Ag Communication Web Services

Tech info, tips & tricks

Job Scams - What to Look for in Online Postings

Don’t trust the cloud. Target hacked. Feedly held for ransom. Seems like there’s been a lot of mistrust with the web lately, and rightly so. It’s always been there, always will be. Online job scams are prevalent too.

A recently retired family friend saw a too-good-to-be-true job on Fargo's Craigslist. Wow! $18/hr to help out the police! Good pay! Interesting work! What a great way to supplement income!

She replied to the ad to ask a few questions and got an email response that urged her to do a formal online application ASAP. She contacted me to see if she thought if I thought it was legit, knowing I know a lot about CRAAP – the model used to see if online information is true.

Right away I could tell this was a scam. Here are the Red Flags I found.

Red Flag 1: Act Now!

In the email, there’s an urgency to complete the application “ASAP” or “by tomorrow” or she could lose the opportunity to apply. Urgency nearly trumped her rationality.

Red Flag 2: Goofy Web Address

The email says the company name is FJW Properties. In the email the website is When is the last time you abbreviated management with “mnt”? Many times scammers use bad grammar or spelling (in this case, bad abbreviation?)  because English is not their native language.

Also, the website is a .org not a .com website. Dot orgs are for organizations like non-profits  and .coms are for companies. Sure, there are non-profit property management companies but when I think of property management companies, I think of for-profit.

Another good thing to check is if you re-directed to another site after clicking on the link they send you. Example: click on but you are directed to

Red Flag 3: Goofy Website

The site referenced in the screenshot above has been taken down since I clicked on it a week ago. Perhaps someone reported it to Craigslist, who then removed the listing.

Before it was removed, I was able to get to their website and noticed a few fishy things. For one, the copyright at the bottom of the page was 2011. That told me the content was old. Or they don’t even care enough about keeping their site fresh (and accurate) so would they feel the same about potential employees?

There was no contact information in their site. No names, no numbers, no address. Why/what were they hiding? Vagueness was shown again back in the email she received that was signed “Breanna from HR”. No last name, phone number or email address. If you can’t get ahold of a live person or you can’t find an address to send a letter to their headquarters, stay away.

Red Flag 4: Bad or Missing info. on Search

What is the web saying about this company? Put it into search and see what happens. When you Google FJW Properties, you get a listing for a similar Craig’s List Scam in Maryland. It was an ad asking for furniture movers and in the Google search there was a screenshot of an email you would receive upon filling out an application. The wording in the email mirrored the one my friend received, nearly word-for word. I had to dig to Page two of the results but it was worth the effort to find that gem.

Red Flag 5:

Maybe one of the biggest red flags is trusting your gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, move on. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

After seeing all the flags, my friend deleted the email and moved on.

Be smart. Be safe.

Sonja Fuchs
Web Technology Specialist


Caution When Using Google Images

chick pea dish is not peppermint bon bon ice creamI’ve re-organized our photo resources page to make it easier to search images to use in websites and social media. Any time you post something online, there should be a corresponding visual to compliment the post, Tweet, story, etc. Online posts with an image are much more interesting and can hook your reader into reading more (many studies confirm this). If you’re going to Fall Conference, be sure to check out Bob Bertsch’s breakout session on Nov. 7: The Art of Being Seen: The Visual Web.

I bet that for most of us, we first go to Google Images to find a photo. It will certainly return the most results and it’s pretty inherit, having used Google to find other information. But did you know that you are not free to use just any images from Google images? In fact, re-using an image can be illegal without consent of the owner. To ensure you have permission to re-use an image, go to Advanced Search and narrow your results by those “free to use and share”. This will probably decrease your results drastically, which illustrates that most images are NOT free to use and share. Check out this quick screen cast of how to do it.

