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MindMyHouse News 9 September 2005

by Susan Holtham, 10th September 2005

Welcome to this third edition of our community website newsletter. Gee have six whole months really passed since we first launched our little house sitting website? We ask if you want to be able to post photos in your advert; the webmaster tweaks the site’s design; it’s poll time for home owners; we invite you to be profiled in our Community area; and the editor does a quick survey of the pros and cons of the world of web-based email accounts.

Posted in: MindMyHouse News2005

Welcome to this third edition of our community website newsletter. Gee have six whole months really passed since we first launched our little house sitting website – the time has really flown hasn’t it? (No – says the exhausted bleary-eyed editor).

My last newsletter was a bit techie and overlong; hopefully this one will be more of a puff piece that you can enjoy with a coffee at your computer. In this edition we ask if you want to be able to post photos in your advert; there’s a summary of the webmaster’s latest tweaks and twiddles of the site’s infrastructure and design; it’s poll time for home owners; we invite you to be profiled in our Community area; and the editor does a quick survey of the pros and cons of the world of web-based email accounts. Again to those 300 or so people who became MindMyHouse members in the last five weeks – aloha!

Photos in your adverts

A few house sitter members have written to me on the topic of including their photos in their sitter available adverts. When we planned the site we considered this issue and thought that photographs don’t actually tell home owners much about what potential house sitters have to offer. I know that some of our competitors do allow members to post their photographs as part of their online advert. We’re still in two minds about the whole issue – what do you think? You can vote on this question at the following URL:

http://www.mindmyhouse.com/advice/polls.php#2

Members who are very keen to post their photographs with their adverts are welcome to include a URL to their own photo gallery and/or personal webpage in the body of their advert. (Note that this link can’t be made active for security reasons).

A tweak and a twiddle

A new house sitter member wrote in some distress as she found herself a bit stranded on the website after saving adverts to her personal shortlist. The webmaster unfurled his red cape (really a soggy towel) and created some new clickable navigation for her (and others) to easily jump back to their original search return after saving an advert to their shortlist (without having to use the back button on their web browser). Try saving an advert (any one will do) to your shortlist to check out this new site feature.

Poll time for home owners

Home owners – do you prefer to contact house sitters directly or would you rather advertise your house sitting assignment so that house sitters can come to you? Well this is the 54 thousand dollar question isn’t it? I’ve been having a lively discussion with one of our very experienced and successful retired house sitter members on this very topic. Jim insists that the majority of home owners prefer to advertise their assignments – I think the reverse. We’ve set up a nifty little poll in order to try and capture this information from you, our valued home owner members. If you’ve got something to say on the subject I am poised over the computer to read your impassioned emails. Or if you’ve only got five seconds to spend on the topic you could share your opinion with the world by voting in our poll at the following URL:

http://www.mindmyhouse.com/advice/polls.php#3

Your fifteen minutes of fame – member profiling

I was enjoying reading a collection of house sitter members’ profiles on a competitor’s website the other day and I thought of you, our intrepid house sitter members! Do you feel like being profiled? By that I mean would you like your name, photo and story about your life as a house sitter to feature on our blogsite in a new section (so new it doesn’t exist yet) we may call ‘house sitters extraordinaire’ or some such. I would be interested in featuring those house sitters here with a special story to tell. You may have discovered a whole new life in a caretaking role, you may be on a quest for self-enlightenment, you may have fallen in love with a hitherto neglected part of this world while house sitting, you may have found your ‘higher purpose’ on assignment. Sorry but this isn’t the place to try and advertise yourself and your range of paid house sitting services. Having said that, having a profile online (think of it as your own super-sized, illustrated sitter available advert in our Community area) may make more home owners want to contact you directly!

To see those house sitter member profiles I mentioned visit the following URL:

http://www.caretaker.org/profiles.php?ID=profile10#profile

Your email address needs to be 100% reliable

I know I’m always banging on about the subject of the reliability (or otherwise) of the email address you used to register with MindMyHouse. But to gain the most from our online matching service it is critical that you can rely upon your email address to deliver every message into your inbox – every time! In the second edition of MMH News I railed against spam blocking technology that may be blocking our emails to you, our valued members. The following is a little survey of web-based email account providers we like (bravo!) and those that we think may be letting our members down (boo!).

survey results
Here’s the statistics on which email account providers our members are using.

Bravo! Yay!

Yahoo: What can we say about this grandmammy of free email account providers. With 2gb (that’s two gigabytes – or 1000 times the storage in a basic Hotmail account) of storage as standard we can’t speak highly enough of this free web-based email provider. Your inbox will never be unavailable again. Yahoo!

Gmail: Google’s latest bid for world domination is a big and beautiful free web-based email account. Of course, it only offers the massive 2gb of storage with each account so it can send its bots roaming around your archived emails to show you targeted advertising every time you login. The service is somewhat revolutionary with a unique search function and archiving system but there’s a catch: you have to be ‘invited’ to join. Hmmm.

Fastmail: This new player on the scene offers 10mb storage with its free accounts with no advertising (apart from a tagline). Its paid packages seem to have all the bells and whistles for high-end email users. Could this be you?

Ekit: A little Aussie battler that hardly figures on the international stage but I thought I’d give them a plug here. The free account comes with an adequate 10mb storage as standard. I’ve outgrown my Ekit account but with no advertising (apart from a tagline and its connection to a well-known travel publisher) it has served me well over the years.

Boo! Hiss!

Hotmail: No no no. If you’re not from mainland USA please don’t be tempted to use a Hotmail address with MindMyHouse. Hotmail allocates a DISMAL 2mb of storage to each account holder not from mainland US (but a fairly substantial 250mb to those members from mainland US). If I had a dollar for every ‘inbox unavailable’ message that has bounced back to me from a Hotmail account I would be living on a Pacific island by now. Not only does this service block new messages into your inbox once you’ve exceeded your 2mb storage limit they will begin to delete stored messages on your behalf. Yes everyone knows the Hotmail brand but using a well-known provider provides no practical benefits to the user. Comes with flashing fluorescent advertising.

Lycos: Lycos email accounts suffer from the same fatal flaws as Hotmail accounts. Five megabytes of storage in an email account isn’t enough for any modern cybercitizen! Beware the flashing ads which can cause fits and seizures.

Verizon: An American telecom that offers email accounts (with 30mb storage as standard) as part of a paid package. I have been the victim of Verizon’s ‘white list’, which is a completely over-the-top validation system it offers members to fight their private ‘war against spam’ so I have a grudge against this email provider. Verizon are at the centre of a recent spam-blocking scandal where the company thought it could casually block ALL of its members’ email from Europe into the US as part of its self-styled war on spam. It thought its members would thank them for it but actually they’re suing. Run don’t walk away from this email account provider.

AOL: Another monolithic American Telecom that offers free email accounts as part of a larger play for world domination. The problem with AOL email accounts and the AOL web browser is that they seem to have been built with no regard for compatibility. In short, AOL technology is built on squares (to use a metaphor) where everyone else on the planet uses technology based on circles. MindMyHouse would like to support AOL where possible but the webmaster is finding this very challenging to do. One of our members using AOL as his internet service provider (ISP) was seeing a whole different version of our website on his screen – minus all the functionality! Best avoided.

It’s no problem to change the email address you use with your MindMyHouse membership. Just login to the site using your old email address. Choose ‘update my contact details’ from the left-hand menu, then type in your new email address where required. (Be especially careful to type your new email address in correctly because if you make a mistake, your next attempt to login to the site will fail.) Then scroll to the bottom of the page and choose ‘save’ and it’s done.

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!