If I was in charge of a telecommunications company…

Yes, this is one of those “If I was in charge, I’d do this…” posts.  Don’t we all have opinions on how companies should be run?  Just had these thoughts today so decided to write them down.  Canada is known as one of the worst places for mobile phone plans (from a consumer perspective), largely because of the lack of competition.  If by some freak cosmological accident I ended up in charge of a telecommunications company, here’s some things I’d do:

I’m not going to talk about pricing or packages or anything like that, because at the end of the day what matters most for company longevity is customer loyalty and word of mouth marketing (even more so in today’s hyper social world).  The only reasons why I think the existing companies are doing so well in Canada now are because of their entrenched position with infrastructure, and the lack of choice for consumers.  With that said,

1. I’d ensure that our company has some sort of automated process that scans existing customers accounts (ooo privacy, but bear with me) and if there are any current company promotions that are better plans (either in terms of the same as what they have but cheaper, or more features than what they have for same price) than what the customer currently has we automatically switch them to the cheaper plan and notify them.

2. The plans would be simplified (which would need to happen for number 1 to work effectively).

3. Company wide policy that if a customer calls and complains about something not working, and they have ANY difficulty getting the level of service they asked for, we immediately grant them at least a free month’s service.

4. For customers who have been with the company for over three years.  We surprise a certain number of them randomly once a year with free phones and/or upgraded plans for their current phones.

That’s just four things.  Not a lot, and I fully realize there’s a lot more involved with running a company, but four things that I think would help towards gaining long term customers and viral word of mouth marketing.

What would you add?

FireHost and WordPress Multi-site… how well do they play together?

Recently, one of my clients purchased a server with FireHost.com.  We’d been on the search for a new web host for some time now to serve as the infrastructure supporting upcoming web applications we have in the works.  We needed a company who is well recommended, and will help us scale and scale quickly.

You pay a more for a host like this  but it’s part of the investment costs you need to make if you want to be positioned well for solid growth as a business.

Anyways, the purpose of this post is NOT to discredit or gripe about yet another hosting company that fails to live up to expectations. We actually really like the setup we have at FireHost. Although getting things setup were a bit of a pain – their support has been very prompt and generally okay.  No, this post is more of a fyi for folks who are in a similar situation as us.  I couldn’t find any information on this subject on the nets so thought I’d post my own findings.

One of the major components of some projects we are working on this year involves the use of WordPress multisite.  It will provide the backbone of what we are building and is crucial that we have a server environment that supports this.  FireHost does except for one niggling problem.  They have a super awesome “Web Application Protection” firewall that works really well, too well, and prevents normal usage of WordPress multisite.

At issue is that any subsites created on WordPress multisite will fully function as long as those subsites don’t post any images or certain html in their posts.  Cause if they do,  BAM, the firewall sees that as a xss attack and shuts her down.

That’s no good is it?  No.  But wait, FireHost has the solution.  All you have to do, is whenever this happens you just send them the path for the sites that the firewall does its thing on and they’ll add an exception.  Greeatt!  Except that we’re planning on using WordPress multisite to well actually make it easy for people to signup and get started on a new site right away (you know kind of like how people expect things to work? right?).  So yeah, major pain to have to send a block of paths every time the firewall acts up.

I’m not going to tell you the solution we worked out but let’s just say not ideal.

Silly?  Yeah.  I get it. But obviously someone at FireHost needs to do some thinking about how this firewall is setup and put something in place to allow for easier management of WordPress multisite while keeping the firewall working on things that it should work on, or at least be clear about the side affect of the WAP for those using WP multisite, would have saved a lot of back and forth with tech staff.  At the very least, create some sort of API or secure service for automating the firewall exceptions in cases like this where sites are being created dynamically via an application like WordPress multisite.

Anyways, again we do like what we have so far with FireHost except for this firewall experience, but I just wanted to post this up in case anyone else is thinking of using multi-site with FireHost and wondering why its not working as expected.

