New content added to beads-bali.com

In case you missed the announcement, Beads-Bali.com is now live — here’s one of the introductory FAQ articles, let me know what you think.

[taken from http://www.beads-bali.com/wordpress/who-are-you-re…]

Who are you really?

We’re Beads Bali (well, you already know that).

The company, at this time, is made up of myself (Sean), my wife Athina and a group of local silver smiths and bead makers. There is also my wife’s puppy, Jolie, and my black lab, Mojo.

We live here in Bali, fairly close to the beach (I can see it from my window as I type this).

I’m fairly new to the beading business but I’ve been working professionally in Bali for the last ten years (or more) exporting handicrafts and furniture around the world with Indonesia Export.

My background is London-Irish (ethnic, not the rugby team although I did manage a short stint there while I was a kid).

Athina is originally from Solo on the island of Java – that’s very close to the recent earthquake and volcano if you caught any of that on the news.

The idea for making a specialist department to handle bead supplies and exports out of Bali was Athina’s – she believes that although the market is very competitive, there are actually only a few decent, ethical suppliers out there doing business and even less of those are based here on Bali with the resources that we have.

Athina is the one to talk to about new designs, sourcing beads and all of the creative, hard work. She is also the only member on the team with any concept of taste or fashion. Really.

I deal mostly with communication, logistics and being mean to people when they show up at our warehouse with lousy products. I do this very well.

You could say that Athina walks softly while I carry the big stick.

If you want to know any personal information about us, you can check out are blogs:

http://www.katakoe.com — Athina’s website — partly in English.

http://www.bali-belly.com — my website.

Or, you could email us at info@beads-bali.com

Bali Beads – An Introduction (and a small rant)

Up until about five minutes ago, I thought I understood the meaning of “Bali Bead”…

… I was wrong (sigh).

I had thought, silly me… SOOOO naive… that a Bali bead was a bead made in Bali. Apparently not.

According to one article:

“Bali beads originated in India. The Indians taught the Balinese how to make the beads. The majority of Bali beads today are still made in India. Some people differentiate between Bali and Bali Style beads. Bali style beads are made the same way as Bali beads, but do not come from Bali – instead they come from India.”

It’s the overall tone of the article that bugs me – The Indians taught the Balinese how to make the beads… you’d figure “the Indians” might have called them Indian beads, wouldn’t ya?

More importantly, for me (and I admit, I’m a little funny about stuff like this) the article seems to miss the point somewhat:

It’s true, of course, that Indian culture and religion has played a very large role in the development of this little island culture.

The Hindu religion and culture arrived in Indonesia about 2,000 years ago – probably by Indian traders from Gujerati who were attracted to the islands by their riches in gold, spices, and sandalwood. And why not? That’s exactly the way Islam & Christianity also arrived here… trade.

Indian script has been found in Indonesia dating back to the 5th Century and shows that there were several Indian-style Kingdoms in West Java and Borneo.

Today, you can still see the remains of ancient monasteries and temples in Bali. In these places, the Balinese prices were consecrated into the Indic family tree as god-kings. Balinese script, which many Balinese kids still have to learn, is derived from the Palava script of South India.

Now, I’m no expert on Bali or Balinese history – I’m just reading from other (hopefully more learned sources) but it seems to me that a person saying, “the Indians” taught the Balinese to make beads is kind of like saying the Romans taught Americans how to make bridges and buildings. So, really, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State are Italian but we call it American… maybe they’re Greek.

Let me put it this way: the Balinese have been working stone, wood and metal since the Early Metal and Bronze eras… BC, in other words. Between then and now, they’ve had just about every foreign influence you can point to or shake a stick at: Indian, Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, Japanese, Malay. In other words, just like America, England or Ireland, many foreign feet have left impressions in the sand.

In no way at all does that mean that a Bali bead is really an Indian bead (or vice versa).

For our Bali beads, which are all made in Bali (natch), wood, glass and .925 sterling silver are the most common materials.

Like any handicraft in Bali, the beads are really made by hand… really. There’s no industrial process, no huge factory spitting out beads by the million.

The handicraft industry as I know it has always been a cottage industry.

