Tanya Kennedy Luminati

About Tanya Kennedy Luminati

When she is not at Matrix Group managing day-to-day operations of MatrixMaxx, she is at home being a full-time mom to her son, Alexander, playing video games with her husband, or brewing up a pot of soup for family and friends. She makes a killer white bean and sausage soup. Be sure to ask her for the recipe the next time you see her.

I’ve got MY black & white composition book with me … do YOU?

Last week, project manager Kevin Tomko talked about how he loves taking notes directly into his laptop. I, on the other hand, think that paper is not yet out of the picture.

I stumbled on this great article about low-tech strategies to keep yourself organized Composition notebookand I loved that it put a paper notebook at the top of the list. That is something that everyone at Matrix has been asked to do as long as I’ve worked here:

  • Always have a notebook and pen with you.
  • Be ready to participate in an impromptu meeting or discuss an issue or take down a ‘to do’ item at any point in the work day at any place in the office.
Everyone has their own favorite notebooks: Some like them small. Others large. Some like spirals.
Some, like me, just love the sturdiness of the Composition Notebook (now available in fashion colors in addition to the more traditional black & white).  I actually have 5 years worth of notebooks on my shelves, and occasionally I find myself leafing back through them, looking for scribbles from a particular meeting or particular discussion that seemed like it wasn’t going to amount to anything but then years later came back.
I think that when it comes down to simple time management, it is important to not get too hung up on the whiz-bang of technology. Yes, a shared online calendar has its advantages. But sometimes it is also nice to just flip open a paper organizer and be able to scribble little notes all up and down the margin, add unrelated thoughts, or just jot down a quick thought or phone number.
What are the ‘oldies but goodies’ habits in your daily routine?

How Does Online Credit Card Payment Processing Work?

I get a lot of questions from my clients about online credit card processing: how it works, how the fees are structured, and how to lower the fees. This whole system is very, very complex, and I’m not convinced that there is anyone in the world who really understands every aspect of it.

High level summary:

  1. You fill in a commerce payment form on a website, then click SUBMIT. (There are thousands web vendors who can provide custom or off-the-shelf web forms for this purpose.)
  2. Your payment info goes through a Payment Gateway (e.g., PayFlow Pro or Authorize.net) to the Processor of the Merchant’s BankCredit Cards
  3. Next comes authorization. Depending on card type, this might come from the Processor or the card-issuing Bank. Bottom line: someone says ‘approved’ or ‘declined.’
  4. Approved transactions are then ‘cleared’ for settlement
  5. Settlement is when the money actually moves around. This is usually in a nightly batch but sometimes it is real-time (which can lead to reconciliation headaches for businesses as then the fees are often deducted per transaction as opposed to a separate charge by batch or time-period).

This is a highly simplified breakdown; the process varies depending on the vendors involved. (For example, some vendors can handle more than one step in this process.) There are industry professionals who spend all of their time, every day, thinking about credit card processing. I actually spoke to a ‘Durbin Amendment’ Specialist’ a few weeks ago. His entire job focuses on understanding the so-called Durbin Amendment (and the Durbin amendment’s associated scams) which is just one piece of the larger Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (effective 10/1/2011), which only impacts certain pieces of the huge card processing industry.

This complexity helps to explain why fees are so high. Every single ‘player’ in this system needs to get paid for doing their part. The more complexity, the higher the cost.

So how do you lower the cost of these fees?

  • Talk to your current merchant bank. They might actually have some immediate ideas for you.
  • Ask for and include CID/CSV on your payment transmissions, whenever feasible.
  • Ask for and include Billing Address on your payment transmissions, whenever feasible (Note: some banks give a processing fee break for just providing zip code, so you can save your user some time by just asking for it.)
  • Shop around for a new merchant bank, processor, or gateway. Everyone wants your business, and sometimes a ‘little guy’ can give you a better deal than a ‘big guy’. But beware! There are costs to making these changes, so be sure that the money you’d save in fees justifies the cost to make the change.

Has anyone stumbled upon good articles, diagrams, or explanations of this complex industry that are aimed at the novice as opposed to the expert? I’d love to see them.

How to Use Photos to Tell a Story

There is nothing more boring than looking at a series of photos that are virtually the same. And yet we all see this everyday on sites like Facebook. Even staff at Matrix Group did a little bit of this as we were beginning to post digital photos of staff events. (Did we really need multiple nearly identical photos of Nerf guns in this Facebook album from three years ago?)

Post It PrankThe professional realm of photojournalism gives us some great tips to make our online albums more exciting. Capture the emotion of the moment; get people’s expressions. Take a variety of photos: close-ups, establishing shots, etc. Mix your best photos together to tell a story, and be sure that the captions support your narrative.

Here are a few Matrix Group Facebook album examples that ‘tell the story‘:

Have you seen (or created) some good examples of amateur photojournalism?

Pixlr.com: the Photo Editing Solution when PhotoShop is just too much

I love PhotoShop, but as I only use about 5% of its functionality. I can’t justify the cost of a license for myself. However, that 5% is important. Image resizing and cropping in particular are valuable to just about everyone. 

I tried Gimp, but I found its basic key shortcuts and functionality to be non-intuitive. (I suspect that if I had started with Gimp and not PhotoShop, it would have been fine. But once you ‘get’ PhotoShop, the transition to Gimp is harder.)

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Not All JPEGs Are Created Equal (aka, Why is my image not showing up in IE8?)

JPEG (.jpg) images are supposed to display effortlessly in all web browsers without issue, right? WRONG. In the last 3 months, we’ve had half a dozen calls to our help desk about images mysteriously not showing up and they all were the same root cause: the images were saved in the incorrect color format. There are other causes for images not displaying, but this seems to be rather prevalent.

JPEG images can be saved as CMYK or RGB format.

  • RGB format (Red, Green, Blue) is a light-based additive color model designed explicitly for color display on electronic systems (i.e., screens)
  • CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) is a print format, for 4-color process printing. Most browsers understand this format BUT NOT ALL OF THEM. Internet Explorer 8, for example, does not.

While incredibly hard to troubleshoot, the fix is relatively easy: simply change the color format. There are lots of posts about how to do this, including this nice one from PLAVEB,  and there are even some free converters out on the internet (though I haven’t used one of these, myself). Fortunately, the issue seems resolved in the newer browsers, but it will be a while before we can forget about it completely.

Have you run into any image issues?