Written by Sean Valant
Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Please see Part I, right here. As our story continues, I am now on the chat floor speaking primarily on the phone with Customers, though also taking random chats as well between calls. Starting to get into the swing of things, but still not completely at ease. I’ve managed to not break anything or anger anyone, so I figure I’m doing well enough. Many of our Customers are familiar with the email@example.com email address, which is directly read by Management and is intended for use any time anyone has any complaints or praise about anything at all related to their HostGator account or the related support they’ve received. Thus far, I have assisted a few Customers who took the time to email in to let my Supervisor know about the quality of my work. It’s always nice to have nice things said about you by strangers.
Having never provided technical support to the general public in any capacity before, those first few days were interesting and full of constant learning. I wanted to do the best I could and maintain HostGator’s stellar level of support, but at the same time I lacked the actual experience which is what ultimately leads to complete confidence. Time would solve this circumstance, but time takes time. I can honestly say that working on the chat floor was fast-paced and exciting and there was truly never a dull moment.
I decided to query some veteran Gators on their initial impressions from when they were brand new Hatchlings, fresh out of training. The consensus seems to be pretty similar to my own experience. Presenting, in alphabetical order, some initial impressions from my fellow Gators:
Cody (presently a Linux Admin): “When I first started as a Chat Tech, I was kind of overwhelmed by the huge amount of information, but very excited by the huge learning opportunity in front of me. I did all I could every day, studied the KnowledgeBase, and life got easier and easier each day.”
Dominic (presently a Sales Representative): “It felt like my first time swimming. I was scared, splashing around trying to quickly find answers to questions I just learned. As I was flailing wildly, I held on to whomever was there: Quality Assurance, Level 2 Chat Agents, Supervisors… whoever didn’t mind that I had a deathgrip on their arm”
Kristi (presently a Retention Specialist): “I was so nervous. Fortunately the resources, tools and overall assistance provided allowed me to quickly grow to where I became much more confident and comfortable working directly with the Customers.”
Russell (presently a Linux Admin): “I felt overwhelmed at first, but the more I worked with customers, the more knowledgeable I became and the easier and more enjoyable the job became to me.”
Zach (presently a Linux Admin): “It was like playing that lightening reaction game: each time you start a new chat it’s panic until the Customer describes the problem… and then you realize that yes, you can actually fix this.”
It seems that almost all of us start out with a certain degree of cold feet, but ultimately we have all risen to other positions within the company and made room for dozens and dozens of new Hatchlings that will follow in our paths. Speaking of new Hatchlings, this is a picture of our Austin Training room on the day this post was written. Behold, the future generation of HostGator, likely presently feeling that initial nervousness of which we’re speaking:
It should truly go without saying that most of our interactions with our Customers are overwhelmingly pleasant, but anyone providing front-line support will always have an interesting or unusual interaction. One of the Customers that sticks out for me was an individual who initially took a shine to me and began requesting me each time time they called. This particular Customer wound up calling up to discuss a myriad of topics, including their recent doctor appointments and on-going health issues. Another call was to request my assistance in repairing a hardware issue on their home computer. We have a very soft “scope of support” here at HostGator, but troubleshooting home PCs (or doctor appointment visits) is simply not a service we can really provide, with our apologies.
Before too long, I would be promoted to a position where I no longer actively accepted telephone calls, thus was the end of my interactions with that particular Customer… at least as of this writing, but one never knows. As for the position to which I was promoted, we will certainly come to that as we further speak on this topic.
Once again, if you have any questions at all about our front-line Agents, or anything at all that has been discussed up to this point, please leave your question in the comments section and I’ll be happy to elaborate.
Written by Sean Valant
Monday, December 10th, 2012
Monetization of a website can be tricky business. Some individuals seem to have the golden touch, while others simply can’t manage to profit the proverbial two pennies to rub together.
