All posts by Mitch Mitchell

I'm an independent consultant in many fields, so I have a lot to share.

When Free Speech/Privacy Advocates Lose Their Mind

As some of you know, I play an online game on a site called Empire Avenue. I’ve written about it a couple of times, and if you know nothing about it check out the link above.

Facebook: The privacy saga continues
opensource.com via Compfight

This post isn’t really about Empire Avenue, but it plays prominently in this tale, a cautionary tale for all of you who want the cake of freedom of speech and the ability to eat your rights to privacy at the same time. How ugly will this tale end? Stick around…

Empire Avenue has a number of communities where people can get together to discuss all kinds of stuff. I joined a few early on in the game, never liked them much because it didn’t seem anyone had anything to say, and never joined one again.

However, a friend of mine sent me a link to one of the general communities of people who are considered leaders on the site because she wanted me to check something out. Seems there was some general fighting going on about some of the processes in the background of the game that she wanted me to see.

In the middle of it all was this guy, whose name (fake or real) I’m not going to mention, nor his blog, links, Twitter page, etc, because I don’t want to get in the middle of it all; you’ll see why as I get through this story.

Anyway, this guy seemed to be completely out of control. He came into this particular discussion with a chip on his shoulder for some reason and began personally attacking people. He actually came to the defense of someone I’m not even sure he really knows because of something that was said in a Facebook group, and on that one and only point I agreed with him on.

However, he went too far and started calling out anyone he could think of who’s a major player in the game (which is why I’m never mentioned lol) in this forum. And if it had stayed there things might have died down.

But you know that’s not how this story goes. Turned out the guy has a blog on WordPress.com and he started ranting and writing these tomes about the evils of Empire Avenue and naming names and quoting people and pasting images of conversations from the community forum that, in essence, was a major violation of people’s privacy, especially since many of those people had nothing to do with the initial conversation and, in his “wisdom”, he decided to call out those who attempted to call for peace; sigh…

If it's on the Internet, it isn't private.
DonkeyHotey via Compfight

One of the reasons this guy thought he could get away with all this abhorrent behavior is because he went behind a fake name; actually, two fake names, one of those being a deceased actor/comedian. So he went nuts, saying all this stuff about everyone he could think of, posting their images and the like, and boosting it all via his Twitter account as well. He became the Empire Avenue troll; there’s a nice business gift.

And he proclaimed his right to free speech when some of those people complained about his putting their names on his blog and posting them on Twitter, and said that anything on Empire Avenue was his to use as he wished.

However, he started to dislike some of the backlash he started getting on Twitter, and at this point he put out a cease and desist… on Twitter? On Twitter, if you don’t want to see something you just block people, but that wasn’t enough for him. He didn’t want them writing anything about him at all, so he put out a cease and desist against everyone who was against him, and he wrote about it on his blog.

And he started sending letters to Empire Avenue, state and federal agencies in the United States and Canada (where EA resides), and in one instance even called the employer of one of the people he had a beef with to say this guy was harassing him online; wow!

But he made some mistakes. See, what most people don’t realize is that if they’ve been on social media for any amount of time they’ve built up a trail that someone with motivation can follow and find out a lot about that person. Who would have more motivation than a guy who had his job threatened by a lunatic? For that matter who would have more motivation because they’d been called out on a lunatic’s blog?

You guessed it; they found out who he was. They got his name, where he went to school, pictures of what he really looked like, his age, pictures of his children (yup, this guy has kids, adult kids, but the folks had some morals and didn’t post pictures of his kids online). And after people talked with each other to confirm that they all had the same information…

They posted it all on Google Plus. Then they put the link out on Facebook and Twitter so anyone who was connected to some of these folks (or in the Facebook group for EA, which I’m a member of) could see it.

Of course I went to read it all. Fascinating stuff, especially the part about being 43 years old and living in the basement of his mother’s house because he has no real job right now. Seems that’s why he has so much time to troll all these EA members.

You know what happened next… part of it anyway. He went off, saying he was going to file a lawsuit against EA for giving out his personal information, and then lawsuits against all these people for violating his privacy. But he also smartened up… slightly. He went back to all those images he’d posted and started blacking out names that weren’t blacked out previously. He also started going back to remove some names from posts he’d written; y’all know it’s too late for that because everyone he named has copies of it all.

