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Netbank: Online Banking goes Offline. Permanently.

If you think sub-prime mortgage defaults can’t effect you, think again. At first reading, I thought this was a bad joke:

The Office of Thrift Supervision closed down NetBank Inc. (NTBK) a thrift with $2.5 billion in assets, and appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as receiver.

But it’s not a joke. The online bank I’ve been using for almost a decade is reduced to this:


On September 28, 2007, NetBank, Alpharetta, GA was closed by the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named Receiver. No advance notice is given to the public when a financial institution is closed.

The FDIC has assembled useful information regarding your relationship with this institution. Besides a checking account, you may have Certificates of Deposit, a business checking account, a Social Security direct deposit, and other relationships with the institution.

The NetBank web site will be closed from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm EST, on September 28th and will reopen in a read only mode. Normal online services will be restored in the early evening Sunday, September 30th.

To read more about this event please select the link below:

FDIC Bank Closing Information for NetBank

Frankly, under the circumstances I find the “Connect with your money” slogan rather comical. I guess fixing it is the last thing on their mind.

NetBank isn’t wasn’t some shaky Web 2.0 outfit, it’s been (well, appeared to) a solid bank for 10 years. They pioneered the concept of “brickless”, internet-only bank long before online transactions became the norm. I switched to them because at the time they were the only bank offering decent integration with both Quicken and Microsoft Money.

Now as a final act, they offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience: I’ve never seen a bank failure up close, personally. I guess I will soon (?) find out just “FDIC insured” means. I can’t even think of further implications now, but they can’t be good. We’re heading into shaky times.

Update: Peach Pundit wins the Best Title Award: NetBank becomes NotBank.

Update (9/29): Not everyone reads Friday afternoon news releases, but many do their online banking on the weekend. Or at least they try – now the Netbank failure is being noticed:

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Is THIS Health 2.0?

Meet Dr. Jay Parkinson, MD. Not in his office – your home, or online. Sign up on the web, make appointments via a Google Calendar, receive housecalls, have him help manage specialist, x-ray, lab, pharmacy costs, all for $500 annually – no insurance required.

Browsing through his site feels a lot more like surfing a Web 2.0 service than a physician’s site. He blogs, too, and is becoming somewhat of a celebrity.

If this is not Health 2.0, I don’t know what is.

(hat tip: Jonathan Nolen)

Update (4/7/2009) Looks like Dr. Parkinson is no longer on his own: he teamed up with several physicians and launched Hellohealth along the same principles.

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Google Became Royalty

First Google got knighted, when the Oxford English Dictionary included Google as a verb.

Now they are celebrating their 9th or 10th Birthday on September 4th or September 7th or September 15th or September 27th. That’s how I know they’ve become Royalty. After all, if Her Majesty can move her birthday around, so can Google.

Update: I’m declaring my … hm .. 21st birthday all year round. Feel free to send gifts. cake

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Civility

This isn’t. smile_sad

Update: Bloggers seem to agree.

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My Move from Blogware to WordPress

It’s been over two months now, so I figure it’s now or never that I chronicle my migration from Blogware to WordPress.

After getting my feet wet in Google’s Blogger over two years ago, I read a post by Des Walsh on why Blogharbor was a great service for a non-techie blogger, which inspired me to do some research, and to switch to Blogharbor. Blogware (by Tucows, marketed through resellers, of which Blogharbor is likely the best) was cutting edge at the time: the ability to drag-and-drop custom components into columns, header, footer gave it flexibility long before WordPress started supporting widgets.

After a year or so I got bored of my layout and was looking for a new template. I wanted a more minimalist one, with flexible width and was surprised to find there were only rigid columnar designs.

Lesson #1: It pays to go with the market leader, especially if it’s open source. WordPress has a thriving ecosystem, with countless themes, widgets, plugins, while Blogware has none. Zero. Only those provided by Tucows, where time seems to have stopped.

