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Advice tidbit #22.5 -- It’s very helpful to test all the links you add to documents – best if you actually go there and copy and paste from the address bar in your browser. If you think you don’t have time, consider the time you’ll have to spend making corrections.

This is the kind of scam that is often atempted with yellow-pages ads. Business owners see those all the time. You'll get an official-looking invoice in the mail. Somewhere in a relatively obscured spot it DOES say it is a solicitation and NOT a bill, but you do have to be alert and aware.

fake domain renewal invoiceEnlarge the photo at left (right-click then select VIEW IMAGE) and you'll see how official this stuff can look. Fortunately, the organization in this example knew enough to ask their tech person what the heck this "bill" was. It probably goes without saying that this "company" is easy to pin down as a fake, especially after a quick internet search.

Knowing who your suppliers are is always helpful. No matter the size of your congregation, make sure that someone knows where your domain name is registered, when you expect to receive billing, and from whom. Many domain registrar companies these days offer an automatic renewal option. I recommend using this kind of service when it is available to you. Forgetting or neglecting to renew a domain name usually results in losing that domain. It happened to my own church after the first volunteer who was in charge of the site neglected to renew. The organization had to settle for a less-than-obvious new domain name, re-do all printed materials that had the lost domain on it, and deal with a variety of other annoying side-effects. Protect your domain names!


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Technology Coordinator
MidAmerica Region UUA

Gretchen2011-by-AaronYes, I intended to "yell" in the title. I'd like to pass along a link to a UU Interconnections article that talks about how to prevent having your congregation's phone system hacked (or your e-mail account or ...)

http://uua.org/interconnections/interconnections/199690.shtml This happened to a congregation in our District!

At times I think it's not a matter of whether you will get hacked, it's only a matter of when. As my partner says, "there are two kinds of sailors: those who have been seasick and those who will be." When one of the CMwD sites was hacked in 2011, it prompted us to a review of all our site passwords. We changed every single one of them to more complex combinations of letters, numbers and symbols. This is something we can't stress enough. With so many of us "living online" via our e-mail accounts, websites, blogs, and mobile devices, setting up and keeping track of strong passwords is a talent we're all going to need sooner or later.

While I was speaking with some colleagues the other day, I head someone say, "well, if you've been hacked, that means you're important." I hope that was tongue-in cheek because the reality is hackers don't need a reason or a big target. They will do things like create robots that scour the web for a particular vulnerability they can exploit, and if your site has it, you're going to get it. It's like con artists preying on the needs and concerns of the elderly: find a week spot and attack that. So, thinking you're immune because you have a small church website isn't going to keep you safe and sane.

Another password horror story: I know of a business who bought a used computer from a competitor who was having an auction. Not only did they leave accounting info on the machine, their password was, you guessed it, "password." Cute but obviously ineffective. The business wiped that hard drive prior to using it so the sensitive data went no farther than that.

In the immortal (at least on TV) words of Sheldon Cooper, "1234 is not a password!!!!" [Ed. note: and 6789 is not a pin number! LOL]

While attending workshops on web Content Management Systems this week, among the things I saw emphasized again and again was something called "content strategy." It brought me back to what Laura Massey of the West Plains (MO) UU Fellowship had said about content: "You need to carefully consider the content of the Web site. It’s content, not fancy graphics or special effects, that really makes a successful site."

So what does that mean? A panel of workshop presenters had these thoughts:

Always keep the GOAL in mind. First, look at what you're trying to accomplish, then develop your strategy. What's the difference between a plan and strategy? A plan takes place in a closed system. In other words, event A, then B then C occur, with no allowance for additional factors. Strategy allows for a dynamic system -- one that responds to changes in users' needs or new situations. EXAMPLE: When social networking (like Facebook and Twitter) arrived on the scene, there had to be a way to integrate those into the strategy. Content was now appearing in multiple venues and often needed to be in different forms.

In my other life as a web designer/builder, one of the things I often tell clients is: "practice, practice, practice." Sometimes they ignore this first rule and become frustrated when the website won't magically do what they want it to.

