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Showing posts from November, 2006

Wow... what a day!

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It appears that just like everyone was speculating who was more reputable than the news, Monday wasn't the biggest day for online sales. In fact, today has been MUCH stronger than Monday was. In fact, today was over 40% better by sales numbers, although it was fewer orders.

This sort of mirrors last year... with us showing a 40% increase just as December started. This could be the sign of good things to come for sure. Higher and higher... until eventually the top will blow right off the building.

Ok, maybe not. But it is nice wondering how we're going to get all of the orders out the door and not wondering if we're going to have anything to do tomorrow like some site owners I've talked to.

If I could just take everything I know about building an online business, put it in a bottle, and then sell it... why... that'd be worth at least 35 cents plus tax. If I'm still attached to those thoughts, then what am I doing in a bottle? Let me out and I could help out a lot m…

Easily Installing Perl, PHP, and Apache in Windows

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For many developers, running a simple web server on a windows box would simplify things a lot. I've been asked many times how to do that best. Well, my answer has been the same for a while now: use Indigo.


Indigo Perl installs Apache as a service with PHP and Perl support. You can install this right to your Windows workstation and be off and running in a few minutes. No more uploading a file and saying "Oops" when there's a typo. Install it and view your site on your own PC before you FTP the files up to your web server.

I've installed this on a few Windows servers as well for some Intranet apps. It sure beats manually configuring things to run Perl, since that's the language I program almost everything in. Yep, I'm old school, but that's mostly linked to my past as a Unix sysadmin. Wow... that makes me really old school.

My Dad - Blogging About Jeeps

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My dad decided he wanted to blog about his Jeep a while ago. So we got him set up on blogger and gave him a real simple template. Some of the little things that get him excited about his blog is a real hoot. They all seem so "normal" to me now that it'd be annoying if it didn't work.

For example, we got him hooked up with AdSense last night for his blog. He had to email me today to say "It's showing Jeep ads now". Uh, what else should it show. But last night it was PSA ads, so this was a change that just "Happened", and it got him excited. Excited enough that he made 2 posts today.

Something that I find refreshing when he makes a blog post is that he's not concerned with SEO (oh, I'll change that... eventually), so his articles come out more "Genuine". I see so many blogs any more that are so SEO focused that they're tough to read. Some seem to be so centered around Keyword Density that they just don't make sense to rea…

P3P Privacy Policy

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For years now, I've been holding out on a P3P implementation. My reasons were a few.

P3P participation was voluntary.P3P xml files have a lot of options, and I didn't want to muck them up.I didn't really see any negatives for not participating.
Well, in researching the checkout issues we've been having, it seems I may have stumbled on what's happening. It appears that some anti-phishing filters were getting tripped because we're collecting personal information without P3P disclosure of what we're doing with it. Grr... this could be a real pain in the... Hey!

Turns out, there are several simple tools for creating a P3P Privacy Policy now. I tried the tool from IBM, and it wasn't too good. It seemed tougher than just making an XML file, since you had to know what all the options meant. I think you may as well just look up the spec and write one if you're going to use their tool. I looked at a few others, but they didn't take AmEx (the only business c…

Getting organized

Being overwhelmed with work most of the time, I don't do a good job of cleaning off my desk. This ends every so often with a 2 hour sort through everything and trash most of it session. So when my dad decided to start blogging, I think he remembered my desk when choosing a topic. He decided to do some organizational tips.

It's not that organizing is that hard, but getting started is always a problem for me. I don't ever know where to start, let alone how to keep it up. I think I'm going to need to get some hanging files and start sorting documentation from code samples and marketing ideas from magazines.

The main point of this post is that my dad is starting to blog and needed someone to announce this to the world. That someone just happened to be me.

Warehouses, wallets and their 4th quarter connection.

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We got done with inventory today. It looks like we located items we had written off when they weren't in the right spot... and we even found more than had grown legs for once.

So now that we know where everything is and how many we have, I think we're ready to ship it out by the truckload for the holidays. Ah yes... 4th quarter, when warehouses and wallets shall both run empty. It seems those are connected this time of year.

More inventory fun...

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Well, I got out of counting by entering the data into our Inventory Management System. I'm not sure if that was worse or better. On the one hand, I didn't have to get up on ladders or try to hunt down where on the sheets the item was. On the other hand, I was stuck using a computer with a 15" CRT and lots of glare - not to mention it locked up on me several times. But with how our system is set up, I didn't even have to use most of the keyboard for my job.

