Back to Top

Bri FYI

Bri FYI graphicWhat is Bri FYI?

Each week, Brian McCormick (Bri FYI) from the Office of Marketing and Communications web team shares helpful tips, tricks, and examples for updating your loyno.edu websites. Please submit questions for Brian to answer either at his monthly Drupal+ training sessions or in a future Loyola at a Glance email. All knowledge levels are welcomed, whether you regularly update your department’s website, want to improve the functionality of your site, or just want to know how something on the internet works.

The most common question is always:

What is Drupal?

Our websites run on a CMS (Content Management System) called Drupal. A CMS is a technology between a database that stores all the information and the web pages that appear in your web browser. We are running multiple different versions of Drupal, and if you think you are due for an upgrade, Send Brian an email​.

Helpful Tips, Tricks, and Website Examples

Here is your first tip:
On a PC, type Ctrl-F to find words that appear on the page.
On a Mac, type ⌘-F to find words that appear on the page.

If you can edit a Google or Word doc, you are already skilled enough to make edits to your website. The first thing you need to confirm is that you have an account for the website you want to update (If you need access, send Brian an email). The next step is to go to the admin login page which you can get to by typing “/user” after whatever URL you are trying to access. For example, if you were trying to make edits on the main website, you would go to https://www.loyno.edu/user/, put in your username and password, do a little math to prove you are a human, and click the “Log In” button. From there, it is just a simple matter of navigating to the page you want to edit and clicking the “Edit” tab. You will see a block with a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editing bar at the top. Make your changes and be sure to click the “Save” button at the bottom of the page. Viola! You updated your website.

Your scrappy marketing web team is here to help! Here is the thing. Eric and Brian manage over 150,000 pages across multiple website domains. We know a great deal about building websites but only a moderate amount about Forensic Chemistry and Postcolonial Literature. We need your help as well! We rely on the faculty and staff to update the content of their websites as they should know their specialty better than the web team. If your information on a web page is outdated, please fix it. Be sure to check spelling and grammar before hitting the save button. On every second Wednesday of the month, Brian hosts a monthly Drupal+ training session at 1 p.m. to provide support for the Loyola community. If you have any questions about your website, send Brian an email or submit questions via this form.

If you have ever wanted to have a link that does more than just link to another page, I have the answer for you. The first thing you need to know is about protocols. The web is full of protocols that do specific things when asked. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It is used to fetch web pages and graphics in your web browser. If you want to send someone to another webpage, you use the HTTP protocol. For example, https://www.loyno.edu/ sends you to our homepage. The savvy among you may have noticed that there is a letter S after the HTTP. That just means that the resource you are requesting is secure. If you want to send an email, you use the mailto: protocol. Using mailto:bpmcorm@loyno.edu as your link will open an email client with my address filled in. Even cooler, if you use the tel: protocol, it will allow you to create a link that will open the telephone app on your device. For example, tel:1234567890 would attempt to dial (123) 456-7890.

The easiest way to make your pages load faster is to keep them simple. Adding tables and complicated layouts with custom fonts and scripts can grind a page to a halt. The next most important thing to do is to size your images correctly for the web. An image used for print uses vastly more information than a monitor does. Simply reducing the resolution DPI (dots per inch) from 300 to 72 will easily shrink an image file size by two-thirds. People with limited data plans will adore you for considering their wallets. Faster page loads impact your search engine rankings for the better.

Not everyone sees your webpage. Many people have screen readers that describe images or describe where certain blocks of content appear on the page. Whenever you add an image to the page there will be a field to fill in an “Alt text”, which is a description that the screen reader conveys to the end-user. Try to make your Alt text as descriptive as possible. Improving accessibility also increases the chances that your page will be found by search engines. An Alt tag that reads “Happy English students discuss Shakespeare outside in Palm Court” is going to rank higher in Google searches rather than just “students” and provide a sight-impaired person a richer experience.

Yes, you can! Adding a video does require a little preparation but ultimately putting it on the page is simple. If you have a video that is being produced for you for future viewing, please consider adding captions for accessibility. We do not host videos as they take up a great deal of space and slow down our servers when they stream. Instead, the video needs to be uploaded to YouTube so that you can get a URL to share with the world. After that, you need to go to the page and the place inside of your content that you want to share your video and place your cursor there. Then from inside the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), there is a button that is a rectangle with a small, black play icon that you will click. A window will pop up and ask you to put in the URL you got from YouTube. You can choose options if you want the video to play automatically or if you want it to be responsive (filling the page). Don’t forget to save your page (down at the bottom) or you will not see the change you made.

Eric Schmidt IconThe best thing to do when creating ANY content for the web is to think about the user. You can improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by making your page titles and paragraph headers relevant to the content on the page. As my esteemed colleague, Eric will tell you; think about bites, snacks, and meals. A bite to entice them, a snack to whet their appetite, and a meal to fill them. The bad news is that people do not really read on the web, they skim at best. Start off with a strong page title that describes the overarching reason for the page. Next, have your paragraph headers give deeper context to the page title. Finally, have your paragraph content support your headers with simple language that most any user can understand. A great example is if your page is about chickens, your page title should definitely have the word “chickens” in it. Your first header should strongly support the concept so “How to Raise Chickens” would be a strong option. Repeating the content that appears in your page title in your headers can also increase the relevance of your page. Instead of paragraphs, consider that bullet points in a list can direct the user to logical next steps or pages to peruse.

Yes, but it can get a little tricky. Every chunk of content created in Drupal is saved in a database as a node. What is interesting about nodes is that they can have different ways of using the same content. You can have a page title that is different than the menu title which is different than the page URL. The database doesn’t care what that chunk of content is as much as what the node ID is. Therefore, you can add references to pages multiple times in the menu as long as you point to the correct node. The cool thing is that if you change the page title or even the page URL and because you used the node ID, the web browser will still go to the same page. To adjust menus, you need the proper permissions and will need a one-on-one lesson with me to discuss the menu structure, parent-child relationships, and other fun topics before I can grant you new superpowers.

In the Drupal 8 admin, you may have noticed that there are two kinds of pages listed as a content type and wondered what the difference was. The first things we should talk about are components. Components are special blocks of content that are added to a page. That content might be an accordion, a carousel, or maybe an image tout. A landing page can use all of the components shown on our Drupal 8 style pages here and here. A basic page is not nearly as fancy and can show only a few of those components. Eric, our web team lead, uses the concept of bites, snacks, and meals to help direct the user to their intended destination. Sadly, people do not read websites as much as they skim them. The landing page should be filled with bites that will entice the user to click deeper into the site. If they want a full meal of content, the basic page will satisfy them.