What I generally do is set up a website that has all its design elements in place, sort of a "set it and forget it" mode. Then the person in charge of what the website actually says ("content") can log in to the "front end" of their site with a streamlined interface and make changes to text and photos. The most successful spend a little time at it to begin with so they can learn what works and what doesn't. Then they go in and add content regularly. That's standard practice when learning a new skill, like driving for example. Many licensing procedures require a certain number of hours on the road in various driving conditions. "Seat time," or time spent actually sitting in the driver's seat using the skills, is crucial to success.

I had to laugh the other day when I heard someone say they wanted a website "now" that was going to be easy for folks to update, but didn't want to take any time to learn new skills. Sure, there are shortcuts - having a tutor lead you through step-by-step is often the fastest way to get up to speed, but it still depends on seat time. If you want success, if you want a website that has informative and timely content, you do need to take the time to get out there and drive it.

Having spoken recently to West Plains UUs about their nice new website, I asked what went into the process, and got this terrific response from Laura Massey. I think she has it exactly right, especially her comments on the role of focus in communicating effectively. -- Gretchen

UU Fellowship of West PlainsHello Gretchen,

Lois forwarded to me your comments about our new Web site—thanks for the compliment! It’s gratifying to know people are looking at it and like what they see.

I can’t adequately cover in an email everything that goes into a project like this, but I think any group needs to start with 4 considerations:

  1. You need people with the right skills. You may need to hire help, but if you get good people, the end product will be worth the expense.
  2. You need to spend a lot of time thinking and preparing. I spent a lot more time thinking about the site than I did designing or writing.
  3. You need to carefully consider the content of the Web site. It’s content, not fancy graphics or special effects, that really makes a successful site.
  4. You need to decide how you will maintain the site. Our site was built with WordPress, so I can edit the text as needed.

1. Messages not going to list

Did you receive a message like this one?

Your mail to 'Presidents-chat' with the subject Re: [Presidents-chat] "Topic"
Is being held until the list moderator can review it for approval. The reason it is being held: Post by non-member to a members-only list
Either the message will get posted to the list, or you will receive notification of the moderator's decision. If you would like to cancel this posting, please visit the following URL: .../mailman/confirm/presidents-chat_cmwd-uua.org

We likely have you subscribed to the list with an address like "president@yourchurch-dot-org." If you were sending responses from that account, all would be well. Unfortunately (and this is becoming an increasing practice) this probably forwards to your personal email. So when you respond from your personal email ("you@youremail-dot-com"), the list doesn't recognize that address. So... when that happens I generally flag your personal address to allow messages to go through to the list. If you get another non-member message, watch to see whether your message gets to the list -- I am online at least each morning, so I can manually approve messages. -- Gretchen, CMwD Communications

"Spoofed" or "faked" e-mail messages are hitting many CMwD lists and people lately. The most recent looks like it's from our CMwD Board President Rev. Brian Covell.

It's a spoof/hoax. Delete delete delete and ignore. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-mail_spoofing

spoof-spam-maskEventually we all may see these, they're so common lately. It's the e-mail from a friend that says they're stranded and in need of money. Or perhaps there is only an e-mail link and you're pretty darn sure your friend wouldn't send you a link without some kind of note. DON'T reply, as the reply-to often is not even the presumed sender's actual address.

These are common e-mail "spoofs." A "spoof" is defined as an email that LOOKS Like it came from one address, when it really didn't. Google has a good explanation that inlcudes advice on how to keep your e-mail account secure, and what to look for to see whether your account has been compromised or just spoofed: http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=50200.

If you're ever in doubt about something coming from a CMwD colleague, please feel free to contact us and we can help look into the matter. -- Gretchen

You've heard that you shouldn't open attachments unless you know who they're from. Or click on links in e-mails without first checking the "tooltip" (the little message that appears when you hover your mouse over the link).

But when you're a member of an e-mail list that is using the program called "Mailman," there is sometimes an “attachment” that looks like “ATT00242.txt (349B)”. When you try to open it, you can't. That's because this is the way some e-mail systems handle the e-mail list footer, that is, the part that says:


Your website mailing list

You can safely ignore any “attachment” that looks like that.

"Mailman" an ad-free program CMwD and many others use to host their mailing lists rather than using a group system that sends advertisements to its group members. It is part of a website hosting package and not all website hosts supply this program. If you have any more questions about this type of list, contact your web hosting provider.