Open source vs. proprietary management tools

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Open source software is a concept that I believe in and support. I have written more about it here.

In deciding between open source and proprietary management tools, an organization may have to decide whether it’s willing to forgo some niche features in exchange for a less costly tool that does 80% of what its proprietary counterpart does equally well. Large enterprises will typically pay for all the added features and functionality because they may actually use them. But the real sweet spot for open source management tools is the mid-market companies that want to manage things in a reliable way with a tool that’s reasonable to set up, configure, and maintain, without a hefty price tag. With the advancement of open source management solutions, quality is becoming just as important a differentiator as value.


The Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh won’t let in the Marines

eagleflagPretty extreme headline, right? Note: I changed it because I realized it was actually too extreme, I was being sarcastic and it didn’t come off that way.

I’m sure it’s not that bad, but that sure is the image that the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh is portraying.

It’s just another example of how businesses don’t understand social media. Allow me to explain.

My friend Summer Tissue runs a non profit called Military Connections. It’s a wonderful organization that sends care packages to deployed troops. I believe she’s getting close to 3 Million packages, but that’s another story.

Last weekend she was taking some of her visiting troops around Pittsburgh and… Well I’ll let her tell it.

I just wanted to let people know that Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh does not appreciate Military Veterans in the same manner that I do. While the 2/4 was in Pittsburgh we tried to take a group of Marines to this restaurant and they were refused service. I asked the bouncer why the men were not allowed to go in and he replied “He can refuse to let anyone in that he wants.” Nice attitude……The guys were not intoxicated, they weren’t acting up, I have no idea why they were not allowed in. I even explained that they were all Marines visiting from other states and the bouncer did not care. I always enjoyed hanging out here and thought it was a great spot in PGH for visitors. I will never step foot near it again.

She wrote this story on the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh’s facebook page and they promptly deleted it. I found out about it when I read it on Summer’s facebook page. I went to Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh’s page asked them why they would do this.  At least I got a reply – Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh wrote: “I’ve spoken with management and no one has any record of any incidents like this happening.”

I’ve known Summer a long time and I know she doesn’t lie and especially not about something like this. I posted that for a reply and they deleted my entire post and barred me from their page. Oh good, that’ll make everything better.

I believe that the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh will be in for quite the shock when they discover the Streisand Effect. My friend Summer’s facebook post has almost 40 shares in a short time and I’ll bet it will skyrocket. I helped her out by putting her story on Yelp and in no time it will probably be a million other places (like here) where the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh has no control over what’s said. I’m sure most of it won’t be very nice.

Wouldn’t it have been much simpler to have left Summer’s original post up and said:

  • “We are very sorry this happened to you”
  • “How can we make it up to you?”
  • “What do you think we can do to make sure this never happens again?”

I’ve said a million times, if you are going to use social media, you can’t hide from it or silence it.

Update 8-7-2013 – 1:30pm

Got a call from Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh today and they told me that they had reviewed the video and that they were stopped from entering by a Police officer because they had an open container.

Summer replied “they pulled the wrong group on surveillance. We all were wearing Pirate Gear. They are going through the tapes again and trying to find out why the bouncer did not let the guys in.”

I’m still wondering why it took this long to get to this point. Why couldn’t they have just talked to Summer in the first place and worked this out?

They also threatened to sue me if I don’t take this post down, proving to me that they haven’t actually read it. I might remove their name if this gets worked out amicably. If they sue the publicity will go through the roof and they know it (or at lest they should). I wrote the truth and that’s not slander.

Update 8-7-2013 – 2:45pm

I thought that Hofbrauhaus had called me earlier, but I Googled the phone number and it belongs to someone named Matt Plapp from the Cincinatti area. Someone who I’m guessing doesn’t have the authority to sue me (although he may). He must have something to do with Hofbrauhaus social media because that’s the business he’s in. Shame on you Matt, you should know better.

Update 8-7-2013 – 3:41pm

Just spoke with Summer and they are now claiming she wasn’t there at all Saturday.
The hole keeps getting deeper. My advice STOP SHOVELING!

WordPress Can Do Anything

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More and more these days I find myself recommending WordPress for much more things than just blogging. I’ve found that WP can be used to do just about anything the the best content management systems (CMS) can do and to me it’s by far the most user friendly and easy to learn system that there is.

  • Want to list your items, products or services? Want to be able to easily edit your pages?
    WP is perfect for that as is.
  • Want featured listings? Plugin for that.
  • Want to sell your products or services? Plugin for that.
  • Do your laundry? Sorry, not yet.

There are so many great things that WordPress can do that it’s impossible to list them all here. Now with widgets you can do even more. Smashing Magazine has a great post on thing you can do with widgets on WP. It can give you even more great ideas as to what WordPress can do.

Read more about what WordPress can do

Read 5 Useful And Creative Ways To Use WordPress Widgets

Update: 11-12-2009

  • Want a static first page? WordPress does that easily.

