Online Usages and Practices

Subject: Online Usages and Practices
From: Herman Holtz <holtz -at- CLARK -dot- NET>
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 1995 11:28:38 -0500

Herman Holtz
P.O. Box 1731
Wheaton, MD 20915
Tel: 301-649-2499 Fax: 301-649-5745
CompuServe: 71640,563 Email: holtz -at- clark -dot- net
____________________________________________________________________
A REPORT ON ONLINE USAGE FOR
PROFESSIONAL AND BUSINESS PURPOSES

I conducted an informal survey on the Internet, CompuServe, and
other online facilities, presenting the following explanation and
invitation to respond:

I am investigating the use of online facilities for business
purposes by consultants. That would include marketing, communication
with clients, research, delivery of reports or products, and any other
online activity as part of one's consulting practice.

I promised to report my findings, and I am doing so here.
Although I would wished for a greater amount of input, I did draw some
interesting and useful reports. The number of responses was not great
enough to enable a statistical analysis, so my report is in the form of
the resposnes themselves, although I have stripped them of respondents'
identities, since I did not ask permission to publicize these. However,
the report is not so large as to make for laborious reading, I hope.

One conclusion is obvious: Communication--email--appears to be
the most popular business usage of online connections, although some use
it for transmitting products. Writers, for example, use online
facilities for sending their manuscripts to their editors.

Computer programmers appear to find using CompuServe to send
their products much more expensive than alternative means of
transmittal, and do not think Internet a viable way to send products.

The responses follow:


I'm using CompuServe mail messages on other forums to attract
discussions which may lead to business. I follow up on inquiries and
have negotiated at least one "deal". I haven't used the Internet,
mainly because I'm not patient enough to navigate and go elbow-to-elbow
with the flamers and academics. (I spent a lot of time reading Internet
messages while my husband worked on his Ph.D.)


Herm,
Off hand I use on-line (CIS & the net) to communicate with a couple of
clients & an association I am involved with as well as to deliver
products.


Actually one client I had got some of their updates of the program
through CIS. However, this was based on the fact they needed them
yesterday. If they needed them in a day or two it was cheaper to go
FedEx.

Of course as CIS lowers some of its rates, this will become more
possible, but right now it can at times be more expensive to send stuff
through CIS than to FedEx it. Of course FedEx cannot compete with the
fact that this program update can be to them in 30 minutes. While it
may still be checper to use a direct computer to computer connect via
modem to transfer files, the CIS method does mean that one or the other
party involved can be doing something else.



I use it some, but I will still say my biggest gain from Internet is the
interchange between others.

My main use of Internet is for E-Mail and with one client I could simply
log onto their machine and do the same, but it turns out to be more
convient to do it through Internet since their phones lines are quite
often tied up. But do to protocols, etc. I still have to do file
tranfers directly to them and cannot use Internet for this.



Hi, Herm. I've been trying to convince more of my clients who aren't
online to reconsider, but I've found it to be much easier to work online
with people who are already used to it. It is a great time-saver and
it's much easier for most people to upload a file to CIS, for instance,
than send it directly to my modem. And there's no exorbitant
long-distance charge for international clients.

We use online facilities extensively. Our company, zone one, designs,
installs and maintains online systems for companies. In brief we use
online services for:

Advertising Marketing Public Relations Technical Support Product Updates

Our own staff works in a "virtual office". Our main programmer is 45
miles away in Newport Beach.

When a customer leaves a tech support message on our bbs it is
automatically for warded via the internet to his site where he will in
turn work on the problem and if necessary send out and update.

If you would like any additional information please let me know.




Even Socks-the-cat is on the Internet now. Internet e-mail and WWW are
great ways for communicating with clients, assuming that they are
already integrated the Internet into their workplace. Most companies in
my area (Silicon Valley) heavily use the Internet for business
communication.



Herman,

I find the Internet to be extremely useful. While I use CompuServe for
my daily e-mail, trolling the Usenet newsgroup job lists has provided me
with one client who I just this past month billed for $14K. Of course,
I sort the wheat from the chaff, staying clear of the brokers.

My clients are often high-tech companies who are Internet-savy, with a
direct Internet connection. I routinely use FTP for high-speed file
transfer with them. If they're not on the Internet, then I use
CompuServe, which works well in a pinch.

New high-level, integrated browsers, "NetScape" in particular, are
making information access on the Internet much easier and user-friendly.
I've used the Internet "before" (dumb terminal interface) and "after",
and the difference is truly awesome. I'm in the process of setting up a
WWW home page, which I'll have operational in about 3 weeks. It will
include a useful primer on object-oriented programming (my specialty),
rather than being just a bald-faced promotion! I figure that for the
relatively modest price of this service, why not give it a try?