A PDF (Portable Document Format) is a file type commonly seen on the internet. Many devices can display them although they may not be legible on phones with small screens. PDFs are based on printer instructions so they look almost exactly as they would if you printed them. Fonts and images can be embedded but that doesn’t mean that you can edit them easily. If you need to make a change, you need to use your original source document and create another PDF to replace the old one. Google can index a PDF but most are not exported with search engine optimization (SEO) or accessibility in mind. Savvy users may not trust PDFs as they can contain small bits of malicious code that can exploit vulnerabilities on a device (such as opening windows in web or multimedia browsers). PDFs can even have other PDFs embedded in them that may be troublesome. Beware, my friends, not every PDF can be treated the same.

Through the magic of Google Analytics, we (your friendly neighborhood web team) can tell you many things about your visitors. Not only how many visitors, but where in the world they visited the page from, what website they came from, what device they were on, and more. We can also tell you how long they stayed on the page and if they went to any of your subpages. When a user wanders around the internet, they leave digital footprints in their wake. You might think that you have a page that is well-loved only to find a smattering of folks gander at it. We use Google Analytics to help us make design decisions to best serve up what the user is looking for. When you make a page, think about its purpose and what you want the visitor to get out of it.

We work in crazy times and some of us just keep plowing through without much thought of our personal wellbeing. If you work in front of a computer for hours on end, I suggest you do one simple thing. Every 20 minutes, stand up and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Realistically, we are not “working” for one minute an hour but it can greatly reduce fatigue, eye strain, prevent possible migraines, and a host of other sedentary maladies. Getting your blood flowing and refocusing is a simple trick to keep yourself healthy and sane (or as close as we get, considering the situation).

Since this is the season for giving and holiday gatherings, you might be wondering how to share your events with the Loyola University New Orleans community. If you have logged in with access to our main domain (loyno.edu) you would go to the main menu and go to Content > Add content > Events. I know I say it a million times but anything with a red asterisk is a required field and if you do not fill it in, the content will not save. You have to enter the start date and the end date even if they are the same day. You can add images but they are not required (a random color will be assigned to the background behind the title). There is an “Event Type” Field that must be filled that is used for sorting on various calendars. Be sure to change the “Save as” drop-down at the bottom of the page to “Published”, hit the “Save” button, and viola, event posted! Send me an email if you think you need access to make events. (And don’t forget to submit your events for inclusion in At a Glance, too.)

As you can imagine, I have hundreds, maybe thousands, of passwords. Getting into secure places requires you to remember a crazy password or use an application to keep track of all of them for you. Computers are smart and can break a password like “P@55W0rd” in seconds. Instead of a password full of numbers and strange characters, I suggest you start using passphrases. A passphrase is an entire phrase, sentence, or statement made of four to ten words. “I love my 2 dogs, Chips and Salsa!” is an excellent passphrase. It has capital letters, a number, and punctuation. Isn’t that easier to remember? How about some other examples? “The Beatles sang 8 Days a Week.” or “Who would like a 3rd slice of pizza?” are both incredibly secure. It would take a computer 4 hundred quindecillion years to crack the stupid pizza passphrase.

The quick answer is nope. You might think that because you entered a password at your local coffee shop, you are safe, but weirdos on that same network can see all the weird things you are looking at. There are ways to enjoy your minor caffeine addiction and poor browsing choices while protecting yourself from “cybercriminals”. Pay attention to those little locks in the URL bar. Sites that are secure have little padlock icons and the addresses all start with the HTTPS protocol. If it doesn’t have a lock or it starts with the HTTP protocol, it is visible to those who want to see it. You might want to get yourself a VPN. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) acts as a mask. It can hide your browsing and personal data by creating a personal private network while you are on the public network. Make sure you trust your VPN provider because they can see the traffic you are trying to hide from the rest of the world.

You may think of cookies as a delicious treat usually made with more butter and sugar than one should reasonably consume. But since this is a tech-related column, today we will be referring to a different type of cookie. When a user visits a website in a browser, a small text file with some data is created that is called a “cookie”. These cookies are built to personalize your browsing experience by saving information about your session (the time you spent on the site). Login information, preferences, and what is in your shopping cart might all reside within the cookie. There are many kinds of cookies. Session cookies are never written to the hard drive. Persistent cookies track multiple visits to the same site and make it more likely that you will be served up pages of particular interest to you. Cookies are not inherently dangerous, as they cannot install malware or infect your computer with a virus BUT there are real cookie monsters out there. Third-party cookies are generated by websites different than the page you are viewing (think about the ads on a news page). They can track your history as you move from page to page and site to site. There are even zombie cookies out there that are permanently installed on your computer even when you opt-out of receiving cookies. If you remember my previous column, you can mask your web experience by using a VPN so that the remote server poses as you. If, like me, you have a teenager – you can review previous cookies by going to the preferences of your web browser. Prepare yourself, all those cookies could give you a stomachache.

Perhaps you are looking at your website and seeing something old, misspelled, or suffering from poor grammar and are wondering what to do next. Log into the website admin (contact Brian if you need access) and fix those grammar and spelling issues. Update any incorrect information with the current and correct content. If the information just isn’t relevant anymore, do not delete the page! You can remove a page by unpublishing or archiving it. Be sure to look for links from other pages that may point to that removed page. Decide if those pages need that link removed or pointed to a different page. Keep in mind that each department is responsible for its own content and your lovable but gruff web developers may not know that something needs modification.

I have some tips to make your time Googling for things on the internet more satisfying. If you wrap quotation marks around your search terms, Searching “Crawfish Mac & Cheese” on Google will return results that have the exact phrase “Crawfish Mac & Cheese”. Let’s say that you want to search for saints but you want to exclude results about our local team, use a dash. Saints -football will return football-free results. If you use a tilde, Google will search using synonyms. Cute ~dogs will return cute pups, cute doggies, and cute pooches results. Now say that you are searching for someone on a specific website but can’t remember their last name. Try searching for me on Loyola’s website by using site:loyno.edu Brian. What will you search for?

Way back, when you were young, and History class was called Current Affairs, you may have had a typing class. You proudly sat in front of a minty green IBM Selectric typewriter, clacking away on those keys and adding two spaces after a period. Friends, I need you to stop it. Modern typography has evolved and the brilliant computers that you use nowadays take into account the space after a period. Look at the words you are reading now. Silky sentences separated using the power of technology. Not a double space to be found. When I am updating pages, I will frequently find an unusual character following a space in the code. The odd character is “ ” which is a non-breaking space. I can make you look 20 years younger by removing them. Cheaper than hair-dye.

My personal Space War continues. Have you ever uploaded a file to Drupal with spaces in the title? Did you have to send a link to that file to a colleague? Did it have gibberish “%20” instead of the spaces? Welcome to the wonderful world of web encoding! Sadly, in the Tower of Babble that is the internet, strange characters (accents, hashes, slashes, and more) can get thrown out or replaced. It is best to replace spaces in your file names with either a hyphen or an underscore before uploading. Most operating systems are case-sensitive; consider always using lowercase letters. You can benefit from easier searches with consistency and predictable patterns. Be descriptive and include the date of creation and a version number if applicable. “snack-calendar_02-09-2022_v3.pdf” is an example of a filename that uses no spaces, tells you what it is, when it was made, and that it is on its third revision. A file uploaded named “Client Revision #2 final NEW updated FINAL.doc” is not easy for anybody to identify, much less retrieve, two years from now and I have personally seen much, much worse.

