question sampler

Saturday, mar. 15, 2008   |   0 comments
One more time, so I don't get sued, these Q and As are re-printed here thanks to permission from MSN (who owns all this stuff now).

Q: Dear Dr.Net,

My partner and I are forming a new business and we want our company to have a web site. We do not have a lot of experience with the internet. We have the following questions about web site creation:

What is the best and easiest way to create a web site? How can we update our web site as our business grows? What is the best way to get our web site address out to businesses surfing the internet?

Thanks for your help Dr. Net.

A: The easiest way to create a web site is to hire someone else to do it. But, since you're just forming a new business, and that can be quite a money hemorrhage, you probably have some financial concerns. If there's only enough dough for some low-budge web design, then forget it -- unless there're bucks to burn on a big-league design firm, then you're better off, for your start-up purposes, doing it yourself. When you're company's a whopping success, and the dough's rising, THEN you can hire someone to do some fancy stuff, but in the mean time, spend whatever money's available on a good logo, maybe some minimal look and feel/company identity stuff, and get yourself some pithy, well-written copy. Plop these elements into some simple, strait forward HTML, which is the let's-build-a-web-page "programming language" (quotes used here to indicate a tease of sarcasm, as in "anything that's learnable in less than an afternoon has more in common with Shrinky Dinks than 'real programming'"), and you've got yourself a web site.

The key to building a site that's going to grow with your company is to establish an information hierarchy that's well-though-out and uber-organized. Do it right from the very beginning and any new content will already have a place to go, and the spastic, add-on-to-the-add-on, "where the hell am I?" site will be neatly avoided.

Do this by dividing all your site's information, even if it's only a few pages to start with, into as few general categories as possible: anything more than four is confusing and downright gauche (excessive multiple choice sites remind me of a college freshmen paper trying to look like more than it is by using big fonts and margins). Then organize the information in each category into groups and sub-groups (again, keeping the number of these down to a dull roar). If you find that these groups and sub-groups go on forever, and it takes a user 18 clicks to get to the meat of the matter, then take it as a good sign that you're cramming too much content onto your site. Always keep your web content short and honey-sweet, offering contact info and download-able files in lieu of oceans of "read all this on a monitor and you'll go blind" text.

Once you've got yourself an attractive, informative, and easy-to-navigate web site, then get the word out by registering it with as many search engines and directories as possible. Also, if there are existing sites that cater to your business's business, then you might also send them polite email informing them of you're new online offering, and maybe they'll link to you.


Q:Dear Dr. Net,

there's this guy i really like. But he sees me as a little sister. I am very much in love. How do I find out if he likes me without risking rejection?


A:Well, you could wait it out, say, for six more months. And if, within that time, he doesn't stop seeing you as a little sister and start, well, seeing YOU, then it's time to take the deepest of breaths and move on to someone more deserving.

(I know it's cliché, but there are many fishies in the sea. There's also a bunch of other stuff out there: turtles (impenetrable types with soft, vulnerable underbellies), octupi (spineless, shifty characters with sharp, biting mouths), sharks (lady killers), and mermen (dream guys with one fatal flaw). If you carefully avoid rip tides and under-toe, you'll find someone who'll have you thinking your current heart-throb was a case of temporary insanity in no time.)

Can't wait six months? Me neither. It's riskier, but I've always been the type of gal to share my feelings and then let the cards fall where they may. Sometimes I get four aces, sometimes a pair of twos, but I'm always glad to at least know where I stand with someone I'm interested in. However, if you're feeling at all fragile right now -- you just got a not-so-flattering hair cut, your skin's acting up, you've started to stutter and break stuff -- then whatever you do, DON'T CONFRONT HIM. You're confidence is shot and you won't be hitting him with all you've got. Wait a week 'til you're feeling cuterrific once more, then let him have it.

But be warned: whatever he says, "Great, let's go out Friday" or "Gee, I'm flattered, but I really just think of you as a friend," you're still in for a lot of work.

Love stinks, love kills, love will tear us apart! But hey, it also makes the world go round.

Best of luck,
Net Worth

Q: A recent bout of voracious Raymond Chandler reading has left me with one very important question: what the hell's a "gimlet"?

A: Never one to do things half-way, I cruised to my local bar to get to the bottom of your problem.

I've always been a real bar geek, the kind of embarrassment who gets the bartender's attention via lots of ungainly bill waving, and then proceeds to waste their time with a barrage of questions because I can't keep my lagers straight from lemon drops. Flustered, I always end up with some syrupy chick drink with enough sugar and cheek-sucking tang to guarantee an instant hang-over.

But, to honor your question with authentically conducted research, I did my best to look like I knew what I was doing. In the finest of Philip Marlow traditions, with elbow casually propped on bar (a la Shields and Yarnell, only not miming it), I over-the-shoulder ordered, "a gimlet, please."

