WordCamp RI is upon us, and here are 5 reasons why you do NOT want to miss it.

WordCamp Rhode Island is the best web conference in Southern New England.  We spent a year planning an event to help you build, plan, and grow a website taught by the absolute best local experts, for only $40.  Do you run a business, an online store, or a blog? You do not want to miss WordCamp RI, and here are 5 reasons why.

Join us September 22nd and 23rd, 2017!

TICKETS ARE ONLY $40, buy yours here.

 

1. The top experts from New England and around the world will be here to speak about how to run and maintain a WordPress website.

We have received the highest number of expert submissions this year. More than ever local marketing, design, developer and business experts are chomping at the bit to speak at WordCamp Rhode Island.

This year we redesigned our entire speaker track system.  It’s our sixth consecutive Rhode Island WordCamp so it’s time to iterate.  We have built a two track system that provides for the most novice and the most experienced.  Checkout our schedule here.

2. Your ticket is only $40!

Take a look at other local web and design conferences. You’re going to spend between $800 and $1500 for a 2 day conference.  It’s only $40 to come to WordCamp Rhode Island.

How are we able to do this?  We have amazing global and local sponsors that take care of the cost of conference. Your $40 ticket goes towards a free t-shirt, lunch each day, and an after party where you’ll be getting free food and drinks but more importantly an opportunity to network with and meet our experts or your fellow attends.

3. Get to know everyone and get some help with your project

Networking is the best way to find new talent to hire, great agencies to help you with your project, or get answers to your questions. I have been to every WordCamp RI and there hasn’t been a year where I didn’t hear a story about how someone got the help they needed to finish a project, or got hired by an agency.

It happens every year!

4. Onsite Expert Support and Help

There is no other web conference that helps attendees as directly as WordCamps do.  WordCamp RI is going to have a help desk staffed during the entire two day conference by our speakers and experts.

Bring your questions about building a site, marketing to new users, growing a community or how to get started working in the industry.  We have the answers.

5. Community

We have an absolutely special community here in Rhode Island. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. We are all so eager to help you because we at one point were in your shoes looking for help.  We live to pass on our knowledge and experience and to work together.  Come find out what it’s like to be a part of a local WordPress community.

 

I can’t wait to see you at WordCamp RI 2017.  Buy your tickets today before they run out!

 

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Choosing the fastest wifi every single time

I travel a lot since I joined Automattic (it’s awesome by the way, and we’re hiring), and with traveling comes a lot of remembered wifi networks.  Today for example I am on the MBTA train heading north to speak at WordCamp Boston, and I have a few choices for wifi on my trip.

By the way MBTA the network name MBTA_WIFI_Car0776_Box-046 is just awesome. Spoiler alert your WIFI is so bad I’m glad you create such complicated SSID’s that my computer never knows what to connect to, cause it never remembers your crap names.  🙂

Ordering WIFI networks in order of speed!

See how in the image above how my Mac is able to tell me what network my phone is on (4G / 3G) and the battery strength?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if we took it a step further and Apple was able to order the wifi networks in order of speed and show you mbps download speeds?

There’s no reason we can’t do this now.  They can either run tests when you’re connected, or before you connect to determine the network speed.  They can even compare this against old data and shared data from iCloud users.

Tim Cook, if you’re reading this, I don’t need anything in return for my awesome idea except for you to build it!  Thank you!

Let’s bring Netflix to our local theaters.

I love going to the movies! I don’t even have a problem going on my own. I’m just getting frustrated paying outrageous movie theater ticket prices, but I have an idea!

Why are tickets so expensive?

There is a lot that goes into why movie tickets are so much money. If you’re interested in a funny interview and some details here’s a great article on the subject.

In the first few weeks after a movie releases the studio takes 70 – 80% of the gross ticket sales. On top of that there are movie brokers and distrubtors that take a percentage as well.  So while AMC charges $13.69 for an adult ticket they are probably only keeping about $1.30 – $1.75.

