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Daily life

An email attack, a Hilton hack, and a few lessons learned.

I’d love to say it was a dark and stormy night, but the afternoon of August fourth started off like any other. I was busy working when I received an email on my personal email account, we’ve all gotten these sorts of emails, they say something like, “Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter, click the following link to confirm your subscription.”. I didn’t recognize the name of the newsletter, so I deleted the email and decided to get back to work. A few minutes later, I got another similar email and while I thought it was a bit strange to get two Emails from newsletters I’d never heard of before, I deleted that one as well. About ten minutes later, Emails wanting me to confirm my subscription to various Email newsletters and mailing lists were coming in by the dozens and my phone was going crazy pinging me with notification after notification. I had no idea what was happening, or why it was happening, or what to really do about any of it and so I started deleting Email after Email. It soon became apparent that Emails were coming in way faster than I could delete them; I was clearly under some kind of attack, for some reason I didn’t understand.

It can be scary when this sort of thing happens, unsolicited Emails coming in like a constant flood with no end in sight. I’m generally a pretty calm person, but I was feeling an increasing sense of panic: Would I ever be able to use my Email address, the one I’ve had for over twenty years again? Would I need to change my Email address with all my online accounts and services and if so, where would I even begin with that? After feeling completely hopeless about all this for a few minutes, I decided to become a bit more proactive. After all, this was my Email address and I was going to do whatever I could to defend it. First, I created a number of messaging rules to try and cut down on the incoming stream of messages. For those who may not be familiar, just about all Email services and applications allow users to create rules which can move or perform an action on messages based on their content or some other trigger. In my case, I created a quick rule that would filter any messages containing the words “click” or “confirm” or “subscribed” directly to my deleted items. I realized this was only a temporary fix as eventually I actually will want to subscribe to something and I’ll likely have to confirm that subscription, but for the moment, these rules had an immediate impact on cutting down the incoming flood and made me feel like I had a tiny bit of control over the situation. Between the multiple rules I created and manually deleting Email, I soon had my inbox in some semblance of order. By the end of the day, over 2000 messages were either deleted manually by me, or by the rules I created.

While most of the messages had to do with confirming my supposed subscriptions to various newsletters and mailing lists, I did also receive an Email from Hilton confirming my reservation for Friday evening. Figuring that this too was spam, and still terrified that I might need to change my Email address with hundreds of individuals and accounts, I deleted this message as well and didn’t give it another thought, that is, until I got a push notification on my phone from the Hilton app pertaining to my apparent up-coming stay. That certainly got my attention, and I opened the app to find that in fact I did have a reservation on my account for that very evening, at the Hampton Inn Birmingham/Trussville. According to the Hilton app, me, and another guest, with a name I didn’t recognize, had booked a room using my Hilton points and, to cover an additional $5 which my points apparently weren’t enough to cover, an additional credit card, also not mine. I immediately contacted the hotel directly and tried to explain the situation to one of the most unsympathetic people I’ve encountered in years. She told me that she encounters “people like me” all the time, people who come up with stories like this to try and circumvent the hotel’s last-minute cancellation/no refund policies. I explained that this was not the case here, but she had already hung up on me. I contacted Hilton’s customer service and after explaining the situation to two customer service agents, I eventually got one of them to understand that this was a fraud situation and I really needed to speak with a fraud specialist. Eventually, after explaining the situation yet again, Hilton finally opened a fraud case and told me I would hear something back in a few days. Not wanting anyone to get a free stay while the fraud stuff worked its way through the system, I again called the hotel directly and got the same unsympathetic woman as before, yay me. 😦 I let her know that a fraud case had been opened and explained that I was only calling to let her know in case someone actually tried to use the reservation. I certainly didn’t have to call the hotel a second time, I was just trying to do a good thing.

“I’ll let the front desk know.”, she said before hanging up on me for the second time.

Lessons learned

From all this, I’ve learned a few lessons which I’d like to share. First, to the lady at the Birmingham/Trussville Hampton Inn, not everyone is guilty until proven innocent. Sure, maybe you do get quite a few customers trying to circumvent cancellation policies, but taking a few moments to listen to me, and to look at the way this particular fraudulent reservation was constructed, might have helped you to see that this isn’t always the case. Having never encountered a situation like this before, I really could have used your help and guidance, not your judgement. If ever I find myself in Trussville, wherever that is, I certainly know where I will not be staying.