Fundamentally, monetization is the process of converting website traffic into revenue. Theoretically, there are many ways in which to accomplish this; we’ll discuss a small number of them. Be aware that the stories of failure, on the whole, outweigh the stories of success. Without risk though, there is no reward; some people are able to make their living entirely by the means mentioned below. At the very least, perhaps you can end each month with a few more coins in your pocket.
Clearly one of the most popular means of generating revenue with your existing website it to sign up for a service like Google Adsense, whereby you add additional code to your website that facilitates the placement of contextual ads within your site, in hopes that your visitors will click on them. How much money you stand to make depends on how much traffic your site generates and how many of your visitors do actually click on any given ad.
Banners are essentially clickable graphics that you place on your website that advertise and link to another site, which then generally pays you for each visitor that clicks the banner. Conversely, some agreements are contingent upon the person not only clicking the banner, but then also making a purchase on the target website which could then potentially earn you a commission for that sale.
Essentially what affiliate programs do is to pay you to refer people to them. As an apt example, HostGator has a rather successful affiliate program whereby we pay you to refer Customers to us: http://www.hostgator.com/affiliates.shtml …you simply place a link on your website that someone then clicks on to sign up with HostGator, and we then pay you.
If you feel the quality of your website is worthy of people simply handing you money, then by all means you may certainly ask for donations. Paypal makes it incredibly easy for people to give you money with the simple click of a mouse.
There are numerous other means of generating revenue online, some more respected than others. For example, you could run pop-up/pop-under ads, but those are generally considered a more of a nuisance than anything else. You can offer memberships to premium content, if that is applicable. Offering something for sale is always an option; perhaps even an ebook on how to monetize websites.
Written by Sean Valant
Monday, November 12th, 2012
Several months ago an intruder made an attempt on the life of a Gator. Before we continue, I want to alleviate any concerns and assure you that despite the fact that another attempt was made to harm a Gator, that the attempt was once again thwarted. Don’t be worried, there’s no reason to make the children leave the room. Please continue reading.
As the sun rose on Halloween 2012, there was no idea the horrors that would manifest before sunset. It would be none other than our fearless leader, CEO Adam Farrar, who would come under attack on this day. The beast sent to destroy Adam would not have teeth, as our last intruder did, but would be of the winged and stinger variety. Fortunately for all of us, Snappy would be there to save the day… but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
If you recall from the blog addressing our prior attack, we are equipped to immediately dispatch a black ops-style task force to handle virtually any situation. Much to our dismay, it seems that our emergency response tactics have been studied! This time the attack was launched from within Adam’s own vehicle, effectively rendering us unable to dispatch our emergency response team! This ninja style attack was simply unprecedented.
There’s no telling how long the enemy laid in wait: hours, weeks… months? It’s clear that the attack was well-planned and slated to take place specifically on Halloween. See, one detail that has not yet been revealed is that, on this day, HostGator CEO Adam Farrar was dressed as a yellow Angry Bird:
What does Adam’s costume have to do with this story? Well, on one hand how many people get to see their boss dressed as an Angry Bird? On the other hand, it is quite clear that the enemy had been conducting intelligence gathering operations for quite some time; they knew that he would be in costume on this day and therefore somehow more vulnerable to their attack. Seems legit, right?
Where were we? Oh! So, there’s Adam driving himself home, surely obeying all local traffic laws; yielding the right-of-way as needed and so forth. Probably listening to an audio book while whistling a soft tune to himself. He’s completely unaware that his life is presently very much in danger.
The enemy attacks! There is a blur of yellow and black, immediately followed by a blur of blue! Blue? Where did that come from, what’s going on?!
Let’s slow down for a moment and view this event Matrix-style. As the (ya know… probably) killer bee finally reveals itself, his tiny bee eyes focused on Adam’s jugular and a single bead of sweat on his itty-bitty bee eyebrow, time has slowed to a crawl. Nothing but wicked intent reflects off of his wings as he moves in for the kill. This bee has trained since birth to accomplish this single goal. The brotherhood of bee assassins is no joke, their sworn oath is something to the effect of, like, “buzz, buzz-bzzzzzzzzz!”
