Archive for the ‘Web development’ Category

My greatest weakness

Monday, July 21st, 2008

WeaknessAnyone who tried to visit any page on this site since last Wednesday already knows what I am about to tell you – my blog has been down for five days. It’s back up now, working just fine, but it appears that the damage has been done. My good SEO ranking on some good terms has been lost, 1/4 of my readers have unsubscribed.

I just wanted to send a quick note out to all of you who have stuck with me through the downtime – thank you! And I’m sorry for the technical difficulties. The short explanation is that this blog is using a technology that one of my new businesses/applications is also using, and when the developers made a change to that application, they managed to take down my blog at the same time. It appears that everything is now fixed and working like it should, hopefully there won’t be any more issues.

This outage really brings to light what I think is my biggest weakness as an entrepreneur - I am not technical enough. I know a bit about technology, definitely enough to talk about it and to understand the concepts, a smattering of HTML. But I am not a “do-er” – and so, when things like this happen, I am at the mercy of others. This fact is hard to take.

I am honestly not sure what the solution to the problem is, either. As the president of my company, I shouldn’t be the one who is doing all the nitty gritty work – that would be a waste of time and resources. I also don’t have the time to go back to school and to take classes to learn all this stuff that I wish I already knew. I could regret my college major (maybe computer science would have been a better choice than English, no matter how much I loved reading those books), but then again, if I had majored in computer science, who knows where I would be now. Maybe the influences of Maya Angelou (On The Pulse of the Morning), Sylvia Plath and Ralph Ellison are part of what has inspired me to be the person I am today, to do what I am doing right now. And regrets aren’t helpful, anyway.

So I put my lack of technical expertise in the category of unavoidable things that suck. At least for now. And I try to use this weakness as a reminder that I can’t build this business on my own, that I need help and input from a wide variety of other people to be successful. And I breathe. Slowly.

Photo by solidstate

Domain names & widgets in Ireland

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

I’m back from my vacation, and it was terrific. Basically, Chris and I spent an entire week having fun and relaxing – and not a bit of work was done by either of us. It was a real vacation!

Of course, I may not have officially been working, but I was on the lookout for business ideas and interesting perspectives on the Internet during my time in Ireland. Only two things stood out:

1) Most ads, billboards and marketing that I saw in the country included a URL, and most of those URLs ended in .ie. I really was surprised at the prevalence of the country-specific domain name usage in Ireland. I can’t be sure if it was just Ireland that uses it’s country code, or if that practice is common across the world, but I definitely expected .com to be more popular in Ireland than it appeared to be, at least in what I was looking at as I drove across the country. This trend (or non-trend) is something that I am going to be watching closely for globalization projects.

2) In Ireland, a widget is related to Guinness, not the Web. In fairness, many people in Ireland probably think of the Web when they hear the word widget. But for us, during this trip, the widget was all about the Guinness.

According to this interesting post by Fred Wilson that I read when I got back from my trip (Why Widgets is the Wrong Word for What We’re Doing), widgets as they relate to the Web may soon be an outdated term (or concept) anyway. But for posterity, a widget is “an object on the computer screen that the user interacts with,” according to Wikipedia. It’s basically a piece of code that can be used on a Web page (or blog) to deliver specific content or functionality to a Web page. (I am not convinced that the widget is going away, although Wilson makes an interesting point.)

In terms of Guinness, the widget is a little plastic ball that is in the canned version of the beer that releases gases to help make the head that Guinness is so famous for. This link provides some very helpful information (and a picture) about the Guinness widget.

I told you I was on vacation and not working, right?

Subdirectories vs. subdomains

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Thinking about About.com yesterday reminded me of one of the reasons that I paid such close attention to them for so many years – About.com is the best example of a successful company that uses a subdomain structure for its domain names.

There has been a perpetual debate over which is better way to set up the domain names for a site network:

– A subdirectory structure, for example www.sitename.com/ships 

– A subdomain structure, for example http://ships.sitename.com 

In my mind, this debate was recently ended by Google’s Matt Cutts. In his words:

“Historically, it’s been kind of a wash about when to use subdomains vs. subdirectories…My personal preference on subdomains vs. subdirectories is that I usually prefer the convenience of subdirectories for most of my content. A subdomain can be useful to separate out content that is completely different. Google uses subdomains for distinct products such news.google.com or maps.google.com, for example. If you’re a newer webmaster or SEO, I’d recommend using subdirectories until you start to feel pretty confident with the architecture of your site. At that point, you’ll be better equipped to make the right decision for your own site.”

Bottom line: either way is fine. Pick your favorite and go with it.