Good Specs Make Good Projects

Having spent years as a construction project manager prior to starting to work on the internet in 1995, I know the value of a good specification.  It’s the document that defines the expectations, goals and means of achieving a final result which is agreed to and signed off on as the first phase of any project.  In the case of small projects, we’ll often rely on the accepted project estimate as our specification, but for anything more than a simple project, a full specification process is highly advised.

As the old saw goes, you can’t get where you’re going when you don’t know where you want to go.  A good spec, which doesn’t have to be voluminous, can ensure that everyone’s on the same page, allowing the developer, designer, etc. to be sure of meeting the clients needs, and smoothing out those nasty “surprises” for the customer.  In short, a good spec is a win for everyone involved.

The problem is that on tightly budgeted projects, either in terms of time, money, or both, the specification process is often the first thing to be cut.  That’s dead wrong, because the spec is the thing that allows you to identify potential problems before they come up, and as importantly, keeps the “That’s not what I wanted” factor to a minimum.  Spend the time, and get the job done right.

A good specification is one of the key items to presenting predictable, repeatable results on projects.  As business owners, we learn to love “predictable and repeatable.”

Smart Thumb Drives Make Any Computer Your Computer

Going back to my post last week about virtual personal computers, I was rather surprised to see this in that bastion of Tech Know How, – Scandisk and Lexar media are making smart thumb drives that will allow you to use your desktop and applications on any machine running Windows XP (and probably Vista).  No more hauling your laptop on the plane, just plug in your thumb when you get there.

 It’s the right way to go, but on some levels, I’m going to be in big trouble.  I’m death to thumb drives…

More on BuzzLogic

I made passing reference to the Buzzlogic Tool yesterday, in making my point on the WSJ New-Media World article.  Since then, Buzzlogic itself has gone to create a virtual case study on the buzz capability “blog-vegas” – they’ve turned up in Dan Farber’s blog on ZDNet, in Tom Foremski’s blog on Silicon Valley Watcher, Ethan Kaplan’s, and a total of 78 blogs so far since David Churbuck’s post (see the WSJ post yesterday, I don’t want to clutter up his blog with trackbacks) yesterday. 

As they say, you can’t buy press like that.  This is a definitely a case of someone building a better mousetrap, and the world is indeed beating a path to their door.  The traditional press release is dead and buried.  Other than the rare pickup in a print trade or on some pr newswire, your information just doesn’t get the traction it used to by the old “email and forget it” methods.  Dealing with blog-vegas is a whole new beast, and we need to rethink our methods. 

WSJ on the Importance of Blogging for Small Business

The Wall Street Journal today devoted 2 pages to the importance of blogging and the internet for small businesses.  The article, entitled How to Get Attention in a New-Media World (subscription – find a print copy if you can get it) is a great example of what I’ve been telling the Vario community for years:  be the expert and you will be viewed as the expert.   

The essence of the article is that the Internet has (not will, not might, has) torn down the barrier for PR.  Small businesses can create their own buzz with effective online presentation, blogging, and by courting bloggers.  It can be done without huge pr firms, without million dollar budgets.

I’ve been watching lately, and now many companies are managing “blog-vegas” – post a problem with a branded product on your blog and you are fairly likely to hear from someone from that company rather shortly.  Look at Chris Murray’s post about PageFlakes last week. Companies are reaching out, and this is a style well suited to the small company.

David Churbuck posted today about Buzzlogic, tool for tracking blogs, specifically designed for online marketing.  David’s the VP of Global Web Marketing at Lenovo, and transitioned from publishing.  He made this point, quoting Sam Whitmore (a Vario customer):

A lot of former journalism colleagues were surprised to see me join a “vendor,” but most, like Sam Whitmore, saw the point that everyone is media in this day and age.

You might also be interested to see the site, where we’ve put just this sort of marketing in place.  The blog is still in cloaking mode, but you’re get the idea.  We’re creating the resource for Central Massachusetts small businesses. 

Craft your image, do it online, and do it without spending a bundle. It’s never been easier for a small business to make a big splash. 

Understanding Search Engine Optimization at the Basic Level

Download our Understanding Search Engine Optimization at the Basic Level Whitepaper

(This is from a whitepaper written for Vario Creative some time ago, but still pertinent – MNC)

In the past couple years the dominance in the search engine market of Google™ and their dependence upon “the Google algorithm” for generating results has created a new area of specialization in web design firms called “Search Engine Optimization.” There are all kinds of businesses now that are making all kinds of interesting promises and statements about the industry. On the subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), there is only one statement I can truly make with anything approaching 100% certainty:

“Anyone who promises or guarantees that they can get you top Google ranking for a keyword is at best a liar, and most probably something worse.”

Now that sounds a little harsh. It is meant to sound exactly that way. Read on to find out why.

Continue reading “Understanding Search Engine Optimization at the Basic Level”

Vin Crosbie on the 5 Stages of Grief for the News Industry

Vin Crosbie posted what could only be called a major treatise on the decline of the news industry. I’m honestly still dissecting it.  The main point appears to come down to this being a case of slow suicide, rather than murder by internet.

However, an examination of data shows that their online editions are read by fewer people — and less often and less frequently — than the dying print or broadcast editions. Moreover, ten years into these efforts, the online editions are earning only one-twentieth to one-hundredth per user what the dying print edition earns per reader.

or citing Bob Cauthorn

“Even the dairy industry spends more on research and development than the newspaper industry does. And milk doesn’t face anything like the new forms of competition that newspapers do.”

or quoting the State of the News Media 2006 report:

At many old-media companies, though not all, the decades-long battle at the top between idealists and accountants is now over. The idealists have lost.

Vin also links to this article from Former Knight-Ridder op-ed writer Alvaro Vargas, well worth reading in it’s own right.

Business Mashups = Web as Operating System

Read the previous post about online virtual servers from Amazon, then consider this from

Like Google , Yahoo!  and others, Salesforce is treating the Internet less like a communications network and more like a computing platform, a continuation of the dispersal of computing power from a mainframe to servers to a personal computer. And like his colleagues (albeit more vocally), Benioff sees Microsoft as a computer industry chokepoint that will be eliminated by Internet-based mashups.

Will our computers become simple “Internet Application Access Devices?”