Anklebuster

Short story writer, aspiring game designer, bad chess player.

Crumbling Cookies

I use a service that helps me keep my websites GDPR-compliant. In early October, 2021, the service alerted me to changes in the GDPR that mandated logging cookie consent.

Remember Sarbanes-Oxley? I'm sure the financial institutions have come to grips with it but, when it first came out, businesses complained that it was too onerous.

Well, this latest GDPR requirement seems entirely too onerous! Obviously, I'm not set up to do my own logging, otherwise, I wouldn't be writing this. The issue, for me, is that this new mandate would incur a monthly fee from my service provider.

While the fee is as inexpensive insurance against fines, I'm looking at this whole GDPR compliance issue as an unnecessary drain on my wallet. Naturally, I asked, "What if I didn't use any cookies?"

Well, I would be in compliance, that's what! I hunted around to see if anyone had tried running a website without cookies. After all, web pages predates cookies! Here's what I found: Scott Cole ran his website without cookies and shared the impact of this decision in a followup post.

I am encouraged by this impact statement. Bottom line: most WordPress plug-ins don't set cookies. If I delete the few that do, then I should be cookie free!

The Digital Diet continues...

Wiki? Wacky!

Digital clutter is in the eye of the beholder. One man's heap is another man's folder. Mo' software, mo' problems. If you need 10,000 hours to master something (spoiler: you don't), you would need a decade to master just ten programs! During that span, nine of them would have become obsolete and the other one would have become so far removed from its origins that you still wouldn't be able to use it to its full potential.


The solution, of course, is to master the art of creating a wiki. Not just any old wiki, though. It has to be something that will last at least as long as you care about organizing your data. It has to be easy, portable and powerful. For me, that means TiddlyWiki.


For starters, TiddlyWiki (like all wikis) is a hypertext document. This means I can replace my browser bookmarks with a contextual collection of hyperlinks. In addition, I can link to files--whether they reside on my hard drives or live in the cloud. Finally, I can link to other parts of the wiki. 


Next, TiddlyWiki is self-contained. I don't need a server-based platform, although that's a viable option. TiddlyWiki uses JavaScript and HTML to work its magic. Nothing beats clutter like a really large container with a lid.


Finally, TiddlyWiki is powerful enough to be useful in many contexts. I have created user manuals for clients, a bug tracker for my own software and I have used it as an alternative to Scrivener for outlining complex plots.


In all honesty, TiddlyWiki is just another shovel for my pile of digital crap. It's hardly going to make me stop using Globonote, Workona, RoboForm and Standard Notes (which you're looking at right now.)

Facing Down the Gnarly Beast

I just realized that the key enabler for Shiny Object Syndrome is curiosity. While that may seem obvious, I promise you that I hadn't considered it until just now. Curiosity is not a bad thing, nothwithstanding its relationship with "morbid". I think that it simply needs boundaries.


Rule #1: Don't Give Scissors to a Cat

If a tool is not useful, why have it? Unless you are a collector, you should save your money and closet space for other things.


Rule #2: If the Cat Must Have Scissors, Choose Plastic

Free and open source software will only cost you time and space on your hard drive. Scratch that itch, if you must.


Rule #3: Don't Let Your Cat Watch YouTube

If you put scissors near a cat, you have to expect the cat to investigate the shiny object.


Hopefully, you realize that "cat" is your curiosity and, while it won't be killed (the analogy doesn't hold, for one thing), there is also no guarantee that satisfaction will be in the mix. Currently, AppSumo is my favorite place to find scissors. Their marketing videos are slick but none of the offerings are plastic (with the exception of a few apps they've made for their subscribers.)

Since I've blithely ignored all three rules, I had to come up with a fourth one to save myself:


Rule #4: Teach Your Cat Critical Thinking Skills

  • Sort the reviews from worst to best and read them all, along with the company's replies.
  • Picture yourself actually using the tool in your business
  • Often, AppSumo tells you that the offering is an alternative to similar tools; compare them!
  • Check your budget
  • Wait two days
  • Notice that you don't actually need the thing, after all.

