Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The entitlement generation: start your own business

Something about Andrew Whitacre's rant on the entitlement generation made sense to me.

It's a rant about the low levels of responsibility available in jobs for recent graduates and how there are aspects of our education that places us particularly well to deal with modern business culture.


In particular, his rant number 3: Are you aware of how little time it actually takes us to do things? struck a chord. How many times have you written a script to do something or simply learnt how to do it in a better and quicker way? The generation just reaching their mid-twenties has a combination of skills that are incredibly rare in older generations. In the companies I've worked for (much as I learnt from the experience), these skills were handled by the offloading of repetitive tasks to the new guys not only because we were new, but also because we did them so damn well (well, our computers did, actually).

I don't see this changing any time soon in most established companies which is part of the reason that we have gone down the route referred to in the rant and started our own company - now we have all the responsibility we can handle.

Duncan and I were talking today about the future and what our company wants to become. One thing's for sure - web design is only the beginning. We're free now to explore our ideas and we're very keen to build multiple revenue streams over time, which is why we're going to have blue sky breaks where we have mad rushes to develop crazy business concepts in an afternoon. Watch this space for the results.

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Security on the web

There is a never-ending battle for security and against hackers/crackers/miscreants in many fields, but particularly so online. It's something we're always sensitive to - and I have spent a lot of time over the years learning about cryptography (including university courses, though I spent more time on coding theory which is actually something entirely different).

Today's example of poor security

Whilst working on the migration of a client's website today, I noticed that their gateway page, with login and password box was even less secure than expected. It's not a critical part of the site - no-one can spend money if they get in as someone else and it's not done via a secure connection so there are always going to be attacks possible. I didn't, however, expect it to be as easy as it was to get in. The html source for the page included all valid username and password combinations - and validated on the spot using javascript!

Security resource on the web

If you're interested in security (online and offline), the writings of Bruce Schneier offer a great perspective. His monthly email newsletter in particular is well worth a read for insight into current affairs as they relate to security and his railing against insecure 'security' policies.

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Michelle Louise website launch party

Last night we had our first bona fide website launch party - for Michelle Louise, Hairdressers on Trinity Road.

Full credit to Michelle, who organised the whole thing and made sure people turned up. As well as launching her website, there was a live botox demonstration and a bunch of new services being launched.

A reporter from SW magazine was there taking pictures and gathering information - we're hoping for a website mention. It'll be interesting to see spikes in the logs from last night as well as from a write-up.

Marketing the event

As well as sending paper invitations to many of her clients, we organised an email and SMS mailshot for Michelle. Being a one-off (and an invitation to a party!) we hoped this wouldn't upset people. I was impressed with the ease with which we could automate an SMS mailshot - we used a company called 24X. I think we may well use them again.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

JSCards website live - illustrated cards and T-Box t-shirts

We have another site live: JSCards, illustrated cards and T-Box t-shirts from Janie Sinclair (you can also see this site in our portfolio).

Go and buy some cards or tank tops

I know Janie would very much appreciate it if you went and bought some illustrated cards or some tank tops!

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Coming high up in Google

Everyone wants to do well in the major search engines

One of the most common questions we are being asked at the moment is can we come high up in Google? The answer, of course is that it depends what keywords you are targeting and how much effort you are prepared to put in to get the outcome you desire.

WandD's search engine consultancy

A popular, and growing side of our business is advising on strategies for online growth. This encompasses a number of areas but includes coming high up in Google.

There is no magic bullet and we refuse to engage in any of the dodgy tactics you sometimes hear about. We don't want customers thrilled with results one minute then having their online reputation destroyed the next. We are starting to see some success in some of our campaigns and our monthly 'online profile-raising' support services are our biggest growth area.

As an example of how things can turn out well, see the official website of Val Tyler, author of the Time Wreccas and the Time Apprentice. We started working on this site at the end of 2004 and (at the time of writing) it has achieved:

KalkanHaven, Turkish Villa

Another recent success story is the result of the very generic search Turkish Villa on Yahoo where Kalkan Haven, our Turkish Villa website comes in at number 6 (at the time of writing).

Our search engine services

We're pretty proud of this - given the number of high-profile sites with pages about the books and how generic the search Turkish villa is. If you think your business could benefit from our services, get in touch.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Would you want Gordon Ramsay as your boss?

Recently Will posted about the TV show Gordon Ramsay - Kitchen Nightmares and how, whilst he is undoubtably a fantastic chef a lot of the advice Gordon gave was about how to run the business.

The BBC magazine has an article about Gordon Ramsay, which echos our view of his skills being Management rather than necessarily chef based.

Compliments to the chef by Denise Winterman (BBC News Magazine).

Gordon Ramsay didn't get three Michelin stars just by swearing at his staff. What's so successful about his management style?

