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Through 2005, the secondhand server market will account for less than 5 percent of installed production platforms. In a buyer’s market, as server platforms become more commoditized, they become easily substituted; therefore, secondhand value will deteriorate nearer to 35 percent to 40 percent compounded (from about 25 percent) per year.

However, the secondhand market will pressure server vendors to reduce margins and increase discounts as platforms become less differentiable. Likewise, the inventory of computer scrap is becoming more of an issue for vendors. Purchase decisions for electronic devices are increasingly influenced by environmental concerns.

In Germany, for example, legislation has been enacted that forces computer manufacturers to recycle existing equipment when upgrading a customer to new systems. In many companies worldwide, waste disposal and resource preservation issues are being made high priorities. We expect component recycling and reuse to become more of a manufacturer’s legal requirement and this, too, will increase the cost of goods and erode margins.

From 2002, despite the global economic recovery, we do not expect hardware prices to recover or the secondhand market to be an attractive proposition for production platforms.

We believe users should not consider the secondhand market for production systems, because this will have negative warranty, maintenance, and service-level impact, as well as increased costs. Although discounts may initially look attractive, users must balance potential savings against increased risks and opportunity costs. These include difficulty in finding particular configurations or current product lines, and unpredictable time-to-in-service-deployment (due to shipping, reinstallation, and vendor certification).

We recommend targeting any savings toward improving infrastructure planning and developing more unified (e.g., replicable) platforms and services, thereby minimizing future integration and life-cycle costs. However, legitimate refurbished or resold hardware from the vendor or its channels is a viable option.

The following is a summary checklist of the potential savings from street prices and the levels of risk from different channels of the secondhand hardware. These are:

Refurbished platforms from the manufacturer: Using traditional ex-demo or evaluation (refurbished) hardware is a good way of saving. The technology may not be the hottest from the manufacturer (almost always it’s the previous season’s stock), but some savings can be had. Additionally, complex projects that require a consistent platform deployed to many sites during a set time frame will require a level of consistency not provided by the piecemeal availability of refurbished hardware. However, point-project or development platforms can only be fulfilled using this source if a full warranty is provided.

In-channel used inventory with reseller warranty: In-channel inventory returned to a dealer or distributor is fine if not opened! However, any other condition moves the warranty from the manufacture to the dealer on a case-by-case basis with the dealer or distributor. This secondhand market should not be encouraged, as users will be too exposed to the dealer’s support without necessary escalation to the manufacturer.

Brokerage with limited warranty: A secondhand dealer will not be able to support the platforms at all, even though upfront costs may be attractive. Brokers should not be considered for infrastructure platforms.

Auction with hardware at reduced book value: A limited sale or return warranty may be available from the auction house, but the risk associated with this as a source of secondhand hardware is too high.

Cold call from brokerage “one-off offer”: These offers by cold call that appear too good to be true are. Clients should not consider this as a source of secondhand platforms.

Infrastructure planning and development staff should assist traditional finance procurement departments in assessing the cost of the secondhand hardware. A glut of nearly new hardware is available on the market that looks attractive to finance departments (compared to new), but several issues must be considered when using secondhand hardware for production platforms. These are:

E-business fit: The rules for secondhand platforms align to the e-business platform layers. Too much risk is associated with secondhand hardware for production database and application server platforms. Extreme caution must be used for commoditized Web servers. In-house development systems are a legitimate target for secondhand hardware has long as the management and risk is addressed by the developer community or infrastructure operations.

Mechanical devices – storage and printers: The nearly new disk tape and printer market may appear lucrative, but the sheer nature of these devices is purely mechanical. No easy way of tracking previous use exists.

Non-transferable warranty: Infrastructure is not like a car! The warranty is generally not transferable from dealership to dealership or owner to owner. Therefore, any secondhand hardware must be from a legitimate channel. Risk-takers using secondhand hardware in production environments will be exposed to unsupported infrastructure with invalid warranties that offset potential savings.

Service levels and maintenance, risk reduction: Non-maintained or out-of-warranty hardware is at high risk when setting service-level agreements. The client’s support channel will not set support levels on illegitimate hardware, and non-declaration will invalidate any support contract. This will also affect any legitimate hardware and software licenses from the vendor in client infrastructure portfolios.

It is natural that finance departments will be attracted to secondhand hardware savings. But to expect them to select the best-used platforms and best fit for infrastructure layers from the best source is unrealistic. Infrastructure developers must assist finance departments in selecting the equipment and determining the true overall cost.

