CyberMonday.com from Shop.org

Check out the Alexa ranking of CyberMonday.com which lists special holiday discount offers from more than 400 ecommerce retailers.

Shop.org is a important association of ecommerce companies. I have always appreciated their press releases and market research. But that they are promoting online sales for all their member companies is another good reason to consider joining this association.

What web sites do mobile phone users use?

Comscore and Telephia have teamed up to offer data about web sites that are being visited by mobile web users.

In their first report, Comscore and Telephia show some interesting data about mobile web use. It looks like checking weather is very popular.

Another thing I found interesting: Google Mail has only a fraction of the users of Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, both by desktop and mobile users. I switched from Yahoo Mail to Gmail last year and am much happier with the speed of Gmail. But it looks like more PC and mobile users still use Hotmail and Yahoo Mail.

I just added Telephia to my Google Alerts. This is a company that I want to track, since some of our companies are in the mobile content space and most of our other companies will need to develop mobile applications in the future. Any time they issue a press release about mobile application usage or mobile web market share, I want to see it.

Grudgingly Accepting Defeat, Utah Fan Devin Thorpe Sings BYU Fight Song on YouTube

Move over, William Hung!

Utah’s own Devin Thorpe has posted a video of his incredible rendition of the BYU Cougar Fight Song.

I think you’ll enjoy Devin’s video even more if you first relive the excitement of the final seconds of the BYU victory over Utah. Check out this YouTube video that someone show from the stands.

Better still is this television broadcast video showing the final play of the game. (It has more than 15,000 views already!)

Devin has more talent than I anticipated. And he went the extra mile by travelling to Provo to shoot the video adjacent to BYU Campus. Nice effort, Devin!

Devin and I had a public challenge going about who the winner of the recent BYU-Utah Football game would be. He promised what he would do if BYU won; and I countered with a couple commitments of my own.

Thanks to the last second touchdown pass from John Beck (#2 rated NCAA passer) to Johnny Harline (see this amazing photo of Johnny on his knees waiting for the ball to arrive–as a gift from heaven) in the best BYU-Utah game of all time, Devin gets to blog about my blog every day for a week, take me to a restaurant of my choice, and upload this video.

Please visit Devin’s post and Digg it (if you aren’t a registered user of Digg.com it takes only seconds to sign up) so that more people can enjoy the singing talents of Devin Thorpe. Make it a favorite on YouTube as well. Let’s see how many thousands of people all over the world can enjoy Devin’s public humiliation.

Go Cougars!

How to save thousands of dollars on your next web development project

My friend Spencer Rogers came to the Provo Labs Academy last Wednesday and gave the finest presentation I have ever seen on how to outline your website using Word and then build a user flow version of it (without any look and feel elements) in Powerpoint before spending a dollar on designing and developing the site.

By disabling the Advance slide on mouse click option (found under Slide Show/Slide Transition) and by making objects clickable and linked to other slides, you can design how the site is going to work before sending it to developers. You can show where navigation elements will appear and carve the web pages up into feature and content areas. You basically outline the functionality of the site page by page, leaving the design to someone else.

Spencer worked for years in industry designing software for clients. He has applied these rapid prototyping concepts to web site design and has been responsible for the design of dozens of websites in the last few years.

After seeing one of Spencer’s Powerpoint web site mockups two years ago, I blogged about the need for wireframing before developing a web site. But I didn’t know the depth of Spencer’s approach until last week. I just kicked off a new web site project where the developer did wireframes (he was already familiar with Spencer’s approach). And I’m working on my first Powerpoint currently for the next generation for one of my web sites.

Spencer showed us his Powerpoint outline for the relaunch of EverySingleHome.com that he made a year ago and then showed us the new site that just launched, and how closely it followed his Powerpoint design.

It is so costly to design a web site without a clear road map. Design it on paper first before getting into coding it. If you aren’t careful, feature creep can totally wipe out your budget. Working in HTML and doing actual programming as the site is being designed can be enormously expensive. If you take a new direction, as you almost always do, you will throw out a lot of code and waste a lot of money.