Along side the article there is a voting button, I, like the majority of other people have voted yes. What would you vote?

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

First new sites are live

The first new WandD sites (since I started working full time) are live. You can see them in portfolio of websites.

Arnold Hill, Accountants

The first is Arnold Hill, Accountants (and Arnold Hill's page in our portfolio) - we haven't done a lot of redesign work for them yet but more is on the way. For the time being, they have just migrated to content manager and we've tidied up the underlying code.

Michelle Louise Hair and Beauty, SW17

Michelle Louise Hair and Beauty, SW17 (and Michelle Louise's page in our portfolio) is the second. Expect more content on that site soon - the launch party is on the 28th June.

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JPEG resource fork breaks Internet Explorer

I didn't expect that one. I had to script some image manipulation while creating a site for a client. The Mac is good for this kind of thing - I needed to convert large .tif files into smaller .jpg files and upload into our content manager.

JPEGs created in OS X didn't display in Internet Explorer

Everything went smoothly and the test on my machine worked fine - Safari successfully showed the images in the site and all was hunky dory. Unfortunately, JPEGs created in OS X didn't display in Internet Explorer and I got little red crosses instead of images. this site appeared to be helpful and I thought I could solve the problem using the same software I had used to do the scripting in the first place - graphic converter.

When I followed the instructions, it still didn't work - my images were still broken for the web. Eventually, since I was looking for a command-line scripting program anyway, I decided to download Image Magick (also available for Linux and Windows). This program is amazing. I'm only scraping the surface of what it can do but some of the examples are fantastic.

I eventually wrote the final script - it passes through .png on the way to .jpg but it finally works. Command line image manipulation is going to save me a lot of time!

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Friday, June 03, 2005

Cricinfo Usability: 'Watching' Cricket on the Internet

Cricket on the Internet

I am a big cricket fan but I don't (yet) have the luxury of being able to watch or listen to the scores at work. With England currently humiliating Bangladesh (I can feel a rant building up, but I leave that for another day) and my Cousin getting a game for Warwickshire, I find myself relying on the internet for the latest score.

Titlebars and usability

I 'watch' the cricket (i.e follow the scores) using cricinfo, which has always been excellent. Recently (I only noticed it last week) the format of the title bar has been changed which has made a huge difference to the way I can follow the cricket.

I currently have two browser windows open, the first is the Test match which has a title bar reading "BD 66/5 (Aftab Ahmed 6* Khaled Mashud 2*) Lunch - Day 1 - Cricinfo" (See note at the end). The title of the second window reads "Surrey v Warwickshire at Croydon, 1-4 Jun 2005".

For the Search Engines the second title is infinitely better, however the intention of the page shouldn't be to rank highly in the search engines. By glancing at my TaskBar I can instantly see that Bangladesh are in trouble at 66 for 5. I can also see that Surrey are playing against Warwickshire at Croydon between the 1st and the 4th June 2005, which a) I know and b) doesn't tell me the score, which is the one bit of information I want.

In the first format I can see everything I want to know at a glance. If something dramatic happens such as a wicket falls then I can maximise the window and read all about it. I don't want to have to maximise the window just to find out the score.

The story isn't any better using the "Desktop Scorecard" feature. In fact it is worse. The desktop scorecard for the Surrey game has the following title, " - Surrey..." which is all that fits on because they have limited the size of the window. Surely "SUR: 121/3" would make a better title. We all know the site is cricinfo, and by showing the score I could happily hide the browser on the TaskBar and no-one in my office would know I was watching the cricket! Only when something important happened would I have to reveal the browser window to anyone walking past at the time (which always seem to be my manager, oh well, I'm leaving in less than a month)

Note RE Title format: There are (at least) two ways of navigating to the scorecard of the test match. There is a "Live Scorecard" link in the news on the homepage. There is also a "Live Scores" menu bar at the right hand side of the window. If you use the link from the homepage (rather than from the menu bar) you get the score in the title bar, if you use the menu bar, you don't.. Your choice.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Start a business young

Well, we've been saying it for a while, and we waited longer than we wanted to turn a sideline business into a fulltime business, but nevertheless, it's good to see someone with that experience thing everyone talks about writing about how it's a good idea to start your own business young. He even advocates starting sooner than we have (though actually, we were 18 or so when we first started the business that eventually turned into WandD - see the timeline of our businesses through the years).

Solving problems for people

I think Paul Graham is right when he says that experience is mainly learning that you need to solve problems for people and make things that people want. We went and got some of that experience after university and now it is beginning to seem that WandD content manager is something that people want because it does solve their problems.

Incidentally, did you see Gordon Ramsey last night? He had another cracking piece of business advice: Know about all aspects of your business. If there's something you don't know about, find out about it before you get fucked. Smart man.

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