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Gotcha: ASP.NET and exceptions in asynchronous tasks

clock October 30, 2008 13:00 by author JKealey

Awesomeness Here's a little piece of information you might not know about how ASP.NET 2.0 and above operate. Simply put, if an unhandled exception occurs in a secondary thread which has been launched by your ASP.NET application, IIS will force your application to restart. This can mean lost sessions, bad server side state, slow reloads and, in general, is a bad thing. However, these kinds of exceptions are a pain to discover and resolve if you don't know what you're looking for because the built-in ASP.NET error handler does not get fired and your user is not redirected to an error page, unless something breaks after the web server restarts. (This article explains the cryptic messages you will see in the Event Log).

Here's a simple scenario based on the integration between our interactive kiosk created for The Code Factory co-working space and Twitter. We want our web application to post messages on Twitter when certain events occur (member check-in and member check out). Because we did not want to re-invent the wheel, we found a Twitter C# Library with a permissive software license. Noticing that posting to Twitter slowed down our application and because we didn't want our application to depend on Twitter's availability, we decided to run this code asynchronously. Being careless, we supposed that should anything bad occur in this second thread (timeouts, invalid login/password, etc.), the system will simply not be able to post, which was not a problem for us. We were wrong, and the whole web application restarted because of this. (This was not the case in ASP.NET 1.x and was previously discussed by others).

In any case, here's some sample code to run the Twitter library asynchronously, including a try/catch.

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Text;
 
namespace LavaBlast.Util.Twitter
{
    public class AsyncTwitter
    {
        public void Update(string userName, string password, string status)
        {
            TwitterDelegate caller = new TwitterDelegate(UpdateTwitter);
            caller.BeginInvoke(userName, password, status, new AsyncCallback(CallbackMethod), caller);
        }
 
        protected delegate void TwitterDelegate(string userName, string password, string status);
        protected static void CallbackMethod(IAsyncResult ar)
        {
            TwitterDelegate caller = (TwitterDelegate)ar.AsyncState;
            caller.EndInvoke(ar);
        }
        protected static void UpdateTwitter(string userName, string password, string status)
        {
            try
            {
                Twitter t = new Twitter();
                t.Update(userName, password, status, Twitter.OutputFormatType.XML);
            }
            catch (Exception ex)
            {
                LavaBlast.ElectronicJournal.Error("Unable to post to twitter.", ex);
                // ignore. 
            }
        }
    }
}

The lesson learned is unhandled exceptions in other threads can wreak havoc on your ASP.NET application. To help debug these kinds of errors when they occur, I do suggest you setup the HttpModule developed by Peter A. Bromberg that adds the actual exception in your Event Log. Peter describes the problem in more detail than I do, and is worth a read.

Have a Happy Halloween! (Halloween will be weird for us in 2008 because we were hit by the year's first snowstorm on Tuesday.)

halloween

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Gotcha: WebKit (Safari 3 and Google Chrome) Bug with ASP.NET AJAX

clock October 20, 2008 23:38 by author JKealey

image Tonight we fixed a severe compatibility issue that I feel you should all be aware of.

Executive summary: ASP.NET AJAX breaks down completely in some circumstances when using WebKit-based browsers. Reference the JavaScript provided below to solve these problems.

As you know, we develop web applications using ASP.NET AJAX and tonight we were notified that one of our users was not able to proceed to the payment page on one of our e-commerce websites. (As you can imagine, preventing payment is the worst thing that can happen in an e-commerce site!). After some investigation, we discovered the user was using Safari 3 on an Intel-based MacBook Pro just like the one I recently purchased. I picked up my MBP and re-tested the site, going through exactly the same steps this user did (thanks to the auditing capabilities we've built into the e-commerce engine). The site works fine in general, except at one particular page deep within the bowels of the website, when clicking on a button, the ASP.NET UpdateProgress control would show and never go away during the asynchronous postback.

I first thought this was an SSL issue such as the evil IE White Screen Bug, but I managed to replicate on my local machine without using SSL. This button is contained inside a dozen layers of user controls. Fortunately, I use this user control in another location. I tested one of these locations (where it isn't as nested) and this one worked. I then proceeded to hide my user controls, layer by layer and narrowed the issue to ASP.NET validators on one of my pages.

