How do you spell ‘Carlos Zambrano’?

According to the folks providing close captioning for FOX, ‘Carlos Zambrano’ is spelled ‘Carl Saadam Braun’.

Come on, FOX!

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How important to you is your website?

The other day I was talking with one of my smaller customers (a 10-person company) about their website. I asked them if they knew how much traffic their website was getting. I pointed out that they — the website — hardly appeared in Google searches, unless the search was very specific to their area of expertise AND the suburb of Chicago they are located in. And even with such fine-tuned search criteria, they appeared somewhere at the bottom of the first page of results. All of that concerned me.

When I brought my concerns up to the client, their reaction completely surprised me. They replied that… their website is not a marketing tool for them. What more, they told me that they are likely to turn away potential clients that would come to them through the website. That’s a shocker! They feel that prospects finding them through the web would not match the corporate philosophy and therefore would not make good clients. Instead, they simply use their website as a 1-way communication tool with the existing clients by posting quarterly updates. The website looks dated and uninviting. If I found them through the web, I wouldn’t do business with them even though their philosophy may match how I feel.

In today’s world, for a lot of people, if you don’t have a website or if I can’t find it, you don’t exist, you go by unseen. But if your website looks dated and unappealing, if its appearance does not match how you want the world to see you, sometimes it is better to go unseen. Sadly enough, we still judge a book by its cover and tend to be deceived by appearances.

Your company website is perhaps the single best marketing tool out there: low cost, low maintenance, and yet it can be such high impact — it is the quickest, the most immediate face your company presents to the world. If you don’t think that people who find you on the web are going to subscribe to your philosophy, why not spell your philosophy out on the website? Make sure the website reflects the image you want your clients and prospects to perceive. Add a call to action: “If you like what you hear, if our philosophy matches how you feel, give us a call.” Maybe that way you can save time screening out the “unwanted” clients and maybe, just maybe, you can attract some surprising clients that you wouldn’t find otherwise.

PSC’s team of Lotusphere speakers is growing

Well, at least we are hoping that it will grow.  In addition to John Head and me, this year Luis Guirigay decided to join in on the fun and submitted an abstract of what we’re hoping will become his first Lotusphere session.  Luis’ session is based on his experience recent project expeirence building a very complex collaboration environment, involving pretty much every flavor of IBM technologies.  It was an interesting project and a rather intricate yet elegant solution.  I’m wishing Luis’ best of luck in getting his session approved.  I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed, too.

DuPage Habitat for Humanity New Website Launched and I Helped a Bit

Woo hoo — the DHFH new website is LIVE!

The last few months of my hard and sometimes not so hard volunteer effort are over and the result is out there for all to see. I have to admit that the final version was improved by the DHFH developers compared to where I left it.

For those who do not know, earlier this year I joined the Taproot Foundation and on my first project I was cast as a web developer to create a new website for DHFH. The site was built in ASP.NET , which was a bit of a learning experience for me, getting to work with Microsoft Visual Web Developer.

So that’s it. The project is done. The website is live. And I’m waiting to see if Taproot will call upon me again to embark on another non-profit adventure.

@Keith Strickland Re: Lotus Notes perception in the workplace…

After reading Keith’s post, I simply couldn’t fit everything I wanted to say into a Comment. And he brought up a sore subject for me…

How many times have you sat in a meeting with a business user and they said, “tell me if Notes can do this…”? I’ve been in too many meetings like that.

