Monthly Archives: February 2001

StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 02/25/01

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StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 02/25/01

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The News – 02/25/01

Anyone Can Write a Virus

Well here’s disheartening news: Virus creation kits are so popular and easy to use that you, too, could write a virus like the recent Anna Kournikova or ILOVEYOU viruses. According to Wired News, “If you can install a program on a computer, you can also — using one of these kits — write and release a virus just like the authors of Cartman, Poppy and Kenny did.

This problem is brought to you by the friendly folks at Microsoft, as I have ranted before . If it weren’t for the huge vulnerabilities opened by Microsoft’s Visual Basic Script language, which is imbedded into the entire MS Office suite, it would be a good deal harder to write viruses and worms. However, to be fair, this doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t have these do-it-yourself kits floating around out there.

Short aside: I actually hate to pick on Microsoft as they face the horror of being broken up. The company has been the major player that has fostered the computer revolution. But it just doesn’t pay to disregard anti-trust rules, as they are going to find out when the gov breaks them up, sooner or later.

On a positive note for Microsoft, the breakup will not seriously affect the company’s monopoly position in its markets, and might even turn out to be a good thing for shareholders. But I digress.

The thing for businesses to remember is that cybervandalism will continue. You need to educate your associates to never open an attachment unless you are sure of its contents. Plus, disable Visual Basic Scripting support in MS Outlook if you have it, and remove Windows Scripting Host from your computer using Add/Remove Programs. If you see lots of unexpected emails coming from colleagues all in a bunch, call your system administrator before opening any of them. There are various other steps you can take, which are explained on the CERT site or any of the major antivirus makers’ sites (McAfee , Symantec ).

And while we’re on the subject of security, you need a personal firewall as well. Unless your entire network is protected by a firewall that features stateful inspection, each PC should have a firewall. You should especially use one when dialing up while on the road. (Recently, when I was speaking in Palm Springs, I was getting one to two intrusion attempts a minute while dialed up to Earthlink.)

There are a number of good personal firewalls, but the cream of the crop currently is ZoneAlarm , and the good news is, it’s free. Unlike many other firewalls, ZoneAlarm not only keeps the bad guys out, it also prevents programs on your PC from contacting the Internet and doing bad stuff. Programs called Trojan horses can do this, along with various viruses and worms like Anna Kournikova. This makes it a bit of a pain in the butt until you’ve got it fully configured. After you install it, every program you use that contacts the Internet causes an alert to pop up to ask if it’s OK. You can tell ZoneAlarm to remember your answer, though, and after a while, you’ll see alarms only when something unusual happens. However, configuring file and printer sharing in Windows can be a bit tricky, so be prepared to take some time doing that.

But above all, let’s be careful out there!

Wired News

Think Globally, Act Locally

A good marketer segments the market. Even though the Internet is worldwide, it often helps to know who’s buying the most online. Researcher IDC recently released an analysis of US states that includes data on which state’s residents buy the most on the Web.

It’s no surprise to see the largest states dominating the mix. According to IDC:

When combined, California and Texas represented 22% of the country’s consumer Internet spending. Not only do these two states have large populations and healthy average household incomes, but they also are in the group of states that spent more than 0.8% of their total household income on purchases via the Internet. The average for the United States was 0.69%.

But 13 other states spend more per capita, over 0.8 percent. And the leaders, with more than 1.25 percent, were a trio of states that might surprise you: New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. So if what you sell appeals to folks in those states, a strong Internet marketing program is in order.


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StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 02/15/01

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StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 02/15/01

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The News – 02/15/01

News Flash: Sex Sells

One of the findings of a newly released two-year study by Alexa Research is that the number one word people enter into search engines is “sex” (1 of every 300 terms). Some things never change. Porn launched the VCR, and it’s certainly fueling some of the growth of the Internet. People will be people, and the social uses (if you can call porn social) of the Internet will probably always be paramount.

Take my new favorite site: . This is a site for masochists and voyeurs. Normal folks (the masochists) put up pictures of themselves, and site visitors (the voyeurs) rank their appeal on a 10-point scale. Some people are obviously in it for a goof ( ). Others are probably unaware that someone has posted their picture ( ). Still others really think they’re hot, and may be surprised at their ratings. Rolling through the pix and observing the aggregate ratings does give you a bit of an insight into the cultural norms, at least as far as men’s tastes go (I concentrated on the women, and didn’t look at too many of the guys). Anybody in a bathing suit is an 8 or a 9. The more provocative the pose, the higher the rating. Asians seem to be rated lower than blacks or whites. Don’t be heavy, or they’ll be cruel.