Consultants are at various levels, with various skill sets, so there's
no standard methodology. But personally, I ignore all postings which
look like forms (the vast majority of them). I don't want to reach a
secretary or underling, or a recruiter. I want to reach the person who
can actually give me the contract, and on my terms. This automatically
rules out the biggest companies, unfortunately.

Of course, all the usual cautions apply about contract terms, knowing
who you're working for, etc.!



Herm,

How do I use CIS for marketing? A few ways, listed here in order from
most effective to least effective.

1. Lurk on forums dedicated to technical or professional discussions in
my areas of expertise (multimedia development), watching for messages
from people looking for freelance help.

2. Lurk on this forum, watching for same.

3. Respond to technical questions on the forums mentioned in #1.

4. Post PR material about myself into forum libraries.

Of these, I've gotten clients from methods 1, 2, and 3, although both 3
and 4 seem to bring mostly inquiries without much substance or else
people looking for free advice. Now I certainly don't mind giving some
free advice here, because I treat the technical forums as very valuable
resources and I believe in giving as good as I get, if possible. But it
hasn't proven to be particularly effective as marketing.

Is this the kind of information you're looking for?

Regarding the Internet, I'd be very interested in knowing what effective
marketing strategies you hear about. I'll be watching this thread, but
if you get anything privately, perhaps you'll be able to share the
essentials here.




I bought and read your book on how to succeed as an independent
consultant. Great Job! When I recognized your name - I thought I would
take a moment to respond - and hopefully provide you with some valuable
information - as I have certainly benefited from the information you
have provided me!

1. I use the internet for keeping up professionally in my area of
expertise - ie I subscribe to various listservs dedicated to Education,
Education Research, Call for Papers, Publication of Annual Conventions,
Trade Shows etc... I would label this one-way communication - It's
posted, I read it - act upon the information independently.

2. I communicate - either in group or one-on-one fashion with peers,
specialized professionals (like your self) etc... I would label this
two-way communication.

3. I lurk on several techical newsgrous, home pages etc... to
continually expand my technical/technology backgroud. In particular, I
like reading the ORACLE and SYBASE boards - it helps me get a feel for
both products - limitation, common problems, fixes etc... Addtionally,
I subscribe to any press release or information sharing depot such as
MicroSoft's newly created Windows95 area - in general keeping up
technically.

4. I keep myself entertained with such areas as ALT.FISHING and
REC.AVIATION.PILOTING. I find by visiting these areas of interest -
just briefly - I'm refreshed, have usually answered the problem that was
in the back of my mind - and am ready to go again!

I guess the bottom line is communication, information, entertainment and
above all - resources. Whether it is downloading information from a gov
bbs on employment stats to reviewing ads for an idea of what compaines
are willing to pay for specific skill sets - it's all about the
collection of information and using that information to your best
advantage.




We are developing an online consulting service for small and medium
sized businesses using Small Business Connects* which is an online
service for small business. Our plan is to use the online technology to
provide the back-of-the-house efficiencies then to move into a
relationship context which incorporates interactive technology with
consulting services.

I am interested in what you have learned from your research which may
assist us.




> I have found newsgroups like a.c.c. and
uk.consultants invaluable sources of information and support from (more
or less) like-minded folk.

Email has just *got* to be a benefit for business. I send out many
messages a day, all over the world, for the cost of a five-minute local
call (about 15 pence in sterling). I couldn't send snail mail anything
like that cheaply or quickly. Less reliable? Maybe, but I'm not aware of
losing anything yet.

I have been collaborating in a writing project via the Net. This has
been very successful, with one proviso - there is no substitute for face
to face discussions at some point in a development (of documents or
software)project. It is just so much easier and quicker to clear up
problems.

On delivery of products, I have both delivered and received software and
written material via the Internet with great success. However, if you're
sharing any sort of job involving exchange of data you should be
considering encryption. After all your client may take a dim view of you
sending their proprietary information across what is really an open
network.


Given CIS policy of both a monthly fee and on-line time
charging, I'n not surprised progammers find it cheaper to mail a few
disks.

In this area, most Providers of Internaet access have a monthly
rate that does not go up if you spend more than an hour per day
on-line....and many have an unlimited time account which allows
near-continuous Internet Acess. The Internet is a Vast Improvement over
CIS, Prodigy and AOL. With a 'shell' account, one could transfer many
megabytes of files per day using only simple commands in either E-mail
or via FTP.



