Sears.com offline -When technology doesn’t work and the role of a webmaster

I was going to avoid the Black Friday lines and go online to do some shopping at sears.com.  When my browser reported a “404″ error (page not found), I assumed my home Internet connection was down.  How could Sears.com be offline on one of the busiest shopping days of the year?  Quickly checking Google.com, Yahoo.com, Broadlook.com…all online, I ruled out me having a bad Internet connection.  So I tried Sears.com again and got this page:

Sears.com offline

For those IT recruiters out there: someone could use a new webmaster.

Now I am forgiving, I tried every 15 minutes and I got into the site 2 hours later.  I was catching up on emails so I had time.  I am curious how many sales they lost?  I was looking for replacement parts for my grill, so I was locked to sears.  Those people who might have been comparison shopping, I can’t see them waiting around.

This made me think about a webmasters role.  What should it be?  Should the person that let this happen be fire?  Did they get hacked? I’ve seen cases and experienced it personally when a webmaster is a hindrance to getting things done.  A webmasters role should be to execute the vision and orders of executive management.  In the case of Sears.com, I would think a good shopping experience would be paramount. Oh, and no down time. Period.  “Look kid, we go down and your fired.  This is Chicago kid-o,  lose me a million and it’s cement shoes for you.”

Downtime for a retail organization is equated to loss of business and perhaps death of business. 

The role of a webmaster at a company like sears is not all that different from a small company like Broadlook.  However the “webmaster” at sears is most likely an entire team of people.  I’ve noticed some trends.  The single and small operators maintain tight controls over their websites.  The messaging is usually concise and it reflects the founding philosophy of the company.   As a company grows to the size where a second level of management is introduced, I’ve noticed those companies move away in their core messaging.  This is to be expected, that first level of management is removing some workload from the founding executives.  There are many areas that would be better served for middle management.  Messaging is not one of them.  Later, as a company grows to have an experience executive in charge of messaging, the web messaging moves reflects the original vision or even improves on it.

Until now, I had no idea where this sears post was going.  I do now. It is sort of a self autopsy on working with my own webmaster, past and present. For me, each of my blogs is a personal journey of discovery. If they were not, then I am writing for everyone else and not myself.  I am not that giving.   This blog is for me and my discovery process, first and foremost.   If others read and get something out of it, great.  If they don’t, that’s ok because I’m learning here. 

Regarding my working with a webmaster, in the past, I failed.  My autopsy tells me that it is management’s role to convey with clarity what is expected of the webmaster and the website.  I did not do this.  That was my mistake. The same mistake that I see happening at many growing companies.  Time to change.

Continue reading Sears.com offline -When technology doesn’t work and the role of a webmaster

Permutations & planning. How to use a search engine

Google is fast.  It fits pop culture.  Sit down, brainstorm on a topic. Type some keywords and get results.  You’ve all done it 100’s, and maybe 1000’s of times.

Here is a secret.  Slow down cowboy.  Plan your search.  Use a low tech solution…it’s called paper.  Plan, get your ideas down on paper, then search.

Occasionally, I drop into a client training session when a new client is getting their one on one training on Broadlook’s tools.   In this case, the client was looking to use our Diver software to find a Benefits Administrator from a local company.  They were not out trolling resume boards, they were targeting a specific company.

For those who have forgotten, it’s called direct recruitment. 

Continue reading Permutations & planning. How to use a search engine

Original inspiration vs rewrites

This is my 2nd posting today. Why?  I crashed my computer after completing my last blog.  Gone, lost, bye bye.   So I had to rewrite the entire posting.  I’ve been working with computers since I was 15 years old, so with nearly 30 years of writing with computers, I am no stranger to crashes and loss.  One of my first jobs as a software engineer was working for a company that did real time backups.

What made this blog, this writing, stick in my mind more than others in the past?  The packers were winning, the baby was crying and my two older children were louder than the loudest sales rep at Broadlook (that is loud).  The fact that I could get anything done today was an accomplishment.  So I was proud to get anything done at all.  When I lost it, I had to do a rewrite.

The rewrite took 1/4 the time that the original post took.  The writing wasn’t as good.

This made me think of how important backups are.  As I think back over the years, when I lost something in a crash, the rewrites were never as good.  I’m not talking about revisions.  Revisions can be much much better.  A true rewrite is starting from scratch; you don’t have your orginal thoughts and inspiration, it tends to lack something.  In addition, rewriting, after you lost your original, seems more like work than inspiration.  Maybe that is why I am writing this post.  I can’t end the evening with a rewrite.

