Blogging, SEO, and Saving Lives

On a day to day basis, what I do here at DreamWeaver’s Quilts is not going to save anyone’s life directly, I know that. But today, I want to share a story with you about how I saved a life through this blog. In March, 2008, I took Shadow and Patches (for new readers: these are the family cats) to have their vaccinations. When I got them home, Shadow was presenting odd symptoms that eventually led me to believe he was having a severe reaction to the vaccinations. I rushed him to the vet, and she confirmed that yes, he was going into anaphylactic shock because of the vaccinations, and if I had not taken him back for emergency treatment, he would have died.

shadowcattreebox

Bear with me, I know you’re wondering where I’m going with this. After Shadow recovered, I wrote about this on my blog, as I often do when it’s something like this that I think people should know about. Over the next few months, I noticed that that blog post was receiving many hits from search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN. People were searching for “cat reactions to vaccinations”, “severe cat reaction shots” and other similar phrases. I edited the post, and added the following in bold lettering at the top:

NOTE: If you have found this post through a search for “cat reactions to vaccinations” or something similar, STOP!

If your cat (or dog) is experiencing any of the following symptoms after a vaccination, take your pet back to the vet IMMEDIATELY:

* vomiting
* diarrhea
* whitish or pale gums in the mouth
* facial swelling or hives
* rapid or difficult breathing
* restlessness or difficulty settling down

The above symptoms may mean that your pet is going in to anaphylactic shock and needs IMMEDIATE medical attention to survive!

Severe reactions to vaccinations can be life threatening and are a medical emergency! Don’t wait and wonder, have your pet checked by a veterinarian ASAP!

I wanted people to have the most important information that they needed to save their pet’s life if necessary without having to read through my entire story of Shadow’s reaction. Even the few minutes it could take to read the whole post could make a difference to their pet. This morning, I received a comment on that blog post from Ann: Read More

Dear Reader: How do you take your blogs?

What I mean is, how do you read me? Do you come here every day, every three days, or once a week to check if there’s something new? Do you only read in a feed reader, and never come here for real, unless you feel compelled to comment? Did you stop by once in the beginning, never to return except via RSS feed? Or do you use the RSS feed to tell you when there’s new content, and then visit the site to take it all in right here?

See, I take my blogs up close and personal. I’ve always visited the site directly to read the latest. After my feed reader told me there was something new, I would click through and read the post and see the pictures in their native environment, as the author intended them to be seen. I like looking at blogs with nice layouts and links to pictures and other blogs (though I did stop visiting a couple of blogs regularly that blared music at me as soon as the page loaded, sorry). I don’t even think reading the whole post in my old reader was an option anyway, or if it was I never knew it, and visit the blogs I did.

Then I switched from my old reader to Google Reader, and now I see that I don’t have to go to the site to read what’s there, I can just read it all and see the pictures in the feed reader. This works for most sites, but not for all. Even so, I do still visit the actual sites for most of the blogs I read, because I like to see the original stuff, and the comments, which you don’t see in the reader, at least not in mine. That’s part of the whole blogging thing is the interaction and conversation that happens across the miles, and the sense that you’re visiting with someone in their “home” on the Web.

If there’s other content, like tutorials or photo galleries that are not in the blog chronology, if you never visit the site, you’ll never know it’s even there. If the author publishes a new post, but then goes back and edits it, if you read the post in a feedreader, you may be seeing the original version of the post, and not the edited version. (I’m a huge after-posting editor; three seconds after I click “publish” I always have to make corrections or add some afterthought, and this can sometimes go on for a quarter-hour.) If the author changes a picture, you might not see the new one, because the feed that your feedreader originally pulled has the old information in it.

These are just some thoughts running around in my head. So let’s discuss. How do you take your blogs??

The Smoking Iron

Well, there wasn’t really any smoke, but only because I was right here by the iron when it decided to die an untimely death. For the last couple of days, my wonderful iron, the best one I’ve ever had, has been making these little clicking noises, like it does when the thermostat cycles on and off, only much faster, and the light was going on and off in time to the clicks. I kept an eye on it, figuring that if the thermostat was going out, it would eventually cease to heat up, and a cold iron doesn’t do the job. WRONG.

The dead iron

That’s what happened tonight, when I went to the ironing board to have a look at the iron because there was a hot metal and overheating electrical smell in the room. Oddly enough, the smell wasn’t strongest by the iron; in fact, it didn’t smell at all right by the iron, so I picked it up and put it down on the board to see if it was heating up at all, since perhaps the smell was coming from something else, and the iron was status quo.

Obviously, it was the iron that was emitting the smell. I immediately turned it off and unplugged it. I’m really NOT happy, on a number of levels. One, if I hadn’t been right HERE, it could have been bad (I don’t leave the iron on when I leave the room usually, but heck, if I’d left to go to the bathroom, this could have been a much worse scenario!). Two, this was the BEST IRON EVER. I probably can’t even get another one like it, which leads me to three, I don’t have time for this right now! I do not need to have to spend any time at all going to the store to search for the perfect iron at the moment.

But wait, would you believe that I searched Google for Bosch Bügeln, and came up with the same exact iron, that I could order online, and for quite a bit less money than I paid for it the first time around? It’s served me well for years, never leaking or spitting water or deposits, and I think it even fell off the board once thanks to the cat, and it survived. It was well worth the cash I paid for it back then, and even more worth it now. Whoopee! It was so cheap (relative to what I paid the first time, anyway) that I even paid the company for overnight delivery, which means I’ll have my new iron on Thursday (not tomorrow, since it’s already so late). I’ll have to live with ITMan’s wimpy iron for tomorrow and part of Thursday, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Okay, so I’m still not a happy camper that it died, but at least I know I have another one on the way, and nobody got hurt. The only small injury was to the ironing board cover. ITMan said I should have listened to my instincts about the iron when I heard it clicking on and off, and stopped using it, though he didn’t suggest that at the time. I didn’t want to panic about it, but I guess I should have. I’ll remember this the next time, for sure.

