A Typo Took Down Amazon’s Web Services

Amazon.com

A cause has been found that can explain the recent disruption of Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3).

Essentially, it was a typo.

Amazon released a statement this past Thursday, saying that an authorized employee on it’s S3 team was debugging an issue within its billing system, when the employee incorrectly entered a command. The result wound up removing a larger set of servers than intended.

According to the Synergy Research Group, Amazon Web Services (AWS) owns around 40% of the cloud computing market. And around 152,000 websites use Amazon’s S3 service, according to the research firm SimilarTech.

This means that major players such as Netflix, Spotify, Github, and Buzzfeed were all affected by this outage, as well as tens of thousands of other websites that rely on AWS for hosting and cloud-based storage.

Even DownDetector, the website used for showing where real time web service outages are occurring, was no match.

This Instagram Feature is Great for Mental Health

This Instagram Feature is great for mental health

Mental health is a tricky, taboo subject for many people. It affects not only the people who are afflicted with mental health issues, but it also affects those with loved ones who suffer from them. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly one in five adults in the U.S. experience some sort of mental illness in a given year.

To break this taboo, major social media platforms are taking steps to help. Instagram recently rolled out a new feature to offer support for its users who are going through a difficult time, but don’t know where to turn to for help.

This new feature allows users to anonymously notify Instagram of any posts that show signs of possible self-harm. Instagram then sends a message to that person offering different options to get help, with them receiving an initial message that says “Someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.”

From there, Instagram will direct the user to a page with options that can be accessed directly through the app. These options include talking to a friend, contacting a helpline, and getting tips and support.

“These tools are designed to let you know that you are surrounded by a community that cares about you, at a moment when you might most need that reminder,” Instagram chief operating officer Marne Levine told Seventeen Magazine.

Users will be directed to that same support page if they search for hashtags associated with self-harm. For example, Instagram has already banned hashtags such as “#thinspo,” a term that has been associated with glorifying eating disorders.

The World Wide Web Turns 25

Tim Berners-Lee

Can you believe that we just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web?

August 6th, 1991, marked the day when the first website was launched. It was Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the site as a way of sharing information between computers and users.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee is The Father of The World Wide Web

In his early life, Berners-Lee was fascinated with toy trains and developed electronic gadgets to control them. When he got to college, he turned an old television into a computer. Obviously, he had a natural born understanding of the way things work.

As a software engineer at CERN, the large particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, he started to see major problems with sharing information between the scientists. The Internet was already making it possible for computers to be connected. He discovered that information could be shared through a technology called hypertext.

In March of 1989, he shared his proposal and by August 6 of 1991, he had the first website launched.

The Way We Live Has Forever Changed

Of course it took quite some time for the culture to understand the implications of this incredible technology. Over the years, developers have taken the Internet and World Wide Web and simplified it enough for anyone to use it.

If Berners-Lee hadn’t given up proprietary rights to the project, there is no way that we would be able to access information so readily. The way we conduct business, relationships, and daily tasks have forever changed on account of our ability to use the Internet and websites.

Early on, people mainly used websites for scientific research. Now they use it for so much more such as:

  • Shopping
  • Connecting with family and friends
  • International calls
  • Streaming music
  • Watching television
  • Working remotely
  • And much more…

The number of things we do online will only increase over the years as the technology becomes more developed.

More Websites Are Published Every Day

The current number of websites is well over 1,065,000,000. With the ease of technology, anyone and everyone can have a website. Now, more than ever, people will publish any number of things online, from their business to their art and articles, from family photos to music and random thoughts that are 140 characters long.

We don’t know what the next 25 years of the World Wide Web will look like, but if it’s anything similar to the first 25 years, it will certainly change how we live and think.

Three Things That Make a Good Website

We are often approached by people looking to get a website designed, who don’t know where to start, or don’t have the time to get it going. They don’t always understand what goes into the design and development, the evolving technology behind it, or the tools, planning, and time required. They don’t always consider the people that will visit their website, either.

There are several aspects to consider, when answering the question, “What makes a great website?” We’re going to touch on three of them with you today.

Content

Do you ever fully read through each and every paragraph on a website, especially the ones that are pretty dang long? Or do you just skim through them, hoping to catch some relevant information? If you do a lot of skimming, you’re not alone. The thing is, if your content has a lot of long paragraphs, people are skimming through your website.