I’d love to hear the experiences of others.  Orginal inspiration vs. rewrites..what are the attributes of each?

Idea for Google Android(GPhone): no ring zone

After reading about the new Google Android cell phone platform (the Gphone), it rekindled an idea that I had at a conference some time ago.  Turns out there is no “phone” behind the gPhone.  Instead it is an open source platform for cell phones.

About 2 years ago, I was a member of  a technology panel at a recruiting conference.  While one of my fellow panelist was finishing answering a question, a cell phone started ringing in the audience. 

On most panels, audience questions naturally get directed to the right person; the panel learns quicky how to use each others expertise and take or defer questions as needed.

I got a question right after the cell phone rang.  The specifics of the question, I do not remember. It was something about how to apply the right mix of technology in a recruitment process (right up my alley).   A cell phone ringing 10 minutes after the event MC asked everyone to turn their phones off perturbed me.

With microphone in hand, I addressed the crowd. “I’m wondering if the people in the audience today heard the announcement about turning off cell phones. It is quite disturbing for the people on stage.  I guess I don’t understand it.  In the last 30 minutes, I’ve heard 4 cell phones.”  Several people noticibly slinked down in their seats…most likely the offenders.  The crowd was expecting that I was going to chastise them all. 

In reality, I had an idea that I wanted to share with the audience:  The no ring zone.  The topic of the panel was technology in recruitment. 

Here is a general idea of what I said

“We’ve been talking about the right application of technology and when to apply it.  Here is a perfect example.  What if there was a device set at the door of this conference, that when passed by, set cell phones to vibrate only?  Call it a no ring zone.  In high schools around the country, cell phones are being banned.  As a parent, I want my children to be able to reach me and I want to be able to reach them.  What if this same device could set high schools to parent only ring zones?”

I got a good deal of nodding heads, and a few emails from people over the last year about this idea.  I’ve had good conversations about it and it always ends up with our agreement that unless there was some unifying standard behind the cell phones, we wouldn’t be seeing this feature any time soon.

Now that Google has the Android platform, we just need some developer to create a single application, make it free, and market it to speakers, conferences, high schools and parents. Not a bad little market.

List of Applicant Tracking Vendors – 4 hour taxonomy

At least 3-4 times per week, I get asked by recruiters for my recommendation of  a preferred Applicant tracking system.  In addition, another top question I am asked is for an example of how Broadlook’s software can be used in a real life recruiting, sales, or research process.   Broadlook partners with many ATS vendors, so we do not recommend any one vendor. We will, however, provide a short list of 4-5 vendors based on what we know about the clients needs.

I’ve seen several recruiting industry “lists” of ATS vendors by various publications.  The tone of the articles is typically one of inclusivity and completeness.  This is far from accurate.  Vendors get on the list by paying.  Some vendors with great technology don’t make those lists.  So I thought I would use Broadlook’s software tools to make my own list.  

About the list.  Total time to create this list: 4 hours.

Methodology used:

1. Broadlook’s Market Mapper to create the initial list of companies

2. Broadlook’s Profiler to scan the companies and pull out “descriptive paragraphs”

3. About 1 hour of manual editing

Any recruiter who is looking to build a list of companies in a niche industry goes through a laborious process of search engines queries, manual selection and cut & paste.  To put a list like this together manually would take about 2 weeks.  I was able to create this list in 4 hours…and during 2.5 of those hours the software was working alone.  So the net was 1.5 hours of my time to create a list that had not existed before.  Is it the definitive list? No.  There will always be some holes in 100% automated processing.  However, for those recruiters building lists of companies the old way in some niche, from scratch.  Game over.  I’ll beat you every time.  I’ll be on the phone talking to passive canidates on day 2.  In every phone call I’ll sound like I know every major player in their space.  I’ll pick up several more job orders along the way and I’ll be sending candidates to multiple companies in similar spaces.  Damn I wish I had this tool when I was recruiting.  Now I can only live vicariously via my clients that give us high fives at recuiting conferences.   For those of you who attended NAPS, thank you for stopping by the booth.

With the amazing success we’ve had with DIVER, I’ve been thinking about releasing a trial version of Market Mapper v3 when it is released (tool used to create the list).  Here is the challenge: it is a POWER users tool.  I’d welcome feedback from the community on the nature of getting a tool like this out.  One thought I had is to have a mandatory training webinar.  If you attend the webinar and learn how to use it, you get the trial.   Feedback please.  BTW.. Market Mapper version 3 rocks!  Those who are fans will love the latest version. Nuff said…here is the Applicant tracking vendor list

http://www.broadlook.com/research/applicant_tracking_vendor_list