If all else fails, return to Rule #3 and stay away from marketers. LOL

A Magic Wand Called "Unsubscribe"

I tend to make too much of relatively trivial things. It's a mindset thing, so I am not going to bore you with why. Instead, let me bore you with a brief discourse about the most mundane tool in the Digital Diet's arsenal:

UNSUBSCRIBE

The ability to unsubscribe is tempered by the phantom Fear of Missing Out. I've remained on lists in hopes that the content would someday be life-changing. I've stayed in forums to nurture imaginary relationships. Bah! Unsubscribe.

Shiny Object Syndrome

Since impulse purchasing is the root cause of many of these subscriptions, isn't it reasonable to assume that the shine has worn off of many subscriptions? Unread PDFs, outdated plug-ins and forgotten Udemy Courses (only 9.00 apiece, but that's 99.00 I'll never get back.) Unsubscribe.

Reciprocity Fails

If you're not a blogger or social media amplifier, you may not know about Social Proof's baby sister. You can read about her here and here (where you can tl;dr straight to the interesting conclusion of the study.) Personally, I found reciprocity to be a bit one-sided. It's probably due to the filtering effect that occurred when bloggers repeated what they thought was the intent of reciprocity.

Much like the old game of Telephone, the message of social reciprocity morphed into "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours." I'm basing this on the 4-year difference between the two links above. In essence, I believe that reciprocity went from a gift that kept on giving, to a whiny, privileged-based expectation.

Having bought into the wronger version of the concept of reciprocity, I am not surprised at the abysmal ROI. I'm waving the magic wand to make them all disappear. Unsubscribe.

Identity = Accountability

As an aside, I do believe that identity plays a role in reciprocity. If you find a 20.00 bill on the street, you certainly don't feel the need to drop one of your own bills in return. (This is not to be confused with paying it forward, which dictates that you do something nice for someone else.) However, if your friend hands you twenty bucks to get you out of a potentially embarrassing situation, you'll probably feel a strong urge to repay the favor at some point.

This means that when someone interacts on your blog or your social media, you're probably going to feel a twinge if you don't reciprocate. But, at the end of the day, you two are likely just a pair of random ships, passing each other. If you are more than that, then reciprocity follows social norms, obviously. And by social norms, I mean this.

Workona vs Pinned Tabs

Since this is not a review post, here is the tl;dr (411):

Workona wins!


Workona has workspaces, within which I can save tabs as well as bookmarks called resources. Whenever I switch to a different workspace, the open tabs are swapped out with whatever tabs I had open the last time I viewed the workspace. That's nice and all, but I have a few tabs that I would like to be available at all times.

This goes against the core philosophy of Workona, which aims to enhance focus by removing distractions. So, my workaround has been to pin the tabs to Edge! Yay.

That's fine until the pin tabs are forgotten. Googlezens have complained loudly, so I know it's not just me. In an effort to preserve the tabs, I created a Workona wokspace call Pinned Tabs. This workspace has one resource that contains the dozen or so tabs I might want to open and repin.

Guess what? That's a pain! It's faster to distribute the pins to relevant workspaces and simply switch to them when I need to. There is the risk of forgetting to check a site, though. The solution to that is simple. If it is important, I can just type the first few letters of the site and autocomplete will get me there.

Simple.


Demote Evernote

Ugh! I can't bring myself to delete my account. Luckily, I don't have to. I'm just going to stop paying for it. One of these days, I may actually close it. For now, I don't need to make a hasty decision, since Evernote basically can become free cloud storage:

This is the key bit, from the Evernote Help & Learning Center:

Your subscription won't change until your current billing cycle ends. Once your subscription runs out, your subscription will be canceled, and your account will automatically revert to Evernote Free. None of your data will be lost, and you will maintain access to all of your notes and notebooks.

Since I switched to Standard Notes, I had given myself until September, 2021 to transfer Evernote to the new platform. I've completed that task. I still have 4,500+ notes that are more or less random clippings from the web. Sprinkled among the chaff are some fleeting thoughts. By retaining my account, I can browse through my notes, looking for them--like popping in an old VHS of home movies.

