BUSINESS ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB: where "word of keystroke" begins

June 5, 1997 -- Web-access to databases and database-enabled Web applications


Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, June 5, 1997. These sessions are normally scheduled for noon-1 PM Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4) every Thursday.

These sessions are hosted by Richard Seltzer. If you would like to receive email reminders of our chat sessions, simply send a blank email message to businessonthewebchats-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/businessonthewebchats and sign up there.

For transcripts of previous sessions and a list of future topics, click here .

For an article on how to make "business chat" work (based on this experience), click here .

Since the chat itself happens at a rapid pace, it's often difficult to note interesting facts in particular URLs as they appear on-line. Here's a place to take a more leisurely look. I've rearranged some of the pieces to try to capture the various threads of discussion (which sometimes get lost in the rush of live chat).

Please send email with your follow-on quions and comments, and suggions for topics we should focus on in future sessions. So long as the volume of email responses is manageable, I'll post the most pertinent ones here for all to see.


Threads (reconstructed after the fact):


Today's Participants:

Colm (Home Page) -- from Ireland

David

gj

Tony Giroti (Home Page)

Su Jamthe (Home Page)

Ed Jaros (Home Page)

Dan Kalikow (Home Page)

Jack Killpatrick

steve Liberace

Barbara Hartley Seltzer

Richard Seltzer

Todd (Home Page)

The following folks also tried to connect, but arrived at the wrong time. The sessions run noon to 1 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time (US) (Greenwich Mean Time -4):

Hemant Dalal

Walter Kustermann

tevvsley


Questions at 4 AM (long before the chat opened)

Walter Kustermann -- Who want to show me some steps to use the internet?

Hemant Dalal -- I wanted to more about the business done using internet.


Introductions

Richard Seltzer -- Hello. We're here today to talk about Web-access to databases and related applications and business models. Please introduce yourselves and your interests.

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Hi. I am here.

David -- hello !

Ed Jaros -- Hello all :-)

Dan Kalikow -- Hi, Dan Kalikow here...

Todd -- Hello. I'm a developer at DEC.

Richard Seltzer -- Hello, Dan, and Tod, and Ed, and David, and Barb. Please tell us a little bit about yourselves and what aspect of the topic is of interest to you.

Ed Jaros -- I wodk at an ISP in Green Bay, WI. Misc internet related jobs.

Tony Giroti -- Hi, Tony Giroti here...from MaxSol.

David -- I am interested in Database Publishing to the Web - and Web Page update via Database vis.a.vis word/processing/HTML design updates.

Jack Killpatrick -- Hi All. I'm a web developer who uses ColdFusion/MS Access and msql/perl for database applications.

David -- Very interested in the proliferation of Cold Fusion like tools that are pouring out of the software shops these days

steve Liberace -- Hi everyone. I'm a website developer interested in using database technology on the web.

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- I've been working on the Internet for 1/2 year now, but a lot of it is still above me. The more I participate in this chat, the more I learn, but I still am working on basics.

Su Jamthe -- Hi Richard, How are you doing?

Su Jamthe -- Dan Kalikow: Your name sounds familiar. Are you the same
person who did AltaVista Forums in DEC? Pl excuse me if you
are not.

Dan Kalikow -- Hi Su, yep, that would be me :-) 


DbLive@Web (from Maxsol)

Dan Kalikow -- I'm a web tech marketing consultant who's become interested in Tony Giroti's DbLive@Web product. Looking for ways to see it applied. I like the end-user aspect -- it fills a different need than app developer suites, imho.

David -- Tony - have you shown your software to Jesse Berst yet ? he has been very attentive to this area in the Anchor Desk as of late.

Tony Giroti -- David, No I have not show it to Jesse Berst.

Jack Killpatrick -- Tony, can you give us a quick overview of your product?

Tony Giroti -- Hi Jack, There are a lot of notes on DbLive@Web in last week's conference so I will perhaps be terse, but DbLive@Web enables non-technical business users to access customized information from databases without doing any developent, CGI scripting, HTML development or having ay knowledge of Databases. Its, you can say, the next generation of database & web integration.

Jack Killpatrick -- Tony, sorry I didn't read the transcripts from last week. I'll pay attention here and dry not to ask you too many things that may have been covered already. One question: how do you describe a "non-technical" person. Would that be someone who knows how to use a word processor, or someone who knows how to use PageMaker, for example?

Tony Giroti -- Jack, by a non-technical person, I mean that a person who is a business user who perhaps does not understand databases, CGI, HTML or any such technology details. Also a person who does not care to know all this as what they are really interested in is info from these databases. In fact it could even be a DBA who know about ORacle and SQL but does not care about Sybase, Informix or say Ingress but still needs to support them.