This site has been held up as an example of Peer-to-peer computing (about which I am researching a white paper; this is a totally business-related exercise!) but I don’t see why. It’s an example of community, to be sure, but I don’t see any P2P implications.

Anyway, the popularity of this site (over 600 Million votes counted and 800,000 photos submitted) is not surprising in the context of Survivor and Cops and the dozens of Fox reality shows on TV. Like Chance the Gardener , we like to watch. Americans are becoming fascinated with watching reality. Witness the proliferation of traffic cams and other location video cameras on the Net. There are tremendous business opportunities in feeding this need for reality programming on the Web. But are we headed toward a future where someone’s always watching? I, for one, am not too comfortable with that prospect. Once all the 7 Eleven security cams are net accessible, I’m not ever leaving my house again.

Searching the Web a Problem for Many

Other findings from the Alexa survey indicate that people are either lazier than anticipated, or are finding it hard to navigate to sites they want. The survey found that in a large number of the 42 million searches examined, the user merely entered the name of a Web site rather than typing it into the browser’s address bar.

Four of the top 10 search terms sought by users in the study were Web site names or addresses. Hotmail — whether entered as "hotmail," "" or

StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 02/08/01

From Evernote:

StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 02/08/01

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The News – 02/08/01

Buzz Word Alert: PTX

Well, somebody’s put a new name to a concept I’ve been talking about for a while: Private Exchanges are now PTXs. This coinage is apparently courtesy of AMR Research, which said:

SAP is betting, as is AMR Research, that the majority of SAP’s enterprise-class customers will be putting tremendous amounts of energy and investment into PTXs [private trading exchanges] as a way to cement decades of building customer and supplier relationships."

A private exchange is a company extranet on steroids. A company invites vendors and customers into a secure area to transact business. In this marketplace, a company may hold reverse auctions, post Requests For Proposals (RFPs), provide design specifications, and in general collaborate with its business partners. A PTX is somewhat misnamed, since the concept of an exchange is generally thought to indicate a many-to-many model, whereas a PTX is a one-to-many model. But I doubt that companies care. They want the control, and even more importantly, the privacy, of a secure marketplace.

Read more about PTXs (before the buzz) in my presentation at a recent Delphi Group conference. I’ve also got a supply chain white paper now in pre-production that I’ll link to when it’s available.

Industry Week

Gorillas to Rule; No Room for the Little Guy?

At a recent Patricia Seybold Group/SPS Commerce discussion, Dr. Larry Smeltzer, professor of supply chain management at Arizona State University, argued that large firms which boast of electronically connecting their supply chains had done so by overlooking SMEs. An SME is a Small- to Medium-sized Enterprise, and such firms make up the majority, by number, of the companies in the US.

Smeltzer enumerated five immutable laws of universal supply chain connectivity:

· Enduring supply chain rules based on e-commerce between large companies are already in place in the form of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). But these relationships do not embrace SMEs.

· Large firms are fundamentally different than SMEs (no IT staff, fewer resources of all kinds), and the daily struggle of keeping an SME afloat receives more focus than implementing supply-chain connectivity.

· Inertia and the status quo are obstacles to connectivity

· Targeted technology, a proven process, and dedicated resources are required to connect and support thousands of supply chain members

· Integrated technological advances would help optimize supply chain connectivity.

Where all this is heading is a new paradigm of business relationships. Rather than a linear relationship between a business and its supply chain members, businesses will eventually find themselves involved in a sea of value partners, with much lower vendor switching costs. Companies will have to find new ways to create value in this new networked environment. Supply chain efficiency will be accessible to all, not just the few who have emphasized operational excellence. This new value universe is described by Rafael Ramirez and Richard A. Normann in their 1993 book, From Value Chain to Value Constellation: Designing Interactive Strategy:

Successful companies do not just add value, they reinvent it...[they] are more than links on a value chain. They are the centers of constellations of services, goods, and design.

So where will the SMEs be in this new constellation? Well, unless the bigger players give them a hand, many could find themselves out in the cold, unless they quickly undertake the effort and expense of getting connected. As John Chambers, president of Cisco Systems said, "The big won’t beat the small – the fast will beat the slow."

And as I always say, “Be wired or retired.

