Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

A happy New Year's Eve is a bottle of specialty bubbly with the love of my life with three happy and healthy kids in their beds. 

Oh, and a major website upgrade completed and delivered ahead of schedule. 

Many thanks to all of SDOC's clients.  It has been an honor to be a key element of your online presence.   I look forward to being of service to you and more enterprises in 2014. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Warning for WordPress Website Owners - use caution with NextGEN Image Galleries

WordPress has become one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) available.  The basic core is relatively easy to use for the newbie and they innovated the process of connecting the website to the plugin database to add updates without having to manually download and upload them.

NextGEN gallery is one of the most popular plugins for WordPress.  It has been used worldwide for creating multiple image galleries with captions and slideshow features.  I use it for one of my client's sites as an "image museum" of sorts.  See RikEmmett.com.

Now with this said:


WordPress has been upgrading its core to rely more heavily on jQuery - specifically a responsive admin bar that can be utilized on any device including phones and small tablets, and smoother slide and fade animation.

Photocrati has tried to keep pace with a massive upgrade that not only makes greater use of these animated features, but added more features to the management of the galleries themselves.

The response has been mixed to say the very least.  The support forum on WordPress.org reports everything from extremely slow load times and random error messages to complete site crashes that required admin support from the hosting provider to restore the website from an archived snapshot.  I tested the latest 2.x version on a WordPress 3.8 install (the latest release) and while it didn't crash the sandbox, I saw the slow page loads and error messages.

The leader of the development team issued an open letter to the WordPress community acknowledging the problems with an apology and an explanation of how to proceed next.

In SDOC's opinion, it's best not to make this upgrade.  Consider the last stable release of this plugin to be version 1.9, which can be manually downloaded here.

So what did we learn from this WP plugin problem?

1)  The "simplicity" of WordPress is not always so simple when you start adding on additional functions.  Simplicity and ease of use on the front end for the user is always matched by increasing complexity and hands-on management for the administrators.

2)  WordPress is not the ideal solution for every website, in spite of its popularity.  I use it myself in some very complex installations (espcially RikEmmett.com and Atlantapanhellenic.org).  But it also has big limits, especially in the frequency of major updates to its core and spotty quality control in plugin releases.

3)  ALWAYS back up your files and database before adding or upgrading plugin functionality.  Better yet, test them in a non-production sandbox site (if you have one available) before adding it to your "live" site.  Most of all, ask your web host if they can automatically back up your site on their side on a regular basis (read:  nightly, if you have a high-traffic site with frequent new content.)  This advice has saved my bacon more times than I care to remember.  If the worst thing you have to do is restore your database and reupload your files after a crash, consider yourself blessed.

Best of luck to your website owners and be careful out there.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

To Yelp or Not to Yelp

Online ratings can make a big difference in a small business' bottom line.  But are they still trustworthy?

When ratings sites first opened, they were a boon to small businesses looking to improve their street cred.  Even a negative review was an opportunity to demonstrate great customer service in less than ideal circumstances and still come out a winner.

Business review sites like Yelp, Angie's List, Kudzu, etc are the original "crowdsourcing" sites.  Recently Yelp has come under fire for allegedly hiding positive reviews under a "not recommended" label if the business in question did not purchase advertising with Yelp.

From Channel 46 today:
Woo said their impressive Yelp review became less impressive after they decided not to pay $299 a month to advertise with Yelp.
"They're kind of extorting us to pay the $299 a month or otherwise our ratings go down and we can't do anything about it," Woo said.
Woo also pointed out that at the bottom of Yoon Sushi's profile there's a link to 15 other reviews that are not currently recommended, the majority of which are perfect 5 star reviews.
"One of our customers came in and told us that he put a 5 star review and then noticed the review went straight to the filter and was under the un-recommended section," Woo said.
From Huffington Post

Complicating the issue further is the growing role of "reputation managers":  firms that regularly review the Internet for content about their client.  Then, if they find anything, they issue press releases and reviews and blog articles and a flood of links to "bury" the incriminating material so far down in search engine results that they are unlikely to be read.

Some of these "managers" have no trouble taking the next step and writing glowing positive reviews on Yelp, etc for their clients and negative ones for their clients' competitors.

A publication from my alma mater ran their own analysis of Yelp and other crowsourced review sites.