Nail the actual site architecture first, and then pay for the design and coding. There is a scriptural concept that says things should be created spiritually first and then physically. And another one that says you don’t build a house before counting the cost of it. This is only possible with prior planning. And the Powerpoint approach seems appropriate for most projects, since most of us know how to use it and already own a license to it.

By the way, EverySingleHome.com is an amazing real estate web site that lists every home for sale in Utah County and has a photo of each one. It has an Alexa ranking of about 45,000 which is incredible since the site is only in one market. It is a very comprehensive real estate site that anyone who is buying or selling real estate in Utah County should be aware of.

I can’t finish this post without commenting that the best product manager that ever worked at MyFamily.com (who is now an incredibly successful internet businessman) used Powerpoint whenever he designed a new feature or service. While other product managers were writing the dreadful 20-40 page MRDs (marketing requirement documents), he would do screen captures of the existing design and add links or components to show what the new pages should look like.

He was super fast at this. Way faster than those who were writing the long books. And more importanly, his visuals communicated instantly and clearly exactly what the site would do, while the MRDs were time consuming and communicated very poorly. You had to plod through the MRDs to try to find anything useful. I absolutely hated the MRDs, but I loved these Powerpoints. I’m not sure what happened to the product managers who used MRDs, but my Powerpoint is one of the most successful internet entrepreneurs I know.

Like Spencer, he has used this skill to great benefit.

First Second Life Millionaire?

I met the founder of Linden Lab, the maker of Second Life, at the 2005 AlwaysOn conference at Stanford University. His vision is now paying off, not only for his company, which recently attracted its 1 millionth user, but now for some of Second Life participants as well. Tomorrow, there will apparently be a press conference from Germany where the first person (a woman born in China) who has accumulated $1 million real world dollars worth of virtual real estate will be making an announcement. (See Fortune blog)

She is going public with her good fortune, just as national governments are considering taxing Linden dollars. Australia decided to tax Linden dollars earlier this month.

Judd Bagley and I brainstormed launching a PR firm earlier this year that would enable Second Lifers to actually issue real-world press releases from within the virtual world. Judd currently earns Linden dollars by letting people use his virtual catapult which can launch people or cars or anything else a very great distance. We didn’t act on the PR firm idea. But now dozens of large corporations are setting up shop there. Dell Island launched recently, so Secondlifers can get a virtual PC in the game or buy real world PCs later. Leo Burnett launched its virtual agency in Second Life back in September. Now, Second Life estimates that development firms that help corporations set up shop in this popular virtual world are grossing $10 million per year.

I’m actually not a fan of Second Life at all, from what I have seen of it so far. I don’t like online anonymity and what it does to human behavior. I’m not a fan of avatars. I worry that this site attracts people will all kinds of base motives. I’m sure others will prove me wrong.

But here is one potentially redeeming idea: a Shakespeare virtual world where users can interact with each other and with Shakespeare texts. This idea from an Indiana University economist just received a $240,000 grant. This could easily be incorporated into Second Life, but it’s not clear from the article whether the grant will allow this professor to do that, or whether he has to build his own world.

Get $200 in PPC (pay per click) advertising credits from MSN

My friend Dave Martin sent me a link to a Microsoft web page that offers $200 worth of clicks from MSN AdCenter if you sign up between now and January 15, 2007. There is a $5 fee to get an account.

MSN AdCenter Home Page
$200 free offer page

I would like to think that 1,000 of my readers will each pay $5 to get an MSN AdCenter account. Microsoft will make $5,000. And my readers will get $200,000 worth of free PPC.

Everyone I know should do this. And everyone should spread the word to everyone else.

I’m not the first to blog about this. A few others have already posted about this aggressive Microsoft offer.

BYU vs. Utah — the public challenge

To: Devin Thorpe, blogger and University of Utah fan:

Okay, Devin, my friend. As you know, you publicly challenged me to put up or shut up regarding tomorrow’s BYU-Utah football game.

