Personal, Uncategorized

Depression:What it Means

As everyone has most likely heard now, Robin Williams has died. Police have now come out and said he hung himself.

Not too long ago, Phillip Seymour Hoffman overdosed on a cocktail of heroin, cocaine and amphetamine, used to treat ADHD. That overdose resulted in his untimely death.

These incidents, naturally, shake our culture to it’s core. Both deaths came as a surprise to most, but they shouldn’t have. Both had a history of substance abuse in conjunction with severe depression.

Depression is not a feeling. It is a chemical and medical condition. It is, in fact, an illness. It also carries a stigma.

In a separate set of circumstances in relation to alcoholism, a person pointed out to me that when you go to the hospital with chest pains, and it is determined that you have a coronary, no one is lining up at the door to tell that person that the person has done something wrong or that they have to clean up their act. Yet with alcoholism (and depression), everyone seems to be an expert.

It’s no wonder that these cases go untreated and that the person suffering feels the need to contain their symptoms.

I know. I deal with constant depression.

Let me explain that more, because some reading this will automatically think that makes me suicidal. I want to be clear what depression is and what it is not. Robin Williams passing has, as Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose did, created an atmosphere, if only briefly, where our society looks within itself to try to understand. This, unfortunately, will pass within a week or so. That’s why this article, and others like it right now, are critical. They help us understand. Hopefully, it compels us to action. Hopefully, it captures our imagination and makes us a better society.

Depression can be crippling. There have been days where I have sat frozen, unable to move… unable to decide… unable to take any action. It’s terrifying. This is not most days, but it is some.

It is often bi-polar… the term, itself carrying a stigma that is unfair. In one moment, you live in a euphoric moment (without substances!). Nothing can stop you. You’re on top of the world. You are the victor. In the next moment, you are a scared child, huddling in your home, unable to move or talk to other people. You are grouchy and removed. When your significant other asks what you’re thinking for dinner, you can’t answer or even think.

On your best day, you are truly at your best. You’re the class clown or the creative genius. Your mind doesn’t stop. You are constantly evaluating your life, your friends, your life and what you want to achieve. At your worst, you feel unsafe, insecure, scared, paralyzed.

Traditional approaches, when your friend is suffering, is to tell them to suck it up. As if that’s a mechanical task that can somehow be done without mental interaction. As if it’s a light switch to simply be flipped. You see, when you are not paralyzed with this illness, you are not confined to the chains that bind us. In other words, it’s easier said than done.

That’s not your fault. You just don’t understand.

Some of the greatest minds in history, not to mention many of the not-so-great minds, have suffered with depression. Some mild. Many severe. In most cases, depression is not something that is dealt with every waking hour of every day. Often, someone who is depressed can go days, weeks or even months without any manifestation. Others can’t get out of bed.

Ludwig Boltzmann is a name you may not have heard of, but in the middle and later part of the 1800s, this man was peddling controversial scientific ideas that we know to be true today. For instance, he was the guy who pushed the idea that molecules, the smallest building block of the universe known to scientists of the day, were actually made of smaller building blocks – atoms. His work in the area of mass and atomic mechanics paved the way for some of the greatest inventions and advances in human history.

Some of his ideas, of course, are not proven and remain controversial. One of these was the idea that, like a deck of cards sufficiently shuffled enough times, the probability of the deck returning to it’s ordered state exists. This flies in the face of the accepted 2nd Law of Thermodynamics which states, in summary, that entropy is the process of every matter dissolving over time into disorder.

He hung himself on September 5, 1906 after a lifetime of combat with fellow physicists and mathematicians. He suffered from bipolar disorder.

The point of this? Throughout our society, people who are top of their game, who live in the spotlight, who invent things, make things… or don’t… they are great family people, they volunteer at their local church, they spend weekends coaching little league… these are the unseen victims in our midst that no one knows about because… we as a society have told them they can’t be vulnerable, they can’t ask for help, and they cannot be weak.

This is especially true for men, in regards to the last part. We, as men, are taught from a very early age that there is no room for weakness. There is no room for vulnerability. There is no reason why we, as men, should ever rely or ask for help from anyone else.

I am a testament to this.