How To Use Craigslist To Find New CLients

I recently got in touch with a high school classmate of mine. Barb Girson is an International Direct Selling expert, trainer and coach who recently set sail with her own business called mysalestactics.com. We had a few emails back and forth and an interesting conversation about where we have been and what works in promoting out businesses.

I mentioned to her that Craigslist has been one of the best tools that I use to find new customers. Barb asked me about how I get it to work for me and also asked me an interesting question, “Would you consider this a networking strategy?”

My first thought that no it was not, but after pondering the question for a while I have decided that it is. I’ve met new people through the use of it and have used my networking rule of trying to offer something of value (free information) without expecting anything in return, so I guess it could be called networking.

Her next request was for me to describe the process that I used for this. I decided to write this post about it because I believe what Scott Ginsberg says “Writing is the key to all wealth“.

There are two methods that I use to promote my business on Craigslist:

First, I have written a series of advertisements that I rotate through several cities in my region in the “computer services” section. It is important to follow Craiglist’s rules by not posting too often and only posting these ads in the appropriate section.

I have seen many ads for different services posted in the “web design jobs” or “computer gigs” sections. Since these sections are for people looking to buy web services these ads usually get flagged and removed pretty quickly, but more importantly they are not read by the people who are actually in the market for their services. I know that personally I would never hire someone who didn’t understand or care that this was not the correct section to post their ads.

Second,  the “web design jobs” and “computer gigs” sections are the ones that I need to be reading to find people advertising jobs that I can do. To read those I use RSS. Every Craigslist page has it’s own RSS feed and I can subscribe to those just like any blog and get these ads almost as soon as they appear in my feedreader. For that I use Thunderbird another great free Open Source tool. Not only do I get my email, Thunderbird brings all of my RSS feeds into it as well and I can read them just like my regular email.

Even though there is quite a bit of Spam on Craigslist using Thunderbird I can still monitor many Craigslist cities, have all the post sent to one folder and go through 30 or 40 posts in a couple of minutes. I currently subscribe to two feeds in well over 30 Craigslist cities and still only spend about ten to fifteen minutes a day working on it. I probably actually answer five to six ads a day and I have a general outline that I use for this. I try to personalize each reply to the individual city and request, but here’s the basic outline:

My name is Jim Lillicotch and I am replying to your Craigslist ad.
I live in Pittsburgh PA and have customers in (local city) and many other areas that are very satisfied.

For information about my business, I invite you to tour my blog:

Feel free to comment on any posts that strike your interest and contact me with any questions

Thank you for your consideration.

Jim Lillicotch

I have found that people posting these jobs on Craigslist tend to be bombarded with responses to their ads, but if I get a reply I try to find out exactly what their job entails and offer to be as helpful as I can. I have foud several customers this way and also a few good friends.

Simple can be Good

Filed under: web design — Tags: , ,

When I stand up to talk about my business at my networking meetings of of the first things I say is that many vendors will try to sell you the most complicated system that they can. This is true for websites, inventory management or almost any system that a business will buy.

For websites there are several reasons for this. Sometimes they believe it is the best system for you, other times it’s because they don’t know any other way, but usually because it’s the solution that makes them the most money.

Sometimes it is actually the best way to go, but it’s been my experience that the simplest solution to any problem that works is usually the best one. I know that it’s almost always the most economical solution. That’s why I choose for my business tagline “Simple can be Good”.

Maybe it’s the recession that’s making people take a second look at simple things or maybe it’s just because it’s the right thing to do, but I keep reading more and more of it all over the web. Yesterday on the MediaPost Publication email Insider they are talking about it on a post called

Don’t Overcomplicate It

What To Send In A Newsletter

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I had a customer who wanted to start an email newsletter last year. I installed a mailing list management program and then spent quite a bit of time explaining how I thought sending it should be done. I wanted to pass that information along so I wrote a series of posts on how to start an email newsletter. There is some good information there about how to handle the mechanics of sending out a newsletter.

I was recently asked similar questions by a new client who wanted to do the same thing and I sent them to my blog posts. Afterward they had other questions having to do with the actual content of the newsletter. What kind of content should they have, should they use the site name of give it another name, and how often to send it?

I usually don’t write the content of a client’s website, I’ll make suggestions, but I believe that no one knows your business like you do. These newsletter questions were about the content, but they were very good questions that were asking for guidelines and I felt that I should find an answer for them.

The Email Insider blog came through for me again with this post and if you are considering starting a newsletter, it’s something that can be a great benefit to read. Rather that just repeating their post I thought I would just pass it on for you to read. Be sure to read to the end, the commenters provide some good additional information.

Read ’25 Random Things’ Is No Way To Write A Newsletter

Friday Just For Fun Site – StumbleVideo

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Here’s something just for some fun on a Friday. (Not responsible if you get caught playing at work)

I bought myself a new phone for Christmas. It’s a G1 with Google’s new operating system called Android. You probably already know that I’m an Open Source kind of guy. I think that even though the iPhone has a big headstart and outsells the Android phone by a large margin, there is much more potential for the Android Phone(s) with the Open Source community helping out with things like updates and new applications. I really love the phone. The only thing that I wasn’t happy with was the battery life.