I appreciate the confidence you have that Utah will win tomorrow. You said, if BYU wins tomorrow’s big game, that you will do the following:

1. I’ll plug your blog every day for a week after the game.
2. I’ll buy you lunch at whatever place you choose in the State of Utah.
3. I’ll post a video of myself singing the BYU fight song on my blog and on YouTube.

So the day after I saw your challenge, I posted a comment on your blog about what I am willing to do in the unlikely event that Utah wins tomorrow. For some reason, the comment was never published. You said it probably got deleted by your spam filter.

Okay, so I’m finally getting back to this challenge. Here’s what I’m willing to do if BYU loses tomorrow’s big one.

1. I’ll wear a University of Utah shirt for the next 5 days, including to my Internet Marketing Class at BYU on Thursday. Then, I’ll donate the shirt to Deseret Industries (if they will take it.)
2. I’ll match your offer to take you to any restaurant in Utah, my treat.

I believe this is the best BYU team in history, better even than the National Championship Team of 1984. I’ve been watching Cougar football for more than thirty years. I’ve never seen a BYU team that is nationally in the top ten in passing offense, scoring, and passing efficiency, plus has a great running game, is #1 in turnover margin nationally and in the top 10 in punt returns, and on top of all that great offense and special teams play, is in the top 10 nationally in defense against the score.

This is the first BYU team ever that has no weaknesses — our offense, defense and special teams are all incredible. Plus, we do an awesome haka.

Our only two losses were last second away games before the team had found its groove. Since then, it’s been all good. If we had won those first two games, including against a Top 25 Boston College that we took to overtime, we’d easily be in the top 5 right now and a BCS buster.

I actually missed half of the SDSU game, due to another commitment. I got there at halftime and we were leading 40-3. You can’t miss even the first quarter of a BYU home game. You’ll miss all the early scoring.

I know this game is different. Utah is a great team, with a three-game winning streak, and this game probably won’t be over in the first quarter.

But BYU will come away with a win.

If not, I’ll be shopping for a U of U shirt on Monday morning and be wearing red all week.

You better warm up your singing voice–I can’t wait to see you singing the Cougar fight song on YouTube!

Google Employee Posts Videos on How Google Search Engine Really Works

I have recently discovered that Matt Cutts, a Google employee who blogs about search engine optimization (he explains the kinds of tactics that Google considers black hat SEO tactics and encourages everyone to do only appropriate search engine optimization) is also doing video posts on Google Video. (See all 19 Matt Cutts videos on Google Video.)

I’ve been watching some of these and I highly recommend them. First, because Matt works for Google, he is an authority on these topics. Second, he is both articulate and concise. He doesn’t waste your time. His explanations are very clear.

Yesterday I showed my Academy members a Matt Cutts video on “some SEO myths,” which explains that hosting a few web sites on the same IP address or the same server is not a problem (but hosting several thousand is.)

Today I watched this excellent Matt Cutts video about Dynamic vs. Static URLs (he says they do inherit exactly the same PageRank from sites that link to them, but he says avoid multiple parameters and use mod rewrites where possible to make dynamic pages look like static pages) and how to not be guilty of “cloaking” (which violates Google’s policies) if you do GeoTargeting with your web site (deliver different content to different users depending on their country/place of origin, as determined by their IP address.)

As I told my Academy members yesterday, my job is to read, listen to, and watch everything I can find about internet marketing (as well as oversee the internet marketing campaigns of my portfolio companies) and then share only the best, most relevant information with them, so that they can focus on running their business, and I can help them find all the best new opportunities in internet marketing. And of course, their sharing their successes and failures with each other helps everyone too.

We had an open house last night at the Provo Labs Academy for Entrepreneurs with about 20 people and signed up several more members.

I’ve had several people email me lately about signing up for a online version of the Academy instruction that we do. I’ve been considering rolling out a $99 per month service for entrepreneurs who don’t live in Utah. Several people have already told me they will sign up for this as soon as it is ready.

If you are interested in this service, please email me or comment on my blog. As soon as I get 25 people who are willing to subscribe, we’ll launch this.