Archive for the ‘General Business’ Category

White House 2.0: the First Tech President

Monday, March 9th, 2009

This is a great article written by one of our staff writers, enjoy:

By the end of his eight-year term, former President Bill Clinton had sent a total of two emails: the first a test, the second a message to astronaut John Glenn on the space shuttle Discovery. President Barack Obama is likely to have sent more emails than that in the first hour after his inauguration. Renowned for his frequent BlackBerry use and his grassroots, online-based campaigning, Obama has been hailed as the first “tech president.” Technology-based changes at the executive level have the potential for major ramifications not only in the tech sphere, but in everything from healthcare to energy to government itself.

Despite broad adoption by the public, the Internet was not taken seriously as a campaign tool until recent years. 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean made his campaign a major player with the money raised through his online network of donors, and Congressman Ron Paul became an Internet sensation in his bid for the 2008 Republican nomination, at one point raising over four million dollars online in a single day. The latest presidential campaign marked a clear convergence of politics and the Web, with Barack Obama and Republican candidate John McCain trading barbs not just on CNN but on YouTube and Facebook. With the money he raised online, Obama was able to forego public financing and outspend McCain. At the same time, McCain was able to remain competitive even with limited funds by emphasizing Internet-based spending over traditional media.

Announcing his candidacy for the presidency in early 2007, Obama proclaimed his desire to be among “the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age.” On the official White House web site, Obama speaks of “the immense transformative power of technology and innovation and how they can improve the lives of Americans.” His agenda as president gives weight to this rhetoric. A major part of his health care plan is the implementation of electronic health care records, making it possible for doctors, nurses, hospitals and patients to stay on the same page and avoid costly miscommunications. The energy gains Obama hopes for depend on scientific and technological innovation in both the development of new energies and the enhancement of existing ones. And in appointing the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer to lead an interagency effort to increase governmental efficiency, Obama has shown he is serious about using technology to better integrate the various elements of government.

For all Obama’s emphasis on change, the office of the presidency is one that has a myriad of security concerns which threaten his own reliance on technology. His heavy Blackberry use brought challenges from White House officials, concerned that the security of the messages Obama sends as president could be compromised. Obama’s staffers, who had depended heavily on instant messaging as a form of office communication, were surprised to find out that security restrictions barred them from doing so in the White House. Still, technology and the presidential office have largely mixed favorably, with one standout example being Obama’s weekly YouTube addresses to the nation, a 21st-century version of Franklin Roosevelt’s famous radio-based fireside chats.

At noon on January 20, 2009 – before Obama had even been sworn into office –, the official website of the White House, had been transformed into a sleek, modern site promising accessibility and accountability. Users can review all non-emergency legislation on the site well before it is signed, and it features Obama’s weekly video addresses as well as an official White House blog. If Obama’s plans pan out, the collaborative nature of the Internet and the social networks that he used to such effect during the campaign will now be used as a tool to advance the democratic process, keeping voters informed and engaged in America’s affairs. John Glenn would be proud.

Joys and Pitfalls of Virtual Office Life

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Our office at is entirely virtual. We are spread out over time zones, over the country. Some of us work non-stop, some of us work part time and fit this in among other businesses and family and life in general.  Some of our very part timers we have never even met face to face.  Most of our clients, same thing. Some of our service providers, our designers, our coders, our programmers, live halfway across the world.  Many small internet businesses operate this way.  And I have a love-hate relationship with the virtual office.


Increased productivity: Not only does this fit amazingly well into my personal lifestyle, with the right people, the productivity level of an at-home employee is much higher.  Because we never leave the office, we are always at work, and tend to jump online to do a couple things at any given time.

Working at any time of day: again this adds to increased productivity, because our staff can do the non-work fun things at any time of day. Volunteer at their kids school.  Hit the mall when it is not crowded. Take a trip on a Tuesday instead of a Saturday. Take a nap on a day that you are particularly tired.  The thing is, we’re always going to make it up, either working til midnight unlike many of our In Office counterparts, or working through the weekend.  Or bringing the laptop to gymnastics class and working straight through watching your daughter’s backflips and cartwheels.

