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Archive for the ‘Quality’ Category

There is no such thing as a malware free smartphone

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

It’s true.  All smartphones are vulnerable to malware.  However, some phones get targeted more than others.  Here are 5 of the most common smartphones and this is how secure they are.

  1. iPhone: This is the one that most people use. Due to the new iOS for the iPhone, malware is often in the background. It is most commonly found on jailbroken phones.  Since jailbroken phones often contain apps that are not approved by Apple, it’s much easier for malware to get onto the phones. Also since many users do not change the passwords on their jailbroken smartphones, malicious attackers can create worms and infect the operating devices.
  2. Windows Mobile: This is as bad as the computer version.  This is probably due to the fact that there are many similarities between the computer OS and the mobile OS.
  3. Blackberry: …This is actually pretty good, in that there is not much malware that targets blackberries. This is probably due to the fact that the Blackberry OS is kept under wraps. No one knows the details of how the system is programmed. However, the multitasking ability of the Blackberry makes it easy for malware to run unnoticed.
  4. Symbian: This is popular outside the United States. It is also the oldest of the smartphones. There is a lack of information on malware for this smartphone.
  5. Android: Since this is based on the Linux operating  system, there is not much information about malware for this phone either. 3rd party applications are not regulated for this phone.

Many of these phones have  common vulnerabilities. Things such as not changing your password and your settings can cause your phone to become vulnerable. When downloading apps, be careful of where you get the application from and try to download and install apps from reputable sources. Also, be very careful if you decide to jailbreak your phone.

Anyone got any other tips?

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Archive for the ‘Quality’ Category

Better Business Bureau – An Accreditation Process Based On How Much Money Your SmallBiz Pays?

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Remember the Better Business Bureau?  Do you use it? Do you like it? If you found it helpful…well it might not be as helpful as you thought it would be. According to MSNBC, the BBB’s accreditation process might be based purely on money. Criticism is being directed at the BBB’s aggressive membership sales process.  The BBB has admitted to making mistakes and said that they have reviewed the 16 factors that they consider when deciding whether or not give a business accreditation.  MSNBC’s post goes on to say that it’s better for consumers to solicit opinions on Social Media platforms on the business that you are interested in as opposed to specifically relying on the Better Business Bureau.  This is not the first time that there has been some criticism of BBB as we previously covered news reports by ABC News of BBB allegedly selling grades for small businesses.

Some people are really not happy with the BBB right now. But, some people go pretty far in venting their anger toward the BBB’s practices. Fee Fighters, a comparison shopping website for credit card processing, came out with a post that called the BBB is a “[@#$% ]Scam“. They then went on to say that the BBB may be exhorting people by describing some interactions that a business had with BBB when that business contacted the BBB in regards to some complaints that were apparently filed against the business.  The business, according to the Fee Fighter’s blog post, was told by the BBB that if the business would pay over $700 for a BBB membership than those complaints would be potentially cleaned.  In fact, according to the Fee Fighter’s account once the business paid for the BBB membership the rating for the business jumped from an “F” to an “A-“.  Oh by the way apparently according to this story on Gawker, the terrorist organization, Hamas, that has claimed responsibility for lots of bad things somehow gets an A- from the BBB.

Fee Fighters followed up on their post with a post recording the BBB’s reactions. At the time that they had published the post, they themselves at Fee Fighters had received BBB accreditation and had paid a lot of money for it. However, when the BBB saw their post, the BBB sent them a letter revoking Fee Fighter’s accreditation because the post did not conform to one of their guidelines.  Fee Fighters sent the BBB a letter back that stated that they were just telling the truth” which resulted in the BBB changing their status on the BBB’s website to Fee Fighters now having no rating.

How does all of this look for the BBB?  What do you all think?

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Archive for the ‘Quality’ Category

False Positives: The Problem of Fake Customer Reviews

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Psst..hey have you heard? Someone’s putting fake positive reviews for companies. There’s a black market for people who are willing to write fake positive reviews of products, places or services. Since more and more people are looking online for reviews of products, places and services, the demand for good reviews is growing.  As more and more positive reviews are being written, the demand for more positive reviews increases. It’s a positive feedback cycle.

