September 11, 2000-- Newsletter #97

By Joe Burns

September 11, 2000--Newsletter #97
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Greetings Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Well, there are two computers humming in the Burns household. My wife's business went live midnight Eastern Time September 1st. She's opened an online art gallery selling street art from Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, and London.

I have posted a journal of the yearlong experience of opening an e-business at HTML Goodies. Go to the Goodies Homepage (, click the link, and read the entire process. It was quite a year.

The site is ( I invite you to stop by.

(For the best story from the entire year, make sure to read the And Remember below my name close to the bottom at the newsletter.)

Did you hear

Suing is so much more fun when it's done as a team, don't you think? San Francisco Superior Court Judge Stuart R. Pollak has allowed a group of Californians to go forward with a class action suit against Microsoft claiming the company charged them too high a price for software. No trial date has been set. The lawyers at Microsoft have asked for hearings. If this goes through, watch the flood gates pour open., the site that analysis's say will die, soon continues to live but not without some surgery. The dotCom has announced cutbacks equaling one-third of the staff. That's 42 people.

The FBI has released the results of its first national (the U.S. being the nation) online fraud. The stats were gathered by tallying the complaints coming into the Internet Fraud Complaint Center. The winner was online auctions. Investment scams came in second. The most scammed gender? Men.

I actually laughed out loud when I read this headline: Online Training Boring. Forrester Research conducted a survey that found bosses love to use online training, but employees find it boring. Furthermore, almost 2/3 of the bosses that do online training don't test if it is successful in teaching the very employees what it is meant to. The problem seems to be companies simply turning current manuals into online content. It's text-heavy and doesn't utilize the channel. Reading a big boring manual off a computer screen is not more exciting that reading a big boring manual that's lying on your desk.

Now onto today's topic

Well, we're live.

The site my wife and I have been working on for close to a year now is up and running. At midnight Eastern Time, September 1st, the server people threw the switch and came to life.

From the beginning, my wife and I have split the duties pretty much down the middle. She was the creative person and I created the programming. She said, Do this. I said, OK.

Since the beginning of the site-building process, we have gone round and round on just about every little, minute detail. We would have hour-long discussions on what font looked best or where links should be put for maximum impact. We'd kill an entire evening just moving an image around the screen.

Can you tell we don't have kids?

Now that things are humming along, we've started into a new discussion, advertising. I don't mean our advertising on other sites. We're doing plenty of that, I mean accepting advertising.

If you look at the home page, you'll notice a bit of a blank space sitting in the upper right-hand corner. That's on purpose. It is just large enough to accept a tile size banner ad. It's blank now because we don't have any advertisers, nor could we ask for one because we guarantee any traffic numbers.

But let's say it's a month or two from now and people are coming. Can we, better yet, should we, accept advertising?

Our basic thinking goes this way:

Yes, because it will mean an increase in money coming into the site.

No, because we already sell something and that's how we get our profit.

I have mental pictures of readers answering the advertising question right to their computer screen. I'll bet a bunch of people yelled, No!

That was sort of our immediate reaction too, but then I got to thinking. I have seen so many reports on people disliking banner ads. DoubleClick reports that click-throughs on banner ads are down around 1 to 2 percent of all ad displays. I have read about people ignoring banners ads.

You know what I never seem to read? Site owners receiving visitors for not using banner ads. Does anyone ever praise a site for not having banner ads?

It may sound like a goofy question, but hear me out. Let's say we never put a banner ad on the site. Will that help us? That's a real concern with any business decision. If the decision we make won't help the company (short of illegal or unethical practices) then why do it?

Those of you who said no, let me ask you a question. Have you ever made the conscience decision to go to a site simply because the do not have banner advertising? Have you ever gone into a site and decided to stay or return simply because they did not offer banner advertising?

I would suggest that the banner ad concern may have been a part of your decision-making process, but doesn't the content of the site really determine whether you'll return or not?

I believe that surfers only really make decisions regarding banner ads when the ads are either abundant or forced upon the user. I refer to it as the sewage plant theory. No one ever calls the sewage plant to say that everything's great and the water's flowing smoothly. The only time that the sewage plant is brought to bear is when things have gone horribly wrong.

Let's say you're in charge of a site. If the lack of a banner ad would not actually help in return visits, then why not place one? I think the real question is whether to have only one banner ad. Is two too many or are you stepping over some imaginary line there. Three are definitely too many. Either way, I built the site to only allow for one per page anyway.

So we'll see. Right now, we're still interested in getting the bugs out of the system. That's enough to occupy anyone's mind.

To banner ad or not to banner ad, that's the question.


That's that. Thanks for reading. Look just below for what I think is the best story of whole year.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: I am putting a quick story here rather than a fact because I think this is the greatest story from the entire past year and it has nothing to do with computers so I couldn't very well put it in the newsletter itself. Here goes. My wife and I were in Rome. We have just packaged up a huge box full of art and had dropped it off at UPS for shipping back home. We decided to take the Rome metro back to the hotel. Now, Rome is crowded so the train car was just full. I felt pretty safe because my wallet was in a front pocket, closed up tight with Velcro. A young man started talking to me. He asked me a few questions. We talked and he got off. A second later I reach down and noticed my wallet is gone. He got it out of the front pocket. Unbelievable! We run off of the train and there this guy stands. I walked up and said, Give me my wallet. All of a sudden he speaks no English and pretends not to know what I am saying even though we just had a discussion on the train. Just then, my wife reaches into his front pocket and pulls out my wallet. She holds it high into the air and yells, Pickpocket! This is the Jubilee year in Rome so almost the entire crowd is made up of nuns on their way to the Vatican. They all stopped dead and turned to watch. I had never seen my wife so angry. I'm 6-foot 4. The pickpocket should be scared of ME, right? Ha! My wife drew back and smacked this guy right in the face. It was a clean, solid shot. Stunned, he fell back against the wall. (He was stunned? I was stunned!) She stepped in for another punch and I pulled her back saying to let him go, we had the wallet. This guy wasn't fighting back. All he wanted was gone. The moment there was some space between her and the door he took off running. We got back on the train to complete our journey to the hotel. That night I treated her to a stunning dinner in Florence. She was my hero for the rest of the trip.

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