Another problem with Google Images is that sometimes you don’t get relevant results. Why is it that when you Google “peppermint bon bon ice cream”, you get some images returned for rocker Jon Bon Jovi? It’s because both were tagged with “bon”. It can be time consuming to sift through all the images when they aren’t relevant. A way around this is to search on exact terms by placing them within quotation marks.

I recently worked with Ron Smith on a Facebook post for transplanting perennials in fall. I was surprised that we visited numerous sites on the photo resources page but weren’t coming up with any decent images. Most images that were returned were of beautiful fall flowers, but we were looking for an action shot of someone actually digging up perennials. We finally did find a relevant photo, but only by searching on “garden gloves” and “dirt”. Successful searching is an art – how you think something should be tagged is not necessarily what the sharer tags a photo as.

We spent well over a half hour trying to find the right image. Here’s some tips I have for getting your image faster.

1. Build your own library of images. Get out and take photos, tips here. You know your subject matter best and can build your own relevant library. Organization is key of course. And you don’t need to worry about permission to use.

2. Use and contribute to the NDSU Ag Comm Flickr collection. There’s a lot of great photos to use, and sharing yours helps out others.

3. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the above to example, next try the Agriculture Photo Resources. Here’s where like-minded Ag people can contribute and use Ag-related photos.
4. The last section on the page references general image sites to choose from. Here’s where you still want to narrow your search by “free to use” and may spend some time figuring out search terms.

5. Last but not least, be sure to cite the source of the image not only as a courtesy, but because most of sources require it. A free image doesn’t really come free without citation.

It sounds like an exhaustive effort just to find an accompanying photo, and it can be. But with practice, you’ll probably develop a preference for a certain site and become a pro at for finding legal, relevant images. 

What’s up with the image of the savory dish for this blog post you ask? What does it have to do with peppermint bon bon ice cream? I found it by Googling “peppermint bon bon ice cream" and narrowing it with “free to use and share”. Only three images were returned and this was the most relevant. And by relevant I mean none of them were relevant. Just trying to illustrate that Google Images is not always the best resource for finding legal, relevant images.  Photo source:

Sonja Fuchs
Web Technology Specialist
Agriculture Communication/North Dakota State University


Sharing Our Goals

An outline of the responsibilities and goals of Web Services in the coming year.[Read More]

New Approach to Working Differently

We are changing our approach to working differently. This year you will hear a lot less from us about how you can reach people using online networks and a lot more about how you can learn, make connections, collaborate and engage people online.[Read More]

Grammar Girl

Where do you go with questions about grammar, spelling, and punctuation? Do you look to a tattered dictionary? Perhaps the Associated Press Style Guide?

Ever heard of Grammar Girl?

For many people comfortable with the online and social media landscape, Grammar Girl is a more definitive authority than Webster, Oxford, or the AP. Why? Because she is where they are - online. She has a podcast, an email newsletter, a website, an RSS feed, a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, and yes, even a few books. She delivers tips and tricks in short, specific, topical chunks once a week. You can listen, read, download, or otherwise ingest the information in pretty much any way you might prefer. And many people turn to her first when they have a grammar, spelling, or punctuation question.


Well, if you want to check out Grammar Girl and use her as your literary resource, I encourage you to do so. But I think the bigger lesson is how one person changed the landscape in such a time-honored (some would say stodgy) area by taking information that is readily available elsewhere and repackaging it. Providing the information in multiple formats and letting people choose how they prefer to receive it had the effect of seeing her around every turn which built up both visibility and authority. She served as the filter and the expert. 

It’s something that Extension folks could learn from.

-- Julie Kuehl


In the Cloud? What Cloud?

There’s plenty of talk these days of doing business “in the cloud.” But what does that mean?

To do business “in the cloud” means storing your information and files and with an online service rather than on your computer’s hard drive. There are many reasons this can be a good idea, and a few why maybe it’s not.

The biggest advantage of doing this is being able to access your information from any computer, or even a smartphone. It can also free up space on your local computer. And it can provide a backup in case anything were to happen to your machine.

