Archive for July, 2004

Wi-fi wonder

Saturday, July 10th, 2004

A local Cleveland blogger Steve Goldberg started the hue and cry about wi-fi (wireless connectivity) in Cleveland at least a year ago–way ahead of most. He now has connections all over the northeast Ohio area who report to him when they find public wi-fi connections. He also notes whether use at each location is free.

Naturally, because it’s growing organically, the list on his blog has been compiled chronologically and has been very helpful to local business and other types who go out looking for places to work wireless. Now that the list is growing so large–happily, Cleveland seems to be really getting with it thanks in part to Steve’s heralding and to the work of OneCleveland–it’s getting harder to find what you’re looking for.

So as a gift to my colleague Steve and to all those who want to use his list to find wireless workplaces in northeast Ohio, I’ve labeled all the listings by location and rearranged the thing into a spreadsheet that’s sorted by area (downtown, near west, south, east, etc.) So if you hear of any wireless locations in this area–free or not, go to Steve Goldberg’s blog and report it to him by leaving a comment (unless of course you know him and have his email!).

If wireless telephones transformed the way we work, wireless Internet is transforming the way some of us live. As more people depart corporate America and start their own businesses, maybe they won’t have to feel so alone if they can get together with other entrpreneurs in comfortable public workplaces and share ideas and energy. Nice thought.

It’s actually already happening on Friday afternoons at the Cafe Ah Roma on Euclid Avenue downtown. Free wireless. Entrepreneurs getting together. See you there Friday at 2 pm.

P.S. Oops. Looks like Steve is out of the office til next week. Here’s a link to the re-organized wi-fi hotspot list

Metroparks and economic development

Friday, July 9th, 2004

What does a zoo have to do with economic development? In Northeast Ohio a lot, according to a recent report by Kent State University. The Cleveland Zoo, which is partly supported by the levies that fund the Cleveland Metroparks system–our Emerald Necklace–puts $10 back into the local economy for every $1 of county levy support. On a macro level, the report says that each $1 million of capital development generates $2.5 million in economic activity and 44 jobs.

Not bad statistics for a nonprofit. The zoo’s latest capital development project, a zoological medicine facility, cost $9.1 million and includes an education lab and an innovative endocrinology lab that puts the zoo squarely in the international category for animal care, behavior studies and husbandry programs. They funded the building with a $4.07 million fundraising campaign but still need donations to support the ongoing programs they plan.

With an annual operating budget of $15 million, half of which is from levies, the zoo is an important player in the region’s economy. Looks like the levy–which translates to about $45 per taxpayer for the entire Metroparks system–will be on the ballot this fall.

Can you imagine Cleveland without the Metroparks–or a zoo?

Usability ain't just for your website

Thursday, July 8th, 2004

Spectacular numbers. For a company of 10,000 employees, says usability guru Jakob Nielsen, having a superior intranet design can save your company $5 million a year. If you don’t have 10,000 employees he says (which, of course, is most of us), multiply your number of employees by the number of hours they waste each year by not being able to find/do/interact efficiently via your intranet.

This is truly “found” money for businesses. You spend that minimal amount to design your intranet for greatest efficiency; you get the immense payoff. The problem is this: creating a really usable intranet means that people might have to change the way they do things. Becoming more efficient isn’t just about knowing what to do–ask software maverick Flashline whose code-sharing concept requires programmers to give up the “it’s mine” idea. Efficiency is more about convincing people it would really be worth it for them to make a change. We all know that human beings are notoriously resistant to change–you might even see it in yourself at times.

Another big issue he raises in this CIO Insight article is the concept that information isn’t arranged for the users’ benefit on most websites. Instead of dividing your stuff up into product, supplies and service, you ought to be dividing it up the way a customer might actually need it. If I bought a widget from you, when I got on your website I’d love to see the supplies and the support for my particular widget all from the same spot on your site. Colleauges, this one thing alone would set you apart from your competition like nothing else…

Nielsen claims these same web usability problems have existed for 10 years–precious little has changed, despite scads of new information and new understandings. Amazing, eh? Knowledge of the better way is a necessary condition for getting better; too bad it’s not also a sufficient condition.

HBR – and marketing truth

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

Here’s a heavy quote:

“The history of every dead and dying “growth” industry shows a self-deceiving cycle of bountiful expansion and undetected decay.”

Sounds pretty dire, doesn’t it?

This quote is from a long article called “Marketing Myopia” that appears in the latest HBR–and I hadn’t notice, but thanks to a tip from Harvey Wiseberg, a Cleveland-area business advisor, I realized it was originally published in 1960. What a testament to the fact that we are out there reinventing the wheel all the time! What are the financial consequences if we don’t actually learn from our predecessors?

The main point of the article seems to be that you can’t rest on your laurels when you get something good going–it’s important to keep the movement forward; don’t count on coasting along for any length of time with a particular product or service. And that’s surely true. In this world of instant communication, we also have instant replication… so keep your eyes ahead. You’ll get behind–and probably a sore neck–if you keep watching over your shoulder.

But what really turns me on is seeing that the Harvard Business Review backs up my belief–my life’s work–that marketing is the name of the game. Remember the old saw about the better mousetrap that rots on the shelf because nobody knows how to sell it… The other pieces can’t survive without this one.

Many businesspeople don’t like to admit that good marketing is critical to business success. Those who succeed by word of mouth alone have usually found a burning need in a marketplace crying for a solution–and are probably unaware of the viral (underground) marketing going on. It’s still marketing…and at its most effective.

Hint: blogs are one of the most powerful tools ever invented for viral marketing.

Communicating internationally

Saturday, July 3rd, 2004

Just lost a long post about a charming evening I spent last night at the Friday concert in the garden at the Cleveland Museum of Art. What combination of keys did that? Sigh.

Recap. Ended up sharing a table with a French woman who’d arrived in the U.S. just the day before. I struggled to dredge up pieces of my long-ago-acquired French, and she graciously, patiently listened and helped me (her English was better than my French). Eventually I discovered she was “walking” American museums in preparation for her August examination as a museum curator. Jazz, gardens, French, museums and curators…it was a scene out of a novel for sure.

I guess the point I had long-windedly been making in my lost post was this: communicating with people whose language, customs and attitudes are different from our own is a challenge we will all be increasingly asked to tackle. As technology continues to shrink the globe ever further, we business people face new obstacles and new opportunities–it’s up to us to struggle to make cooperation happen or to turn away from and lose those chances to grow.

And like every challenge, sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you won’t. But when both parties are of good faith and cooperation works, even if you don’t get the business you’ll get that great feeling of reaching beyond what you thought were your limits and expanding your view of the world.

RANKING 89 – The challenge of international cooperation may not reaach the small and midsize business quite as quickly, but be assured it’s coming. Here’s an idea: pick the country you think you’d like to do business with in the future, then start training yourself and your employees in the language. What could it hurt to be ready before you have to?…

P.S. Got a message delivered via draft post today from Blogger support. Hi, Steve, thanks for writing. Steve says they’ve been receiving my emails but their repies have been getting bounced.

…Two of the giants of the technology world (Google my bloghost and Microsoft my email host) can’t communicate with each other. How strangely appropos of this post…