May 2003 Archives

I’m trying not to take this as a sign. :-)

Mere moments away from having the whole “90 days” thing done and in the history books, and our server dies. Our web host has told us a virus infected the server, and every attempt so far to restore it has resulted in the server getting reinfected. Our web sites that were hosted there are now taking refuge on Mystical Meatballs’ server. Whether they will return to that server, and how much we will be able to restore, is still up in the air. If I were a lab rat, I would die from starvation and electrical shock — I still have not learned to make frequent backups.

Oh, and the web host you are viewing us on now? They had a fire in their server room the other day.


Perhaps it’s the domain names. Perhaps other webmasters sabotage us as a sacrificial offering to the web hosting gods. Or perhaps we have angered them somehow, and they are smiting us.

Or perhaps I just need to get into the habit of making backups.

This is it. The final day of our little experiment is finally here. Thank goodness — this has been wearing us out. Day jobs, life, and a home-based business make for an extra full plate.

How did we do? Well, I’m writing this instead of a resignation letter, if that tells you anything. :-) Obviously, it was not as successful as we could have hoped for. But, I would hardly call it a failure. We do have one client, as well as several leads. We are actively advertising our business, practicing our art, learning new skills, and generating word-of-mouth. We have started new projects, abandoned others, and are still considering many more.

In other words, we are doing. That is something we were not doing before. It may slow down for a bit, as we catch our breaths and regroup, but it will not stop. As far as I am concerned, Smart Goat is my career, my other employment is just a job. I can keep that job, or not — and that’s exactly the position I want to be in.

I wrote another article for the OKCPCUG’s eMonitor. This article, which builds on my first article, provides a general starting point for those wanting to convert their existing web site to XHTML and CSS. By writing these articles, I hope th establish myself as the “web standards expert” for this area. I don’t know if that will translate into jobs, but it can’t hurt.

Billy and I did some more work on today. Billy is working on making the template use CSS positioning, and I did some more work on the logo and categories.

While we were garage-saling today, a lady happened to mention she was considering listing her table for sale on eBay. When I glanced up, she asked if we were familiar with eBay. As we conversed, I mentioned the new Ad Goat site. She seemed interested in it, and we left a business card telling her the site would be ready soon. We really need to get this thing done! (Or else I need to keep my mouth shut…)

I did some more cleaning up tasks on Ad Goat, Oklahoma’s Online Classified Ads site, one of which was incorporating Billy’s logo into a header that says Ad Goat is Oklahoma’s Online Classified Ads site. We also dropped off the coupons with the race coordinators today. The race is June 7th. Nothing like a deadline to motivate a person!

In other news, Billy started work again on Crafty Goat’s beta. And we heard from Clemency, who said they will be giving us more work soon. We are eager for that!

Ad Goat Coupon To kick off the launch of our new site — and to force us to get it ready quickly — we made Ad Goat coupons that will be distributed to runners at the Chisholm Trail 5K here in Yukon. A little advertising never hurt anyone, and it will hopefully bring a flood of ads onto the site.

I’m very happy with the logo — it looks nice, and it integrates nicely with our existing branding. And, when you think about the goat reading the newspaper while sitting on the toilet, it makes you giggle like a 12-year-old. Now that’s marketing.

The name servers have propagated, and Ad Goat, still in beta, is now available at its own domain. May it thrive and prosper there.

Angela has been hard at work on the ad site, fixing some things, like the forgotten password e-mail. Things are shaping up for an early June launch.

We contacted one of our Marketing Tool leads and received an official rejection. They decided to go with a company closer to their location. Oh well — there’s other fish in the sea, or some such cliche.

Perseverence is important. You know, when life gives you lemons, and all that. We were unable to get the domain name we backordered for the classified ads site. Perhaps, however, it was for the best, because it forced us to look for another name. We realized it was probably best if this site reflected the same branding as the rest of our websites. So, today we registered, the newest member of the Smart Goat family. Name servers are still populating, but you can view it in its temporary home. It’s not ready to be formally announced, but it is getting there.

Work continues on the ads site. Stay tuned.

We received another lead from Marketing Tool. We quickly contacted the person to demonstrate our eagerness to work with them. Just as quickly, they responded that they were going to give their old web designer a second chance. Sigh. Such is the life of those just getting started.

Work continues on the classified ads site. Check it out, if you don’t believe me.

Angela followed up with dmoz about getting Crafty Goat’s entry corrected. Still waiting to hear on that.

