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Google’s Downtime Costs Company Updwards of Seven Million Dollars in Revenue

Posted on July 1, 2010 by Chad

Recently, Google Adwords made an announcement, on their blog, that Adwords stopped serving Ads sometime around 1:40pm pacific time, on June 29th, 2010 and lasted for about 3 hours. Nothing has been announced as to what caused the glitch at this time. I had a few inquiries go out to some of my Google reps, but it seems even they have been kept in the dark at the moment and very few people know the full situation in detail. While not greatly affected we could certainly tell looking through our reporting that something was up with Adwords.

I did however do some quick math based upon Google's 2009 financial tables.  Last year, Google made over $22,889,000,000 in advertising revenues, which includes Google and Google's network sites. These two areas were affected by the downtime. With some math, based on 365 days, you can figure out that 3 hours of downtime would have contributed to approximately $7,838,698 plus change, in loss of revenue, and that's not even calculating this year's growth into the equation. 

Google updated their blog around 4:40pm to let us know that the situation was completely resolved and that they are working to prevent something like this from happening again.

 

Tips for Managing eCommerce Development

Posted on June 30, 2010 by josh

I have the fortunate duty of building some amazing solutions for our sites and systems. Being honest and up front in your position, with yourself and others, can play a key role in your success as an IT or Development manager. Here is a short list, not comprehensive, on some things you must do as an IT or Development manager:

Have thick skin

You can't make everyone happy... and you won't. The needs of the organization frequently do not meet the perceived needs of all individuals. But your team has to be able to critique you. Listen, and be honest with yourself. Also, you aren't perfect. You will screw something up. How you respond is likely as important to evaluation of your performance as the initial task. So, don't take criticism personally. Take it in, measure it against the organizational needs, discuss it with your management team, and build on it.

Let your management team know, in advance, if you're...

    • going to be making changes that could affect their teams ability to do their job: If you’re up front, chances are they'll be willing to help you meet a deadline or do some testing if it means that their team will get new tools or increased productivity.

 

    • going to make changes that may affect how your site gets indexed by search engines: If you make major infrastructural changes to your backend architecture, make it clear that it could have short term drawbacks and make the long terms gains that you're shooting for equally clear. Your team will appreciate your candor.

 

    • going to make changes that may affect conversion: If you're in eCommerce and you're working on, say, your shopping cart, chances are you're going to see some numbers change on whatever reports you and your team pay attention to. Aside from taking a page from Amazon and making smaller, more easily measured, incremental changes, if you are making changes that you think may have an impact, even slight, mention it to the team.

 

    • going to be releasing something that is 80% tested: In development, there are lots of good reasons for doing this. On some projects 80% tested or 80% complete, yields 98% of the desired functionality. Frequently, the other 20% is easier to address in the wild with real users. Be honest with your team about this and help them to understand why the additional cost of testing or completing the final 20% may not be as cost effective as releasing. Of course, I am NOT making a recommendation to do this on every project. This technique should only be applied when justified and appropriate and when it meets the needs of your organization (and probably when it doesn't display to the public in some embarrassing way).

 

  • going to do something that affects their work life... {this list goes on forever}

Understand that everything is a priority, even if it isn't

You don't get to make every decision, but you must be sensitive to other's needs. Do your best to make clear what is prioritized and why. Also, know that the members of your management team are, at least in part, judging your work based on what you've done for them. Toss in a quick feature, or fix an easy bug every now and again. Even if it's not next on your priority list, the human element here can be powerful. It can help you to build a better relationship with others, increase morale for an individual or a team, it can even help to make them look better if it helps them to be more productive. Besides, it may buy you some grace the next time you need it (and you will). These things can't always be measured in dollars and cents, but they can be felt in quality of life.

Be vulnerable, you can't solve every problem and you can't do everything all the time

I know you're amazing. You have tremendous problem-solving skills and you have pulled some rabbits out of some hats in your career. But people don't want to hear about how you're going to get everything done perfectly. It's a lie. You can't. Be honest with yourself and others about how well you'll do with the tasks that lie ahead and the resources you've been given. They need this from you and you need this from them.

Don't speak over people

There are two things to pay attention to here. The first thing is that you need to listen. Before many people finish their sentences you've got it more than half worked out in your head. But, you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Even if you disagree with someone because they are requesting something that you believe is technically infeasible, stop coming up with ways to rebut and force yourself to listen. Don't immediately fire off a "NO". Try to understand the need and let them know that you want to understand the need before you help them by working together to design a solution. The second thing you need is to learn to speak to your audience. It's easy for you to say to another techie that a system update caused a legacy service to crash, causing dependent services to also fail. But not everyone is going to understand what you're talking about. It sounds really simple to you. But you have to help them understand why and how it happened. You don't have to use elementary words, but you do have to use words that your audience will understand. Know your audience.