Second, no matter how many times we hear it over and over and over again, password security really does matter. Use strong passwords always and don’t be afraid to change them from time to time. If keeping track of multiple passwords is a challenge, know that there are numerous password managers available, (some free and some paid), that can help. Password managers can even help generate complex passwords for you; modern browsers even have utilities integrated to help make this task even easier. No matter what kind of password you might be able to come up with in your head, it’s probably not as good as generating unique, randomly generated passwords for each site, service, or app you use. Maybe the accessibility of various password managers might make for a good future blog post? Another good best practice is to enable 2-factor authentication wherever available. For those who have never used it, 2-factor authentication generally requires that in addition to providing your login credentials such as username and password, you must also provide a code which is sent to your mobile phone or other device. This additional code changes frequently and generally can only be used once. While this may seem annoying, the idea here is that even if a person was to obtain your username and password, such as in a data breach, they would not have physical access to the device needed to get the additional code. Ironically, I did have 2-factor authentication enabled on my Hilton account, but while it didn’t help in my specific scenario, it’s still a best practice that I highly recommend.

Third and probably most important, no matter how bad it may seem if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself in this sort of situation, try and remember that it’s not the end of the world, as I thought it might be for a few panicky minutes. I admit, it was scary watching Email after Email come in, with no idea of why or of what I could do about any of it. And the prospect of suddenly needing to change my Email address everywhere, with no plan in place, seemed absolutely daunting. Truth is though, this all would have been incredibly doable. Annoying, yes, but still doable. One thing that I’ve started doing which others might want to do as well, is to create a list of everywhere my Email address is being used, either as my login ID, or for communication purposes. The list is definitely not complete, but it gives me a place to add to as I think of other sites and services that might have my Email address on file. My thought is that if ever I want to change my Email address, whether planned or unplanned, I’ll have an organized list from which to start.

Ultimately, I’m still not exactly sure what happened or why. If I were to hazard a guess, it would be that somehow, my Hilton password was discovered on the “Dark Web”, and to mask an attempt to use my Hilton points to conduct a fraudulent transaction, a flood of Email was generated. Whether this was the intended tactic or not, it almost worked as had I not gotten the follow-up notification from the Hilton app on my phone, I would not have given the reservation confirmation Email another thought, figuring it was just one of many unwanted messages that flooded my inbox. This has definitely served as a reminder to me to be ever vigilant about password security, and I hope my writing this post will encourage others to do the same. Any tips or tricks you use to help with password management? Share in the comments as your solution might be the perfect solution for someone else reading this post.

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Android Discovery Uncategorized

It’s a boat! It’s a tank! It’s the physical description of the Nokia X100 budget phone

In my last post, I mentioned that I would provide a physical description of the Nokia X100, the budget phone I’m using to re-discover Android. As of this writing, T-Mobile offers the X100 for $252, however promotions can bring this price down even further.

When I first beheld the Nokia X100, my initial impression was one of solidity. This phone only weighs 7.65 Ounces, but somehow, it feels much heavier, possibly because of its aluminum construction. When I placed the phone on my desk, my immediate thought was that while empires may rise and fall, this phone will stay exactly where I put it, defying the forces of nature and time if need be.

The Nokia X100 display measures 6.7″ diagonally from corner to corner. In practical terms, this means that the display is larger than the decks of many cruise ships. A small aircraft could land on the X100’s display and easily have enough room to take off again. For those that are into specific measurements, the X100 measures 6.74″ long, by 3.14″ wide, by 0.36″ thick. I realize that phone size is a personal preference, but I find the X100 a bit too large for my liking: I often carry a phone in my pocket and use it one-handed, both of which are tricky to do with a device of this size. That said, if you prefer a larger screen, you will not be disappointed. Speaking of the display, the Nokia boasts a Max Vision HD+ display. I have no idea what that means, but it’s a highlighted feature, so obviously it must be important. 🙂