How can consumers view these sites more critically?
I think there are many signals on Yelp that consumers can combine to make up their minds. The way I use Yelp is, I read individual reviews, trying to be aware not just of whether they’re fake, but beyond that, whether they come from consumers who are like myself. There are plenty of biases in reviews besides their being fake or real. The other thing I look at is the number of reviews a business has. I have a lot more faith in a business with 3½ stars and 100 reviews than I do in one with 4 stars and just 3 or 4 reviews. That’s common sense. Also, when available, you can use sites, like Expedia, that allow consumers to review a business only once it’s confirmed that they are paying customers.
Comments are open:  do you use Yelp or similar sites for your business?  Have you experienced having certain reviews hidden?  Has crowdsourced reviews helped or hurt your enterprise?

Not small questions at the end of our Christmas shopping season when shoppers either shop online or check out store information on the internet.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dunwoody Crier celebrates a local home-based business

Wife and mom launches jewelry business with a twist 

(link was to online Crier article that was removed some time on Thursday)

Scan of print article from this week's Crier.
Why did the online article disappear?
I learned about Origami Owl from some sorority sisters who are customers and from other members of home business networking groups.

At its start, Origami Owl began like many Dunwoody home-based businesses:  people looking for some way to make a living from home without getting trapped by a scam and having the flexibility of time to be a full-time parent as well.  Origami Owl is a bit more unique in that it was started by a teenager (at home) rather than an adult.

This enterprise is typical of the hundreds of home businesses in Dunwoody where a parent works from home, sees customers and makes sales in residential neighborhoods, and maintains stock in trade, without a single complaint.  Because of four of our seven city council members, and their blind commitment to excessive permitting processes, these home business owners have decided it is more beneficial to ignore the SLUP process than to obey it.  So we all just go about our business of earning a living and being the good neighbors we always were - without begging the city government for their approval.  

Home business owners have no protection from harassment.  They can be vilified in any public meeting due to the bad behaviour of other residents who are not so conscientious.  Complaints can be filed anonymously, even without cause.  By contrast, the extensively rewritten animal ordinance, (Number 3, under the consent agenda) going to a vote on Monday, requires that complaints against an animal owner require three signatures of residents in three different homes.  Or, some kind of evidence that obtaining three signatures is not possible.

Would someone please demonstrate, using legal precedent, why different code enforcement complaints about different alleged nuisances require such vastly different standards of proof?  This new variation of the animal ordinance offers animal owners additional protections against complaints that any other resident or entity is not entitled to.  Specifically, this is the only "nuisance" that does not allow for anonymous complaints.   You can complain all you want, anonymously, on SeeClickFix about someone's yard not being cut, or the fact that they store their personal belongings in their carport, or they have a large family with many cars legally parked on the property, or accuse them of having a home business, whether they do or not.  Proof is a bonus, but not necessarily required.  But if you want to complain about a nuisance animal, you have to give your name and get other signatures from the neighbors.  In what universe is this fair?

But back to the beginning of the story:  Dunwoody moms and dads are currently working from home by the hundreds.  The overwhelming majority of them are good neighbors providing good services to their community.   No extraneous paperwork required.  The Crier recognized that this week, even if city hall is still foggy on the subject.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The 120 Minute Hate

 Jim Riticher's town hall meeting was captured on video and posted to YouTube last night.

I would have made this event last night in person except my other half got home from work late.

Today is the first day since 2008 that my faith in the future of Dunwoody has wavered.  Ironically, only a few days after we celebrated Dunwoody's 5th anniversary as an incorporated city.

Watch the videos.  Take a good look at the faces and catch the names of the people talking.

If you think or live differently than they do, in the slightest way.  They hate you.

Read that one more time.


They are "The People".  If your opinion is different, you are not "the people".  You are an unperson.  Your voice does not deserve to be heard or acted upon by city government.  Your priorities are either unimportant or harmful to THEIR community.

I invited Jim Riticher to respond to a couple of questions I posed to all candidates during the election.  He blew it off.  I must be an unperson too.

There is to be no compromise and no coexistence between residents of different lifestyles.  The zoning rewrite attempted that compromise to maximize differing rights while protecting everyone's lifestyles.  It was unceremoniously thrown back in the faces of all who worked to compose and ratify it.

