the markITeer

The Bush Files: clients, servers and protocols

Posted by the markITeer on July 3, 2007

This post is part of a series of things ‘everybody-assumes-you-know-but-actually-you-don’t-have-a-clue’.
I call them : the Bush Files.
Today : clients, servers and protocols

If you want to understand how the Internet works, why it is you sometimes have to wait for a webpage to appear or why almost every web address starts with ‘http://’, you must learn about the most important thing that makes the web happen: the client-server model.

The first player in the client-server model is the client. A client can be any program that can access the Internet and wants to retrieve information from it. For instance a web browser, who wants to retrieve web pages, or an e-mail client who wants to retrieve email messages. But in order to get the information they want, somebody has to provide it to them. And that’s where our second player enters the stage: the server. A server is any program that can access the Internet and is able to provide information to the clients. There are servers specialized in delivering web pages, other servers know how to deliver email messages and so on.

You could compare this to going shopping: You, the client, want to get e.g. the latest Radiohead cd (rumoured to be released fall 2007!), and the store (aka the server) can give it to you.

There is however one thing still missing in this story: we assume that the client and server can understand each other! What if you would walk into a record store in China asking for your cd in Dutch? It is very important that the client and the server know how to communicate! That’s why different protocols were invented that define how a request and a response have to be created in order for the server to understand what the client is asking for, and for the client to understand the server’s answer.

For the exchange of web-based information (web pages, RSS feeds etc.), the http protocol is used, which stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. For the exchange of files, FTP (File Transfer Protocol) can be used, and for the exchange of emails SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) can be used. Makes sense, doesn’t it? And maybe you recognize this acronyms? If you enter a URL in your web browser, the first thing you have to enter is which protocol your browser should use to get the information you’re looking for e.g. http://markiteer.wordpress.com.

So, let’s recap using some day-to-day examples:

1. I want to view a web page:
First I type in the web address, let’s say https://markiteer.wordpress.com, into the address location bar of my web browser. My web browser, being a typical client, will then connect to the server where this website resides asking for the web page using the http protocol. The server knows this protocol and can deliver the web page back to the client. The client (your web browser) will then render it for me to view it.

2. I want to read an email:
I open my email reader (e.g. Outlook). Being a client, it will contact a mail server asking it for new email messages using the smtp protocol. The mail server understands what the client is asking for and can deliver the new messages. My Outlook will than render the email messages so I can view them.

3. I want to upload a file:
I open my FTP program (eg. CuteFTP, LeechFTP, …). This client will connect to a server I specify to which I want to upload my file. Using the FTP protocol, the client will send the file to the server. The server will understand this and send back a message that it successfully received the file.

That’s all there is to it. And once you’ve got the hang of this easy principle, the working of most Internet-based applications suddenly will become a lot clearer.

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The Future of Communications – A Manifesto for Integrating Social Media into Marketing

Posted by the markITeer on June 26, 2007

Social media is everywhere. Websites like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and numerous blogging platforms attract millions of visitors from all over the world. Visitors that are not just passing by to see what’s going on, but are willing to participate in discussions, upload content and make themselves heard. Web 2.0 has given a clear voice to the people. People who might well be your customers. Or your customers-to-be. That’s why it’s important for companies and marketers to connect to social media and lay out an integrated communications strategy not based on the old monologue, but on dialog.

Brian Solis of FutureWorks PR put together a manifesto for integrating social media into marketing. He emphasizes the importance of not only diving in, but -more important- of making the mental shift. Find your audience, find the influencers, listen to them, get involved.

A few quotes:

“It’s an understanding that social media is about sociology and less about technology. It’s a mashup of new and traditional media that spans across advertising, PR, customer service, marcom, sales, and community relations.”

“The key point here is that Social Media has yet to reveal its true impact. While many are defining its future, the majority of people around the world have yet to embrace it and participate. This means that it’s only going to become more pervasive and as such, become a critical factor in the success or failure of any business.”

“Listening is marketing.
Participation is marketing.
Media is marketing.
Conversations are marketing.
Comments are marketing.”

