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Geek Throwback: Fountain Pens


By: Steve Maass, senior application programmer / geek & creative @ wisnet

I’m a programmer. I type on a keyboard for a living. In fact, while the backspace key is my best friend, I type pretty fast, despite being self-taught. Typing is such a big part of my life that if I need to make a note of something at work, I type it into a text editing app. About the only time I grab a pen and paper is if I’m heading to a meeting, and that’s only because I find it too distracting to type while I’m listening.

Which brings me to the point of this post. About a year ago, my wife expressed an interest in getting a fountain pen. “Why?” I asked her. Why not use a ballpoint? They work well, they’re inexpensive, and they don’t leak (fountain pens leak, right?).

She gave her reasons, but I wasn’t convinced. Luckily, we have a great pen store not far away, so we paid them a visit to see what was what and to ask lots of questions. We did settle on a pen for her, but personally, I still didn’t get it. (She loved using the pen, so that first visit was far from our last, but I digress.)

Eventually, after picking up a couple of nice ballpoints for myself (hey, I knew what I liked), I started wondering what all the fuss was about, and I decided to get my first fountain pen. And then I got it. It really is a whole different world.

Fountain pens certainly aren’t for everyone. They need to be cleaned occasionally, they can run out of ink and require a refill, and they don’t always work well on cheap paper (think copy paper and the like). And depending on the ink you use and how much ink your pen lays down, it can take several seconds for your writing to completely dry.

As for leaking, it’s a joke in the pen world that a fountain pen is basically a controlled leak. And it’s true that if you take one on an airplane, the changes in air pressure can cause the pen to “burp” into the cap. But if your pens stay on the ground (or fly empty), you shouldn’t have a problem.

So, why fountain pens?

With a nice, fountain pen-friendly notebook, the writing experience can be almost magical. You barely need to apply any pressure when putting pen to paper. The nib (the part that touches the paper) glides across the page. And the ink colors! Unlike with ballpoints where you’re generally stuck with blue or black or red, there’s a literal rainbow of colors of ink to choose from: oranges, purples, turquoises, pinks, greens, every possible shade of blue or brown, and on and on.

All of that makes a fountain pen great for journaling, drawing, writing letters, adding a note to a birthday card, or even just jotting down a reminder.

Now granted, for the sake of convenience, you may find that a ballpoint is still the best option at work, and I won’t argue the “point.” But for de-stressing and just enjoying something the way it used to be, fountain pens can be a real delight. And an addiction. But I’m getting help. 😉

What does the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mean for you?


We’re confident you’re received a number of privacy policy update emails, but do you know why and how this might impact your website and communications? Here’s our attempt at a synopsis and if GDPR impacts you.

Disclaimer: This post is not legal advice. We’re not lawyers.

What is the GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a legal framework that sets guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information of individuals within the European Union (EU) and also regulates the exportation of personal data outside the EU. This new set of rules is designed to give EU citizens more control over their personal data. But this law affects any organization doing business with or collecting information from an EU citizen.

What do you mean by “personal data”?

Your name, address, credit card number and more all collected, analyzed and, perhaps most importantly, stored by organizations. The types of data considered personal under the existing legislation include name, address, and photos. GDPR extends the definition of personal data to cover:
– Web data such as location, IP address, cookie data and RFID tags
– Health and genetic data
– Biometric data
– Racial or ethnic data
– Political opinions
– Sexual orientation

Does it affect my company or organization?

If you hold any EU citizen data via your website, app, or service you MUST act now (in fact you’re super late to the party). All organizations are expected to be compliant with GDPR as of May 25, 2018.

If you have international reach with your website, social, email – really any online media, you should probably still pay attention to GDPR and take some action.

What happens if I don’t comply?

There is a fine for not being compliant. The maximum fine for noncompliance with the GDPR is up to 4% of the annual global revenue generated by the company.

So, what do I need to do?