How to tell if a review is fake or not

So what about these fake reviews? Well most of them are hard to spot. Luckily for businesses, a team of researchers have come up with an algorithm to determine if that review you got on Yelp is fake or not.  So, how did they determine the algorithm? Well the long answer’s in the link I gave you. The short answer is this. The fake reviews tend to be more narrative, have vauge descriptions about whatever they are reviewing and tend to use the words “I”‘ and “me”‘ often.

So why need an algorithm at all? Well take a look at this. Don’t read the descriptions and ignore the highlighted words for a minute. Just read the review. Could you tell it wasn’t real? No? Well neither could I. The Cornell researchers have an explanation for this. Since humans have been communicating face to face for about 60,000 years, it’s much harder for us to pick up clues about deception in things such as reviews. You know this to be true, if you’ve ever had a misunderstanding over email.

So how do you prevent fake reviews? You can try setting up a review guideline. Try asking your customers to put the name of the person who helped them, describe the product or service in detail and point out the parts that they liked the best or had some problem with. If the review has passion, chances are it’s a real review.

A brief bit about negative reviews

Then there’s the flip-side, negative reviews. These are often posted by competitors or people who really don’t like the business. Surprisingly,  the trend is more towards writing positive reviews. But, that’s not to say that negative reviews aren’t important too.  Negative reviews can help you figure out what went wrong with that new pasta recipe you were trying out last Friday night. So keep an eye on those too. Also, if you answer negative reviews really quickly and fix/compensate for the problem, your bad review might just change to a good one!

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Archive for the ‘Quality’ Category

Turning Sites into Gold: An Interview with Marketade’s John Nicholson

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

I recently had the privilege of speaking with John Nicholson, co-founder of the consulting company Marketade. A savvy businessman and all-around great guy, John uses his experiences to help others with some of the most important problems that online businesses face. My interview with John has taught me a lot and I want you all to be able to benefit from what he has to say.

Tell me a little about Marketade?

Marketade is basically a boutique web consulting company that I started with my partner and co-founder, Karan Gill. While Karan works on web development and design, I focus on search marketing, web analytics and conversion optimizations. Both of us used to work at GEICO; I was in marketing and Karan was in IT. GEICO is very metrics focused and innovative with its brand and web presence. We’re able to take the skills and processes we learned there and use them to help small to mid-sized businesses.

When and why did you decide to create Marketade?

Karan and I started Marketade two years ago. We had each come up with the idea of creating a consulting company and after talking decided it would be best for us to work as a team. We felt that our Fortune 100 skills could help small and mid-sized businesses compete with much bigger competitors – which was an exciting idea for us.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced and overcame in launching Marketade?

Business development and finding new clients. As an entrepreneur, you’re always running around with too much to do. This makes it really difficult to not get completely wrapped up in client’s requests. You have to be disciplined with your time and reserve some of it to develop your business. One thing that we did in this area was create a newsletter. Since we use this to write in-depth articles, our newsletter is a great way to show off some of our expertise. In fact, we got our biggest deal to date through a reader of our newsletter.

How do you advertise yourself to get more clients?

We don’t really advertise in a traditional sense. We think the best way to grow your business is through word-of-mouth from happy customers and that’s where we’ve focused. As I mentioned earlier, we do have a newsletter. We also use Twitter a little bit.

We’ve also gotten a few clients just from working at Affinity Lab, the co-working space in D.C. where we are based.

Have you had any trouble proving your business’ credibility and legitimacy to potential customers and website visitors?

Yes. We know that a lot of people come to our website and leave quickly, even though they’ve come from highly relevant search phrases. We attribute this at least in part to not providing our credibility. Our GEICO experience helps, but is not enough.

