Farewell To Some Old Friends

If you’ve arrived at this blog post expecting to find a post on UrlyBits, Geek Is Awesome or Unfollowing Jesus, then I’m sorry to say that those sites have been discontinued.

Well actually I’m not sorry because all good things must come to an end. Building and maintaining these sites have been an amazing provider of entertainment, education and personal growth for me, but now it’s time to take things to the next level.

With my consulting business growing, wanting to spend time with my family, the birth of Malcolm and another baby on the way, now is the time to reassess priorities and jump on some new opportunities.

Every end is a new beginning and this one is no different. Scrw Media is being re-branded and we will soon roll out a new site that has an emphasis on the new direction we are taking (more on that when the site rolls out), and we also have plans to roll out one or two new sites as well.

Thank you to everybody who has been a fan of the sites over the past 6 years or more. Between our podcasts, blogs, future sites and new services, we hope to continue entertaining, informing and helping you for a very long time to come.

They Didn’t Think It Through – Browsing WordPress Mobile Theme Stores

I was looking for inspiration for a mobile site design today, trawling WordPress theme stores, when I noticed a particularly stupid and unhelpful trend.

The image you see below is what I get when I visit the demo for a mobile theme on a mobile browser. Yes, that’s right – you’re looking at the full desktop site with the mobile version embedded in a frame…

I understand that these demos are setup to help people visiting from their desktop, but is it really such a stretch of the imagination to think that someone might want to demo your mobile them on, I don’t know… their mobile device?

Theme Demo Nexus Screengrab

Medical Practices Simply Can’t Afford To Skimp On IT Infrastructure

1964, Dynamic control problem being studied in the Analogue Computer Laboratory

Analogue Computer Laboratory – 1964. Source.

The Earth orbits the Sun, and medical practices can’t afford to skimp on IT infrastructure… some facts are simply immutable.

Normally I would proclaim that any business can’t afford to skimp on its IT infrastructure, but given the current climate where just having a Windows XP machine connected to your network is a HIPAA violation, I’ve clearly got a certain target audience in mind for this post. That said, it’s not just medical practices that could benefit from taking a few minutes to read this post.

I’ve spent a lot of time the past months advising (and implementing) practices on how to make the move from the no longer supported Windows XP to Windows 7 and newer operating systems, and one thing has become readily apparent to me – there are two kinds of medical practices:

  • Practices that see technology as part of the patient experience.
  • Practices that only think about IT when it breaks.

The medical practices (and other businesses) that realize that their IT infrastructure is part of the patient (customer) experience tend to have made the realization that IT in a medical office is not just there to scan ID cards, print receipts or create patient forms, but actually adds substantially to the patient experience and bottom line of the practice.

Happy patients = more money!

That’s not a difficult concept right? I think everyone can agree that if a patient has a positive experience at your office they’re more likely to come back the next time something ails them. They’re also far more likely to recommend you to other potential patients (word of mouth marketing), leave positive reviews on rating sites, etc… Happy patients = more money for you. Simple!

A lot of medical practitioners and office managers appear to forget that the patient’s experience in their clinic is not just measured by the patient – doctor interaction, it comes from the everything they experience at your office. From the moment they walk in the door, from that first impression, the friendliness of the staff, the promptness of their appointment, the ease of filling out information – it’s all being judged by the patient and it ALL impacts your bottom line.

So, how does IT actually affect any of this? Well, let’s forget about silly little things such as multi-thousand dollar fines (per patient) when data is exposed due to poor infrastructure and / or running out of date operating systems and look at the ways that keeping your computers and software up-to-date actually affects your bottom line.

Faster computers (and modern operating systems) increase staff productivity.

It’s not just just the ability to run better, newer software, but multiply the 10 minutes it takes those ancient computers to start up by the number of staff you have and there’s a massive amount of wasted productivity hours. A lot of time is wasted every day because applications take forever to open / switch between, and all of that wasted time is time that you are paying staff for. If  you want to get more productivity from  your staff then give them the tools to do it.

Faster computers equal happier staff.

In my experience, there’s little that will annoy good staff in a good office faster than slow computers. It’s frustrating to have to not be able to move on to the next thing, especially when you have a patient standing there waiting for that document you sent to the printer 5 minutes ago.

If there’s one thing patients are especially good at picking up on, it’s the atmosphere in an office. When staff aren’t happy, you can be sure that patients aren’t, and that is going to have negative impact on their experience and willingness to return in the future or recommend  you to other potential patients.

Faster computers equal happier patients.

When you’re sick, tired or in pain, the last thing you want to do is stand around twiddling your thumbs for five minutes at the check in desk at your doctors office waiting for their EMR (electronic medical record) system to pull up your details. That should have happened almost instantaneously, and it would have if the aging computer had more RAM, a faster CPU or better connectivity to the server.

