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Beyond surfing: business secrets (if any) of the Internet.

Getting on the Internet to browse the Web, read Usenet and send e-mail these days is easy--it comes built in with almost every new computer. What's harder is identifying how to get real business value from the time and effort spent being a user on the Internet as a separate issue from a Web presence.

It's not clear whether there are any real secrets to making use of the Internet. (If I weren't on the advisory board responsible for coming up with topics like this for a recent meeting. I'd ask. "Say. who makes this stuff up?") And if there were any secrets. ICTY BTIHTKY--"I could tell you. but then I'd have to kill you."

However. many of us have uncovered things about using the Internet that you can learn by reading instead of discovering the hard way Here are some "Internet secrets" which I and fellow panelist have been "revealing" during panels at various trade shows.

BEYOND SURFING

"Surfing" in cyberspace is often equated with aimless browsing, clicking on links that "look neat." Most business people consider surfing to be wasting time. playing. or consuming non-work time. Although some surfing may prove serendipitous in terms of skills or sites discovered. it's time to get "beyond surfing," to use the Internet deliberately and productively. with focus.

"Business secrets" include, or come from, sources such as common sense: a deep understanding of your company. products, customers, and industry; RTFM-based (Read Those Fine Manuals) knowledge: technical tricks. and contextually driven actions Sounds a lot like "pay attention, and read the directions." I'd say all this was obvious, rather than a secret, but my observation of Internet users suggests otherwise.

My biggest not-so-secret secret remains: The most valuable resource on the Internet is--YOUR TIME. You only get to spend each minute and dollar once; each minute and dollar you spend on the Internet presumably displaces a commensurate amount of other work. money, and time (or comes from your non-work time).

Internet activity should not reduce productivity or cost; ideally, it should improve them. I can't guarantee this will be the case--and you should expect a fair amount of learning curve and false trails--but this should be one of your guidelines as you explore what the Internet can do for your job and business. It's also important to accomplish the RIGHT goal.

There are a number of common counterproductive mistakes Many of these are well-known to experienced `Net users; help your company by training your employees to avoid them rather than having them make the same mistakes independently. Common cyber-goofs include:

[check] In e-mail: sending to bad or wrong addresses; using binary attachments inappropriately or incorrectly; creating unclear subject lines, like "Real Important"; and sending bulk e-mail to people who didn't ask for it

[check] For Web sites: No contact information for the company hosting the site; unnecessary barriers to registration; expecting users to have certain software packages such as Adobe Amber.

Some productivity-enhancing tips which border on secrets:

[check] Use Zip (compression) for long files, especially presentations and word processed documents, before trying to mail them. You'd be amazed how much smaller they get--which can save a lot of time both for you and for the user on the other end.

[check] To avoid getting your Microsoft Office apps infected by macro viruses from other people's files, use Microsoft's read-only "viewers" for files you have received in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (the viewers are available at www.microsoft.com).

[check] Learn how to insert and extract files into e-mail via MIME and UUENCODE/ UUDECODE. E-mail makes a great low-cost, high-speed delivery service for documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. A good browser will automate the encoding and decoding at either end. For very large files, use a "zip" program to make the files smaller before sending them.

[check] Keep older (previous) copies of your browser around just in case the current version blows up or dies, so you can keep on browsing.

[check] Periodically save copies of your Internet programs' config files (e.g., NETSCAPE.INI) and bookmark files to floppy, especially before reinstalling or upgrading, so that if the active version of the files gets overwritten or trashed, you still have a copy.

[check] Get a second account, from another Internet dial-up provider, for those times when your main provider is unavailable.

[check] Learn more about the syntax/features for searching YAHOO, Alta Vista, InfoSeek, etc. Better searches--advice about how to do it is included on those sites--will mean wading through fewer "hits" and turning up better results.

[check] Make sure you're using the fastest modem your ISP will support (i.e., 28.8/33.6 kb/s for dial-up).

And lastly: Learn when to NOT use the `Net. Sometimes the right answer will be to call your travel agent, ask a librarian. have an administrative support person do it, get a temp, send a fax, meet for lunch, or pick up the phone.

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT

It's always a pleasure having Glee Harrah Cady, on my panels at shows. Netcom's manager of public policy and co-author of the Sybex book Mustering the Internet, she brings a wealth of experiences, opinions. and insights to Internet issues.

As Cady points out, many Internet "secrets" are really in plain sight... once you know what they are. For example, many people tend to overlook non-Web communications tools like "talk." CU-SeeMe. the Internet Relay Chat, and MUDs.

Sadly, there isn't enough room here for me to quote her extensively but you can see it for yourself, including her lists of business URLs. at http://www. netcom.com/~glee/secrets.htm I.

MAKING INTRANETS WORK

Another panelist, Pat McGregor. manager of corporate information security firewalls and proxies at Intel and co-author of Mastering the Internet, has insights into the corporate intranet side of things.

McGregor conducted a major study of intranet strategies and successes troth within inter and elsewhere. Here are some of her main observations:

[check] Most successful intranets are built under a determined, focused program or by strong, unimpeded grassroots effort.

[check] Coordination. rather than control, is key to assisting innovation without creating chaos.

[check] There are no half measures in creating intranets: Swim, or sink.

[check] Conventional decision-making processes take too long.

[check] Companies can't afford an 18-month release cycle. The intended browser and server products will have gone through four releases by then, if nothing else.

[check] No one is calculating the cost of implementation fully; most companies can only tell you how much their Internet link costs. Other costs (including personnel) are built into the existing LAN support structure.

[check] HR (human resources) online apps have a big potential market.

[check] Authoring and WP conversion tools are desperately needed.

Here are some of the key lessons McGregor found:

[check] You need an Internet "evangelist" at a high level to make the corporate body listen.

[check] Policies have to be (mostly) uniform across the company.

[check] Universal access to internal resources is key.

[check] Without an evangelist. budget issues get hairy.

[check] Links between external Web presence and internal support mechanisms need to be built. Customers will expect e-commerce, tech support, and product information from external Web presence. Infrastructure to support that has to be built, including links to internal resources.

[check] Big cost savings come from changing from printed materials to online for items such as phone books, HR forms, price and sales info, and internal paperwork; and from online training via Web-based materials.

As Dan Janal (author of great Internet business books; seewww.janal.com) points out, anybody who knows REAL Internet success secrets isn't talking about them.

So if you know any real, sure-fire Internet secrets, e-mail me, and meanwhile, try some of the aforementioned "obvious now that we've told you" secrets. And let me know if they help.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Internet/Web/Online Service Information
Author:Dern, Daniel
Publication:Communications News
Date:Feb 1, 1997
Words:1299
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