Lotus Notes as the development platform fell a victim to its own strength. Our strength is our weakness and the greater the strength, the greater the potential for weakness. Over the years, Lotus Notes suffered from being a RAD platform, which appeared easy to learn: create a few fields, put some labels on them, create 2 buttons — Close, Save — with simple @Commands and you have a Notes application.  And if you figured out @MailSend, you’ve got a workflow application.  This and the popularity of Notes in some markets attracted a myriad of Lotus Notes “developers”. These people would not be able to write a ‘Hello, World!’ program in GW-BASIC to save their lives, but they were a full-fledged, bona fide Notes developers. Lotus Notes allowed people who had no business being in IT an entry into the world of development and the “big” bucks that were associated with this glorified profession back in the day. They created truly ugly “applications” with functionality that did not extend beyond the basic @Functions. When asked by business units to add some features that were beyond their knowledge, they often replied, “Notes can’t do that”. It is little wonder that, with these people as the subject-matter “experts”, so many organizations came to see Notes as nothing more than email, a Mickey Mouse development platform at best and, consequently, chose to invest their development efforts and dollars, euro, marks and ringgits into other technologies.

Over the years I had to work with business users I had to beg to stop saying “tell me if Notes can do this”. It was an uphill battle convincing them to shed preconceived notions so deeply implanted into their minds by previous developers and to simply tell me what they want the application to do.

Today, sadly, the numbers of Lotus Notes developers have shrunk, at least around here, in Chicago. Luckily, the departure of those pseudo-developers accounts for a large portion of the shrinkage. Unfortunately, the damage’s been done and it is a long-lasting one. Like rebuilding a forest destroyed by the logging company, it will take time to reestablish Notes as valid development platform in minds of business users.

Upgrading Exchange vs. Upgrading Domino

We’re going through an upgrade of our Exchange environment to the latest and greatest Exchange 2007. Yes, I have to admit that for some strange reason folks in our Microsoft practice keep want to be using Outlook instead of Lotus Notes. I don’t understand their reasoning as they have to keep both clients: all our internal systems are built in Notes, but that’s their problem.

So after yet another email announcing that the upgrade had to be rescheduled, I got to wondering…

When we upgrade our Lotus Domino servers, I never hear about it. Domino is so easy to upgrade that it happens at night without anyone knowing. The only time I know that our servers were upgraded is when webmail asks me to install the new plug-in. And we have our business run on Domino.

So why is it taking what seems like several weeks to upgrade our puny Exchange environment, which does nothing but email for 10 – 15 people? Is it a problem with technology? Is it truly that complex to upgrade?

Any experiences to the contrary?

Collaboration Without Boundaries in Chicago

The IBM Lotus Competitive Services group brought their Collaboration Without Boundaries event (not to be confused with Collaboration Summit) to Chicago this past week. This event is probably the best kept secret amongst all the events that IBM puts on. It boasts remarkable quality of information that is very relevant to the competitive market place of today with topics covering everything form the messaging market to the OOXML vs. ODF debate, to social networking. If you consider that IBM serves both breakfast and lunch and that there is no cost to attend the event — it hardly gets better than that. Of course, the underlying theme of all presentations is to define how the IBM/Lotus software offerings stack up against those of Microsoft. This event can greatly benefit IBM partners in tough markets like Chicago by giving them the much needed ammunition to compete. For customers in the midst of evaluating their IT strategy and defining direction for the future this decision usually means IBM or Microsoft. An event like this is a great place to get the real scoop on how these two competitors measure up against each other.

For all the apparent benefits of the event in promoting the IBM’s message, the attendance in Chicago was disappointing, even pitiful. It would seem that the local team did nothing to promote the event in the community. There were maybe a dozen people attending the event. Out of those, 2 were from a Business Partner, PSC, and 1 person from one of my clients. The rest were IBMers.

I talked with some of the people on the Competitive Services team. According to them, the event in Chicago is one of the worst-attended events that they do. They see better attendance even in cities like Milwaukee, not to mention the events in Asia, which attract 100 to 150 attendees.

It is unfortunate that this valuable event and the effort of the Competitive Services group was wasted in Chicago.

If you missed the Collaboration Without Boundaries, but would still like to see the material that was presented, the presentations can be found here. The Competitive Services team constantly updates these, but the general material is the same.

And if you get a chance to attend this event in a city near you, do so — you won’t regret it.