Please don’t let me, or people like me, go. Don’t ignore us. Don’t assume we’re okay. Text us. Call us. Drag us by our collars and make us sit down at a ballgame, at a restaurant (avoid the bars!) or in another way. Give us the human connection we need but we won’t ask for. Help us. Don’t let us be a victim.

I’m okay talking about this because I’ve reached a point in my life where being vulnerable is something that is difficult, but I can do. I have people around me that I know care about me. When I suffer my depressive episodes, I am exactly as I described earlier. I feel lonely and am withdrawn. I hide (which is hard to do when you live with someone!). I get off the interwebz. I can’t focus. When I’m not, I’m engaged. My wit is sharp. My social acumen is excellent.

Learn the patterns of the people around you and, to quote the TSA, if you see something, say something. Don’t be rude. Don’t be aggressive. Help your friend, your wife, your husband, you friend find their way.

And of course, there are resources for those in need, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States is 1-800-273-8255.

Aaron Brazell

Bad Job Board Titles

Human Resources personnel. You gotta love ’em.

They’re the people who make sure you get paid every week, or biweekly or however often you get paid. They’re the ones who you talk to when you have a complaint about another employee. HR personnel are also, generally, responsible for posting job reqs.

If you go to, or Monster, or Career Builder, you’re going to see a whole lot of job postings that, as you scan the titles, start to blur together a bit.

The reason for this is because almost all job postings carry a cliché name based on the fact that generic templates (or more accurately, “loosely specific”) are used and common titles are used. This usually is because the HR person who puts together the job listing is not familiar enough with the minutiae of the specific position as, say, a hiring manager might be.

So you end up with titles like “Web Developer”.

What does it meeeeeeeeeaaaan?

Many of you know that, about three weeks ago, I lost my job to a reorganization at the company I worked for as a WordPress Developer (another loosely specific title). Since that time, I have been talking to a variety of companies that have proactively reached out to me, knowing my reputation and experience in the WordPress world. I have generally avoided the job sites because of the problem described above.

“Web Developer” as a title is misleading, vague and all-encompassingly wrong. Why do you say that, you might ask.

Generally speaking, a web developer job is listed like this:

Acme, Inc. is seeking a driven, highly talented candidate to fill our Web Developer position. In this position, you will demonstrate creativity as you work with others to accommodate our clients needs. Eligible candidates posses intimate knowledge of the following

  • HTML5
  • CSS3
  • jQuery, or similar Javascript framework
  • SASS or LESS
  • Grunt
  • Node
  • AngularJS

Please forward your portfolio to

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

This is, in fact, a valid “web developer” role.

A valid web developer role may also look like this:

Acme, Inc. is seeking a driven, highly talented candidate to fill our Web Developer position. In this position, you will demonstrate problem solving as you design, build, test and deploy a RESTful API and database cluster that can grow as needed. We prefer the candidate has some knowledge of algorithms and scaling. Candidates should possess intimate knowledge of the following:

  • NoSQL
  • MariaDB/MySQL
  • PHP/Python/Ruby
  • Vagrant
  • Agile and/or Scrum development environments
  • Moderate familiarity with Ubuntu or other Linux environment

Please forward your resume and a link to your Github account to

Very similar, and yet very different job listings. Yet they can both be referred to a “Web Developer” jobs, even though one is, more accurately, a “Front End Developer” role and another is “Back End Developer”.

By calling a job a “Web Developer” job, you have people who have only futzed around in Dreamweaver and only consider the user experience or interface looking at positions meant for data architects. And you have folks who know how to stand up an EC2 cluster and build and deploy Django applications with high redundancy and caching layers looking at jobs meant for the people who lose sleep at night over typefaces.

Everyone loses.

The candidate loses the opportunity to find the position she is really looking for because it’s buried under a bad title, or she gets so tired of looking for the real gold in the pile of rocks that she gives up.

The employer loses the opportunity because the signal to noise ratio on applications is terrible. Or, people just get tired of applying for mislabeled jobs.

So please, hiring managers, at least write up your “recommended” job req for HR. You know the job better than anyone. You know who you are looking for. Give it a proper name!

Aaron Brazell

Entrepreneurial Priorities if You Don’t Want to Despise Yourself at Age 80

With the exception of a general, “We’re hiring” post a few days ago, my site has been largely neglected for the past year. It’s not that I don’t want to write. I do. And it’s not like I don’t have things to say because, if you know me, I do. I really do. And it’s not even that what I’d like to say isn’t all that important…. because it generally is.