Here's one:


Humorous T-shirt Idea

I need a design around this:

Remember, It's All

01000010 01010101 01001100 01001100

01010011 01001000 01001001 01010100

Install Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office is a glorious suite of productivity software, supported by the same clown car that swerves over everything that Microsoft owns. Let's see who the clowns are, crammed into the 1990 Volkswagen Beetle:

Accounts - I have personal and business accounts, each with it own, MS enforced email address
Crapware - It's not exactly crap, but most laptops come with a trial of some version of Office
Authentication - This is actually good, but causes confusion, because both accounts authenticate to my mobile phone.
Online Help - Though it is a muddled nightmare, one of the links finally pointed me to the right login.
Installation - there are actually TWO components: "Office" and "Other Apps"

Every time I have had to reinstall Windows 10 or set up a new laptop, the clown car threatens to run me over. Here's the latest drive-by horror story:

I can never remember if I can "upgrade" the crapware to my Enterprise version and always wind up wasting time launching and staring futilely at trial version screens, as if willing the installation genie to pop up. Eventually, I decide to install Microsoft Office from a so-called downloader file (OfficeSetup.exe).

It takes a while to pull down the apps from the MS store. Afterwards, a link to the Access database appeared in my Start window. It wasn't there before because Access isn't part of the crapware package. However, when I launch it, a window pops up, saying that Access isn't part of the account. 

Obviously, I am not signed in to my Enterprise account. Heaven help me, I sign out and try to sign in to Enterprise and the login screen reads, "Invalid email"! I looked over at my other laptop, compare addresses. Nope, no typo. Eventually, I realize that I am trying to do a "Switch Account" within the personal accounts ecosystem. This is why point decent online help is vital. When all else fails, read the f... wait, this complex office suite doesn't have a manual! Normal people's first thought when setting up a laptop probably isn't, "Hmmm, let me go to the web and make sure I'm doing this right." I think the world would be a better place if the first screen the pops up after clicking Install included a warning:


                    Don't screw this up! Visit www.awesomesoftware.com for step-by-step instructions.


Anyway. I need to locate the business ecosystem's login portal. I use the term portal because you can sign in from any Office software app, as well as from the web browser. I fumble around with the clown known as support.microsoft.com and finally click the proper link to the Enterprise login page.

Once my login authenticates via mobile phone, I follow the help page's instructions to click on "Other Apps". This finally leads to Excel, Word and other apps to be downloaded.

The next time I need to install Microsoft Office, hopefully, I'll remember that I posted this.

Deliberations are Self-defining!

That headline is a bit of wordplay: considering things at length is actually the opposite of liberating. Essentially, it leads to analysis paralysis. That's where I am this summer.

First of all, I bought a new laptop. I wanted something more modern. I have a 2 TB solid state drive. From my understanding, SSD's have some disconcerting properties. Since I may be misguided, I will not repeat my thoughts here. Suffice it to say that I am hesitant about loading it up with software.

Secondly, I'm in the midst of evaluating all the software I've acquired over the years. A good number of them fall into the category of "totally useless", in the sense that I'm moving away from activities that required such software. For example, I'm no longer writing automation code for clients. So Microsoft Visual Studio is totally useless.

Thirdly, I'm not sure about my evaluations! This is the part that is causing me to deliberate. What if I want to build a little program for myself? Without Visual Studio, I'm stuck with Excel VBA. Ugh! So, I reconsider, move Visual Studio to the "I might need this some day" category and then have to decide if it's worth installing on the new laptop.

Every program that I plan to install will make me wonder if it's going to spam the SSD with log files, backups and temp files. If I know about it, I can point the fire hose to one of my external USB hard drives. But for software like Visual Studio, I have no idea where the hose is spraying.

Finally, I intend to play a lot of games on my new laptop. I've already set my Steam Library to an external drive. Factorio is one such game.

I've scoured Reddit, Steam community and Factorio forums looking for pros and cons of running it from my SSD. (The cons won.) So now, I'm wondering what will happen if gameplay is unacceptable from the external drive. For context, you have to understand that I love Factorio and will destroy the SSD if it means I can play it. LOL

Deliberations are supposed to help one come to a decision. In my case, I may just conclude that everything is totally useless, except Steam. Now that would be liberating.

Ditto: The App that Made Me Go "Hmmmm..."

I was just talking to my friend, Mitch Mitchell, about clipboard replacement apps.

This is not going to be about clipboard replacement apps. Do your own research. LOL

No, what I want to mention is that I may have yet another tool in the Digital Diet arsenal. During our conversation, I noted that I used to use Quick Cliq then switched to Ditto. In the very next sentence, I said, "But I must not need it, because I never reinstalled it."

There. Try turning off a program or two and see if you can get by without it.

