So this happened today… 😀

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Now I know that I’ve told the story many times before, so here’s the highlight version:

  • Just Laugh, my humor site, was established in 1999 using the domain justlaugh.net because somebody else owned the .com and wanted $3,000 for it.
  • A couple years later, that guy let it lapse, so then I owned both justlaugh.net AND justlaugh.com!
  • In a twisted case of cruel irony, I let justlaugh.net lapse when I moved to Florida in 2003 and somehow forgot to renew it.
  • After a squatter scooped it up almost immediately, it proceeded to bounce from one reseller to another, usually with overseas registrars, leaving me almost no legal recourse to bother trying to reclaim it even if I did have the $1,000 fee or whatever.

So I’ve had backorder monitoring setup with GoDaddy on this thing for years – I seriously don’t even remember when I did it, but it was like $18 and came with a year of hosting, so I figured why not … maybe they’d catch it one of these years if the squatter fell off his game, even though it always seemed to magically renew a week or two before the expiration date rolled around.

The notification emails from GoDaddy were kind of torture, watching that happen year after year…

…until this year when surprisingly the expiration came and went without renewal, and the registrar threw the domain into pending status!

Even then I tried not to get too excited about it because I know that there are companies that do nothing but stalk the expiring domains list to scoop up anything that could be of value to them. In fact, I even got a curious email about it last week asking “if I was interested in the domain” … which made me wonder if he was either the guy deciding whether to renew it again or just another stalker fishing leads to see if it was worth picking up. So I didn’t respond, and I also tried to avoid any of those backorder sites that might accidentally trigger a notification to the owner that someone was poking around about it.

And then this afternoon, I unexpectedly got this email from GoDaddy saying that the backorder had been successful!!!

Mind you, I don’t really have much use for it – after all of these years, it’s purely a nostalgia grab, primarily fueled by the poster on the wall in my office that all of our contributors signed for me back in our heyday that just happens to still bear the justlaugh.net address…

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I’ll pretty much just redirect it to justlaugh.com and 99.999% of visitors will never even know that it exists … but I’m a nostalgic guy, so that doesn’t really matter to me. It’s just neat to have finally reclaimed the name that I’d originally bought fresh out of high school when I started this whole thing in the first place, back when the website was entirely hand-coded in PHP and looked a little something like this…

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Good god, St. Patrick’s Day and the Christmas menu buttons were still up?! Well, that was 2003 for you… 😉

I like pizza, but I don’t need coupons for it every single day.

I noted the other day how it kind of bugs me to get promotional emails from likes of Pizza Hut and Domino’s several times a week when in reality I don’t order out quite that often, and even if I do it’s certainly not from all of the places at once!

Sure, I could go to RetailMeNot and look for deals there, which works for some eateries, but you’ve also got rewards programs – particularly Red Robin comes to mind – who actually require you to be on their mailing list in order to participate and get free stuff from their rewards programs.

So after mulling it over for a couple of days, I finally sat down and setup a couple of filters in Gmail to do exactly what I wanted to do – route my preselected ad emails to a separate folder (or label in Gmail), and then when anything gets older than 45 days, automatically delete it. The idea is that now my promo codes will be there when I want them, but I don’t have to waste any time sorting through them when I don’t.

Here’s what they look like:

Filter #1 routes any emails from the specified addresses to my new Ads label so I’ll never see them in my regular inbox…

(note: use curly brackets {} around multiple addresses to specify OR instead of AND)

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Filter #2 then does the dirty work and cleans up afterwards, monitoring for any old emails and deleting them once they’re 45 days old because more than likely any promo codes within will have expired by then anyways…

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PROBLEM SOLVED – that’s one less thing cluttering my inbox without actually unsubscribing from any lists!  8)

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This is actually kind of surprising because I tend to swear a lot on Twitter, yet I guess Santa only analyzed my last couple of dozen tweets which at the time happen to be relatively tame!

Mind y0u, we may have to have a little talk about language the next time I sit upon his knee because while I’ll give that the likes of fuck, bitch, shit, and asshole are definitely swear words, I would still contest that dildo, slut, and most of all WTF are certainly not!

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Do acronyms of swear words still count as swear words???