In the past, I've heard stories of some Dunwoody residents who moved away because their POV was dismissed.  Until this morning I thought that reaction was childish, even selfish.  "Just be a good example right where you are."  That's a lot harder to do than to say and I learned not to judge those who decided to leave.  Group hate is a hard thing to overcome by emulating the examples of Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, King, etc.

I'm going to continue to be a good neighbor, a good homeowner, and a good business owner, without asking permission to do so from this crowd.

Many prayers for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Update:  for the members in this audience who are concerned about the public release of the charter commission's report, the link to the document is the top button of the green vertical menu on almost ever page of the city website.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy Birthday Dunwoody

In five years

We've had fights in the council chamber

Saw weird/distasteful/dirty campaigns

Seen enough red shirts to last us a lifetime

Built sidewalks

Argued about where to put the sidewalks

Paved roads

Argued about which roads were getting paved and when

Argued about who used the roads.

Learned more about our neighbors in both elected and appointed positions than we ever wanted to know.

Learned some things about the same that we wish we still didn't know

Found out the law of the state and fed and strings attached to "free" money is more complex than we imagined.  Some times the money just isn't worth the hassle.

Discovered how diverse our community truly is - that there is no "voice" of Dunwoody.  There's a chorus of many voices, some of which don't believe they are heard or taken seriously.

And I thank God every day we incorporated to work out our city's future for ourselves, rather than remain at the mercy of a County that doesn't give a damn what happens to us, as long as our wallets our open.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013

The five of us are celebrating a nice quiet(?) holiday for once.  I hope all of you are enjoying your Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah) as well.

Repeating last year's Thanksgiving article because it's still needed.

The Pilgrims had come to America not to conquer a continent but to re-create their modest communities in Scrooby and in Leiden. ...  The Pilgrims' religious beliefs played a dominant role in the decades ahead, but it was their deepening relationship with the Indians that turned them into Americans
By forcing the English to improvise, the Indians prevented Plymouth Colony from ossifying into a monolithic cult of religious extremism.  For their part, the Indians were profoundly influenced by the English and quickly created a new and dynamic culture full of Native and Western influences.  For a nation that has come to recognize that one of its greatest strengths is its diversity, the first fifty years of Plymouth Colony stand as a model of what America might have been from the very beginning.

By the midpoint of the seventeenth century, however, the attitudes of many of the Indians and English had begun to change.  With only a fraction of their original homeland remaining, more and more young Pokanokets claimed it was time to rid themselves of the English.  The Pilgrims' children, on the other hand, coveted what territory the Pokanokets still possessed and were already anticipating the day when the Indians had, through the continued effects of disease and poverty, ceased to exist.  Both sides had begun to envision a future that did not include the other.

In the end, both sides wanted what the Pilgrims had been looking for in 1620:  a place unfettered by obligations to others.  But from the moment Massasoit decided to become the Pilgrims' ally, New England belonged to no single group.  For peace and for survival, others must be accommodated. The moment any of them gave up on the difficult work of living with their neighbors - and all the compromise, frustration, and delay that inevitably entailed - they risked losing everything.  It was a lesson that Bradford and Massassoit had learned over the course of more than three long decades.

--Nathaniel Philbrick
Mayflower:  A Story of Courage, Community and War

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Taste of Dunwoody 2014 Tickets ON SALE NOW

UPDATE:  via Dunwoody Friends on Facebook 1/21/2014 at 5:00 PM:

Taste of Dunwoody is almost sold out! Only about 70 more tickets left. Tickets sales closes Friday (1/24) at noon. No tickets sales at door. Can't go? Buy a raffle ticket (or 10) to support CHOA and you will be entered to win a beautiful diamond pendant donated by Jewelry Artisans!

January 25, 2014
7:00 PM

On your mark...

Get set...


Tickets to the 2014 Taste of Dunwoody benefiting Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta are on sale NOW and will sell out!  Get them while they last!  Buy online HERE.

I got my sponsorship for SDOC in the mail today (Hi Jill!) so my tickets are squared away.

Here's some shots from 2013 - this is what you will miss when tickets are gone.

I love these guys!  Covers from '70s and '80s.  I double dog dare you not to get up and dance when they're in the groove.  The CHOA ticket site says that the boys will be back for 2014 (I hope...) but their website says they're playing a different gig in Cobb.  Let's hope this gets straightened out.

