Mary Higgins Consultancy

Words, Video, Social Media. Together at last.
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Comments on your website: why and how?

Scattered Autumn Leaves

Are your comments scattered?

If you use a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress or Blogger you probably take it for granted that readers can interact with your content via comments. You might choose not to allow comments, and heavily moderate them, but you know it is easy to deal with whatever comes your way.

Recently one of my clients has been hit hard by spammers. We often see this go in cycles. I use Askimet on all my WordPress client sites and it does cut down the spam to nearly zero. Most of the time. But occasionally we will be targeted and have to suffer through the inconvenience of multiple spam messages appearing, waiting to be moderated.

I usually advise clients to have the WordPress ‘Discussion Settings’ as shown below because it is a fairly easy to do this, it encourages more people to comment, and any unwanted comments are screened before they appear.

Wordpress Discussion Settings

For the client in question, we closed comments on older articles, and the spam stopped clogging up inboxes. A few days later we were able to open the comments on older posts and no more spam.

Why allow comments at all?
You want people to read your site, and you want them to come back. One way of encouraging that is to allow comments. People can ask questions about your company, or the post you have written, and that dialogue is the first step in building a relationship. Yes, it does also give people a platform to leave negative comments. But isn’t it better to deal with that in a controlled way rather than ignoring a potential problem? Sometimes your critics can become your best advocates. A well-handled

What if you are not using a CMS?
This has always been a problem. You have a lovely HTML/CSS website but no CMS behind and no wish to add databases or any of that malarkey. So you are left with a site where no one can interact with you unless you funnel them off to somewhere like Twitter or Facebook. What can you do? Well, it looks like Disqus has come up with a solution that might just be the ticket.

Disqus has been around for a long time and the idea you can comment around the Internet and keep track of all your conversations is a very powerful idea. Now you can add this directly to your website even if you aren’t using a CMS. Once you have registered your website with Disqus (which is free) you can simply copy and paste the code onto your pages and away you go. There are various ways to track and moderate comments and the implementation appears to be straightforward and seamless.

How good is it?
I haven’t started using it, but I’d love to hear from anyone who is. Is this the solution HTML/CSS implementers have been looking for?

UPDATE:
I decided to try it out with a spare domain I had (don’t ask…) and it took less than 5 minutes to get it set up here:

Everything Cow screenshot

No comments yet, but the implementation was very easy. If you have a website and you want to allow comments, this could be the answer you’ve been looking for!

Canada Day 2012

Canada Day 2012, Abbotsford BC

Sunday marked our 5th Canada Day since we moved here to Abbotsford, BC, from Manchester in 2007. The weather was kind and we enjoyed the festivities at Rotary Stadium. At the end of the evening there was a firework spectacular courtesy of Abbotsford Heat’s parent hockey team, the Calgary Flames. Abby News has this report and video, and I’ve uploaded some pictures to Flickr:

 

90 years of Abbotsford News plus: new partnership in progress

Abbotsford News 90 years celebration cake

Abbotsford News 90 years celebration cake (photo by Mary Higgins)

90 years of local reporting
Last weekend Abbotsford News celebrated 90 years of publishing with a special event at their offices. We headed down there in the hot sun and took part in the festivities. There were classic cars, entertainments, dancing, food and, of course, celebration cake. The Fire Service and Police Department were there along with some well known mascots from our favourite local teams.

We were fortunate enough to get the real inside story about Abbotsford News during one of the three tours of the building. It was fascinating to see how the paper is produced from finding the local news, writing the stories, setting them within the advertising spaces, creating the plates for each page and then printing. I was impressed also with how much video is used, something I hadn’t really appreciated before. It definitely made me want to find out more.

Congratulations to all concerned and a hearty thank you for a great day out. You can see more information about the day on the Abbotsford News website, and more of my pictures from my Flickr account:

New partnership
Over the last few weeks we have been working on a new partnership that will be coming to fruition over the summer of 2012. I can’t give too many details at the moment but I can tell you that it involves three of my great passions: story telling, education and technology. It is a video-based project and I will be posting about it more soon.

Pacific Coast Compliance Consulting help another happy customer!

Pacific Coast Compliance Consulting logo

PCCC logo

Abbotsford-based company, Pacific Coast Compliance Consulting, recently celebrated another successful compliance audit. As Herb Gaidoschwrote in his blog post, passing a stringent transport National Safety Code (NSC) audit means building a good partnership and a huge amount of work:

“…We spent 5 months with this company preparing for this event.

On site compliance review of records, driver information and monitoring of fuelling and delivery times and log monitoring was essential…”

After all the hard work and three days of intensive audit review it is good to reflect on a job well done and take the time to blog.