Lately, this issue has been on our minds as we redesign our site. People want to know who is behind the organization, so we’re planning on playing up our bios more. We’ve also recently become a Google Certified Partner and plan to promote that. And working out of Affinity Lab also has credibility, so we’ll play that up more too. One of our clients recently told us that it made a big difference just knowing that we had an actual address in D.C.

When you’re not working on Marketade, what do you do to relax?

I’m a pretty big sports guy. I enjoy soccer, tennis, yoga, and I recently got into surfing. I enjoy eating at ethnic restaurants. I also read a fair amount. Most of what I read is nonfiction and contemporary.

Based on your expertise, what two or three things do you think small businesses should be doing concerning online marketing?

One thing, which I’ve written an article on, is that small businesses need to optimize their website title tags. The title tag that appears on the top of your browser is a huge factor in Google’s organic search scoring method. Most people just put the name of their business. What they don’t realize is that they need keyword-rich title tags that include their profession service areas and/or location. Although it isn’t a particularly exciting form of marketing, it is drastically underutilized.

Another important thing is for businesses to take the time to understand what words people use when talking about their business. There is a Google Keyword Tool that allows you to see how often people search using a certain term. I often spend hours on this when working with a new client. It helps immensely not just with SEO, but with how visitors will interact with your site’s content. You have to know how to speak the language of your visitors. Business and technical jargon just doesn’t resonate.

Related to this, most businesses need better writing on their sites. There is too much focus on the next big thing – whether it’s video or social media – and not enough focus on good writing. Always remember that people on the web are in a rush and want to be able to skim content easily.

What tools would you recommend for small businesses in the online world?

The Google Keyword Tool I mentioned earlier is a great one. Google Analytics can also be really helpful. Don’t worry if you’re a non-technical kind of person; it’s pretty intuitive. Even if you only use it to get a better idea of where people are coming from, it can make a big difference. Both of these tools are free and they are great for helping businesses figure out how to increase conversions.

If you had to pick two lessons that you’ve learned from launching and maintaining your business, what would they be?

One lesson would be thinking in the long-term concerning business development. I know I mentioned this earlier so I won’t go into it, but it is essential for businesses. You need to make sure you set time aside for this instead of just focusing on what is immediately in front of you. That’s the only way to grow.

Another lesson is to realize the importance of time management and project management. These are especially important when starting up because you have to wear so many different hats as a small business owner. I make an effort to track almost every moment of my day. I always ask myself “Where is my time going and is it in line with what I’m trying to do with my business?” Unfocused time is a killer. Tools aren’t the key here, but they can help. We use Harvest and Basecamp to track our time and manage projects.

Do you have any final thoughts or words of wisdom to share with our readers and the business community?

Don’t be afraid to take the “old school” route when doing your research and learning new techniques. Go to the library and get a book instead of just looking online for articles. The problem with the rise of social media and SEO is that it also gives rise to a lot of useless information. A lot of “top 10” type articles are not saying anything particularly new. They’re just regurgitating old information. If you’re passionate about something, go out and get a book written by a professional in the field. Don’t just rush over to blogs or to Twitter. After all, it’s also nice to disconnect after a long day of being in front of the computer.

Thanks to John for a great interview and a lot of great information! If you have any questions or comments for John, feel free to write them below.

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Archive for the ‘Quality’ Category

Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail, part five: Employees

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Employees

Many Small Businesses are “solopreneurs“, so this post won’t apply to them… now. Hopefully, many of these one-person enterprises will expand, and gain staff members or working partners. But there are those Small Business which have employees: managing them well can determine the difference between success and failure.

Your employees are the face of your business – usually the first people your customers and clients will have contact with. To most of them, your employees ARE your companyHow well your employees understand the mission and focus of your business, and whether these employees treat your clients with courtesy and respectshapes the reputation and public image of the company and brand you work hard to establish.

Just as you should never take you clients for granted, you cannot afford to overlook the importance of training and managing your employees. Treat them like mere “workers”, and they will only be in it for the paycheckunconcerned with the effect they have on your clients who, without exaggeration, ARE your business. You must treat your employees as the partners they are – enroll them in the dream, the long-term goal, and not just the short-term pay-off.