David -- Tony - it sounds great -- does one such as myself -- need to have the server software hosted by my ISP ? ie. I am not the one who hosts my web page....

Tony Giroti -- David, you definitely need a web server, though if you have a windows 95 then it installs even on that. Basically even if you have a single machine with web server on it then you can simply access it from your web browser.

steve Liberace -- Does it work on Mac servers to, Tony?

Tony Giroti -- Steve, the software installs on a Win NT/95 but it can access info from any database running on any server (unix, nt, vms, etc).

David -- Okay - sounds good Tony - I am going to have to show this to a friend of mine - he might be able to get it up on his site so we can test it. Is it in Beta test at this time ? or is a release available ?

Tony Giroti -- David, it is in Beta right now.

Dan Kalikow -- I've come to think of DbLive@Web as sort of a "syntax-directed editor" that uses web technology to enable garden-variety end users to make useful queries & even charts of ODBC databases. Cool. Keeps end users from making errors.

Jack Killpatrick -- Tony - I'm guessing you are saying that it installs on a Win95/NT server but can access data on other machines. Or are you saying that the development tools are Win95/NT based, but that there is a way to transport them to another platform - for example, installing a custom cgi script on a unix platform?

Tony Giroti -- Jack, The Product DbLive@Web is installed on a single machine in your company and that has to be Win NT/95. Now in your company you may have Oracle on DEC Unix, Sybase on HP UX, Microsoft on NT server, Access on Windows 3.1. So any user on any machine, with a web browser will now be able to access the ORacle, Sybase, SQL and access databases.

Jack Killpatrick -- I've found that both msql and ColdFusion will let you do most of what you can imagine as a developer. As far as what the user sees, it's really up to how well the page designer works with the database implementor (real word?). Both of these tools allow you great flexibility in page layout. I;m wondering if Tony's user friendly product offers the same flex, or if it relies on templates?

Tony Giroti -- Jack, DbLive@Web enables you to create templates on the fly from a browser, and these templates can be saved for personal or global access.

Dan Kalikow -- Jack, Tony's product offers a good deal of flexibility in output display and especially in charting, but I can't compare it to CF. Plus, DbLive@Web is just in Beta... Give it time...

Jack Killpatrick -- Tony - do you have a lot of control over the layout of the template? Does the template generate user-accessable code that has good documentation, or is it more like some of the do-it-yourself web site packages (Front Page, for example) which generate a lot of excess code that's a pain to weed through?

Su Jamthe -- David: As Tony says, these tools are built more for non-technical people. You need the initial database setup done by a technical person and from there on anyone can use the tool. Baystate Games (http://www.baystategames.com) and Head of Charles were done with a Tango database by a business consultant. 


Databases -- defining the scope of the discussion

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Richard, in talking about databases, do you mean access to electronic commerce information or just lists of names or what? Could you define the term.

Richard Seltzer -- Barbara - I believe we should be dealing with a wide range of capabilities that allow you to make lots of different kinds of information available to users. Instead of static Web pages, you can have pages created automatically to meet the needs of specific users, or you can allow users to query a database -- lots of possibilities that all have in common that they draw information from a database. In a followup note to last week's session Sudha pointed to http://tips.internet.com/Database_gateways.html That's a good place (maintained by Internet World magazine) to see a summary of many of today's software products (though not the new one from Maxsol that we were discussing last week.)

Dan Kalikow -- There's an excellent case study of the role of database publishing and access at Millipore Corporation at http://www.mainspring.com -- gives some idea of the customer benefits.

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Thanks, I will check the article out. Am I correct in that databases can not be indexed by search engines?

Richard Seltzer -- Barbara -- Yes, todays public search engines cannot index the contents of databases on the Web. So if you have a Web site, you have to make trade offs -- is it more important to drive traffic to your site (by being indexed) or to maximize the experience of the folks who come to your site? And sometimes it may make sense to put lots of the text content of your database into plain static html pages as well, so you can be indexed and found.

Richard Seltzer -- Dan -- Is that article about Millipore open for public viewing? I thought Mainspring was going with a paid subscription model? (And was that, by chance, written by Mary Cronin)?

Dan Kalikow-- Mainspring is a paid subscription model, but they have some teasers out for public view. And tnx for reminding me of Cronin's name -- I was page-faulting on that... 


Cold Fusion and other tools

Jack Killpatrick -- David, have you used any "Cold Fusion like" tools?

David -- Jack - I have not personally used any tools - I am not a technical person - and I don't control the website - I am trying to see what tools would be best to specify for an application that would host a lot of user information and then be available to the other users of the site.

Jack Killpatrick -- David -- if you are specifiying tools, a great deal will depend on who you are spec'ing for. Are they unix, windows, mac experienced? Which?

