30 Mar
2014

P2LHosting is now closed, thank you everyone!

I wanted to write a quick little blurb and thank you to all my clients and past-clients that entrusted me with their website assets by using P2LHosting for their webhosting needs.  As of today, the primary server was taken offline for good and hopefully everyone was able to switch over to a new hosting plan before the due date, which I communicated to all active clients twice via email earlier this month.

Unfortunately P2LHosting had been losing money for several years, but the amount was not that big of a deal as it proved extremely useful for me personally as well as for my clients.  But as the last few years have unfolded and I have been dedicating my work hours to my full-time career, the hosting business stagnated and eventually clients started to drop off.  Not many, but in a business where ever penny counts, even 2 or 3 clients lost per year hurts.  In addition, I was no longer able to respond to trouble tickets as quickly as I wanted, and I didn’t think that was fair to my loyal customers that were used to 1 hour response times over the years.  There is really no time to grow this business as all of my efforts are focused on serving the Playboy digital network that I currently manage.

For anyone that did not transfer in time (perhaps you never received any of the emails) I did keep a close eye on domains that were still pointed to the P2LHosting nameservers and I have downloaded complete cPanel backups for your accounts.

Didn’t transfer your account yet?

OK don’t panic, here’s what I have asked clients to do:

  1. Sign up for an account with a hosting company that uses cPanel.  I have personally moved to HostGator and I am referring people to use them as well.  You can choose a package and sign up HERE!
  2. During the sign up process, make sure you use the SAME cPanel username on your hosting sign up that you had with P2LHosting,  This is the username you would use when logging in to cPanel.  This is really important.
  3. Forward me your welcome email, which should contain your new cPanel information, including the login URL and login credentials as well as your site’s IP and nameservers, and your helpdesk login information.
  4. I will upload the cPanel backup to the home directory of your account.
  5. You will then be provided with specific verbiage for the restoration of your account.  You will need to create a helpdesk ticket and copy/paste the verbiage provided.
  6. You will need to update your nameservers on your domain via your registrar or you can send me your credentials and I can do it for you.
  7. Once the restore has been done, your site will be back up and running.

You can contact me directly via my contact page at http://www.danrichard.com/contact/ and I will get back to you ASAP.

Thanks again everyone for your loyal business over the years, it has been a pleasure serving you!

Dan

The Death of Tutorial Portals – A look at the Big 3 in 2013 and Suggested Counter-Measures for Webmasters.

It was a matter of time I suppose, an inevitable evolution as web behavior continues to shift, morph and push technological boundaries at an alarming rate.  More precisely, the ADHD generation of web users combined with massive strides in search engine results accuracy and perhaps a dash of lack of interest has destroyed the tutorial search portal business model.  For my long-time readers, you don’t have to ask, but for those of you fairly new to the world of online tutorials you might of never heard of the tutorial giants – Good-Tutorials.com, Tutorialized.com and Pixel2life.com.  These 3 companies battled long and hard for top search engine placement, diehard fans, streamlined UIs and dominance of the tutorial aggregate site niche.  In the mid to late 2000s, these sites were huge and brought in tens of thousands of visitors every day and considered the gold standard of free tutorial listings.  But as 2010 rolled around, it appears the wheels started to break free from what appeared to be a rock-solid frame.

Today these sites have plummeted in traffic, rank and audience.  Tutorialized.com and Pixel2life.com were sold to new owners in 2010 – 2011 that converted one site in to an ad laden cesspool of affiliate offers and the other seemed to fall in to autopilot while the owners fell asleep at the helm.  For Good-Tutorials.com, they seemed to have turned off all development and just let it chug along like an old 1988 Dodge Aries that refuses to die but gets harder to drive up the hill every morning.  A quick look at Alexa paints a fairly nasty picture:

blog_alexa_gt

 

blog_alexa_tz

 

blog_alexa_p2l

 

