Web business competition research tools

Now, lots of businesses are getting online and because of ease of starting a web based business, more and more people are gathering their ideas and coming on board to business 2.0. Because of this fact, competition is getting fierce and knowing thyself and your competitor is becoming very important to be able to position yourself in the market and being successful.

Jessica Hupp from virtualhosting put together a great list of online tools that you can do to gather more intel on your competitors in the article Webmaster Intel Basics: 25 Tools to Compile an In-Depth Dossier on a Competitors’ Site. The major quotes on the list are as follows:

Domain Name and Ownership Intel

  1. Whois: Check out the Whois on your competitors to find how who owns the site and where they operate. You can also gather contact information through this tool.
  2. Mark Alert: Mark Alert lets you know if a domain name is registered with a term or phrase that may violate your trademark. This can help you defend your trademark and make sure that competitors don’t get too close.
  3. Company Profile Report: Look up a competitor’s Company Profile Report to get information on sales and contacts. This can be used as a comparison tool.
  4. Domain History: Domain History allows you to see the historic ownership of any site. In the case of private registrations, you can view contact information for the site before it was privatized.

Traffic Intel

  1. Compete: Compete offers SnapShots of any site. They provide visitor information, growth and traffic counts, If you register, you can compare up to 5 sites at once, save them to a portfolio, and vote to rank sites.
  2. Alexa: Alexa’s Traffic Rankings offer stats on the percentage of internet users who visit a site, its traffic rank and page views. You can compare up to 5 sites at a time on Alexa’s Traffic Graph, too.
  3. Search Engine Optimization Analysis Tool: Use the SEO Analysis tool to see how a search engine spider sees any website. This is a great way to discover your competitor’s SEO weaknesses and consider how you can improve on your own.
  4. Statsaholic: Statsaholic’s website statistics offer information on competitors’ ranks, page views and more. You can create a permalink to any site’s stats for quick reference at a later date.

Hosting Intel

  1. Who is Hosting This?: Who is Hosting This? offers a way for you to find out who is hosting any domain name. Whether they’re just using Blogger, a traditional host, or running their own server, you’ll be able to find out.
  2. WebSitePulse: WebSitePulse monitors how fast a website’s host is. Find out response time, size and more.

Marketing Intel and Backlinks

  1. SpyFu: SpyFu’s web scraping tools let you know how much your competitors are spending on pay per click ads so that you have a reference point to work from. You can also find out how many clicks per day they get and which keywords they are advertising for.
  2. URLtrends: URLtrends provides SEO data like Page Rank, incoming links, ranking trends and more.
  3. Backlink Checker: Find out who your competitors are sharing links with and use this information to set up link trades of your own.
  4. Market Leap: Another SEO tool, Market Leap lets you test the ranking of a competitor’s pages. You can enter your own URL and see how it compares with up to 3 competitors’ sites at a time.

Trademarks and Filings Intel

  1. Trademark Electronic Search System: Use the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) to perform basic, boolean and advanced searches for trademarks.
  2. SEC Filings and Forms: Check out the Securities and Exchange Commission’s database for company filings.
  3. Patent Electronic Business Center: Search the patent office’s records for full-text and full-page image returns on your competitors’ issued and published patent applications.

Public Relations

  1. Better Business Bureau: Search the Better Business Bureau’s database for reliability reports on your competitors. You can search by name, address, and phone. You can even check out businesses of a specified type within a certain mile radius.
  2. KnowX: Use KnowX to search lawsuit public records by defendant, plaintiff, case number, date and type of case.


  1. Credit eValuator Report: The Credit eValuator Report gives information on creditworthiness and payment history. Using this tool, you’ll be able to find out if your competitor is struggling or flourishing.
  2. Business Background Report: The Business Background Report provides information on a company’s history, background, operation and data on senior management.
  3. Yahoo! Finance: If your competitor is a publicly traded company, you can check out stock quotes and analysis on them using Yahoo! Finance.
  4. BusinesScope: Use BusinesScope to directly compare your financials and credit with your competitors. This report is good for a year and updated quarterly.

Browser Compatibility and Accessibility

  1. Watchfire WebXACT: WebXACT tests the quality, accessibility and privacy of single webpages.
  2. Wave 3.0: Wave 3.0 tests website compatibility with WCAG 1.0 and Section 508.
  3. Browsershots: Use Browswershots to see how any website looks in various browsers like Firefox, Safari and Iceweasal.
  4. Ready.mobi: Ready.mobi lets you test any web page to see how it will look on mobile phone browsers.

