The Summer Cork Series: Summer has come and gone and Fall is in full swing here in Pittsburgh.

While some people joyfully retired their bathing suits for another year and traded their normal latte for the pumpkin spice variety, others might be feeling the blues knowing that winter is coming (Did you read that in Ned Stark’s voice?).

Summer’s just a memory now, but this year, we encouraged our team to engage with us while they were away from the office. But what about work/life balance, you may be asking?

Don’t worry: we didn’t force everyone to work while on vacation. Instead, we wanted to try something fun.

Since we’re a digital agency that goes by the name Flying Cork, we tend to have a plethora of branded corks in various places around the office for a “Summer Cork Series.”

So, before a team member hit the dusty trail prior to a trip, we asked if they’d grab a cork and take some pictures while on vacation.

We asked and the team delivered!

From the beach, to Berlin, to London, to Niagara Falls, some of our Flying Cork team members took us along for their trips and we’re glad that they did!

Without further ado, here’s a glimpse into some of our team members’ summer vacations!

Let’s start with our Senior Manager of Marketing Automation & Email, Krystal’s trip! She took her cork along for the ride as she traveled to Niagara Falls in Canada after her wedding.

“The Whirlpool Aero Car ride was my favorite activity we did on our mini-moon in Niagara Falls. My husband and I rented bikes one afternoon and made our way to this popular attraction about two miles away from the falls. The wait was long, but the views were fantastic!”

Summer Cork SeriesSummer Cork Series

Next we’re turning to our SEO manager Jen’s summer trip. This wasn’t just any trip; in fact, she lived abroad for the summer and captured some pretty awesome pictures with her cork!

 Summer Cork Series

Bradenburg Gate, Berlin 

Summer Cork Series

Prague Castle, Prague, Czech Republic

Summer Cork Series

Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic                

“I got really lucky this summer with an opportunity to live in Berlin. I traveled to four other countries while I was abroad, including England, France, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands, but Berlin stole my heart. There’s so much recent history to take in and so many interesting people to meet—people from all over the world. It broadened my perspective on so many things! Plus, beer! Really good beer!”

Tessa, our Interactive Developer, made her way to London and used social media to let us know where she was visiting in real time! While we were at our desks in Pittsburgh, Tessa was letting us do some sightseeing vicariously through her Instagram feed.

Summer Cork Series

“The most amazing thing about my vacation was just this feeling I would get when I entered an old building. Some of the places we visited such as Puzzlewood and the City of Bath have existed for centuries and there was just this mysterious feeling that would overcome me. Knowing that I’m standing where so many have stood before was a very cool feeling.”

While we have some jetsetters here at Flying Cork, I stayed domestic and traveled to both Chicago and Florida!

What’s more fitting than a picture at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago with some airplanes in the background? Get the connection? FLYing Cork and flying planes?


Clearwater, Florida

At Flying Cork, we’re all about finding a work/life balance that allows us to see the world and still deliver high-quality work to our clients.

So, as some of our team members went wheels up around the world this summer, we couldn’t help but share a glimpse into their vacations for a fun little Summer Cork Series!

We hope you enjoyed! Cheers!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the possibility of Twitter using emojis as the new keyword. Remember my hamburger-palooza example? If not, you can refresh your memory here. Anyways, the reason I’m talking about emojis again is because Sunday, July 17 is World Emoji Day [INSERT CELEBRATORY EMOJIS HERE]!

Though every day might feel like World Emoji Day, Sunday is the actual holiday that celebrates Shigetaka Kurita’s big idea. In case you didn’t know, Kurita is the designer of the first emoji for mobile phones. He’s the guy that came up with 176 12×12 images that would eventually become the foundation of the emojis that we’ve come to know, love and overuse.

So, to celebrate, we got a little creative here at Flying Cork.

To showcase our appreciation and love for emojis, we decided to create an emoji questionnaire that we sent around to the Flying Cork team to complete.

This wasn’t just any questionnaire! Aside from a few easy questions, we upped the ante and put our team’s creativity to the test by asking them to create an emoji masterpiece!

