Carrie Dils wrote a post on why mixing email with hosting is a terrible idea. She’s getting some glory from it, and frankly, I’m a ittle jealous. 😛 I also know that the biggest follow-up question is going to be something like “yeah, but how do I separate them?” So in this post, I’m going to show you how by giving you a step-by-step tutorial on how to migrate your email to a provider like Google Apps.

I don’t want to click. So tell me why this is a bad idea.

The TL. DR. version is this.

  • If one goes down, they’re both going down
  • Your host may not prioritize email delivery
  • Things may not always be rosy between you and your developer
  • Changing hosts is easier when email’s not involved
  • Email might not be your host’s biggest strength

OK, that’s not exactly the TL. DR. I added an extra in there. But that extra is something important to consider.

So how do I move my email?

I’m going to assume you clicked the link and read the post, have decided that it’s a good idea to separate mail and hosting, and have picked one of the choices Carrie recommended. Now, here’s how you move your email.

I’m using Google Apps for this example, but the process is typically the same no matter which service provider you choose.

It boils down to MX entries and priorities

Wwhen migrating your email, you’ll be provided with a series of MX records that you need to add to your domain via your DNS settings. Here’s Google’s list. There are two parts to these entries. The server address and the priority.

MX stands for “mail exchange,” and these records tell the Domain Name System (DNS) which mail server or servers are responsible for accepting mail on behalf of a recipient’s domain. If multiple servers are available, they are prioritized according to preference as part of the record.

When you send an email, a piece of software called a mail transfer agent queries DNS to find out where that email is supposed to go. the mail exchange records provide that information. They also provide, in the form of a preference, which server should be tried first and, if there are multiple servers, the order in which they should be tried. The lowest number is the highest priority.

To configure your MX records, you’ll first need to get your mail provider’s records and priorities. Then, you’ll need to log into your DNS provider’s website (in a lot of cases, it’s the same as your domain registrar, such as Godaddy or Namecheap, for example), and add the records and their priorities. In some cases, you’ll need to add a “time-to-live” value which is typically one hour or 3600 seconds. Then, save the new entries and wait for propagation. This can take up to 72 hours at maximum but can also happen sooner.

Doing this ensures that your email stays tied to your domain while giving you the advantages of separating your email from your hosting, thus avoiding all the bad things I listed above. So if you haven’t done so already, start that move. It’ll save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

Maybe one of your goals for 2015 is to start blogging. After all, you have stories to tell, or you want to help people, or you want to grow your business, or you want to do all three.

Or maybe someone’s convinced you that blogging more in 2015 is a good idea, and you’d like to try it out.

So where do you start? Once you’ve decided you want to blog, how do you make that more than just a great idea that never sees the light of day? Here are ten free resources you can use to make your blogging idea into a reality.

1. Don’t just write when the muse strikes

Whether you publish every day or not, spend some time writing every day. Start with five minutes. don’t worry about correcting anything. Just write. Or dictate. Don’t worry about whether or not you’re sitting at your computer. I like to take my phone out with me in the morning while I drink my coffee and either write down ideas or hit record and just start talking. I’ll also do this while I’m cooking or doing laundry. Then, I take those files and sift through them later to see if I have ideas that I can turn into posts. After you’ve become comfortable with writing for five minutes a day, then bump that up to ten. Then fifteen. Keep bumping up that time until you get to the longest amount that will work with your schedule and won’t become something that you put off because other things get in the way. make sure it’s a set time every day, but also be flexible so that you can move that time around or split it up so that writing doesn’t become a time vampire or that you’re skipping it because of prior engagements.

2. Think about the stories you have to tell

Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has some knowledge or experience that can help someone else solve a problem. Maybe someone’s asking on Twitter how to do something with a particular piece of software. Instead of answering them on Twitter, write a post on how to perform that task. Or give a short answer on Twitter, and then provide a link to a post you’ve written. As long as it meets the need, they’ll be thankful and share what you’ve given them with someone else.

