Negotiation, Negotiation, Negotiation

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Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

ebooks vs. paper books

Posted by markharrison on January 5, 2011

Let me start with a confession: try as I might, I can’t bring myself to be rational on the subject of book formats. I am a bibliophile as well as a lectoholic.

I’m wrestling (again) with the question of how I should consume books. Let me think as a reader first, and I’ll come back to my viewpoint as an author later…

There are, as I see things, four broad ways in which I might buy a book:

  • I could buy it on paper (the so-called DTV / Dead Tree Version)
  • I could buy it in a format that locked it to one publisher’s software, but allowed it to be read on any device I own that runs that software
  • I could buy it in a format that allowed me to read it, restriction-free on any device (PDF/EPUB being the obvious example, but there are others)
  • could buy it in a nasty proprietary format that locked it to some specific reader software on a Windows PC

However, I can dispose of the last two options fairly quickly (at least, from my own perspective), albeit for very different reasons:

The “PDF/EPUB version”  – There are over 33,000 books available for free download from Project Gutenberg – primarily because they are out of (US) copyright. As such, if I want a classic book, like Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations“, this is a fantastic place to start. That having been said, the vast majority of things I want to read have been published sufficiently recently that they aren’t available for free, and the vast majority of publishers do not sell DRM-free books.

Then there’s the “why would you bother?” option of having a DRM-loaded book that could only be read with a special reader software, and normally locked to a single PC. This fundamentally fails the “I don’t work that way” test. I want something I can read on a plane, on a train, in bed, on the tube, in the bath… and a Windows laptop fails at least two of them (your mileage may vary.)

So, let’s consider the mainstream ebook options, vs. the traditional paper book.

The economic case

I have just looked up the four books I’ve ordered since Christmas:

So, the first part of the economic case is the cost. Let’s compare a brand new copy (from Amazon) with the Kindle edition (Amazon’s ebook format):

  • Never get… Hardback: £10.39, Kindle: £9.35 (no softback available yet)
  • The Art… Paperback:  £6.93, Kindle: £6.58
  • We feel fine… Hardback: £17.57, Kindle: £N/A
  • Spiritual Machines… Hardback: £16.43, Kindle £N/A

OK, our first issue is that only two of the four are actually available on the Kindle platform. However, for those that are available, Kindle is saving 50p – £1

But the “lifetime cost” of the book is important, so let’s consider the “total cost of ownership” of the books.

What if I want to lend the book to a friend?

Amazon introduced a new feature, in fact about 10 days ago, where I can “lend” my Kindle ebook to another Kindle user. There are some limitations (like, I can’t do it from the Kindle – I need to go to a real PC – doh!) I regularly lend books. However, this is only equalling the functionality I have with a paper book – I can lend that to anyone I want to – they don’t have to have a Kindle. I know only a few people who regularly read ebooks, and actually, as far as I can remember, Kindle isn’t their platform. This may, of course, change, but at the moment a clear win for the dead trees.

What if I want to sell the book once I’ve read it?

As far as I’m aware, I can’t. Once I’ve read my Kindle book, as far as I know, I can’t sell it back to Amazon (nor any other third party.) Nor can I give it to a charity shop and have them sell it.

Aren’t I failing to take into account delivery costs?

I have Amazon Prime. For a fixed annual fee, I can have “next day” (ho, ho, ho) delivery on pretty much any book from Amazon. It’s not better than 50% reliable in terms of “next day”, but it does mean I don’t pay shipping. As we saw above, only half the books I wanted to buy are available as ebooks, so I’d still be in a place where shipping costs existed, to the extent that I, personally, would probably stay with Amazon Prime anyway.

Can I buy second-hand?

As well as buying new, I average about 100-150 second-hand book purchases each year. Some are collector’s items, selling for more than the original price, but most are in the £1-3 range from a bunch of second-hand sellers, either locally to me, in Hay on Wye, in charity shops, or through Amazon marketplace.