20140526_150204
This post needed some cute

At this point he hasn’t backed off, and in an amazing move is actually showing EA shutting him down for his bad behavior, which he can’t see, while still complaining about everyone else violating his privacy, and admitting openly that not only is his name fake (folks can use fake names) but that his “business” information is also fake (folks aren’t allowed to do that part, but since he owned up to it he violated the terms of service), and is thus banned for good.

What’s this story about? Consequences. Many times I’ve written on this blog about consequences for actions and how people need to protect themselves online.

There was a recent news story about a guy who visited some Instagram pages of people who lived in his area that he’d never met, and then he went out and found these people in places they said they congregated, talked to them as if he knew them and told them all kinds of stuff that they thought was private, and only after shocking them with what he knew finally telling them how he’d found it all out (it was all recorded on video). They were all both amazed and shocked because it never occurred to them just how much of themselves they were giving out; lesson learned.

I’ve talked about the topic of controversy and, if you decide to go this route, how it can backfire on you if you’re not prepared for it, and how you want to choose your language carefully if you do decide to take on a subject you know some folks aren’t going to react well to.

I’ve also talked often about privacy, the lack thereof, and how if you’re not going to protect your own privacy all that well that you owe something greater, a major responsibility to your family and friends because most of them probably didn’t ask to be brought into the sphere of social media. That these folks found out about this guy’s kids, with pictures and everything, and his mother, his mother’s house, et al… for a guy talking so much about protecting his privacy he didn’t do a good job of it.

Social media isn’t something anyone should be scared of. But everyone needs to know the inherent dangers of what can happen. On my business blog I’ve talked about the dangers of thinking everyone you work with is your friend and how those folks more often than not will throw you under the bus to save their own skin. It’s like that.

Just two weeks ago two high school girls did two videos on YouTube that were racist against people in their school and community. Now they’ve had to leave school and will be home schooled, even after apologizing, because their safely can’t be guaranteed and the school was suspending them anyway.

Let me spell these lessons out:

* Don’t be stupid online

* Don’t think you can have total privacy online

* Don’t call anyone out unless you’re ready to deal with it

* Don’t think your freedom of speech trumps anyone else’s freedom of speech

* Don’t start none, won’t be none

Anyone disagree with anything I’ve said here? By the way, notice I didn’t mention any names, didn’t link to anything, so only a few people on EA, none of whom read this blog, could ever even figure out who I was talking about. So, if this person finds out about this post & has anything to say… it wasn’t me who violated anyone’s privacy… right? πŸ˜‰
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mitch Mitchell

4 Ways To Reduce Spam On Your Blog

Most of the time I talk about spam it’s commentary more than anything else. In one post back in September, I told you how to identify spam on your blog.

SPAM!
Luc De Leeuw via Compfight

This time I’m going to give you some actionable steps to reducing spam, or at least have it going into the spam filter so it’s not showing up in your comments area.

Unfortunately, there’s little to be done to eliminate spam totally. You can moderate your blog, but anyone who reads this blog knows how much I hate that (and yet so many of you still do it purposely; oh well…). You also know that sometimes there’s false spam, such as when I talked about certain browsers sending comments into the spam filter for some goofy reason.

So, we’re going to take on the next big thing, which is reducing it. Based on settings, you can probably reduce it more than mine, or you might decide you don’t want to go as far as me. I give you the steps; the settings are all yours. Here we go.

1. If you’re using a WordPress blog, in your Admin area go to Settings, then down to Other Settings. The 3rd item down says “Automatically close comments on articles older than”, and there’s a box next to it. You can check the box on the left, then put a number of days in the box and at that point in history comments will turn off.

The beauty of this is the majority of spam that comes in goes after older posts that you’ve pretty much moved on from and this takes care of that issue. The negative of this is people might read some of your older posts, especially if you link to them like I did above, but they can’t comment on it. You get to decide which of these is more important to you but truthfully, you’re always going to have more activity on your newer posts unless you’ve posted something very constructive that people can use… like this post. πŸ™‚

By the way, though I mentioned the biggie, there are plenty of other things here that you can alter that will help block some spam. I have anything that has links in a post go to the spam filter, and I also use the comment blacklist option to block certain words and sometimes certain IP addresses, which is shown to you next to all comments, blocked or not.

