Thursday, August 18, 2005

The End

The time has finally come, our class is over and it is time for all of us to start to focus on what little summer we have left. Before I go I wanted to touch base on the highlights that I liked about the course.

Before I started this course I really didn’t pay much attention to the web, nor did I surf the web all that often. Then as each class presented it’s self, and as we started to learn new tricks about things like the sophisticated search engines such as google, Yahoo, and MNS Search. I noticed that I started to visit these sites a little more often. Of course one reason was because of the course materials demanded that we go out and explore these sites but I also noticed that I was starting to become better at surfing for specific items.

As we rolled into the 2nd week of class we had the video on E-bay and what E-Bay has done for e-commerce. It was obvious that either you loved E-Bay or you hated them but either way the end result show that more and more people are starting to utilize E-Bay auctions as one of their merchandising outlets. In fact I put my own company to the test with E-Bay. If you recall I was going to have one of the folks on my team actually try to sell some merchandise on E-Bay. Well as it turns out we did sale several items such as T-shirts and hats on E-Bay over the course of the last two weeks. Some items were not that hot of a seller but others were but the end results did show that we sold everything. Of course it didn’t hurt that the week/weekend we posted most of our items for sale was also the same week of the Knoxville Nationals. For those of you who don’t know the Knoxville Nationals is more or less equivalent to the Indy 500 for Sprint Cars. As luck would have it our driver also won his first race of the season that week during one of the 3 nights of racing so I think our sale stats may be a little tainted due to his performance. But either way the fact does remain that we were able to sale all 10 of our items that we put out onto e-bay and we make a total profit after fees etc. of almost a $180 for little to no effort. So I am definitely going to continue to utilize E-bay as one of our distribution channels going forward.

In the third week we tackled the Amazon case and everyone in class was able to play Monday morning quarterback as we all plead our case as to what Amazon did right and what Amazon did wrong during the Dot com bust. This part of the exercise was a good one as it showed me that both sides of the teams have really strong arguments; such as should Amazon still continue to grow or should they stop. Should they focus on books or should they focus on electronics. In the end I think the class was split down the middle as to what side of the fence folks were on so I am not sure if we made any ground but the point was made. We also discussed internet security this week as well. To be honest I started to get a little nerves as I was wondering how secure my home computer was. Well as it turned out I did have some of those nasty spy ware programs on my computer. But with the help of McAfee and Microsoft anti spy ware programs I can successfully say that I think my home computer is virus and spy ware free. So I guess I can thank Sandeep for helping me look at my computer in a different way so that I can keep my computer a healthy one.

Going into the last week we started to discuss the profiles of online communities i.e. Firefox and that quickly spun off to be an Anti-Microsoft conversation. Personally I am a fan of Microsoft, the way I look at it is, without Microsoft we wouldn’t have as many programs that work as we have today and we wouldn’t have am many integrated products as we do today. Now I am fully aware that some of Microsoft practices are to let someone else build a better product and then you either copy them or buy them. It is one of the fundamental concepts in corporate America today so why blame Microsoft for being good at it is what I say.

Now onto the last class of the Quarter. Last night we had several interesting topics being presented to us. Take Mikes presentation on VOIP for example. One thing I would have liked to point out to the class was that AT&T Wireless had invested millions of $$ into developing an Internal VOIP network a few years ago. The network was so successful AWS started to rout a significant potion of their LD calls over this network. I bet those who used AWS didn’t know that their LD calls were going over this network. So VOIP doesn’t just help end user consumers it also helps business cut down on business expenses. I also liked Tom’s presentation on RFID. I really do think that RFID will one day replace the way we view purchasing and inventorying our items. It just makes since. To be honest there were several other presentations that I liked and would like to comment on but I just don’t have the time.