Developers, managers, and coordinators tested their emoji-using skills and came up with some pretty awesome stuff.

Rather than me talk about it, let me show you! Without further ado, I present to you, World Emoji Day the Flying Cork way.

aarts-emojis_1 alex brad World Emoji Day james jen World Emoji Day krystal World Emoji Day

Happy 404 Day!

For those of you not in the know, a 404 is an HTTP status error that shows up when a piece of content no longer exists. This can happen when you remove a page from your site—for instance if you delete a blog post or event listing—but you don’t redirect that page to a different one. Just because the page is gone, doesn’t mean that links to it are, too! If a user tries to access that page through an external link or, say, a bookmark in their favorites, it can lead to a frustrating user experience.

Are 404s bad for SEO? Yes and no. Eventually, the search engines will figure out that the page is gone, and remove it from the index. But, like I said, there could still be existing links pointing to that page, and unless you redirect them, you’re not providing the optimal user experience, which can eventually have a negative effect on your page authority. Not to mention you’re creating a posse of annoyed users who may or may not be willing to give your site a second chance.

So, what do you do about that pesky 404? You can start by seeing if you have any in the first place by running your site through a tool like Screaming Frog. Take note of which pages are throwing a 404, or save it in a spreadsheet.

Next, check to see if there are inbound links pointing to these pages with a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer. You can add a filter that will only show external links to the page in question to narrow it down a bit for you.


Next, you can proceed one of two ways: the hard way, or the easy way.

If you want to go the hard way, you can try and contact the webmasters of the sites where you have inbound links pointing at your missing page and get them to point that link at a similar, existing page. This can be frustrating, time-consuming and possibly even ineffective, so I recommend doing it the easy way.

Ask a developer to 301 redirects the 404 pages to a new page. (Note: A 301 redirect is a permanent redirection from the non-existing page to the replacement. Your dev team will understand.)_This can be a similar piece of content, or even your website’s homepage, blog listing, or product listing—whatever happens to make sense. Use your best judgment: If you think that the content you’re redirecting to would satisfy the user’s initial query, it’s probably a good page to choose!

It’s a good idea to make it a habit to check into the HTTP status of your website’s pages. If you don’t have time or you’re still not quite sure what to do about 404’s (or any of the myriad other HTTP status codes), why not give Flying Cork a call to do a general SEO wellness checkup? We’re happy to help, not just on 404 Day, but every day.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! To keep in the holiday spirit, and, more importantly, to share it with those less fortunate than we are, Flying Cork has started our very own Toys for Tots toy drive challenge!

Starting today and running through Monday, December 8, we’ll be collecting new, unwrapped toys for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.

But there’s a slight twist. The Flying Cork team kicked off the toy drive today by donating our toys and taking our places on the nice list. Now, we’re turning to Facebook and challenging our family and friends to make a donation!

The principle is similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge from the summer, but we’re not asking anyone to get wet in the frigid November and December temps. When you’re challenged, simply send a new, unwrapped toy to the Flying Cork office. Then it’s your turn to challenge two people to follow (Santa) suit and get on the Flying Cork nice list.

The way we figure it is if each of us challenges three people, and each of them completes it and challenges three additional people, by the end of the 20-day challenge, we’ll have roughly 34 billion toys stuffing every corner of Pittsburgh (trust us, the math holds up, see below). It’s a lofty goal (only 7.12 billion people live on Earth), so we’ll start with a nice, even 1,000 toys. And remember, you don’t have to be challenged to join in!


During the holiday season, the United States Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots drive collects new toys in October, November, and December. The presents that are collected are then distributed to less fortunate children throughout the United States.

We can’t thank you all enough for your help, and happy holidays from everyone here at Flying Cork!

This is the very true and bizarre conclusion to an actual series of events here at Flying Cork. For the sake of covering everyone’s ass, I will not call out anyone unduly or reward anyone with unearned SEO discovery. I’ve also changed the names of some of the companies involved (they are bold). This distinction is important because EVERYTHING else is true. Every word. All the names, numbers and weird little tidbits are real.

