Kim Dotcom And Pacific Fibre II

Lance Wiggs has a very good explanation of the hurdles any attempt to resurrect the Pacific Fibre project will have to overcome. He outlines the extremely risk-averse guarantees institutional investors want, the enormous amount of due diligence required and impact of the TelstraClear sale to Vodafone.

Kim Dotcom obviously loves the media attention. Offering to use his own money to finance Pacific Fibre is definitely an attention seeking statement. But does Kim Dotcom have the US$300 million Lance Wiggs estimates is necessary to complete the project?

Putting aside the fact that his assets are currently frozen, what is the likelihood of his new “Mega” project being the victim of US “guilty until proven innocent” seize? How credible are any commitments he would make to such a large infrastructure project?

Pacific Fibre shopped the prospectus to a large number of local and foreign investors. Some of those, perhaps government owned funds, may be regretting their decisions, but all will be far better informed for new player conversations. I believe those conversations need to be far deeper and collaborative – we are all in this together.

While it is encouraging to have a private investor offer to plug the financing gap, does the Kim Dotcom saga make it more likely or less likely that landing rights in the USA would be granted? Somehow I think there would be enormous opposition from Hollywood lobbyists on the US end.

It is very disappointing that institutional investors in New Zealand did not catch on to the enormous possiblities that Pacific Fibre could bring. International data is currently the major bottleneck that needs to be overcome. The Crown Fibre project will be for nothing if data transfer slows to a trickle as soon as international data is accessed.

Pacific Fibre II would be the ideal investment for the likes of the ACC fund or NZ Super Fund. Hell, if I was an NBR Rich Lister I would bet the farm on entering a duopoly with enormous demand increasing year-on-year at incredible rates.

Instapaper Or Readability?

There’s no point writing something if it can’t be read by your potential customers.

Many websites fall short of the mark with readability.

I’m currently alternating between the Instapaper and Readability extensions in Chrome.

Why? Because I like large text when I’m reading longer articles or blog posts. I also like the minimalist interface.

But in 2012, should I really have to resort to a browser extension to make an article readable?

Of course not!

In the age of HTML5 & CSS3 it is completely ridiculous to make your content a minor part of your site’s presentation.

If you are writing a blog or producing regular online content, it should be really easy to read your content without squinting.

Maybe my eyesight is just rubbish, but having to use a browser extension to solve a failed user experience issue on almost all websites I visit regularly i.e. not in my Google Reader shows that a lot of UI designers need to go back to the drawing board.

Larger, clear fonts and clean navigation should be the standard for any website user interface.

Instapaper vs. Readability hopefully won’t be an issue in a few years. But for now it is a workable solution to paper over poor font size and layout choices that are almost de rigeur.

Diminishing Returns And User Experience

The primary goal for a website is to obtain a successful sale.

It’s not to highlight how inspired you were in choosing an expensive web design agency to implement the complex brand strategy dreamt up by an extortionately overpriced advertising agency.

Every little gadget and obstruction between the landing page and the “place your order” button is another spanner in the works that can stop a potential sale dead in its tracks.

For some industries, showing off product capabilities with videos and diagrams is essential as part of the educational selling process.

3 Things No Potential Customer Should Experience

  1. A pop-up form asking them for email details before they’ve had a chance to see what you’re all about.
  2. Auto-playing music or video that invades a potential customer’s eardrums and concentration on matching their problem with your solution.
  3. A complex user interface they haven’t used before that they need to jump through in order to place an order or make a sales enquiry.

Diminishing returns is a concept from economics – the more workers you put on the factory floor, the more you produce up until the point where they start tripping over each other and your productivity declines.

Diminishing returns applies to user experience – the more features you have on your website will improve conversion rates up until the point that you are actually reducing your conversion rate and putting your entire web marketing strategy at risk.

Less really is more. Reduce the friction in the sales process by making it as easy as possible to get from the landing page to the successful sale.

Large Organisations And Web Technology

The other day I was looking at IT vacancies on TradeMe and Seek. It’s clear that many larger organisations are behind the curve when it comes to web technology.

If your website is built on ASP.NET you are operating at a major flexibility disadvantage to smaller organisations. A smaller organisation can take advantage of essentially “better” tools without needing to convince 20 middle managers that the new platform is safe and secure.

For example, I am currently building a niche web application on the side. I’m using AngularJS and the latest in HTML5/CSS3 to make it as lightweight and flexible as possible.

If I was a front-end web developer, working for an organisation that requires “3+ years experience in ASP.NET”, I would not have advanced beyond the stage of wireframing.

As it stands, I have a working prototype I can work with in less than a month. Working backwards from this, I’ve redesigned how the whole application should work after seeing it work in my browser window.

The friction that large organisations must deal with in order to get projects that embrace better web technology means that small organisations have an enormous competitive advantage.