I absolutely love the way controls and ports are laid out on the Nokia. Along the right-hand edge is a volume control and also a slightly recessed button which serves as the lock/unlock/power button and integrated fingerprint sensor. Having the fingerprint sensor integrated directly into the lock button makes total sense to me since you have to touch that button to unlock the device anyway, why not have it read and verify the fingerprint at the same time? I don’t know what company was the first to integrate the fingerprint sensor into the lock button, my first introduction to this bit of awesome was with Apple’s iPad Air 4TH generation and ever since then, I’ve been wondering why more companies aren’t doing this; that Nokia and other Android manufacturers are doing this fills me with much joy. As a quick aside, many Android devices still have fingerprint sensors. For me, this is a major advantage because while I have learned to live with Apple’s Face ID, I have not learned to like it. Back to the X100: the right-hand side has the volume control and the power/lock/fingerprint sensor and that’s it. Along the bottom edge of the device are a speaker, a microphone, a USBC port, and a headphone jack. That’s right, in an era when most devices have done away with the headphone jack, the X100 still makes one available; it’s like coming home to an old friend. Along the left-hand edge of the X100 is a single button, a dedicated button to activate the Google Assistant. At first, I found it a bit disappointing that this button couldn’t be reassigned to some other application or function, but as I realized just how much I could actually do with the Google Assistant, I’ve come to appreciate having a dedicated button to activate it. There are no controls along the top edge, just solid aluminum, probably thick enough to come in handy during those times when you need to break your way through an ice jam, or hammer stone from a quarry. The back of the device is relatively flat with the only prominent feature being a slightly raised circular glass housing which contains the 48MP Quad Camera System.

One aspect of the 100 that I absolutely cannot fault is its battery life. I have tried and tried and tried to drain its battery and yet usually I’m the one who winds up drained and needing to recharge. According to the T-Mobile spec page, the X100 has a 4470 mA battery capable of delivering “up to 2-day battery life”. More specifically, they claim 25 hours of talk time and 39 days, (yeah, days), of standby time. I haven’t experienced this much battery life in a mobile device since, well since the last time I owned a Nokia back in 2005. Having enough battery power to get through my day has been a real challenge, often requiring me to bring along an external battery pack if I’m away from home for any length of time. With my not quite two-year-old iPhone 12 Mini, the low battery conversation goes something like this.

Phone, “Hey, alert! 20% battery remaining.”

Me, “OK, hang on, let me get your charger.”

Phone, “Hurry up, I was just kidding about that 20%, it’s actually more like 15% now.”

Me, “Seriously? How? It’s only been like five minutes since you told me you were at 20%.”

Phone, “Yeah I know, I just figured you could use some false hope in your day. 10% now by the way.”

I should note that I’ve been trying to get Apple to replace my iPhone’s battery, but apparently, it hasn’t lost enough total capacity yet. Put another way, I just haven’t suffered enough.

In contrast, the low battery experience with the Nokia is very different:

Phone, “Hey, just thought I’d let you know, my battery is at 20%.”

Me, “Oh shoot, I have a bunch of Apple chargers around, where the heck did I leave the USBC charger?”

Phone, “Hey, don’t stress, you can take the next day or two to find it, I mean any time this week is probably fine.”

There’s nothing more frustrating than running low on battery power and the idea of having a device that can get me through my day, while having enough battery left over to possibly power a small village, is a definite win.

There’s a few more aspects and specifications of the X100 that I should call out. First the processor, the X100 has a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 480. This is hardly the newest or fastest processor available on Android devices, but given the price point of this phone, it seems more than adequate. My usage and testing has admittedly been limited thus far, but I have not encountered any significant issues attributable to this processor. Another thing worth mentioning is that the X100 is a 5G phone meaning that the device can function on the latest mobile networks. More specifically, the X100 supports the following frequencies and bands — don’t worry if you don’t know what these numbers mean, basically, the phone works on a bunch of different networks in a bunch of different countries, with a bunch of different providers: GSM: 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 1900 MHz; UMTS: Band I (2100), Band II (1900), Band IV (1700/2100), Band V (850), Band VIII (900); 5G: n25, n26, n66, n71; LTE: 2, 4, 5, 12, 25, 26, 41, 66, 71; LTE Roaming: 1, 3, 7, 8, 13, 20, 38, 39, 40

Regarding memory, it is possible to expand the 128 GB of built-in memory storage with the use of a memory card, it’s possible to expand storage to 1 TB according to T-Mobile’s specifications. I don’t anticipate needing more storage than the built-in 128 GB, but it’s nice to know I have the option to add additional storage if I’m wrong.