<asp:RequiredFieldValidator ID="rfvName" runat="server" ErrorMessage="Required"
    Display="Dynamic" ControlToValidate="txtName"="true" />


Adding Visible="false" to this (and the other validators) on my user control unfroze the UpdateProgress. My first thought was that I must have reached a limit in identifier name lengths because my validator was nested very deeply. I proceeded to rename a few layers to make the name shorter. This changed nothing. I then discovered how to enable a FireBug-like tool in Safari called Web Inspector. This helped me discover an obscure JavaScript error.

Sys.ScriptLoadFailedException: The script 'http://localhost:2241/ScriptResource.axd?[...]' failed to load.


After changing from ScriptMode="Release" to ScriptMode="Debug", I got additional details.

Check for:
Inaccessible path.
Script errors. (IE) Enable 'Display a notification about every script error' under advanced settings.
Missing call to Sys.Application.notifyScriptLoaded().


This finally lead me to an old post on the ASP.NET forums. It appears that Safari 2 needed a few hacks in the ASP.NET AJAX JavaScript code to work properly. These hacks are no longer needed in Safari 3 (or Google Chrome) because WebKit works out of the box. However, these hacks sometimes broke WebKit-based browsers as I discovered today. The first solution in the forums is to change the JavaScript files used by the framework but we didn't like that solution very much. The second comment provided a solution which we found reasonable. 

Workaround

The workaround simply tells ASP.NET AJAX that Safari 3 and Google Chrome are a new type of browser instead of the old Safari for which workarounds had to be programmed.

1) Create a new file called webkit.js

Sys.Browser.WebKit = {}; //Safari 3 is considered WebKit
if( navigator.userAgent.indexOf( 'WebKit/' ) > -1 )
{
  Sys.Browser.agent = Sys.Browser.WebKit;
  Sys.Browser.version = parseFloat( navigator.userAgent.match(/WebKit\/(\d+(\.\d+)?)/)[1]);
  Sys.Browser.name = 'WebKit';
}


2) Reference this webkit.js from your ScriptManager

<ajax:ToolkitScriptManager ID="scripts" runat="server" ScriptMode="Release" EnableHistory="true" 
EnableSecureHistoryState="false" EnablePageMethods="True" CombineScripts="true" 
OnAsyncPostBackError="Page_OnAsyncError" OnNavigate="OnHistoryNavigate">
    <Scripts>
        <asp:ScriptReference Path="~/js/webkit.js" />
    </Scripts>
</ajax:ToolkitScriptManager>


We hope this will help some of you!

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Jason Kealey and Etienne Tremblay featured in National Capital Scan

clock September 11, 2008 22:39 by author JKealey

jketTwo of LavaBlast's founders (Etienne and myself) are featured in this month's National Capital Scan, an independent news leader for Ottawa's Tech Community. As we are proud to be University of Ottawa alumni, it is always a pleasure to keep in touch with the university and new software engineering students. In addition to this article about our launching our software company, I will be sharing lessons learned at the Students As Innovators workshop later this month at the School of Information Technology and Engineering.

Additionally, we're actively helping other startups in the Ottawa and Montreal regions, many of which we met at The Code Factory, the Ottawa-based co-working location.  Ian Graham is busy organizing tons of events which we strongly recommend you attend if you're interested in getting known in the Ottawa software community.




LavaBlast Selected as a Red Herring Canada Top 50 Finalist

clock August 29, 2008 14:02 by author JKealey

We've been busy these lasts few weeks on a number of projects, but I thought I'd like you know that we were selected as an innovative Canadian software start-up.

Red Herring Magazine has named LavaBlast Software a finalist for the "Red Herring Top 50 Canada" award, a prestigious list honoring this year’s most promising private technology ventures in Canada. The Red Herring editorial team used an intensely competitive process to select the most innovative companies from a pool of over 300, leaving 100 finalists vying for this prestigious award. The names of all 100 companies short–listed as finalists for the "Red Herring Top 50 Canada 2008" can be found online at: http://www.herringevents.com/canada08/Canada50.html

RHCanada finalist logoRead more in our press release

While I was enjoying the weather, Toronto Tech Jobs took the time to peruse everyone's website to figure out who's hiring software engineers!