I feel the need to write today, however, because it directly relates to why I don’t write as much as I used to. And it directly relates to why I, in the eyes of the typical startup founder or venture capitalist, am not a great entrepreneur. In their eyes. I’ll admit that I’m a terrible day to day running a business guy. I’m a terrible “take care of the basics” like health care and witholding taxes” guy. I’m actually a pretty decent entrepreneur though. Put me on the phone with a prospective client, and I can speak their language and close a deal. At the end of the day, being an entrepreneur is all about making money so you can live to play another day.

Or is it?

It’s also about life and lifestyle.

I feel really compelled to write about this because, though I sorta took a mental break from the tech startup world for a bit while I focused on my job and my new life back in on the east coast (and, you know, survival and keeping a roof over my head), I’ve dipped my toes back into the water.  I am as alarmed today as I was two years ago about the entrepreneurial scam that is peddled by basically everyone.

There’s an entrepreneurial scam?

Funny you should ask! Yes. And it goes something like this: “If you’re not willing to give 24/7 to build your startup or company, you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur”.

Jason Calacanis, famously, said in one of his listserv emails on September 27, 2008, eight days after the market crash of September 19, 2008 and two days after the FDIC seized Washington Mutual Bank, that the sign of someone (paraphrasing here) worth being hired/invested in in the startup world is the person who will gladly come in on Sunday. This was the actual passage from that email:

Hold an optional off-site breakfast meeting on a Sunday and see who shows up: If folks don’t show up for you to grow/save the company on a Sunday for a two hour breakfast, they probably aren’t going to step up when the sh#$%t really hits the fan. You need to know who the real killers on your team are and you need to get close with them now. Again, it’s fine to have 9-5ers on your team–if you’re the Post Office. You can’t have them at a startup company. Note: if you reading this and saying I’m anti-family, save it. Folks don’t have to work at startups and some of the hardest working folks I’ve met have families and figure out how to balance things.

UGH. So much wrong with this sentiment. This sentiment screams, “I am what I do” and that is simply the most self-loathing sentiment you can have. It is neither something to be proud of nor is it healthy mentally or physically. I have a lot of respect for entrepreneurs who will go to the Farmer’s Market on Sunday morning. Or who take their kids to the park. Or who go to brunch with their husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend. Not so much for the person who opts to work instead of doing these things.

Here’s what that mentality of roughly 2003-2008 got me. It got me a career, yes. It also got me a divorce and years of my life I will never get back. At nearly 38 years of age, that is a lot to bypass in the service of the almighty dollar, ego, prestige and “fame” (whatever the fuck that means).

While I worked my corporate 9-5, I was coming home and then working another 8 hours on client works, building a company or other nonsense. I neglected my son (who fortunately still loves me to death) and my wife, at the time, by working every night until 3am just to pass out exhausted and wake up at 6:30am to go to work again.

Those lost opportunities to be present were squandered because I bought into the charade that if I work longer and harder, I’ll succeed more and have a better life. Rubbish, hogwash, nyet, NO!

After my ex-wife and I split, I naturally did some soul-searching. Work wasn’t our only problem. But I’d say it was a contributing factor to all the problems I could see. I decided to do a 30-day “work cleanse”… For 30 days, work normal business hours – 9-5, 10-6, whatever… and then put my work down and find something to do to occupy my time. That was a hard thing to do since my work was my identity and my habit. However, after 30 days, I realized I was feeling more energized. I got more sleep. This enabled me to focus better on my work when I was doing it. It helped me get things done faster. I felt more alive.

By and large, this 30 day drill has become my lifestyle now six years later. I typically still work Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. I avoid after hours work or weekend work if I can help it. Though I still take side work, one project at a time in digestible portions, because… a little extra cash every month is nice. But, today, I spend time with my girlfriend, cook dinner sometimes, and do stuff that is fulfilling to my life (usually!) instead of investing all my energy into something that will ultimately fade away.

My greatest fear is that, in my latter years, I will look back on my life with regret, building something that doesn’t last while sacrificing the things that really matter on the altar of snake oil salesmen. You are not what you do. Your time spent does not define your character.