If your visitors want to read huge paragraphs, then they will read a novel, most of which are known to be chock full of juicy written goodness. By shortening your paragraphs and breaking down your content, it will make text easier to read and digest.

Update your content regularly. Updating the content on your website shows visitors that your site and business is active. By far, the most well-known method of updating content is blogging. Not only are you spoon-feeding fresh content to your visitors, but blogging can be helpful for improved SEO results.

Also, take a little time to proofread your content. If not you, then try to have someone provide a fresh set of eyes on it, preferably someone that knows the difference between “your” and “you’re.” Watch for those misspelled words, improper grammar and punctuation, because they do nothing but make you sound unprofessional.

Mobile Devices

A 2015 survey done by the Pew Research Center concluded that 64% of American adults own a smartphone.

Another Pew study shows that 89% of Americans use the internet at least occasionally.

What does this mean for your website?

It means that people will be accessing it through not just a desktop, but a tablet and smartphone. Because of that, your website needs to be created in a way that offers the user a good experience, regardless of what device they are using. That, in a nutshell, is what responsive web design is about.

Websites designed responsively will look good on screens large and small. Users won’t have to squint or zoom in further in order to read text that’s tiny.

If you’re using a desktop, a great way to see if a website is responsive is to resize your browser window.

Functionality

Just like with everything else in your business, you need to ensure that everything within your website is functioning correctly.

If I’m getting an iPhone, it’s going to be more than just a purchase. It’s going to be something I’m using everyday. It’s supposed to compliment my life. Because of that, every aspect of that iPhone should be working without a hitch. A similar view should be used for your website.

A fully functioning website should have images that display, and display correctly. All internal and external links should take the user to their intended destination. Contact forms should submit all inputted information smoothly, and send it to the proper email addresses or databases. Any obstacles that prevent the user from using your website properly can result in users giving up quickly and moving on.

While these are only three things to consider, the best path to a great website is one where these items are discussed with a professional web designer or design agency. They will be able to answer any questions that you, as someone who might feel overwhelmed, will have.

Don’t Leave your Facebook Messages Unanswered

Your Facebook business page is awesome, isn’t it? It’s like sharing updates and pictures, but to your customers instead of family and friends who don’t want to hear about your opposing political views.

But maintaining this page is more than just posting information about a discount on an item. Visitors will use this medium as another way of engaging with you. And if you don’t reciprocate, the consequences can range from losing a customer, having people speak poorly about you, driving away future customers, and a negative reputation. All of these result in revenue not going into your business.

According to Locowise, 65% of pages that enabled the publishing ability didn’t respond to any of their posts. Up to 87% of all posts went completely unanswered.

Your Facebook business page is a great opportunity to engage with people who are taking the time to ask you questions, and to show how responsive you are to their questions or issues.

For example, let’s say that Bill ordered a pair of pants online from an online retailer. The ordering and checkout process went smoothly, and the order arrived at his doorstep on the day it was promised. However, the pants were not in good condition.

Instead of calling the 800 number, Bill decides to go to their Facebook page to post a complaint. This way, he can also show pictures of how the pants looked when they arrived.

The company responds to Bill’s post in a professional manner. The solution can be any number of things, from sending Bill a coupon or discount code, to refunding his purchase, to sending a new pair of pants to replace the defective pair.

There are other ways to respond, such as asking Bill for more information, and asking to take the conversation into private messaging.

The point is, the company sees a situation in which a customer of theirs is unhappy, and works to resolve the issue. This interaction, seen in the Visitor Posts section, can leave a positive impression on those who visit the Facebook page.

But what happens if you don’t respond?

A couple of days go by after the initial post, and the company doesn’t respond. Bill’s frustration, which existed already due to receiving the bad pair of pants, is now growing because nobody is helping him. Did the company just take his money? Did he get ripped off?

He posts again, with a more agitated tone. Again, no response from the company.

Now, other visitors are seeing the lack of response from the retailer. That’s terrible that Bill isn’t being helped, they think. Since they’re probably not masochistic, they will save themselves the trouble and shop elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Bill is leaving a 1-star bad review of the company online, after leaving a third post.

