Friday, January 23, 2009

Wired Hacked! Reports of Steve Jobs' Death are Highly Exaggerated

Wired Magazine's website reported Steve Jobs' death last night.

More accurately, a hacker who put the bogus article on Wired's site did.

Wired took down the fake article in under two hours, but rumors had already started.

(More at "Steve Jobs' illness sparks new round of death rumours" (January 24, 2009).) (The date isn't a typo: I'm in North America, they're in Australia.)

Aside from being a case in point for maintaining good Internet security - and keeping an eye on your websites anyway - this shows the good sense behind "trust, but verify."

Related post:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thought for the Day

Be like a Martian rock, roll into the wind.

Those robots that are exploring Mars found something odd. Rocks, lined up, that had been rolling into the prevailing winds. Martian Stonehenge? Somebody playing Mankala with Martian rules?

Nope. What researchers think happens is this: "Wind removes loose sand in front of the rocks, creating pits there and depositing that sand behind the rocks, creating mounds. The rocks then roll forward into the pits, moving into the wind. As long as the wind continues to blow, the process is repeated and the rocks move forward." ("Strange Rock Formations on Mars Explained" ( (January 9, 2009))

American retail electronics sales have been going down. So badly that Circuit City is closing its American stores. But one store's electronics sales have been growing.

Trends are Trends: Not Commands

The right decisions can make a business act like those Martian rocks: rolling into the wind.

Circuit City Closing American Stores - Canada Okay

This isn't good news for the 34,000 people who work (worked, rather) for Circuit City in America. And, it's at best a mixed bag for the rest of us.

In the long run, Circuit City liquidating 567 stores in America should mean more customers for other electronics retailers. In the short run, Circuit City's efforts to unload its remaining merchandise will probably drain customers away from them.

I suppose die-hard Circuit City customers south of the border could still shop at their favorite store: the hard way, going in person; or online. Circuit City says its 765 retail stores and dealer outlets in Canada aren't going anywhere.

Why Should I Care?

The number of soon-to-be-unemployed Circuit City employees is more than eight times the number of people who live in my town. That's a lot of paychecks that won't be coming in. On a personal level, I feel for the Circuit City folks, and the people who depend on them. This isn't going to be an easy time to find work.

It's also another indication that times are bad all over: even in Dubai. Construction on the Nakheel Harbour & Tower over there is on hold for a year.

Construction work in Dubai has even less to do with me and my enterprise than what's happening in American retail electronics, but the point is that very few people are feeling rich right now. Which means they'll be more sensible for their money.

And that's going to be a little tricky for me, since what I've focused on has been non-essential spending: like Minnesota for Web-Wise Travelers. Business travelers could use the links there, but Minnesota for Web-Wise Travelers is mostly geared for people looking for "Vacation Time Stuff."

Circuit City Liquidating: Bad News, But - - -

Unless something's changed in the last week, American national retail sales for electronics have been going down. With the exception of Wal-Mart.
And the Moral of This Story is - - -
Just because a national - or global - trend is going one way, doesn't mean that all businesses will go the same way. Wal-Mart is doing something different, so their electronics sales are growing.

The trick for me, and every other small business owner, will be to figure out which option for my little online empire isn't just different: but profitable.

(That seemed so profound when I thought of it: now that it's in print, not so much.)

Related post: In the news: Background:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Macy's Stores Closing, Retail Sales Plummeting, and Other Good News

This isn't the best time to be working for a south Florida Macy's, but there is a silver lining to what's going on. I think.

Retail Sales: Not Good News, Generally

A CNN Money article yesterday couldn't seem to get over how badly Wal-Mart was doing: Same-store sales in Wal-Marts were up a paltry 1.9%. Sam's Club's increase was only 0.1%. True enough, the growth in each case was disappointing: Growth last year was 2.6% and 1.3% respectively.