2. Turn off comments on select posts. Most people won’t like this for their WordPress blogs but sometimes you might have a post that’s more of an announcement or maybe a sales post or, I’ve noticed from some bloggers, a post that’s so personal you can’t bear someone intruding their own thoughts into it.

In this case, instead of limiting it for every post, when you’re writing your post there’s something at the very bottom of the page where you’re writing your post under Discussion that’s automatically checked saying Allow Comments. If you uncheck it then that post won’t get any comments at all.

This can also be used if you decide not to use what I gave you in #1 because you want some of your posts to always be live. This way, you can pick and choose; that’s pretty neat.

3. Add images to your blog a different way. I’ve also noticed that much of the spam that seems to make its way through does so through the image area, which is really weird. I mean, what program is it that’s addressing the image on a blog post instead of the post itself?

This can be defeated in two ways. One, you can decide to upload an image you want to use to your server, then when it’s time to add an image add it via a link instead of uploading it from your computer. I picked up on that trick on a fluke and it works pretty well. The downside to that might be if you don’t have unlimited storage or little storage via your hosting company. Overall that shouldn’t be an issue.

No SPAM
K. Latham via Compfight

Something else you can do is add a plugin that’s connected to a website that supplies images. I heard of one the other day called, I believe, Pix 500, but I use one called Compfight. It’s tied into Flickr’s Creative Commons images, which means it’s done the work to determine which images bloggers are allowed to use ahead of time, thus no copyright issues. It has its own settings that you can alter within the Admin panel so that if you like a certain size of images each time you can make it so. Ah, I love when my inner Captain Picard comes out. πŸ™‚

4. Use the GASP plug-in. By now, if you haven’t heard of this plugin you’re years out of the loop. It not only helps reduce spam to the point that you can alter settings to block certain types of spam from ever getting to your blog in the first place, but you have multiple selections you can make such as determining whether someone has to stay on your post for a certain length, determine if they have to write so many words, or even verify trackback links to see if those sites are legitimate.

I’m not going to get too deep into the settings on this one because there’s a ton. Instead, I will say there are good and bad things about this one as well. The good is obviously eliminating as much spam as you want to from ever getting onto your blog, which means you don’t have to moderate anything… well, almost.

That’s part of the bad. Sometimes it’s so strong that it starts blocking people who’ve come to your blog for years, who you sometimes give a free pass to a short comment or maybe they’re responding to your response to their comment. Sometimes having these things go to your spam filter isn’t a bad thing at all. After all, blogs are supposed to be about engagement, so there should be some allowances here and there; don’t you agree?

I think this has gotten long enough so I’m going to stop there. These tips should drastically reduce your spam on their own, and if you tweak some of the other settings you can reduce it even further. Good luck with it all and let me know how it works for you.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mitch Mitchell

Why We Must Create Content

To some folks who visit this blog, it probably looks like I’ve slowed down in creating content. There’s both truth and non-truth to this statement.

Picture 26

While doing my consulting out of town, I find that I get back to the hotel and I’m just exhausted. I have two different biorhythm schedules, depending on where I am and “when” I am.

When I’m home, on Eastern time, I stay up until 2:30 or 3 in the morning and sleep usually until 9 or 9:30 and take naps whenever I feel the need. Because I keep irregular hours, I can work at any time of the day and also have lots of time to blog and all is good with the world.

When I’m on the road, on Central time, from Sunday night through Thursday night I “try” to get to bed by midnight because I have to be up at 6:30 to be at the office by 7:30. Of course there’s no naps coming, so I get really tired, have to find ways of staying awake in the afternoons, and often come back to the room and then take a nap, rush to dinner, and literally try to stay awake until later so I won’t wake up too early the next day.

On the weekends, I revert back to my “norm”, only an hour behind when I’m at home… sometimes. Sometimes I stay up later, knowing I probably wouldn’t stay up so late at home, sometimes I crash because I’m just exhausted.

Either way, it’s taken a toll on blogging, but that’s not the only thing going on.

I’ve finally started making a more concerted effort to edit my second book on leadership. I’m committing at least a little bit of time each night to it because I want to get it done some time within the next couple of months so I can get a couple of people to read it.