  1. Get permission of data collection.
    The GDPR requires companies to clearly state the purposes of data collection to the customer, when and how it will be used, and when it will be destroyed. It cannot be hidden in a privacy policy statement nor recorded by default. If you are collecting data from a form page then you must ask customers to give consent to use their personal information. (unless it is for compliance with a legal obligation). And the data cannot be kept indefinitely.
  2. Protect the data that is collected.
    Make sure your company has the proper security measures in place should be first on your task list. Contact your IT administrator, find out what you need to have in place to be compliant, and then create a protection plan.
  3. Inform all persons of a data breach.
    Your company must inform victims individually of any breach within 72 hours.
  4. Respond to data collection requests.
    Any customer can request what type of data is being collected and stored about them (Right to Portability), as well as the right to request that it be deleted (Right to Erasure).

Here’s what a lot of other companies and organizations have been doing:

  • Updating their privacy policy on their website.
  • Adding notices about personal data collection on all form pages.
  • Emailing their updated privacy policy to current customers, and providing opt out requests for email lists, etc.
  • Adding an opt in on websites addressing acknowledgement of data collection

If you are concerned that you may not be GDPR compliant, please contact your lawyer to help guide you.

Online Resources:


No Screens Attached: Balancing a Fast-Paced Development Career


By: Ben Knier, developer / geek & creative @ wisnet

Life in the tech industry can be tempestuous.

Quality time away from work is just as, if not more important for career growth…

Whether you’ve been in the game for 30 years or are just starting out, staying on top of the latest trends, devices, programming languages, and everything else that goes into web development is part of being the best developer you can be. On top of that, you have to infuse those changes into your projects, lest you fall behind the times. With that in mind, you can’t just go to a conference for a day to get a break from the hubbub of the office: you have to engage with the speaker(s) and absorb the content. You have to follow blogs, read articles, watch tutorials, and take courses in order to bring the latest and greatest back to your customer (after all, that’s what they’re paying you for).

In a profession where processes and protocols change more frequently than my son’s diapers, it’s easy for any developer to become overwhelmed by it all (particularly one as green as myself). Some people simply can’t handle it: they bow out before their career takes off. Others will stick it out for a time, but will ultimately either drive themselves crazy trying to keep it together (think Bing Crosby when he first took on the farming life in “Holiday Inn”), or will stop growing as a developer and produce the same site over and over, with no regard to improvements and changes in the industry. The ones who will stick it out, however, are the ones who can use “the Force” to bring balance to their inner universe.

For me personally, I like to balance the speed of a web development career with what most people would call an uneventful, laid-back lifestyle. I’m a homebody: I prefer to spend my time away from wisnet at home with my family rather than going out. I have a couple acres of land that I enjoy mowing every five days in an unincorporated village where the average resident is in his/her 60s. My neighbors and I make a point of stopping to talk when we see each other outside or lend a hand when we see each other struggling with something. We even know each other by our first names (isn’t that a novelty nowadays).

My wife, son, and I spend most evenings outside away from all the screens (I spend the majority of the day in front of three after all). Whether we’re playing yard games, shooting basketballs, or sitting around a campfire looking out at the cornfield and listening to the crickets, we’re spending quality time together. More importantly, we are actively present while spending that time together. After all, family is even more important than work, so I strive to make sure that my family receives just as much attention as my career.

On top of quality family time, I enjoy reading and exercising. Science-fiction and fantasy novels, when joined with my over-active imagination, are an escape from both the rigors and doldrums of everyday life. My daily 5:00am weight-training session functions as my “me-time” and helps me shake loose from the shackles of frustration and stress.

In short, those are the activities and the lifestyle that balance out my fast-paced career. The peace and quiet of a relatively screen-free home-life gives me the ability to focus intently on my screen-laden work-life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If we plant it, will it grow?


By: Tracy Freund, account manager / geek & creative @ wisnet

About this time last year, wisnet was lucky enough to become the owners of an LGarden.  It wasn’t until this year that we kicked ourselves in gear and purchased the soil, seeds, and plants and started planting. We were intrigued to see if our true “green thumbs” would yield an actual harvest.