David -- Jack - I am just looking at functionality of the tools at this point - the people who install them are techie/web masters and can do all techincal stuff - but the applications and how they are viewed by the users is our job to watch out for -- so they will implement what we need if we do our homework right up in front. (I hope that answers the question ?) 


ObjectStore from Object Design

Todd -- I saw an interesting talk yesterday by Object Design, Inc (www.odi.com) of their object-oriented DB, ObjectStore. One of the intersting features was their dynamic page definitions. Instead of static HTML or CGI, where one needs to write a small program to generate HTML, it uses magic incantations (propietary, I think) that can be embedded in static HTML. The URL then points these toward a CGI program that ODI provides to expand the magic commands into HTML data at the time of the request. Cleaner than CGI and makes it easy for pages to share data.

Su Jamthe -- Todd: I saw the Object Design presentation too. I think it has a diff audience - technical people who can develop code using their software. I liked it. Web Server Performance improves if we use objects instead of CGIs.

Todd -- Some of the sites using ObjectStore include GTE superpages (http://superpages.gte.net), Pathfinder, and SouthWest Airlines (www.iflyswa.com. These are industrial-strength sites. Pathfinder lets subscribers assemble their own magazine based on their interests, drawing from all the mags Time-Warner publishes. SWA lets travelers research and book their own Airline tickets, without the cost of a travel agent, 800# or SWA operator. 


Tango

David -- I have seen some TANGO implementations and they look pretty good -- for our purposes - they would be sufficient - but they were only running on a MAC last time I saw them - perhaps now they have "grown" up and are on the PC ?

Su Jamthe -- David: Tango was available on MAC for a long time. They recently released a version for NT.

David -- Sounds good Su - thanks for the heads up.

Richard Seltzer -- David -- what does TANGO do? from a business point of view, what does it let you do that you need to do to serve your customers? 


FrontPage and "Webots"

Su Jamthe -- All: Is there anyone here who has personally setup some extensions using a database tool? Its a tough market as there are many new capabilities coming in daily. Microsoft gives something called 'Webots' with FrontPage that can replace CGIs and talk to databases on a PC. I use frontpage but disable 'webots' as I don't us their IIS Server.

Jack Killpatrick -- Su, some web bots can be difficult to put on anything but an MS platform (surprise!). I usually ask my front page developing clients to use something else because of the excess garbage code that is generated. I also ask them to disable webbots and tell them to design the forms, but that I'll write perl scripts to handle the data. Then I host their site on a unix server with FrontPage extensions installed (usually just to handle the serach webbot, which seems to work ok in translation from MS to Unix. 


Web-enabled Lotus Notes

Jack Killpatrick -- Anyone familiar with the latest version of web-enabled Lotus Notes and it's connectability to legacy data?

David -- Richard - not sure about web Domino (notes) product today - but as of old versions - there were like 6 or 7 maybe even 9 layers of security -- so much so - that many sensitive information agencies of the gov't. can use it from abroad back to the USA.... (you can guess who uses it).


Alternatives for non-technical folks?

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- All this information is very technical. Who does the beginner web person turn to when they need to set up their web page. How do you find out all this information?

Su Jamthe -- Barbara: A beginner goes to an ISP to get access. Each ISP has details of what they offer on their site. Usually, people start small with a simple access without databases and move on to modular accounts that offer databases.
I agree, there's lots of technical background required even if the tool itself offers a user friendly interface. We have many of these questions coming up often in Web-Net mailing lists. I guess the answer is to ask around with user groups and ISPs.

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Thanks, Su. 


Hosted solutions? Modular Web-sites? Value-added ISP opportunity

Richard Seltzer -- Do you need to run your own Web server to take advantage of these tools? My little site is hosted at Acunet (just moved from TIAC), and many small businesses run hosted on other company's equipment. Is any of the software we've been discussing here stuff that the little (hosted) guys can use?

Dan Kalikow -- In my experience, ISPs are happy to host static pages, it takes a good deal more arm-twisting to get them to add ANYthing dynamic.

Richard Seltzer -- Dan -- If today it takes arm twisting to get them to add anything dynamic, that sounds like a good business model for ISPs in the future. That's value-added that small businesses would be willing to pay for. And as the tools get easier to use, more folks would want to roll their own, rather than contract to have the work done for them.

Su Jamthe -- Richard: Good question. All the database software I've seen required a database setup to talk to the software (cold fusion, tango, virtuflex). When we use an ISP, the ISP has to provide support for those with the database setup. Two chats back we spoke about modular design and payment scheme by ISPs where a user gets only whatever software they need from an ISP. If this happens we can become truly open.