In most (all?) cases, I’m buying that way, either because the books are not available new, or because it’s cheaper to do so than it would be to buy new. In some cases, the books are as cheap as a penny on Amazon. (And in some, brilliant, cases, I’ve picked up books I wanted for one penny that were eligible for Prime delivery – a book for a penny including delivery!)

Cost of an ebook reader

Actually, I’m prepared to accept that ebooks actually work out cheaper here! A Kindle would cost £100-150. That buys about 3 IKEA Billy bookcases… each Billy stores about 240 books, so a Kindle costs the same as (cheap) bookcasing for 720 books. This is about 2 year’s shopping for us, so we could buy a Kindle every couple of years, and hope they lasted.

Yes, an iPad would be more expensive, but would have other uses, and the ebook readers are only going to come down in price. However, the marginal saving is only of the order of 20p / book.

Economic Conclusion:

For me, ebooks would work out, in many, many cases, to be more expensive than paper books.

 

Utility

Where can I read a paper book? Where can I read an ebook? Where do I want to?

I have the following list of places I can read either:

  • On a plane, at cruising altitude
  • On a train
  • In the back of a car
  • In the front of a car during daylight (on the basis that reading lights distract the driver, I’m excluding the passenger seat)
  • In my study
  • In bed (I’m of an age where reading ebooks in bed is acceptable, sorry to those who consider it a breach of protocol)
  • In a hotel room
  • At the beach

However, there are places where I could read a paperbook, but not an ebook

  • On a plane, during takeoff and landing
  • On the loo
  • In the bath
  • In a working kitchen
  • On a bus in Central London (books don’t get nicked on buses, computers do, your perception of risk may vary!)
  • On a tube (ditto)

I am hard-pressed to think of somewhere I could read an ebook where I couldn’t read a paper book.

There is, of course, balancing this, the fact that, with an iPad / Kindle / iPhone on me, I could read anything I owned (in the right format) wherever I was – paper books limit me to the ones I have taken with me to wherever I am.

However, for my own lifestyle, I’m going to award this one to the paper books again.

Physiological

I read a lot before going to sleep. I find it (much) easier to get to sleep if I’ve been reading on paper rather than on a screen. Win for paper books.

Reference / Lookup

The combination of text-search, and ebookmarking features do beat the combination of index (not all books have one) and bookmarks. That having been said, for reference books, I find the Post-It page markers very useful.

More to the point, however, with an ebook reader, finding the right book would resolve to “finding the reader.” With 5000+ books in the house, finding the right book is sometimes problematical:

  • Fiction is straightforward – group by category, sort each category by author. The only problem you sometimes find in bookshops (which have an order of magnitude bigger a problem) is category confusion, say, between sci-fi and fantasy, or between humour and crime (Jasper Fforde, you know I’m writing about you here!)
  • Non-fiction is far, far, messier. Yes, the Dewey Decimal system lends itself well to libraries that span the whole gamut, but those like mine that concentrate in a particular area are more problematical. Is this book about “property”, about “negotiation”, or what? Is this investment or economics? By author is fine for the books with an obvious author (Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Napoleon Hill, etc.), but remind me who wrote “Creative Capital” (a biography, not an authobiography, of George Doriot). Actually, by publisher is looking increasingly useful in my life, but that’s another story for another day.

So, overall, I’m going to give the win to the ebooks here.

 

The “Rational Conclusion”

For all the reasons above, I have to vote to stay with paper books.

 

P.S. …

Everything above has been self-justification, or at worst, sophistry.

My decision actually boils down to a simple fact – I love books.

Books aren’t just about the content. They are about how they make me feel, and the memories.

  • “Midnight at the Well of Souls” is, for me, as much about Inter-railing through the summer of 1991, and sitting on the Brindisi-Patras ferry, as it is about Nathan Brazil.
  • The Art of Kitchen Design is about meeting Johnny Grey at the Grand Designs Show, both exhausted at the end of long weekends on our respective stands.
  • “Family Food” is about my (then 5-year-old) son standing on a chair, holding a hand-blender in a dish of peas, saying “I’m so clever” while daddy is flipping between three different things to check timings

To trigger those memories involves looking at the book, listening to the rustle of pages, feeling the creases, finding the bus ticket that was used as a bookmark ten years ago…it’s a visual thing, a kinaesthetic thing, even an auditory thing.

