Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ning: a good idea, but “infinite growth”?

I recently read an article in Fast Company about Ning by Adam L. Penenberg. Ning is a web site from Gina Bianchini (the chairman is Marc Andreesen) that has received quite a bit of press lately. Penenberg boasted that the site has a discovered a model for "infinite" growth. According to the article, the site, which allows users to create their own (free) social networks, has grown from 60,000 networks last June to over 230,000 in April. The article is pretty convincing in showing how "viral" the site's growth has been and will likely continue to be in the absence of competitors.

The reason I say "in the absence of competitors" is simple. Ning is not the same as a social networking web site like Facebook or MySpace. The latter two have established such a large market share that barriers to (successful) entry are very high. Newcomers like Pownce and Yahoo's Mash may be able to get some users through marketing, but Facebook and MySpace will always be dominant because that is where most of our friends already have profiles. Why get crazy with Pownce when all my friends are already on Facebook?

Ning offers a great service, and as long as there are no real competitors they will probably see viral growth. If you want to launch a new general social networking site to attract lots of new users, you need more than marketing to take users away from kings like Facebook since users already have all their friends on Facebook and have no real reason to leave. If you want to launch a competing site to Ning, all you really need is marketing. Of course you need smart people and other things as well, but at the end of the day there is no inherent reason to start your own social networking site at Ning vs. an emerging competitor since you still have the work of attracting your own users either way.

True, because Ning has 230,000 networks already, there is value to beginning your own social networking site on Ning since there are no doubt Ning users who browse the site for other social networking sites to join. But that in and of itself is not enough of a barrier to entry for Ning to be able to count on being king for long.

Viral growth? No question. Infinite? Well, until a competitor comes along anyway.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

New Product: Wi-Fire USB Adapter (HFWFG10)

Okay, it's not quite new as we did carry this once before. RokBlog readers may remember this post from February of 2007 where we raved about the Wi-Fire, which we did sell at the time. So why did we discontinue carrying it, and why are we offering it again now?

When we carried the Wi-Fire at the beginning of 2007, it was a brand new product, and hField (the manufacturer) was a brand new company. No one had heard of the Wi-Fire, and though we felt it was a revolutionary product and we did our best to spread the word, demand was low. Plus the price point last year was over $100.00 at most places, making it difficult for the product to gain market share (in our opinion).

Well, a lot has changed in the past year. The Wi-Fire has received coveted media attention wide and far, and demand is peaking. Customers are asking us why we, a company known for long range wireless networking products, don't carry the Wi-Fire. Well, if we listen to anyone it certainly is our customers. Plus (bonus in 3...2...1...) hField has helped out by lowering the price point of the product all the way down to where we can afford to sell it for just $79.99 plus shipping. Not bad at all for a 500mw USB adapter with a 10 dBi gain directional antenna. Not bad at all. Oh, and did we mention it is not only compatible with Windows XP and Vista, but Apple Macintosh OS 10.3, 10.4, and 10.5 (Leopard) as well?

Click here to view the item on our web site and see more details about the product and some pictures as well.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

More new stuff...Auctiva in our eBay listings

We are making quite a few changes to both our web site and our eBay auctions. As discussed in this blog post here, we are beginning to post item-specific feedback comments in item descriptions of our eBay listings. Now we have added another great feature to our listings thanks to Auctiva.

Auctiva is an auction management service which has a number of special features, chief among them an auction scroll box that now appears in the top of our listings. This self-scrolling box displays other eBay auctions that we have for sale and you can click on the boxes to be taken to that auction.

We deal primarily in wireless networking technology, and as you may know, in this industry one size does NOT fit all. One item that is not enough for one person's needs may be overkill for another person. With this scroll box, if you click into one of our auction listings via Google or an eBay search, you can see other items we have for sale right from that same page, and because we have so many various products for sale, we are confident that you will find what you need. But if you don't, remember to use the "Ask seller a question" button on eBay item pages to let us know what you need and we will certainly do our best to help you.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A reminder to us all to be careful of what we consider to be true knowledge on any subject...

It's not about wireless networking, but a fitting read I think for us 'travelers' of the blogosphere...

New Social Bookmarking Features

We've added a new feature to our item pages at Rokland.com which allows visitors to submit any of our product pages to social bookmarking web sites like del.icio.us and reddit. If you see a product on our web site that is a very good price or is hard to find, you can help us get the word out by bookmarking that product page to any of several social bookmarking web sites.

When I am online shopping for a product, I add lots of items from other online retailers (even if they are not what I am looking for at the moment) to del.icio.us because in my opinion it is a superior way of bookmarking compared to what we are used to in our web browsers. Then weeks later if I want to get something that I recalled seeing on a web site a few weeks back, I have an easy way to find it.