Mr. Holtz:

I have been consulting for about 20 years, 15 _on-my-own_ and have
gotten plenty of good guidance from more than one of you books. Thanks.

I have used intenet to exchange documnents as well as software. One
client had no internet access but did have compuserve. I finally had to
start charging him my send fees on compuserve to cover their
(compuserve's) high costs. In addition, I have had document get lost in
Copuservespace for as long as five (yes, 5) days (yes, 24-hours times
5).

Another interesting use is actual advice giving though on-line media. We
will soon be able to charge for service though internet services. This
could be a very interesting way to deal with those very short term kinds
of assignments which I may otherwise decline as having too much
overhead.




I don't know about other writers, but I'm finding extremely useful for:

1. Gathering article ideas.
2. Researching articles.
3. Doing interviews.
4. Sending queries.
5. Sending stories.
6. Sending invoices.

Now if only the editors could e-mail me my cheques I'd be ecstatic.



Herm,

We are an offshore programming house in Asia, and CIS has been
invaluable in all these respects.

Other than above, we also use CIS to update ourselves on latest computer
trends and developments. Also to enjoy barbs and arguments with a lot
of people <g>



Herm,

Usually, when I get a client, I ask if they have a modem and ask
if they are "hooked up" to an online service or and internet provider.
If so, I try to communicate through this and other services. If not,
then I suggest "getting hooked up". This has worked for a couple of
clients. Right now, we just use e-mail back and forth, but soon they
will need ftp, so we will start to use that. I find that using CIS has
cut donw on my client's costs as well as freeing up my time for other
business.




I have been doing some more thinking about your query re the use of
online services for business consulting. Here are a few more examples
of how I have put these to use for my clients:

1. Using internet gopher and telnet to research information for use in
proposals. I am doing this now for two clients, and have been
collecting background info as well as specific topic info. It is
useful, informative and fun.

2. Recently, we have been doing some recruiting on internet for
international staff and consultants for use in bids, and have gotten
some useable CVs and responses. With some thought, this technique could
be honed so that recruiting efforts could be targeted to specific sites
(e.g., universities, organizations, etc.) -- possibly with more success.

3. For the past four years, I have been using the Howard County, MD
library online services from my home. It cost me $50 four years ago to
subscribe and get the software. There are no additional charges for
this service. It can only be accessed during the hours in which the
library is closed. But, there is some neat stuff like Medline, Social
Issues Research (an excellent resource), Washington Post, Baltimore Sun,
ERIC, and several other databases and info sources. I have used this a
lot and continue to do so. Again, mostly for background and topic
research.

Hope this helps. I would like to learn about some other uses. Also, I
think that a book on this topic would be a good idea. How do you have
time to do all these things? Do you have a staff? Do you use other
consultants?



Hi, I've used both Compuserve and Internet for years to support clients
and send new materials.




Herman,

I am about to start a consultancy so I hope I qualify. In my previous
work as UNIX/TCP-IP systems programmer I found the Internet very useful
for obtaining software, vendor support (email of patches etc plus ftp
and Web sites) and solving problems by information obtained on USENET
and information on the WWW.

I would be very interested in looking at some of your reports,
especially any related to Internet marketing.

I have recently realised that the most valuable use of the Internet is
the exchange of information with others such as general business
information and sources of other business information.

Thats probably why its known as Compu$serve. I pay a fixed fee for
Internet access per month with no volume or time charges so I have found
transmitting or receiving large programs or other information to or from
anywhere in the world for free very useful.




Hi, My husband and I use the Net all the time to transfer software (we
are software engineering consultants) and keep in touch with our
clients. The clients sometimes set up special accounts on their
systems to allow us to ftp files in or out. They send us new data that
way, too. I'm currently looking into using Winsock IVC (Internet Voice
COmmunication/Chat) to do voice comms. over the Internet. All of this
allows us great flexibility.



Always interesting to read something from one of my favorite business
authors!

Will this information you're collecting be made available on the Net, or
in a new book?




In article <3glhjn$eco -at- clarknet -dot- clark -dot- net> you write: >I am
investigating the use of online facilities for business purposes >by
consultants. That would include marketing, communication with >clients,
research, delivery of reports or products, and any other >online
activity as part of one's consulting practice.

