Monday, 8 March 2010

Premonitions of Ardencote

In my secret life as a racing driver I spend quite a lot of time in hotel rooms. I book the room over the Internet, turn up on the Friday and then leave on the Sunday. I never think anything of it. So it struck me as odd when I booked a weekend away with my girlfriend at possibly one of the poshest hotels I've ever stayed at (in England at least) and had a dream about not being allowed in because they didn't have space for us.

Not being the paranoid type, I nevertheless had a strong feeling that I should double-check my booking on the morning of our arrival. My instincts proved correct as it turned out the booking agent had never notified them of my reservation and, had I not phone up to check, we would've had to sleep in the car.

The lovely lady at the hotel was very apologetic, extremely friendly and took my details direct. She even honoured my request to give me email confirmation of our telephone exchange in case I turned up and they still hadn't booked us in. In return I was very accepting of her apology, told her that it wasn't a problem and I was looking forward to staying at their hotel and thanked her for her help.

You see although they were ultimately responsible for our failed booking, it was by no means their fault. If they didn't get a notification from a third party agent, how were they supposed to know? It would have been pretty harsh if I'd blamed them for their incompetence, which is why I was so polite and understanding in return. This brings me neatly onto the subject of our web servers.

You see sometimes computers crash. I hate it when that happens and when web servers go down it is doubly horrible because we have hundreds of people's businesses at stake – including our own! The problem is that we have no direct control over them because we have to keep them at a third party server farm where they are all kept in cryogenic freezers in high security buildings where all employees have to have palm-print scans and anal probes to access them.

When I'm at home or in the office I can access the server remotely and restart it. Sadly, when I'm sitting in the Ardencote hotel Jacuzzi sipping champagne enjoying a well deserved break, I don't have this luxury. Even when I'm in the office I'm limited in what I can do because sometimes the geniuses at the server farm have "power failures" which I'm pretty sure means one of the clumsy twerps has tripped over the cables and pulled the plug out of the back. Again, there is little we can do about this other than phone them up and pray that the technician didn't electrocute himself during the tumble and can put the plug back in.

So it's important to get the message across that we are always aware when the server goes down but there will be occasions when our response time might be slower due to circumstances beyond our control. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our nice customers who were patient when two of our servers went down on Saturday and ruined what was an otherwise good break for me. To those who are less understanding, you will be pleased to know that it appears I've started having premonitions so rest assured I'll be working on this new found ability in order to anticipate when the server is going to crash in future. Hopefully this will speed up response time and allow me to spend more time in the Jacuzzi.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

SEO is dead; long live social networking!

We've always had a philosophy at Datapartners that any company who says "we guarantee to get your site to number 1 on Google" is a liar and is not to be trusted. The reason is that the whole SEO game has always been so vague and the masterminds at Google have never revealed any of their dark secrets on how they rank pages so how can anybody guarantee to get a site to number one if all they can do is guess? Also, Google in particular, are well known for changing their algorithms for ranking on a regular basis so even if you are number 1 on Monday, doesn't necessarily mean you'll be there on Tuesday.

Then there is the whole point of keywords. It is more accurate to say "we can get you to number 1 on Google for a particular keyword or phrase". You might be number 1 for the phrase "lying cheat" but you could be number eleventy-million for the phrase "cheating liars" so you have to second guess what punters are more likely to type into the search box to find you. Again note the word "guess".

With the dawn of real-time search, it makes appearing high up in the natural listings even more of a lottery because the results are changing in less time than it takes Internet Explorer to crash. The only way to guarantee a high ranking in Google for particular keywords is to sign up for Google AdWords and get a paid listing.

So what is the point of SEO? Well if you ask me there isn't one. If you want my expert opinion, the social networking boom is going to start making SEO redundant sooner rather than later. With the ability to spread the word so quickly via status updates and the speedy inclusion of blogs, you can target more people in less time.

The trouble is that most of you don't have the time to do this because you're all too busy running your businesses and probably don't have a clue what to tweet on Twitter or write on blogs anyway. This is why Datapartners are offering a "Social Networking" service. We will do it all for you.

Visit the Datapartners Website

Monday, 1 March 2010

To build or not to build; that is the question

One of the worst things about my job is having to explain to people why things cost what they do. The problem is that people only see the finished product and most will not appreciate the complexities behind the scenes. Trying to explain to somebody that what they are asking for is actually quite difficult is about as easy as trying to teach Gordon Brown how to smile without looking creepy.

Content managed websites cost more because they are much more complicated to build and take up more resources once they are up and running. Static websites are a lot cheaper but if you ever need anything changing, muggins here will have to do it and of course there is a charge for that.

And so I come neatly on to our Clickmachine product. This is a content managed website but at static website prices. Basically it is a blank canvas and you can build the pages yourself with various different types of page template from newspaper-style articles, HTML, surveys and lists of downloadable files. All aspects of the design are also controlled by you.

And now for the "however". However, the problem is that to build your own website from a content management system requires a certain aptitude with computers. Most people don’t have this which is why they ask people like me to build websites for them in the first place. Consequently I get quite a few phone calls from people pleading with me to help them or just do all the work for them, which of course there is a charge for and this somewhat defeats the object of the self-content management. The other problem is that most people aren’t designers and therefore will make a website look about as attractive as Ann Widdecombe in a thong.

This may sound like I’m slating a product that I was primarily responsible for building. Well yes and no. My advice is that if you feel you are capable of being a designer and you know how to operate a computer without causing a national blackout, then Clickmachine will work for you. If, however, you haven’t understood a word I’ve said in this article then let us build a site for you.