We’re Hosted On Amazon… Notice Anything Off?

January 30th, 2017

Hey, last night my team worked on transitioning JibberJobber from our physical server to the Amazon Cloud.  This was a huge transition, and with so many things that could have happened, we might have missed some things.

We spent hours before and after the transition testing, but if you find anything that isn’t working the way it should, please email myself (Jason@JibberJobber.com) and Liz (Lizbeth@JibberJobber.com) immediately so we can get right on it.

Thank you!

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Reminder: Scheduled downtime Sunday at midnight

January 27th, 2017

In case you didn’t see, JibberJobber will be offline for at least an hour, starting Sunday night at midnight EST.  More here.

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Sunday Night: JibberJobber Transitions to Amazon Servers

January 26th, 2017

Almost eleven years ago this year I got laid off… just a few months later JibberJobber launched. At first we hosted on GoDaddy’s servers, but the site was just too slow and kept going down.  It was a mess that only lasted a few days.  I then arranged to host JibberJobber with a friend, who was a brilliant server admin from my last company.  That worked fine until he had a change in his career and wasn’t doing hosting anymore.  That’s when we switched to another friend I met while networking… and we’ve been in their server farm for years.

Sunday night, though, we move to Amazon’s hosting services.  Why didn’t we do this eleven years ago?  Because I didn’t think Amazon was ready to host JibberJobber.  Too often there were articles about how Amazon’s cloud went down, and tens of thousands of websites went down with it.  I figured hosting in-house, with our own physical server, would give us more of the control that we needed.  We had already proven with GoDaddy’s package that JibberJobber was too complex for a general hosting solution.

Obviously Amazon has matured a lot in the last eleven years. Big, huge websites host there, and I haven’t read about downtime for years. That’s not to say I’m confident there won’t be problems, but I think the problems that Amazon might have are a better risk than the issues that we currently have. Not necessarily with the company we are hosting with now, but just with owning our own server, and managing all that goes along with that.

All this is to say that Sunday night JibberJobber will be down for about an hour (if all goes well), after which JibberJobber should look the same, but will be housed in a different place.  What does that mean for you?

It should mean better security. For the last couple of years we have been hammered by bad guys who have been trying to take JibberJobber down. Sometimes they have been successful, and it’s been super frustrating to deal with. Attacking in the middle of the night, or on a three day weekend, was especially not fun, as it made us be more vigilant and reactive all the time.  There’s a special place in h e double hockey sticks for the people who do this.  We implemented the automated security we could, but there are still ways to get around that. My understanding is that Amazon hosting services provides some extra security that will help this fight.

It should mean a faster JibberJobber experience. Or server isn’t too shabby, but Amazon has some options that allow us to ramp up the hardware when things seem slow. Combine that with some some technical changes we are making with how we have things organized, at the server level, and we hope to see much less latency in the user experience.

It will mean that our developers have more time for YOUR experience. Whether it’s improving a particular workflow (or process), or working on a particular slow or cumbersome experience, moving to this solution and bringing on a dedicated server admin will mean my development team doesn’t have to spend time on server stuff, and can focus on development.

More reliability, faster user experience, and better development… all are good things.  In the back of my mind I keep hoping that this is the right solution.  Time will tell.

More of the back story: this switch has been talked about for years… and the last few months have been nonstop work to make it happen.  The amount of work, and the level of detail, to move from one hosting environment to another is crazy.  Lot’s of moving parts, lots of planning and coordinating and testing, and really, many points of failure.  Here’s to a problem free transition!

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Sometimes, You Need Real, Professional Help

January 23rd, 2017

I am a do-it-yourself kind of guy.  I want to figure out how to do, make, and fix things. I want to learn how things work.  I’m not the most handy guy around, but I do like understanding what’s going on, so I can maintain or improve things.

When I broke my ankle I thought it was a sprain. After two weeks I gave in and went to an urgent care clinic to get it checked out. Turns out my sprain, which I was optimistic that I’d recover from without paying for, was a break… severe enough to have to have surgery.  That conclusion came through three different clinic visits (because I kept getting referred to the next guy), and cost $600.

