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MindMyHouse News 23 July 2005

by Susan Holtham, 24th July 2005

The second issue of MindMyHouse News (23 July 2005) takes our little site to five months old. This issue is not as revealing or as readable as the first. However, if you’re interested in our exhausting drive around German-speaking Europe, our success at finding a great house sitter through the site and the nuts and bolts of website upgrades between 9 May and 23 July then click to read more!

Posted in: MindMyHouse News2005

MindMyHouse News 23 July 2005

Dear MindMyHouse members,
More news on the site, our service and all things house sitting. We’re now five months into the roller coaster ride that is community website ownership. I’d like to extend a warm hello to the 225 members who joined since I last wrote. Welcome!

We’re back!
We’re back from a little jaunt (3000 miles in three weeks!) around German-speaking Europe in our RV (really a small commercial van made cosy). To those people who wrote in that time requesting customer support – sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Please be assured that the timely and attentive customer support service our members are used to has been resumed!

We advertised for a house sitter to mind our little rundown London flat for the three weeks while we were away. I was impressed that four people contacted me through the site in as many days. We gave the job to a lovely German woman who had a nice inexpensive holiday here with her daughter while we saw her country. Arriving home to a pile of sorted mail, a clean flat and flowers on the table was very nice thank you!

Members who joined before 25 May will need to re-set their password.
I know I’ve already sent a broadcast email out to members on this subject but it’s worth repeating here.
Due to a recent system upgrade by our web hosting service provider all members who joined before 25 May 2005 may need to re-set their password, if you haven’t done so already. We’re sorry for the inconvenience! It’s a quick and simple process to re-set your password but vital to re-gain access to your account area on MindMyHouse. Anyone who registered with us after 25 May is unaffected.

1. Simply copy and paste the relevant URL below into your web browser or click on ‘forgot password’ from the house sitters or home owners account area.

For sitters:

http://www.mindmyhouse.com/sitters/sitter_accounts/forgot_password.php

For owners:

http://www.mindmyhouse.com/owners/owner_accounts/forgot_password.php

2. Type your email address into the relevant field and click on ‘Reset my password’.

3. You’ll instantly receive a temporary registration password in your inbox. This password is meant to be used only once to get you logged into the site with your usual email address.

4. Copy this temporary password and paste it into the Member login area on our homepage. Now you can login with your usual email address.

5. As soon as you’re in your account area don’t forget to select ‘change password’ from the menu to change it back to something more memorable.

Now you’re back in business! Sincerest apologies from the team at MindMyHouse.

You can now tell us if you charge fees for your services.
The whole issue of whether or not our members charge fees for their house sitting services is a thorny one. When we planned and built this website we had a vision of happy house sitters and home owners getting together to freely exchange services for accommodation the world over. While this is happening it’s obvious to us that some of our members do charge for their house sitting services (at least some of the time).

Due to feedback from some of our home owner members who were unhappy to have been contacted by house sitters looking for paid assignments we’ve decided to make the whole issue much more transparent. When you create or edit your sitter available advert you’ll notice that we’ve put a new field in the template asking you to tick either ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘sometimes’ in response to the question ‘Do you charge for your services?’. Please note that when this upgrade was rolled out every answer was defaulted to ‘no’. You’ll need to login to your account and select ‘sometimes’ or ‘yes’ yourselves if this isn’t true of your services.

When discussing ways of dealing with this issue we decided that we didn’t want to be in the business of selectively cancelling house sitter memberships or sending out rude emails to those members who charge for their services. All we ask is that house sitters are very open and honest from the beginning about exactly what it is they are offering home owners. I acknowledge that there is a place for commercial house sitting services for those short term, high-responsibility, hard-to-fill jobs. It was after reading Carla Thornton’s delightful story on her joy at finding a live-in parrot sitter for her beloved Louie (who charged only US$100 per week for her services – of course I would have flown to San Francisco to house sit Louie for free – ed) that I began to reconsider my position on the whole issue

You can read Carla’s story at the following URL: http://mindmyhouse.com/community/?p=39

And many of our house sitter members only selectively charge for their services depending on the job.