"vodka or gin?" [NOTE: additional research has revealed that this question was more the product of bartender ignorance vs. inexperienced ordering, but it still managed to shatter all my mustered cool.]

"uh...what do gimlet drinker's usually order?"


"Okay, gin it IS!"

I watched carefully as the 'tender dashed some Roses lime, well gin, and ice into a mixer, stirred it up and strained it into a chilled martini glass.

I paid, tipped and took a nose-wrinkled swig (the generous splash of Roses had me drinking hesitantly). And it was GOOD! The ingredients form a perfect symbiotic relationship: the lime syrup sands down the gin's innate sharp edge, the gin wards off the cloyingness of the Roses.

Tasty though it was, I'd still file it in the "chick drink" category, a gently sweet indulgence that's the last thing I'd imagine a hard-boiled dick to knock back. Perhaps Chandler felt his famous, 100% male character needed to be rounded out with a smidgen of femininity? Though that's a theory I find hard to reconcile with the one-dimensional, distinctly anti-feminist treatment dames receive in his books (an oversight that, as a fan, I tend to overlook).

Ah! Life IS a mystery!

(You were right, Madonna!)

Q: I have an 7 month old son and a dad that does not want to be a dad. He did not pay for him the first five months of his life and just started to and only sends 2 hundred which is not even half of what this child cost. And i am out of a job cause i can not afford a sitter they are all to expensive. His family wonders why i will not allow them or there son to see my child and want to take me to court. It is not fair and i am so confused i wish i had the money to pay for a lawyer to take him to court first. Please help?

A: This question was a realllll toughie since it's way, way out of my league (dedicated readers may recall that my "expertise" lies with internet matters, and I am NOT in any way-shape-form a licensed therapist nor physician).

That said, I felt this question was too important, too weighty and upsetting to be left unanswered in the "outside my abilities" pile. So, here goes.

Hey, Dawn,

I'm really sorry to hear that you're in such a sour, sour pickle of a situation. Even though I have no first-hand experience of what you're going through, I really feel for you. Observation, if not personal experience, has shown me that even with the benefit of financial, physical, and mental support of a mate, raising an infant is herculean business.

I wish I had a simple and clear-cut answer for you (but when it comes to life's bigger issues, easy answers are always seem mighty scarce). Instead, I'm going to direct you to a herd of online resources that will inform you of your rights, outline some affordable solutions, and, if nothing else, let you know that you are not alone.

I really and truly hope they help, and I'll be thinking good thoughts about you and your son.

Q: What's the best way to break up with someone? I'm dating this really nice boy, who's attractive, smart, funny, etc., but the spark's just not there. I don't want to hurt his feelings, and I'd even like to continue being his friend. Any advice?

A: If you've ever had the pleasure of dumping someone before, or been the dumpee, then you know that things are going to be a shade unpleasant for awhile. Unless you both share the same "let's just be friends" feelings at the exact same time (i.e., win the "it's over" lottery), there's no good way to break break-up news.

That understood, there are a few Dear John routes available to you:

CLICHE #1: "It's all me" (also know as "I'm Incapable of Love" or "I Have Issues"), which is always coupled with "You're Better Off Without Me"/"You Don't Deserve Me."

CLICHE #2: "There's Someone Else," or the more convoluted, more Oprah, "I'm Gay / Bi-curious," "I'm in Love with Your Best Friend / Father / Brother / Sister / Mother," "I'm Dying," or a combo of all the above.

THE TRUTH: or "Telling it Like it Is"

Since you've expressed a desire to remain friends (and you really mean it, and this bid for friendship isn't an ersatz, saccharine vs. sugar, methadone vs. heroin, bait-and-switch offering), then avoid the cliches and tell the truth. It keeps your integrity intact, it gives the person you're dumping an idea of what to change for the future, and it's much easier to keep track of. And if the truth IS a cliche, then at least try to find a unique way to express it.

Once you've settled on a method of extrication, you're going to have to decide how you're going to apply it. Are you a "pull the band-aide off suddenly" type, or a "one millimeter at a time" sort? (To give you the benefit of another metaphor, do you inch into icy water or do you plunge right on in?) "Making a clean break" and "gradually letting go" both have their pluses and minuses. You and you alone know which approach is best for your situation.

But no matter what and how you do it, there are a few basic rules that always apply: never, unless it just can't be helped (like you're on the space shuttle or something), dump someone over the phone (or, god, even worse, via email). Try to avoid dating someone new the very same week you issue your ex's walking papers (or, if you just can't wait, then at least don't flaunt it). Never just assume that someone'll get the picture if you stop calling/talking/having sex with them (that's just obscene). And finally, respect their wishes: if they don't want to talk to you, or they need to hate you for awhile, let them know they can contact you when they're ready, then leave them alone.

Hope the severing goes well and heals quickly.


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