I've found this to be the case for quite a few apps. Taking inventory,  I'm living without Ditto, Visual Studio, ABBYY FineReader, NordVPN, Folder Colorizer and Bing Wallpaper.

As I typed the list, I realized that my changing work habits account for half: instead of ABBYY Finereader, I use Microsoft Edge to read PDFs; I'm not developing Windows apps right now, so no need for Visual Studio; NordVPN cause more problems than it solves. The other half represents visual eye candy or minor helpers that I can live without.


Try a software inventory. You might be surprised by what you're not missing.


Digital Sticky Notes

I need a new sticky note application. Globonote is great, but... [note, I found a solution!!]


Warning! If you have multiple displays, Globonote might not be for you.

At first, I loved Globonote. It replaced my physical Post-it notes with little windows. I used it for everything from reminders, to-do's and blog post notes to webinar notes and my ever-changing Johnny Decimal Index.


Every once in a while, Windows 10 forgets that I have two displays. Or it switches them. When this happens, application windows go "off-screen" because my laptop screen is not as wide as my ViewSonic monitor.

After I fix the displays, normal application windows are visible again but not Globonotes. I don't know how to get them back on-screen. Luckily, I can preview them in the Note Manager, but it's time to get a "windowed" application for my notes.

I will miss Globonote but, besides the off-screen problem, I was cluttering my ViewSonic with a wall paper of yellow boxes. Although I could roll them up so that only the title showed, that defeats the purpose of having notes in your face.

If you're curious about sticky note apps in general, here is the blog post where I found out about Globonote:


Geckoandfly.com: Microsoft Sticky Notes Alternatives

[Update, later that day...]

Globonote is awesome. A workaround exists to retrieve off-screen notes. In addition, the next release will add the ability to arrange windows. Whew!

Google can't always find the answers. The SourceForge Feature Request for Globonote had this snippet:


William Chan - 2020-10-02  

Will add an arrange visible notes in the next release. For now you can try to double click the note from note manager or search windows for 2 to 3 times, note will move beside the window


Note to self - Getting Started with Johnny.Decimal

You can ignore this post, unless you are interested in learning about Johnny.Decimal.


I posted in the Johnny.Decimal forum, sharing my intention to use TiddlyWiki for my JD Index.

A JD Index is a vital component of the Johnny.Decimal system. With it, you are able to track your numbers, which means that you'll always know the next available number in each AC (Area / Category)

Here is part of the thread, where I expanded on pre-pending the AC.ID to each file:

Thanks for the clarification. I do have several use cases under consideration:

  • Bulk renaming of files so that the renaming tool or another utility can move them into proper folders
  • Auto-renaming and moving downloaded files
  • Global search

I use Windows 10, along with a handful of tools to easily locate, store and rename files. I blame them them for my current mess, LOL. However, they also can be used to fix things.

Bulk Rename Utility, from bulkrenameutility.co.uk will help with the initial categorization of files. I can move files with BRU or leave them where they are.

File Juggler, from filejuggler.com, will scan a folder, such as Downloads, and act on targeted files.

Everything, from voidtools.com can help me find files, but only if I know part of the name (searching by file content is supported, but slow.) This is particularly helpful when I decide to leave renamed files in the current locations (Dropbox, external hard drive, etc.)

While I agree that it would be onerous to rename every file, I can at least get everything organized with prefixes. Going forward, I may find no need to continue adding prefixes. (I could even run BRU afterward and remove all prefixes from files that have been moved into JD folders.)

The Essence of a Digital Diet

I was so impressed by an article that I feel compelled to write about it.

First, here is the article: How I Got Out of Idea Debt

I consider myself to be a creator, with all the god-like omniscience that implies. Games, programs and stories. Lately, I've been focusing on puzzles: the Venn Diagram intersection of those three interests.

Over the years, I have outlined more than a dozen puzzle concepts, even to the point where a whole series of interconnected challenges were set up, just waiting for me to flesh out and breathe life into.

Meanwhile (meaning concurrently), I was following the contests on TheGameCrafter.com, with the intention of submitting an entry to some of them. I used to actively submit first drafts to whimsical contests set up on the Board Game Designers Forum. I even won, once.

As if all that were not enough, I was an active participant on the Creative Copy Challenge website. All this creatin' meant that I accumulated a lot of ideas, outlines, spreadsheets and Scrivener projects. Luckily, I had Evernote to stash everything.

