Open Insights 20 – Better Web Better Business

OPEN INSIGHTS Newsletter
Issue 20 – Better Web Better Business
June 1, 2006

by Sean Hull
Founder and Senior Consultant
Heavyweight Internet Group

Welcome to our free monthly newsletter, discussing news, developments and business best practices at the intersection of Oracle and Open Source software.


In This Issue:
1. Feature: Better Web Better Business
2. Audio Interviews
3. Current Reading
4. Lightweight Humor
5. Past Issues
6. Technical Articles
7. About Heavyweight Internet Group


1. Feature: Better Web Better Business

Are you using the web to fullest advantage to improve your business? Almost every business is asking itself that question these days. Let’s take a look at some of the various ways you can put the web to use to make your business run better, get wider coverage, and bring in more revenue and business.

a. Google.com
Google has many services which you can use to build your website into a destination in your business niche.

Search Engine Optimization
This is techie speak for making your website appear highest in google searches for the right terms. There is an art to this, from getting other sites to point to yours, to using keywords in the right places in your HTML. Do some google searching to find out more.

Adwords http://adwords.google.com
Whenever users do normal Google searches, sponsored ads show up along the sides and top. Studies show most users don’t know the difference between sponsored links, and real search engine results. You do don’t you? The good part here is that you only pay when a clickthrough happens. And despite some of the bad press on click fraud, on the whole you get what you pay for here, and they’re very diligent about tracking down fake clickthroughs. Signup for an account with your credit card. It has fairly straightforward directions to get you started with an ad campaign in under an hour!

Adsense http://adsense.google.com
This is the flip side of adwords. You place sponsored ads on your site in a small box, controling what, where, and how much ad placement you want to do. Then they send you a check!

News alerts http://news.google.com
Signup for alerts, and google will mail you daily, results of important keywords. I have an alert for “oracle open-source”, so everyday google searches it’s current news archives and emails me titles and story summaries. An easy way to keep up with important news in your industry.

Maps http://maps.google.com
You may have used them to find an address or driving directions, but google maps can do a lot more. With a little programming, it can map out store locations, event locations, or other relevant business information, and be linked right into your site.

Finance http://finance.google.com
One of Google’s newer features, this allows you to track key stocks, funds, and indexes that are relevant to your industry. The comparison + graphing tools are phenomenal.

Trends http://www.google.com/trends
Another one of the newer offerings, this service allows you to track trends in google searches for keywords you’re interested. Want to track the keyword “database”? Just enter that keyword and see a graph of news articles that word appeared in, since 2004.

b. Tagging
This technology allows you to use and associate keywords to content on your site. Like Search Engine Optimization mentioned earlier, it helps you get the right people to see the right content. See http://del.icio.us/ and http://technorati.com/ for more info.

c. Instant Messaging
Do your clients like to communicate via instant messaging? You may already be struggling with multiple IM clients. If so, take a look at http://gaim.sourceforge.net It supports the major ones such as AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and Google (Jabber) as well as IRC, Gadu-Gadu and others. If you’re on a Mac, checkout Adium X: http://www.adiumx.com/ In addition, many of the messaging clients are adding voice now, using various Voice Over IP technologies. By far the biggest heavyweight in this area is the upstart from Luxembourg Skype http://www.skype.com founded by the two creators of Kazaa. I’ve used it for quite some time, and find crystal clear calling almost everytime I use it. There is also video teleconferencing which is also clear, and works very well. It’s hard to believe all of this is free. Of course if you want to call landlines or allow landlines to call you on skype, you’ll need to get SkypeOut or SkypeIn respectively. Even more exciting, from now until the end of the year, US callers can enjoy SkypeOut domestic calls for FREE until the end of the year! If all that is not enough, there is also a party line feature, which can be used for teleconferencing, or socializing if that suits your fancy.

d. CRM Systems
I hope you’re not all still using Outlook to store your addressbooks now are you? The truth is that CRM or customer relationship management software is something sales folks have been using for years, but the rest of us are just discovering. Keep track of all your contacts, notes on recent calls, reminders to call back, relationships, categories, prospects, opportunities, mailing lists, you name it. One solution I’d recommend is SugarCRM a phenomenal open-source system for doing all of the above and more. There is a commercial version which has various other additional features, that may interest you after you’ve had a chance to use the software. What’s more if you don’t want to fiddle with installing, and hosting it, you can simply get SugarCRM ondemand straight from the source!

Don’t want to fiddle with installing your own software? Not to worry, there are many web offerings that provide great service as well. For starters there Plaxo. The basic service is free, and you can configure it to let your contacts update their own information periodically, saving you the hassle! There is also a premium version for a monthly fee. Then there’s Constant Contact which has a free 60-day trial to get you started.