“Everything we’re integrating into the marketing mix is aimed at sparking and cultivating not only conversations, but relationships. It’s humanizing companies and their products and services so that they matter to people.”

“In order to reach people, we have to figure out who they are and where they go for information. In the process, you’ll quickly discover that there is no magic bullet for reaching everyone – all at once”

“Remember, the future of communications introduces sociology into the marketing strategy. The technology is just that, technology. The tools will change. The networks will evolve. Mediums for distributing content will grow.”

“By listening, reading, and participating, corporate marketing will be smarter and more approachable than ever before. This is how we humanize brands, create loyalty, and earn customer’s business.”

You can read the full manifesto here and here.

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Hacker’s Paradise

Posted by the markITeer on June 19, 2007

Imagine a world where all billboards are digital…

Posted in science faction | 1 Comment »

Putting your presentations online

Posted by the markITeer on June 18, 2007

Marketers create presentations. Lots of presentations. Presentations for clients, presentations for management, presentations to show a new product or to launch an idea, presentations to bundle information or presentations to convince the inconvincible. Some of these presentations are top secret, classified. But a whole lot of them are just waiting for a larger audience, waiting to bring you eternal fame and glory.

And that’s where Web 2.0 comes in: the ‘social web’ presents you with the audience whereas SaaS (‘Software as a Service’) offers you a whole bunch of online tools to rocket your presentations into cyberspace.

SlideShare, SlideBurner, AUTHORstream… there’s a whole lot of websites out there offering you the possibility to upload your presentation and show it to a community. The idea is simple: you register, you upload a presentation, the presentation is converted into a Flash file, some previous and next buttons are added and the whole thing is put on their website for everybody to view and comment on. And just like with eg YouTube, your converted presentation can also be embeded into websites and blogs using some simple code.

Having your slides available on the web this way is very nice. But something really important will still be missing: you. Slides are often just a framework for your presentation and the real convincing is in how you bring the message. That’s why Zentation came up with the brilliant idea of letting you synchronize your Powerpoint presentation with video material posted to Google video. After logging in, you upload your presentation and enter the URL of your video. You can then synchronize both by simply clicking a button next to the slide when the video reaches the point that the slide has to appear. And they too offer code so you can embed the result into your web page or blog. Check out Guy Kawasaki’s blog for an example (and a good presentation).

Here’s a small comparison table of some of the players:

As for the technical side, there are some issues with the conversion to Flash you have to take into account:

  • animations might (and mostly will) not work
  • slide transitions might (and mostly will) not work
  • exotic fonts might not be recognized
  • the appearance of bulleted lists might be altered

For those looking for something more: check out Adobe Connect, WildPresenter PRO or Articulate. These tools enable you to create fully-fletched online presentations with all the bells and whistles you want. it’s another league… with other rules regarding costs and time-to-deploy.

To round up, here’s a funny video by stand-up comedian Don McMillan on creating Powerpoints:

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Getting Real

Posted by the markITeer on June 14, 2007

Getting RealNow here’s a must read: ‘Getting Real’ by 37signals. 37signals is the company behind the Web 2.0 application classic ‘Basecamp‘ and the Ruby-on-Rails development framework. And although the subtitle says that it’s about ‘the smarter, faster, easier way to build a succesful web application’, it’s about a lot more…

‘Getting Real’ is really a book on how to cope with ever-changing demand and on how to keep up with (and get ahead of) competition. It’s about how to survive in a fast-moving world and how to take full advantage of the present-day possibilities of the Internet when creating a presence on the web.

In two words, ‘Getting Real’ promotes being lean and agile: small teams, no more months of writing functional specifications, no more useless meetings, limited functionalities, focusing on what matters, … It’s formatted as a series of essays bundled into chapters covering the whole process from idea to support and post-launch. Very well written, very easy to understand.

Check it out at http://gettingreal.37signals.com/. You can read it for free online, or you can buy a copy ($19 for the PDF version, $29 for the paperback).

Not convinced? This is what marketing guru Seth Godin has to say about it:
Every once in a while, a book comes out of left field that changes just about everything. This is one of those books. Ignore it at your peril.

Posted in walking the walk, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »