Have you ever noticed that computers never get to be the good
From “Dr. Who” to “The Matrix,” mythic history is filled with
computer villains giant machines that take over the universe, World
Wide Webs that ensnare the brains of all human kind, artificially
intelligent computers that cause nuclear holocausts.
Even outside of the world of science fiction, we’re constantly
bombarded with stories of computer evils e-mail that says it loves
you, then wipes out your entire hard drive, hackers who track down
your credit card numbers and use them to make phone calls to Hong
Kong, spammers that send you 312 consecutive e-mails entitled
Is it any wonder, then, that even in a universe where
nine-year-olds have Web sites, many of us remain wary of the little
box on our desk, and the giant cyber void beyond?
Although I use my computer for practically everything I do, I
still get the occasional cyber jitters when my computer goes beep
in the night despite the fact that, in 17 years of owning a
computer, I’ve never encountered anything more evil than one
cyberprince turned wart-ridden frog after being released from the
anonymity of the box.
Clearly, I’m not alone in this. For many years, the kitchen and
bath industry seemed more computer-wary than most. But times are
a-changing, if the most recent K&BDN survey on Internet usage
is any indication (see related story, Page 48), as the Internet
slowly but surely infiltrates our lives and our businesses in the
same insidious way fax machines and cell phones did before
Still, the misconceptions, like the Hollywood fantasies, remain.
Give the cyber universe too much power, we secretly fear, and its
true nature will take over. Our businesses will become so
automated, creativity will go the way of the typewriter. Our
carefully built relationships will dissolve in a sea of
computer-generated e-mails. The machines really will take over the
world if not quite as dramatically as portrayed in the movies.
But, in truth, the Internet is neither inherently good nor
inherently evil. Nor, for that matter, is it the antithesis of art.
Rather, it’s a tool that can serve a multitude of purposes, from
the practical to the highly creative.
On the practical side, kitchen and bath professionals are
becoming increasingly comfortable using the Internet for a variety
of purposes, from communication and product research to marketing
and online ordering. The majority do a fair amount of ‘Net surfing,
and have Web sites of their own. Many are pre-qualifying their
customers via online sites, and a large number are increasing their
speed and efficiency thanks to the immediate nature of the
Others are still struggling with the best way to maximize the
‘Net’s lead generating power but in doing so, they are discovering
new and creative ways to personalize their Internet experience.
Like the dealer who posts in-progress photos of projects on his
Web site updated as the jobs progress, paired with testimonials
from the clients who are having the work done in order to build
trust with prospective customers.
Or the high-end dealer who regularly surfs the Web to find
off-the beaten-path products that nobody else has heard of yet,
then markets himself as “the showroom for those who want the path
Or the designer who created an online networking group where
designers can share project insights with their peers, ask
questions about design challenges, compare product notes or just
vent about job-related frustrations.
In truth, one of the greatest misconceptions about the Internet
is that it hinders creativity.
With its vast resources and nearly limitless destinations, the
Internet is a tool that can serve any number of functions. And, as
with any tool, the trick to making the most of it is in figuring
out how to make it work for your individual needs or even coming up
with creative new uses for it in order to help your business
Of course, like most tools, it’s a learn-as-you-go thing.
Finding and fine tuning the most effective cyber paths for your
business takes time and practice, and you may discover a few frogs
along the way. But frogs are sometimes necessary stepping stones on
the path to jumpstarting princely ideasand isn’t that worth dealing
with a few warts?