Yacht Rock's sound guy.  We don't need no stinkin' sound board!  That's an iPad he's using to adjust the mix.  I can think of some sound techs and tour managers from back in the day who are jealous.

Restaurant exhibitors just inside the ballroom door.  Pat and I were grateful that some restaurant sponsors remembered that this night was the first Friday in Lent  and offered vegetarian and seafood samples for those of us who are observant at that time of year.
It was also Valentine's day weekend so no one with a date had any excuses.

On the left, company logo displayed with other sponsors.


Goofball back there is Patrick Conreaux, a neighbor of mine and it's OK if he photobombs us.  He and his wife Suzanne are the owners of Blooms of Dunwoody in Dunwoody Village and they were also sponsors of 2013 TOD.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Light Up Dunwoody 2013

The Dunwoody Homeowners Association sponsors Light Up Dunwoody, the 4th of July Parade, and Food Truck Thursdays.  This was their HQ tent where Stacy, Vanessa, Dennis, Heyward and other board members were distributing membership info to the adults and glow necklaces to the kids.

One of the first mobile vendors I saw as I strolled up to the Farmhouse.  First, food trucks.  Now we have a clothing boutique truck.  Watch for this photo again when I get around to finishing that blog feature on mobile-friendly websites and why they are now an essential part of any web presence.

It's not just a crowd gathering; it's Dunwoody huddling together for warmth from the cold wind!

The "stage", from the 2nd floor balcony, high enough to see.  It's about time they brought a menorah into Light Up.  Back at home, every celebration had a menorah the size of most Christmas trees right alongside the tree itself.  Each day had the right number of candles lit, then it was left lit with the tree all through the Christmas season.  Can that be an added dimension to this Dunwoody tradition?

More huddling for warmth as the sun goes down and all heat goes with it.

The only Light Up attendees that enjoyed the cold!

All lit up!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

INTRODUCING: Wine Shoe Weddings

Earlier this year I announced the new website debut for Wine Shoe Atlanta, a high-end boutique wine shop in the Castleberry Hill district.  Wine Shoe also own an art gallery that makes for a stunning event venue, including for weddings.  Wine Shoe Weddings is a companion to that site.

Like its companion the site is a showcase for the venue:  all of the features and real, candid images of weddings and receptions that have been hosted there.

The audience for this site are age 30 and under, mostly women.   The presentation has to be both technologically interesting and easy to update.  We decided to use an interactive slideshow to scroll through the site's pages horizontally.  There are two mobile variations, one intended for tablets, the other for smartphones to further customize the experience.  Throw "weddings" into the mix and all thoughts go to the traditional.  So you'll see a frame of white satin, lots of gowns and flowers, and a feminine script for the headers.

Wine Shoe Weddings variation, intended for tablets

Smartphone variation of Wine Shoe Weddings.  Each is modified to be viewed comfortably, but the elements like the script and header images are all consistent.
The site structure is much simpler than its counterpart:  the showcase includes a slideshow of actual weddings and receptions at the Wiley Gallery, downloadable brochures and sample contracts, contact form and link to Google Maps for driving directions, and a calendar showing date availability.

The site will grow with entries on the "Currents" blog.  The owner, Nora Wiley is constantly finding new features to enhance the space and the experience and you're likely to seem them promoted on the blog.  As more weddings are held, more slideshow albums will debut.

I finally got to meet my client in person at her shop a couple of weeks ago.  Both the wine shop and the gallery are the ultimate hipster, ITP experiences and it makes you feel really cool knowing where these places are.  Castleberry Hill and Wine Shoe are not hard to find:  only two blocks from the new Falcons stadium site.

(I am soooooo going to get shot for this....)

My tour of the Wiley, featuring new reclaimed pews toward the front of the chapel setup.

A new chandelier is temporarily stored in the old freight elevator shaft.

Across the street, the Fulton Dry Goods company.
This is where the cotton mill/warehouse/office scenes from "Driving Miss Daisy" were filmed.

The best part about working for a wine and special events establishment?  Drinking on the job is not only allowed, its practically a requirement. 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bye Bye Blockbuster Building

The closed Blockbuster/UPS Store site that was the focus of so much contention over area zoning and business development is reduced to rubble.  Watch for another bank coming soon.

