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February 24, 2014

SnailAn agreement with huge implications for how the Internet works happened over the weekend – and most people will probably never hear about it.

Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast in order to ensure its users don’t see annoying those “buffering” messages while they’re trying to watch their favorite movies and TV shows. In other words, Netflix is paying for a premium level of service on the Comcast network.

Since the beginning of online access, the general rule has been that information is information; it doesn’t matter what it is. You might be watching “Breaking Bad” on Netflix, looking at a photo of your grandkid, or reading a news article – all data’s treated the same way.

The Netflix deal starts the web down a different road: a road on which certain content is treated differently.

The Netflix traffic jam

Netflix usage is insane; it takes up just under a third of the downstream traffic in America. One way to look at the Netflix/Comcast deal is to say that Netflix is paying to compensate for that huge share, and it might be fair that since the company uses a large portion of resources, it should pay a premium for that amount of access.

A possible future

On the other hand, this deal raises questions about net neutrality: the practice of treating all online content the same. In short, with net neutrality in place, a customer pays for a certain level of service and can do whatever they (legally) want to do with it.

An absence of net neutrality may mean that Internet service is treated similarly to cable: different rates for different kinds of content. Internet providers could theoretically charge an additional fee for access to some sites. (There’s a great concept chart by Redditor quink that shows this well.) Taken to an even more extreme level, a service provider with, for example, their own news portal could either reduce or block service to competitors. It could also put smaller, more innovative new companies at a disadvantage if they didn’t have the resources to pay for deals with Internet providers.

The FCC is currently looking at new ways to ensure net neutrality, especially while the industry continues to consolidate.

Is the Netflix/Comcast deal a case of one company paying their share for access, or is it the beginning of the end for net neutrality? It’s tough to say. In any case the debate about net neutrality is sure to be one of the core discussions in the coming years.

Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.
February 21, 2014

If you’re a regular reader to our blog chances are you have heard us talk about “Responsive Web Design.” Responsive design allows a website to change its shape to look good on all screen resolutions. If you are still a little unsure, I recommend reading Alan’s blog post about Responsive Web Design.

So, what’s that have to do with images?

Well, a lot. Not only should your website look good on all screen resolutions but so should your images. On top of that, you want to deliver the correct image sizes based on the website visitors screen resolution. For example:  Let’s say I have a website with a large header graphic. This is a fairly common element to have on a website. Generally, these images are big in width, height and file-size. This type of image works great for anyone visiting the website from their desktop computer. The web visitor will generally have internet access directly from a modem or through a wireless router and they’re not concerned with capped data restrictions. Through a little bit of technical know how that large image can be set to scale. So, if a different web user visits the same website from a mobile phone, they will see the same image but it’s just smaller.

Everything is Good, Right?

Wrong!  Yes, the image height and width has changed and depending on the aspect ratio the image may still look good but the file-size is still the same. When the mobile phone visitor was loading the website, it took them longer to load the website, if they were using their cellular carrier’s network. Not only that, you’re costing them valuable bandwidth just because of that scaled down image with a large file size.

How do you fix it?

Ideally, you will need multiple sizes of the image with optimized file sizes. You can even crop these images to work best within different screen resolutions. Then all you need is a little web development skill to deliver these different images to the appropriate screen resolutions. Those not comfortable with scripting languages there is a new HTML attribute “srcset” being worked on that may make it easier for you to implement responsive images in the future. This does require you to have some HTML skill.

Sounds like a lot of work, so what’s the benefit?

It’s a “Win Win” situation for you and your web visitor.

For You:

  • Optimized images are being delivered for specific screen resolutions.
  • Cropping and resizing images appropriately, you can control what is being displayed in the image.
  • A better chance of keeping a user on your website instead of them leaving because of slow load times.

Web Visitor:

  • A better experience on your website.
  • Faster load times
  • Savings on mobile bandwidth usage
John is a designer at Sephone.
February 14, 2014

I think there is a social media platform that people often forget, and that is YouTube.