You can see that all sites suffer from identical markers of a site dying a slow painful death.  It’s important to note that you can only see the Alexa ranks from 2012 to 2013 and there was already huge drops since 2010 to 2012 that you can’t see in the graph.  The other alarming number is the dominance of traffic from India rather than the USA, especially for GT and Tutorialized with GT at almost 30% traffic from India.  These sites were previously ALL 50% or higher USA traffic sources with Alexa US ranking way below 10k, but with the lack of social presence, development and user interest, the sites are now exposed to non-premium traffic, which destroys the ability of the site to run top paying advertisers and affiliate offers needed for the precious revenue to keep these sites worth running.  The bounce rates, time on site and page views are also unhealthy signs of sites that are on the way to a website graveyard.

The question at this point is what happened and how do you stop this from happening to YOUR website before it’s too late.  What you may find interesting is that while tutorial aggregate portals like the big 3 are petering off, original content tutorial sites catering to specific niches are still doing quite well, in fact probably better than ever.  It’s becoming easier for people to find these sites through long-tail keyword searches on search engines so they no longer have to even rely on these portals for traffic anymore.  With basic SEO and patience, it’s hard not to succeed at some small level.  With bigger investments (in terms of time and development) and smarter marketing, you can stand to make a nice little profit once you understand how the web works today.

So what happened to the big 3 exactly?  In the most basic terms, they were mismanaged at a time when Google started making huge strides in long-tail keyword search results making it MUCH easier to locate tutorials for exactly what you wanted right from Google instead of having to sift through results on an aggregate that suffered from ancient Boolean search logic with sometimes sketchy results and 404 links once you finally found what you needed.  It was the perfect storm and all 3 major sites sailed directly in to the teeth of the seething maw of web destruction.  Once the downpour ceased it’s pummeling drive, some seriously battered websites floated out of the haze and have been drifting ever since and even now the seams continue to widen and water is pouring in, dragging them under.  The sites also allowed clutter to build up and standards started to slip both in terms of tutorial quality and advertisers and the situation would only worsen as users continued to drop as they discovered much easier methods of finding tutorials for free.  The sites with forums were further mangled by out-of-control spam, rendering the forums virtually useless to any valid users looking to be part of the community.

The final straw that broke the e-camel’s back was the massive implosion of online ad pricing, which saw a massive drop virtually overnight on all major networks.  After several years of high CPC prices with AdSense and other small competitors and the absolute insane earnings from the short-lived Yahoo Ad Network beta phase (think nerds, hookers and blow) prices went from dollars per click to a penny per click or lower.  Many webmasters found themselves unable to pay basic living costs once the ad market crashed and some bailed for steady employment, others fought to get through it, and some simply moved in to their mother’s basement and continue to fight the good fight!  This was actually one of the major factors that led me to dump the tutorial portal side of P2L’s business (I still run the hosting) and focus on more productive revenue generation.  2008 was most definitely gone and would never be repeated.

Pixel2life daily traffic from better times - 30k visits a day!

I founded Pixel2life – it was my creation, my baby, my passion and my fulltime business for many years and when it changed so I could pursue new challenges, it was done so with the very best of intentions and was assured that my site was in good hands.  It pains me to see what has happened to my beloved P2L, the tutorial community and the sites I used to consider threats to my livelihood.  While I know there is nothing I can do for P2L at this point even if it handed back to me today on a silver platter, I will always value the MASSIVE amount of lessons learned in every aspect of web development and management that I carry with me today.

