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May 95 Viewpoint
Volume Number:11
Issue Number:5
Column Tag:The Editor’s Viewpoint

The Editor’s Viewpoint

By Scott T Boyd, Editor

To Web or not to Web, was that the question? I’ve encountered two positions on this lately. The first holds that only a year or two stands between our current state and a world where developers take Internet access for granted. The second position holds that we’re a long way from a majority of us having Internet access.

I’m betting on a wired world of developers. How can I be so certain? Well, I’m not, but I have this very strong memory of a time, about ten years ago, when I saw something new and said to myself, “This is cool!” Almost every single dollar I’ve earned since then derived from my interest in exploring Macintosh. I delved, learned, explored, and played to the point where my father asked whether I might not be limiting my career choices. I suppose I did. I see another such choice forming up right about now.

How can I tell? Oh, I don’t know, maybe it’s just that I’ve fed all of my spare time to the Internet like quarters into a great arcade game. I’ve set up a domain name server, configured a mail system, and added accounts and aliases to a unix machine so mail goes to the right places. I’ve installed a gateway and a router so my wife can do e-mail and netnews. I’ve set up mailing lists, set up dial-in service, and helped friends get their homes and offices onto the Net. I’ve fought (endlessly?) to convince my modems and router to keep my office connected to my Internet provider. And lately I’ve poured a lot of time into building all sorts of web pages. Along the way, I’ve picked up a couple of things I’d like to share with you.

While the telephone system connects almost all of us to each other, it restricts how we interact. For example, if I called your office to see who answered the phone, only to hang up immediately when an interesting person didn’t answer, you might consider that rude. On the other hand, no one minds at all if I flit in, take a look at a web page, and flit away. Likewise, you might not want to answer your office phone at 4AM, nor might you want to pay someone to wait by the phone for the occasional 4AM call. Web servers, to everyone’s benefit, don’t get sleepy, and they don’t mind waking up in the middle of the night.

People who cruise the World Wide Web enjoy sitting in the driver’s seat (even at 4AM). Set up your web site with this in mind. They’re driving, so give them what they might be looking for. Let them decide how much, when, and in what order they’ll check out what you’ve published. Don’t count on them calling you if they have any questions.

Late last week I decided to buy a router. Between living on the Left Coast and staying up until all hours, I rarely get enough spare phone time in before many of the places I need to call close for the day. That’s one reason I love shopping on the Web - it never closes. So, at 4AM, I started looking for routers. I came across a promising site (http://www.rockwell.com). I dug around for a while, and finally found a router that grabbed my interest. Hey, no prices! They didn’t even list the protocols it supports.

Don’t Do #0 - Don’t leave out information that buying customers need to make buying decisions (all web-site visitors are buying customers, by the way; you just have to show them something they want to buy). Fortunately, they included an e-mail URL, so I dropped them a note saying, “Please get me the following info and I might buy one right now.” I figured that I might have the info I needed when I woke up later in the day. Sure enough, I had mail from them. This leads to

Don’t Do #1 - Don’t send e-mail to a customer saying, “Please send us your geographical location so we can have a salesperson from your regional sales office call you.” Momentarily dumbfounded, I knew what I had to do. In keeping with the true spirit of directness on the Internet, I dropped them a little note and suggested that maybe they weren’t ready for the Internet (Another thing I love about the Net - one mouse-click and no more pushy salesperson). This leads to Do #0 - respond to such mail quickly and with attention to details on the questions the sender asked. It doesn’t hurt to go further and apologize for having an incomplete web site, and to offer to fix the specific problems the user had with it. That’s what Rockwell did, and I’m now the happy owner of a Rockwell NetHopper.

One Last Shameless MacHack Plug

MacHack X (June 22-24) is right around the corner. Got your hack done yet? To get more info on the only marketing-hostile, programmer-centric conference of the year, check out http://www.hax.com/HackContest and call or e-mail Expotech at (313) 882-6942 and expotech@aol.com.

Let’s Take A Stand

While we’re on the subject of paradigm-altering technologies, we’ll take the opportunity to endorse OpenDoc. The tools are inadequate, the software hasn’t shipped to customers yet, and there’s a lot to learn. Nevertheless, it’s a superior technology, and the one we’re picking. Watch for increased coverage of OpenDoc here in these pages in the months to come.

Food For Thought

The only way to deal with bureaucrats is with stealth and sudden violence.

UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali

I think of George Orwell And I remember the commercial, “Why 1984 won’t be like 1984 and I say to myself, “Maybe 1984 was just a few years early!”

- Allan Foster

You can kill a project, but you can’t kill the past.

- A much-revered DTS engineer, speaking on job security

 
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