There is an Epicurean streak in me… paper books give me a pleasure that no ebook reader I’ve yet encountered can match.

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Posted in Book Review, Technology | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

Yes, I read a lot…

Posted by markharrison on August 6, 2007

A couple of years ago, Daniel Wagner interviewed me for “Property Habits”, and one of the questions he asked was how many books on “business and investment” I had.

At the time, I counted, and the answer was a bit over 100.

It turns out I missed a bookcase –  sorry about that, Daniel.

Anyway, as the number of books I own increased, I was running into the problem where I’d buy something that looked interesting, only to find that I’d already got a copy – so I had to start cataloguing.

My fiction, I just catalogued in a spreadsheet, but for the non-fiction, I was recommended an Internet-based tool called Gurulib.

The big advantage of Gurulib is that I can just type in the ISBN number, and it will look up the title, author and publisher for me – in many cases, even providing the cover art.

So, I can safely report that I now have (at least) 409 books in the “Business and Investment” section of my library…

… and you can see them here at gurulib 

Posted in Book Review, Building Businesses, Investment, Investor Psychology | Leave a Comment »

Mini Book Review – Building Agreement (Fisher and Shapiro)

Posted by markharrison on July 9, 2007

About 15 years ago, partway through by MBA course (which I never finished!) I read a really interesting book that changed the way I thought about negotiation. The book was Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton. One day, I’ll finally get around to reviewing that book.

However, on Friday I got my hair cut (think 50th anniversary of John meeting Paul tribute style!), which involves going into Crawley. Don’t get me wrong, I like Crawley, but the parking is awful, so what I tend to do is get dropped off, and then call for Mary (wife) or Dona (PA) to pick me up when I have the new look.

The great thing about this arrangement is that it allows me about 15 minutes to wander round Waterstones.  Now, I’m a big Amazon fan – I was importing books from them in the US several years before they set up in the UK, but I still like the feel of a bookshop, and in particular I like the way I can meet interesting books that I wouldn’t have obviously found on the web. There’s a rabid economic efficiency part of me that wants to then go and buy them online, but I tend to rationalise that I’m paying a voluntary tax to help support a local community service.

Anyway, to cut things short, I stumbled across “Building Agreement”, by Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro. Remembering “Getting to Yes”, pretty much clinched the sale for me, and last night I read the book. (It’s about 230 pages, and I speed-read quite well.)

Roger Fisher teaches negotiation at Harvard Law School – which pretty much establishes his academic credentials – helped design the process used by President Carter in the Camp David negotiations, helped the white Cabinet and the ANC in South Africa prior to the talks that led to the end of apartheid, and helped (then) President Mahuad of Ecuador in the successful negotiation of their treaty with Peru that closed of a land dispute that had been running on and off since 1532! One of the chapters of the book “On Using These Ideas in the Real World” is written by President Mahuad.

The book’s subtitle is “Using emotions as you negotiate”. This is something I cover, up to a point, in my own book / course, but Building Agreement takes it much further. The book uses the 7-point “Elements of Negotiation” framework from the Harvard Negotiation Project and goes beyond it, to develop, in depth, many of the problems that strong emotions can cause during a negotiation. The book then goes on to give a range of techniques for dealing with these problems.

It is hard to find anything to criticise with the book from where I’m standing. About the only thing to flag up is that it’s not particularly focussed around Property Negotiation, but that would be missing the point. If you are serious about improving your negotiation skills, this is a must-read for the bookshelf.

Posted in Book Review, Negotiation, Negotiation Book, Property Negotiation | Leave a Comment »

Mini Book Review – Timing the Real Estate Market (Campbell)

Posted by markharrison on May 13, 2007

Another book that isn’t (currently) available in the UK – I had to buy this one from Amazon.com.

There’s probably a parable in there somewhere about the global interconnectedness of markets, and globalisation, but that’s another story for another day.