Another benefit from the demise of P2L is that I can impart some advise to you, my readers, to help you preserve your website and possibly your livelihood.  If you run or want to run a website and want it to thrive for years to come, here are 12 lessons from me to you:

  1.  Always try to gear your site to a particular focused niche and try to cater to a niche made up of a buying audience rather than an audience looking for something free.  P2L was geared towards people looking for free tutorials, so when it came to looking for ways of converting on that traffic, it was a nightmare.  Another site I ran that provided product reviews for a particular niche had 10 times LESS traffic than P2L, but actually generated about double the revenue. The people that used that website were looking to buy products and just wanted to find out of it was worth it… it’s not hard to convert on an audience that has one hand on the mouse and the other wrapped around their credit card.
  2. Know your niche like the back of your hand.  If you’re not an authority on your niche, your audience will know it and will look elsewhere.  Live and breath your niche and become the dominant name in that field – this was critical to both my tutorial company and my collectibles company.
  3. Write original content that has not been done to death.  Forget about aggregate sites in general - Facebook, Reddit and Google have killed most of those opportunities so focus on providing your own unique content that can’t be found anywhere else and you’ll find other likeminded people that want to digest it.
  4. Listen to your audience, they are telling you what your competitors are already working on simply by telling you what they want.  If you don’t do it, someone will – that’s actually why I started P2L to begin with.
  5. Learn everything you can about SEO, it’s really important.  There are simple factors in search engine optimization that can make a HUGE difference in how much traffic search engines send your way.  At the same time, there are fatal mistakes you can make on your site that can turn search engines away from you and could take months to recover even if you manage to fix them.
  6. Constantly question every aspect of your website to ensure you’re not instilling a sense of blind cruise control.  Don’t confuse this with indecision or questioning your business sense…  what you want to do is ensure that your site logically makes sense and your business model is relevant and effective.  Why does your site exist?  Does it make sense?  Why would users come here instead of a competitor?
  7. There’s no such thing as an auto-pilot site.  The second you take your foot off the gas and let the site run on auto-pilot is the second someone is taking advantage of your lack of interest to threaten your market share.
  8. Don’t be afraid of change and evolution of your site, the web and the audience.  As social media and user generated content continues to dominate the web, things like “I don’t need a twitter account” are emotion based statements founded on fear of change.  If you want to have a business online that thrives, you’d better know where people gather and then make yourself heard.
  9. Put yourself in the user’s shoes and pretend to search the web like a regular person who has never heard of your site before.  If you have a business called Joe’s Bowls in Sacramento with a niche site on decorative ceramic bowls, then no one is going to open up Google and type Joe’s Bowls if they’ve never heard of you.  Be realistic and search ‘ceramic bowl store Sacramento’.  Are you anywhere to be found in the search results?  Check out your social media channels and those of your competitor.  Who’s more engaging and why?  If you can afford it, hire some folks for a focus group and get honest opinions.  You would be shocked at what you find out.
  10. Manage your site like a project, with a clear charter, project scope, work breakdown structure with deadlines and milestones.  Have the capital required to hire a top notch developer if you want to do it right the first time and do not let ANYONE compromise your delivery dates.  The more your drag out and delay a project, the longer you delay building up your business and generating revenue.
  11. Easy or hard, your decisions should be based on numbers and logic, not emotions.  Don’t become so attached to something that you ignore the facts.  I have this as number 10, but it’s one of the most fatal mistakes a webmaster can make.  AB test everything, learn how to use Google Analytics and study conversion.  Your site is a business, and successful businesses have a proper business model, a P&L and management decisions are based of actual data.  If your site is on a downward trend, then you need to investigate and address it, not dig in and ride it out or stick your head in the sand.  Otherwise you could follow the big 3 in to obscurity.
  12. Love what you do.  If you’re going to run your own website and business for years to come, you had better love the subject matter.

Do you miss the good ol’ P2L days?  Have some thoughts on what I wrote?  Please share them by using the comment form below, I read everything you guys send me.

Thanks for reading!
Dan

14 Jun
2013

Fix for Samsung Galaxy Note II that won’t connect to PC via USB with Unknown Device Error!