Your email account provider may be blocking our emails to you.
Yes spam is a scourge – but emails from MindMyHouse (while they are often automatically generated) aren’t! In an effort to combat spam many email accounts (especially those connected with work places and academic institutions) have very efficient spamblocking technology in place that may be inadvertently preventing you from receiving important emails from us. Private free email service providers also offer various levels of spam filtering that may be doing the same damage.

I had an unpleasant experience recently trying to get through to a member with a Verizon email account. After submitting all of my personal and business details to Verizon (including my ISP number) I was granted permission to contact the account holder after a five-day waiting period. No home owner on this planet would be that determined to make anyone an offer of a house sitting assignment!

If anything in the following list seems to apply to you your email account provider may be using spam blocking technology which is preventing our emails from reaching you:

- If you’re reading this but didn’t receive the recent corresponding newsletter alert in your inbox.
- If your requests for customer support seem to be going unanswered.
- If you set up an alert some time ago but haven’t received a single email telling you that a new house sitter or house sitting assignment has become available in your preferred areas.
- If you registered with our service but the validation email never arrived.

So what’s the solution? Avoid using your work or academic email address with MindMyHouse as these accounts are most likely to have over-zealous spam filters. It’s best to use a free public domain account such as those available with Yahoo, G-mail, Hotmail and Ekit. Also, (this may sound counter-intuitive) don’t take advantage of any spam filtering technology on offer with these accounts. Your email address can’t actually be harvested from our website as all contact details are hidden behind a password-protected firewall. So as long as you don’t write your email address in the body of your advert (and you don’t publish that address anywhere else on the web) you’re safe from receiving the endless Viagra adverts (aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh). Note that you don’t need to re-register with our service to change your email address. Simply login to your member account area and choose ‘update my contact details’ from the menu. Type your new email address into the relevant field and it’s done!

Home owners can now see your preferred locations at a glance.
Home owner members told us that they wanted to see your preferred regions and cities ‘at a glance’ without having to click on your adverts and read them individually. We’re always listening to what home owners tell us so we’ve done what they requested. If you perform a search for house sitters available in any given country you’ll see just what information is shown in the ‘list view’ of the search return. Note that if you didn’t include any text in the preferred regions and preferred cities fields of your advert template the default text will read ‘open to offers’. This may not reflect your availability accurately so you may want to login to your account area and add some more appropriate text to these fields.

Delivering results to our members
We’re working very hard behind the scenes to improve our page ranking, thus allowing home owners and house sitters alike to find us easily and register with our site in larger and larger numbers. Don’t worry – as Rachel Hunter (Rod Stewart’s ex-wife) once famously said (while shampooing her hair) ‘It won’t happen overnight but it will happen’. We’re confident that we will have a viable presence on the three main search engines by the end of 2005 (We’re already doing well on MSN and well-ish on Yahoo. Don’t get me started on Google.) So don’t give up on your MindMyHouse membership! It may be quiet now, but 2006 will bring many more house sitting opportunities for our members. (And don’t worry about your free annual membership expiring, it will be automatically extended for another year.)

Cheers everyone and happy house sitting! (or good luck with your sitters)

Susan Holtham
aka the team at MindMyHouse

About the author: Susan Holtham

Susan Holtham

The editor at MindMyHouse is a fun gal, intrepid traveller (in a former life), holder of three passports and enthusiastic house sitter. A book editor by trade, she did a three-year stint with Lonely Planet Publications at the start of her career. During her time at LP she shepherded many titles through the production process. Baaaa-aaaa-aaaaaa! Now that two gorgeous little girls call her mummy she's a very busy woman tending to their needs and to the occasional cries for help from among our 5000+ membership. No really, she's always keen to help!