All of that equates to the company’s reputation taking a negative hit on their reputation. A bad reputation means lost revenue.

What does this all mean?

If you’re going to maintain a Facebook page for your business, then treat those that communicate online with you the same way as you would if they were face to face. Engage with them, and they could possibly turn into loyal customers.

Facebook Adds Several Buttons with its Launch of Reactions

Now you can avoid the awkward situation of hitting the “Like” button on a friend’s Facebook post about a loved one’s death.

This week, the social media giant rolled out alternatives to its arguably most notable feature called “Reactions.”

Users are now able to choose from “Love,” “Haha,” “Wow,” “Sad,” and “Angry.”

They will be able to see these buttons when they hold down the Like button when using a mobile device, or when hovering the mouse over the Like button while on a desktop.

From Facebook product manager Sammi Krug:

When people come to Facebook, they share all kinds of different things, things that make them sad, things that make them happy, thought-provoking, angry. We kept hearing from people that they didn’t have a way to express empathy.

Prior to the global release, Reactions was already in place for Facebook users in Ireland, Chile, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines, Colombia and Japan. According to Krug, initial reactions have been positive, with the Love button being the most popular.

So now your Donald Trump-hating friends can emphatically click on the Angry button when reading a post about another mention of building a wall at the Mexican border, and your hound dog uncle can tap the Love button when viewing a photo of a member of the Kardashian clan showing some skin.

Does Your Church Need a Website?

King James Bible

Churches and places of worship are frequented by millions of people every year. With this sort of traffic, one would think that these places would find their way online. But that isn’t always the case.

And that’s a shame.

Only 15% of Americans don’t use the internet. That means that 85% are using it.

Churches should be taking advantage of this, just like any other niche, segment or industry. They can use the internet for similar reasons as anyone else could.

Answering Questions

An effective website will answer questions that your user may have. For a church or place of worship, this is just as important. Your visitors may either be current members, or prospective members who are looking for a place to worship, for any number of reasons.

Your church may have specific worship times. It could have a nursery or a Sunday school, or serve a specific denomination. Serving up relevant information, such as worship times during the week, if your place of worship has a nursery or Sunday school, and what their schedules are, is important so that you can answer questions that your current and prospective members may have.

And if non-members are looking you up online, they may have questions that need to be answered.

  • What do you have to offer for new members?
  • What is your purpose?
  • What is your mission?

Special Events

Having a website is an excellent way of listing upcoming events for your church.

How these events can be listed is between you and your developer, depending on your needs. They could be organized in chronological order or displayed in a functional calendar, allowing for the opportunity to list relevant information pertaining to that event.

From church softball games to special holiday services, listing events on your church website can help members stay up-to-date.

Sharing Content

You can show pictures of the church, both the exterior and interior. You can show pictures of the church staff and its congregation, or of any of your special events. Perhaps there is meaningful or relevant scripture that you would like to share that week.

You can even get a little more advanced, and post weekly sermons online, so that members can view or listen to them at their convenience. Potential members can also use these to see what the teachings are like.

Communication

Your site can serve as a communication tool. Really, this can go for nearly any website, but providing users a way to communicate with your staff can be useful. If users have a question that isn’t answered anywhere else, then a contact page with a simple form is needed. A contact page can also display:

  • Your address (using Google Maps is optional, but can be helpful)
  • Phone and fax numbers
  • Social media links, if any

A well-placed phone number within the header or footer of each page on your website can also be helpful, potentially reducing the amount of time spent by the user looking for it.

Launching a website for your churches and places of worship is arguably the best way to reach out to your community, to increase membership, to help others in need, and to spread your message. This is your chance to become a Google search away from doing just that.

All of the items listed above are benefits that churches can take advantage of. If you don’t have one, it’s time to look into getting one developed. And if you do have one, you should consider evaluating if it is being maximized to the best of its ability.

Three Signs Your Website Needs Updating

Your website, when it’s new and fresh and exciting, is like buying a new car, a brand new computer, or the latest smartphone. It can be…uh…new and fresh and exciting.

But like the new car, computer, or smartphone, it can get a little outdated. It might get a little neglected. It might even become slightly obsolete after a short amount of time.

How do you know if your website needs to be updated? Here are three things to look for.