Also, when did I tweet about dildos in the last couple of days?!

Oh yeah – that’s right… 😛

I’m really frustrated with Verizon right now, which is tough because I’m absolutely a huge fan of my FiOS Internet service.

We’ve been customers since 2012 and without a doubt they provide the best Internet service available in the Tampa Bay area. I’ve done the research, I’ve priced out the competition, but between their pricing and the symmetrical download & upload speeds that are pretty much unheard of elsewhere, Verizon FiOS is the best.

So why have I spent the last couple of weeks feeling like an inferior customer over one that they could have sometime in the future???

I’ve talked a lot about upgrading my Internet speed lately – right now I’m at 75 Mbps, but I’ve really been eyeing their 150 Mbps package … it’s just that until recently, it was a bit out of my reach at an extra $50/month. So needless to say, I was really excited when I noticed one day when browsing my upgrade options and saw that they had a new promotion where I could not only go from 75 to 150 Mbps for only an extra $20/month, but they’d also throw in the $200 router upgrade for free!!!

It sounds too good to be true, and apparently it was because a couple of weeks ago when I was finally ready to pull the trigger, the 150 Mbps tier was mysteriously nowhere to be found…

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My first instinct was understanding enough – there must just be something wrong with Verizon’s website, so I got on the phone and called to place the order manually instead, but the rep who answered my call saw the same thing and was pretty clueless as to why there was a hole in my tiers where the missing 150 Mbps option used to be! It was frustrating to hear her shrug it off, not even giving me an option to escalate the issue for someone else to take another look.

It just wasn’t there, and she was ready to move on to her next call, but that’s not even where the story takes a dark turn.

So I hung up and instead tried reaching out via Twitter, where I got a slightly different, but equally misleading explanation…

This time they told me it was a “technical limitation” and that the tier must simply be “filled up,” so it was no longer available. Here I started to call bullshit because things really weren’t adding up … namely, they had the capacity to upgrade me to 4x or 6.5x my 75 Mbps speed, but not to only 2x my speed! 

And granted, I’m not a fiber technician, but I know a little about how math works – I even gave them the benefit of the doubt here and asked if it was really a technical limitation or if Verizon was artificially limiting availability of certain tiers to encourage the higher sales, but from there the tech just doubled down on that speed is popular, so it fills up and isn’t available anymore.

That didn’t make any sense, but in between waiting for responses I did a little more research and found what I thought was the missing key that would finally make somebody say, “Crap – that’s not right! We need to look into that!!!”

Opening up a separate browser and going to getfios.com, I was able to bring up a brand new order – even at this same address – for a new bundle including 150 Mbps Internet service…

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Huh???

So clearly there must be something wrong with their ordering system if a new order will offer me that tier, but when logged into my Verizon account it was nowhere to be found!

Well, after waiting a couple of days for a response from the social media team that never came, I decided to send an email to customer service to see what answer they’d be able to come up with for my issue. And at first it seemed promising because I was told that they needed to research it more before they could respond, but eventually they sent me this…

Thank you for choosing Verizon. I have received your email dated 10/29/2015 regarding that  want to know why a new customer would be able to get Fios Internet speeds of 100 and/or 150 Mbps while existing customers can not. I apologize for any frustration or inconvenience this has caused. My name is Karen, and I will be happy to assist you. I will also review the account to make sure you are getting the best value.

Thank ou [sic] for your interest in our products and service.

We apologize for the delay in our response and regret any inconvenience to you.

Unfortunately the connection speeds of 100 and 150 Mbps are not availble [sic] to you.

The decision to only offer the connection speeds of 100 and 150 Mbps was made at corporate management level. Unfortunately it has not been advised to us of why the decision was made to only offer the 100/150 Mbps to new customers and not to existing customers other than that there is technical limitation of upgrading the equipment for existing customers who already have Fios working at their location.

I’m very sorry for the inconvenience and frustration this will cause you and your family.

This after Verizon “added more versatility to its industry-leading service” by apparently adding a 100 Mbps tier in between 75 and 150 Mbps, according to this swell press release boasting about their latest promotions in my specific market a month before I was unable to order them myself!

