Review Your Important Stuff Today

I keep all my important stuff in my bank safe deposit box. By important stuff, I mean my life insurance policy, will, advance health care directive, and password spreadsheets stored on a USB drive.

I revised my life insurance policy recently after I received a letter about privacy from my insurance carrier. That letter prompted me to check my privacy settings on the carrier’s website. I discovered that I hadn’t updated my policy in 5 years…before my father died. So, I updated my beneficiary list, and I checked my will at the same time. I made a couple of minor changes to the will, had it signed, and notified my executors of the changes.

Some tragic news also pushed me to make these changes: Early this month I learned that my cousin’s 25-year-old stepson passed away. That reminded me that things can change quickly, so I checked and ensured all my important documents were in order.

I hope you aren’t compelled to look at your important stuff because of a family calamity. Instead, the calendar should compel you — next weekend, the first weekend of July, is the halfway point of the year. So, use that date as an opportunity for you to review your important stuff.

What’s more, if you don’t have as much important stuff as you should, consider shopping for it. You may need life insurance, business insurance, a will, or an advance health care directive. It’s possible you may need a copy of your birth certificate. And you should put together a list of your passwords and put it on a USB drive. Then your executor can get important information from your computing device(s) and website accounts. And your executor will thank you for making things easier during a stressful time.

As Peter Drucker said, “Long-range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.”

Contract Good, Uncertainty Bad

A contract is your parachute.Whenever a client and I agree to work together, I send the client a draft contract that contains suggested deadlines. I build my contract from a template that clearly states we need to work together to make the project come to life. That means we must send each other materials by specific deadlines so I finish the job in a timely manner.

I learned long ago that if you don’t create and sign a contract with clients and partners, uncertainty is always the result. That leads to lost productive time, (probably) court hearings, (maybe) lost money, and (definitely) more stress.


Setting the Scene

I recently created a website for a medical professional. She signed a contract for website design services in early April. Throughout the process, she verbally chafed about the contract deadlines. At different times she claimed:

  • She didn’t read the contract before she signed it.
  • She didn’t understand the contract when she signed it.
  • We were on a “relaxed” schedule, not the schedule stipulated in the contract.

I knew about my client’s busy life, so I created a contract amendment for her to sign. That amendment contained new due dates and would not charge additional fees as stipulated in the contract…provided we each met our deadlines. She signed the amendment.

Things were going well. My client approved the design that I delivered to her on time. We spent a few days making small changes to the website text.

Two days before any other text changes were due, she decided she didn’t like her new website. She demanded that I either extend the deadline to a nebulous future date or not charge her for the rest of the website work. If I didn’t comply, she said she would damage my reputation on Yelp.


The Value of a Contract

I never encountered such a threat from a client in my nearly 23 years in business. So, I consulted with my pre-paid legal service, which has been a good investment. The attorney sent my client a demand letter, and I sent her the final invoice. (If she tried to leave a bad review on Yelp in response, she quickly learned that I don’t have a Yelp account.) Her written reply to my attorney said I was wrong about so many things and directed me to contact her attorney.

So, I sent her attorney a two-page letter that included:

  • Information about my experience with small claims court cases,
  • A reminder that she’d have to drive 50 miles to my town for the small claims court hearing,
  • A note that my client and I communicated exclusively by e-mail, so I would bring our entire correspondence to the hearing, and
  • An offer to waive late fees if his client paid the final invoice 10 days after he received my letter.

With that letter, I included copies of the contract, extension amendment, and the e-mail message that contained my client’s demands and Yelp threat.

One week after the attorney received my letter, I received a letter from the client. It contained a cashier’s check for the full amount due. My client paid me for my work, but I still couldn’t show off that work on my website portfolio.

The moral of this story: Create contracts, stick to your deadlines, document everything, and be ready to protect yourself.

Why I Left the Better Business Bureau

The past few weeks have been busy for me as I add or renew personal and business memberships. I also dropped my membership in the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The reason for the latter has to do with passwords and privacy.

I joined the BBB in 2011. Last year, the BBB posted my unhidden BBB password in my renewal e-mail message. For some time before then, news outlets documented the lack of privacy controls in e-mail messages. What’s more, some pieces of my BBB account password were in other passwords I use to access other websites.

Why I Left the Better Business BureauI updated a lot of my passwords quickly. When I was done, I expressed my concern to the head of the BBB office in Sacramento. The head of that office assured me that such transmission would never happen again, and that a note about this would be put in my member file.

After I renewed with the Better Business Bureau in March this year, I received a thank you e-mail message. This message once again contained my user name and my entire unhidden password. I promptly e-mailed the head of the Sacramento BBB office about this. Her e-mail response explained that the person who sent the message was a new employee and he didn’t read my file.