I’m really pleased with the Nokia X100. While I personally prefer smaller devices, the X100 is a very solid phone at an extremely attractive price point. The X100 may not have all the bells and whistles found in higher priced Android devices, but when it comes to getting stuff done, the X100 seems more than up to the task.

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Uncategorized

Diving into Android, a journey of rediscovery

As those of you who may have followed this blog for a while probably know, every few years or so, I generally switch my primary mobile operating system between iOS and Android. I’ve done this for a few reasons, first because I feel it’s important that I keep up with how each operating system is evolving and second, … OK there really isn’t a second, I’m just a geek at heart and it gives me an excuse to play with the other operating system.

While I am not planning on actually switching from iOS to Android this time, there are a few reasons, beyond the geek thing, which have caused me to want to dive into Android again and better understand how that platform has evolved from an accessibility experience perspective. First, it’s been a few years and both operating systems have evolved quite a bit in that time. Many of the issues that caused me to switch back from Android to iOS have been addressed and I’m really curious to see what the newer experience is like. The second and more important reason though is that Android devices exist at just about every possible price point and I still don’t feel that this is truly the case with iOS. Don’t get me wrong, iOS devices are fantastic, but for many, they are still very unaffordable and with the cost of everything increasing, this becomes an even bigger challenge for many people with disabilities. This point was recently emphasized during a conversation I recently had. IN short, I was talking to someone about all the amazing things we can do with mobile devices and her comment was that she felt very shut out, shut out because iOS devices, even used devices, were beyond her family’s budget. The conversation quickly turned toward Android, but when she started asking about the capabilities of lower priced devices, I found that I really didn’t have any answers for her. Obviously so-called budget devices are not going to be the fastest and aren’t going to have the latest and greatest features, but can they work well enough to help someone not feel so “shut out”? The more I looked into this, the more I started realizing that yes, yes they probably can, but without getting my hands on such a device, it would be difficult to really understand what that experience might be like.

I’m starting my Android rediscovery journey with a Nokia X100 budget phone. As of this writing, the X100 is available from T-Mobile for a cash price of $252, however as with most devices purchased from a carrier, this price can be decreased with various offers such as adding a new line of service. I’ll cover my first impressions of the device in another post, but while this device certainly doesn’t sport all the latest and greatest features, I’m really impressed with just how many capabilities it does have, especially at this price point.

As always whenever I blog about something, my hope is that this will evolve into a conversation, a conversation that fosters learning and understanding. If I get something wrong, feel free to jump in and let me know. If I do something and you think you know of a better way, jump in and let me know that too.

I’m excited to see where this Android rediscovery journey will take me, and I thank you for coming along.

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Tip: Does the FaceTime control bar sometimes get in your way? There’s an accessible way to dismiss it.

One of the new features introduced in iOS15 is this call control bar which provides FaceTime audio controls across the top of the iOS screen during a FaceTime audio call.

Screen shot of Steve's very messy iOS home screen with the FaceTime control bar across the top. Visible controls, from left to right, are leave call, open messages, Audio route, Mute, camera, share content.
Screen shot of FaceTime control bar

I actually really like this new control bar because it gives me the option to mute/unmute from wherever I am and for me, this is much faster than having to switch back to the FaceTime app each and every time. That said, there are times when this control bar gets in the way. For example, sometimes I’ll be in an application and I know there’s a “back” button, but I can’t get to it with VoiceOver because it’s obscured by the FaceTime audio control bar. I mentioned my frustration about this to a sighted friend and she told me that visually, it’s possible to swipe this control bar away. At first, I thought we might have an accessibility issue of some sort as I could not find a way to do this when using VoiceOver. Eventually, I remembered the two-finger scrub gesture and like magic, away it went.