As the author of Idea Debt suggests, ideas are meant to be nurtured and set free, not trapped in the cages of our digital repositories. Of course, I didn't think of it like that. I spent a lot of energy categorizing, re-imagining and safeguarding my little ideas. Backups, duplicates, cross-pollination and other abominations grew in the dark. 

Suddenly (or more like the frog in the pot of water), I found myself the proud owner of an entangled mess of unfinished business. Vines of neglect ensnarled both good and bad ideas to the extent that I really had no way of separating them.

So, the mess languished, taking up debilitating residence in my head and real estate on my hard drives. Much like my friend Holly's recent post suggested, my ideas were in a bottomless backpack that simply weighed me down, even as I held out hope for reaching that destination: Some Day.

Just last week, I stumbled upon yet another system designed to help us organize stuff. It's called Johnny.Decimal and, frankly, I think it is the holy grail. So, it should come as no surprise that like-minded people would congregate at the forum, where I found the link to Idea Debt

Within the context of organizing stuff, getting out of idea debt is the equivalent of tossing out junk before organizing what's left. In that spirit, I think I'm going to go all scorched earth on my old ideas. I don't have the bandwidth to retire them properly, as the author of Idea Debt did. For one thing, nobody cares. For another, if I'm honest, those ideas will always live in my head. But, shed of the umbilical vines by which they cling to the digital representations (and are thus constrained), they will weigh far less. 

You see, memories are valid snapshots that old ideas can sift through, while the young ideas catch a ride on the synapses.


The Great Folder Debate

Okay, so the debate is taking place only in my head. Let's listen in (no affiliate links in this post):

Elby is analytical and into efficiency. Arby is whimsical and full of creative ideas.

Elby: So, this cabinet metaphor is creaking under the weight of information overload.

Arby: The forest metaphor isn't much better. I like contextual searches.

Elby: I ain't got all day for that! Every document should be two clicks away.

Arby: That's over a mile!

Elby: Stop playing around. We need to find a better way. All this  software forces us to save in odd places.

Arby: OneDrive is not really up in the clouds, is it? That would be neat. Until the jet stream whisks away your notes.

Elby: You know it's not. Are you going to contribute?

Arby: Okay, okay! Associative storage.

Elby: Too expensive. Remember the Memex experiment?

Arby: I like Evernote and Standard Note.

Elby: Those won't help us find files!

Arby: Well, may we should dump everything into Evernote. It reads PDFs. We have a million PDFs.

Elby: Again, too expensive. We're leaving Evernote, or did you forget?

Arby: Hmmm... You set up a ton of labels in Gmail and now you're sad. Why?

Elby: I thought I could get away with five, but new stuff doesn't fit in any of them.

Arby: Who cares? You can easily see what's new. They're bold. Plus, DarwinMail bundles emails for us!

Elby: I care! I don't want to wade through 60 Quora notifications to get to something more important.

Arby: Well, it's your fault for making Quora send you stuff.

Elby: Actually, you're right. We could unsubscribe to most of this stuff, right?

Arby: No! I'm building resources and making friends. You never visit Quora on your own.

Elby: Yeah, that's true.

Arby: Look at all the stuff you set up: Inoreader email to get newsletters, BurnerMail to hide your main address...

Elby: Alright, alright. you've made your point. We should at least get rid of the RSS email stuff.

Arby: We never read that mess, anyway.

Elby: Fine. Done. {deletes email link}

Arby: Let's look at Workona. I love Workona.

Elby: I left that in your hands for one day. You made a mess of it.

Arby: No I didn't. You can find anything that's been saved.

Elby: Arrgh, you win again. I just hate trying to figure out where you want me to store each new web page.

Arby: We should just have one big, giant inbox for files, emails, web pages and crypto.

Elby: Crypto??!! What have you been up to?

Arby: Never mind that. Look, I almost always find files with Everything. You launch programs with FARR.

Elby: Yeah, I love me some Find and Run Robot. I almost forget how to use the Windows Start menu!

Arby: Exactly! Now, if you put all our files in one big, pretty folder, then use Everything...

Elby: I'm going to stop you right there. We have blog posts, tax records, spreadsheets and games.

Arby: Ugh! I get carried away, don't I?

Elby: Don't be too hard on yourself. I go too far in the other direction. 