The book is very much aimed at the reader new to property investment – for almost 200 pages, there are a relatively small number of insights, each with a fair amount of explanation, and several case studies.

My initial reaction to the book, therefore, was that it spent a lot of time saying not much – but having re-skimmed it today, the points it makes are definitely worth making, and actually points that I ought to work into my own mentoring programme! As someone (either Robert Kiyosaki or Tony Robbins, or maybe both say – you only need ONE critical insight from a book or a seminar to make an important change to your business.)

The key thing that Campbell stresses is that property is a market, and that therefore there are times when it is more sensible to buy, and times when it’s more sensible to sell. [As an aside, I believe that the way that the UK financing and taxation systems work mean that in the UK the ground is more weighted to “buy and hold” than “buy and sell”, but this is deliberately a US book.]

So far, so good.

He then goes on to outline a method that he has used for predicting when market movements will take place… He has five critical indicators, and takes the view that taking these 5 data series, and generating a graph of the 12-month change on a 12-month geometrical rolling average, then looking at when the change crosses zero is an ideal way to make these predictions.

If you followed that last paragraph, then you are pretty much all the way there, short of knowing what his signs are. If, however, your eyes rolled at that, then you’ll be grateful that he takes the time to build it up step by step, rather than just jumping in with the paragraph in question 🙂

I have an issue with the way he’s picked his indicators – though it may be an issue with the way he explains how he arrived where he did, which feels very over-simplified. It is possible, neh, likely, that if I sat down with him for a few hours to understand the background, I’d be a lot happier with them. The problem is, as ever, I can see the OUTPUTS of his conclusions, but can’t see how he arrived at them, and I’m always more comfortable with things I understand.

I do understand (from other reviews in the US) that his methodology has proved quite effective. And he does make the point that just because it’s worked in the past is no guarantee that it will in the future (as any stock market investor will vouch.)

What I absolutely took away from the book is that we shouldn’t lose sight of the market cycles. I’m guilty of saying “I can’t predict the market cycles perfectly, so I’ll ignore them”…

… what I ought to be doing is saying “I can’t predict the market cycles perfectly, but even predicting with 75% accuracy will improve my overall performance.” And the Campbell Method for Timing the Real Estate Market has given me a tool for doing that.

Good insight… thank you Mr. Campbell.

… Oh, and what were the 5 indicators? You’ll have to read the book for that!

Posted in Book Review, Property Investment | Leave a Comment »

Mini Book Review – Wikinomics (Tapscott and Williams)

Posted by markharrison on May 1, 2007

If, like me, you’re in the UK, you are going to have trouble getting hold of this book, since the hardback wasn’t released over here, and the paperback won’t be until July.

However, I’d heard good things about this, so I found a copy (on eBay Canada!) and got the vendor to fly it over 🙂

The fundamental premise of “Wikinomics” is that the value gained by sharing “information” with “the community” is often greater that the value that is given away by so doing.

An example: Office software

Apologies for picking an example from the IT industry – but it’s what I know, and there aren’t that many great examples from the property investment community 🙂

OpenOffice.org vs. Microsoft Office.  Microsoft Office costs about £300. If you buy a copy, you have the right to use it on a single PC, and use it “as is”. OpenOffice (primarily made by Sun – another US software company with a billionaire founder) costs £0. If you download a copy, you have the right to install it on multiple PCs, and make changes to it…  If you want to share those changes with other people, you submit them back to Sun, and if they like them, they will be included in the next release of the product. You won’t get paid for this (other than in reputation, which is as important in the IT community as the rest of the business world), but everyone will get a better product.

Now, I write as an OpenOffice.org user – frankly, I don’t find it (overall) as good as MS Office. However, it’s got one feature I love and use all the time – it can convert a file into Adobe “PDF” format. SMS Office can’t do that – you need to buy additional software such as Acrobat  Standard at an extra £150. (Adobe aren’t dumb – the reader is £0, but the writer is £150.) Hence, while MSO is better, it’s not worth an extra £450 to me, so I stay with OpenOffice.org.