According to this release, “Verizon is the only communications provider to offer a symmetrical speed tier of 100/100 Mbps, or any Internet services offering the same fast download and upload speeds, in the Florida market” … but only if you’re a brand new customer for them because if you’ve already got an account, your business isn’t worth the effort.

Seriously, how insulting is that?!

Here I am, a long-standing customer and very much a fan of the service, and I want to give Verizon more money, and if I had submitted my order two weeks earlier before this asinine decision was made, I could’ve! But now my extra $20/month isn’t good enough for Verizon. They’d be happy to sell me 300 Mbps service at an additional $110/month, but sorry, the next logical upgrade that makes sense for my account isn’t available because they’ve arbitrarily dog-eared that speed for new customers only.

What sense does that make? My next door neighbor could call and get 150 Mbps service installed tomorrow, or hell, my wife could call and apparently get it installed at our same address … as long as she sets up a new account because this account – the one that’s 3 years old and has earned Verizon upwards of $7,000 over the life of our service – isn’t eligible for an upgrade.

Sorry / not sorry.

You wouldn’t do that with HBO or Cinemax – “I’m sorry, I know that you’ve had an account for 3 years, but we’ve reserved those premium movie channels to entice potential sales from our new customers only. We regret any inconvenience that this causes you…”

Traditionally it’s a poor business practice when one of your loyal customers wants to give you more money and you arbitrarily refuse to take it, but apparently a fiber customer in the hand isn’t worth two in the bush when you’re Verizon.

But it’s not too hard to fix this! We schedule an appointment, you send out the technician who makes my dog bark for hours on end while he tinkers around outside, he installs a new ONT on the side of my house and gives me my sweet, new Quantum router, I start paying you an extra $20/month for the service I’ve quite literally been salivating for all summer long, and in the end we all win!

You get some extra money without having to sell me on the upgrade I already want and I get an even faster Internet speed to rub in the faces of everyone I know who isn’t lucky enough to live in a FiOS market … which admittedly is almost everybody I know.

Verizon, I love FiOS and I don’t want to fight with you. I just think it’s bullshit that you’re offering better deals to the new customers you don’t even have yet than you’ll give me who’s been here this whole time. I’ve come to accept that your best promotional pricing is for new customers and my bill jumped up a ways after my contract renewed, but this is service – to tell me that I can have one Internet speed but not another is just cruel. 

We can get through this, you and me, but honey, right now you’re being kind of an asshole. Please call me when you’re ready to grow up.

Smart Explanations of Complicated Matters

October 23, 2015 10:40pm
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A big reason why I’ve always been a fan of Hank and John Green isn’t merely for the entertainment factor, but even more so because they’re both great at giving thoughtful explanations of the things that they talk about – particularly when it comes to complicated subject matters that are often prone to misinformation and viral rage.

Hank’s latest video about Benghazi brought this back to the forefront for me because I’ll admit that I didn’t really know that much about Benghazi, either! I knew that there was some sort of riot in Libya and extremists stormed the U.S. embassy there … presumably kind of like what happened with the Iran hostage crisis back in 1979…

…and admittedly I didn’t really even know much about that until I watched the movie Argo and was curious enough to research a little online afterwards to see how much of it was true! Spoiler: There were some significant inaccuracies

Anyways, especially with complex and passionate issues such as what happened on Sept. 11, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya, it’s important to look at the facts of both sides – because politics stripped aside, both sides do have facts – and I think in this video in particular, Hank does a really good job of doing that.

I also think with regards to Benghazi, it’s a frank reminder for folks in the USA in particular to keep in mind that Benghazi, Libya is actually a city about 600,000 people that’s lost thousands of people amid the country’s ongoing civil war and not only the much more brief span of time when four Americans overseas lost their lives in a terrorist attack on 9/11/12…

If you enjoyed this video, here are a few others informative ones from Hank & John that I thought were really well done if you’re interested in a rational dissemination of facts and whatnot…

One Box or Another…

May 3, 2015 6:41pm
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Contrary to the popular opinion, sometimes it actually can be fun to read comments on the Internet, as proven in some random comment thread on Facebook where I found the image above. Needless to say, it gave me a grin when by far the most popular comment was along the lines of, “Ummmm – those are Playstation controllers, not Xbox…” 😉

My personal favorite, though? This is a PS1 – no fish can compete with today’s consoles.