For our first go-round (May 25, 2018), we planted Power Greens, carrots, celery, onions, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, radishes and salad onions.  In the hanging trays, we planted an array of flowers.

Now, a month later, we harvested our radishes and started on the Power greens.  Everything else we planted is flourishing. We are on a roll!

The greatest advantage besides the healthy treats for the office, is being able to garden standing up! No aching back or knees here! And, the little bit of upkeep/maintenance makes for a nice refreshing break away from our desks and computer screens.

Stay tuned for more about our LGarden as we continue our green-thumbery at the geeks & creatives office.

P.S. Check out this great LGarden website. I wonder who designed it… 😉


Freedom from email – during and AFTER vacation!


By: Rick Kolstad, owner / geek & creative @ wisnet

Serious vacationing calls for serious email stress relief measures….

Deleting all your emails?
Seems a bit crazy.

But so is spending the next few days after vacation following up on emails that have already been addressed, social updates, links to cat videos, bike break updates, doughnuts and asparagus in the cafe (usually not at the same time), and messages that have passed their prime.

The office knows how to contact me if needed for emergencies, the rest can go to the email landfills.

If you know the Geeks & Creatives @ wisnet, you know that we work hard, and we work hard to have a strong culture to keep our team engaged both mentally and physically.  Time away from the office lets our brains recharge so we come back energized and full of new ideas and inspiration. Enjoying our time away from the office is an important part of making our team and culture as strong as possible.

The key to success for this unthinkable cultural shift is simple…

Encourage your team to COMPLETELY disconnect from work when on vacation.  

Here is how to do it:
1. Clearly state in your out of office message & subject that your messages are being deleted until you return. If information or questions are specifically for you, encourage them to email you back after your return.

2. Let your office team know that you are doing this – and you have some serious vacationing to do. Trust and know you have the right people in place. If emergencies arise, provide options to contact you for just these cases.

3. Let clients / vendors you communicate with often know you will be out and unplugged well in advance.

4. Provide alternative contacts clients and other email senders can work with in your absence.

5. Set up a delete filter in your email (or at least a filter to archive messages to temp folder if you want to cheat).

6. Make sure you use work email for work – friends and other social updates should run through your personal email

7. Kick back and chill. Enjoy your time off and breath easier knowing that emails will not be your main focus (a.k.a. a major pain in your….)  when you return.

Here is a sample ‘out of office’ that covers the bases:

Out Of Office – Your email to {insert name} has been sent to an email landfill

I’ll be out of the office until {insert date here}. IMPORTANT FYI – ALL MY MESSAGES ARE BEING DELETED WHILE I AM OUT.  

Why, you ask? You just might want to give this a try next time you are out of the office.

If you need immediate assistance, please email {insert email} or call our office at {insert phone number}.

If it can wait – and you have information or questions specifically for me, please resend them in/after {insert your return to office date}.

Go ahead – copy/paste.

So, next time you are out of the office taking a brain break, we hope you give this a try (with support from your team of course).

Good luck – I’m out for the week!

Be more colorful & explicit at work


Nope. Sorry. Not talking about cuss words around the office. We’re talking digital signage!

We know digital signage works for B2C… at point of purchase while shopping… figuring out what to eat off that menu board … or helping you find your way at the clinic.

But why & how does Markey digital signage work in our work lives?

1.Communication is EVERYTHING.

Many inboxes are overflowing. IMs and Slack even exploding. And, ugh, please not another meeting. Our very own team and so many others have found Markey digital signage as an amazing tool to not only tell the story of brands, companies or organizations, but more importantly, remind fellow associates of their purpose in their day-to-day work. Why the heck are we all here? Why should we be pumped up about it? Additionally, transparency about the day-to-day big and small matters in your organization SQUASH gossip and build a sense of ownership, inclusion and even pride.