The coolest thing about the phone is the Android Market. I wasn’t happy with the battery life so I went to the market on my phone found a free power management application, downloaded and installed it with just a couple of clicks. Now I’m much happier with the battery life on my phone.

Over the last couple of months I have found several applications that I like and all were free (Google just recently started allowing developers to charge for their work). The latest one that I really like is from StumbleUpon and is called StumbleVideo. Stumble provides random video from the web or you can also select a random video by category. After you have seen the video the user gets to vote on whether they like the video or not and it moves up or down the play list accordingly.

I have had some fun watching video that I probably never would seen otherwise, so I highly recommend StumbleVideo for some great time wasting on a Friday (or any day). You can also download StumbleVideo from the Android Market.

Visit StumbleVideo

Think Before You Email

I was speaking with a customer the other day about ways that he could use email marketing to promote his business. He was belt tightening like most businesses today and he finally realized the possible value and low cost of this kind of promotion.

When I first built his site he asked for and I installed a free open source email newsletter management system called PHPList. There have been several visitors sign up and other than the initial welcome email there hasn’t been anything else sent. I explained that since it may have been several months since some of his visitors had signed up, his first email should be an explanation of why he had not written sooner. It’s possible some of his subscribers may have forgotten that they actually signed up and accuse him of spamming them.

My next chore was to talk him out of buying or renting a list of names to send to. It’s always a great temptation to collect a zillion names any way that you can and start sending email “Blasts”. I even hate the term “email blast”. While this method may have once worked very well for any business (and probably still does for some spammers), for most legitimate businesses the costs in terms of loss of your reputation and bad will from your recipients far outweigh any benefit. I have written before of the value of using your own list of names and email addresses.

Finally I mentioned that before he sent anything out that I would like to have a look at it. What I got was just a giant picture that only promoted his business. No text just pictures and nothing that I would call an special offer.

The first thing that I mentioned was that many email clients (Yahoo, Google, etc.) now block images by default, so those folks won’t see anything but a blank page. I also told him that he needed to send something that his recipients would consider valuable. An unadvertised special or a special tip (a trick of the trade) that would benefit his readers. I advised him to look at his email from his customers point of view and ask himself this question if he wanted to grow his subscriber list and business. Is this email something that I would consider passing on to one of my friends or family?

Here’s an interesting follow up article by Loren McDonald on the email Insider called

Are Your Emails ‘Shareworthy’?

Positive Ways To Handle Negative Comments

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One of the things that I mention to my clients that want to start a blog and allow others to add content to their site is that besides blog spam you probably will get some commenters that don’t like you or what you say. I usually say that instead of just deleting the negative comments the best policy is to let the comments stay and just honestly answer their criticism.

By allowing their comments and then answering them you look like you are not afraid of talking about all aspects of your business. Just about everyone knows that no matter how good you are you can’t please everyone. So a blog that doesn’t allow any negative comments will apprear strict and censored. Open conversation not only makes you look better and fair there’s a good chance that if you keep an open mind you can learn from complaints. I have always believed that listening to a couple of honest complaints can help you improve your business much more than a thousand praises.

Of course on your own site you do have the option of just deleting negative comments, but what can you do if they are not on your site? I recently read a great post on the aimClear Search Marketing Blog by Marty Weintraub that really offers some great ideas about what you can to to help you recover and even benefit from damaging negative comments about you or your business posted on the web.

Read Reputation Crises Management: 8 SEO Triage Tips

Giving Away A Great Product To Make Money – Pentaho

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Here’s a great example of giving away a great product to make money. Pentaho is an open source business intelligence application and if you are thinking about buying new software for your business you need to check this out. It’s free and they have some great demos available.

According to Wikipedia business intelligence (BI) is a business management term, which refers to applications and technologies that are used to gather, provide access to, and analyze data and information about company operations. Business intelligence systems can help companies have a more comprehensive knowledge of the factors affecting their business, such as metrics on sales, production, internal operations, and they can help companies to make better business decisions.

Pentaho is a complete business intelligence platform that includes reporting, analysis (OLAP), dashboards, data mining and data integration (ETL). Use it as a full suite or as individual components that are accessible via web services.

This looks like a wonderful application for almost any business. It’s free to download and it’s a very fast install. It’s still seems a little unfriendly, but growing more user friendly by leaps and bounds. It now looks like the next OpenOffice release to include Pentaho BI as well. Pentaho’s reporting engine, Pentaho Reporting, will be integrated with the next release of OpenOffice.org, version 2.3, which is due out in the second half of this year, according to Lance Walter, vice president of marketing at Pentaho.

How are they going to make money with it, you ask?

The answer is Training! They charge for training.

This is the great thing about Open Source. They are giving away a great product that won’t lock you in to any one vendor and will provide you with free updates to keep your installation current and secure. The best part is that the business only has to buy as much training as they actually need.


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