Archive for the 'CommonSpot' Category

Open source makes money on lead referals

July 3, 2007

Yesterday one of our inside sales associates noticed an amazing trend in the referals he was receiving. A lot of them were talking about Joomla, an open source CMS which we _rarely_ come up against. CommonSpot plays more in the enterprise space where as Joomla is good for the lower end market since it is an open source solution. So, our sales associate did some digging and discovered this interesting ad on the “Request a demo” portion of the Joomla site:

Small Joomla Ad

The text right above the ad reads:

To register for the Backend Adminstrative area you will need to “Register” from the link on the left and follow directions.

Of course, the “link” on the left is an ad for “Register for demo” – except it is our Demo.

Clicking the ad brings you to our Demo registration form. So, one would have to expect that either the user thought that the links in the middle of the page (the ad is right in the middle of the paragraph on the page) were for Joomla’s registration or, they actually found our web site during their hunt for a CMS and decided to sign up for our Demo as well (or maybe instead).

This is all made possible by Google being intelligent enough to know that the content of the Joomla page is that of Web based content management. Since Joomla placed the adsense ad on the page it did what it was supposed to – and in this case – displays ads for competitors.

Thank you Google (and Joomla). Full Page Joomla ad


What comes after “The Gradient Era”

February 22, 2007

I don’t have enough energy to do this, but it would be cool if someone could give names to each of the “Design Era’s” we have seen come to life. But here goes:

– The Bullet Era: When I first started on the web every link had a “3-d Bullet graphic” ( [note: click though on Economics]

[Somwhere along the way we graduated to the black background sites]

– Black background sites: Some of the first major designs we did were on black backgrounds ( [note: first CF site I ever worked on – take a look at beers]

[Missing a ton of designs – for the better of man kind I moved into development at this point]

[Eventually we got to the point where we are today]

– Gradients: If you site does not use Lightbox and have Gradient headers you just ain’t cool


Well, I can honestly say that I believe that we are finally at the end of the “Gradient Era”:

Proof1: There is actually a web site that will build a gradient image for you. Yes, I did not stutter, it actually builds a gradient image: It is my recollection, that if anything ever becomes this “Mainstream” it has already met its demise. After-all, if the blinking text on my Grandma’s web page gets replaced with a gradient image then it’s all over – right?

Proof2: Two web site designs that have come out recently which don’t use any gradients. Not one.

1.) – A social bookmarking site heavier on the “social” then the “bookmarking”
2.) – my friends blog (yes he has some mad design skills)

So, while I can’t guarantee you won’t stumble upon a site riddled with Gradients, I can say that I am happy to ask “What is next??”.

Gotta go, off to make a few gradient images for a new menu system, I have connected Yahoo’s Menu Object into CommonSpot.

36 Hours of MAX: Small Agile Development Teams

July 8, 2006

I was just reading a blog post on “WeBreakStuff” about “Railsday: Pushing the limits of 24 hours“. I have always been a big fan of ColdFusion (CF) development and find it amazing the amount of steam applications built with Ruby are gaining recently. I found “Railsday” particularly interesting because in 2003 I presented an idea to Macromedia’s Event Marketing team which was built on the same premise. I called it 36 Hours of Max:

Excerpt from my original document:

What: A three-day competition coinciding with DevCon, for MX developers. The goal will be to coordinate the creation of a web site/application based on a strict specification in 36 hours using nothing but MX products. By holding the event at (or around) DevCon we would maximize exposure and create an added feature for future DevCon gatherings. (A humanitarian angle could be added to the “what” by choosing a Non-Profit organization and either re-designing or creating a site for them. Maybe an organization with little money or resources.)


Teams of 6 (could be more or less) would work together to complete an application based on a pre-defined specification. The specification is the same for all teams and the application must be built exclusively with Macromedia Studio MX.

On the final day all the entries are *collected* and the judging begins [may want to perform preliminary judging during the day on Saturday so that Judges are aware of the programs before actual judging]

The awards ceremony follows the judging and is open to all attendees of DevCon

[Optional] require no pre-coding by releasing the specification at the beginning of the contest

Since one of the values of CF is to be a Rapid Application Development architectures I was a bit surprised that Macromedia did not take me up on my idea. Maybe the idea was before its time (Hey Adobe if you are listening….) Now with the advent of Flex and the tight integration between CF and Flash I think that an idea like this has even more merit then it did in the past. I do not know a lot about the architecture of Ruby but I know a lot about CF and I can say that it would be difficult for any architecture to have the IDE/Application Development integration that CF is pushing.

Value of Small Agile Development Teams
One of the topics that WeBreakStuff spoke about was the value of small agile teams. I left a very small agile team at Seton Hall University a few weeks ago. The web team responsible for implementing our CMS has some incredible talent and interesting dynamics. Lee Clark and Mike Hyland are avid bloggers and compliment each other in their development/design skills. Where Mike leads the way in CSS and HTML layout, Lee produces database interactions in PHP and CF. In addition, there is Marie Somers (Team Lead) and Kevin Whary (Applications Development).