Without a doubt, the only thing for me to do is to lie on a table and have a surgeon cut me open and put screws in my bones. Like these videos (they are kind of nasty). That surgery happens in a few hours.

This is not a do-it-yourself situation.

When I lost my job, I was pretty sure that I could do it (find my next job) on my own. And you know what? I DID!

Oh wait… actually, I didn’t.

I spent months doing the wrong things, spending my time in bad places, with marketing material (think: resume) that was worse than average (average is already pretty bad)… wondering what was wrong with me, and getting more and more depressed.

I NEEDED REAL, PROFESSIONAL HELP.

But I was too proud, and cost-conscience to look for it. I was also confused as to how to make sure the person I found to help me was really qualified, and the right person for me.

So, I did it on my own. And failed miserably.

My job search would have been shorter, more focused, and more hopeful with the right help.

Don’t get me wrong… I feel guided to have started the path of conceptualizing JibberJobber. It was eleven years ago this year, and while it’s been hard, it’s also been an amazing journey.

But, I don’t recommend the path I took to anyone.  Entrepreneurship, sure, but I’d do it differently.  And when I talk to people who want to do it, I share my advice.

Back to job seekers, though, I’ll tell you, do all that you can do, and do the right things, but if there’s any chance you can get professional help, DO IT. That might come from an alumni career center, or a job club, or, there are hundreds of trained, certified qualified professionals that can help you.

No, they are not cheap, but they also are in business to get you back to work.  On the flip side, some are more affordable than others.

Do yourself a favor… if you are at that point of frustration, and you’ve done what you know you can, but aren’t sure what to do next, start to look for professional help.  The three groups I’ve been involved with over the years are The National Resume Writers’ Association, Career Directors International, and Career Thought Leaders. Each of those sites have a link to find professionals.

Once you do your research, and are ready to reach out, make sure you ask the professionals the right questions.  <– read that post!

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Are you asking the right questions? #ankle

January 20th, 2017

“Hi, I broke my ankle and know I have to have surgery. I’m self pay (or, cash pay)… can I ask you a few questions?”

This is how I started the phone calls to surgeon offices when I got back from seeing an orthopedic doctor.

“Sure…”

“First, do you have a discount for self-pay, or full payment before the surgery?”

Yes, of course.  All of them did, except for one.  The discounts for this ranged from 20% (the most common) to 40%.

DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU GET A DISCOUNT IF YOU PAY IN FULL, ON THE DAY OF SERVICE?

Insurance companies don’t want you to know that.  They don’t want you to know that there are other ways of paying for medical care.

They also don’t want you to know that they never pay full price – they “negotiate” (or bully) the providers to discount the service price…. a surgery I had four years ago saw 50% to 75% discounts, if you paid in full.  Do you know what that 50% to 75% represents?  The gross inefficiencies of dealing with insurance companies.  Talk to any doctor, or anyone involved in medical billing, and ask them how insurance impacts prices that you pay.  It is disgusting.

Oh sorry, I was on a soapbox for a bit there.   Let’s get back to the point of this post.

Oh wait, I’m not sorry.  You see, many of my readers are unemployed, and don’t have insurance through an employer.  COBRA is so expensive I think it is criminal.  And ACA, or Obamacare, is great, but if you make a certain amount, you don’t get any discount, so the price of insurance is more, in many cases, than a mortgage.  So yeah, on this blog we’ll talk about HOW to pay for things, like surgery, when you are unemployed.

Again, back to the point of THIS blog post: asking the right questions.

My second question was: “Can you give me an idea of the cost of surgery for a displaced medial malleolus fracture? It’s eight to ten millimeters displaced.”

The answer for the four I called the first day was “I can’t tell you any costs unless I have a CPT code.”

Well, of course I don’t have a CPT code.  And each of the calls were going nowhere.  That didn’t help my attitude any.

Sometime during my nap I realized that I was asking the wrong questions.  So the next day my calls in the morning went like this:

Hi, I broke my ankle and need to have surgery. I’m self pay, and was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me?” “Sure, I’ll do my best…” “Great. First, do you have a self pay, or cash pay, discount?

