Thursday, July 16, 2009

Web site setup

A friend recently asked if I would help him set up a website (I get that a lot). He is unable to participate in a traditional work environment, but has some wonderful knowledge and skills that he wants to share online, hopefully for profit. Here's the email I sent him, which I thought you might find beneficial as well. This isn't the answer I give to EVERY customer who needs a web presence. It's just one answer. As usual YMMV.

- Leon

I apologize for the delay. Here are some thoughts, ideas, pointers and - most of all - the start of our conversation.

1) homework.
Here's some online reading you can do. First, there's which we talked about

Next, there's, which was written computer pundit who writes about computer geek stuff, and it's where I originally found out about Parrot Secrets and the secret behind Parrot Secrets.

Now on to: and more importantly this downloadable PDF: You need to look at EVERYTHING this guy has done. He's built a "following" in less than a year, and makes about $45,000 a year from his site where he does little more than travel, write about travel, and write about writing about travel.

Yes, that's a lot of writing. And I guess that's a point. If you don't want to do a lot of writing, online may not be the way to go. The internet is about connections and community. If people don't feel connected to you (and to an extent to each other) they won't feel like they are part of a community and they won't buy stuff. Unless you are And even there, do you notice what they do? Customer reviews, feedback, recommendations, etc. They are building community too.

Last stop is my new site: Once again. A lot of writing. And I'm not even selling anything. Yet.

2) web site basics
Nope, I'm not teaching you web coding. I just want you to see how some of the basics work. First, check out: and look at all the links on the lefthand side. There's a HUGE variability of what you can do with a web site.

Next, check out these sites:, and These are HUGE clearinghouses of free designs. Eventually, I'm going to tell you to go dumpster diving through those designs and pick one. I can change the color, size, shape, etc but I like to use these as a starting point. Want to know how much I can change? Check out this template: Does it look familiar? It's what I used for the basis of

Eventually we're also going to talk about web applications - blogs, forums, shopping carts, etc. But for now, we just have to decide what we want the site to look like. And THAT is determined by what you want to do there. Meanwhile, keep in mind that is really nothing much to look at. But it rings in over $400k per year.

3) Search Enging Optimization (SEO)
As I mentioned, there's stuff you can control and stuff you can't. Once you are done NOT doing stupid things (which takes all of 30 minutes), you are pretty much finished. You are either going to show up in search rankings or you aren't. What REALLY makes a difference? Getting listed on OTHER people's web sites. Which means getting recommended, which means connecting to people which means (you guessed it) writing so people know you are out there.

4) What next?
Next, I want you to come to terms with the fact that a lot of this is going to rest on you, not me. I can whip off the design, set up the server, install the applications, etc. I can't write the content of your web site for you. I can help you publish eBooks but I can't help you write them. I can put all the technical tools in place so that people can find your web site and navigate it easily, but I can't make them know who you are. That's all you.

If you are up for it, so am I.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Team players vs autonomous thinking

My friend Doug over at sent me this link:

I went out and bought the book. It's a good read. Not exactly life changing, but potentially habit changing or perception affirming, depending on how you do/look at things to begin with.

Here's one of the key ideas that I thought was relevant to "IT people":

Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.

Nor can you bully a subordinate into becoming a genius.

Since the modern, scientifically-conceived corporation was invented in the early half of the Twentieth Century, creativity has been sacrificed in favor of forwarding the interests of the "Team Player".

Fair enough. There was more money in doing it that way; that's why they did it.

There's only one problem. Team Players are not very good at creating value on their own. They are not autonomous; they need a team in order to exist.

So now corporations are awash with non-autonomous thinkers.

"I don't know. What do you think?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"

And so on.

Creating an economically viable entity where lack of original thought is handsomely rewarded creates a rich, fertile environment for parasites to breed. And that's exactly what's been happening. So now we have millions upon millions of human tapeworms thriving in the Western World, making love to their Powerpoint presentations, feasting on the creativity of others.

What happens to an ecology, when the parasite level reaches critical mass?

The ecology dies.

If you're creative, if you can think independantly, if you can articulate passion, if you can override the fear of being wrong, then your company needs you now more than it ever did. And now your company can no longer afford to pretend that isn't the case.

So dust off your horn and start tooting it. Exactly.

However if you're not paricularly creative, then you're in real trouble. And there's no buzzword or "new paradigm" that can help you. They may not have mentioned this in business school, but... people like watching dinosaurs die.