Richard Seltzer -- Phrasing my question in another way -- is it possible to run tools such as these on a PC to develop Web pages and then upload the resultant pages (and associated database) to a server?

Su Jamthe -- Richard: We can develop the pages on our PC and test them with a local access or filemaker database locally, but they have to connect with the ISP's database.

Dan Kalikow -- Richard -- PCs are getting more & more powerful... There's webservers that run on Win95... Upload later... And in answer to your more recent point, an EXcellent bus model for ISPs.

Jack Killpatrick -- Dan, regarding ISP's and their "likes". There are many GOOD ISP's who cater to users who want to get into cgi scripts, perl, database hosting, etc. I have used iserver for my unix platform stuff for around 8 months and have been quite pleased with the speed of their system and the amount of control they give a webmaster. Their main db of choice is msql, which has scattered documentation, but is rather easy once you figure it out. "easy" meaning "wel,, you do have top write scripts or be willing to learn php or another extended html type language, which is the case with ColdFusion for NT, as well as pretty much any db extension language.

Richard Seltzer -- Su -- Yes, thinking modular and thinking of value-added ISP business models, it seems like there is a niche available for ISPs that provide database capabilities and make it easy for businesses to take advantage of them. I might have my domain name registered at one ISP, on whose server I am running static HTML pages. And I might contract with another ISP to host my database and to give me access to the related Web-access-to-database tools. And I tie my site together with hyperlinks. Does anyone know of companies doing that kind of thing today? Thinking modular, as a small company, I might be shopping for the ISP/hosting site that has the tools I want to use, rather than considering buying the software myself.

steve Liberace -- correct me if I'm wrong, Su, but isn't web-net thinking along those lines right now?

Su Jamthe -- Steve and Richard: Yes, since Web-Net is a non-profit and all our systems and web space is sponsored by diff people, we naturally took to this modular approach. Our main server is hosted in Maryland where our domain name exists, we link to other pages on diff machines. Our class server is a NT server in Boston. We are working on setting up a threaded discussion using Virtuflex from an ISP in CA. As far as the user is concerned, everything is a simple link but they goto other machines and servers. We are trying out DBLive and might set it up here locally.

Dan Kalikow -- David, DB apps are fine and useful, but surely there's a role for user-produced queries etc., if the tool is easy & useful. Could lighten the load on the cold fusion users, no? Glad to hear that the ISP market is moving towards better DB hosting.

Jack Killpatrick -- Richard, re modular thinking, I've found that finding an ISP that will install the db-middleware for you and charge a minimum monthly fee/one time install fee/licensing fee is rather convenient. The charges can easily be charged back to your customer and usually the ISP will handle upgrades as a benefit to you. http://www.minerva.net has a goof ColdFusion program, and also an Allaire Forums program.

Richard Seltzer -- Jack, where is minerva.net? And do you know of other ISPs that will do that kind of thing today? And what's the going rate?

Jack Killpatrick -- Richard. Check out http://www.minerva.net. The site is so-so, but you'll get the idea of what they offer. They are very friendly people and respond incredibly quick to any problems or emailed questions. And, no, I don;t work for them. I also recommend iserver.com, which has a very industrial-strength virtual hosting business. Much flexibility and very dependable access speed. Unix based strictly. Usually takes a day for support to get back to you, unless it's a big problem.

Jack Killpatrick -- Richard, you will find that minerva's prices are rock bottom - and, as I said, they are very accomodating - a nice mixture. ColdFusion, of course, requires that you understand or learn additional html tags, know how to set up a simple database (like MS Access) and want to grasp if..then statements and some basic "logic flow-control" stuff. I think you need to know these basic things to do any kind of custom work.

steve Liberace -- Jack, what about hurricane electric? Virtuflex always recommmends them.

Richard Seltzer -- Jack, thanks for the pointers. Steve, what does hurricane electric do? also, what does Virtuflex do? (Do they have database-related software?)

steve Liberace-- Hurricane electric is an ISP that supports virtuflex on their servers, and virtuflex is a product that does database and other dynamic stuff in the manner of cold fusion, tango etc. (they just launched their windows nt version last night and they have a unix version).

Richard Seltzer -- Todd, where is Hurricane and what's their URL? 


Looking for middle ground

Richard Seltzer -- Some of these tools, like Cold Fusion, depend on "extensions to HTML", the use of newly invented commands that do more than is possible in plain vanilla HTML. That means that you have to learn a new programming language (or equivalent) to take full advantage of them. So while they are very powerful (and apparently the results can be readily viewed with ordinary browsers), there's a long learning curve, and non-technies are basically locked out. It feels like the trend is toward more and more of that kind of complexity, rather than toward greater accessibility and usability by ordinary business folks. (MaxSol's solution seems counter to that trend.)

