Culture Bits: All Puppies, All the Time

Sitting down to write this week’s culture bits, I mistakingly asked my wife, “This week needs a theme… what should it be?” “Puppies,” she replied.

My mind raced. Puppies? Where would I even start?

Most upsetting dog song: Who let the dogs out? I mean, when my dog gets out it’s a guaranteed panic attack. She could get lost! I mean, the entire plot of Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco was based on dogs getting lost. Can you believe Michael J. Fox and Sally Field were in that abomination?

I sat around muttering, “Woof, woof, woof, woof!” when my wife said, “I bet you could make a great dog website.” (I don’t think she understands what I do for a living.)

Your dog’s next domain extension: .dog. You could go with something like .pet, but is your pup really a pet? I consider mine my daughter (which will be super confusing for my human son in a few years).

Does your dog need a website? Let’s take a step back here. If your puppy is famous in 2017, it’s probably because he/she is Instagram famous. I’m not usually one to tout a social network, but if you’re looking for international fame, Instagram is the path (speaking of dogs on Instagram, Kevin’s pug, Ackbar, has quite the following). But… once you get followers, you’ll need a place for contact information and a slick press kit. Get on it!

“Emily, you know I don’t build websites for a living, right?” Her head tilted slightly. “Didn’t you build a Squarespace site for that brewery last year?” “Yeah, but Betty (our dog) could build a Squarespace site. They literally make it impossible to create ugly things.”

“… Are you calling Betty dumb?” Oh no.

Where to buy gifts for your puppy when you accidentally insult them: Fuzzyard is an Australian company that sells pretty much everything pet, but we especially like their winter apparel. And their dog bowls.

If your puppy is a little too fancy: I don’t know if Betty is necessarily fancy, but nevertheless, she likes to dabble in the finer things. And apparently her latest fancy is Harry Barker, and she keeps telling me that all the cool kids at camp are sleeping on Martello Beds. “Betty, that’s waaaaay too expensive.” “Ugh, you’re so unfair!” (Yes, Betty’s my dog. Yes, we have conversations… I am a remote worker after all.)

Betty turned seven on the seventh, but she’s been going to puppy school for a while now. And by puppy school, I mean puppy day care. And yes, your dog would like to go.

Best Valentine’s gift for your puppy: Take him/her to puppy daycare. Seriously, if you live in a medium-to-large city, you probably have a dozen puppy day cares to choose from. Ours is a converted house with a huuuge backyard that the dogs run around in all day, but even the indoor ones are great.

What… is this? How did I write 500 words about puppy nonsense? Kevin once sent me an extensive power ranking of instant ramen, so calling this nonsense might not be totally fair (note: I should be less hard on myself), but where exactly is this going?

In a panic, I thought, “Puppies. Internet. …Barkpost!”

Your new puppy blog/newsletter: You probably didn’t know you needed more puppy content, but you do. And Barkpost is the place to get it. I mean, check out their “Trending” articles:

Did you know that iwantmyname has a semi-official office dog? Her name is Coco. I snapped a picture of her last time I was in NZ.

Ok, this needs to stop… but how? With a song! Just like it started!

Song to end a blog post about puppies: Dog Days Are Over. “The dog days are over / The dog days are done / Can you hear the horses? / ‘Cause here they come.” Ugh. First dogs, now horses? I’m not about to start a horse post.

WHOIS Privacy Odds and Ends

If you haven’t heard, WHOIS privacy is now on by default (when applicable… more on that below). Hooray automatic free privacy! There are a few odds and ends though we should cover:

  • WHOIS privacy is now on all new domains, but current domains still retain their old settings. To add (or remove) WHOIS privacy, click Domains in the top nav > click on the domain > click enable privacy. screen 1

  • If you’d like to change WHOIS privacy to off by default, click Account in the top nav > select Account Defaults > change the setting screen 2

  • Privacy isn’t set to be on automatically for transfers yet, but we’re looking into it. If you’re transferring a domain over and want WHOIS privacy enabled, follow the first instruction bit above.