It has been well established that people will take a job that pays less if they feel they will be treated more respectfullyincluded in the decision-making and provided greater challenges and opportunity to prove themselves. They’ll actually work harder and longer if they feel they have a stake in the ultimate outcome.

Think about it: How many times have you dealt with the rude bank teller, the argumentative customer service representative or the condescending auto mechanic?  Is this the type of person you want to be the face of your business? An employee treated as a mere “worker bee” is likely to be frustrated and spend each day watching the clock, feeling miserable and unappreciated. It costs you nothing to treat your employees with respect, courtesy and interest.

Satisfied employees are your ultimate promoters – their enthusiasm will be infectious and have a powerful impact on your customers, face-to-face, over the phone and even in email communication. An involved employee instinctively understands the value of quality customer care, and won’t have to be constantly reminded to follow up and follow through.

The return on investing in your employees will be have a measurable effect on your bottom line, your customers’ satisfaction and client retention. By contrast, a dismissive attitude of “my way, or the highway” is the surest way to guarantee that both your employees and your clients take you up on your offer… to take their time and money elsewhere.


Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. cholt@henssler.com
The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper
© 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com


Cornell Green is Your Open Source CIO, guest blogger for KikScore. Visit him at http://opensourcecio.blogspot.com

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Archive for the ‘Quality’ Category

Shocking Results in Recent OTA Findings: Should YOU Feel Safe on the Internet?

Friday, May 27th, 2011

As cybercriminals become more advanced and efficient, all businesses must recognize and prepare for the imminent threats of online hackers. The issue of cyber-attacks has made its way to the Senate, debating the amount of power the president should have in dealing with cybercrimes (Full story here).

Similarly, in accordance with the looming threat of online fraud and cybercrime, the Online Trust Alliance (OTA) released their annual Online Safety Honor Roll and Scorecard two weeks ago, revealing the many insecurities of the internet. Their findings were very surprising, making me question my privacy and safety on the internet. Two of the most shocking discoveries include:

  • Only 26% of the top websites and government agencies evaluated by the OTA were recognized for their adoption of the best, most efficient technologies to help protect users’ privacy and identity. This means that 74% of the top websites used by millions of people have not implemented safe measures that protect against malicious emails and rogue websites. Organizations that made the Honor Roll enacted email authentication processes, Extended Validation SSL Certificates, and testing for malware and known site vulnerabilities. More than 500 million emails originated from the organizations lacking efficient online security measures. These facts demonstrate that we are not protected on the majority of sites we visit and are members of, and therefore we must consider reevaluating websites before giving them any of our personal information.
  • Social media, e-commerce, and financial services ranked higher in securing their sites than government agencies.  About 27% of the FDIC 100 and 24% of the Fortune 500 qualified for the Honor Roll, though only 12% of government agencies made the list. It doesn’t make me feel particularly safe that government agencies’ websites are some of the most vulnerable to cybercrime attacks. The government and its various agencies should be the ones protecting us, enacting the proper online security protocols and trying to set an example, not being most susceptible to malware.

This report is extremely important for both e-commerce shoppers and small businesses. Online shoppers must realize the dangers of registering on sites that may be unsafe and prone to cyber-attacks and abuse. Therefore, they will seek out websites that have the proper preventative online security measures, and will most likely buy from the large, reputable online websites. This will in turn hurt small businesses that lack a reputation in online safety, and are trying to flourish in e-commerce.  This makes it even more important that for small businesses to succeed that they clearly demonstrate to the public their record of trustworthiness and reliability so potential customers are ensured that the small business they’re dealing with can be trusted.

The OTA’s full 2011 Online Safety Honor Roll and Scorecard can be found here: https://otalliance.org/news/releases/2011scorecard.html.