Richard Seltzer -- I guess I'm looking for a middle ground -- where I myself could play. Today, it feels like small businesses (very small) are running on hosted sites and consist of plain static pages, and large companies with their own servers are running far more dynamic sites, taking advantage of database-related applications. I'd like to be able to compete with the big guys, without paying lots of money for equipment, software, and consulting. I nedd two elements to make that happen: 1) software (like that from MaxSol) written so non-technical people like myself can use it for page development 2) ISPs that will make such software available and host such pages for a reasonable price.

Ed Jaros -- Richard... I agree with that. (yes I'm still here)

Su Jamthe -- Richard: Thanks for clarifying. I wear two hats. When I try to setup dynamic pages to provide real-time information, I can do so from work as we have databases and many platforms to choose from. When I try to setup the same from Web-Net, I am restricted to each ISP and what tool or platform they support. In fact the ISP digiweb provides support for NT and UNIX but we have our account on one and have to make that choice before we get started.

Jack Killpatrick -- Su, re: locked into what an ISP offers: some ISP's will let you install whatever tools you want. Look for these ISP's if you want to reduce your shopping around.

Su Jamthe -- Jack: Do you know of ISPs who are open to install any software? Even then, isn't the software restricted to whether we've taken up a UNIX or NT account?

Jack Killpatrick -- Su, I know iserver has let me install pretty much anything I want. Yes, you are limited to a specific platform. I've found it necesssary to be comfortable on both NT and UNIX. Then I can extract the better qualities form each (but, as I dig deeper, I tend to go for UNIX, just for the speed and dependability.)

Dan Kalikow -- Richard, in your middle ground model, would you be comfortable with a database-enabling ISP holding your company's data? I guess you'd have to be... Are there sufficient safeguards?

Jack Killpatrick -- Dan, re: ISP's holding your data. You have a good point. How do we know that ISP isn;t sucking out all the credit cards from our databases? I quess there is a certain amount of professional trust involved, and maybe a contract. On the other hand, I don't store credit card numbers on their server, yet. Making the leap to an in-house dedicated server is not in my near plans.

Tony Giroti -- Richard, Sorry had to take this (long) call, but You are right. The problem with most of traditional ISP's is that while their core business is to provide internet service, they know very little about providing content rich database interactive web sites for their clients. The best they will offer you are "proofed" versions of custom CGI. You can do very little unless you have a web server -- on a ISP site or at your location.

David -- I believe IBM is going to offer Lotus Domino Hosting services (similar to what has been done before by other NOTES hosting services) - -but basically it is not new to entrust your companies data (and database) to a third party (hopefully they are a capable and reliable one - you have to investigate that carefully - references -etc.) - SO I would potentially trust my ISP to handle this function - it might cost you some serious money though. 


Business Models

Richard Seltzer -- Dan -- I also am very interested in how these tools are applied. I'd like to hear about specific sites that use them and how the business models work. I see at the Cold Fusion site http://www.allaire.com/products/coldfusion/20/sites.cfm
a list of examples -- ranging from publishing to catalog-type sales. Does anyone connected now have experience using that or other similar tools? And could you talk about how the technology makes certain business models possible?

Jack Killpatrick -- Richard, I have some experience with Cold Fusion and msql ( a unix based database). Regarding how the technology makes certain business models possible: It makes a huge amount of things open wide up. Moving the web from static to dynamic creates a multitude of options for interactivity. I use databases in a number of ways: from simply creating user accounts, to saving delivery orders for messenger company web sites, to generating users-guide info based on queries, etc. I'll add as they come up.

Ed Jaros -- Just taking a back seat and taking all this in. Currently I do not have any databases accessible on my site. Although I have spoken with clients that are as intrigued about the idea as I am. Note: logistics and transportation firms. I like Maxol's idea and can see a variety of immediate uses for something like that. Website interactivity and bringing the corporate mindset of the net back to informational purposes is great.

Richard Seltzer -- All -- while I'm learning a lot from this discussion, I still don't see much relating directly to business models. How are companies using these tools to draw traffic to their sites or to serve their customers better? Are there some good examples out there of creative implementations?

Su Jamthe -- Richard: Mass Amateur Sports Foundation (http://www.baystategames.com/) uses such a tool to show the latest games schedules etc by pulling the information of a database and generating the page on-the-fly.

David -- I think much of the VERY LARGE scale Databases are used currently on extranets --such as General Electric (by the way they have an Electronic Commerce service you can buy by the slice -- they do it all for you if you are not a huge business) they catalog thousands of electric motor parts -etc. and you go into their net = look parts - availability - order them - they basically just pack/ship/bill you for the goods -- all done from your web browser (from what I understand - I dont buy motor parts though :-) )

Dan Kalikow -- Well, apropos of the business model aspect, there are many ways that DB access can have a very short ROI in an intranet. Phone and HR info, merely for starters. Tiered access so that appropriate data get to appropriate folks. The easier & more flexible the setup, the faster the ROI.