On one level, that means the beads differ very slightly – it could be a bad thing but I find the concept of a unique article to be charming.

We buy our beads at prices that are a combination of silver weight in grams (material) and workmanship – that means certain items are more expensive just because more work goes into them… I’ve been purchasing in Bali on that system with beads, statues and furnishings for such a long time that it makes total sense to me.

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Beads-Bali Just about to go live

It’s five in the evening here in Bali and while I might have been out at the beach or walking the dog or drinking a nice glass of wine, instead I’m at home, at the desk, putting beads-bali.com through its paces.

My favorite part of the process was inserting a picture of our (my wife’s and my) new puppy, Jolie, to draw attention to free shipping. Ah, which reminds me: Shipping is now free!!

Please note picture at left.

I can see the ocean from my window — a small crack of it anyway now dominated by a ridiculous wood house.

Having said that, I’ll most likely have some wine later… and why not?

As has been often the case in the past, the problem has not been the content or even getting it all online.

  • I use Dreamweaver for the page designs and CSS…. a sometimes completely maddening program and yet worked well enough today.
  • Navicat to interface with mysql (an indispensable graphical front end to the unprettiest database on the planet).
  • Photoshop for the piccies.


For anyone who’s interested, the site is hosted at Westhost — a seemingly friendly and straight-forward bunch of people… if they prove otherwise, I’ll update this note.

I would have hosted with IQUEST but I’ve had nothing but hassle, problem and errors for the past couple of months and as they haven’t been able to remove their collective heads from their collective butts, I decided to start fresh with this one domain so while I’m spending the money on click advertising with the all might Google and Yahoo — not to mention the ridiculously complicated and low value for money express submit thingie at Yahoo — I didn’t want to do all that without being one hundred percent sure the site was running properly.

All in all, as easy as 1-2-3 — start to finish, the site was up and running in about two hours. Not bad at all.

And then, of course, the real slowdown begins: getting listed in the search engines and putting these products in front of people who’re looking for them.

Why does it have to be so hard?

A sitemap for Google, a sitemap for Yahoo. Pay for this. Pay for that. Logins, passwords, little picture thingies to make sure you’re not a robot… truly, the lunatics are not only on the path; they’re running the asylum.

It actually takes me longer jumping through all these stupid hoops for no damn good reason than it does for me to put up a brand spanking new website/wholesale operation.

Why is it that I can buy a car more quickly than I can get my site listed. And why do they insist on treating us like we’re out to steal military secrets? Makes no sense.

Anyway, just about all I can do now is sit back and try to be patient as I wait for the search engines to come and visit. And, if I’m really, really, really lucky, someone might send me an email.

Sean



Monday Morning

Monday morning at Indonesia Export and we’re still working on getting one of the offices painted right… still looks less than perfect to me.

The weekend was a breeze — hot and sunny. Didn’t do much except to sit around and wait for Mount Merapi to blow its top.

Got a call on Sunday evening — a friend of Athina‘s heard a large bang and thought maybe there’d been another terrorist attack so we spent a few hours checking online and watching the news but as far as we can tell, nothing much happened. Most likely a neighbor overdosing on Spermamax.

33 days to go and I’ll be married… so excited about it.

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Bali, Pornography & Public Morality

I’ve been reading a lot of stuff about the proposed new pornography laws in Indonesia and, yes, I find a great deal of it disquieting.

At the office, this topic has featured in five or six different lunchtime conversations and everyone does have an opinion.

Last week, we went as far as to get ourselves a copy of the bill and I had it translated. Interesting reading to say the least.

But why the broohaha? It’s a law. Indonesia doesn’t enforce them anyway. Pornography’s against the law (meaning the hardcore stuff) but you can get it pretty much anywhere. Continue reading “Bali, Pornography & Public Morality”

Indonesia Export, Blogs, SEO, Google, Yahoo and Headaches

This is a picture of how i feel about seo stuffIt’s 11:34 in the morning (lunch is on the way) and I’m having yet another headache over search engine optimisation. A bog, a minefield & a money pit all rolled into one or is it the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma (also known as piddle, misery & enema).