The story so far: Flying Cork found out someone had stolen our site. We learned who was responsible for the theft. A whois lookup is good for that. After a series of phone calls, Flying Cork filed a DMCA takedown notice with the host of thatsite. Now for the exciting conclusion to Flying Cork’s experience with content scraping and theft.

A few days had passed since the excitement of Monday. The week ended up being so hectic that I hadn’t found time to check on my takedown request. But that wouldn’t last long because as Friday morning broke the horizon.. s*** got real.

And then I was rewarded…. like Woooooo!

I woke up to the greatest voicemail I have ever personally received. Evar. No lie. Enjoy.

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again, with a bigger stick

By law, hosting providers have 48 hours to respond to a DMCA takedown notice. The overnight voicemail made it clear that we were dealing with a troll. The next morning, I logged into the TRIPLE0 hosting company’s support ticket system to see that my ticket was closed. But the site was still up. Ohhh hell no. Done.

So I began the steps I outlined previously – all over again. Only this time, looking for the host of TRIPLE0. Immediately, I encountered the other aspect of domain registration vs. domain hosting. Many registrars offer privacy add-ons to domain owners to keep their personal information private. It means that I couldn’t tell who was hosting TRIPLE0 just by looking at the whois result.

But luckily, we were still in the game. Taking another look at the source code for thatsite I saw a javascript link – a stat counter for the host of TRIPLE0. That was easy.


Good thing I had kept a copy of the form from earlier. I was able to easily take the same DMCA notice to the actual host. By the end of the business day – I received a polite and apologetic email from the host of TRIPLE0 informing me that the fake site had been removed. Just like that. Done.

End of story. Flying Cork 1, Odin Wellington 0.

Conclusion: Here’s the long and short of it. Relax and gather the facts, any way you can. Write everything down*. Use the resources I mentioned in the previous post. It will could go along way to helping you resolve the situation yourself without the cost of involving the legal people. But understand, if it doesn’t quickly come to the above resolution in your own case – contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

*you never know when you’ll have to write up a blog post that your big mouth thought was a super idea! And blame my boss for not letting me publish the Wayne’s World-themed version of this same story. Something about copyright material or such stuff… sounds made up to me.

This is the very true and bizarre conclusion to an actual series of events here at Flying Cork. For the sake of covering everyone’s ass, I will not call out anyone unduly or reward anyone with unearned SEO discovery. I’ve also changed the names of some of the companies involved (they are bold). This distinction is important because EVERYTHING else is true. Every word. All the names, numbers and weird little tidbits are real.

The story so far: Flying Cork found out someone had stolen our site. Google Analytics was helpful. We learned who was responsible for the theft. Let’s rejoin the story – just moments after I spoke to the ‘owner’ of thatsite.

Keep Trollin’, trollin’, trollin’

At 4:58pm I received a phone call from a “Richard” who claimed to have found a link on Twitter, that promised some sort of media buy coupon. It was very odd considering he said he had called a (516) number. But that number had somehow reached my personal (724) number. “Richard” indicated that he was interested in doing business and would call back.

When asked for a contact number, he gave the following: richards_phnumber.png, which is registered somewhere in Derby CT; however, he was calling me from a Bakersville, CA number spoofd-number.png. The problem is … it’s a spoofed number. “Richard” wanted to express his frustration at being misled between the two sites. I took his info and thanked him for the call.

Then it got REALLY weird…

Moments later, at 5:06pm, my phone rang again. This time from richards_phnumber.png, which was the same phone number associated with Roger Dowd, the domain contact. Only it wasn’t Roger this time. It was “MR. ODIN WELLINGTON” himself. He took the aggressive stance – parroting the previous concerns and wishes I had expressed to Roger. (i.e., take the site down or else). The thing that made it awesomely weird – Odin had a Southern accent. In my mind, I was picturing a sweaty, adolescent version of Yosemite Sam.

