There is a reason Ramen noodles are so popular with college students.
You boil water. You add the noodles. You stir in the seasoning packet.
Could it be any simpler?
There is a reason Ramen noodles are so popular with college students.
You boil water. You add the noodles. You stir in the seasoning packet.
Could it be any simpler?
The following takes place in an alternate universe. It’s one?where bloggers hate reader engagement and hate receiving comments, but in a cruel twist they cannot simply “turn off” their comments. Instead, they’re forced to use other means to discourage engagement…
Ugh, am I right?
Just the other day, I?received a comment from a female reader who told me she loved my blog and thought I was cute. She also said she was going to share my post with her 84?million Twitter followers.
Thanks, @taylorswift13, but no thanks. Who needs that kind of drivel?
Are you familiar with Occam’s Razor?
In basic terms, it means the simplest explanation is usually the right one.
Have a flat tire? Unless you own a mogwai named “Gizmo” as a pet, Gremlins were unlikely to be involved – you probably just drove over a nail.
Found a hole in your yard? Your neighbor’s dog, not pirates looking for buried treasure, is the likely culprit.
And if your blog is failing to live up to your expectations, it’s probably not due to some nefarious plot to destroy you. No, the reason is likely far, far simpler.
It’s difficult to hear sometimes, but the reason we aren’t succeeding as we hoped isn’t because Google hates us. It isn’t because influential bloggers are spiteful people unwilling to let anyone else into their exclusive club. And it isn’t because “stuff just happens.”
Maybe you aren’t putting in enough time? Maybe you’ve gone as far as your current level of knowledge can take you? Maybe you need a new game plan?
One of our biggest jobs as bloggers is troubleshooting.
If a post isn’t flowing like it should, we figure out the reason why and correct it. If we wake up one day to discover our blog suddenly looks like a creation of Jackson Pollock, we figure out which of our too-too-many plugins is responsible for breaking it.
That’s troubleshooting. It’s how we fix something that isn’t working.
There’s a real, tangible reason your blog isn’t living up to your expectations.
It’s up to you to find the problem, troubleshoot it, and fix it.
Creative Commons Image via Emma Jane Hogbin Westby.
You’re doing everything you’re supposed to do.
You’re writing posts readers seem to enjoy. Your traffic is increasing. A popular blogger has noticed you and tweeted one of your posts.
You’re putting in the time day after day and week after week to make your blog successful. And, little by little, you’re seeing results.
So why do you feel empty?
Why is apathy overtaking you and your blog? Why did the joy you felt from blogging just a few weeks or months ago dissipate? Where did your enthusiasm go?
It’s not supposed to feel this way. Right?
Note from Kevin: This post is written by Cassie Phillips of Secure Thoughts. Cassie is going to share with us tips for securing our blogs. Read Cassie?s ideas and, when you?re finished, be sure to leave her a comment!
Your blog is one of the most important things in the world to you. It is the way that you communicate with the outside world, share your passions, and potentially even make your income.
There are other people out there who do not feel the same way.
These hackers want to take your blog and use it for profit by either spamming ad-filled posts on your blog or using your subscriber lists for their criminal purposes.
If your blog is taken over by a hacker, not only might you lose your blog, you might lose some of your readership and your reputation. It is worth any inconvenience to make sure this doesn’t happen.
What goes for the rest of the internet doesn?t change for your blog. Many of the threats to your computer can affect your blog as well, so you have to maintain a constant vigilance on both fronts. Know these basics and know them well.
While it may be convenient for you to have a simple password such as ?Password123? or something similar, hackers will be able to crack such a password in five minutes on a slow day. You need something better with different types of characters, no words in the dictionary, and enough characters to keep the number of possibilities high (at least 10). Once you commit a good one to memory, you won?t care so much about the hassle, and it will get easier to remember a new one each time you change it.
If you are looking for some examples of what a good password looks like, check out the listed examples below:
As for your username, this naturally won?t be as well protected, but there are steps you can take. The biggest one is not using ?Admin? as your username.