It could have been worse. Sears' same-store sales went down 7.3%, and Macy's sales wend down 4%. Which is probably why Macy's is closing eleven of its stores. (

Bad Year for Zircon-Studded Designer Jeans

Wal-Mart's sales were a mix of good news and bad news, according to
  • Good news
    • Grocery
    • Health and wellness
    • Electronics products
  • Bad news
    • Clothing
    • Jewelery
First, about the bad news: I'm no expert, but Wal-Mart may have goofed. Kathryn Finney, of, said: " 'The Wal-Mart brand embodies traits that men and women admire - realism, practicality, efficiency,' " which I agree with. She also said that Wal-Mart was getting more fashionable: " 'The store upped its style game, remodeling its women's apparel section and getting rid of product lines by corny C-list celebrities.' " (Argus Leader)

Maybe Wal-Mart would have been better off with less trendy fashions, and more product lines from those "corny C-list celebrities."

Now, about the good news: Grocery, health and wellness, and electronic products did fairly well this year. Groceries doing well isn't so surprising: everybody eats, and the recent economic troubles should have even the most highfalutin patrons of the retail food industry reviewing their buying habits. Americans (some of us, anyway) don't seem to have lost our interest in being healthy, and we still like electronic doodads and gizmos.

What Does Macy's and Wal-Mart Have to Do With Me?

As a consumer, my family does quite a bit of shopping at Wal-Mart. But, aside from giving me something to write about now and then for a blog and a journal, huge department store chains and my enterprise don't cross paths all that often.

I think there's something to learn here, though.

Macy's Stores Closing and PC Magazine No Longer in Print: This Could be the End of Civilization as We Know It!

That's "PC Magazine No Longer in Print" - not "PC Magazine Gone." PC Magazine is, as far as I can tell, still going strong at It's the print edition that's literally out of print. (Folio)

The point is, things are just the way they've been all my life: changing.

Black and white television gave way to color, and soon we'll be switching to all-digital television: or not.

Computers changed from room-filling behemoths with limited abilities to carry-along gizmos that can put you in touch with the world, help you do your taxes, and drive you to the ragged edge of insanity from time to time.

Change Happens: Deal With It

Or, better yet, embrace it.

Online shopping dropped by 2% this holiday season, compared to the last year's 22.4%. But e-commerce "showed the most resilience" of the retail sectors. (The Wall Street Journal)

There's something very interesting going on, assuming that The Wall Street Journal and are both dealing with a full deck. According to WSJ: "No retail sector was spared. Among the biggest losers were electronics and appliances, which fell a combined 26.7% versus a 2.7% gain last year...." According to, "Wal-Mart said sales of its grocery, health and wellness, and electronics products were strong in the month...."

Electronics are among the biggest retail losers.

Electronic products were part of what kept Wal-Mart's growth from slipping even more than it did.

My guess is that, overall, electronics retail sales tanked - except for the products at Wal-Mart.

I'm going out on a limb here, but I think it's reasonable to guess that people in general don't have as much money as they did last year - or are being more careful.

But, they still like electronics, and like to shop online.

I don't sell electronics, and don't plan to any time soon. But I have been looking into online retailing. Recent retail business news might be good news for me, since online retailing seems to be growing in the long term.

Now, to develop a viable product - and learn the nuts and bolts of online retail. I've found an interesting model to study: but that's for another post, to be written after I've actually learned something.

In the news: Blog post and discussion:
Update (January 16, 2009)

Circuit City is closing its American retail stores. My take on this: "Circuit City Closing American Stores - Canada Okay" (January 16, 2009).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Marketing Your Blog: Linkbaiting Advice

I did a micro-review of a short (165 word) piece of SEO advice on Apathetic Lemming of the North: "Linkbait SEO Insider Secrets! " (January 1, 2008).

The piece itself is "Linkbait Your Blog" (Wired (December 22, 2008).

The author left out 'good content,' but it's a useful, short, read.

("Following" list moved here, after Blogger changed formats)

Small Business Watchers