacy > Under Site Preference click on Autoplay Videos > Turn Autoplay to Off.
  • LinkedIn App: Tap on the icon where you place your image > Tap on Settings (wheel icon top-right) > Tap Autoplay videos > Check “Never Autoplay Videos.

British television generally provides a warning if an upcoming video contains flickering or flash photography. I think we can do the same over social media.

By |2018-09-21T21:22:20+00:00September 21st, 2018|Health Care, Technology|0 Comments

Favourite Productivity Tools

I’ve used many productivity tools over the years as a Project Manager, my own business or simply a to-do list for my personal projects. I have become dependant on them and some I cannot do without.  In this post, I go through my favourites.

SuiteCRM

SuiteCRMThis Contact Relationship Management system is my most invaluable tool. It’s open source, meaning free, and based on SugarCRM but the company has developed it to be less ugly and put in more features. I use it for managing leads, accounts, contacts, tasks, projects, cases and more. It is a powerful tool which can be modified to your own needs whether you are a large organisation or a one-person operation.

How to install it:

You can host it on your own web server.  Many of the better hosts have a Quick Install feature so its live within a couple of minutes or alternatively follow SuiteCRM or your hosts’ instructions about installing it via the cPanel or Plesk. If you have the funds you can host it at SuiteCRM but you will be charged a minimum of 5 users per month rate which can be expensive, so it might be worth self-hosting. Check the system requirements of SuiteCRM before installing it on your web host to ensure your plan meets your needs, there is nothing worse than your site constantly crashing through lack of resources.

Alternatives:

I have used many alternatives to SuiteCRM, specifically the free or low-cost options. SugarCRM is one of them but if you are going to the bother of installing that on your server you might as well go for SuiteCRM.  Sugar is basically ugly and cumbersome to deal with, I’ve never had an upgrade go well.

ZohoCRM is another alternative on the market.  The user experience and interface are very nice however to get the same functionality as SuiteCRM you would have to pay for it.  The cost per user per month might be better spent having a web host and installing SuiteCRM on there.

Trello

TrelloIf you need a cheap and easy to learn project management tool then this is for you. It gives the ability to place your projects into Boards and within that, you can create streams for your tasks, for example, 1) Planning, 2) Working On, 3) Completed.  It really is up to the user how it’s organized.  Personally I like Trello within small teams but the streams within the boards get manic when there are too many people involved so as a Project Manager it can get out of hand for me.  As a matter of interest, there is a SuiteCRM Trello Suggestion Box online which does appear to be public so this provides an example of how the tool can be used.  Trello has api’s with other software such as Salesforce.  Trello has apps for Mac OS, iPhone and so on, so that makes it easier to use.

Manuscript

When you have a large project there will no doubt be a huge number of issues and bugs that need to be managed. One of the tools that have worked for me well in the past is Manuscript, and I was introduced to this by a Vancouver based web agency.  Manuscript was previously called FogBugz which came up with the idea for Trello, it was later sold to another company.  Manuscript, in short, is an easy way of managing your bugs, keeps the workflow in one place, assigns them to different users, a place for code, scrum style methodology integrated, and so on. The main bonus for me is to cut down on many emails and trying to use something like Excel or Google Sheets which isn’t ideal.

This tool, as it is very expensive, I would say is for large companies or smaller ones with a large budget.  A non-profit would be hard pushed to justify the expense.

Notetaking

As being a chair of many meetings or sitting in the sidelines it’s so important to have software to put notes and action points on.  My preference for this is Microsoft OneNote mainly because I already have the Office365 suite and want to stick with it for consistency.  In this tool I can separate my different projects by creating a new Notebook, or area of work, this helps me to organize things.  The big negative about OneNote is how long the data takes to load within my iPad, but its ok via their website version.  The other notetaking tool is, of course, is Evernote, for some reason I do not like this product but I will use it for something that is “quick and dirty”.

Task Management

I manage tasks in SuiteCRM as I do like them to be associated with Accounts or Contacts that I have, I can’t think of any tools that will link them to my contacts.