Business Impact:In general, users should not consider the secondhand hardware market for production systems. They should, however, leverage the surplus in the resale channel to strengthen their hardware platform negotiations. Vendors’ surpluses and refurbishments with full warranty can be considered for internal or development systems.

Bottom Line: The initial savings of secondhand hardware is offset by the cost of integration and maintenance (including hidden opportunity costs).

Philip Dawson is a consultant for META Group, an IT consulting firm based in Stamford, Conn.

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Are Meta Descriptions A Google Ranking Factor?

They can help search engines like Google understand what a web page is all about, too.

If you run a site audit using one of many SEO tools, you may find a flag or warning about missing or duplicate meta descriptions.

This could suggest that you need to make sure each page has a unique meta description, as part of your SEO strategy.

But are meta descriptions actually a factor in Google’s search ranking algorithm?

The Claim: Meta Descriptions As A Ranking Factor

The idea here is that if you write an optimized meta description, it will help you rank higher in Google search results.

Since we’re talking about a field with fairly limited space, the conventional wisdom is that you should use your target keyword phrase in the meta description as SEO best practice.

Yoast is considered one of the definitive experts as far as meta descriptions go.

At the time of publication, the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin was in use on over 7.9 million sites.

And here’s what Yoast recommends as far as meta descriptions go:

Keep it up to 155 characters.

Use your focus keyword.

Make sure it matches the content of the page.

If and how often you use the focus keyword in your meta description is part of the SEO evaluation Yoast provides:

But does Google actually use it to determine your ranking?

The Evidence For Meta Descriptions As A Ranking Factor

In a video published on the Google Search Central channel in August 2023, Google’s Search Advocate Martin Splitt said of meta descriptions:

“Please don’t forget to add them to your mobile pages. They matter a lot for Googlebot, as well.”

Almost immediately, an SEO professional tweeted Splitt asking for any additional details.

Splitt responded that the meta description and page title not only provide searchers a first impression but also:

“…helps Google Search to get a short summary of what you consider important about the page.”

Now, this caught a bit of attention.

The widely-held belief among SEO pros is that meta descriptions lost any ranking value they may have had a long time ago.

As Ann Donnelly wrote even back in 2011,

“Most of us know that while the search engines no longer consider the meta description in their ranking factors, this element of your page is still important in getting traffic to your site.”

Could it be that after all this time, Google actually does use meta descriptions as a ranking factor?


Here’s why.

The Evidence Against Meta Descriptions As A Ranking Factor

John Mueller was quick to clarify:

Now, there’s a healthy skepticism amongst SEO pros that Google perhaps isn’t entirely honest and open about ranking factors. Maybe you choose not to take Mueller at his word.

Even so, meta descriptions as a ranking signal just doesn’t hold water.

First, it’s ridiculously easy to manipulate. Just put the keywords you want to rank for in there and voilà!

Instant signal to Google that you should rank for that keyword phrase.

Back then, on-page optimization was quite formulaic and you could literally change up keywords in your title, meta description, subheadings, etc., and see rankings change dramatically.

And that’s exactly why the meta description lost any value as a ranking signal.

Matt Cutts’ 2009 explanation of why meta keywords were removed from the algorithm sheds some light on their thinking around meta descriptions at the time, as well:

“About a decade ago, search engines judged pages only on the content of web pages, not any so-called ‘off-page’ factors such as the links pointing to a web page.

…Because the keywords meta tag was so often abused, many years ago Google began disregarding the keywords meta tag.

Even though we sometimes use the description meta tag for the snippets we show, we still don’t use the description meta tag in our ranking.”

Even today, the meta description you assigned to that page might not appear in search results.

In fact, a 2023 experiment by the team at Yoast found that Google “often” came up with its own description to use in the search snippet.

There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to why Google found some of the meta descriptions provided inadequate, either.

Michiel Heijmans noted:

“It didn’t matter if we’d created long or short meta descriptions and whether the description was written with a high or low keyword density.”

They also found that in two-thirds of cases, Google used content from the first paragraph on the page to populate the search snippet.

More recently, Portent found that Google rewrites meta descriptions over 70% of the time.

Meta Descriptions As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Google does not use the meta description as a search ranking signal and hasn’t since sometime between 1999 and 2003-04.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t an important element of your SEO strategy.

The direct benefits of meta descriptions can include:

Helping to differentiate your content from competitors in the SERPs.

Intriguing and engaging searchers, compelling them to check you out.