At the end of the day your local theater is left with just a few percentage points to run the theater, employ the teenage stub cutters, cover the cost of cleaning the sticky soda under your feet, and everything else that goes into runing a theather.

Why is a box of Sno💩Caps $6?

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This one’s easy. Concessions are so expensive because it’s frankly the only way theaters can make any money.

This is also why we see more straight up commercials before previews now. Why lots of theaters are getting into the alcohol and restaurant businesses.  This is where the money is!

 “If you didn’t have concessions at a movie theater, there would be no movie theater. We have movies just to get people in to buy popcorn and candy, where we make our money.” – Article by Annelena Lobb

We’re spiraling away from a solution.

Every year we expect nicer theaters, bigger more comfortable seats, better ammenties but we also gripe about ticket costs. On top of that too many people are now choosing to stay home and pirate films because it’s so accessible.

Pirating leads to less ticket sales, which results in theaters having to increase ticket prices, which leads to more people staying home, which leads to more increases, and so on and so on.

“Someday soon going to the movies will be as expensive and luxurious as going to see a Broadway Play” – unknown

Netflix are you listening?

We all have Netflix, and many of us also have free 2-day-shipping from Amazon which means we have Amazon Prime video. On top of that there’s Hulu, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime and the list goes on and on. We’re watching movies on our phones, tablets, smart tv’s, and laptops.

So many movies and shows are accessbile to us anywhere anytime. Not to mention that Netflix alone spent $6 Billion on original content last year. But as David Lynch puts it:

“It’s such sadness that you think you’ve seen a film on your FUCKING telephone! Get real!” – David Lynch

All this amazing original content and no movie theater experience. It’s a shame, it’s a sadness and we can do better.

Let’s fix our movie theater experiences while bringing revenue back to the theaters.

As we discussed theaters only make a buck or so per adult ticket sold.  Netflix needs to license their original content to AMC, Showcase, and Regal for $0.  In return these theaters will not charge more than $2 for a ticket to Netflix subscribers.

The theaters will actually make more revenue per ticket this way, and Netflix gets to show their original content on the big screen. It’s a win, win. But wait there’s more.


On a Saturday night gong out to the movies with my wife and son costs us on average $35 in ticket sales.  It’s hard to agree to pay an additional $30 dollars for a soda, candy, and a popcorn.  So as you can imagine we resort to sneaking in sodas and little bags of popcorn. 🙂

In my scenario I just spent $6 in movie tickets for my entire family. Now it’s way easier for me to spend the $29 I would have otherwise spent on tickets, on concesions. This increases candy and soda sales, which dramatically increases theater revenue and now it’s a win, win, win!

Not to mention that non Netflix subscribers can subscribe to netflix for a month for the cost of one ticket. So Mr Hastings (CEO of Netflix) give the theaters an affiliate commision for signing up new Netflix subscribers at the box office. Boom!

Reed Hastings if you’re reading this, all I ask in return for the idea is that you actually do it!

P.S. MovieTickets.com has a great 404 page.

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It’s time to speak at WordCamp Rhode Island

We are proud to organizing the 6th WordCamp Rhode Island this September. It’s going to be an awesome event and we’ve already received several amazing speaking submissions, but we need more.  
Submit your talk here!

If you’re an experienced speaker, great! If you want to get started this is the best way to do it. 

Please comment here, or email me if you have any questions. Hope to see your submissions!

Be quiet Google Maps! Until I need you.

At the beginning of every road trip for the last ten years I have taken the same 5 mile / 15 min trip from my house to the highway.  I don’t like to fumble with my phone while I’m driving or during a trip, which means I’m pulling up Google Maps in my driveway. This also means I have to listen to Google tell me how to get the highway, a trip I’ve taken probably 3,000 times.

Google Maps can be more human

If you ask someone for directions to Boston from Rhode Island they aren’t going to lay out a 60 step plan covering every single turn and fork. Instead they’re going to say something like “Get on 95 North and in about 30 min stay to the right to get on 93 North. Take that until you get into the city, you can’t miss it.”

Google Maps on the other hand can’t make assumptions about what you know about the neighborhood or what amount of directions you really need.  Or can it?