If you are a smaller organisation, you should be at the forefront of experimenting with web technology because you can achieve the greatest competitive advantages from light and flexible web technology.

How A Central Organisation Wiki Reduces Risk

Every organisation has institutional knowledge that is probably written down somewhere, in some database, exactly where the team member who needs it to complete her task can’t find it when she needs it.

And the same team member probably finds herself performing tasks repeatedly that would be made much easier if all of the information she needed was in one place.

A central organisation wiki is storage place for all of the relevant information that your entire organisation needs to do its job properly. It can encourage team collaboration, make hiring temps easier, reduce the risk of losing institutional knowledge when a key team member leaves and above all provide a more efficient way to keep track of the organisation’s information.

Having an internal wiki reduces operational risk considerably. If you are using something like Atlassian Confluence you can set permissions so users can only access and contribute to things they need to. You can therefore prevent people stumbling across sensitive Word documents or Excel spreadsheets when trawling through files accessible to all team members.

Having a central repository for all of your organisation’s information makes it far easier to conduct induction training for new team members, keep everyone on the same page and reduce the risk of information silos being formed between team members or different teams.

In this day and age, not taking advantage of tools like a central organisation wiki is risky business. If you’re running a support system and find yourself opening up Word documents when there could simply be a Wiki page with the same information, you are costing your organisation a lot of unnecessary time and money.

Atlassian BitBucket vs GitHub

Australian firm Atlassian are best known for their suite of productivity enhancing software like JIRA for issue tracking and Confluence for making team collaboration far easier.

But when it comes to real world utility, BitBucket is Atlassian’s answer to GitHub.

Git makes it easy to track versions, collaborate with team members and compare code revisions. But you need to pay to keep your repositories on GitHub private.

BitBucket offers up to 5 private repos and what I think is a nicer user interface.

While collaboration and open source is wonderful, in the real world there are some code repositories better kept private – like that killer app you’re working on.

Until I integrate one of my repos with JIRA & Confluence I’ll be using BitBucket instead of GitHub.

The Difference Between Price And Value

Price is what you pay.

Value is what you get.

If you are competing on price alone, you can’t deliver much value.

Your invoices at the end of the month will be eaten up by saving for provisional tax, business overheads, drawings for living expenses and whatever your core business expenses are.

The problem with the obsession over “free stuff” is that many businesspeople have developed an aversion to paying for things that will generate a positive return on investment.

They could spend $50 per month on customer relationship software that would make repeat sales easier and build stronger customer relationships, but they won’t because $50 per month is just some toy.

If you are worried that you will lose customers by increasing your prices, you are either:

  1. Not creating enough value for your customers or
  2. Targeting the wrong customer segments for your product

Think about the career path of a successful lawyer. They graduate and are billed out at $150 / hour. They get admitted to the bar and gain experience in their area of expertise, raising their chargeout to $250 / hour. They have a decade of experience and a lot of court time under their belt – charging $500 / hour plus is not unrealistic.

There is nothing wrong with raising your prices if you are delivering more value to your customers.

Thinking about how economic concepts tie into this idea, a profit-maximising firm should be willing to make as many investments that have a positive return as it can afford.

While that might be a stretch due to borrowing constraints or skill shortages in particular fields, it makes perfect sense.

If a product or service costs you $50 / month it only needs to generate an additional $51 / month in revenue to be justified as a worthwhile investment.

A business tool like customer relationship management software can generate thousands of dollars per year in additional revenue.

The difference between price and value is so immense that it is a no-brainer to invest in CRM tools if you are running a business.

And if you are selling anything, making the difference between price and value clear to potential customers is one of the most important parts of the education process that leads towards a sale.

Outsource Your jQuery Library To Google

We are in the age of broadband, but every little page loading improvement counts. And when so many websites using jQuery use the Google CDN links for all sorts of libraries, the library your site uses might already have been downloaded by the visitor when they accessed another website using the same library.

Checkout the Google Hosted Libraries page and take advantage of the network effect. The more sites that use Google Hosted Libraries, the faster loading times will be for all manner of sites.

The only scripts you need to store locally are your custom ones. Let Google take care of hosting the libraries you use – AngularJS, jQuery, jQuery UI or Web Font Loader if you use Google Web Fonts in your projects.

Keep Web Copy Simple

The goal of copywriting is to get the reader to buy.

It’s not to make the reader feel good about themselves.

It’s not to make the reader feel good about your sustainable business practices.

And it’s not to make the reader feel good about the 201 new improvements in your 3rd tier product.

The goal of copywriting is to get the reader to buy.

You need to keep web copy simple.

You can’t copy and paste your flowery marketing material onto a web page and expect it to deliver qualified sales leads into your sales pipeline.

I like to ask three questions when I’m writing copy.

  1. Is it clear what I want the reader to do?
  2. Is it possible to reduce the word count?
  3. Will this copy lead to a sale?

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