Todd-- Richard - see my earlier comment about SWA and Pathfinder.

Jack Killpatrick -- Richard, re business models. I've found that I usually adapt an already existing customer's business model to the web, refining it in the process and adding functionality that can only be done through the Internet. As I add functionality, I inadvertently start redesigning the business model. Things are kind of in the exploration/expansion mode. As we all probably know, a data driven web site can create a custom user environment. For example, let's say you have a password for a site, once you log on, you can customize your experience, set up lists that are only for you, always see data that you want to see, ect. Another data-driven business model is to create on-the-fly web sites for branch locations of businesses. For example, branch B choses a template on the web site, they fill in and maintain their own data/web site via the web. All of the info for each branch, and thus each "web site" is stored in a database, etc.

Todd -- Another advantage of page content from a DB is that it can be shared. If I have ten pages with the same data and it changes, I can update it once in my DB, not ten times.

Su Jamthe -- Richard: From an electronic commerce perspective, these
web enabled databases translate to enabling online shopping carts and catalog access. In fact they can be taken a step further to customize the view for specific users to serve to their needs better.

Jack Killpatrick -- FedEx is now offering "make your own store" software, which is a database driven product. You pump in your items and it creates the site.

Richard Seltzer -- Jack -- what does it take to run that FedEx software? Do you have to run it on the FedEx site? Are there charges involved or are they doing this for free to drive on-line commerce and hence demand for package delivery?

David -- Have a call in to FED EX now - and have not gotten any return call yet --- so I wonder about that too... they have had full page WSJ ads recently.

Jack Killpatrick -- My concern with FedEx is that it's easy to bite off more than you can chew if you start catering to thousands of small clients with lots of questions. It's not like "did my package make it?" It's more like, how do I hack my html storefront to get it to connect with my existing inventory control system. I heard AT&T is also pretty bad at responding to inquiries about their new storefront services.

Su Jamthe -- Success Stories of business use of this technology, IMHO inlcudes mbanx, launched by the Bank of Montreal in October 1996 as Canada's first national on-line bank. mbanx (http://www.mbanx.com) gives retail and business banking customers the freedom to use the Internet to transfer funds between accounts, pay bills, review account information and reorder checks at any time and from anywhere in North America. 


Data Marts

Dan Kalikow -- Has anyone set up a "Data Mart" with any DB access tool? Data Marts are ways to publish databases with different privilege levels for different (classes of) users. How easy was it to do with the tool(s) you used?

Richard Seltzer -- Dan -- re: Data Marts, sounds like that business model would require more than just database access -- in addition, you'd need to be able to easily define levels of access and relate those to individual users, and also probably a billing package tied to that. Do such packaged solutions exist today? Or is it still a roll-your-own marketplace?

Richard Seltzer -- Dan -- Acutally, the notion of different prices for different levels of access to info in a database reminds me of the old joke -- answers 1 cent, correct answers $10.

Dan Kalikow -- Richard, re Data Marts -- MaxSol's product does them right out of the box. I can't answer the billing question (yet) (grin)... 


Security concerns

Todd -- One reason ISPs may be reluctant to host database access is security. DB access inplies that visitors to a site are triggering the execution of programs. If there is a weak spot in those programs, the creepy crawlers may be able to exploit that to cause damage to the site. You have to be a little paranoid when worrying about security.

Richard Seltzer -- Todd -- It sounds like security for databases on the Web may be a separate kind of security -- different from firewall and encryption and transaction type security. If that is the case, that sounds like a business opportunity. Is anybody specializing in that yet?

Dan Kalikow -- Richard, FWIW, I'd thought that transaction-type security is a part of database access -- it's the update (possibly the ORDERING and VERIFICATION) part of access. Querying is the starting point. Both need security, the transaction type probably needs more. 


Co-location

steve Liberace -- Does co-location help reduce the burden of having your own server in terms of price? Isn't it more reasonable than setting everything up yourself and can't you put your own software on it?

Jack Killpatrick -- Steve Liberace, co-location is far more cost effective than setting up and maintaining your own server: someone else is up 24 hours a day, and you share the expense between you and other "co-locaters". A good ISP will let you install whatever you want.

Su Jamthe -- Steve: Can you explain what you mean by co-location? What do you pay for? Does the ISP maintain your machine? Do you need to know technical details about the machine itself?

steve Liberace -- co-location would be renting a whole server box that the ISP actually keeps and maintains to varying degrees, with wide and reasonable price ranges available. 