Her response also contained the entire original message with my unhidden password. So, now I knew the previous message wasn’t an innocent mistake. I responded to her in a separate e-mail message to prevent further transmission of my password, and told her that either BBB staff didn’t train its staff correctly or my “member file” didn’t exist. She apologized again and refunded my dues quickly, but I won’t be a Better Business Bureau member anytime soon.

Though I look at and change my passwords on a regular basis, this incident happened in between those regular checks. I neither appreciated having to put other work aside to check and change more passwords nor the anxiety.

So, I want to share this cautionary tale with you and offer some ideas if you’re concerned about passwords, too.

If you’re thinking of sending passwords via e-mail, or even document attachments with important information like your signature, there are three ways I protect my documents. You may want to consider these strategies as well:

  • Your e-mail software may offer the ability to send encrypted messages, where both you and the recipient need a “key” to open the message. If you use Microsoft Outlook, you can get instructions how to do that on the Office help website.
  • If you use Adobe Acrobat, encrypt your PDF document with a password that the recipient knows.
  • You can also use a file compression program such as 7-Zip to not only compress the file but also require a password to open the compressed file.

In the latter two cases, you may need to talk about what password you want to use and keep the references reasonably cryptic. For example, you may tell the recipient to use the first few letters of a word combined with the last three digits of a number that both of you know.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any questions or further thoughts. In the meantime, I hope you have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend.

Nougat Update Article Now for the Galaxy Tab S2

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 Android NougatLast month, Samsung rolled out the Android 7.0 (Nougat) update for the Galaxy Tab S2. Samsung introduced the Galaxy Tab S3 with Nougat in March, but if you think the Tab S2 is just fine, then a free upgrade to Nougat on your Tab S2 may be what you’re looking for. If you upgraded your Tab S2 to Nougat, or you’re interested in upgrading, I’ve written a new article about the biggest features in Nougat. You can click the link on the right side of this page, and this PDF-format article is free to read.

The latest chatter on social media says a Nougat update for the Galaxy Tab A is imminent. However, it’s less clear if Samsung will update the original Galaxy Tab S with Nougat. The SamMobile website is a great resource for the latest Samsung firmware updates and other Samsung news.

This Tab S2 article will be the last I produce for a while. Next week, I’ll start writing Instagram for Business for Dummies for Wiley with my co-authors Corey Walker and Jenn Herman. If all goes well, that book will be on store shelves for the holiday season. At the very least, the book will be ready for next February’s Social Media Marketing World conference.

While I’m writing the Instagram book, I don’t plan to disappear as I did in March. I’ll have news about the book and other interesting stuff to share. I want to explain why my business is no longer a member of the Better Business Bureau. I have some thoughts about local restaurants if you’re coming up to Amador County sometime this summer. I’m also going to pester some of my co-authors of other books to contribute articles and let you know what they’re thinking about.

In the meantime, have a prosperous Friday and a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend.

My RoboHelp 2017 Course is Now on Udemy

I’ve used RoboHelp since 1996 (hard to believe that’s 21 years ago, isn’t it?) and I’ve also developed several online courses for Adobe’s online help creation software for previous versions. Now my new course for the latest version, RoboHelp 2017, is available on Udemy.

This course has 116 lectures and takes about 5 hours if you go through it from beginning to end. The course curriculum is broken into 13 “chapters” that include the following topics:

  • How to navigate the RoboHelp window
  • Creating a new help project
  • Formatting your help project
  • Designing your topics
  • Adding links
  • Building forms and tables
  • Inserting graphics and multimedia into your topics
  • Going further with variables, tags, and scripts
  • Organizing your project using an index, glossary, search, and TOC
  • Generating and reviewing online help projects

RoboHelpBecause you have unlimited free access to the course after you purchase it, you can return to the course whenever you want to get a refresher about one or more topics.

The course retails for $140, but Udemy frequently offers promotional discounts for all its courses. The course has a 30-day money-back guarantee, too.

Go to the Udemy website to read all about the course, review the course outline, watch a brief intro video, check out current discounts, and purchase the course. I’ve also developed courses for two older versions, RoboHelp 2015 and RoboHelp 11, in case you’re still using those versions and need help using them.

RoboHelp is a great tool for technical writers and software developers to create and offer help on a variety of platforms, and you can learn more about it on Adobe’s website by clicking here. I also updated the Adobe RoboHelp Wikipedia page with a lot of new information about RoboHelp’s history and capabilities.

I had a productive weekend, and I hope you had a great weekend, too. Have a productive week and a prosperous rest of your May.