The new City of Brookhaven does not believe that home businesses decrease quality of residential life

Brookhaven Chamber focuses on quality of life

(full article in link above)

From the article, emphases added.
Executive Director Arthur Freeman discovered nearly half the business community in Brookhaven work from home, and there is little executive activity in the city.

“So we opted for the livability of the city to become a primary focus of the chamber,” he said.

The chamber staff wants all segments of business to get involved, but has seen a high percentage of entrepreneurs or small business owners who work from home join. The chamber reached out to homeowners associations to collaborate with the home-based businesses.

So the accusation that home business owners reduce quality of life has turned out to be crappola.

Brookhaven is like Roswell and Marietta that also have high rates of home business ownership.

So what's wrong with Dunwoody? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Heneghan? Deutsch? Shortal?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Web Pages!

The first web page was published 23 years ago today on November 13, 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN.

First-ever web page reactivated on 20th anniversary of World Wide Web

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has republished the world’s first web page to celebrate the 20th anniversary of free public access to the World Wide Web.

A CERN employee, Tim Berners-Lee, created the first website in 1989 as part of an effort to facilitate information-sharing between physicists at institutions around the world.

On April 30, 1993, CERN made the World Wide Web available to the public on a royalty-free basis.

The Blast from the Past   

Back in the day where "responsive design" and "ecommerce" and "search engine optimization" weren't even pipe dreams.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Nancy Jester for Georgia State Superintendent of Schools

Official Campaign Kickoff Announcement
November 11, 2013
3:30 pm
Playground at Brook Run Park

I plan to be there with my two youngest.  Nancy earned my respect and support when she started her campaign for DeKalb County school board District 1 and my family will continue to support her in this campaign as well.

Official Website:  http://www.nancyjester.com/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/nancy.jester.3

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sometimes You're the Windshield, Sometimes You're the Bug

The unofficial results, awaiting certification as they were posted by runners at polling stations last night:

District 1:  Denny Shortal
District 2:  Jim Riticher
District 3:  Doug Thompson

UNOFFICIAL RESULTSCity Council Post 2 (District 2 Local)
11/06/2013 9:52 AMMercierRiticherWescottWrite-in
102All Saints Church (Mt Vernon East)203.1%30146.5%32750.5%00.0%Me
105Dunwoody Library210.0%840.0%1050.0%00.0%Denny
106St. Luke's Church (Mt Vernon West)479.9%26556.0%16134.0%00.0%Stan juester
107Dunwoody Elementary326.2%29056.5%19137.2%00.0%Stan jester
108Calvary Assembly of God (Dunwoody)0#DIV/0!0#DIV/0!0#DIV/0!0#DIV/0!Denny covered
109Dunwoody Pines (Georgetown Sq)187.0%12849.8%11143.2%00.0%Denny covered
110Peachtree Middle1814.3%8769.0%2116.7%00.0%Bonnie
113Chesnut Elementary350.0%350.0%00.0%00.0%Bonnie
UNOFFICIAL RESULTSCity Council Post 1 (District 1 Local)
11/06/2013 9:52 AMDavisSheltonShortalWrite-in
101N Atlanta Church of Christ (Austin)162.3%24335.5%42662.2%00.0%
105Dunwoody Library132.2%26744.4%32253.5%00.0%
108Calvary Assembly of God (Dunwoody)178.7%6432.7%11558.7%00.0%
109Dunwoody Pines (Georgetown Sq)310.0%826.7%1963.3%00.0%
UNOFFICIAL RESULTSCity Council Post 3 (District 3 Local)
11/06/2013 9:52 AMEadsThompsonWrite-in
102All Saints Church (Mt Vernon East)1354.2%1145.8%00.0%
103Kingsley Elementary26847.4%29752.6%00.0%
104Cong Beth Shalom (Winters Chapel)10539.5%16160.5%00.0%
110Peachtree Middle2762.8%1637.2%00.0%
111Kingswood UMC (Tilly MIll)17053.8%14646.2%00.0%
112North Peachtree Baptist8851.2%8448.8%00.0%
113Chesnut Elementary8752.4%7645.8%31.8%
Results published by the Heyward for Dunwoody Campaign

Time to let the dust settle and get used to the new lineup. We'll see how things work out in January.

It's over, gang.  We're into the holiday prep season.  Let's focus on Hanukkah, Thanksgiving (in that order), Christmas and New Years and see where 2014 takes us.