I’ve also committed myself to trying to do a video every day this month for my business channel on YouTube. This is new content and it’s me putting in time to build up the portfolio there. If you’d like an example, here’s last night’s video on communicating with irate people:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cNM1bg68WA&feature=share

 

I’ve also been creating videos on my other YouTube channel, though not as often; here’s the latest video from there, which prompted me to write on this topic:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lorAQJVxtLk&feature=share

 

Two other things. Today I was interviewed for a radio program that was turned into a podcast by a guy named Fasil Khan, who owns Khan Coaching, and the hour-long podcast is here: http://lawandorderoflifeddv.com/leadership-mitch-mitchell. And a few days ago a guest post I wrote for Jessica Peterson of Customer WOW Project went live, and since I don’t think it’s getting much love I’m going to link to it here, as it’s titled Business Tips From Mitch Mitchell, though I’d titled it 10 Things To Know If You Want To Go Into Business For Yourself.

I have still been writing here and on my other blogs as well, just not as often. So you see, I’ve still been following on my never ending quest to continue creating content, but I’ve been spreading myself around. Still, in my own way I keep trying to prove why we all must create content if we hope to keep our names out in front of others, even if it’s not always in our own space.

Why must we create content? Let me highlight the reasons…

* new content helps keep our websites or blogs fresh

* new content lets people know we have things to say and helps encourage them to keep coming back for more

* new content helps you build up a credible portfolio that you can always direct people to

* new content helps you to learn how to become more creative and to hone a style that works well for you

* new content could potentially help make you famous, ala getting a video to go viral

* new content can enhance your status as an expert/specialist/rock star; take your pick

For me, new content means someone’s always finding me for something, and I get interview opportunities. On my regular YouTube channel, I’ve had the opportunity to interview other people as well, and hopefully some of them have used their interviews to promote themselves, as I did with the interview above. Even if it’s not my content specifically it’s still me, and any chance I get to promote myself more, and it’s free… no brainer!
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mitch Mitchell

Phone Apps & Disasters

I’ve been home for the past few days, taking time off for the holiday before heading back out of town. Before I came home, my wife called and asked if we should purchase one of those systems where you can turn your lights on and off no matter where you are in the country. Seems you buy those things from your cellphone carrier, and ours is Verizon. It sounded good to me, so she bought it before I came home.

My apps with Todos
Nicholas Volodimer
via Compfight

As I talked about when I wrote about my Franklin Planner, I do well with lists. When I got home I put together a list of all the things I had to get done before I left town. This item wasn’t on my list, but luckily my wife had put it on her list. So, Monday night her alarm went off and it was time to load this sucker.

The first step involved deciding which 3 rooms we’d hook this thing up in. In 3 boxes were these big plug things (aren’t I descriptive?) that you put into the socket and then plugged a light into it. We decided to try 2 rooms first, since the other lamp she wanted to use needed a new bulb. That part went pretty smooth and the lights were turned on.

The next part involved downloading some software to our phones called WeMo by Belkin. The instructions in the box said to download the software, or app, and just follow the instructions.

The instructions were pretty simple. I downloaded the app, then went to my settings to see if each unit was showing under the WiFi area, and they were. All you do after that is open the app, put in your router password, and it would do the rest.

Unfortunately, the rest never came. My phone kept trying to find the server… actually that’s not quite accurate. It kept trying to load one of the things we’d plugged into the wall as the server. And it was failing miserably. I tried it on my wife’s phone; nothing doing. I thought maybe if I did one plug at a time that maybe it would work better, but not only didn’t that work, it still saw both units even after unplugging one.

And that’s not all. After trying to get this thing working for maybe 30 minutes I decided to take a break from it and, noticing that someone had sent me a message on Instagram, wanted to check that out. However, the phone was telling me I had no internet connection. When I went into my settings I saw that this WeMo thing had overridden my settings and made itself the primary router over my real primary router. When I tried to change it… I thought I heard an evil laugh as it refused to acquiesce to my demands.