If you want the real mac-daddy of on-demand solutions, look no further than Salesforce.com .

e. RSS and Website Syndication
RSS is the technology for syndicating content from your website, or getting content from someone elses. For instance aggregation services like Google’s personalized homepage, allows you to add news feeds from all your favorite sites. What makes news feeds even better is you can easily browse this content on your phone, or other mobile device. Take a look at http://www.feeddemon.com/ for a desktop client that reads news feeds, or go to one of these sites that does aggregation for you:

http://www.feedlounge.com
http://www.newsgator.com
http://www.bloglines.com

My Yahoo, My AOL, and Google Personalized Homepage all offer the same thing. Consolidate all your regular sites, and you’ll make yourself much more efficient, and less prone to wandering, and getting distracted while browsing the web.

f. Website Customer Feedback
How are you using your website to build a better connection with your customer? There are a lot of things you can do with a website besides place up basic description of your founding philosophy, and services.

Are you reviewing your site traffic statistics regularly to see what areas of the site capture the most interest? How about placing some surveys on the homepage to ask your customers what you could be doing better? Or what need they have which isn’t being met.

How about offering users the ability to have premium content if they register? This can garner you more information about the users who use your site. You can direct market to them, contact them, and customize content for them.

How about providing a newsletter subscription box so they can keep up with news about your services? How about a blog (as mentioned above) which provides regular new and interesting content to the site?

g. Indeed.com
Indeed is a real gem of a find. Their site aggregates many different job site
s, so you can go to just one place to find listings. What’s more you can save search criteria you do often, and get an RSS feeds for them. That’s right, the great syndication technology I described above can help you keep track of what jobs are out there, who is hiring, and for what. What makes the site even MORE noteworthy is it’s “Job Trends” feature: http://www.indeed.com/jobtrends

Type in a keyword to see how job postings have gone up and down over various dates throughout the year!

h. Blogging
Well, you’ve heard about it, and you probably read plenty of them, but are you doing it? Blogging brings regular, new content to your website, material people can search for, and find you based on. Sites with new and refreshing content are much more likely to see regular sustained traffic as users will come back time and again. If you’re writing a newsletter, post it in your blog as well. If you discuss issues in discussion groups, post some of your conclusions on a blog. If you look at all the email you send in a day, it easily amounts to a couple of blog postings, and others may benefit from your insight. There are many, here are a few you might try:
http://www.blogger.com/start
http://www.typepad.com/
http://www.livejournal.com/

2. Audio Interviews
We have a great audio interview or podcast that you’re sure to enjoy. We talk with Paul Vallee, Founder and President of Pythian Group, about their use of Open-source technologies in the enterprise, and why they’ve taken the reigns to maintain a Perl to Oracle library called DBD::Oracle. Click here for more.

Do you use Open-source technologies in your enterprise? Would you like to talk about your experiences, and business successes? We’d like to hear from you. Email me at shull@iheavy.com

3. Current Reading
Intuition – Allegra Goodman

Allegre’s bestselling book involves a fictional university lab doing cancer research. One of the brightest young researchers produces some promising results, and the interplay of personalities begins to unfold. Her writing is superb, in the way that you get drawn into each of the characters from their point of view, as a good director does in a film. Lab directors push too hard, romances burn up in flames, and even some government agencies get into the act. I couldn’t put this book down. She needs a blog: http://theory.lcs.mit.edu/~karger/allegra.html

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People – Toby Young
Toby Young wrote for Vanity Fair while working in NY, though I first read his column in the NY Press. This was some time after he crashed and burned. This book tells all about it, velvet roped clubs, clipboard nazis, photo shoots, and pissing people off at a-list events. He even recounts tales of begging for firstclass upgrade on plane flights across the proverbial “pond”. A very funny book. He has a blog: http://www.tobyyoung.co.uk/toby/rss/blog/

Beyond Fear – Bruce Schneier
Bruce Schneier is famous for his work on cryptography, and his past books “Secrets and Lies” and “Practical Cryptography”. His latest book comes in the wake of 9/11 and it’s attendant security hysteria. He focuses on real-life security, and his keen mind and relentless thinking on these topics help illucidate the topic for the rest of us. He has a blog: http://www.schneier.com/blog/

4. Lightweight Humor
The Onion archives does it again with: “Late-Working NASA Scientists Discover Moons Over My Hammy

5. Past Issues
Issue 19: Managing Fixed Fees
Issue 18: The Cost of Consulting
Issue 17: Secrets Of The Interview
Issue 16: Success In Juggling
Issue 15: Marketing About Technology
Archive: Past Issues

6. Technical Articles
Oracle9i + RAC on Linux/Firewire: click here
Migrating MySQL to Oracle: click here
MySQL Disaster Recovery: click here

7. About Heavyweight Internet Group
In a nutshell, Oracle. Everything related to and surrounding the database technology we specialize in, but specifically setup, admin and tuning of Oracle technology. I have 10 years experience with Oracle, wrote a book on the technology, and write and lecture frequently. I’m founder and senior consultant of the company. In capacities where your company might hire Deloitte, AIG, or Oracle Consulting we can bring the same level of service and experience, at about half the price. Simple equation.
Visit us on the web at http://www.iheavy.com.