2. It’s SUPER visual.

Visual cues in the workplace … be it the silly signs next to your coffee maker/keurig … or the couch next to your retro arcade game, have the power to influence the energy, attitudes and more in your workspace. They can sustain unspoken ideas, feelings and/or behaviors, good or bad. They can also be subtle ways of saying, “we care and we’ve got your back here” or “thank you for working so hard and sharing your talent here. Now take a break and bring out a fun, new side of yourself while at work.” These subtle attitude builders, behavior reinforcers and reminders of the awesome place you work are extremely important to building & supporting your positive culture. With Markey digital signage, throw subtleties out the window. There’s no time for that. Now you can be much more explicit in your visual stimulation and communication about what you believe and why your team rocks.

3. Made you look.

I mean, come on… who can’t help but look at a TV screen while they sit in the team cafe/ lunchroom or walk through the lobby. The beauty, in this case (maybe not when you’re trying to get your significant other to listen to you at home), is the distraction power. Pair that with some kickass messaging on your company core values or celebrating team members and you’ve got gold! At least that’s what we like to think.

Markey digital signage will be a great addition to your team.

What are you waiting for?
Try Markey digital signage for your workplace culture today!


Culture Code from Culture Labx
12 Signs Your Company Has An Enviable Workplace Culture by Fast Company
6 Ways Visual Cues In The Workplace Impact Company Culture

Lather. Read. Rinse. Repeat.


A geeky book review on “10% Happier” by Dan Harris

By: Joe Truesdale, account manager / geek & creative @ wisnet

If you know me, you know that I’m not a great reader. I’m slow. I often get a few pages along when my mind starts wandering and then I realize, “Wait… what did I just read?” Only to have to go back and read it over again. And if those two things don’t happen, then I simply fall asleep mid-read and don’t get anywhere.

I’ve always loved learning new things, though. So what’s one to do when they can’t read efficiently but they want to keep expanding their knowledge base? Audiobooks! I love listening to podcasts (primarily about video games, work culture, and the Packers) so I thought this might be a good way to get back on track with continued learning.

So I laid out my plan:

1. Find some audiobooks on Audible to queue up on my phone
2. Purchase a waterproof bluetooth speaker to listen to books in the shower (sorry if that’s TMI)
3. Learn!

I started my new adventure with a book by Dan Harris, national reporter and news anchor, titled, “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.” I’ve always heard about meditation being such a positive influence once people start doing it, but every time I considered it or thought I’d give it a shot, I just felt silly or self-conscious (even though I was alone). I figured that if I could knock out the reading limitations with a book that would get me another life skill right out of the gate, it’d be that much better.

After a few mornings of getting the book started, I found myself looking forward to listening more each morning. So not only was I absorbing the material from the book, it was motivating me to get out of bed so that I could listen to more of the book. Bonus! I also realized that I had similar attention span issues with this long-form content as well. So in the middle of a listening session, I’d catch myself thinking ahead to what’s on today’s agenda or thinking about what happened yesterday instead of being mindful and present in the audio. Thankfully, I was able to recalibrate pretty quickly for the most part and only had to scrub backward a few times here and there to catch what I had missed.

I quickly became a fan of Dan Harris over the course of the book. His storytelling ability is absolutely phenomenal. He delivers his book in such a conversational way that it’s like he’s right there with you telling stories (which might be a little weird given that I was in the bathroom everytime I listened). I won’t get into the next book I’ve started listening to, but I’m quickly noticing how good Harris is and how important it is to have a really good performer to hold your attention.

Harris begins by talking about his life as if it’s a memoir, but quickly diverted into his initial reactions to meditation and mindfulness. Seeing them as “hippy-dippy” and not really worth his time of day. Feeling silly when he gave it a shot for the first time. The struggles he had staying focused and carving out the time for it. Slowly but surely, Harris then comes around on it and begins to see and feel the impact on his life, outlook, and performance at work. Some truly enlightening stuff. While he won’t claim that it’s an amazing, revelatory thing, he consistently mentions that it makes him about 10% happier (hence the name of the book). Which is a great return on investment when you think about it. If we could guarantee a 10% return on a lot of things, that’d be rad, right?