So with that said I would like to say that I think my experience that I have had in this class has helped me view the web in a whole new light. In fact I actually have started to utilize some of the things I learned in the class in my every day activities. With that Adios amigos, see all of you in a few weeks, in the mean time sit back grab a good cup of Java and let’s go Surfing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Rotten Apple

I was surfing the web when I got home reading about the security problems associated with the most recent worm that is attacking Microsoft windows 2000. And I ran across this article. Everyone should read it. It appears that Apple is in the process of doing a significant upgrade to their operating systems. Why, well because of security threats. Now since apple isn’t a dominate player it doesn’t appear that the hackers are going after this security hole. But it does go to show that the other operating systems do have the same type of flaws that some of older Microsoft products may have had but the difference is that know one cares about hacking the apple, or not yet at least.

Yahoo My Web

Fellow classmates since we were running so late
with class I have decided to give everyone
the opportunity to view my slides online at their
own pace. Grab a cup of Java and enjoy.

Here is the Yahoo My Web 2.0 Presentation.

Hopefully you will enjoy this presentation as much as I enjoyed pulling it together. I am sure if you give Yahoo My Web a chance I am sure you will enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Worms Anyone?

It appears that over the weekend another internet virus the Zotob worm and several variations of it such as Rbot.cbq, and Zotob.d, infected computers at several large news companies such as The New York Times, CNN and The Associated Press.

It appears that this worm is attacking computers with older operating systems such as windows 2000. Microsoft has posted security patches to help fix the problem and they are currently monitoring the situation. According to Ms Wilson, the director of Microsoft Security Response Center, they have seen large variations of this worm since it was launched. As several hackers will take the work and alter it in hopes of creating more damage to the networks they infect.

Interestingly the more recent windows platforms, such as Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP systems that have the newer security updates are less vulnerable to these attacks. Wait a minute did I just say that Microsoft newer systems are less vulnerable, are they getting it right….humm…

What I find interesting about this is that Microsoft was already aware of the issues and had posted the patches for this type of problem well before the worm was ever released. Yet despite these warnings people haven’t taken the time to secure their systems, and when they get infected they will blame Microsoft for not protecting them. Which leads me to an old saying my grandfather used to say, “You can lead a thirsty horse to water but you cannot make him drink”? Why don’t these folks keep their computer systems safe? I don’t know but, what I do know is that you cannot blame Microsoft for this.

I know that many folks in our class like to dislike Microsoft, as a company they are too slow or not innovative enough or one who stymies competition. Take the apple folks who always say their computers are better and that they don’t crash, and don’t have the same security problems that Windows systems have. That may be true to some extent, I don’t know as I am not a computer expert. But what I don’t see are articles discussing/identifying these teenage hackers ganging up on the non Windows systems. I don’t see the legions of hackers taking a worm and within hours of its release creating a dozen different variations of it so that they take down Apple boxes or Linux servers etc... Dare I ask how secure these systems would be if they had this type of following going after their systems & boxes. Or shall I be as bold to ask would the makers of these systems or web browsers such as firefox who hale themselves as so much better then Microsoft, have the fixes/patches to these problems posted to their web site well over a week before the worms are released. I could be wrong but I doubt it.

The fact is since Microsoft has such a large share of the market hackers will always attack them as long as they are on top. But I ask folks where would we be today if we didn’t have Microsoft. My guess… Everyone would have apple computers and these apple computers would all be full of worms. Everyone would be complaining about the problems the apple systems have. And yes their would be a small band of folks saying try this windows product it works well and guess what we don’t have worms.

First impressions!

First Impressions are hard to change! Now that we have all read the case and answered the questions it is time for me to tell you about my experience with Modzilla. To be honest I was not impressed with the Modzilla product, and here is why.

The company I work for is a regional real estate developer; I started working for them shortly after I left Cingular earlier this year. There are about a dozen of us in our two offices located in Seattle & Spokane, with a high volume of our employees out in the field on the construction sites. Needless to say our office primarily uses the Microsoft office sweet of Outlook, Excel, Word & Internet Explorer. When I started with this company they had 2 computers that had been affected by viruses so the company had just stopped using them. One of those computers was going to be my office computer so I had the task of getting it back up and running. I took the computer to the local computers repair shop down the street and I explained the problems. I gave them all of the supporting software that we wanted to have installed on the computer, and that was it. Two days later I picked up the computer and the shop told me what they fixed and they mentioned that they had added some software as some of the programs were outdated. One of the programs that they said was outdated was Internet Explorer, which they replaced with the Modzilla browser.