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Web site design and development using open source codes

Recently, I got real interested in developing my own web site so I started digging into them since I do not have time to implement from fresh. I was looking into Content Management Tools like Joomla for one example. Installation was breeze but I still need something that give me overview of what will be necessary and what would be required to have the implementation and deployment of the site that can work.

During my search, I ran into IBM developer network which has Using open source software to design, develop, and deploy a collaborative Web site. It shows you from beginning to the end of what you need to do in step by step fashion. This is exactly what I was looking for and I suggest you to take a look at these if you are interested in developing your own website or web business!

It shows that it is utilizing the following tools:

  • Drupal. An open source content management system
  • MySQL. An open source database store
  • PHP. A Web-based language for supporting dynamic content with PHPMyAdmin and SQLBrowse
  • Apache. An open source Web server
  • Eclipse. An open source development environment
  • CVS. A source code management system that tracks changes in your code
This is basics of what is covered in 15 part articles that they published:
  • Building your development environment
  • Getting started with Drupal
  • Observing the interaction of Drupal with other software tools (such as MySQL, Ajax, and PHP)
  • Building custom Drupal modules
  • Deploying and tuning your installation
Each of the topics of each part is illustrated here:

Part 1: Introduction and overview
July 2006
This first article introduces the business scenario and describes the factors that drove the Internet Technology Group team to choose open source tools and Drupal over other content management systems available today.

Part 2: Design for an effective user experience
July 2006
Follow along as the Internet Technology Group team redesigns an existing Web site, analyzing business goals and users' goals, evaluating the existing site, and iteratively refining alternative solutions based on user feedback.

Part 3: Building your development environment in Windows

August 2006
Install and configure in this tutorial all the software necessary
to develop a Drupal-based Web site in Windows, including Eclipse, PHP,
and more. When you're done, you will have a blank development canvas
that you can use for any development project.

Part 4: Building your development environment in Linux
August 2006
Install and configure in this tutorial all the software necessary to develop a Drupal-based Web site in Linux, including Eclipse, PHP, and more. When you're done, you will have a blank development canvas that you can use for any development project.

Part 5: Getting started with Drupal
August 2006
Learn about the Drupal programming model used in developing Web sites, and explore different types of content, developing new features using modules, implementing hooks to enable those modules, and site URL design.

Part 6: Building a custom module in Drupal
September 2006
Create a custom Drupal module for announcements. Learn about implementation and use code samples to create your own custom module.

Part 7: Structuring content for theming using XHTML
October 2006
Explore methods to structure content delivered by Drupal during the development of a new extranet Web site.

Part 8: Styling content for theming using CSS
October 2006
Learn methods for structuring the content of a new extranet Web site, including how to change the presentation and styling of the content delivered by Drupal.

Part 9: Understanding the database layer
October 2006
Discover best practices for module developers. Get details about using the Drupal database functions. And implement the necessary code to support a new database -- IBM DB2® Express-C.

Part 10: Adding features for an extranet Web site
November 2006
Define an extranet to meet client requirements and explore implementation techniques to create an extranet Web site.

Part 11: Using taxonomies in Drupal
December 2006
Use the taxonomy system in Drupal to provide structure to your Web site, which in turn helps support navigation and organization of your content.

Part 12: Hosting and deployment
December 2006
Investigate the issues surrounding deployment of a Drupal site using virtualization technologies. Find out why the team opted to go with virtualization in this scenario and which hosting options you should consider for your own Web site.

Part 13: PHP development within Eclipse
January 2007
Use the Eclipse integrated development environment to create your Web site, with a focus on Eclipse's support for PHP and using Concurrent Versions System (CVS) for version control.

Part 14: The announcement module source code
March 2007
Get the complete announcement module that is used as an example throughout this series. All the functions from this module are included and can be downloaded in a single file.

Part 15: Lessons learned and what's new in Drupal
April 2007
You've completed the process of developing a Web site using open source Drupal driven by Apache, PHP, and MySQL. Find out which decisions and approaches worked or didn't work for the team, and the latest in Drupal 5.0.

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Common interview questions and how you should answer them

The wisebread put together How to answer 23 of the most common interview questions. Lots of these are common sense, specially to people who have gone through few interviews themselves. However, it is always good to check them and double check before you do go into any interviews.

In particular, last item about asking questions at the end, I really really strongly recommend that you should always have at least few questions ready. Addition to what's being said in the quote below, the questions that you will ask the interviewer your genuine interest in the company and the available position as well as part of your personality. The worst thing that you can do is tell the interviewer that you do not have any questions...