Congratulations to the other finalists.



SubSonic v2.1 Controller and Utilities

clock August 4, 2008 11:45 by author JKealey

We've done a few posts about how we use SubSonic here at LavaBlast. Recently, SubSonic v2.1 was released and we upgraded the code we've previously published to support this new version. We've blogged about our changes in the past and not much has changed since, but we did get a request to post our source code, so here it is. I've actually included a bit more code in this release so that this blog post has a bit more substance!

Download the source code.

The file contains our SubSonicController, SubSonicHelper, and our associated code generation templates. Nothing new to see here, except that you get downloadable code. We unfortunately did not have time to play with the new Query engine all that much, so our controller still uses the old one (which is used throughout our codebase). If anyone would like to augment our code to support the new query engine and post it in the comments, that would be great! Moving to the new query engine would circumvent the OR query limitation related to the search fields we've mentioned in the past.

Auditing using SubSonic

We like to log certain things in our Electronic Journal as it gives us ways to debug more efficiently, and provides us with a way to keep track of who changed what in case something breaks. We've included an SQL script that generates our ElectronicJournal table, and code which allows us to save events in the table. We've wired it up to our SubSonicController so that we can log all object updates, for example. What you log is your own business and it depends on your needs and performance requirements.

ej

We've built an administrative interface over this table allowing us to navigate efficiently through the events. (Each of our pages in FranchiseBlast extends from generic controls which list/filter/page rows using our ObjectDataSource, effectively re-using the code we're presenting here.)

Various notes

  • Remember not to mix AND and OR in the current version of this code, with the old query engine.
  • Don't log everything on high volume sites, for obvious reasons.
  • Issue 3 is still open and waiting to be committed. The others bugs I previously reported (and a new one) have been committed.
  • We removed the ToList() which we added last time, because GetList() is already present. (Thanks to our readers for noticing!)
  • We replaced all calls to IsLoaded() to !IsNew() in our codebase. Click here to learn why.
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The Code Factory in the News

clock July 24, 2008 08:41 by author JKealey

We're happy to see that our client The Code Factory, an Ottawa-based software co-working franchise, was recently featured on the local news. Some of us were on site while the spot was filmed and it was an interesting (yet stressful) experience to be filmed when you're trying to draft out the features to include in the next release!

ctv

Twitter + Co-working

This coincides with our recent addition of a cool little feature to The Code Factory's interactive kiosk. We're now publishing events to Twitter when people check-in and check-out of the location. Of course, members can choose to hide their activities for privacy reasons, but this serves as an interesting off-site complement to the in-store kiosk which indicates who's currently on location. If you follow TheCodeFactory on Twitter, you can see when your friends arrive and decide to head out there yourself!



Would you put cartoons on your software startup's website?

clock July 17, 2008 20:42 by author JKealey

We've revamped our website home page and wanted to invite you to visit it and let us know what you think.   The general template of the site hasn't changed, as our enhancements focused on five core elements:

  1. Simpler menu structure. When we first launched our website, our pages were never nested more than one level deep. We've since added new content and our site was getting harder to navigate. By going with a tree-like structure and adding markers to indicate which page you are currently viewing, we feel this solves our main usability problem.
  2. Testimonials. Ian Graham, the man behind The Code Factory, an Ottawa-based software co-working location, talks about how he enjoyed doing business with us. We feel this touch increases our credibility, and the fact that we get things done. 
  3. Concise information. We've integrated much more information on our home page and re-worked the text to make it very concise. The home page leads you to numerous inner pages which feature more detailed information about our products. We're always re-working the innards of our site and we're never "done", but we feel this new home page will help drive traffic to the appropriate locations.... only time Google Analytics will tell.
  4. Web 2.0 slider. We wanted to have a bit of fun even if it meant requiring JavaScript on our pages.
  5. Cartoons. This is the most controversial aspect of our new home page. We've integrated cartoons on our homepage.... cartoons on a franchise software corporate site? Allow us to explain.

LavaBlast Software home page

Why are we using cartoons?