Tapscott and Williams make the point that no-one could, realistically, compete with Microsoft in producing a competitor to MS Office, if they had to do all the development themselves, but by opening up the “code” to its competitors, Sun is producing a product that is close. However, they can’t make money selling the product directly, but they can sell services. Hence there’s a “cost per seat” version of the product, called Star Office, which they do sell as a direct competitor to MSO – and that product also includes the community improvements. Works well for everyone except Microsoft shareholders.

It’s not just about IT

These concepts are familiar within the IT industry, but Wikinomics introduces the concept of “community product development” to a wider, business, audience.

The key message I need to get over in this review is that the concepts are beginning to be used heavily outside of the IT industry, and the book introduces examples from, say, the mining industry as an area where things that used to be regarded as company secrets, are now actively in the public domain… because sometimes customers, commentators, or just interested people can improve upon them, and those improvements can be fed back on a “share and share alike” basis.

I’m a convert to the concept, by the way – I posted a few weeks ago about the fact that anyone was welcome to take any of my articles, either from this blog, or from the YourPropertyExpert.com newsletter, and re-write them (provided they included a link back to me.) What I get is improved material (and hopefully extra readers of the newsletter.) The hope for me is that doing this is twofold – firstly I might sell extra copies of my paid-for products because more people know about them… but secondly, I get back ideas about how to tweak my own investment strategy, and do things better, because people take what I’ve written, and improve upon it.

 So, what’s the book like?

It’s good – well worth a read. It’s well-written, and not too evangelistic. One of the problems with much that’s written about these concepts is that the writing is done by “evangelists”, or people who tell you that you should use Linux because of the (sic) moral argument.

Tapscott and Williams freely admit that the “Wikinomics” model isn’t the only one, or always the best, and pull out comparisons with other companies who have taken completely the opposite approach. For example, Sony have a complete “lockdown” policy on their products, so that “community improvements” made to, say, their consoles, stop working the next time they get an official update from Sony.

The arguments they make don’t claim to be “moral”, but are economic – and they don’t make conclusions about which is better – they do, however, do an excellent job of presenting the arguments for the “community collaboration” model of product- and service- development.

Is it worth importing? Probably not 🙂

Should you get it in July – yup!

Posted in Book Review, Building Businesses, Open Source, Productivity | 5 Comments »

Mini Book Review – Getting Things Done (Allen)

Posted by markharrison on April 2, 2007

A couple of months ago, I reviewed “A Perfect Mess”, which I highly recommended. The authors were relatively critical of the excesses of the “planning industry”, and gave a number of examples of planning consultants and authors. One author they particularly commented on was David Allen.The name rang a bell, because my friend Nik Butler had suggested a couple of David’s techniques to me a while ago, which I’d found useful on a particular project.

Anyway, armed with a book I’d like, being critical of another book, I did the only decent thing, and bought it anyway – however, I’ve deliberately left it 8 weeks to write this review, because I wanted not just just read the book, but try out some of the techniques.

Mr. Allen has an interesting view of life, and I’m beginning to come round to his viewpoint now – he contends that most of us keep a big jumble of “things to do” in our heads, and accordingly suffer from two problems:

  • We can’t find out the detail for the stuff we want to do now
  • We keep getting mentally interrupted by our brains reminding us of all the things that we were meant to do as well

He then goes on to suggest that, at the simplest level, it is worth making up some lists of things that need doing, in a coherent manner, so that both of these problems are solved. I could understand why making lists would fix the first problem, but wasn’t convinced that having the info on paper would stop my mind jumping things on me… but I thought I’d give it a go.

Now, the “process” paperwork in my life is well-organised. I wrote quite a long article called “Administration, Administration, Administration” back in July 05 for my newsletter subscribers. The article is available here at yourpropertyexpert.com

However, the “project” paperwork had never been that carefully organised. I had ended up with about 6 filing trays, marked things like “to do”, and “Dona to chase me”, and never really found a satisfactory answer.