I have seen some good applications development teams out there but none with the dynamics that match this groups abilities. Covering the gammut of CSS/HTML/JS/CFML/Linux/SQL Server/MySQL support, the team is nimble and efficient. [Ok, enough promotion]

The real value here with teams of this size, is that they can get things done. There is no time to overthink things and rarely is any time wasted. In the fast moving environment of Web Development these are great qualities in a team. What makes this group really interesting is that they can cover start-finish an entire Web application.

Nimbleness + Proper Planning = Success
Often the notion of Rapid Application Development carries with it a connotation of poor quality. How can you produce proper applications in weeks in months?

Virtualization – for hardware/os communication

June 11, 2006

Apple should change the name of OS X to osX – allOneWord. Seriously though, anyone seen what is going on over there? I mean really this is pure madness. Have you heard of bootcamp? I know that I am always the last man to hear the god damn thing (reference to PulpFiction). Anyhoo I was conducting some training last week with the good folks at Florida Area Real Estate – shout out to the crew! – and Rob Shrewsbury told me about bootcamp.

If you haven't heard, there is this new beta program that Apple is offering to allow you to run Windows and osX at the same time. That is something of a "virtualization" software program from what I gather. Rob had purchased a Mac a year or so ago (its -pre intel) and heard about it. Being that his work pretty much required him to work on a Mac he thought it was a good idea. I am not sure if he decided to try it or not but. To read more about it go over to their web site ( ).

I was reminded of this software tonight when I visited a customer of ours. Actually brought in by a Partner NI Solutions in Toronto. The company name is "Virtual Iron". They make a product that is also in beta which seems to run on the Linux platform. Specifically RHEL3 and 4. They are going to have a Windows version of the product available in September 2000.

It appears to "run between the Operating System and the Hardware".

Alex Vasilevsky Founder and CTO Virtual Iron Software. I think that this is an interesting technology, especially if you read their "In the news" section. Ton of talk about this type of technology.

I know YOU know … but when will they?

April 28, 2006

I am sure that you have heard of RSS and that you have probably even used it today (more than twice??), you may have even developed some RSS content.  If you have seen it, used it and/or built you … You Know!  You can see what is going on here.  When you look at it, RSS is such a powerful technology it gave Firefox (a faster moving software company) the ability to compete against a monumental giant.
Yeah I know, the tabbed browsing … faster loading pages … standards based support … the security aspects; sure those are all valid points.  Combine those with what I find to be the easiest way to distribute the power of RSS.

Seen this icon before: Live Bookmark Image 

This icon (which IE7 has remarkably adopted to display its "live bookmark" content) will help push RSS to the masses.  The people who _don't_ know.

If you read less than 10 websites on a regular basis then maybe you don't need it.

If you read less than 10 websites on a regular basis then … you are boring … step aside and get in line.

Seriously, though there is a TON of information out there and it is impossible to keep up with it.  RSS gives you what I feel, the only way to truly discover new information on a regular basis.

I have been interviewing some smart people recently and I am utterly amazed at the number of those smart people who know nothing about RSS.  Only 1 of the last 7 people that I have interviewed for various TECH positions at a Web based CMS solution knew what RSS was.  Yes, Web based!

Getting this type of technology (which dates back to 1999) to the masses is critical.  The more people that know what a news reader is (My reader is Sage – more on the Firefox Extensions), the better.

If you don't know … then ask … we want to help. 

We don’t need no stinkin’ navigation

April 12, 2006

I have been implementing web sites for what seems like forever and I have to honestly say that this is the first time I have ever heard this "Do we even really need a navigation".  The crazy thing about this statement was that the client was honest.  The other crazy thing is that the client was not your normal crazy customer they were serious and they had a point.  Why would really need some complicated navigation.  If you represent content in a logical way each of the "jump" pages in a web site should be good enough.

Obviously, they did not remove the nav all together, I think that would be suicide, but they bring up a valid point that I think needs to be brought to light.  This is not a new point, gosh, google has made this point since its inception.  What the exercise gave them (the "do we really need a navigation" exercise) was that they evaluated their content at a high level and realized that they were managing links in a complicated navigation that were not even being used.  Their theory was that the navigation at a minimal needed to offer some high level access to areas so that users that were unfamiliar with the site could "get around".  They concluded that they really needed just 2 levels of navigation for their entire site.  Note: this site is a prominent site that you would all know and receives millions of page views a week and has thousands (if not 10's of thousands) of pages so, it this is a big decision.

I liken their decision with the recent changes in the site. They have "googleized" their home page to have "search" as a prominent part of their "navigation".  Duke has been in the lead in other areas of their use of digital media.  A few years ago, they were one of the first Universities to give their freshman each an IPod so they could record their classes.  Other universities have begun to offer Podcasting of the lectures (I think Stanford even sells them on ITunes).  Maybe Duke (and the client above) are on to something.  Maybe we have become more sophisticated as web users and we don't need elaborate navigation's.  I will leave you with one note though (since I am currently undecided on the need for "full" navigation elements) – recently this client during a very high traffic time, created an image that linked to a major point on their site.  After a few days of low links to the major portion of the site, they added some text "Click here for more info >>" in the bottom right corner of the page – in one day with the new image they received 3 times as much traffic to the major area.  Maybe we are not so ready, but I still like the idea of "trimming" navigation's based on actual usage.  Certainly makes the CMS implementation a heck of a lot easier.