You’re files are stored on (probably massive bank of) computers at some distant location. The best services have purposely chosen those locations for their security and risk exposure. They even look at the possibility of natural disasters. They practice leading edge security procedures and have multiple backups in multiple locations, often around the world. While nothing is risk-free (no, not even keeping it out of the cloud and on your local computer - or even keeping it off your computer completely), most cloud services are serious about managing those risks and can do a better job of it than you probably will.

Cloud services are available for nearly anything you’d do on a computer. From simple file sharing/backup services to online bookkeeping to music and video, someone will offer to help you do it online. When you are looking at such a service, be sure to read about their security/privacy policies. You may not understand everything, but look for words like encryption, SSL (secure sockets layer), redundancy, and controls. The more systems they have in place, the better.

The cloud will be the biggest shift in computing for some time to come. It has the potential to be as big as the shift from mainframe to desktop computing. Cloud computing is the infrastructure that will make access to your information at any time from any place using any device possible.

-- Julie Kuehl

Why a CMS?

With the big push on to get websites moved into Ag CMS, I was asked a simple question the other day: why a CMS? Darn good question.

A Content Management System (CMS) is web-based system that allows you to create and maintain web pages and entire web sites. In fact, it allows multiple people to do that. Therein lies one of its advantages. With a login and proper authorization, several people can have access to a site to help post new information or make corrections. And because it’s web-based, there’s no software to purchase, license, download, install, or update. You are also not tied to one machine for access to the software required to update the website. You can do that from any machine with Internet access and a web browser.

A CMS also helps when you want to redesign a site. Instead of having to change hundreds or thousands of websites and individual pages, the redesign is done in only one place and the changes then appear instantly and everywhere. Everything looks consistent. And it frees up the individual site managers from having to wrestle with design concerns. We may soon see this in action as NDSU is in the middle of making design changes campus-wide.

There are other, more technical, reasons for using a CMS too. Coding best practices, Internet standards, and accessibility are all handled by the CMS. Security is also offloaded from the individual site managers. Basically, technical stuff is left to the technical people who have a better chance of keeping it up to date.

The whole point of a CMS is to help contributors focus on CONTENT without worrying about software or design. What information are you trying to share? What’s the best way to organize it? How would users find it? How would they use it? These are the types of things that should be your focus rather than fussing with the technical aspects of the software and design.

While getting a website setup initially may seem like a daunting task, a CMS will make your efforts worthwhile when all you have to worry about is keeping the information fresh and well organized. With everything else going on, that’s a big enough job.

-- Julie Kuehl

The Value of Play

We don’t play enough.

That’s true on so many levels. Laughter is good for you. The mind needs to be relaxed to solve problems. Play creates social connections.

But I’m talking about a different kind of play. Playing with/on your computer. While I actually do know of a game where you physically spin your iPhone to play a game, I’m referring to sitting down and pushing buttons just to see what they do. Or reading ALL the available items on a drop down menu and seeing if you know what they do. Or opening that program you installed but never got around to. It could even include checking out some of the options on your Facebook account or exploring new folks to follow on Twitter.

What makes this play is that there’s no job to be done. You don’t have to figure it out because you need it to work for the project that’s due. It doesn’t include sitting down for a couple of hours because you need to learn something. It’s play because you’re curious. It’s play because it’s fun to discover things. It’s play because unless you get called home for dinner, you could do it until you drop.

I know, I know. You don’t have time to play. But all work and no play makes Ole a dull boy. And it impacts your efficiency, skills, and capabilities. I can also impact your attitude.

Find a moment here or there. Block out 30 minutes and guard it as if it were a meeting with someone important (it is - it’s a meeting with yourself). Even just slow down a bit and poke around the corners as you do your work.

Play around a little.

-- Julie Kuehl

Not For You?

So you think social networking isn’t for you? Sorry. Wrong answer.