Line 56

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StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 02/06/01

From Evernote:

StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 02/06/01

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The News – 02/06/01

Generation E Thinks Different

With Generation X getting a bit long in the tooth, and Generation Y never quite getting out of the gate, Generation E, for Electronic, takes the Net for granted and snaps up new technologies and innovations at a pace their elders can only envy. Image the poor disadvantaged children who aren’t part of the 51 percent of US homes with Internet access. Well, just because they’re not getting it at home, it doesn’t mean they can’t pick it up in a New York minute. A recent Business 2.0 UK article described an experiment in a village in India:

Above a certain age – between 13 and 16, according to most research – humans confronted with something new will try to relate to another thing they already know, whereas below that age, children accept new things on their own terms. This can give them almost mystical powers of cognition, as the visionary academic Dr Sugata Mitra has shown with experiments with Generation E in India. Mitra takes touch-sensitive screens wired up to the Net, and embeds them in walls in settlements where people have no experience of Net access – urban slums, remote rural towns, small villages – and leaves them, without any instruction or teacher, to see what happens. He watches using CCTV [closed circuit TV], and what he sees is always the same. The 13 to 18-year-old boys poke about for a bit, look for someone to help, give up and slope off. Girls over 13 stand peering at the boys. The adults won’t touch it, seemingly afraid of hurting it, or themselves. But the boys and girls between eight and 13 figure out the clicking principle in two minutes, the drag-down menu in another two, and start surfing in about 20; eerily, the speed and order in which they learn is always the same.

Michelle Selinger, a British academic studying the impact of the Net on children’s education, thinks that children exposed to the Net at an early age are evolving a different sort of attention and concentration. Text is not the most important medium anymore, she says, and "visual perceptions of the structure of information are changing. It’s easier to dart around and get taken off the point with hypertext, and I’m sure this is why children’s concentration span is said to be poor. I’m not convinced it is, though. I just think it’s different."

My kids are definitely showing signs of being post-literate. And when you think of it, the supremacy of text sparked by Gutenberg’s Bible was really an aberration. Before movable type made text accessible, most learning and tradition was oral and visual. Is the media of today returning us to the form of learning that first distinguished us from the apes?

Highfalutin sociological ideas aside, what does this mean for the Web, which is currently mostly text? Right now sites that are primarily visual are basically an annoyance. I personally can’t get to the “Skip intro” button fast enough when I see a home page that uses Macromedia’s Flash multimedia technology. And the inevitable insipid musical accompaniment! Turn it off! Turn it off!

But I doubt my kids will have the same reaction, especially as bandwidth improves and visual artists begin to pay more attention to communication rather than pretty images. Do vendors such as TellMe or AOL Phone, which provide telephone access to Web services, have it right? Call a phone number, ask for information in natural language, and have it read to you? Well, what’s not to like? Other than not having a good way to cut and paste notes, who wouldn’t rather call up and say, “My stocks” and have the quotes read to you? Would you prefer to fire up your computer (2 minutes for a PC), log on to your Internet service (1 minute), start your browser (40 seconds), type an URL (10 seconds without typos), and wait for the page to display (30 seconds to 1 minute depending on connection speed)? I don’t think so. There are certainly some challenges for these services, including the much too literal way they read you your email. Nonetheless, the concept is good.

It reminds me of the story of the CEO who was being pitched an Executive Information System (EIS) many years ago. The salesperson was describing how he could have information on his business instantly available at his fingertips. The CEO, not impressed, snarled and said, “You want to know what I do when I need information? Watch.” He picks up the phone, dials, and says, “Hey Smithers, get me the latest sales figures, pronto.” Problem solved, and sales opportunity over.

While there is certainly a place for text in the GenE world (witness the huge popularity of Short Message Service (SMS) among teens in Europe) other modes of information acquisition may be more important, and certainly can have larger short-term impact.

The Business 2.0 article offers several differences between GenE and us dinosaurs:

Old media model: absorption of imagination in one medium, lying in bed listening to record dreaming of chosen pop star.
Generation E: surfing Net, watching TV, talking to mate on phone, shouting at younger sibling because they want a go.

Old media model: a brand whose consistency of content brings them back time and time again.
Generation E: Once you’ve seen the content once, you’ve seen it forever. The exciting thing is surfing for new sites, not revisiting the same ones.

Old media model: Hey kids – we can talk your language!
Generation E: Yeah, but we can talk our own! Generation E Wants to talk to itself, or directly to its heroes. Which is kind of the same thing.

Old media model: If in doubt, use sex.
Generation E: Er, OK. I didn’t say everything had changed, did I?

Old media model: This week’s competition winners! i.e. the cool and the lucky get to go in the spotlight, as usual.
Generation E: Everyone’s a winner – talking in a chat room is the only place where all kids, shy and loud, pretty and nerdy, boy and girl, get to be heard equally in 14-point blinking type.

So what does this mean for your Web site? Well, if you’re B2B, you probably don’t need to worry for 10 years or so when GenE starts into business. But if GenE is part of your target audience for a B2C site, post-literate communication should be huge on your radar screen. Maybe you should try to come up with the next Hampsterdance , the Web site that spawned a hit single and a significant merchandising business.

Business 2.0 UK

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