This is an easy question to answer… instead of asking them something that required a CPT code, I ask them something they can answer off the top of their head. The next questions were the same kind of easy:

When could I get in for an evaluation?” If it was two weeks out, then I wasn’t going to pursue them.

From the date of my evaluation, how far out would surgery be?” This gave me an idea of whether I’d be waiting for a month to fix this problem, or if they were able to prioritize me and get me taken care of quickly.

Can I have the surgery done at [my favorite surgery center]?” This surgery center is awesome, much less expensive than a hospital, and get this, gives a 75% discount for payment in full on the day of the service. WOW.

This round of calls went MUCH better than the day before because I was asking the right questions to the right person…!

Do you see where I’m going with this?

You know what the WORST question a job seeker asks?  It’s any variation of this: “I’m looking for a job, do you know of anything?” Or, of anyone, or any recruiters, or any openings…

This is THE WORST question. It’s like asking a surgeon’s admin how much a surgery costs, without giving them CPT codes.

What are your CPT codes?  They are SPECIFICS.

What are you looking for?

Where?

In what industry?

In what company(ies)?

What job titles are you interested in?

You see, when you ask some variation of “do you know of any openings?” You are asking THE WRONG QUESTION.

So, change your questions.  Ask easy questions.  Questions that the people can answer.  The first few might not lead to a list of openings that you would love, but they will start you down the right path.  As you go down that path, you’ll establish relationships, and build trust, so that when you ask other questions, harder and maybe more specific questions, the people you talk to will have better answers.

So how did my morning of phone calls end?

I asked the easy questions, and got the right answers (to those questions).

Did I learn anything?

YES.  I learned that one office has a staff that was really nice and didn’t treat me like I was burdening them.  They gave a vibe of “we respect you as a human” (and we want your business). The others?  They treated me like I was the IRS trying to set up a time to audit them.  Well, not that bad, but they didn’t give me an impression that I’d have a pleasant experience as their customer.

BONUS: The really nice office was so cool answering my questions, I decided to give it a shot.  I asked “Can you give me a ballpark idea of what this is going to cost me? I won’t hold you to anything, but I’m just wondering if this is a $5,000 thing, or a $20,000 thing?”

Her response?

Way different than any other response from anyone else (which was, I can’t tell you with a CPT code).  She actually told me, the buyer, how much a general, simple surgery would be.  That was my ballpark idea.  That was what I, as a consumer, wanted.

I asked the right questions, and finally got to the answer I most wanted.  And guess what?  She won her doctor a new client, probably for life.

Ask the right questions to get the right answers!

 

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I broke my ankle.

January 19th, 2017

Monday I have surgery.  And here I thought it was just a ligament :(

I’ll be honest, when I got the diagnosis I was ticked and a little depressed.  And then I came home and took the longest deepest nap I have taken for a long time.

Today I met with the surgeon (after having already had two other meetings to get to this point), and my surgery is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Why was I ticked? Because this is NOT how I planned on spending the first part of this year. I was going to do other things, like build a wall in my basement, work in my new shop, play around with the house we moved into in November, continue my exercise program, etc.  But since January 2nd I’ve pretty much been laid up in bed, with my ankle elevated.

ankle_2_marked

Why was I depressed? Same as above, plus I thought I had been healing for the last 14 days, and it turns out the main issue wasn’t being healed.  Oh yeah, there’s the whole money issue… my heavens, how much would a surgery cost?

Ticked + depressed + immobilized = really deep and satisfying nap.  I still woke up grumpy, though.

Why didn’t I go in earlier? Because I didn’t feel like paying $300 to be told “oh you just have a sprained ankle… you need to do the RICE method.” (which is what I did).

I’ve sprained my ankle before… I kind of know the drill.

But this time, no… it was much worse than a sprained ankle.

I have learned a few things during this journey… I’ll share those in some upcoming blog posts.  For now, I’m going to rest… all of this typing is exhausting!

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Healing Hurts

January 16th, 2017

A few weeks ago I went downstairs, when no one was there, and gave our new kickbag a good kick.  When my son kicked it, the house would shake. I wanted to give it a try.

