- Business Software
- Computer Security
- Internet and Online Business
- Managing Technology
- Telecom and Wireless
- Tools on Managing Technology
Tag Archives: MSNBC Interactive News LLC
(Or how Phil Kaplan, founder of FuckedCompany, learned to stop worrying and love the dot-bomb) Caroline Beddie had no idea what she was in for. Not a clue. The spunky 38-year-old had been a waitress at Ye Olde Kingshead, a tavern in Santa Monica, Calif., for more than a decade, and she thought she’d seen it all: the coiffed celebrities; the stargazers and wanna-bes; the surfers who consumed a little too much Bass Ale. But nothing could have prepared her for the night last January when Phil Kaplan, better known as “Pud,” showed up. Kaplan is the 25-year-old founder of FuckedCompany.com, a Web site that for the past year and a half has chronicled the daily machinations of the dot-com bust. A few days before, as Kaplan prepared to leave his base in New York City, he alerted visitors to the site that he would be visiting L.A. and stopping in for a drink at the Kingshead. Did anyone want to join him? You could say that again. “It was absolutely mobbed,” Beddie laughs. “And they were all there to see him. He was like their local hero. They would ask in these discreet, hushed tones, ‘Is that him? Is that Phil? Do you know which one he is?” The Kingshead is no stranger to stars, says Beddie. Tom Cruise pops by every once in a while, and on the walls hang pictures of prior guests Rod Stewart, the band Oasis, President Reagan before he was President Reagan, Tom Hanks. “But this night,” Beddie says, “everybody ignored the pictures because they were so desperate to meet this Philip person — to build up the courage after a few pints to talk to this guy. All night long, it was ‘Is that him? Is that him?’ I just kept saying, ‘He’s that tall guy at the bar, wearing a denim suit, hanging out and talking to people and signing autographs.’ I mean, people were waiting in line to meet him.” In the line was Kaplan’s aunt, Marlen Mertz. She had wandered over to the Kingshead from her nearby home, hoping to get a moment with her nephew. “It was amazing,” Mertz says, still slightly bemused by it all. “I felt like it was the Beatles! It was almost cultish. When I told people I was his aunt, I became famous, too!” ENTREPRENEURIAL ADVISORY: This article contains frank language, ribald slang, and a prosperous dot-com, which some readers may find disturbing. At the center of all of the brouhaha was Phil Kap- lan and his no-holds-barred Web site that, since its whimsical inception on Memorial Day weekend 2000, has detailed the tortuous ins and outs — mostly outs — of the dot-com debacle. As the site’s own “What Is It?” page proclaims, FuckedCompany “has pretty much turned into the source for news about dot-com companies. Bad news, that is.” The site now attracts some 4 million unique visitors a month, according to Kaplan, and has attained a cultlike following among the pink-slipped or otherwise dot-com disenchanted. It has also become a must-browse for headhunters, journalists, and Internet analysts — not to mention the just plain curious. For one, there’s that name, which is nothing if not attention getting, as if daring one to indulge in a guilty pleasure. Even Kaplan’s nom de Web, Pud, is obscene slang. “The site’s name is so direct and in your face,” says Anna Wheatley, editor of the AlleyCat News, a magazine that covers the business of New York City’s Silicon Alley. “It’s entertaining, if something of a gladiator sport. It’s terrible that you’re being entertained by carnage, a deathwatch. But what he has done so successfully is to make business into a form of entertainment. And Philip has turned himself into a personality, an entertainer. He is totally capturing the zeitgeist now. Totally! And I think he knows it.” Kaplan’s 15 minutes of fame have been extended by the mass media. In the past year, he’s been featured in the New York Post, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Industry Standard, and New York magazine, to name but a few. Kaplan has also made TV appearances on CNN, MSNBC, and CBS’s The Early Show, which hosted Kaplan last January after the Women.com site named him Internet Bachelor of the Year. “FuckedCompany is a site for people in the trenches,” says Kaplan. “It punishes the CEOs and the founders who have laid off so many people. The only people who don’t like the site are the founders — and, good, because they deserve it. All of the depressed, laid-off dot-commers love the site.” “Rock On, Pud” FuckedCompany is also a solid business of its own. Kaplan brings in revenues from banner advertising and online sales of merchandise that includes FuckedCompany T-shirts, mouse pads, and coffee mugs. Kaplan also says he reels in some $90,000 a month from 1,200 subscribers, who pay to search through unfiltered tips about layoffs and barricaded doors at dot-coms. Kaplan estimates that he receives some 400 unsolicited tips a day — often from programmers on the front lines. They’re the nameless souls who played with Nerf guns, worried about their sites’ “stickiness,” and populated the cubicles of Internet start-ups. Today their tips — often made anonymously with online pseudonyms like techdude, dottedeyes, and notagoy — provide the core of FuckedCompany’s database. And Kaplan talks back to them, which is key to FuckedCompany’s mystique, not to mention its sheer drawing power. He regularly starts message threads on his site, and he also E-mails 65,000 of his fans a free newsletter — signed by his alter ego, Pud — that has become increasingly full of what Kaplan calls “personal stuff.” On May 29, for example, Pud wrote, “Today is fuckedcompany’s 1-year anniversary! Woohoo! Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day. As for me, I woke up at around 3:00 pm, watched TV for a few hours, ordered Chinese delivery which never came, just finished about a million bowls of raisin bran, still wearing my bathrobe, ready for sleep again. Okay so Thursday night, I went on a blind date. I was all excited cuz I hadn’t been outside in weeks, recovering from strep throat and just being a loser in general.” After describing the disastrous date, in which he was “coughing all over the place, sweating, spilling crap on myself, trying to act normal,” Kaplan signs off, “i will forever suck. anyway … rock … on, pud.” “The site’s name is so direct and in your face. It’s entertaining, if something of a gladiator sport. It’s terrible that you’re being entertained by carnage, a deathwatch. But what he has done so successfully is to make business into a form of entertainment. And Philip has turned himself into a personality. He is totally capturing the zeitgeist now.” –Anna Wheatley, editor of Alleycat News
