Saturday, December 30, 2006

End of year musings and spendings

As 2006 winds down, I have much to be grateful for. Besides all the personal stuff (ten toes, fingers, kids and friends and all with same), Time4Learning has been alot of fun this year.

We grew alot. We built a staff who seem very happy and full of potential. And I like the independence of a web-based business.

Strategically, I'm in a good spot. The growth in broadband internet this year was enormous. the growth in homeschooling was enormous. And I benefit from both trends. When I consider the enormity of this trends and my place at the intersection, I start to worry that my growth is too small. In fact, by mid December, I became convinced of this and that the fault, dear brutus, lay not in my stars, but in myself, as we are underlings...In short, I decided that I had been too cheap. As a small struggling business, I have a hard time spending money in risky ways. This was wise when I started and was getting my feet wet. But now, I know a fair amount about what I'm doing and it's time to invest more aggressively.

So I spent more on marketing in the last two weeks that I had in the previous two years combined. I'm also going to try to get five pages/week up on the site! I'd like to find a writer but since I'm such a finicky editor and it's so easy for me to pull together pages, it might just be best to punch it thru. For instance, I just got up a page on homeschool umbrella schools that I've been diddling with for most of the year. (Granted, it's pretty messed up right now but soon, I'll fix it)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

John Edelson

John Edelson - OK, a little background on who the author is....
John Edelson
John Edelson, circa 2014

John Edelson is the founder and president of Time4Learning. He also provides member support services as well as does the marketing. Often, he cleans the office at the end of the day and helps fix broken web pages. Usually, the broken web pages are due to his "help" with them.

Update August 2015. John is nine years older since this post was originally written.  He now has a Twitter account: @VSpellCityMayor
He's on the Florida Atlantic University School of Education Advisory Board and so on.
Time4Learning now goes PreK to 12th grade (not just to 8th).
John Edelson has also now founded:
 Time4Writing.com - K12 writing classes online with teachers for 2nd-12th VocabularySpellingCity. Game-based word study to build literacy. Web or app.

Science4Us. Early Elementary Science Curriculum for NGSS and state standards. Web or app.

Professional Experience
Current - President/Founder, Time4Learning.com ,

Home Schooling Curriculum, PreK-8th Grade, Various educational and entertainment consulting & investing projects:

Vcom3D - SigningAvatars for deaf education. Florida. LearningToday - Standards-based online curriculum for school-based education. Florida.

ARC International. ARK.L Senior Vice President & Founder. Semiconductor intellectual property. London & Florida. 1998-2002. Created ARC as a spin-out from Argonaut with 10 people. Raised $12M, acquired three firms, participated in managing the firm's IPO.

Argonaut Games. General Manager. Videogame and technology development. London. 1996-98. Hired as a “turn-around” manager who transformed a struggling 100 person family firm into a growth-oriented profitable company that successfully went public. Raised $6M in capital. Executive produced Croc, a Playstation game that went platinum. The 3DO Company. Developer Relations & Marketing Director. Videogame platform innovator. California & London. 1992-95.
SGI. California. 1988-92. Product Marketing & Developer Relations. Pioneering workstations for engineering analysis and 3D graphics.
MID Consulting. Paris. 1986-88. Corporate strategy, acquisitions, and diversifications.
Price Waterhouse. DC. 1982-84. Business Consulting.
US Peace Corps. Cameroon. 1980-82.

Other

Board Member, WireSpring Technologies
Board Member, The Cooperative Feeding Program of Broward

Yale College. BA. 1980, cum laude.
Harvard Business School. MBA. 1986.

avid but aging soccer player. sometimes runner. currently in the martial arts (red belt). Father of two.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Testing a new DNS prior to broad dissemination

Heres a trick that I'd like to remember. We just switched our DNS but it has not broadly propagated yet. But we really wanted to test it tonight. So here's what I did....

Go to-->Start-->Run
copy and paste this: notepad C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\hosts
scroll all the way down to the bottom of the file
add this as the last line: 198.173.76.209 www.time4learning.com
(note - there has to be a tab, not a space between the address and url)

PS - I'm writing this down so that I remember to reverse the process some time.....

BTW - I'm 13th for fifth grade math on google....and 43rd for 5th grade. uhg....

changing hosting companies

After three years, Time4Learning is switching hosting companies.

We initially picked Webstream for the following reasons:
- local company at which we had contacts
- reasonable pricing
- they had both linux and windows servers
- they had both shared and dedicated servers


We had our ups and downs with Webstream. The primary reason for switching is that we want a host with 24/7 telephone & email support. Webstream has support starting at 9am on weekdays (often 9:30) and nothing guaranteed on the weekends. Given the frequent need to reboot servers, we just can't afford to wait until they get to the office. And when it goes down on Sunday, I go beserk hoping that someone will come to the office and reboot us.... Also, they are in hurricane country and have had week-long down time during the bad hurricanes (this year was good, the previous year was bad). We have had a number of system crashes and outages (2x a time) so we got motivated to look around. Another down was the fact that they gave us a dns number which many routers blocked which took me a year to figure out and caused endless embarrassments with customers. The last downer was they only had one really great tech guy. The positives were that they had one very productive great tech guy and the reasons that we started with them.

What we were looking for in a new host.
- 24/7 support - telephone & email
- shared & dedicated servers
- good reputation for reliability
- the ability to have the site mirrored elsewhere

We picked verio. This means that we switched to geotrust for our ssl certificate.