So, let me lay it out:

I have a real company (“real” meaning bricks & mortar), Indonesia Export that’s out here the past ten years producing and exporting handicrafts out of Bali.

We’ve been online since 1995:

Domain Name: INDONESIAEXPORT.COM
Registrar: TUCOWS INC.
Whois Server: whois.opensrs.net
Referral URL: http://domainhelp.tucows.com
Name Server: NS.FORSITE.NET
Name Server: NS1.FORSITE.NET
Status: ACTIVE
Updated Date: 17-oct-2005
Creation Date: 23-dec-1995
Expiration Date: 22-dec-2006

Which makes us about the same age as Yahoo.

Back in the day, when Yahoo was still toddling along, they had maybe 5 sites in their Indonesia directory, we were one and we knew at least one of the Yahoo folks by first name. How funny is that? At that point, google had yet to become a verb, Suharto was the undisputed king of the hill and democracy was something other people had.

So? So times (and regimes) change. Nothing wrong with that. Competition grows. That’s cool. Competition is healthy.

But how come our website totally dropped out of the Search Engines. Doh. That really irritates me.

I did a search for indonesiaexport on google the other day and found “indonesianexport”[dot]com and indonesiaexport[dot]net (I’m not making that into a real URL just in case it ups their search results).

Turned out that seven of the top ten results were other people who’d used indonesiaexport in their meta tags (damn, thought they didn’t work anymore), page titles, etc. Also, some of those people are out-and-out rip off merchants — meaning, they’ve taken text from indonesiaexport.com or taken images or both. That’s what happens when you search our company name.

If you search for the products themselves (the stuff we’ve been selling for ten years), it’s even worse: we’re way down the page behind a bunch of johnny-come-latelys… frustrating.

So, a while back, couple of years ago I think, we switched over to Overture and AdWords so that we could pay our way ahead of the pack. Boy, did that get expensive real quick. I remember we took a huge shafting around the time of the SARS virus on advertising masks — we sell balinese and indonesian carved wooden masks (one of our best selling products) and we had positioned ourselves in first or second place with the adwords… next thing we know, a couple of days have gone by and our bill from google was like two thousand bucks.

At first, we thought, “excellent!” — here we go with 500 container orders of masks. But, nope, turns out that people had been searching for “surgical” masks and, I think it was, “N51” masks and our ad was still coming out top of the page… I call this the idiot click. A person searches for something, the results come in and that person clicks the first one or two links just because they’re there. Like an idiot. I don’t do that.

Ok, you live and learn. You change your account settings, etc. so that doesn’t happen and you move on. And you pay your money. Then you get into a clicking war. Followed by a price war. And you decide that, neat as it is, to use AdWords and Overture to position yourself, it also makes sense to have the website fall into the results pages naturally (so to speak). And, if you knew that you were all over a certain search term, you might not pay for results on that particular term. Cost-effective.

I went back to my old html hunting grounds (ya know: guru gathering) to see how best to optimise the site… obviously, if these other dudes were regularly saturating Google & Yahoo with their websites, so could I.

But here’s the dealio: they cheat. They’re blogging, and page redirecting, URL rewriting, robot.txt validating and blah,blah, blah. And it’s just not possible for me to wade through the info, run the company and keep my temper at the same time. So, in the end, most likely, I’ll have to hire a guy who’ll do it full time… and he’ll cheat. I’ll join the cheaters. Because, from what I’ve read and seen so far, the only way for an honest online business to be found is to be dishonest. It’s not even ironic. It’s pathetic.

Hmmn. I feel much better now. Thank you for sharing.

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Going to Jail in Bali doesn’t seem like such a bad thing really…

Ok, you can pretty much ignore the title but an interesting thing…
Yesterday, over lunch with the chaps of Indonesia Export, going over the weekend activities, it turned out that Antonia went to mass at Kerobokan jail (most recently featured worldwide with stories on the Bali Nine, Schappelle Corby and all the other distinguished Australian ambassadors of goodwill currently serving time or getting shot on Bali). Continue reading “Going to Jail in Bali doesn’t seem like such a bad thing really…”