Tomorrow we'll be finishing up counting, then we'll finalize it and the inventory on our website will update automagically. At least that part of the technology is cool, even if the manual entry of everything isn't all that much fun.

Physical Inventory Today

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Physical inventory. Two words I dread more than, well, anything. Ok, so "We need to talk" would scare me more. But in this virtual age, why can't I count all the bits and bytes while the people who deal with physical goods deal with the physical inventory? That'd be fair, right? Look, I can do it now.

df -v

Ok, so that's a bit of Linux humor, and not all that good either. But physical inventory with orders literally flying in the door is going to be interesting to say the least. But I guess it's better to have too many orders than not enough. I better get started counting.

1, 2, 3, 4...

How do people sell on eBay below cost?

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Well, I've got to say I've always wondered this myself. There are constant calls and emails to us asking for price matches to eBay for items being sold as "Brand new" for far below our cost. But how do they go about doing this? Simple: Fraud.

But it's not the type of fraud that you first think of with eBay. This is a smarter fraud. One that we've had the pleasure recently of being on the wrong end of. We let our guard down and got nailed, so our internal policies are changing. They're having online merchants ship the products to whoever buys the item... but placing the order with a stolen credit card.

You see, online business isn't where credit card fraud originates. Sure, there are select cases where that's happened. But, for the most part, credit card fraud begins offline with someone getting a credit card via physical means, then moves to online to do the fraudulent transaction. Rand Fishkin says we're all going to have to figure out how to p…

ScanDoo.com - Sweet search idea!

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As I'm trying to catch up on SEO Rockstars, I came across them mentioning scandoo.com's service that rates websites and the probability that they're installing spyware. I tried a search for "free screensavers" as a test (not that I know someone in that space or anything), and I see 3 of the icons showing just in the ads. Very sweet.

Not only is this an overlay over Google's results (not quite the same as going straight to Google, though - must be API results), but they also have the option for MSN or Yahoo results. It looks like they're also getting ready to roll out Ask results, and I hear there might be a toolbar for FireFox soon. They have the FireFox search plugin already, but a toolbar to tell you about the site you're on would be very cool.

I think we need to get some of our executives using this tool. That might make some of the IT job easier.

-edit-

I sent this to Matt from our IT department, and he checked out the phrase "free antispyware&qu…

How can my eCommerce site use RSS feeds?

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I've heard this question a few times. The answer is both simple and complex. So let's take a look at what you can do for an eCommerce site using RSS.

BLOG feeds

Ok, so this answer is probably too simple. But the important thing here is that you've got a blog talking about all the neat things you learn about your own products as you add them to your site, get feedback from customers or (better yet) use them yourself. Nothing beats personal experience, and if you can relate that to your customer well, you gain credibility. Plus, a well done blog gathers subscribers over time and those are "trusted" feeds, so you don't have to worry about SPAM filters when delivering your message to potential customers.

New products

Yes, a new products page is very important to have on your site. I've seen people question their usefulness, but to me there is no better way to get bots to index new product quicker. We maintain our new products page (in an automated fashion, of cou…

Scraping our site - for ourselves

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After spending some time digging around online, I've noticed a few things.

1) Scraper pages rank well.

2) Our site ranks well.

3) Links to searches on our site tend to make that page rank well.

By taking a look at our search logs, it appears that people search the same way on our site that they search on Google. That's good news to me, because we use Google hardware for our search. But what's even better news is that we can capture what product they go to when they search for an item and create a link back to the search results the item was found in for each and every product on our site.

So let me back up one step here. Since our product pages are dynamically generated, we can take a look at referrer data (HTTP_REFERER environment variable) and get the search terms out of the URL (if any). We can log these to a table with the brand name and the SKU, then take a look when we display the product page for any queries in that table that we'd like to show.

So now, on a product l…

Prepping for SES

Once again, I'll be speaking on the Shopping Search Tactics panel at SES. This will be the 6th time on that panel, so I want to change up what I'm saying quite a bit. Nothing is worse than a stale presentation, right?

So what I'm doing is starting out with a horror story, then showing how it wasn't a reality because of our involvement with shopping engines. From there, I'll get more into the strategy of optimizing feeds and how testing can make or break a shopping engine campaign.