Simply put, everyone we've talked to is divided in two completely distinct camps. One camp feels our cartoons makes our website unprofessional and inappropriate for the franchise industry's decision makers (one of the more vocal people in this camp is Michael Webster, Ph.D, LL.B.). Others feel it gives us a more personalized feel (a human touch) which increases their trust in our company.

There are hundreds of companies building software for the franchise industry and we want to show that we have a different philosophy from many of the old-school companies. Simply put, we (as web visitors) distrust generic consulting websites littered with stock photography and we didn't want to repeat the same mistake. We love to use pictures, but bad quality pictures or video are often worse than not having any.  After a year and a half of having a more corporate feel (without using stock photography), we decided it was time to do something wilder. We hope to impress our target market with an atypical corporate website, even if it ruffles a few feathers.  

We target small yet energetic franchise systems. These franchisors are not heads of billion dollar corporate empires, they are entrepreneurs who want to grow a concept which worked in their flagship store and scale it to the next level, via franchising. At their growth stage, these franchisors are looking for someone who can listen to their needs, build cost-effective software solutions, and help them grow. The franchises we deal with don't have large IT departments: they're looking to get outside help with technology, as they don't have the knowledge in-house. Outsourcing allows them to get more bang for their buck than hiring software engineers to build everything from scratch.

Why don't you like stock photos?

Does the following image incite you to contact a software firm for custom development?

handshake stock photo

When we shop around and find a company featuring such a picture, it reveals that they botched their web development work and they're probably going to botch any work we give them. Attention to detail is one characteristic we always want to see; however, we're not completely against stock photography but we disapprove of stock photography abuse. For example, if a company has a page talking about their team, and the team picture is actually a stock photo... they're taking it too far.

As a sidenote, Toronto-based Idée Inc. created an image search engine that not only helps identify stock photography but also people that have stolen your copyrighted images. Here's a screenshot of the results returned by TinEye for the previous image: 

TinEye Image Search

TinEye even found this modified image... very nice technology!

modified handshake

What do you think?

In summary, we decided to go with a cartoonish feel because we felt it was the best way to distinguish ourselves from our stereotypical competition. We purposefully project more youthful brand image, as we are targeting smaller franchise systems. Do you think differently? Are you an ardent defender of stock photo or do you think you've found the perfect balance of web 2.0 styling with the warm fuzzy feeling of seeing people? Do you agree with us? Let us know!

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blast it on Franchise NewsBlast


Upgrading to SubSonic v2.1

clock July 10, 2008 16:05 by author JKealey

The timing for the release of SubSonic v2.1 could not have been better as we're between time-critical projects at the moment. As our readers know, we've used SubSonic as our business object code generator since we first launched the company. I spent a few hours this morning doing the migration of our codebase and it seems to have gone smoothly. We've posted some cool improvements we've made to SubSonic in previous posts: Improved ManyManyList Control, Object Change Tracking, and an Improved ObjectDataSource Controller. Migrating to v2.1 involved a few changes and this post will describe them briefly. As this is currently a work in progress, we'll let the dust settle before writing a more formal post.

LavaBlastManyManyList :)

Rob integrated the LavaBlastManyManyList control into SubSonic. It does strike me as uncommon for an open source project to list the contributor in the class name, but who am I to complain? :)

Changes to our SubSonicHelper and SubSonicController.

SubSonic changed the base classes for their objects. Therefore, we have to change our own SubSonicController<T, C> to extend RecordBase<T> instead of AbstractRecord<T>. In our SubSonicHelper, we changed AbstractRecord<T> and ActiveRecord<T> to RecordBase<T> but, for some reason, we also had an ActiveList<T> which we changed to AbstractList<T> to match the rest of the application.

SubSonic Collections no longer extend List<T>

Collections are now extending BindingList<T>, apparently for improved DataBinding support. However, this breaks all the code you may have which uses the fact that Collections were generic lists: Sort, Find, FindAll, FindLast, AddRange, Exists, etc. Luckily for us, we have replacement methods for Sort/Find, which are easier to use but not as powerful as custom delegates/predicates. Rewriting the 70-odd locations in our code to avoid using methods from the List<T> interface isn't what I consider fun and you may feel the same way. The code we had to rewrite was non-trivial and rewriting all these locations without being able to recompile and test (as we don't have unit tests that specifically check that the items in a Collection are sorted the right way, for example), we took the decision to go with a low-impact change.

