Sometimes Known As "Aardvark Infrequently"
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Rattling The Cages Of The Local Internet Industry Since 1995

From time to time people forget that this column is nothing more or less than the opinion of the writer. While I do my best to base this column on actual people and events -- I can't guarantee that any or all you read here is true. If I've written about you or your company and you feel aggrieved then I suggest you simply drop me a Right Of Reply and I'll see to it that your comments or criticisms are given equal billing.

For The Week Ending August 27 1999

Some Truly Valuable Info
In the last issue of Aardvark Weekly I highlighted the activities of Mr Mike Masters, AKA Cookie The Clown. Mike wants to charge you an arm and a leg to attend one of his seminars -- albeit you get a free copy of his book, where he will show you the secrets of how to build effective websites and get them ranked on search engines.

So... if you want to build a Web site that works you can send Mike your money and buy his book, or attend his seminars (not the hynotism or stop-smoking ones -- the Internet Marketing ones) and remember to pray...


You can spend just a fraction that money and invest in what I have discovered to be an excellent book by Rachel McAlpine.

Titled "Web Word Wizardry", this book is packed full of the real secrets you need to know before building or launching your website.

As a seasoned (some would say jaded) Net-scribe and HTML hacker I found myself grunting in agreement and occasionally squeeking with suprise as I roamed freely through the text. And I do mean roamed -- the book is very well written and thanks to a lot of white-space accompanying an excellent layout, it's a very easy read.

Much of what Rachel has to say falls into the "so bleeding obvious I never thought of it" category. For instance -- she makes the deadly accurate point that the heart of almost every website has to be the words that appear on its pages.

While many Web designers will tell you that a picture is worth a thousand words, there really are times when the right word is worth a thousand pictures. Rachel's point is that you really do need to choose and place your words carefully so as to provide maximum effect. She backs this up with many hints, tips and a smattering of examples.

She also analyses the reading (or should I say "scanning") habits of Web surfers -- providing plenty of insight as to how to build pages that grab them by the optic nerve and drag them deeper into your site.

Of course once you've built the "Website from Websters" you then need to lay some paths to its door -- and that's where her advice on getting ranked in search engines comes in.

Once again -- much of this is pretty commonsense stuff that you're going to read and say "of course..." The point is that some of these things are so damned obvious we repeatedly forget them. Rest assured however, there are also enough "smart" ideas in this book to make it well worth the cover price.

If you're shopping around to have website built for your business -- make sure the designers you're considering hiring can show you their copy of this book -- because if they don't have a copy then they're either so good you can't afford them or they're probably not aware of all the great "tricks of the trade."

This isn't a book that deals in the technical nuts and bolts of cutting HTML or coding Javascript -- it works at a level above that, focusing on the more important elements: the text and its meaning.

You can see Rachel practicing what she preaches by visiting her own website at Don't expect lots of "kewl graphics", Flash, Java, DHTML or other fluff -- it's simply a vehicle for delivering information to the reader in the most efficient and effective manner.

Of course no Aardvark review is complete without a few gripes... and I think that although the book is only 135 pages or so, an index would have been rather nice, as would a few more actual examples of good and bad form. It's also tempting to suggest that she should have extended the scope of the book just a little to encompass the ergonomics of good site design ... but maybe thats a whole new book.

I was also surprised to notice the lack of any reference to anglicised versus americanized spelling in the chapter titled "Write for the world." If you're addressing a market outside of New Zealand then it's been my experience you're better off to use a US spell-checker and americanize your spelling. After all, the US population is a very sizeable chunk of the Net population and they are also very parochial -- often rather surprised to find that what they think is a spelling mistake is simply the anglicised version of "labor, organize or tire."

Congratulations to Rachel on this book... it's yet another example of the type of Knowledge-Based product that New Zealand should be focusing on in its attempt to move beyond the Industrial Revolution.

At $349.50 this book would represent only modest value. Fortunately it's just one tenth that price so it represents astounding value indeed. This gets a score of nine out of ten Aardvarks (mainly because nobody gets 10/10).

Something For Free!
I try to spend at least 4-5 hours a week writing my own books and my latest is almost completed to the point where I'll have to wake up my publisher and re-insert his intraveinous caffeine drip.

It's a book that I hope will be of interest to anyone and everyone considering creating their own Internet-based business -- or even a hobby venture.

Through this book I've tried to distil the "secrets to success" and, more importantly, the things that don't work when it comes to building a hi-tech venture.

Based on my own experiences with Aardvark and it reads a little like a case-study -- albeit the names and places have been changed to protect the innocent. Hey... why make your own mistakes when I've probably already made them for you?

Prior to having the prose splattered across acres of flattened, bleached, pulped dead tree, I'll be publishing extracts from the book in this column and soliciting feedback from readers.

Okay... it's not going to turn you into a millionaire Net-entrepreneur (hell I know I don't fit into that category (yet)) but I hope it will hopefully be entertaining and informative -- part of my own personal contribution to building NZ's Knowledge-Based Economy.

"Send no money now -- I'll bill you later!"



Worth A Look?
  • NZ Net News
    Hey... don't forget to drop in and see (or at least listen to) the Aardvark in real live (well ... recorded) streaming video as Scott Mathias and I praise the good and stick it to the bad of the Net and computer industries.

You Tell Me!
Okay... so I don't get as much time to browse around the Web as I might -- why don't you tell me what's "Worth a Look and I'll show everyone else!

Just use the contact form to send me your suggestions.

Jobs On Aardvark?
What's the feeling about me running a free situations vacant/wanted on the pages of Aardvark?

This would be solely aimed at connecting tech workers and employers at a no cost to either. Aardvark seems like a good place to do it since it's frequented by both sides of the employment fence on a daily basis.

Worth a try?

  I Can't Believe It's True
Privacy policies are an essential part of any website these days and increasingly the big-name advertisers are demanding that such a policy be present before they'll buy space on your site.

I was not surprised therefore to see a "sort-of" privacy policy on

the TUANZ site

... it's right down the bottom headed "Collection of information".

What I did not expect to find was that TUANZ has obviously developed an incredible piece of software that allows them to extract the email address of people who visit their site. Amazing -- nobody else anywhere in the world has been able to pull this one off!

Good grief, let's hope those bulk emailers don't convince TUANZ to sell them this little gem of code or we're all in trouble.

Of course it could also be that TUANZ, a group that purports to be really tech-savvy, doesn't even know the difference between a domain name and an email address.

Nahh... couldn't be true!

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