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Government adopts Khmer Unicode

Cambodia’s main international airport first went digital in 2003. The new system multiplied exponentially the amount of time it took to get in or out of the country, as computer-unsavvy airport officials labored to understand the vagaries of Windows.

“We apologize for any delays that are caused by the use of our new computer system,” read little signs posted at each computer terminal.

They were still there two years later.

Even today, Cambodia remains in the very early stages of computer adoption. Most government ministries still keep hand-written records, and the exchange of data between agencies relies on an ad hoc system born of secondhand photocopiers and oil drums of ink. Decrepit phone lines and low computer-literacy rates add to the challenge.

The greatest hurdle of all has been the Cambodian language itself. For as beautiful as it is, there has been no standard way to display it. Until now.

In late December, the government passed a sub-decree requiring the Khmer Unicode font for all government correspondence.

In years past, the choice of typeface was left to the user, and as many as 30 different versions of “Khmer” competed for supremacy. There existed no uniform way to create the same characters across different fonts, which meant typists had to know them all, or stick to the few they did.

If documents arrived with an unknown character, too bad. Though font converters existed, few of them worked well, and translating from one font to another could take days or more.

Even more problematic, the lack of a font standard strangled the development of intra-government computer networks and centralized data storage. How could the government build a nationwide database of criminals, for example, when it could not even agree upon the font to use for data entry.

The move to Khmer Unicode fixes all that, and it provides the government a proper foundation on which to build a modern information system.

Apologies for any delay.

Getting social media right

Marketing Sherpa is a must-follow site for anyone involved in online marketing. Sherpa provides invaluable insight into current online marketing trends and solid research to support its conclusions. In a recent article, titled “Perceptions about Social Media are Changing,” Sherpa offers some priceless advice on corporate forays into the Facebook/Twitter scene.

The 17% of organizations who still believe social media marketing is basically free and should stay that way, are destined to get what they pay for.

Not surprisingly, those who have reached the strategic phase of social marketing maturity are far more likely to be producing measurable ROI or at least seeing signs of a return on their investment on the horizon.

On the other hand, marketers in the trial phase of social marketing maturity are more than four times as likely to not recognize the value this tactic has for organizations willing to invest appropriate time and resources.

Getting social media right takes time and planning. Jumping in haphazardly will only produce haphazard results, or none at all. Setting goals, and then devising a plan to achieve them, is the only way to go.

Your newsletter, blog, Facebook and Twitter pages should represent individual parts of a total marketing strategy. Each piece should work symbiotically with the others.

Readers who congregate on different media are often interested in different aspects of your company. Take the time to find out where their interests lie, and then cater to them.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have grown so rapidly because the personal interactions they provide are far more compelling than passive Web experiences offered elsewhere on the Internet. For companies, this offers an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to potential customers.

But attitudes on the Interent are far different than those encountered in traditional media, where audiences are largely passive. Talking at your readers, or trying to steer their conversations, will only drive them away. Once gone, they are unlikely to return.

Engage readers openly and honestly, and be part of their conversations, not a television blaring annoyingly in the background.

Profit driven: The psychology of menu design

The New York Times recently talked to a few top-notch restaurant menu designers about ways to increase the bottom line. Turns out, designing restaurant menus is as much science as it is beautiful colors, and the wrong choices can kill profit margins just as sure as the right ones can boost it.  Some highlights:

UPSIDE

  • good descriptions increase sales
  • so do good photos
  • reds and blues make people hungry
  • brand names also boost sales, compared to generic products

DOWNSIDE

  • grays and purples make people feel satiated
  • the dollar sign is bad; it re-enforces “the pain of paying”
  • .99 infers value, but not quality; .95 is better

In a tight economy, even a small increase in revenue can have a significant impact on a business, and the points about pricing resonate well beyond restaurant menus. The theory speaks directly to customer satisfaction, something no business can afford to overlook, even in the best of times.

READ IT: Using Menu Psychology to Entice Diners

Twitterfeed: update your blog, twitter and facebook pages with one click

Twitterfeed is a great little tool that will synchronize your blog, Twitter and Facebook pages. For every blog post, Twitterfeed  automatically updates your Twitter and Facebook pages. Blog once. Update across all three. Best of all, it’s free.

Getting set up could be a little easier, as the Twitterfeed interface is a bit wonky. But it’s well worth the 20  minutes or so it takes to figure out how it works.

John at House 32 recommended it. I use it here for K4 Media, and also with Paddy’s Gym, to keep Paddy’s twitter account updated with Cambodian boxing news.

