Lamenting book stores and libraries

April 6, 2011

I was reading Goodbye, Borders – I Hardly Knew You by Nolan Ross on Circle Six Magazine where he discuses his experience with book stores.

The question I have is whether it is the books that we miss or the feeling of being in a book place with the cup of coffee and the people watching.   For me it’s the latter.   I love the browsing, the finding of new books, the ability to thumb through them and get a feeling for how it will entertain and inform me while in a non-rushed place.   If the book stores go then it will be real loss to humanity.

In the UK we have a situation where the libraries are being shut down to save money.  I was thinking couldn’t the libraries fill the void that is being caused by book stores going out of business. They would just need to serve coffee and snacks to make it more social.   Give us more engaging libraries and suddenly they become places people want to go again.

Also, as a comparison I don’t feel a loss for record stores because you never really experienced new things there. You could look at the cases and see what’s out there but the chances are it was either on the radio, television or a friends music taste that has created the want to get new music. Not the experience of going into the store.

Goodbye, Borders – I Hardly Knew You


Is your website a market stall or a high street store?

March 11, 2011

A market stall is very much about making the best of what you have.  Make sure the stock is clearly displayed so you can sell it.  There is usually very little time spent on the overall look of the stall since at the end of the day it has to be taken down again.
Pannier Market

While a high street retailer has a permanent presence where changes made today will provide benefit in the future.  There is the potential to really tailor the experience customers have so they want to come back.



So, do you want your website to be a market stall, stack’em high and sell’em cheap or high street store where customers want to and enjoy coming back again and again?



The best advice is something I can use right now

March 11, 2011

The best advice is something I can use right now rather than just telling me why I need the advice.

I expect you have come across the same thing.

Well, if only you knew who the decision maker is you could go to them.
If I was driving there I would not have used this road.

You can pick holes in my approach and my actions later, but for now advice on how to move things forward is what I’m looking for.  Not advice that would be useful if I had a time machine or a magical way of making information available, change the personalities of the people I am dealing with, change my own personality or add 3 days to the working week to give time to get things done.

If I’m asked for advice then I always try to be practical with what they need.  The exercise on learning from the greater context can come later, but for now the focus is what is the next step.


Not failing is more important than succeeding

March 4, 2011

A friend of mine had a great website with tens of thousands of visitors every day. The only thing was it didn’t make him any money so he had to keep his crappy well paid day job to live and support the website.

He had great ideas for how to make it more commercial and even saved enough to take a year our to develop the site to the point where it could scale and be commercial.

After the year he procrastinated and never put it live.

From talking to him he was afraid to fail. He had something that made him feel good about himself in a site that was enjoyed by lots of people every day. He was afraid that if he started charging he would lose this and it was more important to feel good rather than be commercial.

This is a point we all have to be really honest with ourselves. Are we afraid to lose what we have in pursuit of what we want. Unless this fear can be overcome it’s not possible to give 100%, because if we did there would be no excuse to delay.

So, how did my friend get on. Well eventually he hacked up a bit of code over a weekend, accepted subscriptions and made $10k  with no real effort.

A years dedicated – no change.

Overcame the fear, 2 days of hacking and suddenly he is earning $10k.

Overcoming the fear is all it takes. How tough can that be.


When you don’t know what you’re missing – and why it might be right to miss it

March 1, 2011

There is a lot of buzz about social media, collaboration and web 2.0 looking at how it can enhance business results.  All good stuff, but for most it is just too early for the real value to be seen.

I was talking to the owner of a small bed and breakfast and they wanted to set up Twitter and Facebook accounts.  No problem, let’s do it now.

As we were preparing to get this done I asked what they were going to use it for.
Like ‘why have a website’ they did not have an answer to this question.  They have heard of Twitter and Facebook.  Even some of their guests suggested that it would be a good idea to have them but they did not know what they were or how they would use them.

So, we stopped setting up the accounts while we spoke about what they were, how they worked and the commitment that they would have to put in to see results.  It was at this point that they realised that for a small 4 bedroom B&B the extra effort involved may not be the best use of their time.  The effort to get followers that would lead to guest might be greater than then number of guests achieved through other methods.

Social Media is great and has its place, but the more I see the more I realise that it is not for every business and every situation.  It’s another tool in the bag.  You don’t have to take it out every time.



Why have a website?

February 25, 2011

I’ve asked a few people the question ‘Why do you have a website?’ and in most cases I get a look that implies I’m mad for asking the question considering how connected everybody is.

The thing is this question is just the opener. The 1st question to get them thinking about how they use their website and how they want their clients and contacts to use their website.

If you have a website to sell then shouldn’t this be front and centre and not a little link in the corner to [store]. If it is to connect then shouldn’t it give details about what you want to connect to people about and naturally speak to the kind of person you wish to connect with. Or, if it is a personal site where you are expecting very few visitors you still need to know why you have the site otherwise there is a high possibility it will just get abandoned like so many blogs or Facebook and Twitter accounts. Or even more so for the people who have been online for a while those Geocities sites that disappeared in 2009 and nobody noticed.

The Why question can as simple as:
A place to put my pictures.
A place where I can rant.
A site to get more people to buy my biscuits
A site to introduce my new box design

Once you have figured out the Why, then it is all about the How.
How will my website get more people to buy my biscuits?

Then there’s the call to action.
What do I want people to do when they come to my website. Again it might be as simple as place an order, or it might be something a little less specific.

No matter what it is you have to build your site to guide the visitor to the action you want them to take. Expecting them to figure it out on their own may lead to a lot of visitors, but may not deliver the Why you have a website you are looking for.

By taking into account these simple questions you can improve the effectiveness of your website.


Arduino – fun with Electronics and programming

February 1, 2011

With computers being so easy to use today and nearly anything you want available cheaply the electronics tinkerer is becoming a rare breed.   I include myself in the tinkerer list, but I’ve been out of practice for a long time.

So, when I found the Arduino it fired my interest again.  It is a simple cheap electronics board that you can program to get things done.
People smarter than me have developed Segway type things, Lighting Effects, Remote control robots.  All with this little board at the heart of it.

I got my kit from Earthshine Electronics but I have also seen an intresting kit from .:oomlout:.

What is also great is that both of these sites also have PDF downloadable guides to get you started with everything from Blinking LEDs to controlling motors and reading temperature.

Also, if you need more inspiration just go to Youtube and search for Arduino.  There are some really interesting videos being uploaded every day and the SciGuy14 Channel has a new video every Monday on electronics to give you even more information.  All presented in a way that is easy to understand without being dumbed down.

So, what are you waiting for – go tinker.



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