Google Acquires JotSpot

October 31, 2006

I received an interesting e-mail a few minutes ago — looks like Google bought JotSpot, the company that hosts my wikis. My business more-or-less runs entirely on Google services, so hopefully this will blend right in with the rest of the tools I use on a daily basis.

Smart move.


Cuppin’ Takes a Ribbon

October 20, 2006

After four months of waiting, the Rails Day 2006 results are in — and Cuppin’ placed #3 in Best Overall!

Thank you judges, and thanks to my teammate Ray!

Water Rockets

October 19, 2006

Yesterday, The Wife and I were running errands when we noticed a class of middle schoolers standing in a field near our house.  The teacher was fiddling with a 2-liter soda bottle equipped with fins: a class-built water rocket.  We watched as they filled it up, pumped it up, and with a cheer, launched it into the sky.  It was great — an inexpensive, interactive, and exciting demonstration of physics at work.  Instead of falling asleep over a book, these kids were screaming about the joys of Newton’s Third Law.

Now that’s education.

October 18, 2006

If you’re looking for a Skype-friendly handset, check out IPEVO.  The shopping experience was very simple — a limited number of attractive products at good prices.  They shipped our order within 5 hours of receiving it, without any special rush delivery instructions.

That wouldn’t be surprising if it were a small, eager startup, but that isn’t the case — it’s run by a publicly traded business that operates one of the largest shopping portals in Taiwan.  Good job.

(I’ll review the handset when it arrives)

eWeek is reporting that a standard has been submitted for how product data is sent to price/product comparison search engines, like Froogle and Shopzilla.  This is a good maneuver — I currently maintain about 20 modules for transmitting product information to these web sites, all of which require regular attention as the submission methods and file formats change.

I’m not going to hold my breath for the implementation, however.  It’s a great idea for simplifying the lives of e-commerce developers, but comparison search engines are still immature and extremely competitive.  My guess is that if the standards stick, it’ll take a year for it to be really useful for developers — after the big sites all decide to get on board.

Regardless, I’ll lobby for anything that makes my life easier!


October 5, 2006

A lot of people pay a lot of money for a lot of bad advice for higher rankings in search engines. It seems like you can’t throw a rock without hitting a breathless search engine consultant, touting MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF TRAFFIC and REALLY AWESOME BUZZWORDS.

These are the New Internet Hucksters.

Now, search engine optimization and marketing isn’t completely worthless — I’ve seen healthy improvements that can come from embracing a few simple practices when building your web site.  The point is that they’re simple practices, and only a piece of the much larger marketing puzzle.

So, how can you spot one of the good marketing gurus, and dodge the hucksters?

Hucksters focus on your website. Gurus focus on your competitors. Chances are, you’re not the market leader .. so you better start paying attention to the dogs leading the pack. Where are they advertising? What products are they promoting? What’s on the front page of their web site? Who links to them? Terribly ugly web sites can see a significant improvement in sales after they start emulating the other practices of the market leaders, without updating a single line of code.

Hucksters focus on traffic. Gurus focus on sales. Why? Because traffic is expensive, and sales make you money. Here’s an example: Lets say you sell shoes. To drive traffic to your site, you buy advertising around the word “adidas.” Very visible … very expensive … and most of your visitors probably aren’t interested in buying what you’re selling. Instead of “adidas,” focus on the people who are shopping for a pair of “adidas Campus ST” shoes, which you conveniently have in stock at a reasonable price. Focusing your marketing on specifically what you’re selling is the path to sales, not driving the hordes to your doorstep.

Hucksters tell you about your market. Gurus listen. Unless your consultant has experience in your market, don’t let them tell you people’s buying habits or industry trends. A guru will listen to your experiences with your customers, and use their expertise to figure out the best ways to reach them. And this leads directly into the next point:

Hucksters sell an easy solution. Gurus take the time to understand your problems. Retail is not easy. Managing a store is not easy. Understanding customers is not easy. Making a profit is not easy, and becoming a market leader is damn near impossible. A guru will help you figure out a long term strategy, and knows that it takes more than a few hat tricks to make your business successful on the Internet.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is a huckster.