I am a Russian to English Scientific/Math translator and just
got an enquiry after posting to misc.translating or whatever it is
called. Advertising sometimes works. > Note that in the UK we are about
ten years behind the US as far as email is concerned. Penetration is
much lower here. > If you need translation, multimedia programming (home
based) or scientific evaluation of texts let me know.

Mathematician, Well Published Poet, Novelist, Writer of a
mathematics Textbook,Translator and Multimedia developer



Interesting message. (BTW, I've read your books, and they're good...)

I ran a conference last week at Heathrow, England that had a big section
on Intrnet marketing and a delegate said he made $2 million per annum
using the Internet to procure software consultancy contracts.

I also showed several ways that I've used Compuserve to gain (in a very
modest way) business for the Marketing Guild. Now, if you can use
Compuserve commercially, without inflaming the Sysop dragons, I reckon
you can use the Internet!

But.. with the onset of the www, folk who still play around with Usenet
groups for this purpose are going to be soon as archaic as hot metal
pourers in the print industry.

Like you, I'd be glad to hear of folk using the Internet, Compuserve for
serious commercial purpose - including those who are actually making
_sales_ on the WWW (rather than just talking about it). Results should
be worth writing up as a paper and making available in this Forum?



(In response to Herman Holtz (holtz -at- clark -dot- net).)

I would like to vend primarily technical support and virtual
conferencing online. Use of online services for delivery of product
seems useful as a back-office procedure, but I think the medium has
inherent use as virtual real estate, in addition to being a support
service.



To: Herman Holtz <holtz -at- clark -dot- net> Subject: re.: Online Consulting

As a senior school teacher, I have both an academic and professional
interest in the growth of internet and the uses to which people are
putting their access.

You indicated in your text that you are compiling notes and responses on
the above topic. I wonder if you will be making a compilation available
on the news group, or to (hopefully) interested parties who request the
same. I have, I can assure you, a number of students and colleagues who
would be interested in reading anything you can offer by way of comment
and information on this timely topic.

Thanks in advvance for anything you may be able to offer.

Herm,

Greetings! Even though my answer to your query is out of date, I
couldn't resist...

I use CI$ and sometimes other higher-$ services to research the
companies I answer RFPs or give unsolicited proposals to. I look for
mentions in the press, financials, major business news, etc. for the
last *3* years. Sometimes I am amazed at just how little I find...



Check out the CommerceNet effort in Northern California. They are
solving the mundane, business-administration-technology problems of
secure communications and financial transactions via Internet.

The approach I would take is to round up a stable of experts who
would consititute a virtual jobshop. Then I would concentrate on jobs
that could be done by groups working remotely. I would also see about
adapting project- management software to this distributed jobshop.
Keeping track of hours and stages of completion of a distributed
workgroup could be a pain. You also have to make sure that everybody is
working on the same version of the same thing at the same time.

Given that engineers' salaries have declined, in common-dollar
terms, I would assume that qualified people to work 10 or 20 hours per
week from their homes would not be too hard.

The advantage of Internet is that a great many technical people are
already hooked up. However, they may not have a home hookup. So their
being on the Internet is useful only if their bosses don't mind
"government work" during office hours.

But beware! A goodly percentage of them have e-mail access only.
Sending them binary files involves converting the file to ASCII and then
dividing the file up into chunks that will fit into the maximum sized
e-mail message allowed. The name for this process us UUencode. On the
other end the UU utility concatenates the ASCII messages and converts
them back into a binary file.

Messy but doable.

Being on Interserve is good for research, if you are persistant.
You can find a lot of stuff for free including help with getting on the
Internet for your jobshoppers.

Internet services often offer ISDN hookups which are significantly
faster than analog phone lines. You can get ISDN is some places and not
in others. At your local software store, you should be able to find
Internet Chameleon. Not the best user interface but it comes with ISDN
drivers.

If you use your Web browser (Mosaic?) to access
http://alumni.caltech.edu/~dank/isdn/, you should be able to get a list
of ISDN supplies. I recommend that you get your people on line at the
highest possible baud rate. We're talking two 56-kbaud digital lines for
ISDN vs one 28-kbaud line for analog phone lines.

Lastly, because so many Internet hookups are free, commercial
Internet hookups are cheaper than Compuserve.


* * *
Herman Holtz [holtz -at- clark -dot- net]: Marketing Consultant/Proposal Specialist,
Writing & Ghost Writing Services, 35 years experience. Author of 60+
professional/business books, including best-selling How to Succeed as an
Independent Consultant (Wiley). PO Box 1731, Wheaton, MD 20915. Tel:
301-649-2499. Fax: 301-649-5745.


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