Get those patients checked in and out faster for a better patient experience and a less crowded waiting room.

Keeping your infrastructure up-to-date saves you money.

All computers break down, have issues and occasionally need repairs, but performing support tasks on older computers takes longer. Slower machines take longer to install drivers on, track down issues etc. It’s not rocket science.

As your infrastructure ages there tends to be more issues which require support and the cost of that support can escalate rather quickly. You might only see it as a $100 here, $200 there, but when this is happening every other week (even when you have contracted support agreements) it can quickly get to the point where you could have actually paid to replace aging equipment and had LESS support call-outs.

Upgrading / Staying up-to-date doesn’t have to be a huge expense.

A lot of small practices get sticker shock at the notion of spending many thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars to replace equipment that still essentially works. Most don’t realize that these upgrades don’t all have to be done at once. Unfortunately a lot of vendors won’t tell you that, instead going for the big “all in one” sell – but that’s another blog post.

Implement a rolling upgrade policy. Start with the oldest computer (or computers depending on how desperate the situation) on your network and get them upgraded – whether than means adding more RAM, SSD’s or a better CPU or simply replacing the whole machine. If you have a server, see if that needs upgrading too. In 6 months time upgrade another machine or two and continue to do so over the next two years. By the end of the two years you’ll have completed 5 upgrades (0 months, 6 months, 12, 18, 24) and have replaced or upgraded 10 machines without any one major expense.

Most small medical practices will have somewhere in the region of 10 – 20 machines, but you can adjust the plan to suit your infrastructure needs and budget accordingly.

On month 30, start the cycle again – upgrading the components of or replacing the machines first updated at month 0. Repeat the cycle over and over again and you’ll never have machines more than 2 – 3 years old running on your network.

You may also wish to annually evaluate your networking equipment and see if any performance gains can be made by upgrading aging switches / firewalls / routers to newer faster standards.

Remember that it’s not just your hardware.

Aging software can be a productivity drain almost as much as aging hardware. Be sure to evaluate new versions of the tools and software you use in your practice and determine if making the move to newer versions could increase productivity or will add features that improve security etc..

Speaking of security… Don’t forget those updates…

Again I’m going to gloss over the potential fines that medical practices and businesses can be slapped with if patient / customer information is compromised, and instead remind you of the cost of having someone come out to clean your network of trojans, spyware and malware. Good anti-virus and anti-spyware software is always a must, but none of it is perfect. No matter your operating system – Windows, OS X, Linux… make sure that you are installing updates regularly. These updates don’t just add new features to your system- they fix bugs, can increase stability and performance, and fix security holes and issues.

If your IT person (you do have an IT person, right?) recommends that you turn off Windows updates for performance, or because things “might break” then you need to fire them. The days of such things happening are long, long in the past, and the rare times that they do occur are far lest costly than the potential damage than can be caused by not running them.

While you’re at it, have your IT person or vendor upgrade the firmware on you routers / managed switches / firewalls etc….

It doesn’t cost a lot to be secure AND productive…

For most practices, if you put your IT infrastructure on a rolling upgrade cycle the cost becomes pretty negligible plus you get to avoid the major sticker shock of a one time upgrade.

If you start thinking about your IT as part of the patient (and staff) experience the outlay will more than recoup itself in increased productivity, repeat patients and positive word of mouth marketing.

Please Just Be Honest When Asking For A Link Removal

404 - Broken Links In Google Webmaster Tools

Can we just be honest when asking people to update or remove links?

It happens to all sites. Links move or change, posts occasionally get deleted, categories get restructured and despite your best intentions, you still have broken links coming into your site.

At this point you can either set up 301 redirects to a new location or relevant content, or you can reach out to site owners and ask them to alter or remove their links. Most site owners will be happy to update broken links, but a little bit of honesty will get you a lot further than trying to scare site owners by saying that Google is penalizing your site and the same will happen to them.

I’m seeing it happen a lot lately. Instead of just being honest and saying “Our bad, we restructured our site and don’t care to put 301’s in place” or “We deleted the content you were linking to” or (and perhaps most honestly) “we’re engaging in some reputation management”, most emails of this type appear to be defaulting to the “Google is penalizing us and if you don’t delete the link Google will penalize you and your site will never rank again” tactic.

The truth is that a handful of broken links on my site spread over thousands of posts isn’t going to result in Google issuing my site any kind of penalty.

While you’re at it, make it as easy as possible for me to find the link you want removed. Provide me with the name and URL of the post in which the link appears. Sure I could search for the URL you want removed but that’s more work for me. The easier you make it the more likely I am to actually do what you want.