For anyone unfamiliar with it, the two-finger scrub gesture is a VoiceOver command that can be used in a few different ways depending on context. IF a keyboard is visible, the two-finger scrub gesture will dismiss it. If an application has a “back” button, the two-finger scrub gesture will perform that action. The easiest way to think about the purpose of this gesture is that it can help you get out of something by dismissing a control, navigating back, closing a pop-up or menu — in many ways, similar to what might happen when pressing the escape key when using a desktop application. To perform this gesture, place two fingers on the screen and move them quickly in a scrubbing motion such as right, left, right.

Putting it all together

If you ever have a reason to temporarily dismiss the FaceTime Audio call control bar and need to do so using VoiceOver, here’s how to do it.

  1. Touch the FaceTime Audio control bar with one finger, this will set VoiceOver’s focus to the correct place. This is important because otherwise, VoiceOver’s focus will remain on your home screen or on whatever aplicationp screen you have open and the scrub gesture will not dismiss the control bar.
  2. Perform the two-finger scrub gesture. If successful, the control bar will go away. IF not, double check that you have correctly set VoiceOver focus to the control bar as just described. If the two-finger scrub gesture isn’t performed correctly, it is possible that focus may inatvertantly move away from the FaceTime Audio control bar.

A few more things to note. First, I don’t know of a way to permanently dismiss the FaceTime Audio control bar and so you will have to repeat these steps whenever you need to dismiss it. Second, if you dismissed the control bar and then want to have it back, you can make it reappear by double tapping the call indicator located on the iOS status bar.

I really like the new FaceTime Audio control bar and find it super useful to have call controls available regardless of which app I’m in or which screen I’m on. For those times though where it might come in handy to move that bar out of the way, I’m glad there’s an accessible way to do so.

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Sharing: New trend in tactile currencies

I recently came across this fascinating post which I am sharing because I think it might be of interest to my own readers.tactile markings on currency is something that has fascinated me for a while and this post is a fantastic explanation and historical account of it. I definitely encourage anyone with interest in the subject to check it out and to follow this blog.

Among the most recent tactile currency markings, a new trend is emerging: indicating the value using dot patterns. The idea is not new, it has been …

New trend in tactile currencies
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On this Thanksgiving, a quick note of thanks

As we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the US today, I wanted to send out a quick note of thanks to all of you: for reading my words, for providing encouragement as I continue my blogging journey, and for engaging in some really amazing conversation along the way. I have a lot to be thankful for this year, but there is one group of folks I want to recognize in particular: those developers who work extra hard to ensure their apps are accessible.

There are many developers who work tirelessly to make their apps accessible, not because they necessarily have to, but because they simply realize it’s the right thing to do. There are many accessibility resources out there that can help developers make their apps accessible, but finding those resources, understanding them, and figuring out how to implement them can be a real challenge, especially for developers with extremely limited resources.

I’d like to encourage everyone to think about an app that makes a real difference to them, whether for accessibility or other reasons, and consider writing the developer a positive review of thanks today. I’ve spoken with many developers who have indicated to me that while it may seem like a small thing, positive reviews make a real difference. First, the more stars an app receives, the more likely it will be discovered by others. Second, a kind review is a great way to show appreciation in a public way. And finally, your review might make a difference to someone who appreciates the hard work a developer has put into making their app accessible — I know I’ve felt more comfortable purchasing apps when I see a review like, “works well with VoiceOver” or “very accessible”. Writing a quick review is a great way to say thank you, it’s something that makes a real difference, something that is appreciated, and something that only takes a few minutes to do.

Again, thank you all for reading my words, supporting me, and for continuing the conversation. To those who celebrate, have a happy Thanksgiving.