Brand exposure.

Indirectly, the additional user behavior signals resulting from more – and more engaged – site visitors can support your SEO.

But on their own, meta descriptions aren’t a ranking factor and haven’t been for a long time.

See Brian Harnish’s SEO Best Practices: How to Create Awesome Meta Descriptions for helpful tips.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

Create A Smoking Pumpkin With An E

Want to put your neighbors to shame this Halloween? Pimp your pumpkin with a miniature smoke machine. A modified e-cigarette can create a surprising amount of fog, giving your carving an extra eerie touch.

Start with a type of e-cig called a clearomizer, available online or at your local vape shop. It has a refillable chamber that you can load with the “fog juice” used in standard smoke machines. Inside, a wick draws the liquid past a wire coil heated by a battery, where it’s vaporized. Normally, a person sucks this vapor into his or her mouth, but the smoke machine needs a way to push the fog out. An aquarium air pump attached to the battery end will do the trick.

Unfortunately, a sealed connector between the battery and the chamber blocks airflow through the e-cigarette. Ditch the battery and put a hole through the connector by replacing its solid central pin with a hollow pin from an unsealed connector (sold on websites such as MadVapes). By attaching this to a new power supply-—a universal AC adapter is convenient—you can feed both air and electricity to your device. Then use its smoke for a spooky effect.

How to Make the Mini Smoke Machine

What You’ll Need Popular Science

Time: 3 Hours

Cost: $90

Difficulty: Moderate


• Clearomizer and battery

• Sharp pin or needle

• Fog juice (one part glycerin to three parts distilled water)

• Red and black wires

• E-cig battery connector with hole

• Universal AC adapter set to about 5V

• Aquarium air pump and tubing

• Tape


1. Unscrew the clearomizer‘s chamber and battery case from its metal base. Run a pin or needle through the center of the base, then remove it. Fill the chamber with fog juice and screw it back to the base.

2. Break the battery case to separate the metal connector. Taking care not to touch the wires and create a short circuit, cut away the battery. Then clean out the connector, removing and discarding the circuit board, any plastic pieces, the o-ring, and the central metal pin.

3. Solder the black wire, which will ground the device, to this connector.

4. Now take the unsealed connector and remove its o-ring and central pin. Solder the red wire to the pin, being careful not to block the hole. This will be the positive lead.

5. Insert the o-ring and the unsealed pin into the original battery connector. Screw the modified connector onto the base of the clearomizer.

6. Run the aquarium tubing up the red wire until it reaches the battery connector. Tape it securely in place so no air can escape. Snip a slit in the tubing and pull out the end of the red wire. Seal the slit with hot glue and secure with tape.

7. Attach the loose end of the tubing to the aquarium pump. Tape the free ends of the red and black wires into the positive and negative holes in the AC adapter. Turn on the power, then the air, and watch the smoke pour out!


If you don’t like e-cigs, go low-tech. Push several nails into the floor of your jack-o’-lantern and place a small foil pie tin on them, with a few tea candles beneath. When you pour a little fog juice into the tin, the candles will heat and vaporize the liquid. This setup can’t control the fog like the modified e-cigarette can, but the effect should be equally impressive.

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Popular Science.

Pumpkin Elements Sam Kaplan

Would You Report A Competitor To Google?

I was recently involved with an interesting situation with (yet another) large brand falling out of the good graces with Google. For those playing along at home, this time it was chúng tôi (via the WSJ) walking the path that J.C Penney and Forbes had before it in previous weeks. Fun stuff all around.

Borne from some conversations with my peeps at the SEO Dojo, I got to thinking about these recent ‘outings’ and how SEOs that I know feel about them. We shall have a look at the two main camps I’ve seen and then you can tell ME what you think…

Sound like fun or what? Sure…..

Fight Club

The first school we are going to look at is; Fight Club. And the first rule of fight club? (all together now) Don’t talk about fight club. These folks believe that SEOs are a fraternity and while we may disagree at times, we should never ‘rat’ each other out to ‘the man’.

For starters, the term ‘ratting’ is troubling because it shows the venom. It is more appropriately named ‘reporting’ and I guess ‘rat’ makes those doing it hopefully feel scuzzy or something. The folks in this segment carry super-secret SEO decoder rings and believe we should keep it amongst us.

This is interesting as a few old school folks told me that they’d even hammer each other privately when one was spamming the SERPs. Like a sports team, it was dealt with ‘behind closed doors.

