Sunday, August 24, 2008

My journey - August 2008

Past three weeks have been hectic, for most folks summer is a time to kick back and relax, enjoy beach time with the family. It has been all that and much more, so my Saturday morning rant for this week covers a lot of ground.

The August Journey:

1) Got really busy at work because I had to fill in for my boss who had not taken a 2 week vacation in 10 years, on top of that we had an important FIOS release and a looming strike which added to the normal work load.
2) Family renunion, the annual Casey reunion at Southhaven, I will post pictures when the Jaicks send me some.
3) Amazon SellerCentral snafu, after a week of working with Amazon's seller central to build up the entire Joy of Fabrics online store, I pulled out disillusioned with the games Amazon plays. More on this below
4) OsCommerce tweaking. I had built Joy of Fabrics online store using OsCommerce in 2005. After the disaster with Amazon, I picked it up again and tweaked it down to a science. That was the silver lining of the Summer of 2008.

Work Scene:
Filling in for my boss, was a lot of work but not all that hard. The toughest part was the extra effort in having to understand what his boss wanted to see. One thing I learnt from Knowledge Management classes (Thank you Al Burns) is to figure out what someone wants, and provide that. This falls in the realm of eliciting tacit knowledge and can be hard, particularly if you dont interact with the person frequently. The looming strike and the preparation that went into gearing up for that did add quite a bit of load into the normal routine, but some of us had it much easier than the others. I have friends who were assigned other Jobs and had to train for it for 3 months. It all turned out okay in the end. A new contract for 3 years was finally signed.

Family reunion:
Every year our families meet in Southhaven. It used to be Siesta Key in Florida and then it got too much of a distance for the Grand Parents, so now for the past 4 years, the destination has been Southhaven Michigan a sleepy beach town. The The whole family was there including Linda who came from Nairobi for a few days. Always a pleasure to see the Jaicks, the Fialkos since they dont live around here like Dan, Barb and we do. So it was a week of eating drinking and being merry for the family and birthday celebrations for Ellen, Beth, Sean and Mike. Ofcouse, the Strike situation at work, put me on standby, which meant that I could only join the clan a couple days. But all in all it was a good time.

This was the year that Sydney decided to get a mohawk, and Barb gave him her blessing by saying "You have a good nut Syd". Mike exclaimed "Aw right!!". The rest of us just went with the flow.

This was also the summer that Maya figured out she could do something that most folks in the world cannot do, you guessed it, she can lick her own elbow. The mohawk and the elbow licking, Need I add that it is a proud summer in the Fernandi household!!

Its all about lack of Transparency:
It appears that this theme is a broken record in my mind. I keep coming back to the lack of transparency. These past two weeks, I got a sizable dose of that, from no other than Amazon Seller Central. Short story, I moved the Joy of Fabrics online store to Amazon's Seller Central. It tooks some doing and was fun, took about 2 days of figuring out the upload schema and dns zone files. Then realized that Amazon did some false advertising to get me to move and now that I did, they felt they had me where they could milk it for all they could. I feel sorry for many who do not have the same choices as I did. My choice was to pull out, shut down my store and go back to OsCommerce based online store. I did not like the fact that Amazon's parting gift was an announcement that Joy of Fabrics was shutting down instead of saying that Joy of Fabrics is going elsewhere because they were unhappy with the bad service!!. I am very disapointed with Amazon right now, I some how felt that a web 2.0 company should be above "used car sales techniques". Live and learn I guess.

Amazon and Jeff Bezos if you are listening:
What got you where you are is the "VALUE" you bring to the customer, dont throw it all away with "I got you by your balls, and I will do anything I choose and there is nothing the customer can do" attitude. This customer walked out on you, and this customer will tell other customers and who knows the word might spread.

OsCommerce and Joy Of Fabrics:
Back in 2004, when my wife wanted to sell her fabric creations such as fabric vases, fabric bowls, fabric quilts, she teamed up with a buddy who charged her 40% for selling her products. So I stepped in, built a linux box, got an ssl cert, got OsCommerce working as her storefront. Joy of Fabrics had an online presence with very little startup costs. She did have some sales, but really lacked the PR and Marketting and the SEO push to take it to the next level.

On the technology side, while she could manage inventory and product uploads through the admin gui, I soon realized that this store might be better of in a hosted envrironment. I had really tweaked OsCommerce to get it where I wanted, but the tweaks were so numerous, that managing it, let alone porting it else where, would take some serious doing. Well, our move to Kalamazoo last summer, clinched it. Since then the Store has been in maintenance mode, until I got this note from Amazon Central saying they could host my site for $39.95 a month. So I jumped at the opportunity and you know the rest of the story. The silve lining was, I was now in a mode of getting things to work, so I picked up OsCommerce once again and should add that I am glad I did.

This time the key was to keep the mods down to the barest minimum: Install OsCommerce through simple scripts, Install the easy populate contribution, install the page editor contribution, install the PayPal express check out contribution/modification and finally the USPS shipping contribution/modification. I made sure to do all this in a test bed, so I can document and tune it down to a science. The Amazon Seller Central experience pushed me to tweaking OsCommerce to a "Not Magic Anymore" state. I will document the step by step shortly, hopefully others can take advantage of the experience. Yes folks, you can run an online store for just the cost of your hosting service. In my case, Bluehost costs $8 a month. Compare that to $99.99 a month for the Amazon Seller central attitude driven bad service.

Now if any one asks, why has Terry been so quiet these past few weeks, you know the answer.

Parting note:
Last night we went to watch Kalamazoo Kings baseball. Barb, Jen, Syd, Maya and Myself. We had good seats courtsey of Barb's financial planner. '

Well it was'nt wriggly field, but there is something magical about going to a sports stadium and being part of it.

Hope you are all having a great summer. If you came away with a silver lining, like I did, then it is all Okay in my book.

See you next week.


Denzil said...

Great you have started something as usual. Hope you finish it. Keep
it up Pasku.

Marilyn said...

Great writing. Keep it up..