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Daily life

A new day, a new week, a new job

This post is actually a few weeks in coming, but I can finally announce that I have accepted a new job, a position with HealthPartners, as their Digital Accessibility Lead. I’m really excited to have this opportunity because I feel that I can continue making a real difference in the accessibility of healthcare and based on my own past experiences, I know how incredibly important that is. I actually held this same position once before as a contractor, and so for the first time ever, I’m also a bit of a boomerang. 🙂

What I really wanted to write about today though is *why* I decided to change jobs. Indeed my former employer offered excellent pay, fantastic benefits, and being able to work remotely — from just about anywhere in the US — was a definite plus. The thing is, I just wasn’t happy and wasn’t feeling very fulfilled on a personal level. This came to a head for me when I looked at my calendar for an up-coming two-eek period and realized that it contained nothing that would bring me any kind of joy. At first, I felt guilty about feeling this way. After all, I was very fortunate to have had such a great job, was working with great colleagues, and I certainly had nothing to complain about where pay and benefits were concerned. Not being happy though is a very powerful thing and I started to realize that it was impacting my non-work life in addition to my work one. This made sense to me when I considered that I spend more time working than doing anything else in life, arguably including sleeping. I realize that work can’t always be fun and games, but upon realizing that the thing that consumes the most time in my life was no longer making me happy, I realized that it was time to make a change, even if that change could be a difficult one.

I held off publishing this post for a while because I wanted to give myself some time to evaluate whether this job change would really solve the problem of how I was feeling and I can honestly say that it has. Sure this new role will have its challenges and there will be aspects that will cause their own struggles, but isn’t that the case with every job? Ultimately though, I am happier and being happier at work means I’m happier in life. I’m finding that I’m calmer, I’m more optimistic, I feel able to more easily face challenges both professionally and personally, and I actually look forward to going to work after the weekend.

If I could say one thing to my readers based on this experience it would be to never feel guilty about how you feel. I realize that changing jobs isn’t an easy thing, and it may not even be a practical thing, but none of that invalidates whatever you may be feeling. The logistics of finding a job, interviewing, being turned down for positions, interviewing again, debating whether or not to take a pay cut — and ultimately taking one, were certainly challenges, but for me, the biggest and hardest challenge was taking that very first step and admitting to myself that I needed to make a change. The way I figure it, I can’t be authentic with the world until I’m OK being authentic with myself, and that realization alone is proof enough that I made the right decision for me.

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Quick tip: how to get rid of the iOS bubble sound when typing or using Braille Screen Input

I’ve been using Braille Screen Input on iOS for years, as it helps me to type more efficiently. One thing that has bothered me though, whether typing with Braille Screen Input or the on-screen keyboard, is this bubble sound that VoiceOver occasionally makes. While that sound does have a purpose and an important one at that, I find it distracting and have always lamented that I didn’t have a way to disable it. Little did I know that there actually is a way to disable it.

I received many replies on Twitter, some from people experiencing the same frustration as me, and others, offering a solution I likely never would have found on my own.

As it turns out, there are actually a lot of sound customizations that can be made in VoiceOver, many of which are off by default and so I never even knew they existed. Not only that, but it’s possible to preview each of the VoiceOver sounds which is a great way to learn what they actually mean. I recorded a brief video showcasing these settings in the hopes it might be useful to others.

Demo of the VoiceOver sounds dialog

Disabling the VoiceOver auto fill sound has made a world of difference for me. Now I can use Braille Screen Input without being distracted every couple of words. In fact, I’ve written this very entry solely using Braille Screen Input.

I would like to thank Rachel, Matthew, and Kara, for getting back to me so quickly with what proved to be the perfect solution. Twitter can be an awesome place for conversation and I’m glad these awesome people are a part of it.

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The easiest site migration ever.

For years, Steves.life has been a self-hosted blog, however I’ve been toying with the idea of migrating it to WordPress.com. There are many reasons for my decision, the main one being that I can focus on writing and not have to play engineer when something gos wrong. One other really neat advantage of hosting with WordPress directly is that if you receive my posts by Email and want to comment, you can simply do so by replying directly to the Email. I have no idea how many people may or may not use this feature, but it’s always bothered me a bit that readers needed to activate a link in the email just to write a comment, especially given that just replying would be so much easier. Hey wait, not currently subscribed by Email, but wish you were?