Many different exploits and attacks hackers use will start on the premise that Admin is a username or profile name on the website, so if you’re using it you’ve made their job a lot easier. Other than this, just make sure not to hand your username out to everyone. Keep it as safe as your password.
Your computer is linked to your blog, and there is nothing you can do to change that. If your computer is attacked, consider your blog attacked as well. Any cookies or saved passwords on your device could be stolen and used to gain access to your blog.
You need security software on all of your devices, and you need to make sure it is updated consistently. There are both free programs and premium programs available. Some of the better free products include Panda Free Antivirus, AVG Free Antivirus, and Avira. Some of the best premium programs and brands include Norton, McAfee, and Kaspersky Total Security.
Each have their benefits and disadvantages (for example, Kaspersky is the most expensive, but has every feature you could want), and you will have to decide what is in your budget and most compatible with your needs. Consider it an investment in your blog?s survival.
Where your blog is concerned, your email security is of equal importance to your general computer security. If a hacker manages to get into your email account, they can pretty easily find your password and/or your username. This is in addition to the many other problems you will have to deal with when your email is hacked (such as potential identity theft).
This is why your email should be the most protected account you have. If you are particularly cautious, you will want to create a separate email for blogging purposes. You can also use it as a separate contact point for readers so you can more easily organize your emails. A second email address is free and easy to start, so there is no disadvantage to setting one up (other than time).
In addition to this, you will want a strong password (see the tips outlined earlier). Your email account might also have other verification options such as a security image or security question you have to answer whenever you log in on a new device. Take any and all of these options, and note that you don?t have to share your email with everyone you meet.
A strong webpage is your first line of defense against potential hackers. Hackers aren?t necessarily lazy, but they are opportunistic and will attack the weakest blog they see. If your blog looks dated, it’s security is probably dated, too. Try to think how a predator thinks, and then take measures that will ward them off. Try to do this from a holistic viewpoint, taking into consideration the platform, the base blog, and any plugins you have installed.
Most blogging platforms, WordPress especially among them, have a lot of tools and plugins available to users in order to make your website more secure. Let us take a look at some of the most popular and useful ones:
Whatever security plugins you choose, be sure to research them thoroughly. Many options are either out of date or malware in disguise and will give you a false sense of security. In the worst case scenario, you could even be giving hackers a front door method into attacking your blog. Doing your homework will save you a lot of money in the long run.
A final tip regarding this is to take an hour or so every few months to review any applications you might be using on your blog. If they are outdated, don?t hesitate to replace them. Cybersecurity evolves too quickly to be loyal to something that no longer works.
If you are using WordPress or another hosting service which has multiple versions, make sure you are using the most recent one available. Hackers find a lot more security holes and problems in older versions of blogging platforms, and the hosts most likely do not support them nearly as much at their latest product.
If you can upgrade, do it now. There are few disadvantages to upgrading after the first month (where they get the bugs out), and you can take advantage of the other features offered.
Many bloggers love to travel or work from outside the home, and this is a great thing. It allows for new perspectives and a faster, more consistent rate of production. However, there are many risks while blogging on the go, and you need to be prepared for them with the right knowledge and the right tools.
When it comes to internet security in general, public networks are your worst enemy and a hacker?s best friend. While they are useful to many people who want to browse the internet for free, most people do not know the inherent lack of security many of them have.
The biggest problem with a public network is that it is really easy for anyone to intercept your data uploaded or downloaded on the network. Think of your computer as a broadcast tower. Anyone with a receiver and the knowledge to use it can pick up the signal. Unfortunately, the receivers aren?t expensive, and they?re pretty easy for even novice hackers to use.
When your data is picked up in this manner, it can easily be used against you. Try to imagine if your passwords and usernames were just broadcast unencrypted for someone to pick up. If you log in without protection, that is what will happen. Heaven forbid you try online banking or blog-related financial transactions.
The best way to counter the problems of public networks is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to defend yourself. What a VPN will do is connect your device via an encrypted connection to another server offsite. This connection can act as a tunnel and will mask your IP address, which will allow you a maximum level of security and privacy. Hackers won?t be able to know anything, even on a public network.