Cost of running your own server

Todd -- Does anyone have an idea of the cost of running their own server. I would think it's mostly just having a little bit of expertice (setting up FastTrack server is pretty easy) and the cost of a PC $1500+. It may not be as far out of reach as is assumed.

Ed Jaros -- Todd - Don't forget about line speed and keeping enough bandwidth available. 


Business Service Centers

Richard Seltzer -- I've been playing with the notion of "service centers" on an intranet -- an IS organization providing basic capabilities like database access, meetings, transactions, etc. in separate "centers" (consisting of hardware, software, and services), making everything simple enough for business people to plug in and take advantage of those capabilities at a reasonable cost. It feels like the same kind of model could work in the public Internet. For instance, an ISP could set up a Web database service center (ideally, with a mix of UNIX and NT systems and all the relevant tools) and charge for use.

Dan Kalikow -- Service Centers -- a good idea! With the latest versions of web-enabled SW for more and more apps within the browser & thin-client world, this could relieve the IS folks of the daily grind of producing more & more custom apps, save for the really hairy special-purpose ones. Let end-users do it, right in the tradition of distributed computing. 


Wrapup

Richard Seltzer -- Two missing pieces today -- Interwoven and the notion of directory-enabled applications (for instance, for being able to check dynamic ip addresses to smoothly use Internet telephone capabilities). Folks who said they wanted to talk about those topics weren't able to make it today. I'd like to push to get them here next week, and continue this topic as well. Does that make sense to you? Do you want to continue this for another week? (I feel there's still a lot more to learn).

Dan Kalikow -- I agree with you Richard -- we're just scratching the surface here.

David -- I will try to make it next week -- I dont think the telephone "over the net" market place is moving very fast -- so it is probably a bit premature to worry about it impacting much at this point. (IMHO)

Richard Seltzer -- David -- perhaps the whole notion of Internet telephony and why it is moving so slowly and what might change that, would make a good topic for some future session.

David -- Very good point Richard...

Richard Seltzer -- As usual, time is running out quickly, please before you leave, post your email and URL addresses so we can keep in touch (don't rely on the software to have captured them). And please send me email with your followup questions and comment for inclusion in the transcript. seltzer@samizdat.com

Richard Seltzer -- I'll try to post the transcript by Saturday (tied up in meetings tomorrow). Look for it at http://www.samizdat.com/#chat Also, please send your suggestions for future topics. seltzer@samizdat.com

Barbara Hartley Seltzer -- Bye. I'll keep listening, so I can learn. Thanks everyone for being patient with a non-tech person.

Ed Jaros -- Thanks for the chat. Sorry I didn't have much to offer back. Learned a lot as always. Good day all.

Su Jamthe -- Thanks Richard. Bye Everyone. See you next week.

Richard Seltzer -- Thanks to all. Hope you'll be able to return next week. Please spread the word. 


Followup

Future Topics

From: Richard Seltzer seltzer@samizdat.com Date: June 9, 1997

We are looking for information about how people actually use this software, what are the business models, what are the benefits, what are the limitations? This includes information about ISPs that offer these capabilities as a service to companies that host Web pages at their sites.

By the way, for a good summary of available products, check http://tips.internet.com/Database_gateways.html a page maintained by Internet World Magazine. But keep in mind that it doesn't include two of the most interesting companies Maxsol http://www.maxsol.com or Interwoven http://www.interwoven.com

This is a learning process. I came to the topic thinking in terms of access to legacy databases -- ways to let users access your existing databases with a Web browser. What I'm hearing is far more exciting -- using these tools to make your site more dynamic and personal, to better serve your audience.

Future topics we are considering include:

Internet telephony: the choices, the possiblities; why it's moving so slowly? and what might change that?

Business models for publishers (both big and small); what are the advantages and limits of advertising and paid subscriptions? and what are the alternatives?

Please send me email with your suggestions/preferences. seltzer@samizdat.com


Searchlight

From: Charles Booth <chasbo@alarmweb.com> Date: Mon, 09 Jun 1997 22:14:05 -0400

Been reading these transcripts for many months now; have not chatted yet.

I suggest you visit www.searchlight.com to evaluate their product called SPINNAKER, which is a web server product which uses, among other things, another of their products called SPINDB. SPINDB works in conjunction with databases such as those created with PARADOX, using a .db format.

At Searchlight's main page, log on as a guest. Especially click on RESOURCES, as this is a list of URL's of some of their customers, which will bring you in direct contact with the web sites of some businesses using databases.

I am currently creating a BBS/WEBSITE called ALARMWEB (not yet on line) for the Burglar and Fire Alarm Industry (dealers, manufacturers, distributors, installers, service people. etc). It will consist of conferences, bulletins, chats, meeting and conventions dates, data -- anything and everything of use to persons working in the alarm industry.