I'd love to hear some additional thoughts from other IT and Development managers out there...

 

Dog Whisperer Guidelines Applied in the Workplace

Posted on June 24, 2010 by Suzanne

I love the Dog Whisperer, and recently I’d been trying to apply his principals to my life. What I didn’t realize was that those guidelines could also apply to the workplace! So I hope I don’t get in trouble for writing about my co-workers in comparison to dogs and I hope that Cesar doesn’t mind. So here it goes! Here is how I think we can create a calm/submissive and calm/assertive workplace.

Applying Dog Whisperer Training to the Workplace


Discipline: This is Cesar’s first and probably most important and foundational rule. Without discipline, you have nothing. This point is most important for those in management. It’s important to correct an issue as soon as you become aware of it. If the issue is allowed to continue you lose the respect of your other workers as well as the person that is creating the issue. In my experience with the Dog Whisperer the discipline aspect is the hardest part of the rehabilitation for most owners, and I expect it’s hard for most managers. Discipline doesn’t only come from managers; the pack also corrects unwanted behavior. This is probably the coolest part of it all. Leaders can’t be everywhere, and good leaders rely on the pack to call one another out when necessary because it is good for the pack. Here is how that applies to work: as a team we are responsible to each other to keep the team afloat. If you see someone slacking off you call them out.

Exercise: Since physical exercise in the workplace rarely happens, unless you work at a gym, I am going to apply this principal to mental exercise. It’s really easy to turn your brain to auto pilot, but that is when mistakes happen. Our department tries really hard to keep everyone engaged with projects and tasks outside their specific daily tasks. Not only does this help keep everyone engaged and using their brains, but it helps protect us so we don’t fall into the hazards of a mushy brain.

Affection: Receiving rewards and approval from leaders is awesome!! Having hard work recognized makes “the pack” want to work harder. A little encouragement really does go a long way. If a worker is praised, then it sets the bar a little bit higher in their heads. Actively using rewards not only encourages workers on a personal level, but it also raises the moral of everyone around.

So, that’s how you can create a well balanced workplace that encourages all of its workers, managers and team leaders alike to set the standard high and work toward a common goal.


 


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Learning from Lehman… What Not to Write in an Email

Posted on June 22, 2010 by Sean

A quick Google search will find countless blog posts discussing the rules, standards and etiquette for just about every kind of work-related correspondence. We know it’s stupid to send personal messages on work time, we know it’s dumb to share uncomfortable truths about our bosses or proliferate highly sensitive information, but as we’re spending more time than ever in the workplace (see chart below), even the most innocent of conversations can appear contentious. When social proximity creates friends out of co-workers, the lines of professional care can blur. Making the big mistake of blending these workplace boundaries can make it seriously easy to get into serious trouble.

Time use on an average work day for employed persons ages 25 to 54 with children

The folks at NPR.org put together a list of words which could spell big trouble if found in your email. As we know, the financial giant has fallen in the wake of the subprime mortgage fallout amidst allegations of longstanding financial malpractice. Investigations have been lengthy. “The lawyer appointed to figure out what went wrong at Lehman Brothers used lots of different search terms to mine 34 million pages of documents from the bank” – The search terms below were used as criteria to isolate potentially incriminating documents and very confidential correspondence – some of which will likely be used as evidence in upcoming litigation.

  • stupid
  • huge mistake
  • big mistake
  • dumb
  • can't believe
  • cannot believe
  • serious trouble
  • big trouble
  • unsalvageable
  • shocked
  • speechless
  • too late
  • uncomfortable
  • not comfortable
  • I don't think we should
  • very sensitive
  • highly sensitive
  • very confidential
  • highly confidential
  • do not share this
  • don't share this
  • between you and me
  • just between us


Personally, I don’t think we should all start fearfully scouring our inboxes searching for the words on this list. In reality, these terms aren’t inherently incendiary – put in the right context, most of them are perfectly harmless. The truth is, most of us don’t work for a company as controversial as Lehman Brothers (thank God) so a better approach is simply taking pause before sending an email and reading over what we’ve written and eliminating anything we are not comfortable with. 

If I send you an email from my work computer – and you answer it from your work computer, we can be absolutely sure that, no matter the intent, the exchange is not just between us. Simply put, when you’re on the clock, you’re on the record (If you can’t believe that – ask your Human Resources representative, if you still cannot believe them – ask your IT manager, they know everything.) Most companies have an official policy regarding computer use – a quarterly brush-up on this policy might serve as a positive reminder.

So, it would be prudent to learn from the fall of giants, before we’re all left shocked and speechless in the wake of our own office-oversights. If there’s any question about the integrity of your inbox, clean it up now, before a small misstep becomes a huge mistake. Between you and me, for Lehman Brothers, it’s simply too late.

If you’re unsure about sending highly confidential information via email – don’t share this. While there are situations that call for the sharing of very sensitive information, the results of your exchange could be unsalvageable.

Note: you might not want to forward this email, as all of the earmarked words or phrases appear at least once.


 


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The YouTube Movie Editor Allows Editing in the Cloud

Posted on June 21, 2010 by Josh Mc

The idea of being able to edit your online video without any software, simply an internet connection and a browser, is something that YouTube has been toying with for a while. They used to offer video remixes, which would let you do some simple editing and set it to music, but now they have created a full, completely online editing application. While it is not robust, it will allow you to put clips together, trim videos you have uploaded and even add music from their hundreds of available songs. Once you have created your video you can save it to your YouTube account all completely online and free of charge.  Check out more information on this service below, and let us know what you think.

 

 

Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of June 18, 2010

Posted on June 18, 2010 by Vanessa

Hooray Lakers!!!!!!!!!

 

Okay now that I got that off my chest let’s check out some interesting posts from throughout the week.

 


 


Kohler is arguably one of the most innovative brands in the home improvement industry. The new Karbon Kitchen faucet has completely transformed the kitchen and more specifically revolutionized the faucet. Meanwhile Kohler seems to effortlessly create bathroom fixtures that are not only sleek but save water, like the Escale toilet.

Oh, Those Customers – Five Great Customer Responses

Posted on June 17, 2010 by Sean

Here at PlumberSurplus.com – we love customers. No, seriously – we love our customers. Working in Customer Service gives us the opportunity - nay, privilege to interact with literally thousands of personalities each month.

It’s awesome.

From time to time, we get together to discuss the “gems” we’ve accumulated throughout our months of helping customers. We gather in the conference room and swap stories like baseball cards. Here’s a few we’ve collected from our recent “gem-jam.”

1) Customer responded to his account update email with the Taco Bell nutritional value menu.

Our customer was either hungry or set on proselytizing the nutritional values (or lack thereof) of delicious and convenient Mexican fare.

2) On St. Patrick’s day – a wonderful Irish customer bid Hannah adieu by sending her off with a traditional Irish blessing.

 “May those who love us, love us,
  And those who don't love us,
  May God turn their hearts
  And if he can't turn their hearts,
  May he turn their ankles
  So we will know them by their limping!”

3) A valued customer used "A as in abstinence." To better clarify the spelling of his name.

    I think we’ll leave it at that.

4) A customer once asked if we delivered to the moon. We informed him that we shipped primarily with UPS and sadly, the moon was outside of their delivery area.


5) "Thank you for calling PlumberSurplus.com this is Joelle"..."what’s your name?"..."Joelle"...."What?"....'My name is Joelle"...."Your name is Jello?"...."No, Joelle"....."Oh whatever I don’t even care, YOU SENT ME A BROKEN TUB..."

Personally – I think Jello makes every situation better.


 


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Customized Facebook Publishing: Difficult but Doable

Posted on June 16, 2010 by Trevor

In a previous article I discussed integrating your site with Facebook Connect. Unfortunately, shortly after I wrote that article Facebook rolled out their new Graph API and related technologies that made Facebook Connect largely obsolete. There are some valuable features of the new API, but in many cases it will require a rewrite. Today I'd like to discuss publishing to Facebook. As before, I'll try to keep it conceptual, but it will get technical. If you aren't interested in the technical details, the takeaway is that customized Facebook publishing is difficult but doable. 

Below is an example of the Facebook Like Button on one of our retail websites, PlumberSurplus.com:

Facebook Like Example on PlumberSurplus.com

 

There are three general ways you can insert items into your visitor's feed (or "wall"). First there is the new Facebook Like button.  This is good for basic stream items, but gives very little control over formatting. Second, there is the FBML Share button.  It gives a moderate amount of control over formatting of the item in the feed, but not much over the formatting of the button itself. Finally, there is the API publish function, which gives good control of the formatting of the item but doesn't provide any default formatting, meaning you will have to build it by hand. Details on the first two methods are relatively easy to find, but the third is quite difficult.

The first thing to do to publish to a Facebook feed is to provide the visitor a way to initiate a post. It is possible to post directly to the feed without waiting for the visitor, but that usually creates a bad experience. Instead, we'd like a button similar to the Like or Share buttons Facebook provides, but allowing us more control. Facebook doesn't provide a customizable button, but we can create our own by using Facebook's CSS classes (note that you will have to initialize Facebook on your page before you can do this, a process I won't go into here). To make a link look like a Facebook button, add the classes "fb_button" and "fb_button_small" to the link, and wrap the link's text in a span with the class "fb_button_text". Then set the link to call a Javascript function when clicked (this function is where we'll publish the post).

Now, we need to publish the post. But first, we have to make sure the visitor is logged into Facebook and has given us permission to make posts. According to Facebook's documentation we should simply be able to make a posts to a user's feed using the Graph API; however, that function contains a bug so that if the post fails for any reason, we won't be notified, and nothing will happen. This would be a bad user experience. So instead we have to check the login and permissions first, and then post. To do that, we use the FB.getLoginStatus function, which returns details about the visitor's facebook login (if they are logged in, of course). If they aren't logged in, we can prompt them to log in (and get the right permissions to post) using the FB.login function.  As a side note, if you have implemented some sort of auto-login by subscribing to events, you may need to turn that off when you call the login function to prevent it navigating away from the page. If you don't understand that, it probably doesn't apply to you.

We're almost done, but there's one more issue. There is another bug in the "FB.getLoginStatus" function so that it doesn't always return the right permissions. To get the real permissions, we need to use FQL to query Facebook's permissions table and make sure we have the "publish_stream" permission (note that there are many undocumented permissions in this table: they are in the documentation. If not, we'll have to send them back to the login prompt to make sure we get it. If we do have permission to post, then we can finally make the post to our visitor's feed.

To post, call the FB.api function on the visitor's feed ("/me/feed"). You can pass in a JSON object containing the message, picture, link, name, and description you want posted, and it will show up as if the visitor had made the post. Finally, you should display some sort of notification to let the user know the post was successful.

To recap:

  1. Turn your link into a button using the "fb_button", "fb_button_small", & "fb_button_text" CSS classes.
  2. Find out if the visitor is logged into Facebook using the "FB.getLoginStatus" function. If not, prompt them with the "FB.login" function.
  3. Find out if the visitor has given permissions by querying the FQL "permissions" table. If not, prompt them with "FB.login".
  4. Post to "/me/feed" using the "FB.api" function. If successful, notify the visitor.

Whew! That was complicated, but hopefully it will give you a starting place when creating your own custom Facebook buttons. As always, feel free to respond if you have any questions or comments.

 


There are countless possibilities when remodeling your kitchen. Blend style and innovation with a pull out kitchen faucet, upgrade your design with a modern stainless steel Kitchen Sink, help conserve your food waste with an InSinkErator garbage disposer and keep your kitchen free of smoke and odors with Kitchen range hoods.

Google Launches CodeLab

Posted on June 15, 2010 by josh

On May 4, 2010, Google Webmaster Central Blog announced a codelab called Web Application Exploits and Defenses.  The codelab is for use in learning/training about common web vulnerabilities. It's built around a micro blogging application that is riddled with security holes. The goal is to provide users with an opportunity to apply white-box hacking to learn and understand some of the most common web vulnerabilities and exploits. The bugs are real bugs. The application is real.

I love this idea. If you've never applied any of the hacking techniques addressed in the CodeLab, it's tough to know how to prevent them. This is similar to WebGoat, which is also useful for learning web application security. Even if you don't use the same programming technologies or web development language presented in the lab, it's still completely applicable in understanding exploit techniques and how they apply in your environment.

 

The Great Facebook Exodus

Posted on June 8, 2010 by Zach

Facebook

There has been a lot of discussion about Facebook, privacy and, what seems to be a mass exodus of technology figureheads from the service lately. It seems like every time Facebook makes an announcement, they are messing with the privacy settings they continue to make it more confusing and technical. Coming from a retailer's perspective who manages profiles, pages and advertising on Facebook this is not surprising at all. Facebook has some of the most confusing and technical merchant tools we have ever seen and it's only gotten worse. I dare you to try running a Facebook ad with targeted metrics and make any sense of what’s going on there. Sure, it might be great for throwing money at brand advertising, or building your fans, but try driving at conversion based targets and it becomes much more difficult.

Outside of these issues, though, I just can't see myself leaving Facebook without a viable alternative. Much of my friends, family and social interactions happen for the most part on Facebook and I think that most people either don't care or don't understand how the privacy issues affect them. The fact of the matter is that there is simply no decent alternative to Facebook. Sure I have heard people say, use Twitter + Flickr + Yahoo + Google + Smugmug + Geni but using all of those services instead of Facebook is simply unrealistic for me and probably most of Facebook's other users. Not to mention, it only takes one of those services to have privacy issues for it to make using other services a moot point.

Facebook has built an empire with no real rival and I think they realize that. Until there is some real competition I don't think most people will actually leave Facebook, they may consider it, they may even be concerned about their privacy but I don't think they will leave.

 


Kohler is arguably one of the most innovative brands in the home improvement industry. The new Karbon faucet has completely transformed the kitchen and more specifically revolutionized the kitchen faucet. Meanwhile Kohler seems to effortlessly create bathroom fixtures that are not only sleek but save water, like the Escale toilet.