Indie Intertube Awards 2nd annual logo

2nd Annual Indie Intertube Awards 2012

In that spirit we are very happy to announce that our video production company, HigletFilms, has been nominated for THREE Indie Intertube Awards for the webseries ‘Mind My Brains, Darling!’. We are also thrilled to announce that Border Guardians of Ackernon have also been nominated for FOUR Awards: Audience Choice, Best Scifi/Fantasy, Best Set Design and Best Dressed/Best Costumes.

The ‘Mind My Brains, Darling!’ team was also involved in the Nominations Video, announcing the Best Drama Awards:

The full list of nominees is on the Indie Intertube website, and we will definitely be tuning in on Sunday to watch the Awards Show on Mingle Media TV!

Florist Follow-up – Happy Valentine’s Day!

 Orchid and tulips at Mary Clark Flowers photo by Mary Higgins

Yesterday I talked about how important Valentine’s Day is to florists, and the preparations that Wendy from Mary Clark Flowers in Chillwack, BC, has been making for the last few weeks. Today I saw this posted by my friend Megan Lynch on Friendfeed (a fantastic social media community) about Florist Susan Occhino and her dispute with Amazon:

“…She says six weeks ago, when she started selling her goods through the mega online retailer, she was pleased to see sales go through the roof overnight — from about one order a day to 100.

But then Amazon pulled the rug out from under her floral joy.

“They said your account is currently under review because you’re very new, you have no feedback and we’re gonna hold the money up to 90 days,” Susan says. She claims she made over $10,000 in five days, but that so far she’s only seen $45.02 of that.

Susan needed those funds to buy more supplies for a very important holiday in the flower world — Valentine’s Day — so instead of leaving her customers in the lurch, she drained her bank account to ship what orders she could last week…”

From The Consumerist, Florist Drains Bank Account To Ship Valentine’s Day Orders After Amazon Holds Up Her Payments

 

This has a huge impact on Ms Occhino and it is not clear how the matter will be resolved. In the meantime there will be disappointed people who didn’t receive the flowers that were ordered for them today.

I’ll keep you posted on what happens with this story, and I hope your day goes well, flowers or not!

The busiest day in a Florist’s Year?

Mary Clark Flowers Valentine Roses by Mary Higgins

Valentine Roses at Mary Clark Flowers, Chilliwack

What day do you think is the busiest for a Florist?

Mother’s Day? Easter? Christmas?

Those are all busy times, but the single busiest day of the year is Valentine’s Day. One of my clients, Wendy, from Mary Clark Flowers, has been gearing up for weeks for the Big Day. Wendy has years of experience in floral design and knows the cyclical nature of the business. Her preparations start well in advance, almost straight after the Christmas rush, and it starts with making sure her suppliers can all accomodate the orders she will need fulfilling. Although there are perennial favourites like red roses, Wendy also likes to cater for more adventurous orders, too, and when clients know they want to create an individual statement with exotic blooms or unusual flowers, Wendy always knows where she can source the very best.

Mary Clark Flowers Valentine pic by Mary Higgins

Apart from running her business at Southgate Mall, Chilliwack, BC, Wendy also teaches the Floral Design Certificate at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV). The courses keeps her skills up to date and she is passionate about passing on her love of flowers and design on to a new generation. Learning how technology can make her life easier has been a priority, and she has incorporated new tricks into her everyday schedule that help with productivity. Learning how to organise and archive photos from her store and her teaching, and how to optimise pictures to send via email all make her life a little easier. She has already embraced blogging and is looking at moving to weekly updates.

There is even an handy Instructional: Quick Guide to Ordering the Perfect Bouquet for those people who are unsure on what ordering flowers entails. This has proved to be a very popular post, along with the ‘Christmas Countdown‘ series.

Knowing your business, your customers and the rhythms of the year is one ways you can ensure success. Preparation for the busy, and not-so-busy times is key to making sure things run smoothly. Do you know what your daily/weekly/monthly/yearly ups and downs are? Do you track them? Can you predict them? What changes do you make throughout the cycles?

Mary Clark Flowers Valentines by Mary Higgins

 

Do you communicate effectively with your customers?

The International Academy of Web Television Awards live tonight from CES

IAWTV Awards logo 2012

IAWTV Awards, live from Las Vegas tonight

The inaugural IAWTV Awards will be broadcast live on YouTube from the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas tonight. This is a significant step forward for web television and web TV, and I am looking forward both to finding out who the winners are tonight, and what staging the Awards at CES will bring to the community afterwards. It will be interesting to see what the media outside the web TV space – the tech bloggers and the like – make of the Awards, too.

Our video production company, HigletFilms, does not have any nominations this year, but we will be tuning in to watch the show on the IAWTV YouTube channel. If you want to know more about web TV, webseries and new media, this event should give you a real taste of where the industry is at the moment. Best of luck to all the nominees!