  • Again, not every TLD supports WHOIS privacy. This isn’t a blanket rule, but most word-based TLDs (like .com for commercial, and .dental for… dental) do support WHOIS privacy, while most country TLDs (like .es for Spain and .ch for Switzerland) don’t. That’s not a hard rule though, as a bunch of countries are starting to get on board (.uk for the United Kingdom and .la for Laos). Here’s the full list of TLDs that support it, just to be sure.

Life Upgrade: WHOIS Privacy is Now On by Default

Here’s a shortlist of the most annoying things on Earth: friends coming over without telling you they’re sick, people audibly biting their nails, and the spam you get when you don’t have WHOIS privacy enabled on a domain. As your domain registrar, we can’t fix the first two things, but we’ve done some (a ton of) work to fix the spam problem.

Starting today, all domains registered at iwantmyname that are eligible for WHOIS privacy will now have it on by default. So instead of your contact information going to the WHOIS database upon registration, all spammers will see is our information. (Previously, you could choose to turn WHOIS privacy on after registration, but on-by-default is clearly a better situation for privacy-minded folks.)

Two important things to note:

  • WHOIS privacy isn’t available for every domain (here’s the list of WHOIS-eligible domains), so there are instances where you won’t be masked. (We wish it were on every domain, but some domain registries choose not to support it.)
  • We realize there are some who’d prefer to have WHOIS privacy off by default, so you’ll have the ability to toggle it on and off.

To wrap this up, privacy is something we take seriously, and this is a feature we’ve been working on for quite some time. We’re sorry it’s taken so long to roll out, but we hope your overall reduction of spam makes the rest of your 2017 a little brighter.

Culture Bits: Kevin on Art

Kevin: Our artist-in-residence

What role does art play on the internet?: This is something I ask myself every day! Art on the internet serves as a reminder for its denizens that art still exists in the world? Maybe it serves no purpose beyond that. Art is highly subjective, and with the internet being completely saturated by visual media – advertising, graphic design, editorial art, etc – I find that it’s a little too easy for people to become desensitized to what art sometimes is or could be, emotionally. At this point, the internet’s “art” just serves as colors and shapes to balance content.

Is the internet good for the art world?: Ick. As long as people realize the internet is a vessel for promoting art, which tangibly exists in a very real, analog world, it’s fine. Maybe good. Example: I have a personal proclivity against artists using print-on-demand sites to produce their work on cell phone cases, shower curtains, and throw pillows, because I think this creates a dangerously impersonal barrier between artist and consumer, normalizing the process of art consumption without communicating with a soul. The internet always creates methods of allowing people to retreat from feeling anything, and art, to me, has no business being anywhere near that.

Artist people should know about: I’m really digging James Jean (so is the rest of the world); he recently inspired me to give illustration a shot with the iPad Pro + Apple Pencil — it’s wonderful. Seeing his work come to life through that particular medium is pretty motivating.

Best art supply purchase: There are several ways to get the job done without it, but transfer paper has been amazing. Lots of bang for the buck.

Favorite app for digital art: Right now, Procreate — cheeky name for an app, but it’s really powerful, and has a pretty incredible system in place for managing workflow, and specifically digitally rendering analog pens and brushes. Astropad has also been a huge timesaver; it mirrors and extends your computer’s desktop via wifi to allow you to use creative desktop apps. You would typically otherwise need an expensive tablet monitor for that.

iPad Pro or Microsoft Surface?: I’ve never used a Surface. I have a hard time readapting every time I come back to Microsoft’s OS, so I get stubborn and stick with what I know. It’s worked alright so far. I’m loving my iPad setup.

Do artists need a web presence?: It depends, I guess. If they do, it’s pretty minimal — Instagram has been the biggest tool for artists to utilize in connecting with their audience and building a new one simultaneously; having that single link in their profile makes it easy for young, early-career artists to point to their available works or representative gallery elsewhere on the web.

Another artist people should know about: Henrik Uldalen. The guy bangs out these really beautiful, surreal oil paintings in what seems like no time at all, and seems to balance his web presence and art career really masterfully.

