Here are a couple of topics I’ve been thinking about recently.
HTTPS, you know, that little lock that shows up beside your bank’s web address in your browser? Google decided that sites running on regular old HTTP, without a security certificate (SSL), are less safe. And Google decided to mark those sites as ‘Not secure’. This ‘Not secure’ worries people but it’s not really a source of concern. The security certificate protects communication between you and the website. That’s very important if you are accessing sensitive information like at your bank. But does it matter if are checking movie listings? No. You don’t need the time of the matinee to be encrypted.
Does the security certificate protect you from being hacked? No, it doesn’t. Malicious scripts on a website can still compromise your system, even over a secure connection. Hackers know this and have been adding security certificates to their sites to help convince visitors that they are on a trusted site. If you think you are on your bank’s website or on an e-commerce site and you don’t see the lock, then leave right away! That’s a problem. It might be a misconfiguration or it might be a fake site. But if you are just looking up information, then don’t worry if the site doesn’t have the lock.
Do you need a certificate on your website? Probably not, unless you are selling through your site. However, visitors may not understand the difference between HTTP and HTTPS. If they see ‘Not secure’, then they may get spooked and leave. It’s more about perception than anything else. In that same vein, I have recommended to clients who work in finance to put the lock on their sites to subconsciously remind their visitors of the same lock they see on banking sites.
I’ve been looking at ways to implement Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the work that I do for my clients. I’m a big fan of using automation to speed work (e.g. batch scripts for processing images). I’m also a fan of having data in one location and then re-using that data in different ways; for example, pulling from that data for page display and searches (as we see in the WordPress sites that I work on). But that isn’t Artificial Intelligence. That’s scripting and programming.
Recently, I’ve been researching Chatbots that can hold a conversation with a customer or tools that can intelligently grab, process, and convert data. There’s much interesting work and research in this area. I was recently surprised at the number of specialized Chatbots specifically for job recruiters. And there are many other types of Chatbots. These are designed to easily plugin into your website or social media channels. I’m still looking for other tools client sites or that I can use in my work of building and maintaining websites.
One of the buzzwords in AI, is “machine learning”. An AI program is given a large body of information (be that human faces, legal interactions, games of chess, etc.) and then the computer develops best practices/strategies by reviewing that content. It’s an exciting area but it’s not very useful for me or my clients where we don’t have a large body of content or if we have material, it’s not in the right format for use by the computer. I’m keeping my eye on this area but for the moment, instead of using AI, I’ll continue using scripting and tools, like Zapier, that allow me to connect different platforms (e.g. receive an email at GMail and then use that to create a new spreadsheet entry).
While I’m not a fan of captchas (online tests to make sure you’re human), I understand why we need them. Hackers deploy their bots (speaking of AI!), to attack and subvert logins and other online forms. Without protection, comment boards gets filled with spam and websites can be infiltrated and corrupted. So, reluctantly, we turn to captchas to slow the hackers. I’ve now started adding captchas to all new websites that I build. We’ve also gone back to all our Website Mechanic client sites and added captchas to add an additional level of protection. Google has just announced version 3 of their captcha, called ‘reCaptcha’. Sometimes reCaptcha only asks you to check a box (not too onerous), and sometimes it asks for you to click on images. I’m glad to have left behind trying to enter the cryptic text they started with. reCaptcha also has an invisible mode and now with version 3, they’ve now improved on that to make it even more invisible and to give more tools to the site owners. I appreciate Google’s work in this area and will continue to use reCaptcha.