The intricate World “WIDE” Web

March 15, 2006

As I travel around to the different PaperThin customers, I have the opportunity to meet other individuals that are truly connected to the web. The kind of people that read or write in Web logs (blogs), that not only understand the value of an RSS feed but actually use them. What I find to be interesting is that each of the places that I go, I eventually get into a conversation about their usage of the web. The only way that I can explain what I see is like this:Imagine if you would that there are 4 local channels for TV. And in each major metropolitan area those 4 channels are controlled by 4 different media companies. So in New York, Channel 1 is controlled by Company ABC and in LA, Channel 1 is controlled by Company XYZ. I know that this is not a good representation of the Web because the Web is global but what I guess I am talking about is the "undercurrent" of the web. We have all experienced the global web (you get the same funny video from three random people and your like 'yeah already saw that, that was funny') but this "local" web can be described by the type of information that travels in certain social circles.

For instance, I was travelling to DC and one of the people that I met there showed me this site:

Now this is a bit of a cult site but it has some interesting content and has been around for quite some time. This person appears to be completely connected to the world of hollywood and has all sorts of dirt on everyone. Some of the content that he posts is original and other pieces are referencs to news stories with either "this is the truth behind the story" or "here is some more information". When I returned from DC I heard on the radio someone mention this site.

Then while I was in Minnesota I spoke with one of their developer/designers (Forbes Robertson – funny guy) and he shared with me this which I guess I could have found from going to google viedo but who would have thought to type in "Trailer Park Boys" in the google video box.

Wither way I find this hilarious.

And lastly, Mike Hyland (from Seton Hall) had this on his forum: (caution this may be a bit tasteless but since this is a serious topic, a funny video turns it around in a new light)
So what I guess I am saying is that even though we live in a world where the Web is connecting us all, we still need some social interaction in order to share our experiences of the Web. That is why I spend most of my time reading blogs (like the ones on the right). It represents a "pulse" on the Internet. What is truly out there from a content perspective and where the web is heading.

Well that's it for now…

Challenges of a CMS implementation

March 15, 2006

Just wanted to give a good ol CommonSpot shout out to the team at Seton Hall. It was a pleasure working with them during the Advanced Developers training. They launched with CommonSpot during the 4th quarter of 2005 and I must say they have a great looking site (and that is not just because they are using CommonSpot). Anyways we had some good conversations that I wanted to share.

One of the biggest struggles with CMS implementations is the multiple number of teams that need to be involved and the differences amongst those teams. In most CMS installs you will have a Web team. These will be comprised of Developers and Designers. The Web team may or may not be a part of the IT department. So if the web team is not a part of the IT department then you have the IT department themselves. Primary role for this group is to manage the Servers. Main struggles for this group is that they most times they will manage the application servers but know little about the applications that sit on top of the application servers. Not having first hand knowledge of the applications causes difficulties because they know little about necessary settings required for performance or stability. The last group which is involved with the publishing process is either the Public Relations/Marketing group or the Communications group. A less technical group by nature, this group is often responsible for the general direction of the web site. However, since in most cases, they don’t Eat, Sleep and Breath the Internet, they have a difficult time understanding what is truly possible for the Web site. In my opinion, the successful web teams out there have an individual that can coordinate all of these groups, understands technology (Not only what is an RSS Feed but uses them on a daily basis) and communicates sound business ideas effectively.

We also had a few beers and talked about some of the new technologies coming out. We all agreed that we are looking forward to the new “Keanu Reeves” movie coming out “Scanner Darkly”. I put his name in quotes because although he was in the movie and did all of the “acting”, the movie is actually a cartoon. There is a really good article about it in the latest Wired magazine if you are interested ( LINK)

I also have permalinks over to Lee and Mike Hyland’s blogs on the right. Go check them out.

Back from Minnesota

March 11, 2006

I just returned from my trip from Minnesota. I want to officially thank the Research Web team at Mayo Clinic for a great week. We finally go their production servers up and running on Thursday night. You can see their sites here:


(They also have an intranet and they are all running CommonSpot) New servers, new version of CommonSpot – Sweet!

Anyways I had a few things that I want to post about and it is 12 at night so I am not going to have time tonight but I just wanted to write them down so I don't forget

1.) Trailer Park Boys – 2 posts here essentially – the show is really funny (thank forbes) and google video rocks!

2.) I had a sickening idea on my flight back after looking at my water bottle that I purchased _after_ I passed through all of the security. Sickening.

3.) Google's purhase of the Writely software. Very interesting for the content management space – more on this and hopefully some comments from the team at PaperThin

Well I am going to sleep now, I will have 2 excited boys in less than 7 hours wanting more of my attention than I can possibly give.