Monthly Archives: September 2008

Google Base and “Free” Enterprise

Google Base has a feature that sounds like it would help webmasters. You can request a multi-user account. Only problem is, if you do, you may find yourself limited in ways that really don’t make sense.

One of my clients has two sites. They contain similar items, but no duplicates. Each item on each site is completely unique, and one of a kind.

Google Base denied our initial request for a multi-user account with those two sites. Their claim is that they have too similar items. Odd, since each one is entirely unique, and since they are all handcrafted items, no one would ever consider them to be duplicates. Further, one site has antiques, the other has contemporary items.

They also denied us because two other sites had two items that were similar, while all the rest was different. It would seem that rather than indexing the entire web, as they say they want to do, they only want to index what they consider to be unique. Even though services are distinctly different, they consider them to be the same because they are in the same category.

So before you request a multi-user account, make sure you differentiate the sites enough that someone who cannot think for themselves can tell the difference. Otherwise you’ll be denied the account.

The Comfortable Trap of Familiarity

Familiarity is where we are comfortable, certain, and secure. It is the basis of experience, predictability, and even reliability. But too much ends up no longer being an asset.

When you only know one thing, and want to make everything you do fit that one thing, familiarity is no longer a strength, but a weakness.

We see this in software choices, where someone tries to do everything with a single solution. We see it in food choices where we refuse to try anything new. We see it in our choices in style, problem solving, and the brands we use.

What frustrates me in business, is when people fall back on familiarity when it is to their disadvantage. One person wants to use HTML for everything, even those things that it should not be used for, instead of finding a more appropriate and functional solution. Another wants to make WordPress do it all – which it was never intended to do and does badly if you push it too far. A third won’t try networking because it is out of their comfort zone.

I like familiarity. But I realize that sometimes it is a trap that stops us from seeing what can be a more effective way.

I’m not talking about breaking rules that should not be broken. The rules that make sense and protect us. I’m talking about thinking outside the box and considering new methods when we are beginning to get bogged down in the existing routines.

Many times, familiarity lulls us into thinking that there cannot be an easier way, when in fact, the learning curve is often low, the time saved from the right step forward will yield profits over and over.

Take the time to honestly weigh the benefits against the drawbacks. And consider it for the long term, not just the short term, because that is generally where the biggest benefits are realized.

Trying for Three Days

I’ve been trying to come up with a topic for three days now, but I’ve been so busy that it has been difficult to even think outside of what I have had to do. In that time, I’ve come to some conclusions, because of events around me.

First, I’ll never willingly choose to work with X-Cart if there is any other option. It goes onto our “do not touch” list, along with OSCommerce, CubeCart, and several others. It rates for it’s complexity, and lack of flexibility. The templating is a nightmare, outdated, clunky, and inflexible. I managed to carry off a site design to be proud of, but it still isn’t what it should have been. I will not pay for a cart that is not even close to the quality of free Open Source options, and whose support is extremely inconvenient to access – no better than that available for Open Source, and in many ways worse.

Second, there is a line that I will not cross. As one of our clients flirts with it, it reiterates my reasons for not wanting to ever promote sites that exceed the limits of my moral principles. There is always a consequence for it. One that I am not willing to court.

Third, I cannot do everything. We’ve consolidated our business again, preferring to give up the less profitable aspects rather than trying to grow in a clumsy way. By refining our services, we can do more, in less time, and profit more. Static HTML sites are not the only thing we’ve given up. We have three other businesses that we are now referring several types of work to. It keeps us focused.

Fourth, the reputation you inspire in others is of more value than anything you say. When other people say it, it has more credibility. Of course, I know this. It has just really been apparent the power this has, in the last several weeks, as we have received calls and contacts that we have not had to hunt, from people who come to us pre-sold. What a blessing!

Fifth… Faith can be tested in ways we do not expect. We never know what the true gifts are in our life until it is. I finally feel like the last bits of healing are taking place since Sidney died. My spirit feels whole again, though not terribly strong yet. It seems to be healing along with my body, which is getting better month by month as Crohn’s Disease has less and less influence on me.

One of those busy times, full of lessons, full of happenings, but much of it not fit for sharing. Too personal, too mundane, but not at all worthless.

You Gotta Say So!

A friend emailed, and told me that he had received an unsatisfactory response from a tech support department. I encouraged him to inform them of that, and to not settle for a non-response.

I don’t have anything against tech support personnel. Quite the contrary, I like them, because I depend on them to make me look good. I offer tech support myself, and because of that, I encourage people to let a business know when there is a problem.

See, often, the techies in the background are unaware of the problems in the foreground. This happens because 80% of dissatisfied people just go away, they don’t complain or ask for help with the problem. The other 20% ends up being very valuable. When you complain, you not only represent yourself, you represent 4 other people who DIDN’T complain as well!

Most problems on the user end of things are obscure ones that only happen in certain circumstances. Many are things we can’t even duplicate – so we rely on you to report, and then to see if we fixed it. That is just the nature of computers – they behave differently in other people’s houses, just like kids do!

If you don’t say, we may never know!

Sure, we’d rather you didn’t call and harangue us, or flame us in an email. That doesn’t help anybody, because then we just think you are a crank who isn’t satisfied by anything. But when you call or email and say, “This isn’t working, can you help me?”, we like that. We get a chance to make the problem better, and we find out what else might not be working that we didn’t know about.

People who can calmly state what the problem is, and how it occurred (tell us what you were doing when it happened), are a great help to techies.

So if you get a “non-response” from someone at the bottom of the food chain, holler again. Sometimes the little guys at the bottom of the tech support heap try to put off people with complaints that they can’t fix. Don’t let them. Ask to go to the next level. Keep doing that until you get someone who listens. Be polite, but keep insisting!

Most companies DO want to keep you happy. But sometimes you have to make some noise to get past someone who isn’t helpful. It is worth doing, because for a good company, it can make a difference to more than just yourself. It can help to solve a problem for the entire user base. And that is something to feel proud of.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.