WordPress 3.0 to include WordPress MU (multiuser)

The rumors of a merge between WordPress and WordPress Multiuser began swirling around late May. In June, a lead developer at WordPress MU, Donncha O Caoimh, confirmed the consolidation. And the WordPress community celebrated.

But only briefly. After the announcement, questions of “when?” quickly followed, and for that Mr. O Caoimh had no ready answers.

On Christmas Day, WordPress announced the launch of WordPress 3.0, and with it, the inclusion of WordPress MU.

In a nutshell, the merge of the two WordPress versions means that from 3.0 on, every WordPress installation will be capable of hosting multiple blogs/sites.

Different company employees, for example, could have their own blog — robert.k4media.com, jet.k4media.com, etc — but instead of multiple installs, with multiple databases, admins, etc, everything is in one easy-to-manage code base. Something along these lines might also be useful for a single company with several brands.

Users can have limited permissions for security reasons — no theme or plugin uploads, for example — while the Admin still retains God rights. Or Users too can have Admin privileges.

The merger also means that many cool MU projects, such as BuddyPress, the WordPress MU “social networking” plugin, will soon be available for the masses.

At K4 Media, we recommend WordPress a lot. Not so much as a blogging software, but as a content management system.

  • WP is very user-friendly
  • WP is designed to be customized (k4media.com runs on WordPress)
  • WP’s automatic update process makes staying current easy
  • WP is easily extensible with 1000s of plugins
  • WP is open source

In recent years, WordPress has evolved into much more that just blogging software. It really is a terrific little CMS, which is why we use and recommend it so much. The move to incorporate MU will only make WordPress that much stronger.

Your skyscraper killed my Internet

Progress has killed my Internet connection.

One of the new high-rises in the area is now partially blocking my line-of-sight, microwave Telesurf connection, and connectivity over the last few days has become painfully slow, although not completely severed. It would probably be better if it was. That would at least be less frustrating.

The good news is that Telesurf will upgrade my 9-year-old Chinese “speedbox” to Wimax today. The technician assures me this is much better than the ancient Chinese oracle that provides access and boils coffee now. We will see.

I first got Telesurf in 2002, when the number of ISPs was still in the single digits. The modem and antennae are holdovers from those early days. While there are many more providers today, my experience with a few of the others — Online, Camnet, Mekong — has been subpar. And nearly all of them would be more expensive than what I pay at Telesurf — about $55 per month for a 128k connection with a 1000mb data allowance.

After working out a few early bugs, Telesurf has been solid over the years. It almost never goes out, dropped connections — the bane of anyone who uses FTP –are rare, and customer service continues to improve. Their policy seems to be that a second complaint to customer service triggers a house call, sometimes in as little as 30 minutes.

So I complained on Saturday. And today, Monday, they will do something about the high-rise problem. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Domain name equity

How much is your domain name worth? Ask Stimator to find out. You will probably be knocked off your chair. I certainly was.

  • royalgroup.com.kh = $9,004
  • k4media.com =$12,883
  • johnvink.com = $51,269
  • fcccambodia.com = $1,479,328

And what about heavies from the West:

  • playboy.com = $48,991
  • microsoft.com = $354,262
  • google.com = $369,937
  • nytimes.com =$371,083

To think, the FCC domain is worth more than the New York Times. It kind of makes sense when you think about it. Business is good for the FCC. The New York Times, like newspapers all over, is struggling.

Does Stimator.com’s valuing of domains actually mean anything? Probably not.

More useful is Website grader, a site that offers critical analysis and concrete advice on how to better position your Web site on the Internet.

Plug-in drama

I am just in the process of trying to install a few nifty plugins. Neither Search Everything nor Cforms wants to work. Bugger.

I’ve used Cforms many times in the past and it has always worked without flaw. Except when the permissions were not set correctly…

… the problem with Cforms hanging on “one moment please” took a bit of sleuthing, but it was extremely easy to fix. I had originally installed the plugin on my local development server. That process hard-coded in js/cforms.js the local install path, for some strange reason. The original block of javascript looks like this:

// ONLY in case AJAX DOESN’T work you may want to double-check this path:
// If you do change this setting: CLEAR your BROWSER CACHE & RESTART you BROWSER!
var sajax_uri = ‘/wp-content/plugins/cforms/lib_ajax.php’;

The local install had changed that last line to “http://192.168.1.10:8888/wp-content/plugins/cforms/lib_ajax.php,” which of course would not work in the live environment.

So the contact form works now. Go ahead, say something!