The Little Guy

On the other side of the conversation we have the little guy. From here is the stance that a smaller retailer can’t compete against the big brand. They don’t have the budgets nor the leverage. Furthermore it seems that Google often gives a brand more leniency with the rules than the small enterprise. This is due to search quality issues and a conversation for another day.

Let the Battle Begin

There are a lot of common tactics that are employed by SEOs that given hard scrutiny, wouldn’t stand up. I have spent the last few days staring at Google guidelines and certainly there is a lot of wiggle room for interpretation and what was acceptable last year, may not be today. This can be frustrating to SEOs. If Google opened up a channel for us to honestly ask if a tactic was viable, would we use it? LOL… oh… hold on.. gotta wipe the tears away.

What About Me?

I know… you care right? I thought that it was best, before I turn it over to you, that I make my own case. And hey, sorry to dissapoint, but I can see it from all sides. There is a big difference between doing SMB SEO and Corp/Big Brand SEO. I have done both over the years.

Fight Club? While these folks are a little aggressive for my tastes, I can see things from that camp as well. Just do your job, beat them honestly. Keep the dirty laundry in house. The only question I do have on this end is; are these folks doing questionable link building? Is that why the aggressiveness?

To get things rolling, I asked a few folks in the SEO Dojo Chat room, here’s some responses;

“I’m a realist. We all have to expect our competitors to do what it takes to win, whether it’s a big brand or small business. Small businesses entering certain markets need to expect to compete with brands that have been around for a long time, who have enormous marketing budgets. Big brands using these budgets to fund risky techniques should expect thier smaller competitors to look for these tactics to report, and eliminate them as competition.

I personally choose to find creative ways to compete rather than report a competitor. At the same time, some of the larger brands are treated like a star quarternack in a small town. We all know they are “juicing”, but they are too important to suspend from play. This not only sets a bad example, but stacks the deck against the second string players who have been working hard to get in the game.” – Jeff Sebring

“Personally, while I don’t like the idea of one firm or individual ratting out another, and have no intention of participating in it, I also don’t feel sorry for anyone that gets caught with their paws in the cookie jar. They either knew the risks, or they should have!

So I’m inclined to say, play your game any way you choose, but don’t come whining to me if you get caught bending the “rules”. Report anyone you want, too. I won’t be doing it, because I’m just not put together that way. And if I find out you’re doing it, I may have to reevaluate my opinion of you. But in the long run, I think our industry needs to have some level of transparency, if we don’t all want to continue battling against ever-increasing distrust.” – Doc Sheldon

Now it’s YOUR turn. Where do you stand on this? And why…

Meta To Face ‘Accountability’ After 14

Execs from Instagram and Pinterest have been ordered to appear before an inquest into the death of a 14-year-old girl, Molly Russell. Russell took her own life after using the apps to view extensive material on self-harm, depression, and suicide.

It’s the latest development in growing concerns about the impact of social media platforms on the mental health of teenagers, girls especially …


Concerns about the impact of social networks on the mental health of teenagers were crystalized last year, when an internal report carried out by Instagram concluded that it was harmful to as many as 20% of teenage girls using the app. Most worryingly of all, it was shown to increase the risk of suicide.

It can increase anxieties about physical attractiveness, social image, and money, and even increase suicide risk, according to Facebook’s own research […]

For the past three years, Facebook has been conducting studies into how its photo-sharing app affects its millions of young users. Repeatedly, the company’s researchers found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls.

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2023, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues.

“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

Among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram, one presentation showed.

Instagram owner Meta said that the report only highlighted the worst-case scenarios, but the company subsequently “paused” its Instagram for Kids project and pledged to make the app healthier for teens.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is among those who have expressed concern about the potential harm technology can do to mental health.

Molly Russell inquest

BBC News reports on the latest development.

Almost five years after she took her own life, the inquest into the death of teenager Molly Russell is due to begin.

Molly, 14, killed herself in 2023 after viewing material about self-harm, suicide and depression, on social media sites such as Instagram and Pinterest […]

In the last six months of her life, Molly used her Instagram account up to 120 times a day, liking more than 11,000 pieces of content. She is thought to have used the image-sharing site Pinterest more than 15,000 times over the same period.

The coroner, Andrew Walker, has already been warned that some of the content is “pretty dreadful” and difficult even for adults to look at for extended periods of time […]

Meta, which owns Instagram, and Pinterest are officially taking part in the inquest, which is due to last two weeks. It will hear evidence from executives from both companies, after they were ordered by the coroner to appear in person.