In the words of Trent Reznor Johnny Cash, three months before his wife’s death and seven months before his own:

What have I become 
My sweetest friend 
Everyone I know goes away 
In the end 
And you could have it all 
My empire of dirt 
I will let you down 
I will make you hurt

Development, WordPress

Looking for a Top Notch WordPress/PHP Developer

If you’re in Baltimore and are a developer, or if you are in Baltimore and know someone who is a developer… Heck, if you’re in DC and are a developer or know a developer, we need you. (You can be to work in under an hour on the MARC train).

Some of you know what I do and who I do it for. I work for a company that has consistently been rated in the top 3 companies to work for. We’re fun and relaxed and our content producers focus on publishing in the financial industry.

Dogs are regularly in the office. We wear shorts and sandals to work. It’s an a-political group – as in office politics. Everyone works well together from the execs down to customer service.

We believe in “Fail cheap and quick” as a lean startup sort of mentality and everyone is empowered to just try stuff if it makes sense.

What *I* do is build awesome web technology to support the business. Plenty of WordPress but now we’re building out huge APIs for reporting and consumer-facing tools. And that’s not WordPress. That’s Laravel and MVC, if you’re curious.

We are looking to add another developer with real chops. PHP, JS, REST APIs, SQL for now with NoSQL as a viable thing for the future. We largely operate on Rackspace and Amazon EC2.

I’d love to hear from you or your developer friend. Send me your resume and cover letter but let me see your github as well!


NSA And Chaos Theory

Look, I’m not for 4th Amendment overreach but this PRISM thing. Let’s be honest…. I’m pretty proud of Americans for developing this ingenious piece of engineering. If it does what it claims to do (and not what the hype says it does), it’s nothing short of one of the major wonders of the modern world.

Think about it.

You, me, everyone… we live in patterns. We go to work, sit at the same desk, talk to the same people, have friends that we see regularly, talk to the roughly same set of people… every day.

But the patterns are not so simple. We may talk to all kinds of different people, go to all kinds of different places, drive all kinds of cars, use all kinds of sites, stay in all kinds of hotels, travel to all kinds of places… and that all seems random but there are patterns like job requirements, hobbies, personal enjoyment and other seemingly abstract glue that makes patterns out of all that too.

Somehow, NSA has found a way to see patterns. Patterns, patterns everywhere. Organized chaos. And seeing patterns helps them see when something is out of pattern. Dissonance. Unusual variety.

The fact that chaos theory can be analyzed in such a way… is truly a feat of engineering.

Aaron Brazell

9 Years of Blogging: Lessons from the Trenches

It is May 20 today and that means two things. First, it’s the 5 year birthday of this handsome boy. Without a doubt, his day will be filled with belly rubs and snacks… as it should be.

But secondly, this is my 9th anniversary of blogging. It’s also the 9th anniversary of me installing WordPress for the first time and embarking on, what would become, a career change and my livelihood. This month, WordPress celebrates it’s 10th birthday which makes me a WordPresser for almost all of the time it has been around.

In that time, I have dabbled in everything from traditional blogging (evolving from political blogging to personal blogging to blogging about blogging to social media blogging to business blogging…. and on and on), to writing code for bloggers use to writing a book for developers to consulting on WordPress projects, etc.

I may have learned something or other along the way. From my 9 years, let me share some of my thoughts:

Blogging Never Killed Journalism

In the hey day, everyone suspected that “old media” was a dying breed and that blogs would overtake old media and replace it. While it is certainly true that old media had to adjust to the digital age, I think it’s more relevant (and healthy!) that blogging began to complement traditional media, as I noted in 2010. Today, most of the major news organizations maintain blogs and journalists wear the hat of traditional reporters and maintain more loosely structured blogs as well.

The same can be said about other forms of digital media – Twitter, primarily, but Reddit and other Social Media destinations as well. While it’s certainly true that breaking news travels much faster on digital platforms (including blogs) than traditional, the fact is that traditional publications still have a relevancy and can get a job done in a better way that digital sometimes.

This is particularly true for long form content. On the internet, there is an inherent ADD that causes many readers (including myself) to get distracted easily and not be able to consume long-form content as easily. If I had to back-of-napkin guess, I’m guessing the sweet-spot for online articles is between 300-700 words. This article will, of course, blow that number out of the water. It is rare that you see great long-form content from publications other than The Atlantic, Ars Technica, the New Yorker, etc.