If you have used images on your web pages you have probably added seen the file extensions I mentioned in the question. You why you might want to use one file type over another based on what the image looks like. All of these file types have strengths and weaknesses and they all compress differently. A .gif is amazing because it can be animated and have transparency but it does that by reducing the color palette to a measly 256 colors. A .jpg is the type of file you want to use for photos. They compress by having a greyscale version of the image and an algorithm applied to the color. If you have ever seen a photo that looks like lumpy potatoes but they are not a pile of spuds, most likely the person chose too much compression when saving. A little compression goes a long way with a .jpg so consider saving your photos at around 85% quality. Images saved as .png are really interesting as they can have real transparency and are considered a lossless format. Unlike when you save a .jpg and it throws out information, a .png looks at an image from up, down, left, and right to determine the best way to compress all of the information. You would mostly save logos or graphics with large flat areas of color in the .png format.

A healthy dose of skepticism can save you from getting caught on the net. The term Phishing comes from bad people using sophisticated email and internet lures to “fish” for a person’s personal or sensitive information. Vishing is the voice equivalent, and Smishing is the SMS version. Here are a few things you can do to make yourself harder to catch. 1. Do not use the same password for multiple accounts. There are password managers out there to make your life easier, so you only have to remember one super-secret password (which you will never divulge) to get to all of your other passwords. 2. Don’t open email attachments from people you do not know, that you didn’t expect to get or ask for. Heck, I don’t even open attachments from my in-laws. 4. Don’t reply to emails that seem strange or out of character. Give your friend a call or a text to confirm they haven’t bonked their noggin. 5. Did you sign up for those sweepstakes you just won? You are already lucky enough to get these tips and tricks, so I doubt you need to win any other weird, unsolicited prizes. 6. Do you take online quizzes like “What kind of dessert topping am I?” or, worse, overshare on social media? Big data might know who you are based on what your high school mascot was (the Fighting Ferrets?) and the name of your first pet (Smooshy the Slug?). Sadly, those are also security questions to get into your bank account. Besides, I know as a dessert topping, you’re something sweet for reading this far.

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locater. It is an address to find things on the web. This is what happens when you type in a URL. Type, type, type. You just typed “example.com” into your web browser. Your web browser looks up the IP address (Internet Protocol) for the domain name (example.com) via something called a DNS (Domain Name Server). Now your browser has the address as a crazy string of numbers. It knows where to go and sends a request to that web server (a computer whose job is to send out web page resources) and the server sends back a response. Your browser starts rendering the page and then starts requesting other URLs that appear in the webpage (images, scripts, and style descriptions), and the server responds and supplies the requested information. This back and forth can continue for a while, and your browser may have to get other resources from other web servers (things like ads or Instagram feeds) or may refine what the browser shows based on things you do on the page. The reason for this post is to inspire those back-and-forth conversations with your Loyola web developers. What do you need? Maybe we already have that resource.

One of the most common issues responsible for a slow-down to your web pages is using images that are way too big. If you have a camera phone that can kick out an image from its 8MB capture card and upload it to your site, the person viewing your page is also downloading that 8MB image. If they are paying for data, they are not only waiting for superfluous data but it is costing them real money. It is better to resize that photo down for the website. You do not need Photoshop. I suggest you try Resize Pixel as a free online service. Click the green “Upload Image” button and get started. There are a variety of tabs on the left that allow you to resize, crop, mirror, rotate, compress, and convert. It will show you a real-time preview of your changes. I did an experiment where I took a photo from my phone that was 2MB and used ResizePixel to compress the image to 300KB (an 88% reduction in size while keeping the original dimensions) with no discernible difference! Don’t forget to add a description in your alternative text field in the admin for accessibility and search engine optimization goodness.

Mmmmm. Bacon. Is there anything better? Why yes, there is. Website revisions! In Drupal, most see a "Revisions" tab in the Admin but perhaps do not visit. This tab has the power to go back in time to undo mistakes that have been made. If you have been working on a page and hit save, a snapshot of that page at that time is saved as a revision. If you tried something out and it turned out to be completely wrong, simply hitting that revision tab will present you with a list of all of the previous revisions to a page. Select the previous version you want to appear on the page and hit the “Revert” button on the right side to publish that snapshot to the website.

Did you notice that the Easter Bunny came in over the holidays and moved all of the course descriptions? As part of the new LORA Self-Service, you will find a new interface to explore the course offerings here at Loyola University New Orleans. The old URL (courses.loyno.edu) now automagically points to the new LORA Self-Service, but if you have references to course sections on your web pages, they are probably incorrect. Here is the new landing page for courses: https://loyno-ss.colleague.elluciancloud.com/Student/Courses. From this page, you should be able to select a subject to filter the results. I chose “Chemistry,” and the URL bar at the top now looks like this: https://loyno-ss.colleague.elluciancloud.com/Student/Courses/Search?subjects=CHEM. You may remember that the text displayed for a link (the anchor text) can be different from the URL. As long as you capture the URL from the address bar, you can still have the text read as “Course Descriptions” while linking to a super-long address.

The easiest way to load your pages faster is to keep them simple. Adding tables and complicated layouts with custom fonts and scripts can grind a page to a halt. The next most important thing is to size your images correctly for the web. An image used for print uses vastly more information than a monitor does. Simply reducing the resolution DPI (dots per inch) from 300 to 72 will easily shrink an image file size by two-thirds. People with limited data plans will adore you for considering their wallets. Faster page loads impact your search engine rankings for the better.

Web pages can be ridiculously long. A user experience myth is that people do not scroll below the “fold,” a.k.a. the top of the web page that appears on the screen. If you have ever encountered a page with infinite scrolling, you will realize that it mimics social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit have retrained our brains to scroll (or doomscroll, in my case) through volumes of content. Web Team Lead, Eric, uses the concept of bites, snacks, and meals. Landing pages should entice and direct users to the most relevant topics (bites). The subpage under the landing page should flesh out that topic but not overwhelm the reader (snack). The subpage under that subpage is the meal where you can serve up many courses of digestible content. Think about your user when putting content on a page. Having headlines that act like short topic sentences helps since most people skim content rather than read it. Structuring your content is just as important as having accurate information. Respect the user by being concise and consistent in your tone.