Starting on page 173 of Getting Things Done, there are several pages of description (and diagram) of something called a “tickler file”. This is a fairly complex set up involving 43 suspension files, and therefore a new really useful company crate to hold them in. (Back in December, I wrote about how good those crates are – though for this requirement I had to go up to 64 litres away from the 35 litre crates I normally get.)

The tickler file was, frankly, a faff to set up, and it took about an hour to get the files labelled, and everything piled round my desk sorted into the appropriate files for future action…

… but I’ve been using it as my prime organisation tool for about six weeks now…

… and let me tell you, it’s fantastic! I have, genuinely, got more projects pushed forward in those six weeks than the previous twelve, and quite often now, by about 2pm, I’ve done “everything I needed to” and can push forward one of the long term projects (like the next book.)

Now, I could spend the next thousand words describing the tickler file, and how to use it, but I suspect it’s one of those tools that works much better if you understand the “why” as well as the “how.” So on that basis, I’m definitely recommending you get the book…

… note that this doesn’t mean that I’ve abandoned the “Perfect Mess” view that there are some big advantages to having SOME disorganisation in my life… but in those items where I’ve decided I want some discipline, it seemed to make sense to use the best tools!

Buy “Getting Things Done” from Amazon.co.uk

Posted in Book Review, Building Businesses, Productivity | 3 Comments »

Mini Book Review – A Perfect Mess (Abrahamson and Freedman)

Posted by markharrison on January 30, 2007

I picked up this book on a whim on Thursday, because the title grabbed me – “A Perfect Mess – the hidden benefits of disorder”

It’s another of these US Management books that are written by a pair of authors – one an academic and one a journalist – and once again, the formula works for me.

The central premise of the book is that, in the second half of the 20th Century, the assumption that “Better Organised Means More Effective”  grew and grew, to the extent that many companies have official clear desk policies, and no senior business figure would ever dream of having anything other than a perfectly tidy desk in the official photo, and that this assumption is wrong.

The authors instead present a different view – that there is a continuum from “100% organised” to “100% disorganised” and that, for any given individual, the point of greatest productivity will lie somewhere along that continuum, not at the “100% organised” end.

Intuitively, it’s appealing, not least because it panders to my  own untidy desk.

My pet gripe amongst business books at the moment is the “interesting subject for a short article fleshed out to about 200 pages”-type book. The good news is that, while A Perfect Mess runs to over 300 pages, the information keeps flowing in a way that engages and expands the argument, rather than just re-stating it.

Obviously, as an Entrepreneur, I’m naturally pre-disposed to like the kinds of books that criticise some of the extremes of corporate-behaviour, though as my own company is growing, I’m mellowing a little, and allowing processes to come in. This book has helped bring me back round to the view that processes should be there to help people, not to straight-jacket creativity.

There have been a few books in the last year that have tempted me to go out and do a bulk buy, so that I can give them out to my friends. This certainly falls into that category. (Though, if you consider yourself a friend, and are wondering when yours will be arriving, realise that I was only TEMPTED to do this, I didn’t actually do it!)

Buy A Perfect Mess from Amazon.co.uk

Posted in Book Review, Building Businesses, Creativity | 2 Comments »

Mini Book Review – Winning (Sir Clive Woodward)

Posted by markharrison on December 18, 2006

Last week, I was invited to go and see the Varsity Match at Twickenham. Unfortunately, Cambridge won, but the different styles of play were instructive. Oxford clearly had the better players – some real briliance there, however, Cambridge had far, far, better teamwork, and an organisation about them that just left the dark blues trailing.

This reminded me that I’d never got around to reviewing “Winning” by Sir Clive Woodward. Written shortly after England won the 2003 Rugby World Cup, this is the England coach’s view of the route to the top.

What I’d not realised before this book was that Sir Clive had run a succesful business as well as being a rugby coach, and it is clear that he in an intelligent, analytical man, who also happens to care passionately about sport.

Much of the book is, obviously, specific to rugby, and things like the analysis of the chance of scoring in a three-phase fast ball play aren’t going to be relevant to running any other kind of business.