Personally, I responded with a suggestion that we enjoy the best of both worlds – virtual and that other one with all of the bears and mosquitos…

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Then again, both the Xbox One and PS4 each have an 8-core CPU and 8 GB of RAM … how many cores does your average trout have???

It’s time to step up your game, nature.

Now that I’ve started being a bit more public about Just Laugh’s return, the other big focus that I have right now besides just making good content is also in trying to rebuild an audience to enjoy said content, as well as also help to promote other humorists as well as eventually hopefully driving some ad sales so that I can pay a few other people to write funny stuff along with me.

Marketing is honestly something that I’ve never really been good at before, which explains why I still have stacks of humor books sitting on the shelves behind me! When I first started Just Laugh more than a decade ago, there really wasn’t much we could do for online marketing at the time. We submitted our site to Yahoo!, which was a surprisingly big deal when it got added (I actually got something in the mail!). We tried to build linking relationships with other sites, and when that didn’t work we manage to trick a few of them into linking to us via the Just Laugh Weenie Awards… 😉

But a lot has changed since then … a lot, and so as I’ve sat here contemplating new ways to build traffic when I don’t really have much to offer just yet in return, I stumbled across the advertising options on Facebook the other day and it turned out that they were just simple enough that I decided to give them a try!

I created a new campaign that’s just shooting for new Likes to Just Laugh’s Facebook page, though apparently you can advertise all sorts of stuff with them. In fact, for about an hour and a half I had an ad running specifically to promote this post, but soon after I killed it when I saw that it cost me $1.28 for a single click through to the article.

That said, so far I think I’m pretty happy with how the original ad campaign is going, though admittedly it’s a little weird to watch as the Likes slowly creep in as my ad budget decreases in unison. It kind of feels like I’m buying Likes, which I guess is technically true to an extent, although not really. It’s not like one of those scam sites where you pay a guy $50 for 10,000 Likes – most of which aren’t even real people. That’s one thing that I have to remind myself – that these are real people who are seeing an ad for Just Laugh, and because of that ad they’ve decided to Like the page because they’re into funny stuff!

It’s something that the stats Facebook makes available helps to reinforce, to the point where I couldn’t even imagine buying ads from something like TV or newspapers that are based on market surveys instead of the real data about its users that Facebook is unique to be able to offer to help tailor the experience for both the user and the advertiser!

For example, one of the things that I had to pick for my add was Interests, so instead of just giving typical demographic info like Males age 25-39 who live in the US, I can also tack on there who also like pages such as The Onion and CollegeHumor because those types are more likely to enjoy Just Laugh as well.

Anyways, I’m a very data-driven kind of guy, so it’s neat to be able to see statistics more or less on the fly that tell me things like…

  • My ad has been served to about 3,700 people, and of those impressions I’ve had a success rate of a little over 5%.
  • In the last two and a half days that’s translated to almost 200 new Likes for Just Laugh (I think we were only around 25 of my friends and family before that?).
  • 99% of my ad impressions were on mobile devices, and 100% of the new Likes received came from there as well.
  • Ads were split fairly evenly between men and women, however women were about 25% more likely to respond to the ad.
  • 75% of the new Likes came from people ages 25-34, with the remaining 25% being 35-44 (for true transparency’s sake, the age demo I picked was 25 – 38 … honestly just as a guess because I figured people around my age are more likely to enjoy my jokes!).

It’s definitely interesting to watch develop, to say the least, and the idea that maybe a few more eyeballs will be on my posts in the future is certainly encouraging. Of course, that’ll be the real test because at this point I have no real idea what a realistic conversion rate is for fans clicking through posts over to the actual website where I get to run ads of my own. At this point I’m not entirely sure how long I’m going to run them, or even how long I can afford to run them, though I’ve got some numbers in my head that aren’t too crazy to give myself some things to experiment with.

I really want to make Just Laugh BIG this time, and I know that most of that really rides on having a respectable volume of web traffic, so as long as I can reasonably fund it I’m ok with making some investments to try and help things along. In a way, it’s neat just that we have a system that even makes that possible here in 2015 – where I could tinker with some settings for 20 minutes, enter a credit card number, and another 10 minutes later random strangers were viewing my ads and clicking on them to boot!

