1984, Google Edition

April 2013

Chances are, whenever you do anything on any website in the world, Google knows about it. That's because half of the top million sites use Google Analytics to track everywhere you go. Nearly 2/3rds of the top 10,000 sites use Google Analytics. And out of all 186 million active web sites in the world, including a huge number of spam or parked domains, nearly 16 million of them use Google Analytics.

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We'll make it up in volume

April 2012

I learned an important lesson last year. Ok, three important lessons. You would think they would be obvious to a smart guy like me, but I can be stubborn sometimes.

The big one? Pricing some services below my cost.

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A question of risk

July 2011

How would losing your web site affect your business?

That might seem like a silly question, but a surprising number of small organizations don't think it can happen to them. Think again -- web sites get lost all the time, through a variety of means. The server hosting your site might have a hardware failure. Your site might get hacked. Your web developer might accidentally delete something critical. Your host might go out of business, leaving you stranded. If you're in the tech world, you hear about these incidents all the time.

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10 Problems with Web Development Projects, and How We've Solved Them

February 2010

Did you notice? The world's a different place. Rules for doing business have changed—there's new ways of getting hired, finding employees, reaching new customers, and (shudder) for them to reach you. Economies of scale have flipped—it's getting more expensive to do things on a huge scale, and far cheaper to do them at a micro scale. Mass market items have lost their appeal, and people yearn for authentic, individual connections in a world of franchise same-ness.

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Stuck on the Launchpad

August 2009

Jedi mind tricks for getting your web site done

We see it all the time. Our clients hire us to get a web site put together. We build it, provide tools, training, and everything, and then it sits there on our development server, waiting for them to finish writing up those new pages they wanted to add. Weeks go by. Then months. And in a couple cases, years.

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Black Vodka, a Finnish Sauna, and a Database

May 2009

As I got on the plane to Helsinki, I wondered if I had been duped. I was flying blind--I didn't know where I was staying, whether anybody would be there when I arrived, or if I would end up sitting in a hotel room by myself for three days. But when the well-known founder of a billion dollar company invited me to his home to help my business, I figured I'd better get on that plane.

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Format wars: New Microsoft format is dead on arrival

Once upon a time, for a period of about 8 years, picking a document format was safe and easy: save it as a Word document, a .doc file. The vast majority of businesses could open, edit, and print it with no difficulty whatsoever.

This mythical golden age of Word arose after Microsoft conquered the world of Word Perfect and Lotus 123 by bundling a “good-enough” version of each into a single package, Microsoft Office. After a few generations of painful Office upgrades where every new version had a slightly different file format, Microsoft finally matured into a format that it kept stable for three versions in a row—Office 97, Office 2000, and Office XP. And the overall interface has stayed stable much longer than that—there weren't any dramatic changes to the way you use Word between version 3 (when I started using it, back somewhere around 1987 on a Mac) and Office XP, in 2003.

With Office 2007, Microsoft completely changed the interface to its new “Ribbon” style. It also introduced a whole new file format. And now, only a year later, the new format is obsolete. Yet businesses are unknowingly starting to use this new docx format, not understanding that there are only a couple of minor advantages it has, while having several enormous drawbacks.

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Operational flow

Information Technology in Business: The big picture

Computers and information systems are essential parts of every business today. Like accounting and legal, every business needs to invest in technology to compete. Technology is both a cost of doing business, and an opportunity to do more business. Most people I talk with recognize the necessity of having a computer, an email address, and a web site, but still look at the upfront cost more than other issues.

After spending some time working with dozens of businesses, I think it's time to take a step back and look at the big picture of technology in business. Let's take a reporter's view of the topic, and ask the basic questions: who, what, where, why, when, and how much?

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All about our customers

It's been far too long since our last newsletter. There's a lot more stories to tell, but today I'm going to talk about some of the reasons I haven't written in so long: our customers.


Open Source Consulting: Helping people get the most out of Free Software

Web sites are the most visible thing we do, so I'd like to highlight a few of the ones our customers have launched in the past few months. Our newest core offering is an e-commerce system called ZenCart, and we've had two of them launch in the last month.

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When all else fails, restore your backup

Quick quiz:

  1. Your computer has been infected with a virus, and it deleted everything on the server. What would you do?

    1. Send the server hard drive to a data forensic/analysis firm to see if they can recover your project data.

    2. Recreate all your marketing material from scratch, scanning your logo and everything else.

    3. File a law suit against Microsoft, Symantec, and Dell for letting this happen.

    4. Call your friendly computer technician who disinfects your computers and then restores your previously backed up data from the Internet.

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Spam, Spam, and Dspam

We were in Sheridan, Wyoming, half way across the country to Jill's grandmother's house. I logged into my email to find something I hadn't seen in a long time: more spam than real messages. There were a couple dozen spams in my Inbox, and only half a dozen real messages. What happened to my spam filter?

I originally thought it was just a new type of spam not yet recognized by the filter. But then I looked closer and realized that the little signature my spam filter adds to each message was missing-these messages had not even been checked. No wonder they were getting through in such large quantities!

It's only when the tools fail that you come to recognize how valuable they are. In the 5 hours the server spam filter was out, I received more than 50 spams, and many of my customers also noticed immediately. The cause of the outage was a power flicker in the nasty weather Seattle was getting that weekend, which made that server shut down. Fortunately, we had this contingency (and many others) covered for our vacation, and were able to get everything back up and running.

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