Notably, it was Sports Illustrated’s print edition that carried the story, that has since been published online, about NBA Center Jason Collins coming out as gay. That was an important piece of journalism with far-reaching political and cultural fallout. And it wasn’t printed online first. It was printed in traditional media.

Get Rich Quick with Blogging? Fugghedabotit!

Oh boy, do I remember the days when everyone fashioned themselves a pro-blogger. Throws some ads up, write content and PROFIT!

While there’s a part of me that wished that model worked (Damn, that would be so easy… I’d never have to work again!!!), life is never that easy. First of all, the advertising bubble was just that… a bubble. The fact that usable metrics (that advertisers with real money wanted) around long-tail sites could boost income was (and still is) a farce. You need to be able to show some level of guarantee of traffic (CPM) or relevancy with a user propensity for buying (CPA). Otherwise, why buy the ad spots at more than “remnant” (i.e. cheap) rates. Remnants aren’t going to pay your salary, much less your coffee bill for the month. I abandoned advertising on this site a long time ago.

Protip: Affiliate advertising still can convert very well and, if handled properly, could potentially earn someone a living.

Data Portability is actually important

Data portability – the ability to take all your content and pick up and go somewhere else – used to be the domain of radical, technarchists like Dave Winer. However, with recent acquisitions of companies like Instagram by Facebook or the very recent Tumblr acquisition by Yahoo!, where reportedly 72,000 Tumblr blogs were moved into the silo in a single day, the ability for users to take their content somewhere else is actually a primary concern these days. It didn’t use to be like this, but notably enough of these events have scared users into wondering what happens when their platform of choice goes out of business or is bought.

Personally, for these reasons as well as things like SEO and domain canonicalization, I’d always recommend people have their own site and use open source self-hosted solutions like or even one of the (in my opinion) inferior open source content management systems out there. Control your own destiny.

Journalistic Integrity

Many bloggers fancy themselves as journalists. They’ve never gone to J school. Never got a degree. Never learned the art of sourcing. All they have is a laptop, a loud mouth and something to rant about.

To be fair, there have been hundreds of bloggers who have turned into amazing journalists in their own right, broke stories, developed sources, protected their integrity with confirmations, etc. Then there’s the rest of bloggers who hear something, run with it, write a story that is poorly sourced (“a source inside Congress told me…”) with little to no confirmable facts and want to be respected as journalists. There’s a reason why real journalists look down their noses at bloggers like this. And rightly so. Also, why everyone looks down their nose at CNN… ahem *cough cough* )

Not to mention the spate of bloggers who have historically expected freebies for “review” or otherwise. Another thing separating real journalists from bloggers.

There are probably dozens of lessons learned from the past 9 years. Don’t hold yourself to a posting schedule… write when you have something to say. I do that here. Maybe a lesser known thing… write drunk, edit sober. Yeah, I have some of my most creative time when drinking. Dumping that stuff onto the proverbial canvas while in that state and hitting “Save Draft” instead of “Publish” means I can come back later and review what I wrote with a clear head.

What tips would you give?

social media

I hate social networking

I hate social networking. I despise it. All of it.

For me it’s a tool (like me, some would say).

“But, Aaron. You have 1500 friends on Facebook and nearly 10,000 on Twitter. You’re lying.”

Oh but I’m not. I used to love social networking. I used to travel to conferences where other social media people were just to, in hindsight, make myself look more like a stud. That’s why there are so many.

I’ve dated or slept with social media women just for access.

I’ve been that guy at SXSW that, as a former Austinite, I now mock. That one cutting to the front of the blocks-long line to a hot party just to utter those predictable, and douchey words, “Do you know who I am?”

I have the cred I so craved. Even years after I stopped the social whoredom. I get added to Social Media lists on Twitter every day? Why? Because someone thinks if you have 10k followers, you must be important, and therefore, you must be “social media”.

I am important. But not in that way. I am important to my 9 year old son who I don’t see nearly as often as I’d like. I’m important to my company because I can take their WordPress life farther than they dreamed.

I’m important to my friends… My real friends. The ones who drink beer with me or wish they were drinking beer with me like they used to.

I’m not important because I have friends or followers. And the quality of my life is not contingent on my social presence. I could give a shit less.