Meta is likely to be questioned about a number of internal documents revealed by the former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen. These include research carried out by the company into the impact of the platform on the mental health of young people.

While the inquest is taking place in the UK, many believe the case will receive close attention in the US and elsewhere. Matthew Bergman, a lawyer from the Social Media Victims Law Centre, says that Meta execs being questioned is an important development.

Regardless of the outcome, the fact that Meta senior personnel have been forced to testify in a proceeding like this one is a significant step toward accountability.

It’s not just Meta that is in the spotlight over this issue. An investigation last year revealed how TikTok’s algorithm can send people deeper and deeper into dark places.

Help is available

If you are considering self-harm, or would simply like someone to talk to, there are people ready to help. You do not need to be considering suicide to call.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can either phone or text from anywhere in the US. You can also find mental health resources on the organization’s website.

In the UK, the Samaritans are also available 24/7. Call 116-123, or text SHOUT to 85258.

In other countries, Google “Suicide helpline” to find local help.

Photo: Max Bender/Unsplash

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How To Create A Parameter In Report Builder

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to create a parameter in Report Builder. Parameters allow end users to interact with a paginated report.

Parameters are similar to filters but they are functional only when you’re in the run view of Report Builder. Adding in this feature offers great assistance to end users as it allows them to filter data corresponding to their needs.

This tutorial will cover a comprehensive discussion on everything related to parameters where you’ll learn how to add and remove parameters. The tutorial will also show you how to remove blank or null values from your report, and handle errors in Report Builder.

At the top part of the Query Designer, you can see a label called Parameters with two boxes for each Dimension.

When you run it, you’ll see that you need to select a city or cities before viewing the report.

In the resulting report, you’ll notice that even with the city selection, it’s still returning blank values. To remove blank values from your parameter, go back to the design view and open the Report Parameter Properties window.

The next step is crucial. If you don’t do this, you’ll get an error.

Go back to the Query Designer. If you want to remove blank or null values, you need to set the Operator to Equal and remove any filter expression.

You’ll then see that all the blank and null values from the table have been removed.

This is an explanation as to why editing the Query Designer when removing blanks is important. Let’s look at a scenario where you skip going back to Query Designer and instead run the report after only unchecking the Allow blank value and Allow null value options.

If you do this, you’ll be faced with an error message.

The error is saying that the AllowBlank property of the City parameter is false. However, the default value contains a value that violates the AllowBlank property condition. This means that there’s a contradiction in the City parameter’s properties.

Remember that in the Parameter Properties, you’ve already set it to not allow blank or null values. However, in the Query Designer, the current expression already sets the City to not equal blank values. Therefore, there’s a redundancy in the formatting.

Moreover, because you’re using City as a parameter, adding a filter expression is no longer needed. Error messages in Report Builder are built intuitively as they specify what’s happening.

They allow you to fix the mistake first before continuing with your work. So it’s always a best practice to routinely Run your report.

This ensures that errors get detected early on. Instead of revising everything when you’ve almost finished, you can approach errors one at a time.

If you want to add another parameter in your report, open Query Designer. Then, drag the item from the measure group to the dimension tab.

Before you run the report, you first need to check the new parameter’s properties. Edit any properties if needed.

When you run the report, you need to set the two properties.

You can also continue adjusting the parameters as you view the report.

The parameter has now been deleted from the report. When you run the query, you’ll only be filtering by Year. If, for example, you select 2024, the report will then only show values with 2024 as the year.

To efficiently remove blanks and null values from your report, you can use a Boolean expression.

For this example, you need to create a Boolean expression so that you can keep the rows with non-blank values.

This will return True if a row value is blank, and False if otherwise.

Then, instead of Text, choose Boolean. For the operator, use the equal sign ( = ). In the Value textbox, write false.

So behind the scenes, this filter first evaluates if a value is blank (true) or not (false). Then, it filters out values that return true.

If you run your report, you’ll see that it doesn’t anymore contain blank or null values.

You can use this both at a data set and Tablix level.

This tutorial offers a comprehensive discussion on parameters in Report Builder. This feature is especially beneficial for end users. It allows them to see specific details in a paginated report.

And as you’ve learned, adding and removing parameters is easy. The trick is to make sure the parameter properties are set correctly so that blank or null values will be excluded.

But even if you make a mistake, you’ll be notified through an error message. Overall, Report Builder is an easy and user-friendly program to use.

Sue Bayes

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