e-DUH!: How Can Smart People Be So Dumb?

Call this column, “E-DUH!” And call the companies and people that follow “unclear on the concept.”

After two months of writing VC Watch and enduring the IQ-damaging effects of poorly written news releases and badly constructed Web sites by Internet companies that should know better, it’s time to kick gluteus maximus and name names.

I’ve been saving a few good examples of really bad stuff for weeks now, but the buffers finally hit overflow on a visit to Nimble.com which is anything but when it comes to the Web. The Seattle company, which makes XML database technology for Internet and enterprise use sent out a press release announcing the close of a first round of equity financing (no amount disclosed which is a turn-off to begin with).

A visit to the site shows: NO E-MAIL contacts. This is the digital world, folks. Believe it or not, a lot of people prefer e-mail over phones, faxes and semaphore flags. Now, Nimble’s not the only stumbler on this score. Just check out NewsNet Central which describes itself as “a revolutionary, media content convergence company that produces and distributes personalized original programming for the world’s two most powerful media — television and the Internet.” Well, besides the nauseatingly over-used “revolutionary” sobriquet, these folks are so revolutionary that they don’t have e-mail links on their site either (or if they do, they are too well hidden.)

DUH! This is bricks and mortar thinking and soooo not revolutionary.

But “revolutionary” is not nearly as meaningless and annoying as “leading” as in “a leading provider of Web-based solutions for high-amperage interactive wetware modification.” (Think of this as the Electroshock Therapy Cam where surfers click to twitch.)

“Leading this” and “leading that” pop up in nearly every news release and have all the earmarks of a desperate publicist scrambling for something — anything — to distinguish the company from 19 other plug-compatible competitors.

And gosh, gee, golly there’s OhGolly.Com with a home page that tells you absolutely NOTHING about what their way too cutesy site is all about and a contacts page that would have been fine had it not been suffering from the Web-designer-out-of-control syndrome where NONE of their hyperlinks are underlined. Now hypertext underlining may offend the aesthetic sensibilities of the artistic uberclass, but this is like changing stop signs to mauve because it goes better in the city’s landscaping motif.

This kind of contra-useful artifice is just slightly better than sites like PC Quote that don’t use the quick and easy “mailto:” tag but instead give you a form-to-mail for customer service requiring 10 minutes to fill out and asking for everything including the size of your Chia Pet’s socks. Plus it gives you no record that you actually sent the mail, something that’s particularly annoying when the message gets lost.

If anything’s clear about all these examples it’s that having a clue about the Web and how your site’s visitors want to be treated is not necessarily a prerequisite for closing a round of venture capital.

Now, let’s tiptoe back to Nimble.Com. Check out their site for a copy of the new VC funding press release. Click on the link and what you don’t get is significant. Nope, no Web page. Nooooooo, instead you get a $#[email protected]! Word document that downloads who knows where on your hard drive (Boot up Explorer, file, find). Sure, XML is cool, but maybe some nimble soul can puzzle through converting .doc to .htm? (Hint: Save the Word document as a .htm file)

If you have a particularly annoying example you’d like to share, please e-mail me. There’s a lot of material out there and we’ll clear the cache every couple of months with the most egregious examples.

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