Better Group (And Personal) Password Management with KeePass & Dropbox

As a web development firm, we frequently have to manage passwords and other credentials for multiple clients and their projects. This includes everything from SFTP and SSH information, database passwords, DNS managers, domain registrars, and everything else under the sun. We’ve moved to a policy of good password practice across the board at the urging of common sense, and one of our former developers, Alan Hogan. (Our previous system was not sharable, and wrought with other shortcomings.)

We needed a password system that was secure but which would allow us to share client passwords across our team, while ensuring limited access within the organization, and unique, complex passwords every single time. We ended up making use of the wonderful KeePass tool, synced through Dropbox.

KeePass is a wonderful password manager (though not as much for Mac or Linux users, for reasons I’ll get to) in general. And it has some pretty great features, some unique to KeePass, others relatively standard fare:

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Posted in: Cool Stuff, How To

Anatomy of a Smart Survey: Netflix Email Surveys

netflix_surveyNetflix is a company built entirely around efficiency. When you deal with the volume Netflix does, every penny, every action, every little detail counts immensely. Take their mailer: Over the years, it has evolved from a cardboard-backed affair, to a paper-based piece with a foam insert, to today’s design: thin, simple paper. (They determined the breakage rates didn’t decrease enough with the padding to make it cost-effective.)

It’s no surprise then that they’d take the time to get surveys right. Netflix (like most companies trying to make a profit) has a need for constant feedback from their customers. They want to know how their distribution system is working, where there may be bottlenecks, and other things like how their new instant streaming service is performing. Instead of producing staid, time-consuming, multi-page affairs, they send an email with a single question.

In my most recent survey, that question read “How was the picture and audio quality?” Simple enough. The real stroke of genius lies in how the user is asked to respond: Three links are displayed, each with a different quality option: “The quality was very good”, acceptable, or unacceptable. You click the link and your survey response is sent. Done. That’s all there is to it.

The survey requires exactly one click to respond to. Users aren’t asked to login, fill out demographic data, attempt to remember details they aren’t likely to, or even read anything to qualify their answer. They are given three relatively unambiguous options and clicking the link from within the email submits their response.

Since not every company has the luxury of being able to boil their customer feedback loop down into simple multiple choice questions, let’s look at a few key points almost anyone can replicate: Read More »

Posted in: Design, How To

Why you really, *really* should document your code properly, inside and out

Coders like to code; coders don’t like to write. It’s no secret that thorough and approachable documentation is a rarity in the coding world. Despite its necessity for the adoptability of a given software package, finding good documentation is notoriously difficult. I’ve seen “documentation” consist of a simple phpDocumentor run. To the folks at Magento: this is NOT DOCUMENTATION!!! It’s merely is an incomplete reference guide!

Maybe it’s because I’m not the greatest coder this side of the Mississippi, or perhaps because I actually have an interest in writing English, but I, for one, like to write documentation. In past projects, I have begged bosses and project managers to allocate time for me to document the code that I have written (every time I was denied…by the way). [Not the case here, for the record. We love documentation and Brandon's new. He'll come to see that. :-) —Ed] Good documentation, whether for internal applications or publicly available code bases is nearly as important as the code itself. Here’s why, after the jump.

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Posted in: Development, How To, Rants