Adam, being highly trained himself, immediately senses the danger and begins to flail his arms about uncontrollably. A single high-pitched shriek may (or may not) have been about to escape his lips when from the depths of the back seat Snappy leaps into action.
Unbeknownst to Adam, we have him under a 24-hour guard of an undisclosed number of elite Snappys, sworn to protect him at all costs.
It all happened so fast. As Snappy caught the intruder in his jaws, crushing the would-bee assassin… would-bee, get it?…he turned towards Adam, still mid-flight, the sun catching Snappy’s eye perfectly as he gave his boss a single wink and a thumbs-up, before landing on the dashboard as shown below, a hero:
Written by Sean Valant
Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
Please gather ’round as I tell a tale to rival the greatest tales ever told! Think of it as Lord of the Rings and Lord of the Flies mixed with Don Quixote with a hint of Robinson Crusoe and a splash of Gulliver’s Travels. Pretty much exactly like that, anyway. More or less.
Our story begins, not unlike The Canterbury Tales, with a job interview in early February of 2010. Was that The Canterbury Tales with the job interview thing? I forget. At any rate, I have a discussion about websites I had previously built, the related technologies, and how I might handle different interactions with different types of Customers… things of that nature. I pass the interview and am informed that I would begin training the following Monday.
So on that sunny Monday morning in February of 2010, I began my career at HostGator as a front-line Technical Support Representative; officially referred to as a ChatTech at the time. ChatTechs no longer exist, they have gone extinct and evolution has provided us with Jr. Admins to fill that role. Granted, this may just be semantics, but I was hired and spent my first seven months at HostGator as a ChatTech.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will state that I had virtually no real webhosting experience at that point; I’d never heard of cPanel, WHM or WordPress. I have now grown to become a huge fan of all three of these fantastic tools; a process which began on that fateful first day of training.
Training was very educational; it’s a ton of information in a relatively short amount of time and serves the dual purpose of ideally teaching you, if not everything you need to know then at least a solid foundation, while also conditioning you to most effectively find answers to the questions that you don’t know. As an aside, our training program is constantly being refined and improved upon and remains very dynamic in terms of staying abreast of the constant change that is fundamental to this industry. Our trainers are like highly skilled knowledge ninjas who judo chop knowledge into all those who would join their fellow Gators here in the swamp.
Or maybe they’re more like Jedis… though Jedis are kind of like just fancy, space ninjas. Please don’t barrage me with emails about how I misrepresented Jedis, I know how territorial you Star Wars fans can be. I digress.
I remember a distinct feeling of needing to absorb all this new information as quickly and thoroughly as possible. We are not only taught general troubleshooting for a myriad of technical issues, but also the ins and outs of HostGator policies, procedures and Terms of Service. Truth be told, I did a fair amount of studying over the weekend between the two full weeks of training. Ultimately I completed training and found myself on the chat floor taking real live calls and chats from real live Customers.
When next we speak on this subject, I’ll talk more about my early days at HostGator and some of the more interesting Customer interactions I had at the time. Also, the path I’ve followed since those early days and hopefully share a lot of what the actual experience of being a Gator is all about. Perhaps, along the way, I can talk some genuine brand new Hatchlings and some other veteran Gators into sharing their thoughts about their first few days as well.
I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments section about our Jr. Admins or the hiring/training process, really anything at all related to what we’ve addressed thus far. Also, if there is any aspect of HostGator that you would like for me to expound upon as I tell this tale throughout additional posts, please leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to oblige.