Given the large number of Web hosts and the fierce competition among them, Web hosting can be a tricky business. Countless small Web hosts have gone out of business and even large communications companies like Exodus have cut staff to reduce costs. If your Web host goes under, you have problems. Your site might be down for an extended period — at least as long as ittakes to sort out the mess, research and select a new host, and transfer all your files to the new host’s server. In addition to a major hassle, you could lose sales. To avoid losing profits, be on the lookout for warning signs your Web host is in trouble. That way, you can put a back-upplan in place that will help smooth the switch to a new Web host without a lot of downtime or lost profits. What to Watch For Here are some of the most common indications a Web host is in danger of folding: Lack of Support. One of the surest and most easily observed signs of difficulty is a lack of customer support. If your Webhost fails to respond to your calls, if you e-mail your host for support and get no response for several days, or if you’redeluged with autoresponses, you have reason to be suspicious.The company might have laid off crucial support staff, which could indicate financial difficulties. This does not bode wellfor the Web host’s future — or for the future of your Web site, for that matter.Try e-mailing your Web host’s customer support department at routine intervals.Try telephoning technical or billing support to see how hard it is to reach a human operator, which is often your best meansof problem resolution. One school of thought says the better the support, the more stable the Web host. Profitability. Sam Martin of OfficeOnWeb says Web hosting companies in trouble are ones that provide free services orcharge so little they cannot make a profit. “The pay-money-till-you-get-all-the-market-share model was bad business from thestart and has been proven bad business by the sheer number of bankruptcies going on in the dot-com market,” Martin said. Ifyour Web host is a public company, find out if it’s turning a profit. If not, be prepared to change Web hosts.In the case of private hosting companies, it can be harder to determine whether the company is profitable. Generally, if yourWeb host offers hosting for what seems to be an exceedingly low price — lower than around $20 (U.S.) per month — youmight want to ask yourself how the company can turn a profit with such low rates. Decide if you feel comfortable with theprospective performance of such a company in the long term. Media attention. “Hosts are relatively low-profile,” said Kevin Martin, CEO of pair Networks Inc. “If yours is beingcovered by MSNBC or “60 Minutes,” it had better be positive press, or I would be nervous.”Reading business publications that might mention your Web host is always a good idea. If your Web host is mentioned in apositive way, great. If an article reports layoffs, changes in management, or a company buyout, be aware such changes often– though certainly not always — result in decreased support for the client.If your Web host changes hands, this does not necessarily mean you will want to find a new Web host, but be sure toinvestigate what policy changes might accompany the change in ownership. Decreased services. Withdrawal of certain services your host formerly provided might indicate its attempt to reduce recentfinancial losses. Also research any price increases the company institutes.Naturally, businesses must increase prices from time to time, and this is not always cause for alarm. However, if priceincreases or service decreases are implemented in a way that is less than upfront, the company might be trying to avoidopenly disclosing changes that are attempts to salvage an ailing business. Checking Up One of the best ways to check up on your Web host is to take advantage of various discussion groups or forums. Two resources are WebHostingTalk and Web Host Directory. You can use these sites to ask about your Web host and to see what experiences other people have had with the company. Orcheck the archives. Previous posts might give you all the information you’re looking for. “In all aspects, consider sharing your experiences with other customers in any discussion forum the host might offer or on apublic site,” Kevin Martin said. “Broader trends are more likely to be found by sharing information.” If you find a lot of negative comments about your Web host, devise a backup plan. Particularly, if many posts complaining ofpoor support or other problems are clustered within a recent period of time, this could indicate the Web host is reallystruggling to stay afloat. Do Diligence Other users of Web host forums can often direct you to more sources of information. Finally, perhaps your best resource is the Web host itself. Visit the company’s Web site frequently to make sure it still offersservice to new clients. If for any reason you are concerned about the company’s performance or stability, contact someone in the company. This canbe an eye-opening experience in itself. If you try to contact management and are unable to reach anyone, or if the company is not responsive to your questions andconcerns, it’s time to consider a new Web host. Copyright Â© 1995-2001 Pinnacle WebWorkz Inc. All rights reserved. Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form.