To bookmark a Rokland.com product page, look for the site-specific icons on the bottom of each product page directly underneath the "Add to Cart" button.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

New Feature: Item-specific feedback viewing for our eBay auction listings

We are beginning to add a new feature to our eBay auction descriptions and want to tell you about it.

This feature would be for sellers that sell a quantities of the same item, such as retail items, as opposed to sellers who sell unique items that are one of a kind. Basically, we get emails from buyers asking about the quality of a product, and at the end of our response we always tell them to check our eBay feedback profile to see what other buyers have said about the same product. The only problem is they have to sort pages of comments about other products in order to find comments specific to the product they want. Using the RSS Reader Widget from SpringWidgets along with an RSS feed we created, we are now able to include recent product-specific feedback comments directly in the item descriptions of a product. We have only done this on one product so far, our RokAir wireless USB adapter for Macintosh computers. You can see the feature after the first paragraph of the item description in this auction here:


The feature is not automated, in that it will not automatically update comments in the widget box for that product each time a new feedback comment is left for the product on eBay. However it's input is a single RSS feed hosted on our server, and so all we need to do is every few days update the RSS file with new comments and those new comments will automatically appear in every auction we have online for that product (so there are no tedious auction description revisions for each product that have to be done when you want to update the comments- what a relief!).

Our goal is to provide buyers with unfiltered views of other feedback comments buyers have left for the same product they are looking at, even if the comment is neutral or negative. We hope this will give potential buyers an easy and reliable way of evaluating products pre-purchase, and also better enable them to compare one product vs. any other that we sell.

Thanks for reading this blog entry, and feel free to let us know what you think about this feature. If any of you are interested in incorporating it into your own auctions at some point, drop us a line.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

New product- LONG RANGE 600 mW PCI Wireless-G Desktop Card Engenius EPS-3601S

If it seems like it has been too long since we have added a new product to our lineup, don't worry, we've got a great one today and quite a few others coming down the pipeline.

Today I'm writing about a new offering we have from Engenius, a manufacturer you've come to trust for long range wireless products in large part because of their 200mw EL-2511CD PLUS EXT2 wireless card (also available as model numbers SL and EL-2511CD PLUS EXT2 from their overseas company name "Senao"). You may have read on our blog about our very high-powered 500mw Alfa USB adapter, well this PCI card from Engenius has a max output of 600mw. This card is a PCI card so it is exclusively for use in desktop computers. If you are looking for a high-powered solution for laptops, we do strongly recommend the Alfa 500mw adapter (AWUS036H).

But for the desktop, this model EPS-3601S is an excellent solution, not only because of its extremely high output power, but because of its sensitive chipset and LOW LOW price! We put this head to head with the Linksys WMP54G wireless PCI card, which is a pretty good quality adapter that sells for about $40 or so at your brick-and-mortar electronics store, and as you can see on the product page for the Engenius card, it was no comparison at all.

If you are in the market for a long range solution for a desktop computer, I have never seen a better performer. The stunning 600mw of output power means you'll have no problem running this to an outdoor antenna and being able to take full advantage of said antenna (perfect if you have a desktop PC on your boat or in your RV!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Cleaning the new Mac keyboard

Apple launched a new keyboard a short while back, you can see it here:


I decided to buy several for our office here after checking them out at a local retailer. They are very comfortable to type on, and the $49 price tag for the wired version is extremely reasonable (was the second cheapest keyboard at the store not factoring in the $9.99 entry level generic ones).

It dawned on me after buying it that the white keys would become brown and dirty over time- it is bound to happen no matter how clean your hands are when you type. Heck, it should have dawned on me when using the floor model at the store since many of the keys were brown and marked up.

Well, we've been using the keyboards for several weeks now and none of them have gotten dirty. Except yours truly dropped a pen on one, which managed to put ink lines on several of the keys. I went to wipe them off with regular electronic cleaner, it didn't even lighten the ink color. I then tried a basic all purpose cleaner, and still the ink marks were as dark as always. Before giving up I decided to try applying some Expo white board cleaner, recalling how I had once accidentally used a permanent marker on our white board and was able to remove it with the same cleaner. What do you know- it worked like a charm on the Mac keyboard. It took the ink off in seconds, the affected keys look just like new.

I am not cleaner savvy, so to some of you this may be obvious based on solvents or something. But for those of you like me, if you mark up your new Apple Mac keyboard, try putting some white board cleaner on a cloth and applying it to the keys. I have only done it one time and it did not affect the letters on the keys. However I should note again I am not cleaner savvy, so who knows, maybe the white board cleaner could have some adverse affect like rubbing off the letters if used to often. So be cautious. But it definitely removes ink stains!