Written by Sean Valant
Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
No one wants their identity stolen. For our discussion, let’s define identity theft as the illicit creation of fraudulent accounts (be they with a web host, a bank or any other financial institution) using unlawfully acquired credentials. In 2011, more than 11.6 million adults in the United States fell victim to identity theft. The average amount of time each of these individuals spent repairing damage due to the creation of fraudulent accounts was 165 hours. An additional 58 hours was spent to repair and resolve the subsequent issues with their previously existing accounts. The best estimates indicate that an identity is stolen every three seconds; frequent enough for the FBI to consider identity theft “America’s fastest growing crime problem.”
At HostGator, we deal with fraudulent account sign-ups every single day, without exception. Some try to use comically fake identification, others use legitimately stolen documents. As a result of our continuing efforts in preventing these sign-ups, we slowly but surely became experts in the many ways that criminals will attempt to perpetrate fraud. There is no absolute way to guarantee immunity from identity theft, but you can certainly hedge the odds in your favor by exercising a slight degree of caution.
Exercise caution when browsing the internet:
Phishing is essentially the creation of a very legitimate-looking website that exists solely to trick people into providing their personal information. Imagine a website that looked exactly like FaceBook, but perhaps had one letter different in the domain, like “faecbook,” which was specifically chosen in hopes that you would perhaps accidentally misspell the name yourself when attempting to browse to FaceBook. Now, if you don’t notice the mis-spelled domain and you enter your legitimate FaceBook login, you have now provided your login credentials to phishers. Now, imagine if the same thing happened with your bank account login.
Exercise caution when making online purchases:
Not everyone knows what an SSL Certificate is, but it is a key piece in the prevention of online identity theft. An SSL Certificate facilitates an encrypted connection between two machines; your computer and the server on which you are making an online purchase. Any time you ever enter any credit card information on any website, for any reason, be certain that the address bar of your browser shows “https” and not just “http.” That “s” stands for “secure” and without it, your information is unencrypted and ripe for the taking by any number of dastardly folks on the prowl to steal identities.
Exercise caution even when making physical purchases:
Skimming is the act of running a credit card through a small, easily-concealed device that simply stores the information held on the card’s magnetic strip. Perhaps a skimmer takes a job as a waiter at a restaurant for the sole purpose of being able to handle your credit card for a few moments, unobserved when ostensibly taking the card to facilitate the payment of your bill.
The goal here is not to increase paranoia, but to raise awareness of the potentialities that exist and the means by which these methods are executed.
Your Social Security Number should be memorized and the original card kept in a safe place, not your pocket. Don’t print it out or write it down unnecessarily. Only provide it in an official capacity to legitimate recipients, such as a credit card or loan application or your employer. Always provide your SSN with caution.
You likely receive mail that contains information that could be useful to malicious people; bank statements, credit card offers and bills all contain personal information. Perhaps use a paper shredder for both sensitive documents and junk mail, rather than just tossing them in the trash. If your purse or wallet is stolen, notify your bank or financial institution immediately and report any credit or debit cards as stolen. These are just some basic pro-tips, though a quick Google search will turn up countless websites that cover this topic in greater detail.
Please educate yourself further; do not be a victim of identity theft.
Written by Sean Valant
Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
In 1936, Life magazine estimated that 6% of Americans had a tattoo. Undoubtedly, this was mostly comprised of sailors or other military personnel and likely also a carnival sideshow entertainer or two. In March 2005, The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology determined that 24% of the general U.S. population had at least one tattoo. HostGator presently has about 850 employees in Texas. We were able to wrench 619 of those Gators away from more important tasks in order to survey them. We found that 244 of the 619 had at least one tattoo. If we guesstimate the math to the best of our ability, we find that just over 40% of HostGator employees are tattooed.
In recent years, there seemed to be more and more professional athletes turning up with visible tattoos. Of the 431 players in the NBA, 233 (or roughly 54%) have tattoos. Aside from the NBA, there seems to be very little statistical information regarding tattoos as related to various industries.
In 2008, seventy percent of tattooed Americans needed to hide the ink for their jobs. Visible tattoos are essentially a non-issue at HostGator; we have non-tattooed as well as heavily-tattooed people throughout all levels of the company. You’ll find tattoos on our front-line Jr. Administrators as well as members of upper Management.