(I also have another reason for posting…secretly hoping some server guru out there will be able to explain how I’m either an idiot for expecting the firewall to be set up so multi-site works, or how FireHost can do things so multisite will work fine).

Update: December 2014

Just posting an update for anyone who visits this post via search engines (there are a few of you its seems.  Besides the fact that Firehost did contact us within the 30 day window that was put forward by their CEO/founder in the comments to this post, we never did get on any “beta” program.  The solution they are proposing for clients needing their own managed WAF is a $1500+/mo cost solution, which is not startup friendly.  They did offer to help get us up on ModSecurity as an alternative to their WAF solution but in the end my client and I just decided to fire Firehost (yeah pun intended) as our hosting provider and we joined the cool cats over at Digital Ocean.  We figured if we’re going to be doing most of the server setup/managing ourselves then no sense in paying a “managed” hosting provider to do it for us.  We’ve been on Digital Ocean for about 5 months now and absolutely LOVE it.

WP 3.7 drops with an interesting surprise…

I thought I was following the development of WordPress 3.7 fairly closely but something totally missed my notice and only caught my attention when a plugin I develop stopped working with the latest version of WordPress.

The culprit?

do_action( 'save_post', $post_ID, $post, $update );

Notice anything different?  The difference is that this hook used to only have 2 parameters, “$post_ID”, and “$post” but NOW it has a third one, “$update”.  It’s actually a nice addition as it makes it super easy to determine whether the post is being updated or not.  However, due to the way I hooked into this action (with a function that had extra parameters on it), Organize Series broke.  Easy enough fix, but quirky enough that I thought it deserved a post as I haven’t seen anybody mention this little addition!

 

Get wp-cli running with MAMP

I got really intrigued with the wp-cli tool for command line WordPress (seriously awesome, check it out)… however I haven’t switched my osx machine to use the built in php and mysql so I kept getting this error:

ERROR 2002 (HY000): Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/tmp/mysql.sock' (2)

Easy fix:

sudo ln -s /Applications/MAMP/tmp/mysql/mysql.sock /tmp/mysql.sock

And BOOM! I’ve got wp-cli working now.

path not plan

I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately.  We’ve all heard the phrase,

“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Right, but also wrong.  I’ve seen people who are terrible planners succeed, and people who are meticulous planners fail.

Yet something else, seems to work.  Path.  Those who have a path, who have a direction, who have an idea of where they are going – that beats planning every time.  Why?  Because, those who are creating a path can change their plans.  Those who just plan might get the plan down pat but then miss the path.

Sometimes you may follow the path someone else blazed before you.
Then other times, you blaze your own path.

Maybe it’s just a play on words but I like the idea of path over plan (even though I’m a planner at heart). I like the idea that I have a path to follow rather than a plan to execute.  There are a lot of paths to choose from, even a few that may need creating – but that’s where the learning and the skill and the risk comes in – because that choice does matter.

Failing, doesn’t depend on your plan (or lack of it).  It depends on your path.

Choose wisely.

announcements are fun…

I always like hearing from people about new things happening in their lives and I’m excited to share something new happening in mine.  For most of the last year as a part of my web development business I’ve been helping a company called Event Espresso with their website redesign and some bits and pieces that are running their automatic plugin updates and membership system.  It was a really fun project to work on and we just launched their website two weeks ago.

In the process, I was working closely with the Event Espresso team and we realized that we worked well together.  I was invited to join their team as their core developer and I’ve accepted.

I’m REALLY excited about this transition because I get to keep building cool stuff and I really see Event Espresso becoming THE “go to” plugin for events and ticket sales and I’m looking forward to being a part of and contributing to their growth.

Are you running events?  Are you looking for an easy way to manage registrations and ticket sales?  You really need to check them out.

Oh and you know what else is cool?  My family and I don’t have to move.  EE’s team is a distributed team working from locations all over.  Fun stuff!

big changes

I know I haven’t been posting here much lately -it’s a sign of how busy I am.  However, there’s some news in my life that deserves a post.