The Copyright Date

Most websites will display a year at the bottom of each page. Copyright whatever-the-current-year-is. Some will even display two different years, such as the year that their company started, followed by the current year, separated by a dash.

But some sites won’t display the current year. This could be because the year isn’t being displayed on a dynamic site and being called using an alarmingly simple line of PHP code, or the designer simply hasn’t edited the HTML code to reflect the current year.

Whatever the case, an outdated copyright year won’t give you any bonus points. It may stick out in your visitors’ mind, as they may say to themselves, “Wait a minute. It’s not 2012.” It won’t give your visitors any confidence that your business is still operational. And if they don’t have that confidence, then you can kiss them goodbye.

This is merely one little thing. But you know what they say: little things can add up.

An Out-of-Date Blog

Blogging takes research, patience and dedication. And because of that, it also takes time.

Sure, you may be able to crank out a few blog posts. But some people don’t realize that the positive results of blogging don’t show up overnight. And when they feel as if the results aren’t there, they give up.

The thing is, you just simply cannot stop after posting a handful of entries. If someone were to visit your blog and see that the most recent post was from 18 months ago, it would look as if you neglected a part of your website. And if you neglected part of your website, how would that make your business or brand look?

As stated earlier, blogging takes time to research ideas, find a voice, and write an well-thought-out post. Sometimes, you may simply underestimate the kind of effort it takes to maintain your blog.

A blog that is consistently updated will make your business look better in the eyes of users who are looking for your products or services. It will make your business look active. It may help lend you credibility with your users.

Oh, and it may also help you rank better with Google.

Does it use Flash?

Back in the days when MySpace was freaking awesome, Adobe Flash was widely used for different aspects of web development. Banner ads, forms, to entire sites could be built using Flash.

Fast forward a few years later. Flash is dead on the mobile web. Steve Jobs himself gave it a stiff arm in his “Thoughts on Flash” essay in April of 2010. Advancements in web and application development continue to make strides.

If your site uses Flash for anything, it is time to upgrade it.

Like, in a flash, amirite?

Bad jokes aside, the point is that some changes to your website can be simple and quick, while others can be perpetual or major. The characteristics listed here can fit into either one of these categories. And if your website has at least one of these characteristics, then it may be time to invest some resources into making updates or hiring a web developer.

Facebook Introduces the Legacy Contact Feature

Nobody wants to think about death. Grasping the loss of someone is already hard enough. That’s before you have to deal with funeral arrangements, notifying family and friends, and dealing with any of the financial, business or personal accounts that may exist.

Those personal accounts may include any of your social media accounts. Chances are, only you have access to them. What happens to them when you pass away? Do they sit there and collect virtual dust?

This past week, Facebook took a step to solve this problem by introducing a legacy contact feature. This allows the user to designate a specific friend, family member or loved one to access their account after they pass away.

This person will have limited access to certain parts of the user’s account, such as responding to friend requests, editing the profile image and header image, pin posts to the top of the page, and download an archive of the deceased’s posts and photos. The designated person will also be able to delete the user’s account, but they will not be able to view messages.

Once the user has been verified as deceased, usually through an obituary, Facebook will then add a “Remembering” label before the user’s name to signify the account as one in which the person has died.

It should be noted that no ads will be shown on deceased’s page, and nothing from that page will appear in a news feed.

Overall, this feature seems to be an interesting step made by Facebook to help those who are concerned about their accounts when they pass away in the digital age. It puts a “final touch” to that person’s page, and could possibly serve as an online memorial.

 

Before You Copy and Paste that Copyright Facebook Message…

Recently, you may have noticed at least one of your friends on Facebook post some sort of privacy alert message. If you have hundreds of friends (do you, really?), you may have come across this message several times.

This message essentially states that if you copy and paste said message onto your Facebook feed, it will automatically give you copyright protection to the content that you share.

The problem with this, is that it is nothing more than a hoax.

Facebook does NOT own your the copyright to anything that you post.

In fact, Facebook addresses this very item within its Help section. In short, it says that “…you retain the copyright to your content. When you upload your content, you grant us a license to use and display that content.”

Just think about it: if you post a selfie while stuck in traffic, and don’t allow Facebook to display it, how will your family and friends know of your rush-hour displeasure?

So if you see someone post this message on their feed, you may consider enlightening them of this hoax.