There are web pages with information pertinent to a particular year. Each year, they send the information to users, and the robots and spiders cruise the web for search engine indexes. Instead of creating a new page and wasting all that valuable digital equity, update the content on the same page and either push the old content down the page or simply replace it with the latest and greatest information. Again, the magic relationship of headlines and SEO meet on these pages. Let’s say I have workshops to teach folks how to wield a lightsaber (which I do), and I want to announce the next round of offerings. My H1 headline on that page would be “Learn to Wield a Lightsaber Workshops.” I would then have a paragraph describing what to expect in the workshops. Following that, I would have an H2 headline saying “Spring 2022 Lightsaber Workshops” with dates and times and sign-up information (always think about what you would like your visitor to do). If I had previously had workshops in the winter, I could keep the H2 Headline “Winter 2021 Lightsaber Workshops” but change the content below the headline with photos or videos from the events. That is using your digital equity wisely.

Before you build a house, you need a plan. The same is true for a website. Your goal is to get a user from your home page to the content they are looking for as quickly as possible. If your site is easier to navigate, Google has an easier time understanding your site and what people may be searching for. Your average user has zero interest in your internal organizational structure. Think instead about organizing your content into categories for what a user would want to do. Your second goal is to minimize the number of clicks between pages. Every webpage should be within three clicks of every other page. A third goal could be strategically linking to other pages from within pages. The trick is to amplify connections by having descriptive links that mirror the titles of the linked pages. Avoid vague “click here” links but give the user an idea of what they will see if they click (E.g., Our Creative Staff is a great resource for Loyola brand questions).

I receive, on average, 50 junk emails and 20 junk text messages every single day of my life. The spammers and the scammers are getting more sophisticated, and their attempts to misappropriate our personal information are more convincing than ever. Here are some simple tips to help you cope. Never feel pressured to give your personal information, especially if the contact was unexpected. Scammers impersonate people and businesses through calls, texts, and emails. Some messages are obvious. They have misspellings, poor grammar, and some because they get your name or title wrong. If you are unsure this is a real issue, go through the proper customer service channel or get contact information from the official website. IT would rather get an email about a potential scam than have to help you reset your passwords. Never pay over the phone unless you initiated the conversation with the vendor. It may sound crazy, but scammers have convinced people to go to the store and buy Amazon gift cards and read the information to confirm their Amazon Prime subscription. Scammers like to create a sense of urgency, so be wary of time-sensitive responses. Take your time and be suspicious. Is your Outlook email inbox 98% full when we use Gmail? Nope, watch out!

You may see a box in Drupal that says REAL-TIME SEO FOR DRUPAL at the bottom of the admin page. This module can improve the likelihood of your content appearing in search engine results. The form field labeled Focus Keyword should include a few words explaining what the page is about and reflect the page’s title. You may notice a section labeled Content analysis with a series of colored dots. This is where suggestions appear to improve your SEO. A green dot means that you have successfully met a Search Engine Optimization goal. Orange or red dots mean there is work to be done. Adding an image or a link to another useful page quickly bumps up the score. The most important thing to remember is that you do not need to get green dots up and down. The most important dot appears right below the Focus Keyword field. If it is green and says SEO: good, you have made beneficial content changes to be proud of.

Sometimes when you add a component to your page structure in Drupal, you may have found a form field labeled CTA and grimaced at yet another weird tech jargon acronym. CTA stands for “Call To Action.” It is another name for a button, but this button usually stands out in the component. Buttons and CTAs are useful tools to direct a user to another page. There are two important parts of any CTA, and the first is the text you want to see inside the button. You want buttons to set expectations for where the user will be taken. Avoid ”Click Here” and “More…” but instead, use helpful short phrases like “Download the Academic Calendar” or “Read our FAQ about Tuition Remission.” These buttons with better descriptors also increase your SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The second part of the CTA is the link. Double-check that the link works in a private or incognito browser if you send a user off-site. I have seen people link to Google Docs that do not have the share permissions set correctly, causing all sorts of misery for all involved.

On average, people read about 10% slower on a screen than on paper. People normally blink 20 times per minute but plopped down in front of a computer, that rate slows to 7 times per minute. The QWERTY keyboard was designed to slow down typing as the old mechanical typewriters would jam if typists were too quick. In 2010, a test race between a carrier pigeon with a USB stick and an internet upload occurred. The pigeon reached its destination 50 miles away in just over an hour, while the upload took over two hours. Sadly, our consciousness lags 80 milliseconds behind actual events. If you couldn’t tell, my internet has been obscenely slow this week, and if you have seen my wall of clocks, you know just how crazy I am feeling.

Visiting a website should be a positive experience. If someone cannot fill out a form or important contact information is hidden, that user will get frustrated. User Interface (UI) is just one part of the “usability” of a website. Having accurate information with correct spelling and grammar is more important than how it looks. This is why the phrase “Content is King” has been the mantra of the web for at least 20 years. Improving the user experience could be as simple as auditing the links on a page. Does the link go to where it is supposed to? Does that link go to a downloadable file, and is that file up-to-date? When you make updates to your content, think about the user. Put the important content in plain view. Have your links explain the context. Much better for a link to say, “download the updated tuition and fees schedule,” rather than a “click here.” Write in a clear, concise voice understanding that the user is scanning for information as opposed to reading for pleasure.

YOU will benefit from accessible technology at some point in your life. There may be permanent, temporary, and situational situations that impact a person’s ability to accomplish a task. Someone who is blind might need a screen-reader to read a webpage. Someone with cataracts might need help temporarily to hear the sound of a crosswalk signal. A distracted driver might benefit from their GPS telling them to make a turn. The reason you want to close caption your videos is that it benefits those who are permanently deaf. It also benefits someone with an ear infection temporarily. Closed captioning also provides benefits to a bartender in a loud venue. The difference between someone who is non-verbal and someone with laryngitis or who speaks with a heavy accent is very small. One more quick example. Think of someone with an amputated arm, and then think of another person with their arm in a sling, and finally think of a person holding a baby. The outcome has the same impact even if the prevailing situations are permanent, temporary, or situational.

This fabulous tip comes from your friendly neighborhood University Photographer, Kyle Encar. Software giant, Adobe, has a site that allows you to resize photos for the web. Visit https://www.adobe.com/express/feature/image/resize to get started. Hit the purplish-blue “Upload your photo” button and you will see a box that says “Drag & drop an image”, where you can do just that OR you can click the text below that says “Browse on your device” to root around your computer. Once you image is in there, you can do some resizing and cropping. At the top, there is a dropdown labeled “Resize for:” where you can choose what social media platform you are making the photo for OR you can choose from a few standard sizes OR you can choose a custom size. The smallest size you can go is 50 pixels. I am fond of squares so I chose “Instagram” and the Square 1080 x 1080 size. From there, I can pull the slider (right above the download button) left and right to make the image bigger or smaller in the space. You can even drag the photo around inside the box until you get the perfect crop. Once you are done, Click the “Download” button and you will be asked to either sign in or sign up for an account. It is free and you do not need a credit card. Once you have an account, a slew of other tools becomes available. Automagic! Thanks Kyle!