We edited CS_ClassTemplate.aspx and CS_ViewTemplate.aspx and added the following method to both collections:

   1: public List<<%=className%>> ToList()  {
   2:     return new List<<%=className%>>(Items); // shallow copy
   3: }

BindingList<T> has a protected property named Items which is indeed a List<T>. We didn't check the implementation details, but since it doesn't make this property public, we can assume that playing with that list directly (removing items from the list for example) might screw up the original collection. Therefore, we're creating a shallow copy of the List and using that in our code when necessary. Now that everything compiles and works properly, we can rewrite code where performance is more important (and use the original SubSonic collection instead).

Found two bugs, one old, one new.

We've reported two bugs in the SubSonic's brand new issue tracker on Google Code. (Issue 3 is a rare case relating to composite keys and paging, it probably won't affect you as it has been around forever. However, Issue 4 is a bit more worrisome as it implies that most of your code that uses StoredProcedures might not work anymore without a small workaround until they release SubSonic v2.1.1.)

Conclusion

I hope this helps all of you who were trying to get our SubSonic v2.0.3 code working on SubSonic v2.1! When everything will have been tested thoroughly, we'll post more source code.

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Franchises Can Learn From Software Startups - Part 3: Reacting

clock July 4, 2008 08:39 by author JKealey

This article is the last of a three-part series related to technology in the franchise world. It focuses on what franchisors should be doing to react to the trends presented in Part 2.

Franchisors should be doing a number of things to keep up with the Net Generation. Most of these are straightforward once franchisors realize that people expect lots of information, expect it immediately, and expect their opinion to be taken seriously.

Streamline your processes

The more people use software, the more people expect of it and become irritated if a feature requires extra effort when it could be automated. Users don't pay attention when performing a task repeatedly and introduce errors into systems. Therefore, your business processes, including the software portion of it, should be as integrated as possible. Of course, you cannot integrate all at once and have to work on the pain points for which an integrated solution would save the most time or prevent the most errors. Streamlining your business processes is an iterative process which requires constant effort and attention but is very rewarding.

The processes that are easy to streamline vary for each franchise. However, using product-based retail stores as an example, the integration which provides the most value is between the point of sale and the franchise intranet. The goal is to offer automated sales reporting and centralized product line management. Once that is done, you can greatly simplify in-store product ordering by automating recurring orders via the in-stock quantities, for example.

Franchisors should keep in mind that integration that is already built-in built into a software product line is a very valuable asset. BjEmerson covered this, and other valuable questions, in his post on Blue Mau Mau. As a franchisor, it is your responsibility to periodically bring up the subject of integration with various suppliers to ensure you have an efficient process in place. Keep in mind that integration should not intend to cover all special cases and that you should put manual processes in place to double check that all the information in your system is accurate. 

A fine-tuned franchise is much more appealing to a franchise prospect because of the simplicity of its day-to-day management. Furthermore, if you have developed your own software or processes to make everything easier, the value proposition is even clearer.

Franchise Collaboration

Franchise Collaboration The most important thing a small franchisor can do is to stop any unidirectional (waterfall) decision making. Transparency and collaboration help foster trust whereas keeping everyone in the dark before enforcing a big change is simply not a good business practice. Obviously, you won't be able to make everyone happy all the time but when franchisees feel their opinion is appreciated, everyone benefits. Obviously, this involves much more than technology but franchise collaboration software such as forums and polls can help. Thanks to open source software and online tools, you can even set this up for free. The real added-value comes when collaboration becomes a part of every day tasks, such as polling features directly integrated into the point of sale. This promotes collaboration within the franchise since the franchisees are not required to login to a separate tool when they get back home after a long day's work.

If you don't collaborate with your franchisees, you will lose them, period. If a franchisee leaves you because you never listened to their opinion, you can be sure that people reviewing your UFOC will end up hearing it. On the other end of the spectrum, a franchise which pushes strong franchisee collaboration via online tools can be a strong selling point for new prospect. A simple demo of the current issues being discussed will clear up any fears about ongoing support.