2DoI started off using task management with Remember The Milk which at the time the free version met my needs, however now I am a little more advanced and didn’t want a subscription model I left them.  I have been managing tasks in 2Do, I bought this quite a few years ago and have never paid anything else. It’s quite a sophisticated program and data sharing across all my devices is easy. Microsoft has recently released their task management application called To-Do, but has a long way to go, it does link in with their online and application version of Outlook but there is something lacking in the features.

Calendar

As I have an Office365 account I use Microsoft Outlook for all my appointments, the application and online version. I am pretty happy with it especially as their web version has improved considerably over the past couple of years.

There used to be online software where I visitors could see my free/busy times and book meetings with me through that interface. These programs still exist but at a cost which I cannot justify the costs.

Online Meetings

Skype appears to be the most popular tool for my clients so I have been using this, and I use it for general phone calls for which the call quality is quite excellent.  I have used Google Hangouts now and again but it just doesn’t have the friendly interface that Skype does.

Summary

One thing for sure, there is a wide variety of choice for productivity tools out there, spoilt for choice.  It’s best to do a needs assessment before deciding which ones to go with because switching from one to another can be a nightmare.  I have to admit of switching now and again but I am more or less settled with what I have.

By |2018-08-14T15:38:03+00:00August 13th, 2018|Technology|0 Comments

Web Hosting Companies Comparison

I’ve had moderate range of experience with various hosting companies so I thought I would share some of them here.  I am sure many have more negative or positive experiences with these companies so I recommend just going out there and doing research for yourself.

1and1

I used this service when I was based in the UK and still use it for a couple of domains as of today. When I hosted my website there I rarely had any downtime, I don’t have any downtime for the email accounts I have there now. The customer service experience has been pretty positive, only had to phone them once and my issue was expedited pretty quickly. The only issue I have with this company is their control panel and back end management appears to be something they have designed themselves. So, if you are used to the traditional cpanel then you might have an additional learning curve in getting used to their system.

GoDaddy

A few years ago this service, I would say, would be the kiss of death to your business but there have been recent improvements. My colleagues would complain once you have your domain with them its near impossible to transfer it out. Again they are a very large company and there will be little personal attention unless you are on a business level account.  I am personally no longer do business with them but have clients that do and have dealt with them on their behalf, that experience has been pretty positive especially with customer service or learning curve issues.  We went through a period of very bad downtime but in the past 6 months that has improved and the WordPress sites hosted with them are at their most stable.

Bluehost

This is probably the worst company for customer service where they have no desire to resolve your technical issues but to sell you something you don’t need, it is extremely annoying.  Eventually my client left them as they were becoming such a nuisance and not conducive to running a business. Having said that they had a more traditional cpanel and didn’t have much downtime.

Hostgator

This is where I have my websites.  On the whole they are good most of the time but go through spates of downtime with little feedback as to the reasons for the outages and eta for a fix.  I’ve also gone through a spate of issues with billing but it seems they have fixed their poor workflow now. From an infrastructure perspective, against a similar service that other hosts provides, they are much poorer especially around server resources. So, hosting larger WordPress sites can be an issue and if you plan to have a resource intensive site with many visitors then Hostgator may not be for you unless you have a more business level account.

Enom

I guess this company is best known for selling domain names but they do have hosting as well. Well, I had no end of problems with the hosting side of things with Enom. First, their customer support was totally chronic taking weeks if not months to respond to tickets.  When they did respond, a miracle in itself, 80% of the time they would give the wrong advice which happened to me a number of occasions which lead to hours and hours of trying to reverse it.  Then there were downtime issues with their MySQL database disconnecting from WordPress constantly. But, recently, as in the past 2 months, I have seen big improvements in downtime and customer service so hopefully they are back on track.

Summary

So I wouldn’t really want to recommend any of the above companies, not just because they are all awful but I would rather people make their own mind up.  It really is hit and miss sometimes.

By |2018-08-06T17:13:28+00:00February 13th, 2018|Technology|0 Comments