One of the unique features of SPINNAKER is the use of templates and macros within the server software which allows on-the-fly creation of HTML pages, based on who is logging on, where they are from, or to which security level they have been assigned.

Frank Larosa, at SEARCHLIGHT, is the owner and developer. If the subscribers to web-net.org find the product interesting, he's the man to invite to the chat session.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy the transcripts.


How Search Engines Treat .cfm

From: merlin@advant.com Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 09:28:00 -0500

As a commercial web site marketer/promoter, I have been recently engaged in quite an exercise in trying to get decent search engine positioning for a client who built an all Cold Fusion-generated web site (including main welcome page). I'm seeing quite a disparity between the search engine positioning of, say, <index.cfm> and <index.html>, two identical pages with the exception of one being CF, the other HTML.

So far, this exercise has only involved InfoSeek (because of their instant indexing function and being able to see results within minutes), but I'm curious if other spiders such as Alta Vista's will show the same preference for HTML over CF pages in ranking on the same search keyword.

And further, if this consideration would be appropriate for your online discussion of dynamically generated pages this coming Thursday.

Regards;

Steve Harrison, President, Web Merlin Marketing,http://www.bidness.com/merlin merlin@bidness.com

REPLY from Richard Seltzer

As far as I know (and I interviewed the developers thoroughly when writing the book), there is nothing in the ranking algorithm at AltaVista that would prefer .htm or .html over .cfm pages.

(Doing an Advanced Search for index.cfm and asking for "count only", I see 1783 pages with that name are in the AltaVista index).

And, sure, that could and should be part of the discussion tomorrow. (It's important not just to have a Web site that looks good and runs well, but also to drive the right kind of traffic to the site; and search engines are very important in that).

-- Richard, seltzer@samizdat.com

From: merlin@advant.com Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 12:26:58 -0500

Same head-scratch I got from the InfoSeek engineer, Richard. But, in practical applications, the .html page always ranks ahead (sometimes WELL ahead) of its .cfm twin in search return positioning. Again, so far this applies only to InfoSeek.

>(doing an Advanced Search for index.cfm and asking for "count only", I see 1783 pages with that are in the AltaVista index).

The question isn't whether search engines will index .cfm pages, they obviously will, it's how they are ranked for relevancy compared to a identical HTML page.

Thanks for entertaining the question. Will try to join in tomorrow.

Steve Harrison, Prez, Web Merlin Marketing, merlin@bidness.com

REPLY from Richard Seltzer

The ranking at AltaVista is quite simple and depends entirely on the content of the page:

The same rules would apply for a .cfm page as for a .html page.

-- Richard, seltzer@samizdat.com


Easiest WYSIWYG database for the Web?

From: Bill Furner <tiles@pyramidtile.com> Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 07:44:52 +0000

What is the easiest database (WYSIWYG) for the web?

I have a Mac 6200 Performa, an ISP that is Unix,but not excepting custom scrips and I come out of the San Francisco area.

If you add all that up what would that spell to you, if you know what I mean.

I went to a Mac World Conference at the Moscone Center and really like the Tango presentation by Everywere Company but when I bought it, I soon found out that it is not compatable with the Unix server.

I mentioned to the tecky for Claris Home Page (that's what I use to make my web pages) that it would be nice for Claris to make a WYSIWYG database would be easy to use, But I guess it still envolves working on the server side with custom scripts? I am in the fog about Client and Server side, I thought that Front Page has Web Bots were you don't have to go to the server side.

Hope I got this written were you understand what I am saying:)

Just a newbie at database,waiting for that great WYSIWYG database to come out by Claris Home Page!

Thanks for reading

Any input would greatly be appreciated!

Bill Furner http://www.pyramidtile.com


Previous transcripts and schedule of upcoming chats -- www.samizdat.com/chat.html

To connect to the chat room, go to www.samizdat.com/chat-intro.html

The full text of Richard Seltzer's books The Social Web, Take Charge of Your Web Site, Shop Online the Lazy Way, and The Way of the Web, plus more than a hundred related articles are available on CD ROM My Internet: a Personal View of Internet Business Opportunities.

Web Business Boot Camp: Hands-on Internet lessons for manager, entrepreneurs, and professionals by Richard Seltzer (Wiley, 2002). No-nonsense guide targets activities that anyone can perform to achieve online business
success. Reviews.

a library for the price of a book.

This site is Published by B&R Samizdat Express, 33 Gould St., West Roxbury, MA 02132. (617) 469-2269. seltzer@samizdat.com


Return to B&R Samizdat Express


<


Internet Business Showcase: