Entries from March 2009 ↓

Ingredients vs. Stew

A friend just told me a version of an often heard story in tech. Her marketing company built a site without the ability to track key metrics of the ads. The tech people responded, “It wasn’t in the specs,” which may be technically accurate, but is not comforting or productive.

I think a lot of projects like that fail for a reason that can be described in this metaphor: The tech people make water, beef, and tomatoes in a pot. And if you ask them what they make, they say, “water, beef, and tomatoes in a pot.” The business people want stew.

You need to make sure that everyone on the team knows that you are making stew and that someone is responsible for ensuring that happens. Unfortunately, that person has to be tri-lingual, speaking marketing, tech, and English.

10 Tips for Your Small Consumer Web Site: SEO, Buzz, and More (in no particular order)

My friend Lisy is selling personalized cuff links on line: http://fingerprintcufflinks.com. They send you a kit with a putty that allows you to capture your children’s fingerprints. After you return, Lisy crafts a pair (or 3) cuff links that forever capture your kids prints. She called tonight and asked me for some technical advice. I manage a tech team for a company that does a very large SEM (search engine marketing) spend, which is not quite right for this company yet. I did jot down 10 quick things that she should try.

I probably forgot a lot of obvious tips, so c’mon people, show me up in the comments.

10 Tips for Your Small Consumer Web Site: SEO, Buzz, and More
(in no particular order)

1.) Validate your HTML & CSS: Mostly good is good enough.
2.) Create good Meta tags: http://www.webspresso.com/metatag.htm Good <title> tags too.
3.) Start a blog on the site. Many hosting providers have a one-click way to install it at yoursite.com/blog. Link it to it from all pages. Write one or two articles a week about how things are going. Write posts about how cufflinks would be great for St. Pat’s Day. Ask customers to email their photos and stories and post those. I recommend WordPress with the Akismet plugin for comment spam.
4.) Add http://google.com/analytics code to all your pages so you can see how your efforts are doing.
5.) Host all the customer pictures and site pictures on Flickr. Add lots of tags. Link back to the site in the descriptions.
6.) Post your product on eBay every week with the Buy Now option. Link back the site in the eBay description.
7.) Join every social network you can as the site, create groups, get everyone you know to friend you. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites
8.) Get anyone you know with a site to link to your site. Here you go: An awesome gift idea, cufflinks with your kids fingerprints! FingerPrintCufflinks.com!
9.) Investigate an Amazon Store: the Individual account is transactional, while the professional is $39.99 a month. You could test for one month to see if it covers itself.
10.) Don’t astroturf (put fake comments on other sites) or send out form emails. Personalized emails to editors of shopping and gift blogs may get you a write up, though.

After all these are done and you’re selling lots of cuff links, consider Search Engine Marketing. You need to have good books and accounts. If you can determine your average profit per sale, you can use the Google interface to manage your spend to an Effective CPA for the percent return on investment you want. Jewelery, gifts, and kids are all rather pricey keywords, but you might be able to generate some traffic with some more long tail terms like “memento” or “french cuff.” You know, I think we should all get a beer to discuss SEM in person.

To IDE or Not

An IDE is an Intergrated Development Environement. Like most things in technology, it’s as easy to find someone who loves them as someone who hates them. The PHP programmers on my team consider IDE completely bloated evil, while the Windows C++ team swear by Windows IDE, Visual Studio. (The PHP team does do debugging and profiling with xdebug, so they are not complete heathens.) I’ve been in both camps, once developing all my ASP in Visual Studio, later PHP websites in Notepad. I’m always hesitant to take a dogmatic opinion on a technical battle, so I remain open to both.

I’ve been playing with Zend v. 6 and found this interesting comparison chart of some other web development IDE options by Davey Shafik.

The biggest problem I have with IDE and frameworks is not the overhead they call create. It’s how to get five different programmers to all buy into the same platform, with out beating them with a stick or owing them beers for the next dozen Fridays.

Programming As A Hobby

I spent a large part of Saturday compiling my own instance of PHP 5.2.6 for STC.com, sick logged into a SSH session at my hosting provider Dreamhost. The goal was to include GMP so I could use the Zend OpenID library for my FlickrOCD application. All that means is a I did a ton of stuff to only make a little bit of progress. Then I went for a walk.

The Social Developer

Blogger and CTO, Jon Williams, wrote a nice post explaining why some developers relish the opportunity to manage; they want to be social. It’s been a driving imperative in my career as well.

Jon goes on to posit that Agile development, with the dependence on verbal communication rather than arduous specification, can scratch the social itch.

While my team is not always using strict Agile methodology, we do have frequent “scrum-like” project and design meetings. As a very social beast myself, I love collaborative meetings, as long as their aren’t too many cooks in the room and it’s ultimately productive.