Archive for the ‘webmastering’ Category

Single-Field Password Set/Reset: Threat or Menace?

April 28, 2014

This post is dedicated to everyone who ever had trouble logging into a website (myself included, way too many times) or whoever had their account hacked because their password was too simple (way too many friends and acquaintances, way too many times).

This is for us.

Dear website designers and programmers:

Every modern website adds new features. Google added Maps, Books, Street View. Yahoo! added its latest e-mail layout. Twitter added hashtags and now is thinking about revoking them, but has added line breaks. And, most importantly, I have the choice whether to use them or not.

Then there’s the We-Have-a-Great-New-Feature-and-You-Must-Use-It Syndrome. Think Facebook Timeline. Well, that doesn’t cost me any time and I got used to it. And it doesn’t slow me down.

(By the way, Yahoo! initially took away Yahoo! classic e-mail, but after not too long a delay, restored it, if I recall correctly. Thank you for listening to your customers, Yahoo!)

Now there’s a new We-Have-a-Great-New-Feature-and-You-Must-Use-It Syndrome feature.

Your wonderful new feature is giving me a negative view of your website. Negative enough to write a 3300-word blog post complaining – occasionally ranting – about it. What would your advertisers think of that?

Day by day your numbers are growing, User Interface (UI) designers following the siren, zombie call of this new feature.

I mean you, force-me-to-use-a-single-field-when-setting-or-resetting-my-password-UI website. Yes, you. You’ve turned simple inconvenience into dread.

Warning: This is a scattered, discursive essay. Much like my experience of dealing with passwords on your website.

My first draft was about 500 words. But, as I thought about the complexities of what you are asking me to do with regard to the care and feeding of my password, the article grew and it grew, much like the burden you’ve placed on me.

Please stick with it. I’ve done my best to make sure it will be worth it. And I’ve actually proofread it.

And, hey, if your response is TLDR (too long, didn’t read), feel free to skip to Here’s the ideal situation and hope your customers – isn’t it time we retired “users”? – aren’t saying Too Hard, Didn’t Log In.

Continue reading Single-Field Password Set/Reset: Threat or Menace?

Has your website been hacked?

September 23, 2012

One thing we webmasters have to worry about is the bad guys looking to install malware on our website. Fortunately, there are sometimes simple things we can do to find out whether we’ve been hacked.

We (the royal we) sometimes say “Google is your friend.” This is true here as well. Suppose your website domain is chasbelov.wordpress.com. Enter the following search:

prescription site:chasbelov.wordpress.com

If you’re lucky, Google will come back with no or one or two hits (unless you’re a pharmacy). But if you’ve been hacked by spammers, you might well come back with 2,000 or more such hits, as a major theatre I Googled yesterday did. No, I wasn’t (initially) looking to see if they were hacked; a drug-related result from their website came up as a result for a search I was doing for some special interest theatre. But once I got that result, I came up with the above search to test how bad their infestation was.

You can set up a notification at http://www.google.com/alerts

This is definitely not the only way hackers can mess with your site, and they can hide it from Google by telling Google not to index the page. But it’s an easy enough check so you might as well do it.

Hope this helps. (And yes, I’ve notified that theatre.)

The Perfect Title – A Cautionary Marketing Tale

September 9, 2012

We all want our work to have the perfect title. And we want to be able to market it. If I were to title a play Sibboleth, it might be the perfect title for the theme of the play, but if someone searches for it, Google will ask “Did you mean shibboleth?” although at least for now it does give the “sibboleth” results.

So when we give a blog post or Kickstarter page or some other page a title, it’s not surprising that, sometime after publication, we may find ourselves wanting to update it to make it snappier or catchier or more imaginative. And we may follow up that desire by re-titling the post or page.

Following that urge can have annoying consequences. Gory details follow.

Read more The Perfect Title – A Cautionary Marketing Tale (long post)

Ticket-purchasing websites

February 4, 2012

One thing most playwrights like to do, besides writing plays — if you are a playwright and you don’t like writing plays, please stop immediately! — is seeing plays. And in this Internet age, one thing many of us are happy to do is purchase our tickets online. Having done some of this myself, I have some opinionated ideas of what I like and don’t like about the usability of e-ticketing websites. Originally published Mar. 10, 2010 with several updates on Feb. 4, 2012

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When good people use good software to do bad things to websites

September 8, 2011

Flash is a wonderful piece of software when used to add functionality to a website.  It is not a substitute for HTML. In particular, it may shut out some people from using your website. I’ve already written on the fact that iPhones and iPads don’t run Flash. Now I’m going to tell you about how a site has made itself so annoying to use that I’m not going to use it again until they fix it.

Continue reading When good people use good software to do bad things to websites

The Flash and outbreak of a fiery mind

February 22, 2010

If theatres didn’t have a reason to avoid all-Flash sites – beyond the fact that some Web surfers, myself included, find them annoying – here’s a scenario that might scare them back to good old HTML:

Continue reading The Flash and outbreak of a fiery mind

Erasing history

December 19, 2009

Most theatres have Web sites.  Most theatre Web sites have the (understandable) goal of getting potential audiences to those theatres to see their work, potential donors to donate money, potential actors and directors to associate with the theatre, and in general to educate the public about their reason for existence.

The theatres may or may not be interested in getting playwrights to submit plays to them. Yet, it is the desire of (most) playwrights to submit plays to theatres in hopes of getting a production. Unfortunately, many theatres omit some very basic information for playwrights from their Web site:

Continue reading Erasing history