Angela has been busy today — she’s been working on the new ads site and on new products for Crafty Goat. We’ll post pictures of the new items when we get a chance.

Angela has been busy setting up our next venture: an online classified ads site. This is an idea we’ve been kicking around for a while, and we finally found software that we liked. It’s a fairly no-risk opportunity — as cheap as it is to setup, it won’t take many people using it to make it profitable. And, it’s another entry on the portfolio page.

The beta version is up and running. Try it, if you would like, and be sure to let us know if you run into any problems.

One of the necessary evils of owning a business is paying taxes. One of our tasks today was filling out our monthy tax form for Oklahoma’s state tax.

In other news:
- Our Marketing Tool reciprocal link has moved us close to the top of both the Oklahoma City and Oklahoma state listings.
- Our eBay feedback is finally over 50, so we’ve started looking into the process of becoming Trading Assistants. We’ll need to do more research into how other Trading Assistants operate.
- Billy has made lots of progress on the iCal/vCal converter. We hope this will be one of many open source products we have available for download soon on our website.

Both Crafty Goat and eBay require high-quality pictures of small things. In the past, we put it off until we had a ton of pictures to take, so that the 30 minutes of set-up time would be worth it. Then we picked our brightest room and did our best… but we still ended up with pictures that weren’t as bright or focused as they needed to be. So today we set up a more permanent solution. Using some halogen work lights from the hardware store and a fabric backdrop, we turned the closet in our computer room into a photo area. It’s out-of-the-way enough that it can stay set up almost all the time (we’ll do a little moving around when guests are staying in that room). And since it’s already in place, we’ll only have to do about 5 minutes setup time whenever we need a picture. And the picture quality is much better too.

The things we normally learn from our day jobs are negative lessons, i.e., how NOT to run a business. Today’s post comes from a positive lesson. In a recent meeting, the latest strategy was mentioned — they are trying to get more business from their current customers. They quoted some ‘Business 101’ rule, that it’s easier to get more money from current customers than finding new customers since you’ve already established that relationship.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never taken Business 101 (maybe I should?), and I guarantee I’ll take whatever I hear from that company with a grain of salt. But that strategy made sense. So today we followed up with one of the folks we’ve already done some work for, suggesting some other improvements that might benefit their web site. At the very least, it will serve as a reminder that we’re looking out for their best interests and eager to work with them again.

I’m still working on the new OKMensa calendar. For those, interested, it has moved. I have integrated it with our current design, but I’m still having problems with the width and the iCalendar files. The month view is fine, but the other pages are still too wide. I can’t get the day page to budge. I hate tables, even when used correctly. :-)

The iCalendar problem is tricky. We tried exporting the events from our Palm as a vCalendar file. That just caused errors. Mozilla Calendar uses iCalendar as its format, so we tried importing the Palm file into that. No good — it would not import at all. So, I typed each of the events into Mozilla, then uploaded its iCalendar file to the website. If you visit the page, you can view the results. No, we did not schedule the same event 6 days in a row.

I’m done trying for the evening. I’ll play with it more tomorrow.

Also, Angela finally got advertising rates from the Yukon Progress. They are fairly reasonable, so I could see us purchasing an ad or two.

After much discussion while travelling north toward home, we managed to work out the first draft of our Feist ad. Enjoy:

Smart Goat Web Design

Prices That Won’t Get Your Goat!
Web Site Design * Hosting * Maintenance

E-Commerce * Flash

Specializing in Accessibility

Ask How Your Current Site Can Be
Smaller & Faster!

We are trying to highlight what sets us apart, and mention the services we offer. I think we’ve done that.

We intended to finish plowing through the Hot Spot Operator contract, satisfying our final reservations, then sign the contract and send if off today. That’s not exactly how it happened.

Part of the contract wasn’t printed for us in the handy-dandy packet; it was only available online. While reading through those 30 pages online, we came across might be a deal-breaker for us. The original contract (the one they were nice enough to print off for us) says we need to be monitoring network status and be able to fix problems within a reasonable time. The online-only version defines reasonable time. They want us to be aware of problems (i.e., pro-actively monitoring or available for trouble reports) within 2 hours and have fixed problems within 24 hours. So much for ever taking another weekend trip! Since we’re not especially interested in giving up our lives for a business (I mean, we can do that with our current jobs!), and we’re not that crazy about providing tech support, we decided today is not the day to sign this contract. Instead we’re doing some more research and discussing possible alternatives.