There are many different VPNs out there, and many of them are specialized. Doing some research on the subject will help you find out which to use to ward off hackers on public networks as well as stay private. If you want a decent one, you will have to pay a subscription fee, but it is well worth it compared to the questionable free ones out on the market.
If you travel to other countries or have to access sensitive data, then another important thing about VPNs should be noted. The fact they mask IP addresses and make it appear as if you are browsing in a different country means that you can bypass government censorship if you are in a restrictive country. This is necessary for bloggers who are reporting on risky subjects.
If you are travelling or even walking around town, you should make sure your smartphone is on you at all times and you can feel it. There is a huge market for stolen smartphones, and pickpockets love to make profits off of them.
Your smartphone is likely connected to your blog, so if your smartphone gets stolen you need to make changing your password on it one of your first priorities. If a smartphone thief gets a blog to sell in addition to a new phone, you?ll have one more problem on your hands.
If you are worried about travelling with your smartphone, try leaving it in a safe place in the hotel if you don?t think you are going to need it, or place it on your person in a place a pickpocket won?t try to reach. One popular measure is to attach your smartphone to an arm strap that people like to use when working out and then wearing something over it.
Also, try to have some sort of verification measure set up on your phone so that not just anyone can open it. This can take the form of a passcode (that isn?t ?1111?), a fingerprint verification, a voice command, or something else. Check to see what options your phone has available and pick the one that fits you and is the most secure.
To review, there are a lot of threats out there, but there are an equal number of defenses. You need to maintain an active and current website, have an adaptable and strong defense for all of your technology, and be even more wary when travelling.
The final and best tip is to simply use common sense when using your blog. If something doesn?t look or sound right, don?t get involved. Check out any inconsistencies immediately. Don?t trust anyone.
Thank you for reading. I hope you have a better knowledge of the ways your blog is vulnerable and the ways you can protect yourself from hackers.
Creative Commons Image via Kevin Galens.
We all do it.
Sometimes, we’ll pour our blood, sweat, and tears into a blog post.
We’ll spend hours getting the headline just right. We’ll spend days fine-tuning our esoteric references to pop culture. We’ll tweak, revise, edit, and refine the post over and over until it’s perfect.
We’ll publish just for the sake of publishing.
“I think we’re in a horror movie,” I told my wife.
As we checked the windows and barricaded the doors to our?mountain cabin, my wife turned to me.
“Promise me,” she said.
“Promise you what?” I asked.
“Promise me you will blog about this one day.”
“What is the biggest risk you’ve taken?”
The question took me by surprise…
“What’s your biggest regret?” That one I’ve heard.
“What five items would you want with you on a deserted island?” Heard that one, too.
“Would you rather be mauled by a bear or watch a buddy-cop movie starring Nicolas Cage and a monkey?” Heard that one earlier in the day.
But my biggest risk? No, that was a new one.
As I laid in bed that night, trying not to focus on the Nicolas-Cage-themed nightmares I would soon be having, my mind drifted to my senior year of college and the time I made the craziest, silliest, and riskiest decision of my life.
It was October.
The president and assistant principal of my old high school were in my living room, gauging my interest in a teaching job after I graduated from college the following August.
“Yes, I’m very interested,” I told them.
What I didn’t realize at the time was how many credits I had remaining. Sure, my “plan” was to graduate after the summer semester in August. But my plan was based on wishful thinking ? not rational thought or reality.
At the end of the current semester already underway, I would have 45 semester hours remaining before I could graduate.
And only two semesters to earn them. Only two semesters before my new teaching job was to begin. Only two semesters to complete four semesters worth of work.
The idea was so crazy, I had to convince the Dean of Students to sign a waiver so I could attempt it.
“No one does this,” he told me. “Are you sure?”
“It’ll be a piece of cake,” I assured him, as my mind wandered to thoughts of cake.
He gave me a knowing nod ? the kind one gives when they, too, are thinking about cake.
Then he signed the waiver.
I wish I could tell you I fought the good fight and the semesters were a breeze. I wish I could tell you that, but college is no fairy-tale world.
Those two semesters were insanely difficult.