Openly discussing issues and possible solutions with your franchisees forces you to write things down in a logical fashion and think about the issues in a rational way. This simple activity often guides the decision making process and leads to the best decision.  

Give out more information

Franchisors should utilize their website and should not feel shy about posting lots of information to attract new franchise prospects. Obviously, organizing this information is very important as to avoid overwhelming the user but franchisors should post lots of information and treat their prospects intelligently. The website should include a high-level executive summary which allows interested prospects to drill down to find relevant information on separate pages.

The classic sales technique of not giving out too much information, having prospects request additional information, and having a salesman call them back to conclude a deal is no longer the best approach in today's online context: these practices must be adapted. Franchisors who don't display basic information such as franchise fees and setup costs are shooting themselves in the foot for numerous reasons.

First, today's visitors expect more information and they expect it now. Your prospects are probably thinking about starting their own business in this same field and it is your job to show them the wide breadth of problems you've already solved and how it is a better business decision to purchase a proven franchise system. You also need to show how your franchise is better than other franchise systems and your website is an ideal place to showcase your distinguishing factors. 

Second, the volume of franchise prospects on the Internet has increased, although we've mentioned franchisors are feeling  the quality has dropped. There is a growing number of people looking for low-cost franchises and if yours is not one of them, stating your requirements explicitly will help reduce low quality prospects.   If you are looking at catering to this growing niche, you might as well clearly define the lower cost options you are offering (kiosk format instead of store format, for example). Once you've formalized your offering and covered the frequently asked questions in detail on your website, you've developed a resource base that can be utilized by your salesforce.

Keep in mind that it is possible to get information about leads via your website, even if you're posting most of your information online. All you need to do is post a bit of exclusive content on your website which is only accessible after filling out a short form (email address, name and phone number). This gives you a way to contact prospects after the fact while still giving your prospects information when they want it (now!). This exclusive content can be as simple as a two-page PDF brochure or as extensive as a virtual tour of your store with pictures and videos.

Spread the word

Spread the word The first thing you should do as a small/new franchisor is to actively participate in online communities. You should remember that online participation is a give&take relationship and you need to do more than self-promotion or demolish everyone's opinions. You can start by participating online in franchise communities such as Blue Mau Mau and FranMarket and simply writing comments on other people's posts. Everyone has a different background and you can often refer to your past experiences to help clarify posts by other people. You should also look for online communities which specialize in your niche, to raise awareness about your brand but also simply to exchange ideas. If your franchise is a dog kennel, you should look for pet-related online communities.  Finally, don't overlook any local business online communities which may be appealing to you. Hooking up with a local software startup or local artist might put your franchise in a better position to take on the world.

In addition to participating in online communities, you should start your own blog either at Blue Mau Mau or at another free service. There are numerous things you can (and should) blog about:

  • A post for each new franchisee with an interview, franchisee profile, store pictures, etc.
  • What makes your franchise unique (you should be able to find dozens of cool things that distinguish your franchise from the competition)
  • New products or services
  • What the franchise is proactively working on
  • Your lessons learned as a franchisor
  • Partner announcements
  • How you or your franchisees gave back to the community
  • Trends
  • Internal reflections
  • Congratulate one of your franchisees for outstanding achievements
  • How your franchise is saving people money or saving the planet
  • You've got a particular problem and are looking feedback on solutions

Many new bloggers are afraid to reveal the secret sauce if they talk about their lessons learned or what makes them different. They fear the day where their competition will copy their brilliant ideas. In reality, ideas are free and execution is key. Furthermore, if all that distinguishes your franchise is the auto-flushing toilets you installed last year, you've got a problem. You shouldn't reveal every last detail about how you operate, but don't let paranoia overcome you with every little detail. Blogging is a rewarding experience because it puts you in touch with lots of new people which may help you down the road.

More franchisors should blog about the problems they have experienced and how they overcame them as it is an essential subject which will help others. The franchise world is full of people who are looking to make a quick buck and being open about your franchise is a good way to help build a relationship of trust with your service providers, prospects, and franchisees.