Tucows seemed to have abandoned Blogware: no new features, and even bug fixes became rather sporadic. We were struggling with a rather manual spam-filtering process, and system availability has become worse and worse.

We had been using Blogware of Tucows till now, but it has been very limiting in terms of functionality. Besides, Blogware has been experiencing several bugs making it impossible to continue with that service. – says VC Circle.

When your resellers are leaving your platform that should be your first clue that you aren’t getting it right. Over the years I’ve dealt with all kinds of silliness from Blogware… However I hate using any type of support services. They normally are an exercise in aggravation and you have to play the back and forth game… You never know what may or may not work with Blogware on any given day… Blogware service could become a major player with some effort. To me it seems as if no one at the company wants to make that effort…The company doesn’t seem to want to support the product. So why not just give up and call it a failure? – says a clearly very aggravated customer who’d still rather not move.

Soon I saw some “big names” leave Blogware and find their new home at WordPress: Chris Pirillo, Tris Hussey, just to name two. And what does it say of Blogware when their former sales manager switches to WordPress?

But as tempted as I was, I was still not ready to jump ship, for one huge reason: the absolutely extraordinary, personalized support I received from Blogharbor. Owner John Keegan always went out of his way and provided support way beyond what could be expected, often not even related to Blogware. I simply wasn’t ready to give up such support and find myself “out in the wild”, especially not after reading about the migration difficulties Chris, Tris and others experienced. So I sat tight…or should I say I kept procrastinating?

Finally, the solution came from the very same support I did not want to leave behind: Blogharbor’s owner decided to venture in the WordPress hosting business, and opened up Pressharbor to a few test customers. The decision was a no-brainer. smile_wink.

Now, since I’ve talked so much about why I left WordPress, I’m sure you expect a description of the actual migration process. I’m afraid I’ll disappoint: the migration was a non-event. I made the call, and two days later my blog was up an running on WordPress. Old posts, comments, trackbacks, pictures – Pressharbor took care of it. My main concern was not to lose links, trackbacks to old posts: while Blogware had their own cryptic permalink structure, on WordPress I am using the SEO-friendly title-based permalink formula. Pressharbor set up 301 redirects for every single of my old posts, and in a few days I saw Google reindex all and point to the new permalinks.

Of course there were glitches, but again, Pressharbor dealt with them, and the few remaining issues are not bad enough to keep me at Blogware’s dying service. A few of these issues:

  • Comment author names do not come through, so old comments all look like written by “Anonymous”. I did not make a big deal out of this: on a one by one basis when I link back to an older post, I’ll fix the comments belonging to those. (Unlike Blogware, WordPress allows me to edit comments, and I’ve kept an offline reference copy of the old blog)
  • Probably due to time zone settings, a few of my old posts that were timestamped close to midnight had discrepancies in the new permalink, and this caused the 301 redirect to not find the converted post. Pressharbor fixed all these.
  • Duplicate message body. This was a weird one, and took a while to find the reason. If the original Blogware post contained an excerpt, WordPress appended the excerpt to the message body, causing redundancy.

There may have been other glitches, but generally there were few, and with the exception of the “anonymous” comments, Pressharbor fixed all of them.

One lasting, unpleasant side-effect of the migration was losing my Technorati authority. It was close to 600 prior to the migration, and immediately after it went into a free-fall. Several bloggers think Techno Ratty does not follow 301 redirects well, and there is no authoritative answer, since they don’t bother responding on their user forum. Not that it matters a lot: Technorati is slowly but surely falling apart and becoming irrelevant anyway. (Update: while I’m writing this, today my authority started dropping again, to the tune of 40 points in a matter of a few hours).

Last, but not least, first impressions of a WordPress user. Whoa… this is liberating… confusing .. scary. Blogharbor converts, coming from a very limited but full-service world will find the whole concept of plesk, site management, FTP … etc overwhelming – I know I did. But choice is great. Being the picky guy I am, I did not like the dozen or so default themes, and finally settled on Genkitheme, a three-column, fluid, lightweight theme by ericulous. Back in those days Eric, the author used the same theme, his blog was a regular free blog, and he went the extra mile (or two) to offer free support to his users. Perhaps too much… so he ended up converting the blog into a more commercial site and is now offering support for a fee ( man’s gotta eat…).