Do not, ever, ever, ever send me a list of URLs from my site that include category indexes, tags etc. That’s pointless and making more work for me. Just 1 URL. That is all. Show me you’re not lazy and actually care.

Finally a tip for managing and detecting broken links on your own site.  You really should be fixing broken links yourself as it improves not just your SEO but also the user experience. If you’re using WordPress try using a plugin such as “Broken Link Checker” to stay on top of things. Regardless of what platform you use, you should also be using Google Webmaster Tools which also report crawl errors and broken links.

GALLUP – Americans Say Social Media Has Little Sway on Purchases

Oh oh! It’s time to go back to traditional media advertising! Right, right?

Gallup surveyed more than 18,000 American adults in December 2012 and January 2013 for the poll you see below.

A clear majority of Americans say social media have no effect at all on their purchasing decisions. Although many companies run aggressive marketing campaigns on social media, 62% in the U.S. say Facebook and Twitter, among other sites, do not have any influence on their decisions to purchase products.

Influence of Social Media On Americans Purchasing Decisions

Or maybe, just maybe, a large percentage of those who say that social media has “no influence at all” don’t realize when they’re being influenced by their friends and family.

We know that the actual ads aren’t working all that well, that’s no secret.

Facebook users hate the ads, we use scripts and blockers to remove them. Most of us – a whopping 94% – use social media primarily to connect with friends and family. We don’t want your stinking ads, we want to know how Grannies hemorrhoid surgery went and if the doctors will let her take one home in a jar. Oh, and pics or it didn’t happen!

Was that $5.1 Billion spent on social media advertising in 2013 wasted? Well, not ALL of it was wasted. Those brands and companies that were telling stories and creating content that people wanted to engage with and talk about – they most definitely were not wasting their money.

Those brands hammering out the same old drone of “buy this, buy this”…. Yeah, they were wasting their money.

WOM (word of mouth) is and always will be the most trusted medium that makes or breaks a brand, and the beauty of it is that most of the time people don’t realize they’re being marketed to or acting as an evangelist.

Those jeans your friend was raving about at work, and  you bought two pairs of! How do you think she found out about them in the first place? Someone else was raving about them on her Facebook stream.

U.S. companies spent a combined $5.1 billion on social media advertising in 2013, and they obviously believe that this presents them with a return on investment. However, a solid majority of American adults say that social media have no influence at all on their purchasing decisions — suggesting that the advertising may be reaching smaller segments of the market, or that the influence on consumers is indirect or goes unnoticed.

In the State of the American Consumer report, Gallup reveals that consumers who engage with brands often do so when they are already attached to a product or service. Companies that engage their customers — by providing exceptional service and a pleasurable in-store experience — will, in turn, drive those customers to interact with them on social media. Simply promoting products and services on Facebook or Twitter is unlikely to lead to sales.

The key to reaching new customers and growing your brand via social media – give people something to talk about.

Spend wisely!

Dildos Bring A Hilarious Twist To This Gun Safety PSA

One of the things drilled into me during military training was that battles are rarely won by a head on-confrontation, and even if you have the numbers to force and overwhelming win, the loses accumulated by direct confrontation are not worth it. It’s better to attack from an unexpected direction – to think out of the box.

I wish a lot of marketers understood that.

The folks at Evolve understand, and that is what makes this gun safety PSA so awesome. This video is worth 30 seconds of you time irrespective of your stance on gun safety / ownership.

Hat-tip: Gawker.

Where Are The Parents?

Facebook Social Media AbuseI read the following without a single shred of disbelief, but with a lot of sadness when it comes to parenting skills of many of my peers and societies reaction to such a state – which is to let state be the corrective force.

The channel found that British police deal with around 20 “social media abuse” cases a day. In the last 3 years, there have been 20,000 investigations involving adults and almost 2,000 targeting children – although, since around a third of police forces did not give up their data, the number must be higher. Over 1,200 children have been “charged with a criminal offence or given a caution, warning or fine,” including four 10-year-olds and one 9-year-old. 

I have two questions to ask:

  1. Why are the children being cautioned or charged instead of the parents?
  2. Why are these parents allowing their children to use the internet without monitoring their activity?

Sadly, I suspect the answer to both questions to revolve around the same idea…

Buy My Volvo – This Is How An Art Director Sells A Car

Fancy turning crank with a built-in safety bladder. Pelvis straps and an oblong chrome nipple! How could I resist?

If I were living in Malmö I might just consider parting with the 7000 Kronor ($1064) for this old Volvo with 5 previous owners.

Well done Castor. Advertising agencies and used-car salesmen need to take note!

Hat-tip: Mashable.