Alachia Does Droid 2
alachia via Compfight

Eventually I remembered how to get into all apps, find that bad boy, and disable it so it wouldn’t bother me the rest of the night. Tuesday afternoon my wife and I trouped up to the Verizon store to see if we did anything wrong. The guy we got said that it can be tricky and that it had taken him almost an hour to figure out how to get it working; really? He said he couldn’t do anything in the store because it had to be activated where the lights were, and to try it one more time. We left unsatisfied, but what can you do?

We got back home and I decided to start from scratch and uninstalled the program. Before reloading it however, I finally looked at the ratings, only to see that it averaged less than 2 1/2 stars; that’s not good. After reading a few of the reviews I called my wife into my office and read many of them to her. We both decided it wasn’t worth the grief, I uninstalled it from her phone, and we took those plugs back Tuesday late afternoon for a full refund; just to let you know, the plugs were $50 each.

Of course the recommendation is to always look at the stars and read through reviews of things before you download them to your smartphone, just like you should before you download programs to your computer. In this case, since it went through Verizon, my wife and I thought it had to be legitimate because, after all, they’re a large company.

As we left the store last evening I remembered that probably half the apps in both the Google Play store and Apple’s store are bad and haven’t been checked by anyone because of the volume. Had I been with my wife when she bought the thing I’d have hoped I would have asked questions beforehand and checked it out online so we could have made a better decision earlier; it certainly would have saved a lot of time.

How many of you have made purchases of things that you should have checked out before you did so? What about bad apps on your phones that gave you grief? I know I’m not alone; go ahead, admit it. πŸ˜‰
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mitch Mitchell

Airport Stories

If you do anything often in your life, at some point you will start to experience some very strange things, even if they’re mildly strange. In my case, mildly doesn’t quite fit.

As some of you know, I’m traveling a lot these days because of my consulting business, and that means I’m flying. This week, I had some adventures that concerned being in airports that I thought I would share with you in a story form. I do that because one, I think stories are more interesting, and two, because it’s going to be long, and three, because it’s true. And it includes a video; what more could you ask for?

20140507_184604
 

Met this little guy & his father in DC

The story begins at the airport in my home area of Syracuse New York. I had my boarding pass with me, and I had qualified for what’s called a TSA pre-check, which means I got to go through a special short line, got to keep my shoes and belts on, and if I didn’t have any metal in my jacket I would have had to take that off either. However, since I did have some metal items in my pockets. I decided it was smart to go ahead and put my jacket on top in one of those bins.

I walked through just fine, get my stuff and head towards my gate. I’m pretty early, and there’s a new restaurant over by my gate so I decide to stop in and get something to eat. I recognize the woman working there as a lady who used to work at a restaurant across the street from where I live that closed and became a Moe’s Southwest Grill. It turns out that, because the restaurant had just recently opened, they had very few items that were on their menu. Last, I had to order something that I really didn’t want, but I was a little bit hungry so I decided to give it a shot.

At some point I decided to check my boarding pass just to make sure I had the time I was supposed to get on the plane accurate in my mind. At that point I realized I didn’t have my boarding pass anymore, and that I must have left it at the front when I went through the check.

I told the waitress I would be right back, and I walked back over there to see if anyone had turned in a boarding pass. I asked one of the police officers for some assistance, she asked one of the TSA people about it, and the woman says that all I have to do is go to one of the airlines stations and they would print a new boarding pass for me.

I go back to the restaurant, pay the bill, get my stuff and go to get my boarding pass. While I’m pulling out my ID, which is my drivers license, the lady tells me I don’t need it because my name is already on file. However, it’s a good thing I did check because it turns out I didn’t have my drivers license either. Then I remembered that as soon as I got through check out I had put my license and boarding pass in the bin and then I put my coat on top of it and totally forgot about those items.

The lady let me leave my bags behind the counter, and I rushed back to the checkout line to see if anyone had turned in my license. Of course no one had, so for the next 15 minutes everyone started looking for my drivers license, which I wasn’t allowed to do because I had are gone by that area.

Lucky for me, because not that many people qualify for the pre-check one of the police officers found my license and my other boarding pass. Talk about a lucky break, because I’m not sure I would’ve gone on the plane without my drivers license. It certainly would have been a miserable two weeks out of town without it since they would not let me rent a car.