No travel time, no fancy outfits. No prep. This means either more downtime for a happier worker, or more work time for a happier boss. On the low side, even a sloppy college guy needs 30 min to shower/dress, and 15-45 to drive to work. This is saving 1.5 hours a day x 5-6 days a week, that’s a lot of life to live (or another day of work!)

IM: instant messaging as a main form of communication can be so much less of an intrusion than a phone call, or than someone stopping by my cubby. I can take my time to answer, I can finish my thought online, i can outright ignore it for 30 minutes until I am ready.  I can’t very well ignore a colleague standing next to me asking me their questions. It’s free. It travels around the world instantly. and I have a record of every convo to refer back to.  Also, there is something really playful about it, and although we may lose jokes around the water cooler, some of my very funniest belly-laugh moments have been making jokes with my co workers on IM.


Communication issues: although I do love IM for communication, there are times it drives me absolutely batty. To discuss a complex issue, to analyze a project and share input, to talk with more than one at a time, it’s just tedious and time consuming. And when you take a short cut to type less, the clarify suffers. You can have a 10 minute convo before you realize you are talking about 2 different things. and you lose the tone of voice. You lose the look in their face.  It can take its toll.

Time zone issues:  it is nice if you are all on the same time zone. If my California writer needs me, I feel obligated to stop cooking to help even though it is 6pm. After all, 3pm is prime work time there…..  (funny they don’t share this obligation at 6am their time!)

Respect and company impression: I worked for someone awhile back that did not want customers to know that I had a home office. They wanted to give the impression we had this big office with cubbies and secretaries and a sign by the street. Is there still a stigma against this? I personally do not hide this any more, and I find that (guesstimating) 30% of our clients have home offices, particularly smaller businesses. I think I do not let it color my impression of a company, but then again, when a potential client has a secretary, has office hours, has a staff of 80 and a conference room, am I subconsciously impressed?

Never off work: for the same reason productivity is high, home and social life can suffer. You are just never off work. It takes an enormous amount of willpower to take time off. An office job you leave at the office at 5:30 or 6p (5pm is so 80s), and many do bring work home. But because home=office, an at-home employee is more apt to check email more frequently, or squeeze in some extra project to try to get ahead for tomorrow. Again great for productivity, but must be careful about burnout.  I try to encourage co-workers to take the time as they need it.

So although I preach that life is about so much more work I do sit here typing through dinner and knowing I will work until at least 10pm.  Then again, when I am on my way to a field trip next week (I really did take my  laptop on a 2 hour bus ride field trip once to build links for clients), I’ll be glad the work is done and I didn’t have to take a personal day.  Overall, the good outweighs the bad, and I remain a big fan of the virtual office.

Doing business with a small business

Monday, June 30th, 2008

I regularly hear surprise and appreciation from clients when we go above and beyond with their linking campaigns. We closely monitor our clients, their links, their results, so we have learned what is the most effective way to use these edu links. It often plays out like this: a client turns their project details, I look it over, look at their site and rankings, and make sure it seems like the best use of their pages. I email with a suggestion to change a keyword, or limit the number of links, I explain why I am suggesting it, and I get their input. And the reaction I get so often is “Wow, thank you for taking the time to really look at this!” Or a client calls on the phone, and we end up chatting for 30 minutes about their business, Google, SEO, linking. They learn a thing or two. I learn a thing or two. I really can’t help it. I have a passion for this industry, and I really want to see a client climb up in the rankings.

What surprises me though is how surprised they are when we just do what comes naturally. It is a sad commentary on the state of customer service and business relationships when a client is just glad they got an email reply. With the impersonal way we have to do business nowadays, with automated phone lines (press 4 to hear your balance) and online transactions where you never even speak to someone, I really enjoy developing relationships with our regular clients. It is rewarding, fulfilling, exciting.

And what I really love is hearing from clients that they handle their customer service the same way. I personally love doing business with a smaller company. A small company doesn’t mean they are any less smart; on the contrary they are usually more experts in their field than a large corporation. And having someone know my name, my business, it just makes the day go smoother, and of course adds value to whatever I am buying.

Sometimes we even become clients of our clients, doing barters and supporting each other. Many of our best SEO networking, sharing ideas and tactics, comes from chats with our best clients.

I love my work. I hope you do too.