The real thing I wanted to write about today though is just how easy the migration process actually was. I decided to move everything over the Labor Day weekend figuring that I would have extra time to fix anything that might go wrong. What I didn’t anticipate though was the process taking less than an hour. WordPress publishes fantastic, easy-to-follow documentation on how to migrate a self-hosted site to their platform. Even better, with paid plans, WordPress “Happiness engineers” are available through live chat to assist with the entire process. And yes, WordPress really does call them Happiness engineers which might just be one of the coolest job titles ever.

I’m really excited with just how smoothly the migration process went and am excited to start utilizing some of the features that weren’t easily available to me before. I still have some small things to configure, but for the most part, everything is up and running, that is, assuming this post publishes successfully. 🙂

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My final thoughts as I wrap up the Ultimate Blog Challenge for August, 2021

As August draws to a close, I wanted to blog about my final thoughts regarding the Ultimate Blog Challenge. The Ultimate Blog Challenge challenges blogger to publish a new post every day for the month of August. I decided to participate in the challenge in part because of the challenge aspect itself, but also because blogging is something I love doing, but have been hesitant to actually do. I’m the type of person that will start a draft five times, finally settle on a sixth beginning, doubt myself half way through, rewrite everything and long after I’ve finished, wonder if what was written was actually any good.

When I started the challenge on August 1, I was not sure if I would manage to publish a single post, let alone more than one. The first time I saw the “Your post was published successfully” message, I was absolutely in shock. The second time I saw it, I thought that it was just the initial momentum of starting the challenge, but when I saw the message for the third time, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, I could actually get thoughts out of my head and into written form without it being a huge struggle. And so the challenge progressed, one day at a time, with each day’s post getting a little bit easier to write and publish. Over the course of the challenge I blogged from my computer, from my iPad, and even from my phone building confidence that I could actually do this from different devices, while using different assistive technologies, even while on the road. In addition to helping me become a more confident blogger, the challenge has enabled me to meet some great new people, to learn some great new things, and engage in some great conversation. All-in-all, this has been a wonderful experience and I’m really glad I decided to step out of my comfort zone and give it a try.

Unfortunately, I did not publish anything for the past three days and so technically, while I have a few drafts in progress, I cannot say that I successfully blogged every day for the month of August. While I am admittedly a little disappointed in myself, I’ve come to realize that for me, the true challenge was not in finishing the month, but in actually beginning it. After all, if people read and find value in my posts — or even just a little humor — it’ll be because the post is written and published, not because someone is verifying how many days in August I did or didn’t write. There are no rewards for this challenge (at least none that I know of), nobody’s tracking anything, it’s really just a way to motivate people to get out there and blog, and to encourage bloggers and readers to connect with one another.

Now that August, and the challenge are over, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I want to move forward. While I don’t plan to try and publish a post every day, I’ve come to realize that blogging is indeed something I enjoy, and the writing/publishing process is far less scarier than it was when I began. I also continue to see the value in sharing and in conversation and to that end, I am planning to make some changes to the blog to hopefully make the process of commenting and engaging with posts a little easier. There are still many things I would like to say and many thoughts I would like to share, and so while the Ultimate Blog Challenge is at its end, my enthusiasm for continuing on my blogging journey is certainly not.

If you’re reading this post and thinking that you might like to start a blog of your own, the best advice I can give you is to go ahead and do it. There are many different blogging platforms and many tools that can be used to help with the logistics of writing and publishing (future blog post maybe?), but ultimately, as I’ve learned, the biggest challenge is just getting started, taking that first step and writing something down. Don’t worry about if what you have to say will matter to anyone because you already know it matters to your most important reader, you. Also don’t think that you have to be highly technical to write a blog, some of the coolest blogs I’ve come across during this challenge have been written by non-technical people on non-technical subjects and I’ve enjoyed reading every word. Ultimately, you have thoughts and dreams and experiences and have lived a life that is uniquely your own and blogging is a way for you to share that as only you can.

I want to thank everyone for reading my posts, for taking the time to comment, and for offering words of encouragement along the way. To the new bloggers I’ve discovered throughout the challenge, I want to say how glad I am that you’ve been willing to share and say how much I’m looking forward to your next posts. Thank you all for reading my blog, and please stay tuned as there’s much more to come.