When I help our community learn to edit our websites, I have a few rules. The rule many folks like to ignore most is “Do not copy and paste from a Word or Google Doc!” Rather than admonish the culprits, I want to explain why here, there be monsters. In HTML, the structure is separate from the presentation. In code, I might see

<p>I am a paragraph.</p>

and know that the structure for that paragraph is clean and solid for the browser to show.

Now, if the code shows

<p><font face="comic sans">I am also a paragraph, but ugly.</font></p>

I know this was a copy-and-paste job from Word. First off, the font tag was depreciated and is now obsolete. Second, who in their right mind would use comic sans? Even worse, these word processing programs sometimes try to emulate page layout programs and add unnecessary structural tags to the HTML code that breaks the page. Microsoft Word and Google Docs can export files in Real Text Format (.rtf). The exported result will maintain your bold and italicized text and retain your links. You will have to restyle headlines with the drop-down in the WYSIWYG admin box, but that should be second nature for you now.

After getting these BriFYI tips for a year, do you know how to request help? My job description as a web developer does not come close to encompassing the Scooby-Doo mysteries that I solve at the University. I feel my main job is empowering you to find the solution and helping you to make it happen. Never be afraid of asking a question you do not know the answer to. Instead, you can “pseudo-code” (create a short list of what you want to happen and in what order) with me. You don’t need to know the tech jargon or how any of the background systems work. Contact me directly at bpmccorm@loyno.edu, or there is always the Marketing Request Form where you can share your needs for bigger projects.

Websites have unique addresses that are a series of numbers (Internet Protocol Addresses). Domain Name Servers keep those numerical addresses in a database connected to your brand or business name with a unique identifier known as the domain name. The Root Domain is the primary place where all of your websites and webpages happen. A subdomain operates within the root domain and is used to identify a certain section of the website. If loyno.edu is our root domain, then studentaffairs.loyno.edu is one subdomain. We have many subdomains across our web properties including our various colleges; law.loyno.edu, cas.loyno.edu, and citycollege.loyno.edu as well as content focused websites like academicaffairs.loyno.edu and operations.loyno.edu. You will notice that the subdomain appears before the root domain in these instances. A website is a collection of multiple web pages under a domain. A minisite or microsite acts like a subdomain but usually has fewer pages and lives within the root domain. Those smaller sites can be distinguished by having internal page navigation that is different than the main navigation.

Having content that is structured, accurate, and seen as worthy of linking is only the first step to successful SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Our data overlords at Google have a variety of metrics that they apply to our pages to determine where they “rank” in terms of “findability”. Your humble team of two web developers has to deal with concepts called Core Web Vitals. Our alphabet soup of web health acronyms includes Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). LCP is a measure of how long it takes to load a block of text or an image in the viewport. The longer it takes to load, the “sicker” your webpage is. FID measures how long it takes for a browser to respond to user interaction (clicking, tapping, etc.) as a website that is a slog to move through is not likely to rank well. CLS is when elements on the webpage shift around because certain elements haven’t finished loading. It could be fonts, images, or videos. Because a webpage can appear on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone, responsive web design can have wildly different layouts depending on context. If you have ever seen a webpage load and look terrible for a couple of seconds and then suddenly look 100% better; that was a FOUC (Flash Of Unstyled Content). FOUCs occur when the browser hasn’t loaded the instructions for how the page should be styled. If your page takes too long to load or looks ugly and broken, users will leave without hesitation. For geeky fun, point your web browser to https://www.webpagetest.org/ and choose “Core Web Vitals” from the dropdown, and plug in your favorite URL.

In our modern world, there are barcodes everywhere that help track inventories and facilitate fast checkouts from the grocery. Barcodes have a few inadequacies such as how much data they can hold or limited angles at which lasers can read them (I am looking at you, frozen bag of peas). The QR code (or Quick Response code) was invented by a company called Denso Wave to keep track of parts in Toyota’s manufacturing process. There are four distinct cube shapes, three of which are the same size, and one smaller cube (the alignment pattern) that helps orient the code so the reader (usually a camera) knows which side is up. At the bottom edge of the big cube, there are lines of alternating black and white dots that the reader uses to figure out how big the QR code is. Then, there are format information dots that help with error correction using redundancy in the QR code. The actual data stored in a QR code starts at the bottom right corner and winds its way like a snake until it reached the middle. The left side is now filled with error correction information in case part of the code is obscured. One super cool thing is that the company that invented QR codes never exercised its patent and released the technology for free! Check out this helpful color-coded and labeled QR code.

QR Code Explained Graphic

We have two contenders, but neither of them has been canonized. First, we have Saint Isidore of Seville, who Pope John Paul II declared the patron saint of the internet in 1997. Isidore was certainly a geek as it was his intention to collect all information ever known and then organize it into a series of books collectively named Etymologiae. His series was considered to be “practically everything that it is necessary to know” for a thousand years after his death. His work also helped standardize the period, comma, and colon.

Our other contender is the local favorite, Saint Expeditus, who is the unofficial patron saint of hackers. Around 1921, Catholic nuns at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on Rampart Street received a shipment of assorted saint statues. One of the cases didn’t have a label identifying the saint enclosed but instead, the label said: “spedito’ or “special delivery” which in Latin translates to “expediate” and the locals decided must be the saint’s name. There is a Saint Expedite who is typically depicted as a young Roman centurion with a crow beneath his right foot and holding a clock. As the saint of fast solutions and for folks who have tight deadlines, it makes sense that people today deliver flowers and tuck notes under his statue just in case he has a broadband connection to the heavens.

I have been listening to a novel full of scary technology, scary people, and scary diseases. I don’t scare easily, but a lot of people I know are terrified of technology. Many of our interactions with computers are simple automation. If the user types this on a keyboard, the computer will display the text they typed. Machine Learning goes one step beyond by using its programming to look for patterns and trends in the data that the user types. The computer then becomes more efficient by taking advantage of those trends. If you send an email to multiple people named “Mike”, your computer may recognize that you send more frequently to one particular “Mike” and put their name in the “to field” in your email first. Machine Intelligence goes further by having problem-solving and prioritization in addition to the learning it was already doing. Artificial Intelligence allows a computer to accept all available information and combine those chunks of data into solutions that might match or even exceed human intelligence. There are two fundamental kinds of AI. An Applied AI can intelligently trade stocks or drive autonomous vehicles. Generalized AI can, in theory, handle any task by sensing, reasoning, acting, and adapting. Not everything AI does has to be scary. It could construct and analyze a “digital twin” and then synthesize an individualized plan of medical care for the “human” twin. “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

Stupid trivia: The name HAL is short for H-euristcally programmed AL-gorithmic computer.