Widgets were and still are somewhat of a disappointment. It was easier to install them on Blogharbor as “custom components”. But considering the increased supply, it’s a good balance, after all.

The flexibility of changing your blog’s behavior via plugins is great – but there is a jungle out there. There are far too many poorly documented plugins that do not correctly specify up to which WordPress release they work. Part of the problem was being ahead of the curve: while it’s generally not a good idea to go live on “alpha” software, ate Pressharbor we started to use WordPress 2.3 (then alpha) from day 1, to avoid converting twice in a short time. Since 2.3 brings about major table changes (categories, tags), it breaks a lot of plugins, in fact most of the themes I tested also produce database errors. The ecosystem is not quite ready for 2.3 – I hope it will change in the weeks to come. Oh, well: no update, broken plugins, tag conversion or even upgrade party here – I’m all done.

Summary: I’m here and I like it. I’m a WordPress fan now. If you’d like a full-featured WordPress blog, i.e. want more power than wordpress.com offers, but don’t want the hassle of running it yourself, check out Pressharbor. You’ll get the best service you can. thumbs_up

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Reminds Me of *My* Manager

I found this photo via Reddit:

The original blog title: Reminds me of my manager.  Hm… it reminds me of *my* manager a decade ago, VP at a Very Big Very Blue company, who had his secretary fax his incoming email after him to whichever hotel he stayed at, then he scribbled his response on the fax, had the hotel fax it back to his secretary who finally typed it back in email and responded using her boss’s account. 

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Wiki: the Beauty & the Beast. Usability & Functionality (Event)

Silicon Valley Web Builder will host a wiki-focused event tomorrow, Wednesday. While their first wiki event almost a year ago with JotSpot, Socialtext , Atlassian and WetPaint was more introductory, this time the focus will be on – surprise! – the contrast or harmony of Beauty- i.e. attractive UI, vs. the Beast – functional robustness.

The Moderator for tomorrow is Luke Wroblewski, Yahoo’s design guru who has authored a book on Web interface design principles titled “Site-Seeing: A Visual Approach to Web Usability” and is working on thee next one: “Web Form Design Best Practices”.

The Panelists are:

It’s definitely an interesting mix. Playing a bit with the metaphor, I’d say market leader Atlassian is known as the “beast”: whatever enterprise wiki functionality you can think of, their Confluence will likely have it.

Wetpaint got popular for the “beauty” – that’s why I called it the wiki-less wiki. It’s a most user-friendly self-publishing tool that allows anyone to create a site and transform it into an online community. Incidentally, the SV Web Builder site is built on Wetpaint.

Brainkeeper, a user-friendly enterprise wiki startup took me by surprise when they launched in January. Totally out of left field, they aim to be the beast like Confluence and the beauty like Wetpaint, with twists not seen in wikis, like workflow. I’m really looking forward to seeing how far they’ve got since launch.

MindTouch is transforming the Wiki from the Web’s best collaborative authoring tool into an open source service platform with a Wiki heart. Their Deki Wiki Hayes release is perhaps the most extendable Wiki tool available today.” I had to steal that line from Read/WriteWeb, I couldn’t have said it any bettr – oh, and congrat’s on reaching the 100,000 user mark!

Zoho is not a pure-play wiki player. Their wiki is just a part of a productivity/collaboration suite, and it shows. Beauty? The UI needs improvement, but this is the only wiki with not just simple a WYSIWYG editor, but a full word processor that writes true html, not wiki syntax. Beast? I think the emphasis here will not be on the standalone product, but how well it integrates with other Zoho offerings, supporting a flow-oriented world that matches how we think.

It will no doubt be an interesting event, so please check out the site details, and remember, admission is free if you register online, but $10 at the door. See you tomorrow.