I tried to explain to him that I grew up in the old days of hacking. We used real phones back then. (That’s analog, ya little whippersnappers!). I asked him to please, please acknowledge the fact that he had been busted and drop the accent. But no dice. After several failed attempts to ask him to drop the whole gag – I just went with it.

Odin went on the claim:

  1. That Flying Cork stole his site.

  2. All the team member photos he paid for, well actually ALL the photos had come from iStock. (which is weird since one would assume those are real people on his team?!) He really was not good at this…

  3. His company had been in business since 2006 (even though the domain was registered 11/15/2013)

  4. At one point he tried to tell me that it used to operate as Hai2u and asked if I was familiar. I plead ignorance; fishing more for myself, even though I am aware of what kind of site Hai2u is. WARNING: DO NOT LOOK FOR HAI2U. It is a ‘shock site’ with horrifically graphic photos. Seriously – Don’t. Gross. No.

  5. That ‘Roger’ told Odin someone named Pace Lattin, from Flying Cork Media, had contacted them and threatened to write a negative post on his site: performinsiderDOTcom and that if this ‘threat’ was carried out — Odin would have no choice but to file a lawsuit. I wish I could remember if he said libel or slander. Pace Lattin is actually a real person. And a much maligned and discredited “Affiliate Marketer” who is considered to be the very definition of shady. Be sure to scroll through the first portion of links to more organic content, complaints, etc.

  6. His lawyers had already submitted a DMCA takedown notice with Rackspace as well as some other site.

This is when things really got fun. I tried my best to keep him talking. I wanted to get as much information as I could. At one point it struck me, there was no way I could invent all these details. This was pure comedy gold. It was at this moment that the idea for this multi-part blog story struck me.

So what else? I learned that Odin was from Texas. He owned several horses and was a “pulled-up by my bootstraps” self-made man who didn’t appreciate us stealing from him. ok… yeah. He repeatedly resisted when I asked him to look directly at the source code on the homepage of his supposed site.

Next step, go legal

Several times, I asked him for his legal contact so that I could pass along all information to the appropriate people. He wouldn’t give up that information. At this point, I began to suspect that I was dealing with a single individual. All three calls. Same voice. Same guy. So, I requested that any further correspondence he wished to send to Flying Cork should be submitted through the Flying Cork site form. I didn’t hold my breath for that to happen. Time to file a DMCA takedown notice to the hosting company of the fake site, thatsite.

Realizing that this was going to require a more direct approach, I drafted a DMCA notice of my own referring a great deal on some useful online sources. My father was a big proponent of keeping copies of everything legal and I’m glad I thought of him in this case. I saved that simple text doc to make sure I had a record of everything that I had entered in the form. I visited the host of thatsite, who I’ll call… TRIPLE0. I found the “Contact/Report Abuse” page (Their title, not mine) and I filled out the simplistic form, including my DMCA draft notice. This is how the first Monday of my career at Flying Cork went.

Well… damn. That was different. I couldn’t make that up even if I wanted. But I do respect our troll for one thing – he never cracked. Not once. Tune in tomorrow for Part 3 of Flying Cork’s reaction to plagiarism. Same bat-time. Same bat-channel.

If you haven’t yet read “Our Encounter with Plagiarism” please do so before reading the post below. This is the very true and bizarre conclusion to an actual series of events here at Flying Cork. For the sake of covering everyone’s ass, I will not call out anyone unduly or reward anyone with unearned SEO discovery. I’ve also changed the names of some of the companies involved (they are bold). This distinction is important because EVERYTHING else is true. Every word. All the names, numbers and weird little tidbits are real.

“What is going on here?!”

It was an early Monday morning when Sam asked me if the Interactive team had created a development site for She wanted to know if we were using thatsite as a test site? Perhaps, we had just forgotten to remove the Google Analytics code? She was seeing Twitter traffic that matched up to the imposter site. Heyyyy.