This past Sunday I made public my resignation as the Assistant Pastor at Waterloo Pentecostal Assembly.  Effective May 31st, I’m transitioning from pastoring into doing web-development full-time.  Followers of my blog already know that I’ve been doing web development on the side for a few years now.  I’m going to be growing and expanding my business and plunging full in with this passion that I believe God has given me.

The good news is that we’re not moving from Waterloo and WPA remains our home church.  I’m looking forward to transitioning from a full-time paid ministry position to a volunteer role helping in the areas that match who I am as a person and the gifts and abilities God has blessed me with.

Some people have asked me, “So how do you feel about this?”  My short answer? AWESOME!  My longer answer, “At peace that this is the right decision, excited for the changes this will bring, nervous about whether our financial needs will be met, but trusting God that He has a bigger plan and this is just a step towards fulfilling”.

For those who are interested, here is the text of the letter I read to the congregation this past Sunday:

Dear church family,

When I first went into ministry as a pastor, I fully believed it was where God was directing me at that stage in my life, and to this day do not doubt that God has been ordering my steps, nor that I’ve been failing to follow. There have been some incredibly fruitful years of pastoring where I learned much about being a leader, preaching, and teaching; and I know that all of these years have been preparation for what God wants to do in and through me in the future. 

However, I have never really fully embraced Pastoring as a passion. I have done it because I believed God called me to pastor, and I’ve always wanted to be faithful to that call. In my heart of hearts though, I’ve always known that pastoring would not be a lifetime calling. Ministry? yes! However, ministry can take many forms and I’ve always been a strong communicator about God’s call to ministry in LIFE not necessarily what may be viewed as “full-time” ministry.

Over the past two years (really began much earlier but the last two years have brought things more into focus), I’ve become more fully aware of and embraced what IS my passion, and that is internet/web development. That is the practical outflow of my passion, but really I’ve always been passionate about using technology within the church to effectively reach today’s culture.

I still feel called to ministry but there has been a shift of my calling away from Pastoring full-time into something else that still hasn’t been fully revealed to me but involves what I am passionate about.

In early January I handed Pastor Marshall my resignation that will become effective May 31st.  

Coming to this decision has been a long and difficult process with much time spent in prayer and seeking God’s direction.  I do believe God called me into pastoring for a season and I’ve been faithful to that call (15+ years of pastoring). There have been many joys and sorrows, as it is with anything worthwhile doing and I’ve been impacted in incredible ways over those years, however, I’ve always known that this would not be a lifetime calling.  

One of the things I’ve always taught and preached is my firm belief that sometimes we know the general direction God is taking us but we don’t know the final picture.  Sometimes all He gives us is “what’s next”.  That certainly is what happened for Ker and I when I resigned 4 years ago in Hanover (all we knew was our time was done but had no place to go) and it is certainly what is happening now here at WPA.  We have found that when we’re faithful and obedient to what we’re certain God is showing us for what’s next, He is faithful in providing the direction for the future.

The “what’s next” that I am hearing for my family and I is to step into the area of where my passions are, which is the intersection of church and technology (specifically the internet) and I’m going to be volunteering here at WPA to help with our online internet and social media strategy.  To support my family I’m going to be continuing to expand and grow the web development business I’ve been running in my spare time over the last two years.  I don’t know what the long term destination is that God has for us but I do know this is what’s next 🙂  I also know that God is always at work in us to prepare us for His purpose and His plans and the destination isn’t as important as the process of getting there.

While I do feel released from my position as pastor here at WPA, neither Ker nor I feel released from ministry here and we are VERY excited to be able to stay and contribute our gifts and abilities as we continue to serve the Kingdom and belong to our church family.  We love this church, we love this family, and we value and trust our leadership. We know that God is at work here at WPA and we’re thrilled that we are able to continue engaging in ministry here!

I’m a different person than I was when I first came to WPA (in a good way!) and many people in this room have had some part in that change.

I will be officially transitioning from my position as Assistant Pastor at the end of May and have purposely allowed more time for Pastor Marshall to find a person to fill my position here.  

Pray with me as we lift up this search to our Lord!