How I use YouTube

I am subscribed to a bunch of channels and watch a lot of videos. Most of the channels that I am subscribed to are about bush-craft, camping, survival or other outdoor like channels. It works like most any other social media site, like Facebook or Twitter. People make updates and their friends see them and can like or comment on them. The difference is that the updates are always videos.

Money Making Platform

There are a few ways to make money on YouTube, but we will focus on the partner program. Basically, you have to allow a video ad and/or a sidebar ad on your video and you will receive a bit of money for views. The going rate is roughly 5 dollars per thousand views. It’s a variable though based on likes and channel subscribers.

How about an example. My favorite YouTube channel is Dave Canterbury. His videos have had 37 million views over the 6-ish years he has had it. So he has more than likely around $185,000 from YouTube over 6 years. Of course he puts some time and money into his videos and most channels receive less views.

How you can use it

If you produce videos, it’s a great platform to be on, I have found it a very active community with likes and comments. Though most of YouTube is silly, there are serious businesses using the service.

Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.
February 4, 2014

Facebook's Paper appOn the eve of Facebook’s tenth anniversary, the world’s largest social network launched a new app: Paper. Most media reports have tagged it as a news reading app (like Flipboard), and the reactions run the gamut from huge praise to harsh criticism. I tend to think that’s what Facebook expected, for one simple reason: Paper is how Facebook would look on mobile devices if they were starting over. It’s the rebirth of Facebook for early adopters.

One of the toughest challenges web application developers face is how to keep current users happy while improving your product to change with the times. As a user you usually only see one side of it – and Facebook has seen its share of backlash when they try to change even the tiniest thing about the site. (Good luck getting through all the “change Facebook back!” posts in your News Feed when one of these changes happens.) Why change the site at all, then? If you don’t, a site goes stale. How many of these homepages can you remember from the last ten years, and would you really want to spend all your Facebook time looking at those first few?

Users of any technology can be grouped into a few categories using the technology adoption lifecycle, something that dates back all the way to 1957. (If you’re interested in sociological research – and I mean, who isn’t? – the original report is online as a PDF.) The people who are more willing to experiment and play are usually the first to try a new technology, and they’re called “innovators” and “early adopters”. As a technology spreads it gains the loyalty of even people who are more reluctant to change.

What would happen if Facebook didn’t have to worry about the reaction of its current users and appealed to those early adopters who love the cutting-edge? What if there were no “change Facebook back!” campaigns?

That’s Paper.

Paper uses some really innovative ways of interacting with an app, and it brings the design of the News Feed into current times where media like photos and videos rule and design is based more on the content you’re showing than what device you’re using to show your content.

Paper’s not a news reading app. It’s Facebook’s new vision for the News Feed, and they’re letting you choose if you want to come along for the ride.

Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.
January 28, 2014

stateoftheunionThe State of the Union address has become one of the annual traditions that political geeks crave and everyone else tends to love or hate. Since the original “he shall from time to time” passage was written in Article II, Section 3, presidents have changed how they fulfill the constitutional requirement.

As it has with almost everything else, the web has transformed how the State of the Union is presented. Bringing the speech to radio (as Calvin Coolidge did in 1923) and television (Harry Truman, 1947) allowed the address to reach a larger audience, but today’s viewer can be more informed, thanks to the Internet.

  • The White House itself uses YouTube to present an enhanced version of the State of the Union, complete with graphs, statistics, and social elements alongside the prepared speech.
  • uses the address for a chance to do some live fact-checking of the speech on their site and on Twitter.
  • Pretty much every news source in the world will have live-blogging, live-tweeting, live-photoing, and whatever other information and analysis they can manage to find.

Even with its centuries-old roots and traditions, the State of the Union continues to change and evolve with the advent of the web. What could you do to give a refresh to your typical routine and allow your customers to be more informed?

Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.
January 24, 2014

So far a few of us at Sephone have weighed in on what we think may happen in 2014.  Alan was first with Television perhaps losing your cable or dish company? Responsive design that allows for any device from a TV to a cell phone to see your message in a pleasing fashion.  Justin spoke about devices that deliver you information and what I call “niche” social media applications.  I talked about the need for people to connect face to face and easy applications for businesses to use to do that with their audience.