When you introduce me as technosailor, instead of Aaron, you do a disservice to me and you. You are the one caught up in the social insanity. Go drink a beer or watch Breaking Bad or, for god’s sake, go fuck your wife.

Come with me for a minute as I revisit a moment of my life.

It was 1998 and I was in my religious mode. I realize that most readers aren’t aware of this past and really prefer if I don’t get preachy. So I won’t.

But what was said from a pulpit 15 years ago lives on in me, as a life principle.

In the Old Testament book of Joshua, the story is told of the Children of Israel, after a generation of wandering in the Sinai desert after escaping Egyptian captivity, finally had the opportunity to cross the Jordan River into their promised land.

Joshua, their leader, was instructed to construct a monument in the middle of the river where they crossed on dry land. The monument was to be made of 12 stones (representing Abraham’s twelve sons an the tribes of Israel) and it was to be a celebration of gaining the Promised Land.

It would be really easy, after 40 years and finally attaining your goal, to stay there and live life there. Live in that glorious history and moment.

Except they had a job to do and a land to conquer. They couldn’t stay in that moment. They had to move on. That moment was glorious but they couldn’t stay. They had to do work.

And so we come back to social networking. I’ve been on Twitter since early 2007. I’ve been on Facebook since late 2006.

I could live in the glory of the Internet and social networking but I’ve got a life to live.

Some of you are still mindlessly operating with the idea you can make a living doing social media on the Internet. When you simply can’t. Only very few people can do it well.

As the Jordan River became a part of Israel’s every day life, social networking is a part of mine. I use it. I live it. I meet people there. It is not my life. And if its yours, you really need to re-examine your priorities.


Two-Factor Authentication: What it is and Why You Should be Using it Now

Not too long ago, WordPress sites around the world started getting attacked with automated botnet traffic trying to brute force admin passwords.

The other day, the official
Twitter account of the Associated Press was hacked

Last year, Wired reporter Mat Honan was hacked when his Amazon account was compromised. That compromise allowed an attacker to access his Apple ID which gave him access to Mat’s Google account which, in turn, let the attacker into Twitter.

Email, in my opinion, is the gateway to identity theft. It’s bad if your Twitter or website are hacked. You get things like the AP hack. It’s bad, if an attacker gains access to your website and defaces it, or does something else. But as terrible as these things can be (and expensive), identity theft is something that is quite a bit more dangerous.

Here’s a scenario. Somehow, someway I gain access to your Gmail account. It could be that you have a pretty easy password, or you use the same password everywhere, or it can be from some other nefarious means. But I get access to your Gmail.

You might say, “well it’s only email and there’s nothing all that important there.”

But you’d be wrong. If I have access to your email, I have access to everything else. Can’t remember your Amazon password? That’s fine. I can perform a password reset, and gain access by clicking on a password reset link. Then delete it so you never even know it was there. Once into Amazon, using your saved billing information, I can run up your credit card info.

I might even be able to get into your bank, although that’s become significantly more challenging in recent years because of two-factor authentication (which I will get into momentarily).

I could potentially access credit records. Or, depending on the state or locality you are in, your driving and criminal records. And if there is something incriminating in your inbox, I might be able to blackmail you.

Granted, all of this stuff is extremely illegal, but I could still do it if I have access to your email account.

Side Point: Web services that use an email address as the login name are inadvertently dangerous. If I know your email address, I know your login. Then all I have to do is know your password. Whereas not having an email address as a login means I have to figure out BOTH your password AND your username.

Fortunately, Google has two-factor authentication. Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook all have two-factor authentication as well. Banks, including Bank of America, all have two-factor authentication.

Two-factor authentication is your saving grace and you need to enable it on every account you have.

What is two-factor authentication?

The easiest way to explain what two-factor authentication is with the phrase, “Something you have, something you know”. You need BOTH things for authentication to happen.

You see this with some biometric systems. Enter a pin (something you know) and scan your thumbprint (something you have).

With banking sites, you enter a password (something you know) and you might identify a unique image (something you have).

You see this with SSH on Linux systems with ssh keys. You provide the server you are logging into with your public key (something you have) and in the “handshake” of authentication, it matches against your private key (something you know).

Google, Facebook and the other services providing two-factor authentication require you to enter your password (something you know) and then they’ll send a pin to your phone (something you have) that you have to also enter in.