Last week, LavaBlast launched Franchise NewsBlast to help franchisors spread the word about their franchise. Our system doesn't focus on franchise opportunities but rather on franchise-related articles that have true value for web visitors

Conclusion

Some people find it easier than others to get their head around the new business context in which franchises operate. We've listed a few high level tasks which help clarify the possible ideological differences between franchisors and the Net Generation. Once these base concepts are better understood, franchisors will be in a better position to understand things such as viral marketing and social networks in order to take advantage of these business opportunities for their franchise systems. Take a look at Franchise NewsBlast, Blue Mau Mau, and FranMarket today!



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Introducing Franchise NewsBlast

clock June 23, 2008 09:55 by author JKealey

We've just added a new item on our press release page. The content of this press release is replicated here for your convenience.

Montreal, Quebec, June 23rd 2008 - LavaBlast Software launches Franchise NewsBlast (http://news.lavablast.com), a free online system which provides franchise news to franchisors, franchisees, franchise service providers, and franchise wannabes. The system allows visitors to keep up with what's new in franchising by collaboratively selecting the best franchise news. Visitors are invited to submit articles related to franchising which they feel would interest the other members of this online community.

Franchise NewsBlast covers a wide range of subjects related to franchising such as legal issues, franchise technology, new franchise opportunities, franchise trends, and even franchise humor. Anyone can become an editor because Franchise NewsBlast allows its members to blast interesting franchise news items, allowing the best articles to rise to the top. Because of a collaborative community effort, people interested in franchising can quickly keep up to speed with franchise news without having to visit the hundreds of franchise blogs available on the Internet.

Motivating Factors

There are a few motivating factors behind the launch of this new franchise community, which benefits a wide range of people.

For readers: Save time!

In the franchise industry, readers typically do not have the time to visit, on a daily basis, the hundreds of franchise-related websites which are available on the Internet. Readers are interested in receiving quality franchise news but simply don't have the time to filter through the large volume of articles published every day. Franchise NewsBlast solves this problem by aggregating news from various sources and publishing the cream of the crop. Readers can also share opinions on external articles directly on Franchise NewsBlast, allowing them to connect with others in the franchise community.

For bloggers: A niche-specific aggregator, maintained by the community.

An important part of blogging is informing the community about your blog and getting your articles to interested readers who might not have found your blog. Franchise NewsBlast is similar to the very popular Digg except that it focuses exclusively on the franchise niche. On Digg, it is impossible to get an article reviewed by enough people with interest in the franchising industry given the general nature of the community. Quality franchise-related articles typically fall through the cracks of such mass-population sites whereas they can become very popular on niche-specific sites. Additionally, bloggers can leverage their existing visitor base by adding a "Blast It" icon on each of their franchise-related posts, increasing each article's popularity on Franchise NewsBlast.

For franchisors: An incentive to start blogging!

It is not easy (or cheap) for a small franchisor to get their name out in the franchise community. Hundreds of new franchise systems are born every year and Franchise NewsBlast is one of the ways these new franchisors can join the online franchise community. As approximately 25% of all franchise systems have less than 10 locations, small franchisors are a big part of the franchise community and they deserve to be heard. After starting their own blog to share lessons learned, current market trends, or elements which different their franchise, franchisors can use Franchise NewsBlast to drive traffic to their blog and get feedback on their system from various franchise professionals or simply attract new franchise prospects.

A collaborative effort

A large number of franchise websites are created with the intention to promote the highest-bidding set of franchise brands whereas Franchise NewsBlast is intended to inform people, not to showcase franchise opportunities. Thanks to collaboration between peers, Franchise NewsBlast intends to complement existing franchise communities such as Blue Mau Mau. LavaBlast adapted the open source software which powers DotNetKicks, a news site dedicated to .NET software, to focus on the franchise niche and allow anyone to become an editor.  Readers are encouraged to start posting news on Franchise NewsBlast immediately and inform other people in the franchise industry of its existence. 

 

For more information, please visit Franchise NewsBlast at http://news.lavablast.com.

About LavaBlast Software Inc.

LavaBlast Software Inc. has developed FranchiseBlast, a web-based software solution for the franchise industry that simplifies day-to-day franchise operations by integrating the franchisee's point of sale and the franchise's e-commerce site with the franchise intranet. The integration of existing software is a proven way to leverage the franchise's original software investment during an economic downturn.

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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in anyway.

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