Here is the quote on 23 items that is discussed:

1. So, tell me a little about yourself.
I’d be very surprised if you haven’t been asked this one at every interview. It’s probably the most asked question because it sets the stage for the interview and it gets you talking. Be careful not to give the interviewer your life story here. You don’t need to explain everything from birth to present day. Relevant facts about education, your career and your current life situation are fine.

2. Why are you looking (or why did you leave you last job)?
This should be a straightforward question to answer, but it can trip you up. Presumably you are looking for a new job (or any job) because you want to advance your career and get a position that allows you to grow as a person and an employee. It’s not a good idea to mention money here, it can make you sound mercenary. And if you are in the unfortunate situation of having been downsized, stay positive and be as brief as possible about it. If you were fired, you’ll need a good explanation. But once again, stay positive.

3. Tell me what you know about this company.
Do your homework before you go to any interview. Whether it’s being the VP of marketing or the mailroom clerk, you should know about the company or business you’re going to work for. Has this company been in the news lately? Who are the people in the company you should know about? Do the background work, it will make you stand out as someone who comes prepared, and is genuinely interested in the company and the job.

4. Why do you want to work at X Company?
This should be directly related to the last question. Any research you’ve done on the company should have led you to the conclusion that you’d want to work there. After all, you’re at the interview, right? Put some thought into this answer before you have your interview, mention your career goals and highlight forward-thinking goals and career plans.

5. What relevant experience do you have?
Hopefully if you’re applying for this position you have bags of related experience, and if that’s the case you should mention it all. But if you’re switching careers or trying something a little different, your experience may initially not look like it’s matching up. That’s when you need a little honest creativity to match the experiences required with the ones you have. People skills are people skills after all, you just need to show how customer service skills can apply to internal management positions, and so on.

6. If your previous co-workers were here, what would they say about you?
Ok, this is not the time for full disclosure. If some people from your past are going to say you’re a boring A-hole, you don’t need to bring that up. Stay positive, always, and maybe have a few specific quotes in mind. “They’d say I was a hard worker” or even better “John Doe has always said I was the most reliable, creative problem-solver he’d ever met.”

7. Have you done anything to further your experience?
This could include anything from night classes to hobbies and sports. If it’s related, it’s worth mentioning. Obviously anything to do with further education is great, but maybe you’re spending time on a home improvement project to work on skills such as self-sufficiency, time management and motivation.

8. Where else have you applied?
This is a good way to hint that you’re in demand, without sounding like you’re whoring yourself all over town. So, be honest and mention a few other companies but don’t go into detail. The fact that you’re seriously looking and keeping your options open is what the interviewer is driving at.

9. How are you when you’re working under pressure?
Once again, there are a few ways to answer this but they should all be positive. You may work well under pressure, you may thrive under pressure, and you may actually PREFER working under pressure. If you say you crumble like aged blue cheese, this is not going to help you get your foot in the door.

10. What motivates you to do a good job?
The answer to this one is not money, even if it is. You should be motivated by life’s noble pursuits. You want recognition for a job well done. You want to become better at your job. You want to help others or be a leader in your field.

11. What’s your greatest strength?
This is your chance to shine. You’re being asked to explain why you are a great employee, so don’t hold back and stay do stay positive. You could be someone who thrives under pressure, a great motivator, an amazing problem solver or someone with extraordinary attention to detail. If your greatest strength, however, is to drink anyone under the table or get a top score on Mario Kart, keep it to yourself. The interviewer is looking for work-related strengths.

12. What’s your biggest weakness?
If you’re completely honest, you may be kicking yourself in the butt. If you say you don’t have one, you’re obviously lying. This is a horrible question and one that politicians have become masters at answering. They say things like “I’m perhaps too committed to my work and don’t spend enough time with my family.” Oh, there’s a fireable offense. I’ve even heard “I think I’m too good at my job, it can often make people jealous.” Please, let’s keep our feet on the ground. If you’re asked this question, give a small, work-related flaw that you’re working hard to improve. Example: “I’ve been told I occasionally focus on details and miss the bigger picture, so I’ve been spending time laying out the complete project every day to see my overall progress.”