My next goal is to try and start small and begin daily meditation sessions of five or ten minutes apiece. I’ve consistently toyed around with the notion of different apps to help facilitate meditation like Headspace (Harris even has his own 10% Happier app), but I think I’m going to try going cold turkey first and see how that goes. I’ll be sure to report back on my success or failure, but either way, I’m glad I “read” the book. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to find just 10% more happiness!

Why isn’t my video auto-playing?


By: Tracy Freund, account manager / geek & creative @ wisnet

For those of you with video backgrounds on your website, you may have just realized that the video is no longer playing automatically when in the web browser Google Chrome. What on earth!? So now you may be thinking, “Did I break something?”

Rest assured, you did not break anything, at least that we know of. Google Chrome recently released an update to their browser that turns video autoplay off unless your site meets specific requirements for media engagement.

I will admit, when we first read of this update, we freaked a little! What were we going to do to get sites these working correctly again?! Thankfully, we found it to be an easy fix thanks to our dedicated programmers and developers. They jumped right in and applied the fix which basically tells Chrome, “Hey, it’s cool. This video is muted so it’s not annoying.”

Why Being a Programmer is Never Boring


By: Steve Maass, senior application programmer / geek & creative @ wisnet

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a routine, where things kind of work the same way every day, and once you learn to do something, you can kind of do it on auto-pilot, programming is really not the job for you. But for those of us who enjoy the thing that makes programming interesting, even fun–creating something and seeing it work–change and constant learning are part of the deal.

When I started at wisnet, we mainly programmed in a language called IML (Internet Markup Language) that was created by our very own resident genius, Brian Kolstad. IML was geared to be a rapid-development language. It has commands that in many cases cause multiple operations to happen that in other languages would take several lines of code to accomplish the same thing.

I had never heard of IML (as was true of most of the rest of the world). Personally, my programming background was in ASP and JavaScript. But with the use of Brian’s IML documentation along with many questions over my shoulder to him, it quickly made sense, and I became an IML programmer, not touching ASP since.

JavaScript got its own rapid development boost when jQuery became popular. jQuery basically is JavaScript, but, like IML, it offers a way to do with simplified commands things that would be much more complicated to do in JavaScript itself. So, another learning curve leading to cleaner and faster programming. And more fun, when you try something new and see it work!

Fast-forwarding to 2018, wisnet’s main focus now is PHP, a language that’s been around for quite a while and has a rich and deep and constantly improving pool of code libraries and frameworks. Learning curve? You bet! But the result is standardized, structured programming that anyone with a knowledge of these common frameworks can jump in and follow.

It’s a truism that in technology, if you don’t stay in the game, you can get left behind. So is there still IML-based code in the world? Sure. We still support it, and when it’s appropriate, we still use it. But we want to make sure that our customers get the best websites and web apps that we can deliver, so we always stay tuned into what can improve our processes and our final product. That doesn’t mean jumping on board with every buzzing trend, because many trends don’t trend for long. But it does mean evaluating what might help us do what we do. And when we see a clear advantage in adding to or changing how we do things, we take that opportunity to learn, to challenge ourselves, and then to lean back and smile when that new chunk of programming… works!

No more work deadlines!


By: Ashley Puetz, designer / geek & creative @ wisnet

We’ve decided to get rid of deadlines.

No, that doesn’t mean we will never complete another project – we’re simply going to be replacing the word “deadline” with “finish line.”

What does “finish line” mean and why are we adopting it?

It’s just another one of the small tweaks that we’re going to be implementing to make projects a more enjoyable and successful experience for our team and our clients. Finish line has a much more upbeat and positive tone than deadline. We want our team to be excited about the projects we are working on and to be excited to complete them.

We love to celebrate all things big and small at wisnet (did anyone else celebrate National Meatball Day??) and I could see us adding finish line celebrations to our project outlines. It’s a great way for us as a team to celebrate accomplishments and for our clients to be excited about their completed project.

If you’d like help reaching the finish line with a project let us know. We’d love to celebrate with you at the end.