Continuing my obsession with technologies that will one day replace me, today’s FYI is about having a robot frenemy. ChatGPT is an intelligent computer program that can “talk” with you. You can ask it questions and request the answer to sound like it was written by a pirate. I asked ChatGPT for a Mexican lime grilled chicken recipe and I have to say, it was pretty tasty. Now that we have this fabulous technology, what do we do? Horrible things, of course. Students ask ChatGPT to write their essays and book reports and do their homework with a couple of swipes on the keyboard. How can you spot computer-generated text? ChatGPT text will be consistent and lacking in emotion. It simply (at the moment) doesn’t have the capacity to feel or give opinions. It will not provide details about their life or any personal experiences. You might also detect a more formal tone or the usage of complex technical language or jargon. The good news is that I speak plainly and in simple English and will chatter about my personal life while giving info and opinions about technology.

I make things with a limited shelf life. It might be better to say that I make eventual garbage. There are programming languages that I have learned that are now useless and lost to time. Beautiful websites have fallen by the wayside as clients didn’t update their content. I try to be zen about it. In my youth, I was inspired by artists and twin brothers, Doug and Mark Starn. Photography was not considered fine art as even limited editions implied that there was more than one of something. The brothers made photographic monographs held together with cellophane tape and other highly nonarchival materials that embraced decay and chaos. The value of their works was that they weren’t made to last forever. They weren’t sustainable. The irony here is that while designing and building web pages, I always do so through a lens of sustainability. If I have pages that have concise text in plain language, I help the user find content that is useful in completing their tasks quickly. If I build for the widest range of audiences, I become less concerned about their devices or connection speeds. If I focus on the tasks that a user wants to accomplish, I can reduce the amount of fluff on the page. Finally, if I pay attention to the non-text assets on a page (videos, images, fonts), I can cut down on page size by optimizing them. The point I am trying to make here is that your web pages will serve their purpose longer if you provide content that is accurate, and concise, and provides the user a clear path to accomplish why they were on that page in the first place. How can you get rid of the trash?

Technology adoption is speeding up. Decades passed before the telephone was in 50% of homes. In only five years, cell phones reached that same level of adoption. ChatGPT, an AI bot, was used by 100 million people last month, two months after its launch. It took TiKTok nine months and Instagram two and a half years to reach that same size audience. You may have already benefited from AI and just haven’t recognized it. Here are some real-world examples. GPS apps that consider traffic, construction, and weather use AI to determine the shortest route. Uber and Lyft have AI to match riders with drivers and even figure out ETAs to detect fraud and abuse. Some social media platforms perform facial recognition with AI to suggest tagging friends in photos. If this email doesn’t get to you, you may never know that the spam filter used by Google doesn’t like me sharing its secrets. The everyday benefits of artificial intelligence should outweigh the risks of AI. However, I recently read about how AI researchers gave Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot the power of speech after they combined ChatGPT and text-to-speech. They were already quite scary, and now they can talk!

Here comes another article about Artificial Intelligence (Bwah ha ha, I am obsessed). Generalized artificial intelligence (AGI) is a type of artificial intelligence that can perform tasks, much like a human. Unlike narrow AI, which is designed to perform specific tasks, AGI can learn and adapt to new situations. The rise of AGI is likely to have a significant impact on employment. A study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that up to 800 million jobs worldwide could be displaced by automation by 2030.

Who is at risk? Sadly, coders, computer programmers, software engineers, and data analysts as AI is great at crunching numbers with relative accuracy. Thinking about myself doing Math on Monday mornings makes me concerned. Legal assistants are responsible for consuming large amounts of information, synthesizing what they learned, and then turning that info into a legal brief or opinion. Legalese is very structured and language-oriented making generative AI an easy fit for future firms on a budget.

Customer service agents, accountants, stock traders, financial advisors, market researchers, and anyone who works with data need to be mindful of what is coming. Graphic designers, photographers, and illustrators have to appreciate that millions of untrained people will be upskilled and able to create or manipulate images based on what they say.

However as AGI becomes more prevalent, there is a potential for new jobs as AI developers, trainers, and maintainers. The media industry is already experimenting with AI-generated content, but that content still needs human judgment and review. Hopefully, technology can free up human workers from repetitive and dangerous tasks which may lead to more creative and fulfilling work.

P.S. ChatGPT said that my article “is well-written and provides a good overview of AGI and its potential impact on employment. The tone is engaging and informative, with a touch of humor, which makes it enjoyable to read.” Uh, thanks.

A prompt is a short piece of text that serves as input to an artificial intelligence (AI) model. AI prompts are used to both train and fine-tune machine learning algorithms to give better output. To get better results, context is key. Providing all relevant information to the AI results in better results in the response. I asked ChatGPT in a later prompt if I could swap potatoes for the Brussels sprouts in the recipe I just asked it to generate. It understood from the context of the previous recipe what I was trying to accomplish and suggested a different way to coat the potatoes.

Text generation prompts are used to generate coherent and meaningful text, such as writing a story or essay. Did you know that you can ask the AI to output that text in the style of your favorite author or as a pirate?

Translation prompts convert text from one language to another. The crazy thing is that you could ask the AI to translate the most commonly used French verbs by gender and give that answer in tabular form to create a handy study sheet (just in case you want to send a well-deserving web developer to Paris).

Question-answering prompts are just that, but you can get better answers if you are specific. Tell the AI where you are going and the ages and interests of the people traveling and it can generate an itinerary. In the future, as the AI matures, it will be able to book flights and hotels and purchase tickets to the attractions that interest you while taking into account the weather, transportation strikes, and other unforeseen challenges.

Text summarization prompts are used to make articles into shorter, more digestible summaries. The input level tops out at around 4,000 words but you can use copy and paste as your friend. The AI can condense the output into bullet points or as a single paragraph. You can have the text response adjusted to your audience as well. Ask the AI to summarize the gist of “War and Peace” for a 10-year-old to see what I mean.

If you have ever heard me talk or teach about technology, you know I want you to play around and not be scared. Go to https://chat.openai.com and make an account. Goof around and ask weird questions. There are amazing advances in science coming as a result of what AI is being asked to analyze and your prompt about the best gifts for a Jesuit might just help.

Ann Wanserski in a circle illustrationGuest contribution by Ann Wanserski.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word content as being “in a state of peaceful happiness.” Doesn’t that sound nice? Unfortunately, when it comes to the other type of content—namely, the kind that lives on your website—it may not leave you feeling quite so peaceful. Taking time to regularly review and update your copy (every six months or so) is an important best practice to improve your user experience and make your website more effective. Otherwise, students, colleagues, and other community members may hit a dead end when they try to connect with you online. That’s frustrating for everyone involved.

Here are a few quick tips for reviewing your content:

The web team is here to help! If you need help accessing your website to make edits, or if you want support optimizing your web copy, please reach out to our office.

Ann Wanserski in a circle illustrationGuest contribution by Ann Wanserski.