So as we settled down with the new computer and since we don’t utilize browse the internet that much at work we didn’t really notice a difference. Sure the buttons were different but being that we are generic users of the web we didn’t really see the additional value that Modzilla had. After a week or so we started to notice that we did have some problems accessing/viewing some other company’s web sites. I thought it was just a problem with our network so we didn’t pay that much attention to it. Well after this problem continued to occur for over a week I realized that it had to be a technical problem. So we started to try and figure out what the problems were. We could see that our computers with IE could access these sites so we were able to narrow down the problem to be the Modzilla browser. I contacted the PC repair shop and asked them if they had any suggestions as I couldn’t get the sties to work. They told me the whole story on Modzilla, and why it was a better browser then IE and all that good stuff. They also told me to go online and I could find help within the firefox webs sites. Needless to say I was a little skeptical as it sounded like they were sending me off on a wild goose chase. As it turned out that is exactly what happened. I spent over an hour trying to find a solution to my problem but every time I dug into stuff I came up with the same results. I felt hopeless. After spending a couple of hours on this I decided to throw in the towel and re-install IE onto both computers. After I installed IE on both computers I then de-installed the firefox browser. Hoping to never see it again. Then four months later we have this class and we have a case study on how good this web browser is and how the ground swelling movement is going to help firefox replace the Microsoft IE browser. I am not convinced as it is hard to overcome your first impression.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Auctions Online

Tonight we discussed the different locations and types of auctions that are available on the web. As I mentioned in one of my earlier Blogs I haven’t really purchased much on the web & I am a light user of E-bay. So I found it interesting that there were these other types of auctions available such as the Dutch auction (Where the auctioneer starts at a high # and then reduce the bid price until someone takes the item).

With this new information I have decided to do a little test myself to see which of the big auction sites that I am aware of carry the items that I would be interested in. I decided to search E-Bay, Amazon & Yahoo, for a Kasey Kahne items. Here are my results.

As I expected from the comments in class, E-Bay was the giant. I found 1,131 items listed, but what surprised me most was how little the other two auction sites had. Yahoo auctions only had 21 items and Amazon had 22 items. So my little study really did show how lopsided the market place for online auctions is. From what I could tell I couldn’t find any multiple item auctions or Second Price auctions but that could be due to the items that I was searching for.

Another thing I found interesting is the different tactics used when buying & selling items on these web sites. I have always been aware of E-Bay Sniping. When a potential buyer waits until the last minute and then places his/her bid. But what I found interesting was the statistics in class that show you really don’t save that much money by sniping i.e. $.50 or so. So I guess I don’t know why people still do this other then the fact that they think they are getting a good deal I guess. Another thing I found interesting was the Sellers have tactics as well. Some are illegal such as “Shilling” (when one bids on their own items to raise the price). Another tactics is one of extending their auction so that when the Sniping occurs they give others a chance to re-bid on your items. I shouldn’t be surprised with these facts as the seller wants to maximize their profits where the buyers want to minimize their cost. I guess that is the result of our free economy.

One thing I will say is since I am doing the study on the items we are selling on e-bay, I will also study the bidding practices that I see on these items hopefully I will be able to see some of these tactics take place. I guess my little study that I started last week is going to be a little bigger then I originally thought.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

AMAZON numbers

I feel bad that I wasn't able to share with all of you the stats that we pulled for our rebuttal so I have decided to post them to the Blog for everyone to see. I hope you enjoy reading throught our list.


Amazon Never Stopped Focusing on Growth
They continued to introduced High Margin Products
Did you know they just purchased China largest online book store?

Focusing on Growth doesn’t mean losing site of Profits
Note that failure to adapt a growth strategy would have resulted in a decline not a flat growth rate
Due to AMAZON Growth they were able to receive economies of scale

Show us a company that start out debt free, and immediately produces a profit

Is their room for growth?