But What About LAST YEAR?

2013 Blog Post Review If you look at what we talked about in 2013, Marketing and Social Media topped it.  42% and surprisingly I wasn’t the leader in posting!

Alan wins with 32% of our posting with Justin close behind at 30%.  Neither of them would profess to be “Marketers” but I am excited that our Developers think with Marketing hats!  At Sephone, we are Developers and enjoy the process of holistically solving client challenges. Helping them be more visible online as well as to save them money by integrating systems through online means.  But technology is only cool if it solves the problem, accomplishes the goal. How systems can work easily, be worked with easily. It’s  the way of thinking imperative in these “process” projects.

Tags and Categories

After reviewing what we talked about, we are going to take a look at how we tag and categorize our posts, as the blog has changed with the technology we have some “housekeeping” to do in how we categorize things.  Looking forward is fun and looking back helps make the future more clear.

Kelly's been known as the Marketing Maven since before the term was hip. (That means she's old.) She loves to get people together and help when she can to bring resources to the table and solve problems!
January 16, 2014

This is just short simple post to let you know that some user-engagement numbers from email and facebook campaigns from a few organizations that I help manage to let you gauge your success.


For the month of December 2013 and first week of January 2014, 35.8% was the overall percentage fans of the pages that saw individual posts. Which is higher than the fb average by about double, but the numbers that I took all were from pretty active pages and I am sure that the average is dragging down by useless pages.

fb insightsHere are some hints that seemed to help with post reach

  • Avoid posting links or shares on pages, they just don’t do as well
  • Fans that shares/like/comment are incredibly valuable
  • Posts with one uploaded photo seem to do the best


In the email campaigns for the very same organizations from above, 61.25% was the percentage of people that at least opened the email. It’s worth noting that every organization had significantly less email subscribers than facebook fans.

Here are a few tips that seem to help have emails opened

  • Really good unique subject lines
  • Sending right after lunch or just before dinner


Twitter does not have the analytical reporting to dig in and compile this type of information. Your guess is as good as mine.

Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.
January 10, 2014

It is easy to say that I am the most social one of the Sephone bunch.  I thrive on people, all people, from everywhere. Building relationships and providing an introduction for relationships is something I love to be part of.  Saying that, technology and people don’t always thrive in the same environment. And as Justin mentions in his post , the pendulum swings one way, it will eventually swing back the other way finding the middle where it will rest.

The Reason Video Is Big

People like to see people.  AND if you cannot meet face to face, then video on line helps a lot.  To go further, humans  enjoy the energy from another person. Sitting across the table from someone,  you can feel it.  My favorite days of my week are when I am out with clients and/or networking with other people. I enjoy the connection.

When that is impossible or it makes more sense to do it online, video chat tools like Google Hangouts and Skype can help.  When we are unable to meet face to face as a company, we have a Google Hangout. We can see one another, share documents, stuff like that.  It isn’t the same as face-to-face, but it is pretty close!  Google Hangouts are easy to use on mobile devices too, tablets, androids and there is FaceTime for Mac  iPods, iPad and  iPhone.  You can look at someone square in the eye from the palm of your hand.  Pretty amazing.

New Ways to Learn

Powhow is an interactive service that many people can use to take guitar lessons, exercise, yoga or meditation – just to name a few. Google also has a service called Google Help Out that does something similar. If you are a small business owner you too can use either of powhow_logo_148x73_transparentthese platforms to engage with students or clients.  AND you also can charge for the online “studio time.”

I mention these two things specifically, because I believe the pendulum, as Justin put it in his post will swing back to where people will demand that face to face contact rather than an email or text message. Using these tools whether being a student or instructor you can really learn new things. Each platform is very intuitive to set up and easy to use.

Even though people cannot always meet face to face, face to face applications and users of these applications will continue to grow in 2014, ever wondered how you may give better service to your clients by doing things this way?


Kelly's been known as the Marketing Maven since before the term was hip. (That means she's old.) She loves to get people together and help when she can to bring resources to the table and solve problems!
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