Related posts: Laughing Squid, Lunch 2.0, Functioning Form, Mindtouch, Brainkeeper, Wetpaint, Zoho blogs, Centernetworks.

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Tired of Repeatedly Signing in to Mybloglog

windowslivewritertiredofrepeatedlysigningintomybloglog-11c08mybloglog.jpg

mybloglog The time has come, Mybloglog is now forcing the use of a Yahoo id. This came out of the blue to me, at least the Flickr merger went more gracefully, with ample warning for a long time. OK, it’s not that bad … except that I’ve just logged in for the fourth time today. My login does not stick! Leigh calls it the Yahoothanization of Mybloglog – I call it a **** up. :-(

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Windows-less Computers? Is it Really a Good Idea?

CNet reports that “the Globalization Institute, a Brussels-based European Union think tank, has recommended the EU require all PCs to be sold without preloaded operating systems such as Microsoft Windows.”

The recommendation is for PCs and Operating Systems to be sold separately, breaking Microsoft’s monopoly, increasing competition. I’m not exactly a Microsoft-fan, in fact just recently responded to Robert Scoble who asked: Why doesn’t Microsoft get the love?:

…just look at the examples above. There are a lot more. They all show a corporate culture that does not have the customer in focus. It’s hard to love such a company, no matter how great many of the individual employees are.

So, I guess it’s time to celebrate, the EU would finally break the monopoly. And we’ll be free to buy our hardware, OS, Software all separately, trying to get it all work together. No big deal … after all, no-one ever had to hassle with non-working device drivers even with the pre-installed, pre-configured systems? But wait, it gets better:

There is no reason why computer operating systems could not follow the same model as computer hard drives and processors, which comply with standards that allow for broad compatibility as well as competition in the market.

Now, this is a pretty poor analogy: as far as I know, the hard drive and processor come installed in the computer – or are they suggesting the EU mandate unbundling those, too? We could just buy the PC components separately, and assemble it ourselves. Hey, I have a friend who never buys complete systems, he loves building them. Oh, and he fixes his car, too.

But me, well, I happen to be the lazy consumer type, expecting these things to work out-of-the-box. Preferably one box. Answering my own questions: yes, selling windows-less computers is probably a good idea, but only to the extent there is a market demand for them. Certainly not mandated by governments.

Related posts: Michael Gartenberg, Geek Speaker, BetaNews, TECH.BLORGE.com , Macsimum News

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Yes, the Enterprise Software World Changed Today

Yesterday I went out on a limb predicting that SAP’s new On-Demand mid-market offering, codenamed A1S will be a game-changer. ZDNet quoted my conclusion:

My bet is on SAP: they may stumble a number of times, which will effect their quarterly numbers – but in the end, I believe they will succeed. They will become the dominant SaaS player in the mid-market, forcing smaller players like NetSuite down-market. In the next 2-3 years while SAP flexes their On-demand muscles, we’ll see just how pervasive SaaS proves in the large corporate market, and that will determine whether A1S remains a midmarket solution or becomes the foundation of SAP’s forey into that market – their natural home base.

This was the day before the announcement. This morning my fellow Enterprise Irregulars jokingly asked: “Has the world of Enterprise Software really changed?’ We did not know the answer than, but now we do: Yes. SAP Business ByDesign is really a game changer. Key reasons:

  • Breadth of functionality
  • Fixed, Trasnparent pricing (which, I might add will put the squeeze on Salesforce.com ad NetSuite)
  • All this coming from SAP, the recognized leaders in automating business processes.

I will soon have more details, but suffice to say the Enterprise Irregulars contingent here came to the same conclusions. Here are the initial reactions:

ZDnet/Software, Rough Type, Redmonk, Computerworld, WSJ.com, ZDNet/IT Project Failures, The Ponderings of Woodrow, ZDNet/Software as a Service, Between the Lines,

Photo: the Enterprise Irregulars with Henning Kagermann, SAP CEO. Credit: Prashanth Rai