Google Maps has the data and the ability to determine where I live, and how often I travel the same routes. There’s no technical limitation to improving local directions.

Google Maps would be so much more awesome if it could simply say “Get on 95 North” as step 1. 

Detailed local directions are often less accurate

How often do you ignore Google Maps when they are giving hyper local directions? I do all the time because no one knows my neighborhood better than the people who live there.

I know that the intersection of Airport Rd and Warwick Ave (known locally as Hoxsie Four Corners) is a very dangerous intersection and should probably be avoided when possible.

I know that taking Warwick Ave instead of West Shore Road gives me more short cut options if traffic is super high.  I also know that there is a shortcut through a small neighborhood off of Airport Road that takes you straight to the highway that you’re not allowed to use from 7am to 9am but that everyone does anyways.

My point is that if I pretty much ignore Google Maps till I’m in unknown territory, which pretty much kills its value in my neighborhood. Google Maps would actually increase it’s accuracy and overall value to me if it let me decide how to get to the highway.

Google if you’re listening, I’m ready to beta this for you!

IKEA, WIFI and In Real Life Personalization

Yesterday I had the opportunity to test the strength of my marriage by visiting Ikea for the 5th time in the last year. In actuality my wife, son and I had a good time and there were no epic debates over couch choices. I did however notice a rather novel decision on behalf of Ikea.

There’s something special about the IKEA Stoughton once you reach the “marketplace” you’re no longer able to communicate with the outside world. That’s right your phone bars drop to “No Service” and you’re stuck in a pit of despair debating which kitchen utensil is the best deal with no connection with the outside world.

ikea-wifi-sign-inIn this instance, yesterday, I decided to hop on the IKEA free WIFI which I have to admit was a nice addition to their luxuries, which includes free coffee, tea, and low cost meatballs. Signing onto the Wifi I was presented a few decisions as you can see in the screenshot to the left.

What stuck out to me was the idea of signing in with an “IKEA Family Card”. This is the “Stop & Shop Card” or rather free savings card Ikea gives out to it’s customers. I’ve noticed in the past that I rarely save on furniture but their already low priced meatballs tend to drop in price when I hand over the card.

The importance of this decision

Why would you want to sign in with your IKEA Family Card? Well it’s probably pretty convenient for you if you already have one.  You type in a few numbers and you’re in.

ikea-wifi-sign-in-approval Actually it’s quite inconvenient if you’re not currently a Family Card member and if you have to dig it out of you’re wife’s purse it’s not all that easy either. That being said I am fascinated to know how IKEA will use this information. This is a unique opportunity for IKEA to tie past purchases with current needs.

I imagine one of the main reasons I want to be on wifi despite being in a No Service pit of despair is that I want to look up some IKEA products and compare what I’ve seen online to what’s in font of me.

No matter the reason IKEA has created an opportunity to not only sell to you in the physical world but to tie it to an beautifully personal experience. If they want to be magicians in this space they can also tie it to which router you’re currently connected to and have a better understanding of where you are in the store.

Imagine the opportunities to increase their reach to you if you are standing in the workspace section looking at chairs for you new desk. You go online to see the chair you were looking at on their website because you can’t quite find what you were looking for. Then in that moment IKEA delivers you an uniquely blended experience of in-real-life tangible items tied to your phone and what you’re looking at in your screen to sell you on the chair you’ve been wanting for your office.

Here’s the thing. I have no idea if IKEA is doing this, or just tracking searches, or just trying to better understand their users. For all I know they thought’d it be easy to have you sign in with your family card and that’s the extent of it.

Just imagine the opportunities. Comment below!

I’m a dumb user, help me be smarter

I don’t mind admitting it, I can be a dumb user sometimes. It’s not shameful, it just means that I don’t understand your interface the way you designed it. Sure I can blame you and say you should have done better, but in the end it’s 6 of 1 and half a dozen of the other.

Take Fry, for example. He’s new to the 31st century and he’s mistaken this suicide booth for a phone booth. It’s not his fault he’s just a “kid from the stupid ages”.