Newsletters can help you build a loyal and engaged audience. But how do you keep emails from going straight into the trash? I recommend experimenting with different tactics to see what works for your readers. Here are some tips to get started. Send a test. Send yourself a test to review the design and copy as it will appear in your audience’s inbox—including the mobile experience. I also recommend sending it to someone else on your team. A fresh set of eyes can help to catch typos or any confusing language you may have missed.

Create a consistent experience. I recommend following the same template for your newsletter so your audience knows what to expect. Add a designated spot for important dates, make your images and fonts the same size throughout, and end your email with something exciting or fun. Drive traffic to your website. Don’t say it all in your email! Use small bites of copy to entice the reader to go to your website for more information. Avoid vague text like “click here” for your links; select specific language that gives the reader a preview of what information they will get if they click the link. This helps skimmers find the info they need more easily.

On the shelf behind me, there is a relic. It is a first-generation iPod and I loved it. As the manager of a record store, I was able to access thousands of songs with a quick spin of its click wheel. Before that, I owned both a Walkman and Discman but either their sound quality or the constant skipping made listening disappointing. In a drawer close to my desk is another relic, a first-generation iPhone. Compared to my miserable flip phone this new thing was sleek and modern. It changed how most of us think of a mobile device and my iPod had been neatly rolled into it as just another app.

Dog in DogglesOn Monday, June 5, 2023, Apple announced their biggest new platform/hardware device called the Vision Pro. It is a virtual reality headset. It is a spatial computer. It is crazy expensive. It is also, a first-generation device. It may be what your laptop or desktop computer looks like in the future. Before the Apple Macintosh computer, there was the Lisa. The price for the Lisa started at $30,000 in today’s money. Apple learned how to refine the graphical user interface and reduce the cost and changed how we interact with computers. History may have just happened but only time will tell if we end up looking like our pet wearing Doggles.

Imagine you have a special notebook that you and your friends can use to write down important things. But here's the special part: once something is written in the notebook, it can never be changed or erased. Now, instead of just one notebook, imagine there are many notebooks, and they are all connected to each other. Whenever someone writes something in one notebook, everyone else can see it in their own notebook too. That way, everyone has a copy of the same information, and if anyone tries to alter the blockchain, everyone will notice because they have the same record.

Blockchain is like a big network of connected notebooks where people can write down important information, like transactions or contracts. And because everyone has a copy, everyone can check and verify it. Blockchain is often used for things like keeping track of digital money (like Bitcoin), recording ownership of assets, or even making sure important documents are secure and can't be tampered with.

You may have seen stories of people stealing Bitcoin and wondering how that is possible if all transactions are documented. Sadly, the weak link in the blockchain is the human element. Phishing, social engineering tactics, and scams are all vectors that hackers use to gain access to digital wallets and software. Remember to use strong passphrases, enable two-factor authentication, and keep your software up to date.

Bluetooth LogoAlmost every day you use a technology named after a Danish king from the 10th century. He unified Denmark and Norway, much like the technology named after him connects various devices wirelessly. Instead of his accomplishments, we remember his terrible oral hygiene because King Harald had a rotten blue-gray tooth.

In 1994, a group of companies worked to create a standard for wireless communication. The short-range technology they developed, Multi-Communicator Link, needed a catchy name to market to consumers. Jim Kardach, an Intel engineer, suggested “Bluetooth” during the development phase and the nickname resonated well with everyone involved. It became the official name when the technology launched in 1998.

Today, four billion products that support Bluetooth ship every year. The Bluetooth logo is a combination of the Nordic runes Hagall (ᚼ), and Bjarkan (ᛒ), which are the initials of King Harald Bluetooth. Can you tell that I took my son to the dentist today? I hope the four wisdom teeth he needs extracted inspire you to learn more about the tenuous link between dental health and technology.

I found an amazing resource by senior designer Karwai Pun. She is part of the accessibility group at Home Office Digital, which designs, builds, and develops services for the United Kingdom government. The do’s and don’ts of designing for accessibility are general guidelines and best design practices for making digital services accessible. Currently, the series has six posters catering to users from these areas: low vision, D/deaf and hard of hearing, dyslexia, motor disabilities, users on the autistic spectrum, and users of screen readers.

Here are my favorite top five accessibility tips that also improve search engine optimization:

  1. Make buttons large so they are easier to click. Bigger targets, better conversions.
  2. Buttons and links should be descriptive. Give the user an idea of what will happen when they click. “Contact us via email” is better than “Click here”.
  3. All videos should have subtitles. Better yet, provide a written transcript below the video. AI can be prompted to listen to your video and create your transcript.
  4. Write in plain English using simple sentences or bullets. Have a readable font size and good color contrast between the text and the background.
  5. Use the alternative text field to describe images on your page in detail. “Loyola University New Orleans students share insights in the Peace Quad” is better than “image” for both screen readers and SEO.

The humble #. The “hashtag” used to be associated with the numbers and weights. The Latin words for pound weight was “libra pondo” which was abbreviated to lb. The Blickensderferfer model 5 typewriter suggested in their manual to use the “#” (a.k.a the pound key) as there was no lb button. The first hashtag online (#barcamp) was by Chris Messina who suggested Twitter use them to keep track of conversations. It took another 7 years before the word hashtag appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014. That same year, Bird’s Eye food created a crispy shaped potatoes in the form of the hashtag and other emoji. The cool thing about hashtags are that they allow you to create user-generated tags that can be cross-referenced by theme or topic. Keep in mind that some online communities limit the number of hashtags permitted in a single post and ban users who tag unrelated content. #briFYI #hashtag #loyno #friedpotatoes #ataglance

Another day, another acronym. API stands for Application Program Interface. It is a fancy way of saying, a way for programs to talk to one another. These interfaces allow you to pull content or functionality from some other site to your website. There is a Google Map API that allows you to pull Google Maps into your website. There is a PayPal API that will allow you to accept payments through your website and put that money into your bank account. Recently, Google introduced an oxymoronic branded “Privacy Sandbox” API. This API will “allow” you to “share” ad topics with other websites. This all has to do with cookies. Google plans on turning off third-party tracking but this only affects Chrome users as Apple and Firefox have been blocking those cookies for years. When their rivals blocked the cookies, it was a win for privacy but put some serious pain on Google’s advertising business. The good news is that you can go to the Chrome Settings, then "Privacy and Security," then "Ad privacy" (alternatively, paste "chrome://settings/adPrivacy" into the address bar). From there, you can click through to each of the three individual pages and turn off the top checkbox, and in a mere six clicks, you can presumably turn off the ad platform. Whew! If you don’t do anything, Google will kindly share a list of topics for advertisers to serve up to you when browsing. Google’s motto of “Do the right thing” sure seems suspect.

