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The Lowell Project – Planning the Website

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Although the Lowell.com development project is beyond the stage of preliminary planning, I wanted to take a step back and give an overview of the project plan and outline.
In order to become useful to Lowell, Massachusetts residents and visitors, Lowell.com must provide a valuable service to encourage visitors to return to the site. To give our advertisers a reason to advertise, we will need to increase our traffic naturally via search engine optimization, so people who don’t know about our website will easily find us. We currently rank low in the search engines, although this is better than when we weren’t listed at all just a few weeks ago. Lowell.com receives anywhere from 50-125 visitors per day, with most of the traffic coming via direct navigation, so we are in a good position at this stage.
Lowell.com will have detailed information about the city’s attractions. From museums and parks to neighborhoods and sports teams, Lowell.com will have unique information about all of Lowell’s attractions. Instead of lifting content from various websites, we have writers researching and writing specifically for this website. This is very important to our organic growth, and we plan to continue to build, adding more content and information. As we grow, we expect to earn higher rankings in the search engines, and we will hopefully be at the top of the list for searches such as “Lowell restaurants,” “Lowell hotels,” “Lowell lawyers“… etc, as well as many other niches.
Lowell.com will also have a large directory for people who need to find businesses in the Lowell area. We will provide free listings for almost every type of business in the city. The listings will be in an easy to use format, so our visitors will find what they need, and hopefully bookmark us for future use. If someone from out of town is planning a wedding in Lowell, they can use Lowell.com to find a wedding chapel, photographer, band, bakery, caterer…etc. Instead of having to look around at various websites, everything can be found at Lowell.com
To better serve both the business community and visitors, business owners will be allowed to enhance their listings for free. While almost all businesses in Lowell will be listed and categorized at no charge, the basic listing will only include a phone number and address. To add more value for all parties, we will allow business owners to add a paragraph or two about their business, a map to their business, and photographs that can entice consumers to call, all at no added cost to them.
To generate revenue to keep the website financially secure, we will offer businesses the opportunity to pay for category header banners, which will move their listing to the top of the category. Businesses in categories with much competition (such as law) will greatly benefit by moving to the top of the category with a banner ad. We will also offer home page banners to give these advertisers the most exposure. Category and home page advertisers will have their banners rotated throughout the non-profit pages, to give them added exposure throughout the site.
The ultimate goal of the website is to provide an aesthetically pleasing site that is easy to use and informative. As the website matures, more information will become available, giving added value to advertisers and visitors. Our mission is to be the most useful source of information for Lowell residents and visitors.
***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***
Just as an FYI, the current site looks absolutely nothing like how the final website will look. I am keeping the current site up (which came along with the domain name) in order to avoid de-listing in search engines that could possibly occur if I take it down.

Developing Domain Names: The Lowell Project

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Like many domain investors, I’ve never developed a complete website. I know I should develop all of my names, but development is difficult and it takes quite a bit of time and money. For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on the development of Lowell.com off line. After careful consideration, I have decided to blog about my ongoing experiences to give other domain investors insight into this development project.
While I hope this will give others the opportunity to witness a successful (or unsuccessful) development undertaking, selfishly, I want to document my progress so I can emulate and/or make improvements on my next project. I hope to be able to provide full details about various aspects of the development process, and I welcome any comments or advice.
So begins the journey into “The Lowell Project.”
***UPDATED BY ELLIOT***
Just as an FYI, the current site looks absolutely nothing like how the final website will look. I am keeping the current site up (which came along with the domain name) in order to avoid delisting in search engines that could possibly occur if I take it down.

Writer’s Guild Strike Boon for Internet

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Several weeks ago, on the eve of the strike by the Writer’s Guild of America, I mentioned that the writers strike could be a boon for websites as people tune in online rather than watch reruns and countless reality shows. Now that the strike has been in place for weeks, there are some signs that writers may opt to move to the online distribution channel instead of waiting idly for the contract issue to be resolved.

According to a recent article in The Guardian about Hollywood writers moving online, “Seven groups are thought to be working on forming companies to challenge the dominance of the studios.” It appears that some writers are choosing to bypass the studios and create direct to consumer content via the Internet. Just as direct marketing does, this content can be highly targeted to a specific niche. Writers will have the creative freedom to express themselves, and they will be able to produce material of their choice, without the normal studio oversight.

I don’t have the time to do this, but I think it would be neat if someone set up a website specifically for the striking writers to distribute their work. YouTube and other video sharing sites are great, but it would be neat to have a specific website devoted to the striking writers, to give them the opportunity to display their skills and allow visitors to compensate them.

According to an article in CNN, the gaming industry is capitalizing on the writers strike, and I don’t see a reason why Internet television couldn’t see the same gains.

End of Year Checklist: Buy Your Office Supplies

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As the year winds down, and the final hours of 2007 are upon us, there aren’t many things that can be done that will be impactful on 2008. One fairly small (buy often overlooked) thing that can still be done is purchasing your office supplies for the new year.

I don’t know about you, but most of my trips to Staples ended in small purchases of random things for the business. I needed printers, pens, folders, binders, ink…etc. Lots of various office supplies were needed throughout the year. Well, this year I am going to do things a bit differently. I have a list of the office supplies I used throughout the year as well as a list of supplies I currently have “in stock.” I am going to Staples this afternoon and will buy everything I can possibly use for next year that I can fit into my apartment. While this isn’t going to be thousands of dollars worth of supplies by any stretch, it will be save me a few dollars come tax time.

There have been a couple of accounting programs I wanted to try out in lieu of my Excel workbook accounting, and this is the perfect time to buy them!

Wired Magazine: Vote on Tech Trends

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Wired magazine discusses tech trends for 2008, and they are running an editor and user-submitted vote on predictions for the new year. One vote of interest to people in the domain investment community is the poll question related to the .mobi extension:

Get ready for a new internet extention (sic): .mobi for mobile devices and cell phones”  

Will corporate America and independent web developers make 2008 a boom year for .mobi, or will issues like the voided .mobi auction lead investors to publicly air their grievances about the situation?

Legal Ramifications of Breaking a Deal

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On Thursday, I discussed the business ramifications of backing out of a domain deal, and how doing so can potentially cause major damage to a person’s reputation. Both publicly and privately, I’ve heard from a few people about this type of issue, and it really seems to be a big problem in the industry. For whatever reason, some people believe that just because an official contract created by attorney was not signed by both parties, the agreement is not legally binding.

Yesterday, my friend Mike Berkens discussed the legal aspect of a buyer reneging on a deal. There are many variables that come into play with a situation like this, so it isn’t always cut and dry.

While most domain transactions probably wouldn’t be worth the expense and hassle of filing a lawsuit if an agreement was breeched, it might merit a call to an attorney to explore the options. In all cases, the buyer should take some time to decide whether its really worth fighting, as legal action isn’t usual a simple process. A business case/cost benefit analysis should be made to determine whether the outcome would benefit the business based on the potential costs.

Whatever the case may be, I think everyone can agree that backing out of an agreement is in poor form.

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