So I kicked it kind of hard, and nothing happened. The house didn’t shake.  Truthfully, the bag didn’t even move.  “Wow,” I thought, “that is heavy!”  Lesson learned: the kickbag is not for me.

Fast forward a few days and we’re in the basement, working on unpacking and moving things around (we just moved here a few weeks ago).  My son says “Hey dad, you should kick the kickbag.”  “I did already. It didn’t even move an inch!”  “Come on, kick it and let me see.”

So, I positioned myself, hoping that I wouldn’t twist the knee of the leg I was standing on, and gave a pretty good effort at kicking the bag, hopefully moving it more than an inch or two.  I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

The good news is that the let I was standing on was just fine.  Nothing twisted out of place.  But the pop/crack sound from my ankle, and the accompanying shock of pain, told me that I had made a mistake.  I was so focused on one part of my form that I didn’t think about where my foot impacted the bag. Turns out, kicking a kickbag (or, a cinder block wall, which is what the bag feels like), near your toes can cause some real damage.  Not to the bag, mind you.

What happened was that my leg kept moving forward kicking and, but the foot, from the tip of the toes, stopped at the bag.  And then ligaments said “you idiot! POP!”

And here we are. Two weeks in bed, with a few more weeks to go. The bruising patterns have shifted over the last two weeks.  Mobility has improved greatly. Swelling has gone down a ton.

BUT IT STILL HURTS.

Certain things hurt less… but there is still pain.  Based on past injuries I figure I’ll be walking okay in four more weeks, but still have pain. And I’ll be careful doing anything that would stress my ligaments. I don’t want to re-injure anything.

Behind all of that pain, healing is happening.  I’m not saying I like the pain. I’m not really embracing the pain.  I just realize that this is a weeks-long healing process, and pain is involved. Even though pain is a big part of that, and easy to focus on, I need to patiently acknowledge that healing is happening. I don’t feel healing like I feel pain, but that doesn’t make it less real, or less important.

This, my friends, is like what I went through when I got laid off.  It was painful… for a long time.  Even now, when I think about how it all happened, and why it happened, and the unfairness of it all, and how it impacted me and my career and my relationship with my wife, and my finances, and even my confidence in my professional ability… I still feel the pain.  Sometimes it feels like anger.  Sometimes it’s sadness and disappointment.  But it’s still there.

Has there been healing?  ABSOLUTELY.  

If you are in the throes of pain from losing your job (and your income, and your identity, your purpose), let me tell you that through the pain, healing is happening.

Healing, for me, came because of time.  “Time heals all wounds,” they say.  Time doesn’t erase all wounds, but it sure has a soothing way of decreasing the hurt.  It’s been 11 years.  Yes, I know… I should build a bridge and get over it.  But I’ll tell you, when something impacts you to your core, the way that did for me, you don’t just get over it.  But it’s not nearly as sharp and painful as it was the first year.

Healing, for me, came because of alternatives. Dick Bolles once told me that having alternatives gives people hope. And hope was a big part of my healing process.  When you don’t have alternatives, and you are hopeless, you can’t heal nearly as well or fast.

Healing, for me, came when I was able to rethink what my value was in this world.  As a breadwinner, my value was largely centered around my job and job title. It was my identity. It defined my place in my social circles.  It was really cool to say “I’m the general manager of my company.” What an ego trip.  When I got laid off, all of that haughtiness went away, and I found myself floundering. Who was I? I didn’t know!  During the time I was figuring out what I would do moving forward, I had to come to terms with who I really was.  And I realized I was much more than a title… even if the title was a big one. Stephen Covey talked about having faulty, untrusty centers.  A job title is definitely a bad center, and it took me losing mine to realize that I needed something much better.

Healing might come to you through any of those, or through something else.  Your journey might be different than mine.  But I want you to know that healing will happen, even if it doesn’t seem like it.  Even if it takes a long time, it happens.

A few years back I was camping with some friends. One guy was a pharmacist at a hospital. He worked with ER doctors and neonatal doctors, in high-crisis situations. I asked him what the most amazing thing he had learned, having worked in that environment for so long, was.

