Archive for July, 2008

And now a post for parents of a toddler

When you kid gets Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) do not worry TOO much. This is NOT any relationship to hoof and mouth disease (HMD) found in animals. This is further confusing because the abbreviations are quite similar.

End of short cryptic post……


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Why I prefer packaged solutions

When building a site, campaign or environment there is always the temptation to develop custom code or suites of services that can be provided for multiple clients.  In most instances, this is not the best solution. Here is why I often like to use packaged solutions to provide functionality where such offerings are available from third-parties.

  • Solution is provided by a company with the service as their core product with thousands of sites using the tested technology support with an ongoing product roadmap and dedicated product management, development and support teams. This is really the core difference that I think should drive such a decision.
  • Frees up agency/company technology teams for more specialized and important tasks to provide solutions that truly require custom services.
  • The real cost in the longer term is usually lower for the client and the agency.
  • Setup can usually be completed by less expensive generalists thus freeing technical staff for projects requiring their specialties.
  • Technical issues can be resolved by a dedicated product service team with own set of monitoring and alerting tools across thousands of campaigns.
  • The services can be based upon and evolve from best practices and needs from a larger pool of users.
  • The services are clearly packaged and productized including complete easy-to-understand setup documentation and details.
  • Setup and adjustments are usually much quicker (and less expensive)than with custom in-house development.
  • Reduces agency/company overhead as no longer the requirement to maintain code base and service long after the solution is a focus.

Am I right, wrong or have anything else to say?  Let me know in the comments.

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TypePad versus

First, I love WordPress.  I run my blog using WordPress on my server and have found it trouble free with a helpful community and unlimited possibilities via the available themes and plug-ins.

However, for those cases an ASP managed service is called upon, I do not find the paid services of (or other WordPress MU based services) to be up to snuff. The lack of the ability to edit the theme files lead me to require an alternate solution.  Sure, allows for CSS editing that may be applied to the available templates.  However, this is simply insufficient to create the robust solutions I find my clients need. 

This lack of template editing in leads me to recommend the services from TypePad.  TypePad provides unfettered access to create, modify or add template files as well as any number of CSS files.  This has enabled us to do things like switch out the comments engine or add forms via third-party solutions. 

P.S.: If installing your own blog software or in need of a simple CMS for your own server I still recommend WordPress. 

Agree, disagree? 

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Beyond Scope Creep

Every account/project manager knows that one of their greatest challenges is to balance client desires with budgets.  We always endeavor to beat client expectations while maintaining profitability. 

Of course, in any project things can get out of control very quickly and profits can fly out of the window faster than a stock broker during the great Depression.

A certain expectation for scope creep should be built into any project.  A 5% budget allotment is not uncommon to cope with creep. 

We can then help a bit by being sure we set expectations, limits and best practices that tie directly to profitability such as:

  • Limit changes in staff assigned to the effort.
  • Avoid the temptation to add features not specified in the architecture but available in a CMS.
  • Do not let page counts increasing beyond those specified in the contract or approved site map. This is one of the most common paths to overages.
  • Avoid having a Web site that is not completely integrated to the CMS forcing changes by tech or design resources that could otherwise be performed by a producer.
  • Do not perform content entry, editing and formatting of text or images when originally assumed to be performed by the client.
  • Limit additional rounds of design, content or site reviews that can each be expected to add 5% to the cost of a project.
  • Manage delays in schedules, approvals, reviews and other deliverables.

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Increase petition reach with free sites

Working with numerous advocacy we are always looking for effective methods to rally support and provide opportunities to take action on behalf of the campaign.  Whether targeting congress, candidates or simply gathering supporters, petitions are certainly a mainstay of these campaigns actions.

I have used a variety of tools such as Convio, Kintera, The Soft Edge, CapWiz and others for such petitions and letter campaigns.  These are important tool sets that enable the organizations to have a great deal of control and to capture contact details to build a database of constituents.  These are great methods to activate current contacts and grow a list of supporters.  However, it still calls upon the need to direct people to the organization’s Web site. 

An addition of services from free petition sites can be used to add a broader reach. Certainly, this is not the best method for the core value of build a constituent database.  However, using these variety of services can help extend the ability to reach many people beyond that your own Web site marketing efforts.  You might not obtain registrations from all of these petition senders – but you will activate more people on behalf your cause.  Certainly, offer a signup to your information stream via these services – but do not expect many signups. Do expect more petitions to be distributed.

Here is a list of free petition services I have found.  I have not used all of them so please investigate each before you use the services.

Of course you should place your petition on this and other social networks to deliver your message right where people play. The following Facebook applications help you create petitions very quickly and easily.

Dedicated Sites
The following sites offer free petition services.  They appear to be quite popular.  I have not tried these out.  Let me know if you have and how effective they have been for you.

Have others? Think I am nuts.  Drop me a line in the comments.

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