Largest Population in the World is in Asia
Asia 56% population (8.9% Internet Users)
America 5%

2001 & 2002 results
Don’t play the Market Risk card on us
Amazon should not be penalized for Market Risk

Compare 3 companies (Two focused on Profit 1 focused on Growth)

Sales Growth 33% & 31% (’03, ’04)
Best Buy
Sales Growth 17% & 11% (’03, ’04)
% ∆ Net Income Y/Y ( 600%, 39%)
Home Depot
Sales Growth 11% & 12% (’03, ’04)
% ∆ Net Income Y/Y ( 17%, 16%)

Amazon is still growing
Free cash flow growing incredibly fast
$131M improvement over ’03
Up 38% to $477M

Amazon’s Deficit is Decreasing
Down over 25% from 2002

Stats on AMAZON's Financials
Operating Profit Margin
148% Improvement (2001 – 2004)
Net Profit Margin
147% Improvement (2001 – 2004)
Debt Ratio
43% Improvement (2001 – 2004)
Times Interest Earned
83% Improvement (2001 – 2004)
Long Term Debt decreasing
29% decrease (2001 – 2004)
Amazon currently has $3.2B in Assets
50% improvement over 2003

Winner Takes ALL

Internet waits for No One

Maximizing profits is a short term Gain

To the Victor goes the spoils

Hopefully you will enjoy this list and if you have any doubts I am more then willing to continue to debate the issue with you.

See you tomorrow:)

Monday, August 08, 2005

AMAZON the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Tonight’s class was interesting to say the least. It was fun to see how different teams approached the AMAZON Case. As the class went on you could tell that both the pro Amazon teams & the Anti Amazon teams were starting to get more aggressive in their stances. In the end I think everyone made some really good points. Form the Upper classmen Judo strategy identifying that you don’t want to upset a sleeping giant, all the way to the ones who thought Bezos should resign due to reckless spending and high debt that Amazon has accumulated. Everyone came up with some very good points. To be honest, I must admit that at times I found it hard to explain off a $2.3B deficit and almost 7 years of no profit, but then again if you don’t grow on the internet you are going to be left in the dust.

The other part of the course tonight that I found enlightening was the part on web surfing security. I was aware that you don’t want folks to give you cookies on the web and you are never to give out your information to others. But what I wasn’t aware of how much information was still getting passed out via the web browsing function. From the software you are running on your computer all the way to the general location you may be at. I know one thing, I am going to give my security checks on my computer another go around just to make sure that I am not giving out more information that I need to.

One last question does anyone have a link to the web that discussed security? I didn’t write it down correctly in class. Thanks in advance. J

Friday, August 05, 2005

E-Bay or not to E-Bay

Wednesday night class was an interesting one. The documentary regarding E-bay Nation was informational yet at the same time it seemed a little disorganized. I think the disorganization can be contributed to the way the producer kept jumping between subjects. I believe his intent was to set up teasers so that we the audience would stay interested in the topic. Which somewhat worked but I also felt that this jumping around actually took away from the root of the story. With this said, after the class on my way home I did take a step back and looked at E-bay in a whole different light. Rather then viewing E-bay as a crafts and hobby distribution point where I was the buyer, I now view them as a large distribution center/network for my company. So on my way home I decided to try an experiment with our Rudeen Racing division. The next day I went into the office and gave one of my workers a special project. I wanted to see if we could sell some of our racing items online through E-bay. So we decided to put up a half a dozen t-shirts, coats & hats on E-bay to see if we could sell them through this channel. I think it would work because we are always having people contact our office asking for specific pieces of appeal from our World of Outlaws team so by adding this e-bay link I think we can potentially drive some of our customers directly to them. I know it should work as utilizing E-bay will help me overcome one of our biggest challenges. In the past we have never accepted credit cards. But with E-bay & Pay-pal I am hoping that we can change this, and hopefully open some potential customers. Since this is a live experiment, I am willing to share our results with the class once it has completed. Let’s say after the first month. It will be interesting to see if we actually can sell our products this way; I will say I am cautiously optimistic. Who knows this class my have opened up a channel for my company to reach more of our customers. Who would have thought that? Stay tuned as I will update this post with my results.