Today, my hometown is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding. I lived there most of my life and had no idea it predated statehood. All I knew back then was that it took a long time to drive anywhere, there was nothing to do there, and you couldn’t get cable. Nothing has changed, except my perspective.

Macomb’s population is around 61, give or take whatever people have done since the last census. That is within the town limits — there are many more who live in the outlying rural area. The “Macomb suburbs,” if one wants to stretch the use of that word that far. The town has a school, a post office, a convenience store, a senior center, and, apparently, history.
Unfortunately, the remains of the old bank are about all that is left of that history.

As proud as I am of this little town that is turning 100, I’m not the type who looks back and only sees the good ol’ days. When I was there, it was a constant struggle to get a good education at that school. There were good teachers and bad teachers, good administrators and bad administrators, good kids and bad kids. There was no money, and no interest in anything but sports. I taught more about computers at that school than I learned there.

But, put them on a scale, and the good outweighs the bad. There were teachers who became my friends. There was Postmaster Max Hunt (now retired), who would stamp and sort your mail for you. There were my parents, who gave what time and resources they had to the school. There was the guy who lived on top of the hill — the hill that was impossible to drive up when the roads were slick. He would be out there, using his tractor to pull each car that could not make it.

It’s the smallest dot on your map. It’s the place MapQuest will tell you cannot be found. And, it’s 100 years old. Happy birthday, Macomb, Oklahoma.

Web developers love creating new sites, but they typically will also maintain your pre-existing site, if you ask them. And pay them. You knew that, right? It goes without saying.

Nothing goes without saying. We realized that our
website does not state anywhere that we will maintain websites. If someone needed that service, they would have no indication that we provide it. We have now remedied that situation.

“Never be afraid to steal a good idea.” — Dale Hanchey

After receiving the PRP nominations yesterday, we took a look at the competition. Lo and behold, Tampa Bay Mensa has the calendar we’ve been looking for: PHP iCalendar. We wanted something that imports/exports the vCalendar/iCalendar formats. This calendar goes one step further, providing RSS feeds as well.

Just because our website received several nominations, does not mean we can rest on our laurels. Laurels wrinkle easily, and are a pain to iron. So, we worked on implementing this calendar as a way to improve this entry in our portfolio. This calendar is currently in beta, but feel free to watch as we integrate it with the rest of the site.

We got good news on one of our web sites today. The Central Oklahoma Mensa site has been nominated for a total of 11 awards in American Mensa’s annual Publications Recognition Program (PRP). Our nominations were in the following categories: Calendar, Member Recognition, Photography, “Members Only” Section, Proofing, Layout, Graphics, Navigation, Overall Entertainment, Puzzles & Games (for my Flash games), and the overall excellence category, “The Owl.” Though the winners won’t be announced for several months, we’re thrilled with the nominations.

In other news, we contacted the organizer of a local 5K race, in hopes we could build a website in exchange for sponsorship recognition in the race. Unfortunately they had already finalized the sponsorship list, but he mentioned we could still donate promotional items or coupons for the participants’ goody bags. We’re still deciding if this is something that would be worthwhile for us to pursue.

We also sent a follow-up email to the Yukon Progress asking for ad rates. We’re eager to pursue our various advertising options in more depth.

My donation this week is to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. My sister was recently diagnosed with MS, and I’ve really admired her strength as she has adjusted and accepted the diagnosis. Despite painful shots and uncomfortable side effects, she has been remarkably strong and positive. She and her husband have even decided they’re not going to worry about side effects any more… they’re gonna stop putting it off and go on that cruise for her birthday! I’m very proud of my sister, and I hope any contribution I make can help medical research on treatments for MS.

Having not heard from our latest potential client, I gave him a call. They have not made a decision, he said, and thanked me for calling. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but he still sounded interested, so I have not given up yet.

Last year was the first time Smart Goat was listed in our local phone directories. Since we were just getting started, and did not think we were ready to spend a lot of money to possibly get more work than we could handle, we settled for the free, single line listings. They were not very effective — we received one call from a potential client (who ended up not being a client), and several calls from people looking for work.

This year, we’ve decided to expand our listings. We were contacted by Feist, and we met with one of their sales people today. We decided to take a step up — a small box entry in one category, and bold listings in two others. It’s not all that expensive, and it should be interesting to see how this affects the number of calls we get.