However, there is a lot to be learned – the focus on Winning as the goal (rather than feeling “it’s the taking part that counts”), but also the focus on enjoying what you do are obvious lessons to pick out.

The other thing that struck me was not so much what Sir Clive said, as how he said it:

We all know that knowledge on its own is useless – it has to be combined with action to get results. However, what Sir Clive clearly shows is that there’s another ingredient – passion – that makes the difference between “taking part” and “Winning!”

Buy Winning! from Amazon.co.uk

Posted in Book Review, Building Businesses | 3 Comments »

YourPropertyExpert.com – site overhaul

Posted by markharrison on November 17, 2006

Today has been busy at Harrison towers.

When I was recording the original (2004) version of the UK Property Millionaire for Nightingale Conant, it seeme sensible to set up a website, and mention it on the programme.

Over the past two years, you’ve been visiting YourPropertyExpert.com in increasing numbers – initially to get the free downloads mentioned in the progamme (the deal analyser and the property survey form), then signing up to the newsletter.

As time has gone by, I’ve added some more features – the newsletter now goes out with an audio recording for those who want to listen rather than read… there are a whole bunch more downloads (including several hours of audio and a fair bit of video)… there’s a list of appearances (including many free events) for those who would rather see me live… and most importantly, there are two years worth of back issues of the newsletter (albeit delayed a few months from the initial emailing out so those who subscribe have first dibs.)

However, what I’d not really worked on for almost two years was the site navigation. The kind of layout that works for a small site with a couple of downloads and half-a-dozen articles doesn’t really work for something with much more info.

I’d been planning to give it a makeover for a while, and today was the day.

The model I followed was that in Steve Krug’s “Dont’ make me think“, my all-time favourite book on web design for ease of navigation. If you want to understand how people really use websites, and how you can optimise them for visitors who will stay, then this is the number one place to start in my opinion.

Steve’s key message is that your site visitors don’t spend lots of time reading your finely-crafted prose, instead they scan your site, looking to see what happens next, make up their minds quickly whether this is the right site, and then work out where to go. This, by the way, is why I’m a bit of contrarian about the importance of finely crafted “sales letters” sites just being written as long bits of prose, and instead tend to split my sales sites across multiple pages so that visitors can see what they need quickly.

Hopefully, the new makeover on YourPropertyExpert.com won’t make you think, either. If you go there, then hopefully you’ll find what you need quickly – be that articles, downloads, or links to other products.

Oh, and just to make it easier still, I’ve added Google SiteSearch – to let you search the site, or this blog (or if you prefer, the whole Internet.)

Posted in Book Review, Property Investment, Web Marketing | Leave a Comment »

Mini Book Review – Naked Conversations (Scoble and Israel)

Posted by markharrison on November 7, 2006

“People buy from people” – Vanish Patel

For some while, I’ve had a blogroll link to Naked Conversations on this blog. Now, I should start by stressing that this link is indeed work-safe, and not, as you might have hoped, a link to that sort of site.

Naked conversations is the name of a blog, and the name of a book – specifically a book about business blogging.

At the moment, there seems to be a digital divide – people use blogs to communicate over the web, but companies seem to use either static websites or CMS (content management system)-based sites to convey lots of corporate-speak.

Now, even when I was working as a corporate manager, I was never a great fan of corporate-speak, because it seemed to get in the way of clear communication, and doesn’t address the “Vanish Patel problem” – namely that people buy from people, not from brands.

Scoble and Israel have an answer – namely that succesful businesses talk with their customers as if they (the businesses) were humans, not droids, and that blogs give a very effective way of doing this. There are a whole bunch of advantages to this (as I’m proof – my blog gets updated WAY more often than my “main business site”, and as a result has a lot of more readers.

A mix of good case-studies in a variety of different fields (not just those in the tech sector, and certainly not just those aimed at the “youth” market) combined with a bunch of down-to-earth solid advice makes this well worth a read.
Naked Conversations

Posted in Book Review, Web Marketing | Comments Off on Mini Book Review – Naked Conversations (Scoble and Israel)