3. Read posts by other people. Then, write your own from your perspective.

Sometimes, you’re looking at social media and you come across one of those great posts. But maybe you think they’ve left something out, or you can cover the same thing from a different angle. Write that post on your own blog, and link back to the original to provide context. At first, this may seem difficult, because you want to make sure you don’t just regurgitate what the other person has written. Admittedly, it’s hard for me sometimes too. So I’ll often read a post more than once so that I can tease out my own angle.

4. Turn Questions into Answers with Posts

I touched on this above when I mentioned Twitter interactions, but it deserves a section of its own. In the blind community, discussion mailing lists are still popular, and they generate a lot of questions. If you’re on one of those lists, and you run a blog, consider answering some of those questions in posts and then sending the link to the list as part of the discussion. It gives people another place to look for the answer, share and bookmark, along with the list archives which can be overwhelming depending on how long the list has been around. If you’re not part of a mailing list, and you see a lot of questions being asked in comments, (several Genesis tutorial sites get a lot of that), consider answering the question on your own blog and then pointing to it in the comments of the post where the question is asked. Make sure not to be spammy with either of these methods. When you link to something you wrote on a list or in someone else’s combox, make sure it’s relevant to the discussion going on.

5. Now let’s talk about the actual schedule

Eventually, you should come up with a fully fleshed-out editorial calendar. But for now, focus on how often you’d like to write and that will be consistent. That might be every day, every week, or every month. The point isn’t how often, but how consistently you publish. Admittedly, if you space out your publishing more, it’s easier to write long-form content, and you can make good use of wordPress’s scheduling feature. But you can also make use of that feature if you want to blog every day. Once you’ve started working on the daily writing I mentioned above, start thinking about how that writing can be turned into posts. Then, start scheduling. You can also write those perspective posts and schedule them so they don’t get published the same day as the original, thus not intruding on the other post’s limelight. Same with the question and answer posts. the point is, while you’re writing, spread the ideas out. You may have three great ideas in one day. Instead of publishing those three ideas on the same day, schedule them.

6. Join a Blogging Challenge

Sometimes blogging can feel like a lonely task. But there’s a strategy you can use to gain more exposure for your content, along with support from other bloggers. You can get both by joining a blogging challenge. There are challenges running at just about any time of the year. National Blog Posting Month runs, well, every month, and anyone is welcome to sign up, post, read and share. It’s a great way to make connections. There are prompts provided, but you don’t have to stick with those. There’s also the Daily Post, which shares writing prompts and runs free writing and blogging courses and has a community to go with it that you can join and participate in. Most challenges have a presence on social media as well that you can use by hashtagging your posts or sharing on Facebook as part of groups set up for the particular challenge.

7. Join a Blog Carnival

Blog carnivals are round-up posts focused on a particular topic. Bloggers submit posts on the topic and then the blog that runs the carnival links to the posts submitted as part of the round-up post. Every carnival runs on a different schedule, but they can also be a great way to gain exposure and traffic, plus make connections. They’re also great if you don’t want to join a challenge but you do want to participate in something similar or support other people doing the same thing you are. They’re also free and focus on one particular prompt or topic at a time. Sometimes the topic/prompt never changes, but other times the carnival runner may pick subtopics for each episode of their carnival while focusing on the wider theme. You can find a list of blog carnivals at the Daily Post. They have a page devoted to blogging events and you don’t need to blog at to participate.

8. Don’t be afraid to share your opinion

Everybody has an opinion on something. If handled with care, opinion posts can be an excellent method to further your blogging goal. You won’t always get a positive response, but that’s fine too. Responses and whether or not you agree with them can be posts in themselves. So can reflections and revisions of oppinions. You can also write posts to persuade others to share your opinion. As long as you do this sparingly, it can fit in nicely with everything else you’re writing.

9. don’t just write

Since I’ve focused a lot on writing, you could be forgiven for thinking this is the best or only way to blog. But sharing photos, video or audio content are also great strategies. If you use a service like AudioBoom to chronicle your thoughts or participate in discussions, you’re already blogging. The next step is to share your audio or video posts to your own site. They can either stand on their own or compliment what you write. And sometimes they can be easier than writing.