Social Media, Small Business and 2012

bird splat by Paul Higgins

Where are you focusing on? Picture by P Higgins

What are your goals for 2012? Get rich? Get fit? Retire young? Do you even have any goals? Setting goals in the New Year can be effective, but simply thinking about them is not going to get you any where. NOT setting goals for the year, or month, or any discrete unit of time means you will never get what you want.

Is Social Media for you and your business?

This is a hard question to answer because there are many factors to consider, not least whether you, or a trusted member of your staff, is comfortable using the tools needed to run your Social Media campaign. If you check your email only weekly, never update your Facebook account (or don’t have one at all) then adopting new practices are going to be more challenging. But it can be done.

take the plunge

Are you sure it's safe? Picture by M Higgins

Catching the wave

Knowing where to start is often the stumbling block to any new enterprise. You are interested in a new technology/product/line/idea, find out enough to start getting excited and then begin to founder as you struggle to fit it into what you are already doing. Your days are busy enough without adding another Big Thing To Be Done, and so your enthusiasm wanes and the wave passes you by.

Try something new

Do one new thing this week and see what it does for you. Check your email more (or less). Join Twitter or Google +, and start following some interesting people*. Add some new people on Facebook. Write down what the results are in real terms – did you get more email, more leads, more interaction? Did it take up some valuable time that could have been spent doing something else? Did you enjoy it overall? The only way you’ll know if something is going to work is to try it, monitor it and then work out what your experiment told you. Anything else is just spitting in the wind.

jump or be pushed

Sitting still is not an option. Photo by M Higgins

* I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Google + and pretty much everywhere else. If you just want businessy/social media-type interactions then add my ‘officially official’ accounts:

Google +
Twitter: @MaryHConsult
Facebook: Mary R Higgins

If you want a fuller picture of me then try my long-standing, less filtered version that has lots of writing/video/creative/fun stuff added in.

Google +
Twitter: @worldofhiglet
Facebook: Worldofhiglet

New website launched for Pacific Coast Compliance Consultancy

Pacific Coast Compliance Solutions Logo

 

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with Herb Gaidosch on a new website for his growing business, Pacific Coast Compliance Consultancy. Herb has a wealth of experience in the trucking industry and has been using his expertise to help save trucking companies from closure. Working with Herb has been a pleasure. He is very focussed and has clear ideas about what he wants to achieve. He is also very computer savvy and keen to learn about how he can use tools like WordPress, Facebook and LinkedIn help his business.

Congratulations on launching your new website, Herb, and I look forward to working with you in the future!

 

Ackernon and HigletFilms at VCON 36

Angela Aro as Petrina in Border Guardians of Ackernon at VCON 36

Angela Aro as Petrina from 'Border Guardians of Ackernon', at VCON 36

What an exciting weekend! For the second year running we attended VCON, Vancouver’s premier science fiction and fantasy convention, but this time not only did we have a stall on Artist’s Alley, we ran three panels AND started filming for a new documentary about webseries we are producing with Wolf’s Head Productions. Border Guardians of Ackernon was well represented with Paul Best and Angela Aro in attendance. Angela won first place in the ‘Media’ category of the Cosplay Masquerade with her stunning ‘Petrina’ costume, so congratulations to Angela and Laura Olsen, costume designer.

Warren Freyburg – @freyburg: videographer, journalist, geek – has posted a video of the webseries panel at VCON – (thank you for posting it so quickly, Warren):

The panel, from left to right, was:

Vanessa Driveness (Associate Producer/Costume Designer/Marketing & PR Manger, Standard Action)
Joanna Gaskell (Writer/Creator/Actor, Standard Action)
Mary Higgins (Writer/Creator/Actor, Mind My Brains, Darling! & Marketing, Border Guardians of Ackernon)
Josephine Hoy (Producer, Glitch)
Ralph Fontaine (Assistant Director/Producer, Causality)
Anna Julia (Assistant Director/Producer, Causality)
Paul Best (Writer/Director, Border Guardians of Ackernon)
Angela Aro (Actor, Border Guardians of Ackernon)

Thanks to the whole panel who really showed the passion, creativity and professionalism that abounds in the webseries world. And thanks also to the audience, who asked some probing questions. One big surprise was the number of people who watched webseries – a very encouraging response from the audience.

This weekend we are in Seattle for Geek Girl Con, where we will be filming more for our webseries documentary and enjoying some serious geek time. On Saturday I will be taking part in the ‘Women in Webseries’ panel and I’m very happy to announce that Jane Espenson will be joining the panel to talk about her new webseries, Husbands. More on that soon!