Granted, the next chapter of our advertising lesson will be The True Value of a Facebook Fan where we’ll get to see if the $0.20/Like was a worthwhile investment for Just Laugh or not… 😛

P.S. Go Like Just Laugh on Facebook if you read this post and haven’t already … mainly because I don’t have to pay for those Likes if they happen organically!

Words of Wisdom – On Arguing…

February 25, 2015 11:17pm
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And while we’re on the subject – I stumbled across this the other day and I really liked it, even though it didn’t exactly stop me from engaging in another argument literally hours after posting it! 😉

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You unfollowed them for a reason…

February 25, 2015 11:02pm
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I have a problem on Facebook that I’m consciously trying to do better about.

Like most of us, I have a handful of ultra-conservative friends and relatives who have opinions that are the polar opposite of what I believe in. Sometimes it’s not too bad, but there are certainly days when you can tell that they’ve been watching more Fox News than others.

Trying to bridge that digital gap of not wanting to offend people who I actually have to come in contact with every once in a while, I keep them as friends but unfollow their posts so that they won’t actually appear in my News Feed. I feel like that’s a relatively safe approach because it keeps their drivel out of my face and the unfollow is transparent to them…

…and it would be a great plan if on more days than not I would actually follow it!

You see, despite not following these individuals, I often find this bizarre, masochistic urge to know what kinds of drivel they’re ranting anyways, even though I know it’s just going to piss me off when I read whatever talking points they’re regurgitating from O’Reilly or Limbaugh or the Tea Party on any given day.

I know that I shouldn’t do it, but I pull up their profiles specifically anyways, and I read their posts, and sometimes I comment, and I get mad.

And it’s really stupid because here I’ve taken this extra step to prevent myself from getting all riled up and in return I probably see their posts even more than usual because I’ll randomly poke around to see if they’re up to any mischief today.

My turning point finally came today when one of my uncles reposted a couple of links that I had shared yesterday and I honestly couldn’t tell if he was serious or if he was just trolling me with them, but I unfollowed him and then I had to stop and tell myself that enough was enough.

It’s a double-edged sword, really, because politics are important and whether you want to engage in them or not, they affect the world around us in significant ways every single day, yet there comes a point where at least for a few of the battles I think maybe you have to push away from the table and just admit that you’re never going to see eye to eye with certain people, and that somehow you have to find a way for that to be ok.

And sometimes that’s hard – I’ve written about that before, but if anything else it also frankly just gets exhausting after a while when I spend so much of my time arguing with the wall. I can feel it afterwards – I’m grumpier, I have a harder time being creative … it makes me just want to sit and stew about how wrong the other person is, which is unproductive to say the least…

So I want to do better about this, and I started today by pledging to not renege on my decisions to unfollow certain people’s posts on Facebook. There’s still the opportunity for conflict if they see fit to comment on something of mine, which unfortunately sometimes they do, but I can at least try to control it from my side by not searching out the things that I know are just going to get me all riled up if/when I find them.

This is honestly a place where I kind of wish that Facebook had a shadow ban feature like Reddit does where they could post and comment all they want and it would just be invisible to me, but I guess that unfollow is better than nothing, and it saves the additional drama that unfriending or all out blocking would no doubt result in.

The onus is just on me to actually abide by that unfollowing and forget about them… 😕

A Different Kind of Cloud

January 21, 2015 1:45am
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I just saw this commercial and now I’m wondering – did we change the definition of what The Cloud really is, or have I just not known what it was all along???

The product is basically an external hard drive that’s accessible over the Internet – neat idea for the everyday user, but is anything connected to the Internet considered part of “The Cloud” nowadays?

I always pictured cloud storage to be online, distributed storage … redundant, in big data centers … in general, more reliable than just a consumer hard drive sitting underneath my desk. Backing up my family photos and important documents to the cloud means that if I have a fire, or a power surge, or somebody breaks in and steals my computer, all of those files are still safe.

Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox – those are cloud services.

Maybe if it did something neat like auto-syncing to a real data center for free online backups – that would be the cloud, but this … this is just a network-shared hard drive where the Internet happens to be your network. 😛

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