It’s a pain in the ass, and certainly I hope technology reduces the friction that two-factor offers to the authentication process, but it’s incredibly important that you have two-factor authentication wherever you can.

Go re-read Mat’s nightmare and you will understand how vastly important that two-factor is. It’s a nightmare. It’s scary. It should be a come to Jesus moment for anyone that operates on the internet.

I will let you use the power of the internet to figure out how specifically to do this for various services, but this wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t also suggest a plugin for WordPress (.org, not .com) to enable two-factor. I highly endorse the Duo Two-Factor Authentication plugin. I use it on several of my sites.

Hopefully, by enabling this stuff, we can not only stem off a vast amount of hacking attempts, but also become smarter about how we use the internet, protect our privacy and security and, even, in some cases… safety.

Be safe out there!

Bonus: More on 2FA from my friend Mika Epstein (@Ipstenu).

Aaron Brazell

WordPress Hacking and Cleanup

There’s a brute force attack underway on a global scale. Massive. The attack vector? Keep attempting user/pass combos in an automated way until a breakin happens.

If your WordPress site gets hacked, I am available for cleanup and an audit.

It absolutely will cost you a minor fortune. That’s the way it goes. Don’t complain or whine, just get your credit card out.

It would be cheaper to have a strong password and install a plugin that limits failed login attempts though.

But if you don’t, rest assured I can help you despite you having to postpone a vacation in St. Thomas.

Do the right thing.

social media

Abusing Twitter Direct Messages, Spam and Classlessness

This morning I received a Twitter direct message from the official account for I hate JJ Reddick, one of the best Baltimore sports blogs I know of. I like these guys. I read the blog almost every day and follow many of the writers on Twitter. I live in Baltimore, or as we call it… “Smalltimore”. It’s a small town. You get to know people. You run into them all the time.

(To be fair, I have yet to personally meet any of them, but it’s only a matter of time. Most of the writers are one degree of separation away.)

As a Ravens fan, I am on board with them. I’m a fan. But I’m also a Red Sox fan, which makes for some good-natured rivalry with Orioles coverage. I’m not above a good-natured rivalry and it’s all in fun anyway. Or it’s supposed to be.

The Direct Message was simply:

Can you help me tweet out this link of Machado’s homer from last night? Appreciate it!

There are several things wrong with this DM.

For starters, on the superficial level, I’m a Red Sox fan. Machado’s homerun came against the Red Sox and it proved to be the game winner in the top of the 9th inning. My bio on Twitter is:

Author / Former Austinite / WordPress Developer / Football Fan / Ravens, Red Sox, Longhorns, Terps / Equality and Justice for All

Cut and dry. I label myself as a Sox fan. I tweet about the Sox. It’s obvious I’m a Sox fan. So when asked to spread a link that I don’t like, for fan reasons, I say no.

The second problem with this DM is the abuse angle. It’s a much more fundamental problem than simply a fan rivalry. Whoever sent this DM clearly didn’t know his audience, and it becomes painfully obvious that the account was simply sending a mass DM to all followers for the purpose of driving more traffic to the article. The article is written by a Bernaldo, who I don’t know and am not familiar with. For the sake of not making unnecessary accusations, I’m going to assume he was not the one behind the DM.

This tactic of mass DMming is frowned upon almost universally. The fact that it was to drive traffic, which is directly proportional to ad impressions, makes it spam. This is a much bigger issue than just a fan rivalry.

So I sent this response:

No. I’m a Red Sox fan. Please don’t abuse DM like this… ;)

Note the winky face, the international sign for… “Imma let you finish. I’m not mad, bro”

I also said, ‘Please’.

Within minutes, I receive another DM:

You’re a fucking loser just like your baseball team. Blocked.

And Orioles fans call Red Sox fans classless.

This is a small town. I’m surprised that any publication in this city would respond the way they have as, you know, word gets around. It’s just entirely inappropriate and unprofessional. No skin off my nose, really. However, when it’s pointed out that you made a mistake, complete with a ‘Please’ and winky face, I’d hope that most people would follow up with something more along the lines of: “Whoops. Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to spam you. Hope Machado does it again to your boys tonight”.

But hey, don’t let a little good-natured fan rivalry get in the way of a good money-making traffic push to 4500 of your closest friends?