Where should people start if they want to get into appreciating art? The same guy, Henrik Uldalen, also manages an Instagram account called @Paintguide, which gets handed off to a new artist every week to allow them to share their inspirations, and point to even more artists that are historically relevant or currently making beautiful work. Find artists you like online, then keep up with their solo and group shows, and eventually you’ll find a whole network of galleries, artists, and genres of work that you didn’t know existed. Also, if you’re looking to get off the internet and see art in person (this makes a difference), go to your city’s cultural monthly events, and talk to the people who run the galleries (gallerists). Literally ask them this same question, and tell them what you like. This is a great method for finding and connecting with local artists.

Underrated art city: Can I say Phoenix? We have so many artists who live here and are producing some of the most masterful mid-career contemporary art I’ve seen. The cost of living in Phoenix is low, so it allows artists to work unhindered by expensive studios, and remain pretty visible to the public. Unfortunately, to my understanding, Phoenix also has a bad reputation in the art world because of its historic inability to attract or showcase diversity, cultivate and retain strong artistic talent, and attract outside works and critics to become part of an international conversation about art. That’s been changing, though, and I’m excited to see what happens as the city seasons its cultural skillet, if you will.

Transaction or Relationship?

We’re nearly a month into 2017 now, which provides some breathing room after the hectic holiday season (for those who participate). But I still haven’t quite recovered from the accompanying relentless demands for my attention and requests for my money.

Reminders to show my love by buying lots of Christmas presents. Various campaigns disguised as “sales.” Requests to make donations, then endless reminders that time is running out to get the tax breaks from donating before the end of the year. It’s exhausting.

Unsurprisingly, this annual cash grab is highly effective at making me want to disengage entirely from these organizations. And it isn’t just a festive season faux pas. Plenty of organizations take the same approach year round – what can you can do for them. (Yep, even the charity ones.)

The reality, though, is the opposite. Organizations aren’t doing you favours. You don’t owe them your money, attention, or data. And at different times with different organizations, there will be different goals you want to accomplish. Your goals, not theirs.

For organizations (like us), it comes down to a choice: are you completing transactions with people or building relationships? Obviously, smart companies want to build as many great, long-term relationships with as many customers as possible. However, realistically, there are times when customers just want a transaction. A one-off. I want to sign this petition, make this donation, buy this squirrel-patterned dog bed on Etsy. That’s all. Once the transaction is over, I’m not interested in marketing emails, a newsletter, or sale notifications.

Some companies still try to make these (and all) transactions into relationships. But they’re weak ones, and, as noted, they’re based on what the company wants from potential customers, not what customers want for themselves.

Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean these companies are run by jerks. Being awesome towards customers takes a lot of time and resources, and it’s tricky to strike a balance between maximizing revenue and cultivating lasting relationships.

Can it be done? We think so. That’s what we’ve been focused on since iwantmyname was founded. (We’re always a work in progress.)

Here’s the thing. If you have a single good experience with a company, you might remember it and recommend them sometime down the line. But if you have an ongoing relationship with a company that’s been great repeatedly, you’re way more likely to be positive and tell people about them.

By proxy (and hopefully by referral), good relationships with your customers become good relationships with other people you’ve never even heard of yet, but who’ve heard of you. (And yes, negative experiences work the same way. Be warned.)

It can be extra tricky between companies and customers when there are transactions that seem to be one-time, but by their nature can’t just be that. Domains are a good example – even if you want no interaction, we have to keep you informed about certain things like renewal and billing status or registry policy changes (certain things are the law). Beyond that though, whether you’re interested in our newsletter is up to you (we totally recommend it).

Fundamentally, relationships with companies are different than relationships with people, even though companies are made up of people. It’s just how we’re socially wired. And, let’s face it, also due to plenty of varying customer “service” experience, for most of us.

People don’t trust companies by default. We have to earn it. People don’t necessarily trust each other by default, either, but we’re more likely to give each other the benefit of the doubt than a company. This is part of why companies regularly get advice to be “more human.”

Companies earn trust over time by being careful and responsible with customers’ stuff: their money, their information, their permissions, their orders. And by answering questions, fixing stuff, and being honest, even when the answer is no.

(Note that “over time” mostly precludes one-off transactional interactions, and by necessity requires a relationship-building mindset for companies to do well.)