Everything has been straightened out with Go Daddy. The problems we had yesterday were a result of a bad user interface that allowed us to block our own attempt to backorder the domain. And, of course, nowhere on the site will you find documentation of this “feature.” But, all is well today, and the domain is backordered. Go Daddy explained what happened, and made it right, so there are no hard feelings.

Scattered throughout our brains are a variety of business ideas. One of them could be a goldmine. More likely, several of them are copper mines — individually, not worth all that much, but together, quite valuable. One of our goals is to explore as many of these ideas as we can, to see if they can be added to our list of copper mines.

One such idea depends on a specific domain name. It is currently registered, but will expire soon. We had hoped to back order it, but the process did not go smoothly. Go Daddy has typically been a flawless resource, but today they failed us. They decided after we had bought a backorder account, but before we specified the domain we wanted, that it was too late to perform a backorder for that domain. Anytime you can pay for what you want but still not get it, there is a flaw in the system.

So, today did not go according to plan, but things are still in progress. I will tell more when I can.

Billy and I attended the Oklahoma Geocaching Spring Fling this weekend… and we had an amazing time. It was held in Red Rock Canyon State Park (Hinton, Oklahoma). Despite the park’s name, we somehow didn’t expect all the climbing — up the canyon and down the canyon — that we’d be doing. We were exhausted. That’s what made Boy Scout Troop 84’s service extra-special. They prepared and served this weekend’s food for the whole group. We gave them a little extra donation because they did a wonderful job. I suspect I’ll keep either that specific group or the United Way in general in mind for a future week’s donation as well.

We contacted The Yukon Progress today, asking for a list of prices for running an ad in their newspaper. We’d like to get the word out to local businesses, and this seems like a good way. Of course, we’d really like to do a site for The Yukon Progress as well, but that’s a story for another day.

Although we’ve received a fair number of “Editor’s Picks” from Marketing Tool, our listings have not generated that many hits. We decided it was time to change it a bit — put some focus on the types of things we do. Of course, we couldn’t write a normal listing… it had to have a little spin to it. :-)

Also, I spoke with the new potential client. He has a meeting this weekend during which decisions like this will be made, and he will get back to me on Monday. I’ll let you know.

Amusing Story #1:

A convenience store near our house is advertising “Mulch: 5 for 10.” I can only assume this means if I bring them 5 bags of mulch, they will give me 10. Seems like a good deal.

While coming back from a concert last night (which I also need to write about, it was great), we stopped at another gas station. Sure enough, they had six foot tall palettes of mulch at each pump. Is this an Oklahoma thing, or does everybody shop for mulch at gas stations? I just can’t imagine pulling into a convenience store, buying gas, M&Ms, and a Dr. Pepper, and thinking, “You know, I should pick up some mulch while I’m here.”

While contemplating this, I filled up the car and Angela bought us some drinks. The lady in line behind her bought five bags.

Amusing Story #2:

At work today, we demoed our software, yet again, for the Extremely Difficult Client (EDC). There were five EDC employees there to test the fixes we have made since the last time they were there. Three of them were helpful and diplomatic about everything. The other two apparently get paid by the sigh. If someone has a problem with the work I have done, I want them to tell me, so I can fix it. But leave the drama at home — it just makes people look silly.

At one point S., one of the sighers, was looking at our version of their “Hot Box Report,” and was pointing out differences between it and theirs. He said, and I quote, “So, this is not a Hot Box Report, it’s just a report.”

That statement hit me as one of the funniest and most mind-boggling things I have ever heard. Did he want us to raise the temperture in the server room? I will admit, I felt of the report myself, and it was only luke-warm. Or, maybe, it had not achieved enough in its life as a report to be called Hot Box. Apparently, the bar to become Hot Box is very high.

Many are called, but few are chosen.

The rest buy mulch at the nearest gas station.

Marketing Tool has come through again — they sent us another lead. We’ve been in contact with this potential client, and they seem eager to get started. Which is good, because I am eager to work with them.

We billed our new client for the first time today. It was made very easy by We were even able to use it to create a template print invoice for mailing. I only hope that one day we have enough clients that we need to pay for the service. :-)

The OKCPCUG published my article about XHTML and CSS in their latest issue of eMonitor. It was difficult to write — there were so many things I wanted to say on the subject, but I didn’t want it to get out of hand. Hopefully, I will get to say all I want in future articles.