Arby: Actually, the best idea you had was to plant a new tree under My Documents and let iDrive backup that.

Elby: Thanks. I saved a lot of time with that one. Just check the root folder and forget it!

Arby: Why can't we extend that idea to the content that we create?

Elby: Because, like I said, software won't cooperate.

Arby: Well, you're the one who started allowing defaults to stand.

Elby: It's a time-saver! If the software remembers where it's files are saved, I won't make new folders.

Arby: Booo! Lazy-ass. Just as you made the Downloads folder the default, you can make new defaults!*

Elby: {lightbulb}

Arby: Base all folders one level beneath the iDrive tree. Data, Projects, Writing. With one click, you're in.

Elby: {Nodding} And, with the second click, I can see all Writing files!

Arby: Oh, no....blog posts need pictures.

Elby: {Excited} We can implement my other grand idea...

Arby: What's that?

Elby: File names with tags. Extensions already serve as great tags.

Arby: True.

Elby: Instead of a folder for images, just tag each file in a writing project with the same name.

Arby: I never liked that. Names are really long.

Elby: What do you care? Search with Everything, silly.

Arby: Oooh! That's right. But neither of us remembers whether it's tag1-tag2-post title or tag1 tag2 post title.

Elby: Doesn't matter, don't you see? With Everything, just search tag1*

Arby: Alright. I'm sold. Glad we could come to an agreement. So, that's files done.

Elby: Not quite.

Arby: Erm, what now?

Elby: Our external drive still has over 100,000 files to be catalogued.

Arby: Hmph! You made that mess. You clean it up. I'm sure you can write a batch file or something.

Elby: Come on, Arby! I need you to come up with something quick and clever!

Arby: How about Delete E:\*.*

Elby: I hate you.

--------------------------------------

* Windows uses the Downloads folder for web browsers. Elby told lots of software to save files there, too. So, for example, the Downloads folder receives all screen shots from Screenpresso, videos from Loom and quick text files from EditPad PRO. (You can google those if you're interested.)

Once the files land in Downloads, yet another program monitors that folder and moves certain files from there to more permanent destinations. This program is called FileJuggler. It has a steepish learning curve, but works wonders to keep the Downloads folder clean.


Elby and Arby are working together to solve some thorny storage and retrieval challenges. They keep me sane.

Shingle

To the extent that our web hosting and Internet service providers allow it, our domains and websites are the ideal "storefront" upon which to hang our shingle. The irony in that, of course, is the flaw in the analogy. In cyberspace, no one sees our shingle. there is no Main street.

Instead of a shingle, we need a bullhorn. Most folks use Google to shout, "Look at me!" Some folks piggyback on popular platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Whatever bullhorn we use, the experts tell us to drive traffic back to our own websites.

I've never been big on that strategy. I tried all the old-school methods:

  • EzineArticles (a form of guest posting)
  • StumbleUpon
  • HubPages
  • Solo ads (LOL!!! Who remembers those?)
  • SEO (I know it works. I got a ton of traffic on a post about fixing CAPTCHA in a plugin)
  • CommentLuv

With the exception of SEO and CommentLuv, I don't bother with getting traffic to my site. But, now that I'm trying to build something that I want to sell, I'm faced with the decision to do one of two things:

  1. Get on the bullhorn and promote my site
  2. Go all in on someone else's platform

In my indecision, I wound up with a confusing mix of both options. I recently started publishing on BuyMeACoffee. While climbing up the learning curve, I missed an important part of the site's philosophy: an all-in-one site that does away with signups and unnecessary integrations. In the site's FAQ, it is written:

With Buy Me a Coffee, you get everything you need to run your creative business. You don't have to worry about paying for and stitching together a dozen services, from sending emails to charging for subscriptions.

I say I missed this because I was testing out Sendfox, an Email Service Provider. I got it into my head that people needed to be on my own list, rather than that of BuyMeACoffee. That's flawed thinking. If I'm not going to undertake the task of integrating everything into my website, there is no point in just doing parts of it.

In other words, why have a SendFox email list if I have nothing to offer? With BuyMeACoffee, I can already email my supporters and members.

Throw in the confusion caused by sending social media clicks to my website instead of to BuyMeACoffee and you have a muddled mess! 

