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E-Business Secrets
Brian Livingston
Attack tests America's leadership

Information technology professionals will play a crucial role in the coming months as calls are made for an increase in electronic surveillance and an escalating spiral of military retaliation. Let us all pray for an end to attacks on civilians by any nation or group, and let us all work toward ending violence by understanding the grievances that lead to it. My first few News Picks in this issue are devoted to the impact IT professionals will feel in the aftermath of America's worst terrorist attack.

-- Brian Livingston

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Survey results are in

I've tallied all the votes of E-Business Secrets readers, and the outcome is reported immediately following the News Picks section in this issue.

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Housing service gets its web site right

By Brian Livingston

There are times when a personal experience on the Internet will reveal several Web sites that aren't ready for prime time, but one or two others that are definite examples of how to do it right.

I had such an experience recently when I suddenly needed to find a temporary apartment in Germany. My wife, artist Margie Livingston, had just been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study artworks there, and we needed a place for her to live while I shuttled between the United States and Berlin during her project.

Because we know no one in Germany, our housing search was frustratingly slow until I happened across the German word for a temporary housing agency. By using to search for "mitwohnzentrale" and "berlin," I was quickly able to find the Web sites of 14 such businesses.

Unfortunately, the e-mails I sent to the addresses given by those sites produced disappointing results:

-- Only 5 of the 14 companies responded at all

-- Only 3 companies sent useful examples of rentals

-- One company sent me a blurry, 20-page fax in German

The exception was a company called City-Mitwohnzentrale, the Web site of which should be studied by other e-commerce practitioners for its practicality and usefulness.

The company's search page, which is available in both English and German versions, allows you to specify the desired size, price, and lease period of the rental housing you're seeking. The list of results includes maps of each property's location and, in most cases, sharp digital photos of each of its rooms.

None of this is a particularly novel use of HTML, but what struck me was how few of the other housing agencies were capable of even this. As a result, Margie and I ultimately paid a fee of $660 to City -- 165 percent of the first month's rent on a lease of several months. It's a high fee, but we were glad to pay it because City found us a perfect little apartment. The lease was completed in less than five days -- all by e-mail and fax.

Sarah Hardy, a City executive, says the company's database, established on the Web in 1999, responds to 13,000 searches on a typical day. She declined, however, to reveal the percentage of business that originates online as opposed to people phoning or walking in. Whatever the figure is, it's enough to support a Web site that provides a valuable service and one that people are willing to pay a premium to use.

City-Mitwohnzentrale search page in English:

Information on Margie's Fulbright project:

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E-business technology review: 128MB memory cards

Is your digital camera, PDA, or MP3 player getting a little cramped for space? Digital memory cards with 128MB capacity have fallen as low as $65 with new manufacturers' rebates that are now available. This goes for both of the common formats: CompactFlash and SmartMedia. Might be time to upgrade.



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Livingston's top 10 news picks o' the week

1. How Sept. 11 will affect the Web, e-mail, and privacy

2. Cell phones failed, but the Net offered a lifeline

3. The best analysis I've seen of the attack's origins

4. "You cannot preserve freedom by eliminating it"

5. A view from outside the United States that may help Americans

6. Projections for e-commerce are declining temporarily

7. Report shows which business models work on the Web

8. Banking sites look to e-commerce to recapture share

9. HTML tips: How to capture a keystroke and respond

10. The top reasons consumers will revisit your Web site

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Survey winners: Top story, news picks, tech review

More than 1,400 people -- almost 3 percent of my 55,000 readers -- responded to the invitation in my Aug. 30 issue to answer a single question: Which of this newsletter's five sections (some of which appear intermittently) do you find the most interesting/useful? The clear choices were the Top Story, News Picks, and Technology Review:

Votes Percent Section

478 33% Top Story

386 27% News Picks o' the Week

341 24% E-Business Technology Review

188 13% "You Can't Do That on the Web!" Page

048 03% E-Business Book Review

As a result of your responses, I plan to concentrate on the winning three sections and de-emphasize the other two. I'll still include the two less-popular sections periodically, however, whenever I discover information that my readers will find especially useful.

My thanks to everyone who responded, and particularly those who sent thoughtful comments that will help me make E-Business Secrets even more relevant to your interests. Here's a sampling:

J.C. Marsden, "I would like to see more stories and examples of how others have made the Web work for them, how they solved their problems, and what new opportunities they have created. Your 'Consultant's Site Grosses $190,000 a Year via Tipping' is a great example."

Carol Lapp, "The [News] Picks usually point me to something I find interesting for myself or to share with others in my department that I wouldn't necessarily have time to locate and identify on my own."

Tim Paul, "As a professor at Montana State University-Great Falls, I am constantly looking for resources that go beyond the 'Techy' into the 'Application' domain, where what [my students] learn in their tech classes can be applied in 'real world' situations. This newsletter fills a big gap."

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E-business secrets: Our mission is to bring you such useful and thought-provoking information about the Web that you actually look forward to reading your e-mail.

About the author: E-Business Secrets is written by InfoWorld contributing editor Brian Livingston. Research Director is Ben Livingston (no relation). Brian has published 10 books, including:

Windows Me Secrets:

Windows 2000 Secrets:

Win a book free if you're the first to send a tip Brian prints:

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