Beware – Domain Renewal Group scam domain name expiration notice

Posted on February 28th, 2011

There was an interesting find in my letterbox today – a scam ‘Domain Name Expiration Notice’ from a company called Domain Renewal Group, seeking to have me renew one of my domains (wordpresschix.org) to them – for the bargain price of four times what it cost me originally!

This letter looks so authentic that less-savvy people could easily be fooled – in fact, unless you were really skilled in domains and registration, it would be difficult to pick it up as a scam;

Image of the scam domain name expiration notice

Because the domain is not in the .au namespace, auDA does not have any authority over the registrar. I emailed Public Interest Registry, the registrar for the .org TLD to let them know, and also let auDA know in case they wish to raise a consumer alert.

I also emailed Domain Renewal Group themselves, and threatened to report them to the ACCC (the enclosed self-addressed envelope – not reply paid! – has the address 189 Queen Street, Suite 209 Melbourne 3000 on it – so they obviously have an Australian base of operations) if they did not cease their operation;

To whom it may concern,

I recently received a letter addressed to me concerning the domain
WordPressChix.org

This letter constituted an unsolicited domain name expiration notice, and
is considered a scam. Because the namespace '.org' is not maintained by
auDA, the Australian domain authority, I have raised my concerns with the
Public Interest Registry (PIR), the official registrar for the .org TLD,
in writing.

I would like DROA to undertake the following:

1. A written apology via return email for your actions to me personally
2. A written undertaking via return email that you will cease these
operations in Australia no later than 14th March 2011

Failure to respond to this email with 14 (fourteen) days with the above
will result in a formal complaint being raised with the Australian
Competition and Consumer Commission (www.accc.gov.au).

Please note I will also be using social media channels to inform other
Australian webmasters of your unethical tactics.

You may also wish to know that you're garnering a very unfavourable
reputation within Australia;
http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/1040704

Regards,
Kathy Reid

Member, Linux Users of Victoria
Member, Linux Users of Australia
Board member, PHPWomen
@KathyReid on Twitter

We’ll see what happens!
(to be continued…)

Eliciting website requirements for non profit organisations

Posted on January 7th, 2009

Following on from the Making Links conference in November last year, one of the conference delegates raised a question with me regarding eliciting website requirements. So that everyone can benefit, I’ve attempted to answer the question here;

I think where we need the assistance is clarifying exactly what we want/need, from a website point of view, and help determining this.

Understand your organisation’s objectives and strategic goals

A website is a business tool. It helps to deliver the objectives and goals of your organisation. For example, a company that manufactures Widgets may have a website which provides information on Widgets (which is a pre-sales function), compares Widgets to  Blidgets (also a pre-sales function), allows customers to log a support request (a post-sales function), and uses the company’s branding to enhance market position (a marketing function). The website may also allow customers to pay bills  online (an accounts payable function) and network with other users of Widgets (a community building function).

A non profit organisation is no different – it still has goals and objectives, and your website should support this. For instance, if one of the objectives of your organisation is to raise awareness  about a particular topic – then this will be an objective of your website. This is the ‘what‘ – or the objective. The ‘how‘, or the implementation details – then become part of the discussion between your organisation and the web developer.

Some other common requirements of not for profit organisations (and thus requirements of their websites) include;

  • Facilitating donor relations and fundraising: Many non profit organisations are dependent upon donations and a donor base. One of the objectives of their web presence is therefore to foster relationships with donors. This may be implemented as simply as having a Paypal donate button on the site, or having something such as CiviCRM allow donors/members to register their interest online. Other functionality that can help meet this requirement includes the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds (which are done automatically using something like WordPress) so that donors can keep abreast of news, or allowing people to submit their email and subscribe to email newsletters. Again, don’t confuse the ‘what’  – ie facilitating donor relations – with the ‘how’. The ‘what’ for organisations may be the same, but the way in which they are implemented is likely to differ based on the the nature, ethos and community that the organisation serves. Another example
  • Raising awareness of issues and influencing behaviour or choices: Many not for profits are focussed on a particular area or cause. Often, one of the aims of the organisation is to raise awareness of the cause by informing the general public. This is the ‘what’. The ‘how’ can differ from site to site – for instance some may use story telling, by providing real life accounts. Others may opt for a ‘brochureware’ style site offering clear and concise information to help influence behaviours or choices.
  • Brand awareness: This is an area that non profits are traditionally not strong at. The bigger not for profits, such as World Vision and Oxfam have very good ‘brand awareness’. Their logos, colours and name are easily recognised by the general public. This is the ‘what’. ‘How’ this is done on a website comes down to having a standard logotype, standard colours and branding for your organisation, and ensuring that your web presence reflects this. (As a side note, part of ensuring brand awareness is also about having a Web Style Guide which is adhered to by the staff charged with maintaining web content).
  • Building communities of practice: Some organisations seek to build or support communities which share common values or a common ethos – for example those interested in the environment, support groups for those with a particular disease or affliction or groups sharing an attribute in common – for interest those who are HIV positive. Building the community is the ‘what’ – and a forum, wiki, blog or other tool is the ‘how’.
  • Providing services online: There are some services provided by not for profit organisations which may be time consuming, expensive or otherwise cumbersome to administer using a manual process. They may be candidates for automation via the website. The ‘what’ here is providing the service online – and the ‘how’ is the method used to implement – for instance an online form or instant messaging system.