Despite all of this, I am a firm believer in controlling your content. I just need to reduce the friction between getting interested people from social media to BuyMeACoffee. On my site, I'll link to my BuyMeACoffee page instead linking to SendFox with call to action to subscribe to then get an invitation to BuyMeACoffee.

I only did the SendFox method to invite family and friends without spamming them directly from BuyMeACoffee. I'm going to have to study some other creators on the platform to see how they handle the shingle.

This whole experiment reminds me of Fiverr. On Fiverr, you have something to offer and you have to promote your page via social media. It's unethical to divert Fiverr's acquired viewers to your own website. BuyMeCoffee is the opposite. In fact, it has an entire article on promoting your BuyMeACoffee page. Part of the instructions tell you to link to your website!

Eventually, I plan to use my website to drive traffic to my BuyMeACoffee page. I set up a domain, www.punagrams.com, for social media branding. That domain redirects to Morpho Designs, where it highlights just one of the puzzles I will be designing. Right now, I just have a button in the footer. Later, I may be more proactive with my Call-To-Action.

The reason I chose this style of puzzle is that it is visual, it (hopefully!) is click-worthy and share-worthy and, most importantly, I have a ton of ideas and the workflow tools to crank them them out. (You should look at Stencil)


The Simpler Days

Everything is trying to become the tag-end for the ubiquitous phrase, there's an app for that. In so doing, companies are forcing its customers away from the desktop and traditional browser-based connectivity.

You can call AAA Motor Club and navigate an insane, computer-led menu or, you could download the app before you need help.

You could call a taxi and wait forever or, you could use the Lyft app.

You can call your local pizza shop and hope the order-taker correctly transcribes your request, or you could download the DoorDash app (or the one from Domino's, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, etc.)

You could log into your bank from your browser or, you could pop open their app to see your balance, deposit a check, transfer funds to make sure you have enough for that pizza you just ordered.

Mobile phones make this drop-dead simple, once you get used to it. The last time I took a trip, I booked a train on my browser, but used my Amtrak app to show my ticket. When I got to my destination, Lyft took me the last 30 miles to my dad's house. 

Now, my dad is old-school. He only recently started using DoorDash from his ancient desktop computer. Prior to that, dinner was decided by which menus he'd had lying around!

So, despite the title's inference, the simpler days are here, now! Even a dinosaur like me gets used to the convenience of mobile phones.

I used to have unpleasant dreams where I'd run out of the house and gone shopping, only to realize that I had left my wallet at home. Yikes! Dream me never checks to see if he has his phone.



Cloaking Devices

Sorry, Trekkers and Harry Potter fans, I'm going to be talking about URL redirects.

Many years ago, when I still believed that I was going to become an Online Money Mogul, I joined a membership site called WealthyAffiliate. (Kyle and Carson, are still at it, bless their hearts.)

One of my favorite features of WA was the ability to create those cool links that--when you hovered over them--looked like this:

www.mysite.com/go/productyoumustsee

when you clicked one of those links, you would be redirected to

www.productyoumustsee.com

Here is the cool part: behind the scenes, I would have an affiliate referrer code associated with my "mysite.com" URL. Visitors could not see my referrer code and, according to the WealthyAffiliate folks, hackers could not intercept my link and steal my traffic.

That type of manipulation is called a stealth redirect and is often misconstrued as "cloaking." The former will piss off Google, but cloaking will not.

Well, Google pissed me off lots of times, so I didn't mind playing with stealth redirects. WealthyAffiliate became too expensive to continue so, after I left, I hunted around for something to replace that feature. What I found was perfect: EasyRedirectScript.

This now defunct tool had every imaginable type of redirect. I experimented with them all, just for fun, before settling on plain-old 301 redirects.

The links worked perfectly and I was able to track the effectiveness of various placements (email signature vs. web page, for example.)

It worked great for years. However, the developer abandoned it and, at some point, it stopped correctly making the links. Fair enough, as long as the older links continued to work, I was fine.

Then, I changed web hosts. After the migration, the links still worked, but I could no longer get to the admin panel to view stats. It was time to look for another solution.

My search led me to Pretty Links and, in usual Shiny Object Syndrome fashion, I dove in. It's a WordPress plug-in. I have no idea how it works because I have yet to use it! {sigh...}

I figured that writing about it would motivate me, so we'll see.

As a public service, here is Google's take on the matter:

Sneaky Redirects