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Archive for the ‘Quality’ Category

The Magic Behind the Thin Mints: What We Can Learn from the Business of Girl Scout Cookies

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

It’s a familiar scene: a group of elementary-aged little girls set up a card table in front of the local Giant with every intention of guilting you into buying a box (or three) of Tagalongs or Samoas.  Okay, we might as well admit to ourselves that we wanted those cookies anyways.  But what is it about those Girl Scout cookies that keep us coming back for more?  What may seem like a couple of innocent girls selling door to door is actually a hugely successful $700 million cookie empire.

Here are some simple tips for applying the strategies behind Girl Scout cookies to your own businesses:

  1. Make your brand recognizable and familiar. There are hundreds of thousands of independent Girl Scout troops across the nation.  Yet, customers know exactly what to expect when they open a box of Girl Scout cookies.  The packaging, the pricing, and ultimately, the quality of all Girl Scout cookies are uniform across the nation.
  2. Keep up with the times. The organization has recently unveiled the Girl Scout cookie app for the iPhone.  An organization that is so historic gets bonus points for embracing a society where customers automatically assume that “There’s an app for that.”  The Cookie Finder app makes it easy to locate places where customers can purchase Girl Scout cookies.  Which brings me to my next point….
  3. It’s all about the convenience. Even though concerns for the safety of young children have slowly eradicated a door-to-door selling culture, people don’t typically have to look too hard for another box of thin mints.  Girl Scout cookies still tend to find you, whether it’s at a local grocery store, or through an order form at a Girl Scout parent’s office.
  4. …Except for when it’s not convenient at all. Girl Scout cookies are not available in stores.  Nor are they available all year round.  The only place to buy them is directly from a Girl Scout (or her parent, when he or she inevitably brings that form into the office).  When customers know that they can’t just stop by the store for another box, they will inevitably start stocking up for the year.
  5. Appeal to the goodwill and emotions of the public. The Girl Scouts of America is an organization that is widely recognized for its part in empowering girls across the country.  The mission statement cites goals to build girls of “courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”  People are more likely to support a business that they believe is doing good deeds.  Of course, there’s also the fact that sometimes it’s just hard to refuse that little girl.  And that might just be the Girl Scouts’ greatest advantage.

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Archive for the ‘Quality’ Category

Want faster broadband? Go mobile!

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Well in the US anyway. According to this study, the US is third for m0bile broadband quality.  However, that’s only in mobile broadband. Confused by all the figures? This article gives you a good summary. The US is ranked 15th in the world in terms of better broadband access, along with France, Latvia, and Canada. The best place for broadband access….No, not Japan or Sweden….it’s South Korea!

I believe that the study measured it in download and upload speeds because that’s what the article said, plus one of the graphs was showing downloading and uploading speeds in the requirements. I do wish the second graph-like thing on pg 16 of the PowerPoint came with a key because it was a little confusing.  I believe what it means by “household penetration” is how many houses have broadband access. Looking at the graph, it seems like most of the countries who are leading in household penetration are not broadband leaders.  However there are still quite a few countries that don’t really seem to have proper broadband.

The PowerPoint also stated the countries that were ready for future applications. The US was not one of them. It was, however, in the list of numerous countries that enjoy current applications without (many) problems. There are quite a few countries that are barely or unable to support many of today’s applications.

On the other hand, the US has a negative difference between the broadband in its main cities and outside them. The study didn’t say how far outside the broadband quality remained the same, but it’s still good news. The country that has narrowed this gap the most is Poland. What I found interesting was that Japan was below the US.

The graph on page 8 of the PowerPoint shows that many of the developing countries are focusing more on developing broadband in their cities because they acknowledge that it is an important part of their economic development. On the next page is a list of cities that have the quality required to be “smart and connected.”  The PowerPoint does not explain what this is. It doesn’t look good for the US here, because the only city that fits that requirement is …..(take a few minutes and guess, I want to know what guesses you came up with)…….New York. (I’m pretty sure all of you guessed this. Just once I would like to see a place like Tulsa get into some technology list.) Ok! The next page……I’m not sure h0w to read this or what the bubbles are talking about. (I don’t know that much about broadband….yet) So, moving on!

