Talk about serendipity...

One of our major clients is an investment banking firm specializing in technology issues. At the request of their CEO, I was instructed to critique the Internet presence of one of their clients. I did a "whois" search at Internic that pointed me to their "home page".

I was quite surprised at what I found -- image maps linked to error messages, poor quality graphics, and no apparent communication strategy or objective. At the bottom of the page was "legalese" announcing their pending public offering. The site was truly horrible!

I blithely tossed off the requested critique with a personal agenda of impressing my client with my "sophisticated" analytical skills.

I later received a phone call from a whimpering and emotionally distraught individual. He identified himself as the CEO of the company whose page I had just trashed. This poor fellow informed me my memo had caused him an afternoon spent on the phone with lawyers from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). While his firm was simply testing a new server, the content of this "alpha" site violated SEC pre-disclosure regulations. It turned out that an overzealous html coder felt it necessary to add text to this test page. He included news of his firm's impending IPO in an apparent attempt to impress his friends.

In response to this man's desperate plea, I drafted a follow-up letter to my investment banker client indicating it was unlikely the general public would ever stumble across the "home page" I had reviewed.

The ultimate irony of this episode is that the IPO firm eventually became one of our blue chip clients.

This experience should teach us all that there is little control of who your audience may be on the Internet.

Name of contributor withheld by request (for obvious reasons).

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