Doing better is also a big part of building customer relationships. Sometimes that means big, flashy overhauls like how the website looks. Or adding an important feature, or a major repair. Those feel good because they’re noticeable. But the little stuff is just as important. The backend fix that most customers won’t notice but will make things a bit smoother. That change in text that makes things a little clearer to non-tech savvy people or non-native English speakers.

It’s hard for those of us who are immersed in a company’s business to always see opportunities for improvement. This is why it’s important to pay attention to customers when they take the time to comment and to see what new hires trip over during training. These efforts aren’t transactional – they require relationship-building over time. Not every discovery will be something you can change, but it helps to always be viewing things with fresh eyes.

Of course, especially in small companies, there’s never enough bodies to do all the things. But that’s an opportunity for creativity as well. And generally there’s a lot less bureaucracy to just… try things.

Little customer interactions are as important as flashy actions, too. And there’s a lot more of them. They may not seem like much to a support team, for example, who do the same thing every day. But over time, or on that one day where you made that huge disaster go away for that one panicked person, it makes a difference. And builds relationships.

Sure, companies will always get requests and inquiries that people could have looked up or handled themselves. But each one is an opportunity to provide a good experience. And maybe what they actually need isn’t what they’re asking or looking for. Plus, when customers ask for help, it’s not the 20th time that day that the customer has dealt with that issue or question. Support has never been nor ever will be, solely about (as our team jokes) ”ruthless efficiency”.

And yeah, sometimes companies will screw up, or drop the ball, or just won’t be able to make someone happy. We screw up. We try to learn from it. That’s why having awesome co-workers who have your back (and the customer’s back) is super important.

Ultimately, customer-facing or back end. Overhaul or bug fix, building companies and relationships is about one thing – what we can do for you.

Culture Bits: Nik on Travel, Work, and Happiness

Nik: At the intersection of support and development

Ultimate travel tip: Do more and pack less… which helps you DO more! [error] an infinite loop has been detected

The more often you travel, the easier it gets – packing gets easier and lighter as you realize you don’t need as much. So the ultimate travel tip is to double the cash and halve the baggage.

If we can bundle up our family of four (one child under two and one cat) into one suitcase and a couple of carry-ons, I think you can probably pack a little lighter for that next solo or couple’s adventure. 

Internet pro tips:

  • Use a session manager plugin for your tabs (like session manager for Chrome)
  • Use a few different browsers for different purposes, this helps keep things a bit more organized; like work related bookmarks
  • Use incognito mode to leave fewer cookie crumbs around the internet
  • Get a VPN

Best song you heard in 2016:

Million dollar loan by Death Cab for Cutie. Oh and their other song… (which I had to look up) called Good help (is so hard to find) – they’re both very good.

Thing that worries you most: Seemingly more things worry me since becoming a father, not least of which is that eternal question of how to be a good father.

Remote working is: One of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I just can’t imagine going back to the daily grind commute, clock in 9-5 rinse and repeat!

Like anything, it comes with challenges (like work-life separation and balance), but ultimately it’s so great to work more in harmony with your natural flow and have more control of where and how you work.

Instant happiness:

  • A hug from my daughter
  • When my daughter finally goes to sleep
  • Reading
  • Meditation
  • Mocha lattes.

Best work beverage: I’m trying to drink less coffee and more tea, though it’s hard to beat a well-made latte during the day and a mocha latte for those late-night team meetings.

Best thing on the internet: iwantmyname of course! There are so many great things it’s hard to choose. If I had to say one I’d say because it helps you find ALL THE COOL NEW THINGS and connect with the makers behind them.

Best thing off the internet:

  1. Swimming
  2. Beaches
  3. Jungles
  4. Dancing… (yes, in that order!)

Wrap this up with something inspiring:

I was listening to the TED Radio Hour podcast recently and this episode focussed on the topic of happiness – there was a psychologist doing research on that simple yet elusive question… ”What makes us happy?”

A major theme in their findings was that we tend to be less happy when our minds are wandering away from the thing we are doing (crazily enough that even applied to commuting).

…So the TL;DR (or L (listen) in this case) is to be more present in the moment. I think we all know that deep down, but it’s good to be reminded now and then.