So it’s all good again except that, of course, while I was writing this and buying the new iron, the lights in the bathroom cabinet went out completely when my daughter tried to turn them on. It’s not the breaker, and all the bulbs didn’t go out at once, so I guess it’s the switch or something, since there is power in the unit because the plugs in the cabinet are still working. *sigh* I guess it’s not a good day for electricals in the house. I think I’d better just shut it all down, and go to bed before anything else goes haywire!

When life hands you scraps, make quilts…

Pfft—where did that come from anyway?

I’m not a “scraps” kind of gal, preferring to work with big chunks of fabric when I make quilts, instead of the little oddly shaped leftover bits and pieces filling up the many assorted containers all over my house. When I start a new project, I first go big stash hunting, pulling out at many yardage sized bundles as I can find to create the perfect palette for the idea in my head. When the Big Stash has produced it’s last hopeful candidate, I go to the Little Stash of fat quarters stored in tubs and the process begins all over again. If the palette is still lacking in sufficient variety of color or pattern or amount, I head to the local quilt shop, dragging whatever I’ve already chosen hoping to add to it from the vast selection usually on display there.

Whoever wrote [that] may have intended it as a metaphor of life, but it’s not my metaphor.

Then come the Google searches, and the email and phone calls to friends near and far, in an ever widening and more desperate search for just the right fabrics to make the project successful, let alone make it sing. Way, way down on the list of possibilities are the boxes, bags, buckets, bins and baskets of scraps that bear silent testimony to the quilting projects of the last 18 plus years.

During (infrequent) moments of decluttering and purging unused “stuff” from the house and our lives, I consider taking these space hogging fabric bits straight to the local youth center or Girl Scout camp, secure in the knowledge that the leftovers would be put to good use. Perhaps it’s an unconscious, perverse desire to make a true scrap quilt someday, maybe it’s just a completely unreasonably fear that a fabric depression will soon envelop the entire quilting industry, or possibly when I open the containers to see what’s inside, I see the scattered bits of projects long past and just can’t bear to part with the last little bit of the perfect fabrics, but the bits and pieces of quilting fabrics always end up finding their way back to their secret locations in the house, there to remain forever crumpled. Read More

Gmail, Google Checkout, and what not to do

The latest entry in the “why I don’t quilt enough” saga is indeed a sad tale and a warning. After the Computer Woes of two weeks ago, I thought I had it all back together, but it was not to be. Aside from some ongoing issues with the DSL router that we finally solved yesterday morning by the simple expedient of buying a new one, I spent the last part of the week doing damage control.

On Wednesday morning I tried to check my email at Gmail, and my password was mysteriously incorrect. It was fine the night before at 11:30-ish, and I couldn’t get into the account at 8:30 the next morning. I use Firefox and Outlook to check mail, and of course the passwords are stored in there, so I pretty much knew that I wasn’t giving Gmail the wrong one, so someone else must have changed it. Now, while Gmail wants you to think that this is not a complete crisis, let’s look at the facts:

Gmail’s password recovery system is seriously flawed when it comes to a malicious user accessing the account. Why? first, you have to say you’ve lost your password, and Gmail will send password recovery instructions to your “secondary email account.” If you don’t have a secondary email account set to begin with, or you no longer have that email address, you’ll never get that email, so you can’t get back into the account. OR, if someone else has gotten into the account, what do you think the first thing they’ll do is? Um, change that secondary email? Yeah, that’s it, you’re never getting those password reset instructions.

Never fear though, since Gmail’s got your back, right? If you wait five days, and no one accesses the account, Gmail will ask you your secret question, and let you back into the account. Hmmm, let’s see, if you’ve really just forgotten your password, that might work, because you don’t have the password anyway so you can’t access the account, so as long as you don’t try to get in (since a login attempt, even if failed, counts as accessing the account), you’re golden. BUT, if a malicious person has hacked the account, do you seriously think they’ll let it be dormant for five days?? NOT. And, they’ve undoubtedly changed or deleted that secret question and answer anyway.

Gmail will tell you that if you’ve forgotten your password and can’t remember the answer to your secret question, they can’t help you. But if someone else has gained control of the account, you’ll never be able to get it back through their normal channels of help for this problem. And of course, there is no telephone support for this kind of thing from Google, no surprise. All of these stark realities sank in Wednesday morning as I tried to work through the mess, and see what was actually at risk. When I started to think about what that hacker would have access to through my Gmail account, I really started to worry.

Leave it to Google to make stealing from you even easier…

Gmail wants you to think that it’s a good thing that you never have to throw anything away, but consider this: I’ve had that email for almost two years. Everything (and I mean everything, unless I manually deleted something) is still in there, every email that went out, and every one that came in. Sure, you don’t share passwords, SSN’s, or credit card numbers in email, but a savvy hacker can trace your activities and find vulnerabilities. What if, like I’m sure so many people do, you use a certain password for your email address, and then when you shop at an online merchant and create an account there, that same email address is your login name and you use the same password out of habit (or to make it easier to remember the huge number of passwords that we have to in todays world)? That hacker could figure this out from order confirmation emails that you’ve received from that merchant, and use your account at that merchant to buy goods with your credit card that’s probably stored there too, and have the goods shipped to themselves. But leave it to Google to make stealing from you even easier than that. Read More