Some other interesting statistics: 17% of those who have a tattoo have considered having it removed and 5% have subsequently covered a tattoo with a different design. When broken down by political party, 15% of Democrats, 13% of Republicans and 13% of Independents are tattooed.
The Pew Research Center, in February 2010, stated that 15% of 18-25 year olds think that the increase in people being tattooed has caused a positive impact, while 60% of 18-25 year olds think that the increase in people being tattooed has caused no discernible impact. It’s been said that the only difference between a tattooed person and a non-tattooed person is that the tattooed person doesn’t at all mind that the non-tattooed person doesn’t have a tattoo.
Whether you view tattoos as an art form, a tool of rebellion or a downright disgrace it’s clearly something that is forever etched in numerous cultures and shows no sign of declining in popularity. Tattoos aren’t just for sailors, rock stars and the yakuza anymore. The doctor or EMT that saved your (or a loved ones) life might very well be tattooed. Also the police officer who pulled you over for speeding, but let you go with just a warning (this time!). The judge you had to stand before last time when the police officer wasn’t so understanding about your speeding… possibly even the lawyer who was in the courtroom that day. We now know there is a 40% chance that the HostGator System Administrator who resolved your last issue and brought your server back to life from the brink of certain death is tattooed.
Several Gators decided to share some of our tattoos with you. Please enjoy the following slideshow containing actual tattoos of actual HostGator staff, from our Houston and Austin offices:
Written by Sean Valant
Tuesday, August 7th, 2012
One of the great things about the web-hosting industry is the rather fortunate circumstance of virtually constant growth. More and more people are taking their lives or businesses online every day. Additionally, those already online are often ever-expanding their online presence. A direct result of that is the necessity for us, as one of the leading providers of web hosting, to locate and hire more and more qualified people to support all of the above. This is certainly a great opportunity, but it can also be somewhat problematic.
Although it would be great if a never-ending stream of qualified individuals would parade through our office doors each day, that simply isn’t the reality. We have a recruiting department which endeavors to locate people with the correct skills to join us here at The Gator in a variety of available positions. We often need to dispatch a highly-trained SWAT team of sorts from the swamp here out into the real world in hopes of returning to the fold with some new potential Gators.
Often the missions these aforementioned SWAT(swamp?) teams find themselves at are recruitment events of sorts. Armed with a very nice tablecloth and often some nice HostGator swag to give out, they go forth into the world in search of qualified candidates:
At a recent event, there were HostGator koozies and squishy stress-relief Snappys to be had by anyone able to correctly guess the number of “Gator Eyes” hermetically sealed within a state-of-the-art containment device (hint: there were 499):
Another obstacle faced by those who came face-to-face with our recruiters was the much-dreaded “Gator Replication Station,” whereby the hopefuls endeavored to create gators of their own using the materials provided. Those who successfully replicated gators in the most creative way won HostGator t-shirts and plush Snappys:
Certainly the goal is to locate and hire new Gators, but we do try to have as much fun at these events as possible. The moral of the story though is that we are always on the lookout for new Gators and invite you to apply to come work with us!
HostGator is a great place to work, with many official (and unofficial) perks aside from those indicated on the website. For example, on the day this blog was written, we had mobile masseuses roaming the office providing free massages to everyone at their desks while they worked.
We certainly appreciate the opportunity to hire individuals with some web-hosting experience, it’s true that the basics of what one needs to know to break into this industry are rather minimal and can be learned by virtually anyone. Even if you are a complete novice, Google will be happy to teach you about FTP, Email Clients (SMTP, POP3, IMAP), DNS (MX, CNAME, A RECORD) and basic troubleshooting (ping, trace route). Also, if you have an aptitude or experience providing excellent customer service, then you’re halfway there!
Consider a career with HostGator; we’d like to hear from you!