I’ve broken free of the iTunes collar, the manacles of Mac and the yoke of iPhone madness… yes friends, I am back in the warm embrace of Android at last as I have now been moved to a Samsung Note II!  Despite the joy, there was one small itsy bitsy hiccup along the way and that was Windows 8′s absolute refusal to successfully install the drivers and let me browse my brand new Samsung Note II with Windows Explorer.

noteii_broken

Every time I would connect the cable to any of my USB ports, I would get USB Driver installation errors saying Unrecognized Device Error.  I tried everything I could find on the web to no avail, so I tried the most basic concept I could think of… I swapped out the cable.  The default white cable that came with the phone would charge the phone no problem connected to the PC, but would refuse to properly install the drivers.

Method 1 – Change the cable (it really works!)

I literally used a $1 OEM cable I bought from a dollar store years ago for an old Motorola phone.  Within seconds, the phone connected, correct drivers loaded and boom, windows explorer popped up with all the phone’s files available.  So there you go, before you try anything, swap out the cable!  If that doesn’t work, then I would suggest fiddling with the other solutions found online.

noteii_fixed

Method 2 – Don’t use a usb 3.0 port

Some folks have reported that using a USB 3.0 port on the PC in question may not work correctly.  Try using a USB 2.0 port instead if possible.

Method 3 – Ensure you have the right settings

By default my phone was already set to the right settings for USB file transfers so I’ll assume most of these ship with the same configuration, hence why I have this as method 3.  I found this on a forum and while it did not work for me, it seems a few other folks declared it a success.

  1. Launch the phone key pad on your note and press *#7284# (don’t forget to start with that * symbol!)
  2. When you press the last pound sign (#) this will bring up an option that will allow you to change your USB connection settings (modem or PDA) – change it to PDA.
  3. At the bottom there is a button that says Qualcomm USB. Click on it.
  4. In that menu click on MTP + ADB option.
  5. Save and reset.
  6. Wait for your phone to restart.
  7. Plug the micro USB cable to the Note 2 and the the other end to your PC or Mac
  8. Let your computer down load and install drivers.
  9. Once installing is done, unplug then replug phone.
  10. There should be a USB symbol on your phone in the status bar - click on it. It should ask if you wsnd to use mtp or ptp. Click MTP
  11. At this point your PC should open the phone’s folders in explorer similar to the screenshot above.
  12. Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight.

Remember, you do not need to use Kies or root your phone for this to work and you should not have to fiddle with manually installing and downloading drivers in Windows 8, it should work no problem as is.

Good luck!
Dan

9 May
2013

Corel Photopaint .nib Blood Splatter Pack v2 Released!

Another day, another .nib brush pack ready to go… here is the updated version of the Blood Pack with 148 blood splatter brush nibs ready to gore up your graphics in Corel Photopaint!  This is the last of the old brush packs for Corel Photopaint in the .nib brush area of the site that I needed to update, and I will now start creating all new ones for you guys as I get time.  Like Smoke Pack v2, this pack was created and tested in Corel x5.

blog_bloodpackv2

Description: Second generation .nib set of blood splatter brushes generated from several blood ABR files. This is a standalone brushpack and does not contain the default Corel nibs. Click here to download Corel Photopaint .nib Blood Splatter Pack v2. Installation instructions are here.
Download size: 17.7MB
Created: 05-09-2013

Enjoy and please comment and share below!
Dan

8 May
2013

Corel Photopaint .nib Smoke Brush Pack v2 Released!

Hi guys!  As promised, I am slowly replacing the old generation .nib brush packs for Corel Photopaint in the .nib brush area of the site and I figured we’d start with the super-popular smoke brushes.  I will be releasing the blood splatter pack very soon, so please stay tuned.  Please note this pack was created and tested in Corel x5.

blog_smokebrushesv2

Description: Second generation .nib set of smoke brushes generated from several smoke ABR files. This is a standalone brushpack and does not contain the default Corel nibs. Click here to download Corel Photopaint .nib Smoke Brush Pack v2. Installation instructions are here.
Download size: 5.2MB
Created: 05-08-2013

Enjoy and please comment and share below!
Dan

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