His reply was that he was amazed at the human body’s capacity to heal itself.  People coming into the ER with the craziest, seemingly fatal issues, and with some help, and time, they could actually heal.  Think about the miracle of that… broken bones, removed organs, seemingly hopeless situations… and given the right care and time, total healing.

My friends, I’m here to tell you, as broken and destroyed as you might feel, healing is happening.  Embrace it, have hope, and in time, you’ll be better than you ever thought you could be.

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Friday the 13th: Jason Gets Laid Off

January 13th, 2017

Yup, it was 11 years ago, Friday the 13th.  Last day of my job.

Driving home I distinctly remember feeling the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. The problems from my last company (I was the general manager and there was a lot of turnaround that needed to happen) were not my problems anymore.   What a relief.

The worry and fear was also setting in… but this was the beginning of the road for me.  JibberJobber was only a few months away… little did I know how my future had really changed on that Friday the 13th.

I wonder what your personal Friday the 13th marks the beginning of?  Something great, I’m sure!

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JibberJobber Speed Issues Update

January 12th, 2017

Thanks for your patience as we work through some speed issues we’ve had for far too long. This has been very frustrating for my team, not to mention expensive.

Just today I was reading an article on my local news site about hackers.  There’s been plenty of talk about hackers, whether it’s because of the password leaks because of hacks into LinkedIn, Yahoo, and the hundreds of other high profile sites/cases, or because of the hacker influence on the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

Hackers seems to be a far away thing, not really impacting our day-to-day life (that’s arguable, I know).  But it has definitely impacted me, my developers, and my users, every single day.

Just yesterday we had a pretty light day… only a few thousand hacking attempts were made.

Only a few thousand.

It made our server slower, because instead of just serving our users, it had to address the hackers requests.  So, users write us and report that it takes 20 or 30 seconds for a page to load.

That is ridiculous, and unacceptable.

My team gets distracted because I say “stop what you are doing and let’s address this.”  That means that what they are working on gets put on hold… and JibberJobber evolves and improves slower than it should.

This problem is frustrating and expensive.

It is also demoralizing to everyone involved.

We have a plan moving forward, though.  It’s like Plan B, but really, Plan L or J.  We’ve been working on this problem for years.

I think this is the right plan, though.  We have a new server admin involved, and will be switching JibberJobber to Amazon’s hosting environment. That makes me nervous just typing it, only because when we first launched JibberJobber Amazon was having all kinds of reliability issues… it just didn’t seem ready to host our stuff yet.

But I think it’s time.  We’re moving forward on switching to Amazon, the pioneer and leader in cloud hosting. Inherent in that move should be always-the-best hardware, as well as anti-bad-guy software to keep the hacking down.  Those are two great benefits of the move.

In addition, the new server admin will be working on finding and identifying any place that he can help, including speed optimization, security, and other stuff (contingency, code delivery,  and other things the developers will know about, but users typically won’t see).

I hope that this change brings noticeable differences… faster JibberJobber, more reliable uptime, etc.  I appreciate your patience as we’ve worked our way through this, and look forward to having my developers spend more time on making JibberJobber better, and not as much time on reacting to bad guys.

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JibberJobber now always https (aka, “secure”)

January 10th, 2017

JibberJobber launched 11 years ago this year.  Back then, I had some reservations about SSL (aka, https, encryption, secure, etc.). Because of my roots in web development, I was concerned about having too much of the site going through the encryption process, which means that every single thing that gets “served” to you has to go through an additional process…. which means it takes extra time to serve every single page.

Back in the days of slower internet connections and slower computers, it was a legitimate concerns of web developers from yesteryear.

I should note that there were two very specific places where we did encrypt data: when you logged in (so your username and password were always encrypted) and when you upgraded (so your credit card information was encrypted).  But, we’d then switch you back to unencrypted.  We also have had a link so you could force SSL whenever you wanted.

But, of course, things have changed.  Internet connections are faster, computers are faster, servers are faster, and the overhead of serving encrypted data became negligible.  Bad guys have gotten worse and users have become more sophisticated.

If you notice some of the websites you frequent, you’ll see that they are ALWAYS in encrypted mode.  And now we are too.

Always.

jibberjobber_secure

More good changes are on there way… stay tuned.

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