A quicker clicker 

NashvilleNow.com debuts

NashvilleNow.com debuts

By James Hanback Jr.

When http://www.nashvillenow.com. creator Jim Clouse set out to design his World Wide Web community search engine, he didn’t turn to Yahoo!, WebCrawler, Excite, or even CitySearch for ideas. In fact, those were exactly the types of sites he didn’t want to become.

It seems that Clouse wasn’t so much influenced by what was on the Web as by something said by Webb—Dragnet’s Jack Webb, whose most famous line was “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

“I wanted something simple,” says Clouse, whose http://www.nashvillenow.com. Web site debuted April 27. “There’s so much information out there now that people have a hard time finding it. First, you have to go to a search engine. Then you have to sift through all the results to find what you want. Every time I’ve tried to do something complex, I’ve failed. So I wanted something simple.”

Clouse’s solution was a concept he calls “Three Clicks and You’re There,” or “Just the facts, ma’am.” “If you get on nashvillenow.com, you can find a Nashville Italian restaurant in about 40 seconds. It’s all about finding the information you want with as few clicks as possible.”

The fortysomething Clouse began developing his idea about six months ago, after attending seminars about Web site development. At that time, Web design “experts” told him his dream could not possibly become reality. “Some college guy told me what I wanted couldn’t be done,” Clouse says. “But my 38-year-old programmer and I pulled it off.”

Clouse, who is a certified public accountant, used to spend his time rescuing businesses from death’s door. Ultimately, he says, he tired of that job after he attempted to save one last business that failed because of a lack of cooperation from management. Then Clouse heard the siren song of the Internet, and he couldn’t resist.

As it turns out, he says, the naysayers were wrong. According to Clouse, people like his concept, because of “the powerful logo and how fast they find what they’re looking for.”

The Web site certainly screams “Fast.” With its clean look and limited graphics (including a lightning bolt logo, soon to be seen on billboards around the county), the site loads in most Web browsers faster than its larger, more complex cousins. And that’s a plus for anyone surfing an Internet clogged with traffic and slow modems.

Clouse’s search concept is easy to grasp. Click on a category, like “Restaurants,” and then a subcategory, like “Italian.” Once you’ve selected a subcategory, a map of Middle Tennessee appears with dots representing all the Italian restaurant locations in Clouse’s database. You can narrow the search further by zooming in on a specific area of Davidson County, or even some neighboring counties.

Selections matching the user’s search are represented on the map as gray dots or red dots, depending on their advertising status with nashvillenow.com.

“The gray dots are all free listings,” Clouse explains. “Those include basic information like the name of the business, its location, and its phone number.”

The red dots lead to Web pages developed for advertisers by nashvillenow.com.

Yes, it’s simple to use; but Clouse has some tough competition. Larger companies like CitySearch and Yahoo!, which is now focusing on localizing its content, are well-established and heavily trafficked, even if their pages have become busy, cluttered, and hard to read. (Three- and four-column pages are just not appealing at 640 x 480 resolution.)

The question is: Does Clouse have the clout to keep up with the big boys?

Only time will tell, but the Web entrepreneur has plans for his site that include more than simply conquering Nashville. “I’d like to do the same kind of site for other cities, like Memphis,” he says. “I’d like to take the ‘Now’ concept further than just Nashville.”

Bytes

A Wang and a prayer

All you software developers out there had better rethink how your programs work, if you want to avoid the same fate as Netscape Communications Corp.

Wang Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Netscape, claiming that the company illegally uses patented software techniques in its Navigator Browser, including the “Save As...” feature on its File menu, the “bookmark” feature that allows the user to return to a Web site without retyping its address again, and (believe it or not) the use of file extensions as a means of retrieving and decoding Web pages in the browser.

A file extension is the three- or four-letter abbreviation or word following the dot in a file name. The Web browser decides how to display a file based on this extension. For example, if the extension is “.htm” or “.html” the browser loads and displays the file as a Web page with Web formatting.

A Netscape-owned Web site, mozilla.org, claims the lawsuit was urged on by Microsoft in an effort to push Netscape out of the browser market. It’s not an unlikely story. And if it’s true, Wang and Microsoft are in for more troubles of their own.

There’s hardly a Windows or Macintosh application out there, including Microsoft’s own applications, that doesn’t use “Save As....” And few IBM-compatible computers run operating systems that do not make use of file extensions. Also, Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer uses “Favorites,” a technique similar to bookmarks, as do most other Web browsers on the market.

If Wang insists on suing Netscape under the patent laws for using this technology, why not sue Microsoft, Apple, and every other software manufacturer?

Meanwhile, Netscape says the patent is invalid because the technology was being used by others in the computer industry long before Wang came up with its own version.

“The patent was filed in 1984,” says a statement at mozilla.org. “We believe the patent is noninfringed, unenforceable, and invalid based on, among other things, prior art such as the Alto & Star computers from Xerox Parc, Terminal Emulators, connectivity software prevalent in the early ’80s such as CrossTalk, Unix symbolic links (ln -s), and various other ‘video text’ systems like Telidon, Prestel, Mupid used in the late ’70s, early ’80s.”

Netscape is absolutely correct, of course.

Even a monkey can do it

America Online produced the “first interspecies chat session” last week as trainers of Koko the gorilla spent half an hour translating the animal’s sign language for intrigued AOL customers.

The question-and-answer session lasted approximately half an hour. (Koko has a short attention span, her trainers say). The event was meant to publicize the “plight of the world’s great apes,” according to its promoters, and an estimated 20,000 people logged on Monday night to talk about the problem.

Unfortunately, Koko wasn’t very impressed by Cyberspace. Reports indicated that, between responses to chatters, Koko would play with her toy rubber alligator and pause to look out a window.

Although her responses to questions posed by the chatters were cryptic, Koko’s trainers said they did have meaning.

According to a report from Reuter’s, when Koko was asked about another ape, she responded with “toilet.” Her trainers say that’s her word for “bad.” When asked what she wanted for her birthday, Koko said, “Food and smokes.”

“Smokes,” her trainers said, doesn’t refer to cigarettes—it means Koko’s onetime pet cat Smokey.

This wasn’t the first time Koko has been introduced to modern technology. In the late 1980s, Apple Computer Corp. donated a specially designed Macintosh computer to the ape, although she’s never revealed whether her preference is Mac or Windows.

“Intertaining” the troops

It looks as if many employers’ fears about providing Internet availability for their employees have been justified.

According to a survey quoted by some Internet network tracking companies, 72 percent of Internet users confessed to visiting online “smut” sites during business hours. According to reports from the Wall Street Journal and Nielsen Media Research, employees at Apple Computer, IBM, and AT&T have visited the Penthouse magazine Web site for a total of more than 347 eight-hour days in a single month.

Now you know what computer programmers do when they’re not finding new ways to make your life a living hell.

For those employers who care whether their workers are at work or play, there is software available to track network activities. One program, called Disk Tracy, is available at www.disktracy.com.

Rather than tracking visits to nudie sites, however, bosses might want to consider tracking who has access to what sensitive company information and where they might be sending it.

For those employers who care whether their workers are at work or play, there is software available to track network activities. One program, called Disk Tracy, is available at www.disktracy.com.

Rather than tracking visits to nudie sites, however, bosses might want to consider tracking who has access to what sensitive company information and where they might be sending it.

James Hanback Jr. is systems administrator for the Scene. Call him at 244-7989, ext. 272, or e-mail him at james@nashscene.com.

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