Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why Yahoo Can't Sell Search

I want to thank Yahoo for sending me a notification today that my credit card was going to be charged $150 again for the privilege of being listed on search index. It allowed me to (try) to remove my payment information to avoid wasting another $150 this year. It seems that with Yahoo stupidity has not bounds. Not only did they charge me to get our site indexed on a timely basis, they failed to deliver on the stated benefits. For the past year Yahoo delivered a whopping .04% of DigitalChalk organic search traffic and it took them SEVEN MONTHS to get us into their index. Of the 492 websites that provided me with referral traffic in the past 12 months, Yahoo ranked 17th behind AOL, ASK! and news.com (all of whom I did not do anything to get indexed with). Do I need to tell you who was first? Of course not. I paid nothing to Google for my site to be indexed and through simple SEO activities we moved from start-up to a PR4 in our first five months.

I'm happy to spend my SEM budget on Google. Now that they are supplying the ads for Yahoo search I'll get placement on whatever paltry search scraps Yahoo throws my way.

Oh, by the way, you can't cancel with Yahoo. Once they take your credit card, it's a black hole. You have to see this from their FAQ to believe it. To stop paying them the $150 I had to change my credit card information to something bogus. There is no such thing as cancellation when it comes to paid listings on Yahoo. The reason given? "For security reasons, we are not able to close customer accounts." Who's security are you protecting Yahoo? Jerry, it's not going to work buddy! Carl, save yourself the humiliation, there is nothing worth saving.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Net Parenting Destroys Productivity

There are two fundamental schools of thought for enterprise IT management. Having experienced both extremes I am convinced that most CIOs are the victim of their own well-intended efforts to enforce boundaries. It is the natural inclination of most IT professionals to place boundaries around what software and and network resources are available. This is a behavior born of necessity, everyone can't have access to everything and the truth of the matter is that it's a matter of self preservation for IT. While acnowledging a need for boundries, productivity is born from creativity and rapid access to content and data. At some point if we take the control approach to an extreme the tools intended to empower users become the shakles that bind them.

I was recently helping in a small organization and during a meeting the presenter approached me to see if someone could play a specific piece of bumper music as an intro. When I inquired about that and suggested we just download the song from iTunes I was informed that would not work because iTunes was blocked from access on the network. Why? The answer I got from the system admin who made the decision was "we can't let people just be downloading music here at the office." "Really", I reply, "why not?" I get a blank stare... I must be stupid, didn't I know music could destroy the business....

Opening up the toolbox to users so they can do things we didn't anticipate them doing is going to clutter up machines and make more work for IT to clean up right? Probably so but then again, maybe it's time for the tail to stop wagging the dog. There are smart ways to establish boundries. We don't have to enforce all boundries with technologies. People are amazingly adept at learning, let's start teaching them how to use technology in a safe and productive way instead of treating them like idiots. If we find we have technology idiots on staff who can't learn then perhaps we can create a dunse community and send them to it.

Here are three ways small to medium sized orgs can reduce IT cost/effort and headache:

1. Outsource your net-nanny activities to OpenDNS.com. It's free, effective and they will do a lot better job of policing the "bad" sites than you ever could.

2. Move your internal mail server and network storage servers to Google Apps for Business and Jungle Disk. It's the 21st century, quit hosting your mail and storage locally, it's a headache and your staff will never be as good as the pro's at the hosted services.

3. Take the dollars saved and buy Macs. Your employees will love you and your PC support cost savings will more than offset the difference in price.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Dell Cloud a Microsoft Threat?

Dell is quietly moving into the cloud space. Steven Schuckenbrock, CIO of Dell talkes at length about X86 infrastructure in cloud computing in a recent interview with Dan Farber. There is almost no mention of Microsoft when talking about virtualization capabilities. The only mention of Microsoft in the 10 minute interview was in describing competitive cloud computing initiatives, Microsoft was listed along with Google and Amazon as an example of trends in the cloud.

Dell has the potential to be a cloud computing powerhouse and they are clearly thinking about SaaS and cloud computing in a unified strategy. I'd bet on Dell making a strong play for moving enterprise customers over into a cloud delivery approach. They dominate the desktop hardware arena in the enterprise and are a trusted partner for most corporate CIOs.

The message that Steven is telegraphing is that the era of desktop computing has ended, at least from the standpoint of new market share initiatives at Dell.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Big ships are slow to turn

Much has been made about why Microsoft cannot seem to compete effectively in the Web 2.0 world. One would assume that with virtually unlimited development resources and the ability to hire the brightest minds in software, Microsoft would be able to at the very least successfully copy the Google or Amazon model. Microsoft has a long history of successfully copying a technology and dominating the market with their own version but of late they seem to be struggling to duplicate some of the simplest concepts. I have a theory on why that is, bureaucracy.

Microsoft is struggling to support the weight of it's own infrastructure. We see the most obvious evidence in Windows. There is no freedom to innovate because of the sacred cows in the product and the dependencies of historical features that must be supported. Another pitfall that seems to have trapped Microsoft is the insatiable desire to plow their own flavor of standards into any new product. I recently found an article in PC World that illustrated how the Federal Government is unable to innovate because of the layers of standards and many Gov websites are running on 2001 technologies and designs. Most of the .gov websites have missed the Web 2.0 wave. Microsoft is in the boat with them.

The best thing for Microsoft would be to spin off and divest itself of several divisions. It's time to let the kids leave home and go innovate on their own. That my be the best and perhaps the only hope of avoiding a slow decline into obsolescence.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Eucalyptus is Smelling Good

Troy Tolle sent me a link to look at a new open source tool from UC Santa Barbara called Eucalyptus. This looks very promising for a much needed tool for managing Zen VM images across multiple host services. The point of the tool is to manage VM images in a cluster with the first implementation for Amazon EC2 but with the flexibility to support other interfaces it's going to give us more options over time.

The intriguing thing that strikes me is the potential to marry this with the many new cloud computing platforms coming online in the next few months. Competition in the cloud is going to help everyone get a better product.

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