10. Just because it’s not long doesn’t mean you shouldn’t publish it.

Long-form content takes, well, a long time to write, edit, and polish. If that kind of content is your thing, and you’re focusing on a less-frequent blogging schedule, then go ahead and stick with that kind of writing. But you may be able to express an idea in one hundred words. if so, then post that too. Post it along with your long-form writing. But don’t avoid it just because it’s not a two thousand word essay.


Blogging is an excellent idea for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above and more. If it’s one of your goals for 2015, use it freely, or use another guide. Either way, I wish you the best of successes and I’m looking forward to what you have to share.

Hotlinking is what’s happening when someone links to resources such as images, video, or audio files you host without your permission. It’s equivalent to someone using your utilities by plugging into your electrical outlets and then running up the bill, which you then have to pay. Even if your web host is selling you unlimited bandwidth, it still has consequences. First of all, the bandwidth (and storage or anything else unlimited they’re selling you) is never unlimited. If you’re hosting a lot of images or audio, and other people are linking to those files, your host is serving them every time someone else clicks on links from other websites, or every time someone else visits those websites that are using your images.

If your bandwidth usage is going through the roof, or even if your bandwidth usage seems out of the ordinary, your web host will do one of two things: Politely upsell you to get you to buy a more robust hosting package or shut you down.

It’s not a pleasant spot to be in when you either have to spend more money to deal with the hotlinking plague, or move hosts. But there are ways to protect yourself.

Stop Hotlinking with .htaccess

If you google hotlink protection, you’re going to find a ton of resources. This can become very confusing very fast if you’re new at this and you don’t know what to look for. it’s also mind-numbing if you do. Fortunately, there’s a very thorough resource with code examples you can use. I recommend you read the whole article, and so I’m not going to post any shortcuts. It will give you an understanding of what you’re doing when you choose to copy and paste the relevant code into your .htaccess file. I will tell you, however, that the file you need to be adding the code to goes in the root of your website. This is probably the most comprehensive strategy I’ve found and I use it myself. This strategy will work on any web host that gives you FTP access. So free hosts are likely out. Also, this only works on hosts running Apache, which is most of them.

Hotlink Protection Using Nginx

Since Nginx doesn’t use .htaccess files, you have to go about protecting against hotlinking differently. One method of protection is to add a location directive to your Nginx configuration file. Here are some example directives.

Depending on your setup, either of these methods will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. And if you’re thinking of taking a shortcut by linking to someone else’s files without permission, please consider doing something else like hosting any images or audio or video you intend to use on your own hosting account.

A word about embeds

Of course, if you’re embedding a video from Youtube or somewhere similar, you have permission. Services such as Youtube or Instagram or AudioBoom or anyone that offers embed code does so specifically to allow people to embed content on their websites. They also bear the costs of the bandwidth. Hotlinking is only a problem when you find websites that don’t offer embed codes or otherwise give permission to link to their files, and you link without asking first. So don’t worry about using your favorite Youtube video. And if there’s an image you want to use, contact the site’s author and ask. Odds are they will probably not host the image for you, but they will freely allow you to download it and use it on your site as long as there’s no copyright involved.

Christmas time is here again, and with that comes a ton of “ultimate list posts” full of tips for decorating your site for the season.

probably the most popular decoration tip is to let it snow all over your site. As a matter of fact, WPMU Dev just pushed one out the door that contains mostly snow plugins for WordPress that are completely free.

I promise. Even though I’m Jewish, I don’t hate Christmas. But snow on your site, (specifically the moving variety) is bad.

It creates a horrible experience for a lot of people, causing things like seizures and migraines, and dropping screen reader users into screen-refresh-hell.

If you must let it snow on your website, please do it responsibly. An even better option would be to forego the snow altogether and consider something a little less flashy like Christmas-themed still images with alt attributes.

Be as decorative as you want. Just don’t make it snow. By not doing so, you’ll ensure that all your readers and customers can enjoy a festive season.