Good questions to ask, but she was asking a guy who started two days prior. I didn’t even know where the printer was. But tell me that someone has stolen our entire site and ripped off all the teams’ hard work?! I forgot about trying to get my email organized and insurance papers completed – this was much more fun! The buzz around the office was amazing to see. Especially the topic of all the fictitious names of our employees. I opened a browser to pull up thatsite… Yep. There it was.


I looked at the code first to find out how it happened. Tim Snyder noticed it right away. Opening the homepage of thatsite, it was right there in the source code, easy for all to see. The person responsible for ripping off our teams’ code was too lazy and/or foolish enough to remove the proof right there in the code.


First thing – find out who is responsible

Meanwhile, I went to one of my favorite resources, WhoIs. It is made for this kind of situation. A whois lookup allows you find out who owns, operates and pays for a domain. Many sites offer whois lookup. In this instance, I used the WhoIs Domain Tools and Network Solutions to cross-check the results. It’s the quickest way to get pointed in the right direction.


The first piece of information I saw in the results was cause for concern. It appeared that a Mr. Odin Wellington had registered the domain on the 15th of November, 2013. That was only three weeks before, but Flying Cork was formed in 2010. Odd.

Register vs. Host

You may hear people say they “own” a domain, but that isn’t quite true. Domains are registered. People can claim the right to use them, but ultimately, the governing bodies of the internet own all domains and keep watch over disputes involving domains…. like this one.

Registering a domain and hosting a domain don’t have to be done with the same company. It is actually good practice to keep them separate so that you can easily move between hosts in the event:

  • your site needs have changed and your new agency recommends a better host

  • you get into a tiff with your web developer

  • your hosting company disappears off the face of the earth

Cheap web hosting sites pop up overnight all the time. Not paying attention to who you host with could leave you without a site and without control over your domain.

This is not war, this is the Internet… There are rules

There are steps you must follow when you find a site stealing your content and you want it to come down. The good news is there is an easy way to get it taken down. You can file a DMCA (Digital Media Copyright Act) takedown notice.

After lunch and out of curiosity, I made a “good faith” call to the person listed as the domain contact in whois. I was able to reach an individual by phone, at , who identified himself as “Roger Dowd”.

Mr. Dowd expressed some shock at the news. He said the site design and development was out-sourced. After asking him to view our site, he claimed to have no idea what happened. He assured me that he would contact the vendor “when international business hours permitted.” I explained to him that this site needed to come down immediately. I offered him one day before the attorneys get involved. He asked for my email address and phone number. Little did I realize what I had unknowingly initiated. The silliness that would follow. Glad I did though. It makes for a funny story.

Ok, this story is long. So the boss asked me to break it up. So far, everyone is still wondering why all this happened. At least now we know the ‘who’ – that someone is responsible. But we’re just getting started. This story takes a turn toward the bizarre. Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of Flying Cork’s reaction to plagiarism.

Digital and interactive agency, Flying Cork, is pleased to announce recent recognition at the 2013 Pittsburgh American Advertising Awards, which were held Friday, March 1st. Taking home a gold Addy in the responsive design category for their work on the Love Cooking Company website, President Jude Michaels said was an incredible feeling, especially after just being named the city’s 7th largest advertising agency in the Pittsburgh Business Times “2013 Book of Lists.”

“In this industry, there are few things greater than being recognized among your peers. Being awarded for work on Love is especially gratifying for our team, because of the exceptionally- tight project deadlines and last-minute revisions. I couldn’t be more proud,” said Michaels.

Flying Cork team members recognized for their work on the award-winning website were Creative Director Martin Perez, Senior Web Designer Kate Holloway and Creative Writer Nikki Dugan.

Flying Cork is a digital and interactive agency with experience working in a broad range of industries, including healthcare, education, manufacturing, retail and professional services. Beginning in 2010, Flying Cork is now one of Pittsburgh’s top 10 advertising agencies, with a 29-employee firm that continues to grow and remains focused on telling brand stories and delivering measurable results for clients as diverse as the services they offer. Current clients include, Monongahela Valley Hospital, AAA-East Central and many others.