Early each morning you may see me shambling around the city. Years ago, my right quadricep ruptured and healed badly and now I have a distinctive zombie-like gait. I have been zoning out with ghost stories and an interesting podcast about zombies this October. Athena Aktipis, the podcaster who hosts the Zombie Apocalypse Medicine Meeting (ZAMM), defines a zombie as an entity that is fully or partially under the control of another entity. In the podcast, she talks about microbes hijacking behavior, humans influencing each other, and our brains being taken over by social media. Certain kinds of wasps can take over a cockroach's brain and drive them around! 

It turns out that stress can make you a bit of a zombie. When stressed, we tend to process information differently and constrain ourselves to have simpler thoughts. I sure could use some extra brains on hand when… wait, what was I talking about? 

I tend to handle my stress with escapism but if I am endlessly scrolling through social media for photos of cute dogs or lightsabers, or worse, cute dogs with lightsabers, I am simply being zombified by another entity. 

Sometimes, being a zombie is a good thing. If you have ever worked in a chorus or theatre production, you know that being directed as a group to do something can lead to a result you could not have accomplished on your own. All of this to say, I wanna be your zombie. Send me an email at bpmccorm@loyno.edu if you want to direct me to help make your web pages better and reduce your zombie stress.

Have you ever been wandering around the internet and found a page that won’t load and instead you see an error code? What you are seeing are one of many HTTP status codes. When you open a web page, you send a request to the server that the web page is hosted on. A server is simply a computer where the images, files, and databases are stored. In response, the server sends a status code indicating how your request was fulfilled. There are five categories of HTTP status codes:

  • 1xx — Information responses
  • 2xx — Successful responses
  • 3xx — Redirection messages
  • 4xx — Client error responses
  • 5xx — Server error responses

The most common status codes you will probably encounter are 200 – OK, 301 – Moved Permanently, 404 – Page not found, and 500 – Internal server error. A status code of 200 indicates that everything is working as expected and the request has been fulfilled. A 301 indicates that the information you are looking for has moved. Usually, if a redirect is set up for the old page to a new page, it will resolve to a 200 status code quickly. A 404 is the most common and it means the pages does not exist. It may have existed at one time but it may have been deleted, unpublished, archived or simply never was. If you delete a page, it is always a good idea to request a URL redirect so we can send the user to an appropriate page. If you encounter any of our Loyola sites with a status error in the 500 range, please send me an email as we need to figure out what went sideways.

My house has fleas. Sigh. This is annoying because at first, we didn’t know the source. Lo and behold, a beasty had passed to the great opossum beyond and their remains remained under my tub space. It got me thinking about how much debugging I do. A bug is a general term for an unexpected error in running hardware or software. From the beginning of computer programming these bugs have existed. Ada Lovelace spoke of possible malfunctions in Charles Babbage’s analytical engine due to insufficient information on the program cards in 1843. In 1878, Thomas Edison wrote about a bug in a letter to his friend about his quadruplex telegraph system. By 1892, a definition for bug was included in the Standard Electrical Dictionary. One of the most famous bugs was actually, a bug. A team at Harvard University found their computer, the Mark II, was throwing consistent errors. They opened it up and discovered that a trapped moth had disrupted the electronics. The famous Y2K bug was because code written in the 1960s referenced a two-digit code for the year, omitting the “19”. The fear was that when the clocks rolled over to 2000, the systems would not know how to handle “00” correctly and that it would cost millions of dollars to rectify. The end of the millennium did not produce a computer-induced apocalypse, thankfully.

Sadly, most bugs are introduced by humans trying to do something that the computer system or program wasn’t meant to do. If you have ever been forced to endure one of my training sessions, you know that rule #2 is to never copy and paste directly from Microsoft Word or a Google Doc. I always suggest that you can either export or download your content as a .RTF document (Rich Text Format). By doing this, you keep your bolds and italics, your bullet lists and links, but avoid all the sloppy code that those programs wrap around your text to make it look how they want. Our fabulous creative director, Hollie Garrison, taught me a new trick just yesterday that you can copy simple text from your document and paste it into the search bar of your web browser and then, before hitting return, copy the text out of the search bar and paste with wild abandon into your webpages. You can do this because that search field converts your text into plain text, stripping out all the formatting (including the cool stuff that the .rtf documents preserve). Your email program and some online programs can help you avoid adding ugly code that can break your page. And remember, I can tell if you copy and pasted directly just by looking at the source code, and on certain days, I am very judgy. 

“Firewall” is a housing term for an insulating barrier designed to prevent a fire from spreading. A computer with an active hardware or software firewall works in a similar way. Your computer receives information from the outside world in the form of packets. These packets will have an associated source, a destination IP address, and a port number. On your end, the IP address identifies your computer on the network and the port number defines which application the incoming packet is defined for. The firewall looks at the incoming packets and then, based on pre-defined rules, decides if it will allow the incoming packets to get through or drop them. 
Think of the firewall as a bouncer at your personal dance club. This bouncer has a list of VIPs allowed to come in and if you’re not on the list, you’re not getting in. You can tell your bouncer that anyone wearing a maroon jacket can come in, but they can only sit at the juice bar. Further, you can tell your bouncer that people with bucket hats cannot be trusted and you would like to keep a log of their intrusions. 

Now imagine your bouncer as an angel because firewalls are moving to the cloud. In the cloud, the bouncer has friends with names like Secure Web Gateway, Zero-Trust Architecture, and Cloud Access Security Broker. Together they form a team known as SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) to freak out the demons out there on the internet.

If you remember me talking about protocols, you may be interested that if you want to view a webpage, packets from an http:// site will request access through port 80 and packets from an https:// site will request port 443.

I have THOUSANDS of passwords. I have been guilty of using “password” as a password. I have been guilty of using my dog’s name as a password. Sadly, I have also been hacked and forced to learn my lesson. Passwords, passcodes, and passphrases may soon be things you will tell your future grandkids about to their utter boredom.

Passkeys are a way of authenticating your identity on websites without having to remember a password. A third-party service (e.g., Apple, Microsoft, or Google) generates a key pair that is bound to a website domain. The cryptographic key pair contains both public and private keys that work asymmetrically. I swear this will make sense soon.

Imagine you are sending a message. Your message gets hashed (a fancy way of saying “obscured”) and then a signature is created from that hash with your private key. A public key is then shared with other websites to confirm that your message did, in fact, come from you. In short, one key verifies a signature, while the other key verifies you. Since the responsibility of storing the passkeys is with the third-party service, you only have to authenticate at one place (think single-sign-on) to sign into all of the other websites you use.

You may have already encountered authenticators that generate the key pair. It might be face ID on your iPhone or having a text message sent to your device confirming that you are trying to log into your Google account. Passwords are going to be around for a while but as you all are aware, I am terrified of AI. AI's ability to digest information and crack passwords based on your personal information is terrifying. Soon there will be quantum computers, which will work faster and crunch data quicker than you can imagine and then who knows what will happen.