What’s critical with social networking, your online presence, and pretty much everything else, is what your customers/clients/constituents want. It’s not about you. This is lesson number one to be successful. Not just successful online. Successful. Period.

I once had the experience of doing business with a company that is quite understandably not glued to their computers all day. That’s not their business. But for their customers that are, having a link on the website (or Facebook or Twitter account) that is left unattended was counter productive. I attempted to contact them in these proffered methods, but got no response. I don’t mean immediate response, I knew they weren’t sitting by their computer. I mean sometime this week. Eventually, I had to resort to calling them, but only after I was somewhat frustrated and certainly less enthusiastic. There are many times where people wouldn’t give you that much leeway. If there was no response by close of business, they would move on to another source.

I know it seems like one more thing to do, to keep up with the online world. But so is answering the phone or responding to mail and email. It’s become part of the job. It’s what people expect. And it’s up to them, not you, to decide which way they like best. And if you think your customers aren’t into that kind of thing - maybe that’s why they’re not your customers.

-- Julie Kuehl

Common Sense

Some of the recent security breaches have us tech folks telling everyone to practice common sense with their email, Facebook, and web surfing. But as the old saying goes, common sense isn’t common.

My opinion is that common sense is born of common experiences. I remember one time being involved with a refugee family from Vietnam that just got their first American apartment. Of course, they wanted to make us some food. So they immediately got the cutting board, knives, and pots out. And put them on the floor. Well, obviously, common sense says that work is done, and done more safely and easily, on the kitchen counters. But they had never seen a kitchen counter before so their common sense said do it on the floor. What was common sense was obvious to both of us, but quite different based on our past experiences.

Same is true with technology and “common sense” online behaviors. If you’ve been around websites and email enough it becomes common sense to not click on certain links, to spot a fishy-looking email, to know that professional sites/organizations don’t ask for your password (or even know themselves what it is), or to get a “gut feeling” that something isn’t right. But if you haven’t had enough of the right experiences these things WON’T be common sense to you.

So what IS common sense in the online world?

  • There are different risk levels online, just as there are elsewhere. Some things are are disappointing to lose, some things are inconvenient to lose, other things are devastating to lose.
  • Those things that are devastating to lose (usually involving access to your money, social security number, or other sensitive information) you should be the most careful with.
  • Those things that are disappointing or inconvenient to lose you can get by being a little less vigilant about.
  • NEVER share your password with anyone. If you contact a company and they know it and can tell you, it’s not an especially secure place to do business. They shouldn't have access to it.
  • For those places where the risk is at the “devastation” level, you really do want to use secure passwords. Consider using a secure password generator such as: There are others if you want to try a Google search for “password generator.” I once heard it recommended that you keep these secure passwords on a small piece of paper in your wallet because we’re all familiar with the habit of keeping the small pieces of paper in our wallets secure. It would be devastating to lose your wallet anyway, password list or no. And the action required for a lost wallet is nearly the same as for a stolen password.
  • You should never use the same password twice.
  • Okay, okay. In reality, choose your passwords based on the risk level. If you need a password just to logon to a website, it might be okay to have an easy one to remember that perhaps you’ve used before under similar circumstance. If the bad guys get this password, they too can login to this website and appear to be you. So what happens if they do? If the answer is “not much” you’re might be okay.
  • A quick tip about links in emails and on websites. If you move the cursor over the link and leave it there for a second or two, the full website address will pop up. Take a look at it. Do you recognize the website? Is it what you expected? Then it’s probably okay to click on it. If not, DON’T!!!! You can always type in the website address of where you want to go and do a search or click on links once you get there.

This list is by no means complete, but is just an introduction to some of the “common sense” that online folks refer to. Some common sense just has to be learned from experience, but hopefully this will help make sure that experience isn’t an unpleasant one.

-- Julie Kuehl


Author: Julie

Copyright 2009, North Dakota State University