BTW - now that we are doing so well on homeschool curriculum, it's time to take a run at some other big terms: learning games, educational games, as well as some lesser terms like homeschooler and homeschooling. Plus, it's time to come up first for: second grade (actually, we're still 54th on google. uhg

SEO Progress in homeschooling

Time4Learning-SEO-Progress
Searches
3-06

March
3-06

April
4-06
May
5-06
June
6-06
Dec
12-06
homeschool137,953below 10065th6517
home school curriculum28,814212014135
homeschool material2,278559812
homeschool online6,4419843
homeschool resource5,6071616

Conclusions:
1. The focus on homeschool curriculum has worked well!!!
2. I should take aim at the first page for the big homeschooling phrase: homeschool. Obviously, this is a much more competitive term and getting to top 10 on that term will be the hardest one yet. Should I create a new page or is the homeschool curriculum page good enough?
3. I should work both homeschool resource and homeschool material since with a little more page tuning and links, I could make google's first page for them.

I should check in the other areas such as reading comprehension to see if I have progressed or stagnated....


An update of May 15, 2006 article on SEO homeschool progress:

http://learn-to-market-online116.blogspot.com/2006/05/homeschool-progress.html

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Aweber Bellsouth problem is solved!

Hurrah! I don't know what happened. Nobody told me that it has been solved. But, good news, my email sign-up box now accepts bellsouth accounts!!!!

Thank you aweber,

I'm a happy camper again. :>

(for background on the now irrelevant problem, look at the posts on aweber bellsouth.)

OH, and check out: gifted students and time4learning's progress in the homeschool area.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bellsouth says "Not Blocking" Aweber

Bellsouth's abuse dept (Lee F) called me back within an hour of me leaving a message. Great guys. They said:

1. They are NOT blocking aweber. They aren't black listed on anything. Bellsouth accepts Aweber's email when they follows policy for the transmission and Aweber isn't following the acceptable use policy. It's not a question of volume, it's a question of following the protocol.

2. To get the specifics on what policies Aweber is not following, you need to communicate with the postmaster dept. The postmaster dept cannot be called but they do read their email.

3. Setting my own SPF policy will not necessarily help (although its a good thing) since aweber is not following the protocols.

My plan - try one more time to get a discussion going between Aweber and bellsouth. If not, switch in january. But its frustrating since it's such a pain to switch and generally, aweber has been great.

Background:
Can a SPF policy solve my Bellsouth-Aweber email block?
Aweber bellsouth email block

Can a SPF policy solve my Bellsouth-Aweber email block?

Problem - I send my email newsletter from a third party that I've always found to be very dependable: Aweber. But, they say that they are being blocked by Bellsouth which has led them to respond to email sign-ups on my sign-up page with a pop-up page saying: "An Error has Occurred". For details on the aweber bellsouth feud.

I have recently discovered what a SPF email policy is.

Questions -

1. Is it possible to publish a SPF policy which allows Aweber to send out Time4Learning emails?
The answer to this is yes, I just need to figure out how to do it.

2. Will Bellsouth respect this SPF policy and let the Time4Learning emails thru?
I have called Bellsouth's Abuse dept (1 404-499-5224) and left them a message. I have heard that it is not their abuse dept but their postmaster dept that would make this decision. I will wait for the Bellsouth abuse people to call back (like they did last time) before also trying to contact their postmaster group.

3. Will Aweber, knowing that Time4Learning has published such a SPF policy and that Bellsouth will respect it, remove their block on people entering Bellsouth emails into my sign-up system. I don't know but I would expect them to. I can't see why they wouldn't.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Email SPF Settings

Email, Publishing SPF settings. My education.
Today, I got lucky.

One of our homeschool moms noticed that she got some of our emails and not others. She called to inquire. She spoke to her husband (Tim), an IT guru. Tim got involved. (Thank you Tim). And now I am wiser about a problem that has haunted us for awhile: why do some of our emails NOT get thru.

Background - We send emails from three sources:
- Directly from our server (http://www.Time4Learning.com hosted elsewhere)using a mail program set up in our database
- From our computers in our office using outlook. We send thru Bellsouth email accounts with return addresses and "from" in outlook set to: Support@Time4Learning.com which are almost all sent from Bellsouth servers
- I sometimes use my Gmail account to send emails. It is sent to provide support@Time4Learning.com as the return address
- From Aweber, an ethical email marketing service that handles our marketing email


What I learned about spam filters and spf published policies....

Modern sophisticated spam filters will check the return address on an email and compare it with what server an email is coming from. Some spam filters stop there and reject all emails that are sent from different servers than the one listed in the from or reply field. More sophisticated spam filter will then check any that don't match up with the published spf policy for that domain. A domain can publish a list of servers permitted to send using their return address. Each domain should publish a DNS policy which tells the world what servers are authorized to send emails in their name. BTW, there is an authority site on SPF policy - The Sender Policy Framework - (note, these guys have an spf wizard!)

How to check your SPF published policy?
- go the command line (start, run, cmd, OK)
- type: nslookup
- type set type=txt
- type domainname (time4learning.com)
Of course, these directions are not that much help since if you need the directions, you'll also need help understanding the results....

My result is "v=spf1 ip4:64.234.192.0/19 -all" which apparently translates to "anybody hosted at webstream is entitled to send email as time4learning.com". This means that our mail sent from bellsouth, gmail, and aweber is likely to get caught in spam filters and that anybody at webstream is free to spoof us"

What could/should we do?
- publish a new spf policy allowing bellsouth, aweber, and our specific domain....
(does this happen thru my registrar or hoster or elsewhere?)
- publish no policy allowing anyone to send in our name
- set up outlook to be an "authenticated mail relay"
- set up our email system to actually send from Time4Learning.com

I'm not sure how to do any of these but next week, after some other transitions, we'll figure out how to do it.

Thanks again Tim. Glad your kids like our online homeschool service. If you have some good pictures of your kids, we could add them to Ed Mouse's site.