All goes well from that point as I get on the first plane which will fly me from Syracuse to Washington DC, Reagan Airport. When I get to turn my phone on after the plane lands, I noticed that I had both a phone call and an e-mail. Check the e-mail first to discover that my plane has been delayed an hour for the next trip because of maintenance. That doesn’t seem like such a big deal, so I chill with a candy bar and wait that extra bit of time before I had my gate. Then there’s another hour of waiting, as against maintenance must have needed more time to get things fixed.

At this point the video’s going to take over for a short bit, and I hope you watch it because it tells what happens between what’s above and what’s coming after the video. Suspense! Lol

 


http://youtu.be/iquvSRZ7x3g

 
I hope you watched the video because now we resume the rest of the story. For most people, what’s above would have been the end of it all, but you know by now that normal things aren’t part of my life.

I had met someone who’d been on my flight that was canceled named Susie. It was great because we kept each other alert all night and that made the entire thing more palatable to deal with. And she turned out to be a prominent person for part of the rest of this story.

We moved back to the gate area about 7:30 in the morning, because they won’t let you stay in the gate area if there are no planes expected to be leaving during a period of time. We sat in an area where there were more seats for a bit of comfort and quiet, an area I like because I like to people watch and normally talk about people in my mind because, well, some folks dress in mysterious ways when they travel. It was nice having someone to talk to about these folks, which might seem mean but we were talking low and we were punchy. By that time she’s been in the airport for more than 16 hours and I hadn’t slept in about 22 hours.

Suddenly there’s this screaming coming from behind us somewhere. We look back and I don’t see anything but Susie does. Then we see this older man walking away and some young woman, who we determined had to be his adult daughter, but disturbed in some way, running after him and hitting him… and not lightly. She was screaming something but we had no idea what it was.

20140508_004622


 

I turned away for a minute and Susie says “She just hit that guy in the red shirt in the back of the head.” Sure enough, I look over and this guy who’d been sitting in a Gordon Biersch restaurant on a stool in a red shirt is looking over his shoulder at this woman, but she wasn’t paying him any attention.

The woman is still screaming and her father has stopped and is trying to hold her, but he’s fighting a losing battle. Now we hear all sorts of people calling for the police and blowing whistles and I’m thinking someone needs to be taken down.

Someone is, and in the annals of lessons one shouldn’t need to be taught, she turns around and slugs this guy in the red shirt in the back of the head again because the fool (I’m sure you’ll agree) had turned back around and had started eating his breakfast again. This time it was hard enough to knock him off the stool and onto the ground because the lesson he didn’t learn that almost everyone else would have learned the first time is you never turn your back on a crazy person who’s screaming and has already hit you. As he learned, hopefully for good, you could find yourself on the floor.

What came next was strange, as if we hadn’t had enough strange so far. The father pulls out a chair and is able to get this woman to sit down. She sits down, begins staring out somewhere, and starts saying over and over, very loudly, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom…” Not screaming, not chanting, just saying it loud enough for everyone in the area to hear, kind of monotone, and it’s the only thing I understood her saying all morning.

Having enough weirdness for one day, Susie and I decide to go over to the gate where we’d be catching the plane, which meant we kind of had to walk by this woman, who was still sitting in the chair and was now rocking. The police were talking to the guy in the red shirt, who could only say he was popped in the head twice because he never saw anything, and a couple other cops were standing behind her.

As we’re walking by this woman, she lets out this blood curdling scream and crying as if she’s in great distress, then immediately follows it with one of those laughs you often associate with evil geniuses in bad horror movies. Based on everything else that happened, I’m not sure saying it was the strangest thing is appropriate here.

About 25 minutes later, as we’re sitting in the area of our gate, we see the family walking by, the father luckily no worse for wear, the mother making her first appearance, and this young lady, all of them pulling bags behind them, but she’s muttering something to herself, loud enough to be heard but not loud enough to understand, followed by two police folks and another one on a Segway.

After all that normalcy came back, I got on my plane on time, got to my destination on time, drove to the hotel, cleaned up and went to work. In the video I said I was thinking about not going, but not only would I not get paid but I’d have had to pay for two nights of my hotel bill and that didn’t seem fiscally intelligent. And now, back to the dull and boring parts of my life once more… yeah, right!

You just can’t make this stuff up. πŸ™‚
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mitch Mitchell