For many companies, localization is an afterthought. Whenever I inquire of people in the information technology and/or e-commerce industries whether they are planning to localize their Web sites, I am told, “We are concentrating on the English version first.” This kind of thinking often turns out to be costly for future expansion into international markets, because the initial design of the back end and front end of your Web site will determine future localization costs. If you don’t do some planning before you build your Web site, reengineering it later to accommodate localization needs will be needlessly expensive. Whether you plan an international Web site outright or just “concentrate on the English version first,” your base Web site most likely is going to be the foundation for all future language versions. Below are three pointers for planning your Web site. They will save you money when the time comes to localize your site. Up-Front Market ResearchDefine the issues and develop the strategies necessary to meet your business objectives and match your vision. Up-front market research will lower the cost of localization by identifying issues that will affect marketing across the globe. Pay particular attention to Web site features that customers in your target market(s) will directly interact with, such as page layout, graphics, site navigation, etc. One useful approach to attaining market insight is to review your competitors’ sites. Once you know how far they have progressed beyond “English only,” move on to reviewing some of the major multilingual Web sites (those of Microsoft, MSNBC, CNET, ZDNet, and Symantec). Note if and how their page layouts and graphics differ from one language site to another. See how they bring each language site version in line with the base site. Finally, decide where in the localization spectrum you want your Web site to be. (Will you localize your shopping cart only or translate every page of your site?) Keep this in mind when designing your Web site. Site DesignNow that you have an idea as to what you would or would not want a localized version of your Web site to include, you need to keep in mind that your site’s design has to accommodate the need for both universality and cultural specificity. Most companies’ localized Web sites link off a main home page and have a design and layout that complement the base site. Companies do this because they want their localized sites to have an integrated look and feel, rather than appearing to be disconnected Web sites lumped together at one address. Consequently, attaining a balance between universality and cultural specificity while maintaining the crucial elements needed for company branding should be one of the overall goals when designing your Web site. Remember: Think long term rather than short term. Thinking in terms of “English only” ? or, for that matter, French or Arabic only ? prevents you from seeing the larger picture. My advice is to begin by developing a simple design without cultural details specific to any target country. Then let it be the foundation for your other localized sites. Here are some points to keep in mind when thinking of a design for your base Web site: Keep the layout simple and avoid cultural icons such as an American flag or a Russian sickle. Try to avoid adding elements that would give the site the “flavor” of the target country. Keep the page layouts and color choices similar throughout all the pages of your base site. This way, you can use your base site as a template for your localized versions, thus saving money. Keep in mind that if you can review color and graphic issues before you build your site, you will reduce costs considerably when you localize. Choose visual elements that can work across cultures. Once you localize, these elements can help further integrate all your foreign-language sites together. So it’s important that they remain consistent across all your sites and that you make your initial choices carefully. If you need to choose different images or formats for localized versions, they should still be representative of your base site. Do not lose sight of the purpose of your Web site. It should serve as a tool that communicates the benefits of your products or services to a customer, with the goal of provoking an action, such as a purchase. Site TestingThoroughly test your site to make sure that it can handle different character sets, localization of scripts, etc. This will ensure that your internationalization efforts were successful, and that your Web site can handle localization when your business is ready to go global. With the growing number of non-English-speaking users logging on to the Internet, more and more companies are focusing on internationalizing their Web sites to reduce the amount of time and effort it takes to expand into foreign markets ? and so should you. Copyright Â© 1995-2000 Pinnacle WebWorkz Inc. All rights reserved. Do notduplicate or redistribute in any form.