13. Let’s talk about salary. What are you looking for?
Run for cover! This is one tricky game to play in an interview. Even if you know the salary range for the job, if you answer first you’re already showing all your cards. You want as much as possible, the employer wants you for as little as you’re willing to take. Before you apply, take a look at salary.com for a good idea of what someone with your specific experience should be paid. You may want to say, “well, that’s something I’ve thought long and hard about and I think someone with my experience should get between X & Y.” Or, you could be sly and say, “right now, I’m more interested in talking more about what the position can offer my career.” That could at least buy you a little time to scope out the situation. But if you do have a specific figure in mind and you are confident that you can get it, I’d say go for it. I have on many occasions, and every time I got very close to that figure (both below and sometimes above).

14. Are you good at working in a team?
Unless you have the I.Q. of a houseplant, you’ll always answer YES to this one. It’s the only answer. How can anyone function inside an organization if they are a loner? You may want to mention what part you like to play in a team though; it’s a great chance to explain that you’re a natural leader.

15. Tell me a suggestion you have made that was implemented.
It’s important here to focus on the word “implemented.” There’s nothing wrong with having a thousand great ideas, but if the only place they live is on your notepad what’s the point? Better still, you need a good ending. If your previous company took your advice and ended up going bankrupt, that’s not such a great example either. Be prepared with a story about an idea of yours that was taken from idea to implementation, and considered successful.

16. Has anything ever irritated you about people you've worked with?
Of course, you have a list as long as your arm. But you can’t say that, it shows you as being negative and difficult to work with. The best way to answer this one is to think for a while and then say something like “I’ve always got on just fine with my co-workers actually.”

17. Is there anyone you just could not work with?
No. Well, unless you’re talking about murderers, racists, rapists, thieves or other dastardly characters, you can work with anyone. Otherwise you could be flagged as someone who’s picky and difficult if you say, “I can’t work with anyone who’s a Bronco’s fan. Sorry.”

18. Tell me about any issues you’ve had with a previous boss.
Arrgh! If you fall for this one you shouldn’t be hired anyway. The interviewer is testing you to see if you’ll speak badly about your previous supervisor. Simply answer this question with exteme tact, diplomacy and if necessary, a big fat loss of memory. In short, you've never had any issues.

19. Would you rather work for money or job satisfaction?
It’s not a very fair question is it? We’d all love to get paid a Trump-like salary doing a job we love but that’s rare indeed. It’s fine to say money is important, but remember that NOTHING is more important to you than the job. Otherwise, you’re just someone looking for a bigger paycheck.

20. Would you rather be liked or feared?
I have been asked this a lot, in various incarnations. The first time I just drew a blank and said, “I don’t know.” That went over badly, but it was right at the start of my career when I had little to no experience. Since then I’ve realized that my genuine answer is “Neither, I’d rather be respected.” You don’t want to be feared because fear is no way to motivate a team. You may got the job done but at what cost? Similarly, if you’re everyone’s best friend you’ll find it difficult to make tough decisions or hit deadlines. But when you’re respected, you don’t have to be a complete bastard or a lame duck to get the job done.

21. Are you willing to put the interests of X Company ahead of your own?
Again, another nasty question. If you say yes, you’re a corporate whore who doesn’t care about family. If you say no, you’re disloyal to the company. I’m afraid that you’ll probably have to say yes to this one though, because you’re trying to be the perfect employee at this point, and perfect employees don’t cut out early for Jimmy’s baseball game.

22. So, explain why I should hire you.
As I’m sure you know, “because I’m great” or “I really need a job” are not good answers here. This is a time to give the employer a laundry list of your greatest talents that just so happen to match the job description. It’s also good to avoid taking potshots at other potential candidates here. Focus on yourself and your talents, not other people’s flaws.

23. Finally, do you have any questions to ask me?
I’ll finish the way I started, with one of the most common questions asked in interviews. This directly relates to the research you’ve done on the company and also gives you a chance to show how eager and prepared you are. You’ll probably want to ask about benefits if they haven’t been covered already. A good generic one is “how soon could I start, if I were offered the job of course.” You may also ask what you’d be working on. Specifically, in the role you’re applying for and how that affects the rest of the company. Always have questions ready, greeting this one with a blank stare is a rotten way to finish your interview. Good luck and happy job hunting.

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UC Berkeley lecture videos on YouTube

Full length lectures from UC Berkeley is now available on YouTube. They have decided to expand their educational direction toward more open and wider audiences. It is great way to expand and it is a great way to provide additional educational opportunities to students. However, for most professionals, they are not as useful, since the offered courses are in fairly elementary topics only. I would love to see more graduate level courses in software as well as hardware related items.

All playlist can be found here.

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