I questioned my intelligence and sanity on numerous occasions. I lost weight due to the stress. I received my first ? and, to date, lone (knock on wood) ? gray hair.
But then, one Tuesday evening in August, I sat down for my last college exam. When I turned in the exam, I knew I had aced it.
It was finally over.
I had bet on me. And I had won.
For my reward, I woke up the following morning and began my first day of work as a teacher.
Yes, I had less than 12 hours between my final college exam and my first day as a teacher.
This wouldn’t have been an issue if not for the little matter of my being totally and completely unprepared for the gig.
For starters, I had a crippling fear of speaking in public.
Such a phobia wouldn’t have been such a big deal if, like most of my fellow graduates in the Information Technology department at college, I was embarking on a career of sitting behind a desk.
However, it’s sort of a big deal when you’re embarking on a job that asks you to speak in front of people all day long.
So I had stage fright. No big deal. Certainly not when compared to the fact I had no curriculum to teach.
You see, I wasn’t just beginning a career as a teacher at my old high school. I was introducing an entirely-new department at my old high school:
I was to be my school’s first-ever computer teacher. As such, there was no existing curriculum. No fellow computer teachers to mentor me or show me the ropes. We didn’t even have textbooks.
Everything I would teach, every project I would assign, every exam I would give…
…were all to come out of my lil’ head.
So, to recap:
But other than all that, I was good to go.
Looking back, it amazes me I did these things.
What possessed me to do the work of two full-time students?
What possessed me to sign a teaching contract when I knew there was a chance I might not graduate on time?
What possessed me to choose to teach even though the mere idea of teaching terrified me?
I did these things for one simple reason: I believed I could.
I believed I could do the work of two full-time students. I believed I would graduate on time. I believed I would overcome my fear of public speaking.
Was it easy? Absolutely not. Were there trials and tribulations? You better believe it.
But you also better believe that, three years later, when I finished graduate school and “retired” from teaching, I was one darn good teacher.
That’s what tends to happen when you’re not afraid to bet on yourself.
You climb mountains. You swim oceans. You prove Doubting Thomases wrong.
You accomplish things and reach heights you didn’t believe were possible.
As a blogger, do you ever bet on yourself?
The most successful bloggers I know ? scratch that, the most successful individuals ? aren’t afraid to bet on themselves.
Adam Connell of Blogging Wizard quit his job to focus on blogging.
Jaime Buckley, after a car accident took away his lifelong dream of being a comic book writer, brought his visions back to life through novels.
Darren Rowse worked three jobs in the early days of ProBlogger before it took off and started making money.
Jon Morrow, wheelchair bound due to a type of muscular dystrophy, built a blogging empire.
Each bet on himself, and each was rewarded.
What about you?
How have you bet on yourself and your blog? Better question: have you bet on yourself and your blog?
It’s okay if you haven’t.
After all, it can be risky. If we’re talking about upgrading web hosting and purchasing a blogging course, it can be expensive. Mostly, it can be scary.
What if you fail? What if you look foolish? What if you lose readership or subscribers?
True, you might fail. True, you might look like a fool. True, you could lose fans.
But you might not.
You might fly. You might do something awesome. You might just surprise yourself.
Years ago, I bet on myself and it changed the course of my life.
Teaching gave me confidence. It made me grow up. It helped me learn how to use humor to captivate an audience. It gave me the perfect job to continue my education, and the Master’s Degree I earned led me to my next job ? a job I still have and enjoy.
It helped make me the man I am now ? a man who, three years ago today, was worthy of marrying my wonderful wife.
Amazing things can happen when you take chances and dream big.
Are you ready to bet on you?
Flickr Creative Commons Image via TaxRebate.org.uk.
In blogging, as in life, passivity can be dangerous.
His screams still haunt me.
My childhood friend was standing ten yards away from me when it happened. At 17, he had a bright future ahead of him. College. A wife. Children. All these things were on the horizon. Each now in jeopardy.
It shouldn’t have happened. He had dodged so many bullets before, you would have thought he’d learned his lesson.
Alas, my friend thought he was invincible.
He was mistaken.