This will be quite different than what I've done in the past, but it seems like from the feedback we've received this is more what people want. Of course, the rest of the session being re-done should help as well. It'll be interesting in any event.

Overwhelming response...

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I posted on a couple of forums (both private and public forums) about the site-wide HTML validation service that I'm working on and mentioned here yesterday. So far, the response has been overwhelming. Of course, people want it to do everything imaginable out of the box, but most of the things that have been asked of it are in the plans for down the road. Most people are happy to hear that it's at least in the plans.

Now, as for pricing models, I have a lot of ideas there. Obviously this thing could get to be a bandwidth hog if I let everyone check every page of their site multiple times per day. So my plan is to have the free plan, the $5/month plan, the $20/month plan, $50/month plan and the $100/month plan. This will allow for different number of automated page checks per month based on the plan cost. Oh, and I plan on allowing to pay for 10 months for 1 year of service as well. But I'm not going to say exactly what's allowed for each pricing level yet. You'll ju…

Full Site HTML Validation - Coming Soon

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If you've ever tried validating a large site (more than 100 pages), you know why I say that's a huge headache. Well, I'm getting ready to roll out a full-site HTML validation service. It'll do all the checks of the W3's validator, using their tools in fact. But what it does differently is validate all of your pages automatically without having to check each one individually, with follow-up checks available. You'll even be able to sort them by most or least errors.

Obviously I'm not going to be able to help everyone fix the errors, but I should be able to give them a list of errors to work from.

If you're interested in this service, I'll have a form up fairly soon to be notified when more beta testers are being accepted as well as when the full roll-out occurs. Until that happens, you won't be able to use HTML Monitor, just the W3 validator.

Microsoft : Macs are the $H1T

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Yes, Microsoft Office is far from the greatest product I've ever used. But when they come out and put on the front of the package what they think macs are made of in full visual representation, it entertains me. Better yet, I'm pretty sure that version works better than the one they sell for PC's. Hey, it can't be much worse. After all, Microsoft is the preferred target platform of virus and malware developers.

Whatever happened to...

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Whatever happened to all those reports that people were getting brain cancer from cell phones? I remember one that took only a matter of months to supposedly get a huge tumor. But that was before the whole ringtone craze, text messaging wasn't common, and cell phones weren't quite an "everybody" thing.

So what does this mean? Did phones get safer? Did some of those reports get disproved? Were they all hoaxes? Or was it all part of some "Master plan" to try to get us using hardwired lines again? Whatever it was, it seem that the trend has passed (thankfully), and we can get back to wasting our lives away on the phone from everywhere - not that anyone had been stopped from doing so by the news reports that were coming out during the height of the scare.

Sadly, this seems to be just like most things nowadays: We all ignored it and it went away.

Attempting HTML validation on checkout pages

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That's right... I'm attempting HTML validation on our checkout pages. This process is a real pain, but it seems like one of the few places for me to look yet when trying to troubleshoot our MSN customer checkout problems. So far, it's been mostly forgetting to end fonts before the end of a td section, so it hasn't really changed anything. Oh, and forgetting a few # signs at the beginning of colors. I used to be terrible at that. But so far, quite a few errors corrected and nothing in the way of changing the phone overload problems we've been facing.

I guess it's good that we're getting record sales yet, but imagine where we'd be if our site visitors could get things to work on their own. Who knows how much business we're losing as a result? I sure don't, but I have a guess, and that guess wouldn't make me happy if I dwelled on it too much instead of looking at other possible causes of the problems. As long as I keep busy, things seem much be…

Troubleshooting MSN Checkout problems

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We've been having some trouble with the checkout process on our sites over the past month.

First, we have been preparing a third party integration on ToolBarn (not even Offermatica, as that's been installed and running for a while now without problems) that caused SSL warnings in checkout. This lasted most of a business week, causing sales during that week to seem slightly "soft" (our term for below average.)

Secondly, Shoemoney had a $50 coupon for AdCenter (Microsoft's advertising platform for those not familiar with PPC). Well, I got it all up and running, and we immediately started having people calling in saying they were having problems with checkout. The oddball part here - they all have MSN as an ISP, most using MSN Explorer for a browser. So I'm left trying to figure out why. I mean, IE and FireFox are both used in our call center, and we've got the occasional Opera user testing it. I have a Mac to test things on as well. I also use Linux, so yet a…