An interface that provides a service as serious and immutable as suicide should absolutely come with a warning.

While a delete button isn’t nearly as serious it should come with warnings and or a safeguard to keep users like myself from making mistakes that can’t be undone. MailChimp and WordPress both do it right.

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MailChimp requires that I type the word DELETE in the form field above. Not only that, but I also have to type it EXACTLY the way you see it there. Delete and delete don’t work. You have to seriously want to delete a campaign or template.

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WordPress on the other hand doesn’t utilize a warning system. Instead it’s a 2 step process to delete something. First you delete it from the posts section. This lands your post in the trash, seen below.

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From there you have to press the “Empty Trash” button or the “Delete Permanently” button. Either way you know what you’re getting into.

Did you enjoy this post? Keep up with the rest by liking my page:

 

Whether you have a preemptive alert system like MailChimp or a multi-step process like WordPress it’s important to help users like me prevent catastrophic failure.

“My content is so good I don’t need an unsubscribe button”

Today at Starbucks I had an interesting conversation with a guy who says he “works in marketing”.

Guy: “Hey, you look smart. Do you know anything about MailChimp?”

Me: “Yeah a bit…”

Guy: “Do you know how to remove the unsubscribe button from the bottom of an email?”

Me: “Why would you want to?”

Guy: “Cause I don’t want my subscribers to unsubscribe”

Me: “Ok, but what if they don’t want to read your emails anymore?”

Guy: “Why wouldn’t they want to?”

Me: “I’m sure there are plenty of reasons why someone would change their minds, but if they can’t unsubscribe they’ll get frustrated and mark it as spam”

Guy: “How do I stop them from marking it as spam?”

Me: “Write great content that provides value to your readers AND give them an unsubscribe button”

Guy: “But I don’t want them to unsubscribe”

Me: “Then don’t use MailChimp cause it’s a requirement”

Guy: “My content is so good I don’t need an unsubscribe button, why does MailChimp suck?”

Me: performs epic face palm

Star ratings are a recipe for deception

There is a fundamental problem with star ratings. I have no idea how long these reviews have been coming in, and I can’t see any trends.

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Take a look at the Troy-Bilt Weed Wacker above. 765 reviews means it’s been on Lowes.com for quite some time.

With exactly 227 – 5 star reviews, and 227 – 1 star reviews it sounds like a solid 3 star product, but that’s actually really deceiving. It doesn’t mean I’m likely to get an average product that works but could be better. What it actually means is that I have a 50/50 chance of getting a working one.

How can we improve ratings?

Let’s trend those ratings so we can see what’s happening over the lifetime of the product. The data is obviously there on lowes.com so why not use it. If you told me when that 70% of those 1 star reviews were from 3 years ago, then I’d know that Troy-Bilt has obviously fixed a major flaw in the product.  If however most of those 1 star reviews came in, in the last 6 months that would mean something completely different.

article-2284725-184F692E000005DC-449_634x396Geographic locations may make a big difference too. If I’m looking for a snowblower and most of the 5 star reviews come from areas with very little snowfall that data isn’t really helpful for me. I’m more interested in what this person thinks.

Star ratings have been pulling a veil over our eyes for a long time, especially considering how much spam there is. In the end a great return policy makes it easier to just throw out ratings and just try it for yourself. I would prefer that over imaginary reassurance that I’m going to like the product.

Emails are dying, if you’re sending them you should take care to do it right

For me personally, marketing emails have to be super relevant or I’m off to click the sacred “unsubscribe” button. Movie Tickets (a service I rarely use) sent me an email today and the data they are sending me is really bizarre.

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To be honest the layout of the email was intriguing and I was interested to learn a bit about my movie habits. However, after 1 look I was immediately discouraged.

“Days since your first purchase” is wordy and frankly a bit strange. I’d rather be congratulated for being a long time customer. Also 3,338 days is kinda like a mom saying “little Johnny is 47 months old”. No, he’s not, he’s turning 4 next month.