Your organisation’s business plan, strategic plan, annual plan or annual objectives document (if it has one) is a great place to start eliciting which functions your website needs to support.

Prioritisation

Prioritising requirements when developing a new web presence is vitally important. Having a strong strategic or other business plan is a huge advantage here, as it will already outline priorities for you (and hence priorities for the website). If you do not have this type of document to refer to, then there are other methods to prioritise requirements;

  • Return on investment: Return on investment can be measured in many ways, such as labour savings (by automating a manual process online), income generation (by facilitating online donations or donor relations) or brand awareness. Which of your requirements is going to give you the greatest return on investment? Which return is the most important for your organisation
  • Effort: Some web site features are harder than others (in terms of effort, cost, overhead to maintain etc). Your web developer will be able to indicate which features are high effort or high cost and which are not. It may be in your interests to get some ‘quick wins’ on the board – those features which provide a good return but which are low cost/low effort.

It may be useful to map out requirements and the effort they will take on a graph with two axes – one for return and one for effort. Those that are high return/low effort or high return/high effort should be prioritised higher.

Measuring whether the website you are designing will meet your objectives

When identifying requirements (the ‘how’), think about how you will measure whether the objectives that your website is supporting have been met or not. This takes us into the field of website metrics – measuring the success of your website. This can be as simple as measuring how many ‘Contact forms’ have been received or how many times someone has downloaded Brochure X. Focusing on website requirements in this way again helps to align them to the objectives of the organisation.

(NOTE: The best book I’ve found in this field is Hurol Inan’s ‘Measuring the success of your website’ – highly recommended)

Bonnie Babes – an open source email and website solution

Posted on December 29th, 2008

The Bonnie Babes Foundation website, email and shared calendaring has recently been developed using free and open source software. That is, each of the software tools is completely and absolutely FREE! My time on the project (around 100 hours all up) was also donated, so the only costs incurred by the Foundation were for web hosting ($15 per month at Servers Australia).  So, how did it all come together?

Email

Bonnie Babes were previously using a POP-based solution using the organisation’s primary email contact address. This meant that if five separate people on five separate computers each sent mail, no one else could see what had been sent. This was migrated to an IMAP-based solution using Thunderbird.

The old POP email was moved to the IMAP folders. The biggest hassle here was that there was around 80 times more email to migrate to IMAP than I had budgeted for during the analysis phase. Luckily, Servers Australia came to the party and gave us some breathing space with an extra half a gig (NOTE: Big thanks Jared!). There was one machine that would crash every time I tried to import the mail from Outlook into Thunderbird, so as a workaround we first imported the mail from Outlook into Outlook Express, and from Outlook Express into Thunderbird. This finally worked (just be careful if you have to do this, as it imports ALL accounts from Outlook Express).

The staff at the organisation were used to using Outlook rather than Thunderbird, however they seemed to adapt fairly quickly. The only glitches we found were that the formatting in Thunderbird is a little different to Outlook – so ‘Paste without formatting’ was used as a workaround.

Filters have been set up on one computer rather than different computers having different filters applied.

Shared calendar

One of the requirements of the organisation was to have a shared calendar so that appointments, events and to do lists could be shared among multiple staff. An Exchange server was out of budget, so I settled for Sunbird. With Sunbird, it can be set up so that a remote calendar can be used. An .ics file was set up for this purpose on the web server, however it was made available under the FTP root rather than the web server root for security reasons.

The calendar is then accessed via a standard FTP URL such as:

ftp://username:password@ftp.mydomain.org.au/path/to.ics

Website

The website has been created using WordPress, with a number of plugins. Chief among them are cForms, for building user editable contact forms and the eShop plugin for online commerce. I had originally planned to use the WP e-Commerce plugin for the Online Shop component, however this plugin seems to be full of bugs and I had no end of trouble installing it.

One very useful plugin that deserves a mention is pageMash - used for ordering pages within WordPress. I’m surprised that this functionality hasn’t been made better yet – as the developers state, it’s still a little ‘janky’. Hopefully this will get a look in for the 2.8 release of WordPress.

One of the very nifty things I learned about WordPress during this exercise is that there is an .ics calendar available of upcoming releases – very handy (and very quickly put into Sunbird!)

Of course, the website validates as XHMTL transitional and CSS 3 valid (a very big thanks to Jason King for picking up that the theme version 1.0 wasn’t compliant).

Google tools

The web presence also makes use of a number of freely-available tools by Google, including;

Next Page »
© Klog: Kathy Reid’s Blog • Powered by Wordpress • Using the Swiss Cool theme.