I don’t really understand the chart and graphs on pages 13 and 14, but I do know that the Social Media slider should be all the way to the right. The second to last page talks about the relationship between broadband leadership and innovation economy.  I believe it means that there is a positive relationship. The thing that I took away from this is that the US, if it wants to be on the very edge, should probably improve broadband quality. Maybe that should be it’s resolution for this year?

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Lessons from Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Mental Game is Key to Success

Monday, November 29th, 2010

I have to admit when I was growing up back in Ohio I idolized Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, I used to get Muscle & Fitness magazine and I watched every Arnold movie from Conan the Barbarian, Commando, Predator, and of course through all of the Terminator classics.  At that time I looked up to Arnold mainly because I was (ok now dont laugh) big into weightlifting and well the movies were just the movies – pretty cool for any teenage kid.

It is funny that nearly 20 years later my wife sent me the video below which is a recent interview of Arnold where he discussed his approach to the success he has had a different phases in his life.  It wasn’t until I watched the short 10 minute video that I realized that Arnold reinvented himself three separate times and was wildly successful in each instance. First, as the bodybuilder and multiple Mr. Olympia, then as a huge action movie star and finally as Governor of California.

The punchline for the video and largely this post is that Arnold said the difference between himself and others in each of the three major  roles in his life was the mental game.  As an example, he said there were plenty of weightlifters when he was competing to win bodybuilding competitions that were just as big as him, trained just as hard as he did, but the difference between Arnold and these other folks was their approach to mentally winning. Arnold always envisioned success and winning as well as achieving his goals.  His goal was not just to be a good bodybuilder, but it was to win Mr. Olympia repeatedly.  And so as opposed to other bodybuilders who were just good at training, Arnold continually envisioned mentally winning Mr. Olympia.  And he won it not just once, but six consecutive times! In the video he says the difference between himself and others was not being physically bigger or having more defined muscles, it was instead the mental aspect of training, focusing and envisioning success at all times.

This was Arnold’s approach to the mental game:

a) constantly envisioned success and accomplishing the near and short term goals he laid out for himself;

b) was always mentally focused on that success and accomplishing those goals;

c) carried that focus into everything he did and his approach to training and executing his plans; and

d) was relentless in his pursuit for the success that he set out to achieve.

For startups and small businesses there are strong parallels and lessons learned from Arnold’s approach that he has taken in his life to succeeding not once, but in three completely separate areas as diverse as bodybuilding, acting and being elected as to the highest office in the largest state in the United States.

Watch, listen, take notes and start acting on the Arnold’s guidance! You will not regret it.

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The Startup Team and Life Changing events

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

When your team is lean and everyone is wearing multiple hats, it causes quite the glitch in everyday functions when one (or multiple) team member experiences a life changing event. How do you prepare for it? There are some situations that are emergency impact that cannot be prepared for, but others can.

Since the inception of KikScore there have been a mixture of life changing events across the team…
— 3 new births across different team members (all first time parents),
— spousal job changes
— infants becoming toddlers
— loss of pets (and additions)
— demanding day job impacts
— and an upcoming one for me – moving cross-country to ‘the big city’ for an amazing new day job opportunity.

So how does a small night/weekend entrepreneurial company stay focused?

It is very easy for the impacted member to get caught up in the life event and KikScore takes a back seat.  While not the intention, human nature makes us selfish.

We can’t let this happen as the business would in turn suffer.  As a small team, we need to regroup and delegate items out to others  during the transition time, arming the business with communication channels to stick together and react to customer needs.

Some other tips that can prove useful are to continue to conduct weekly meetings to re-establish expectations. The team member going through the transition (me soon) should be able to commit to a once/week discussions to ensure they stay informed and can lend a hand as their life calms down and they rediscover their head.

How has your small business coped with  life changing events?  Please share your story with KikScore.

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