Also I’ve clearly been around for a really long time, but rarely use your service. 10 tickets in over 9 years isn’t exactly impressive, maybe something to entice me to come back would be more appropriate.

The major takeaway here is that I didn’t even know that I was subscribed to MovieTickets.com updates before I received this email. I haven’t heard from them before so this was their 1 shot and now I’m off to unsubscribe:

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Where you arrive after clicking “update email preferences” there is no “unsubscribe” button.

Oh wait, I can’t unsubscribe because you didn’t provide an easy way to do that. I now have to login to an account I haven’t used in years to get off your list. Really? At this point the spam button is looking so good right now.

Do you care about your privacy?

We’re proud to be recognized by the EFF for our work in this year’s Who Has Your Back report and are continually working to improve our practices to best serve the millions of websites owners who put their trust in us.

WordPress.com received a perfect EFF score and that’s a big deal. Not only can you build a blog and quickly start sharing your ideas and beliefs, but you can also do it with confidence that you’re anonymity and privacy will be protected because WordPress.com has your back.

Read more here: https://en.blog.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/a-perfect-eff-score-were-proud-to-have-your-back/

Don’t be creepy when asking for info on users

I was signing up for a rewards card today and a required question was gender. I’m not sure why a local fastish food restaurant needs to know my gender to grant me a loyalty card, it’s borderline creepy.

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I figured there must be an option to “opt out” but there wasn’t.

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So I might have hacked it in the inspector and given them an answer they might know what to do with.

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Extra points if you know why I chose earthworm.

Confusion doesn’t lead to conversion

In the scenario below Genmega isn’t worried about conversion, they already have my fees. But they should be worried about my security. Your interface should always have clear understandable calls-to-action.

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Is the lack of a dismiss button a determination of importance?

Today I logged into my Google Voice account and saw this banner at the top.

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It was really in the way of the UI even though the colors were muted and the message was subtle. Of course my first action is to simply dismiss the notice but in this case it was impossible.

I clicked through to the survey and based on the questions I got the immediate feeling that its purpose was to collect information to help in a decision on the future of Google Voice. Questions about how much I use GV, when I signed up, and what features I find valuable, lead me to believe Google is at a fork in the road and needs some insight.

Obviously that would mean the results of this survey would be really important, and possibly the reason I couldn’t dismiss the survey.

Distraction free writing

Nope, I’m not talking about distraction free writing in WordPress. I’m talking about on my laptop with limited internet access and free from all distractions. Truly focused writing is achievable with a few simple steps.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 9.19.59 AMStep 1. Create a new profile on your mac and don’t setup any extra software. Slack is a great example of amazing software that I absolutely don’t need distracting me while I’m writing.

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Step 2. Love your writing tool. Ulysses is great distraction free writing software that I’ve been using for about a month now.

Step 3. Listen to great music! Here’s a list of some of my favorite music to listen to while writing.

Your horrible website might not be all that bad

wpid-screenshot_2015-06-09-11-35-40.jpgThere’s something about restaurant websites that get under my skin. It’s mostly because there are so many mediocre tools out there that help restaurant owners bloat their websites and make them terrible to use.

wpid-screenshot_2015-06-09-11-36-02.jpgThis is the website for Han Palace, a Chinese restaurant down the street from me. You might be tempted to make fun of the solid image homepage and the widespread use of <tr>’s. But before you do all that take a second and think about the experience you might have with this website.

Most people who arrive here are looking for the phone number, hours and possibly a menu. This isn’t a 5 star restaurant in a casino on the Las Vegas strip, their website doesn’t have to be try and represent it that way either. Sure it won’t win any awards, but customers get what they want when they need it. It’s not responsive either, but the mobile experience was just fine.

Secure Your WordPress Website

You can not afford to have your site hacked, infultrated or taken down Buy Now

The point I’m making is that all too often people try to build websites the way “they’re supposed to built” but don’t even get close. In that time they put so much icing on a terrible tasting cake all we get is a bad taste in our mouths. Instead just make an old fashion cookie with no frills or special add-ons and you’ll make your customers happy.