“I can’t wait to see what a disaster the ANA new web site will be.”This statement is not from someone who is just a member of the American Numismatic Association. This is the statement of Laura Sperber who is a member of the ANA Board of Governors.
Prior to this statement, I tried to give Sperber the benefit of the doubt. I greatly respect what she has accomplished in a male-dominated industry. I also appreciate her fight against coin doctoring and shining a light on the problems with coin doctoring and the grading services because I think it has made a positive impact. Unfortunately, her statement appears to be like throwing a tantrum for the sake of being right and not getting it right.
There is a difference between having an opinion and arguing to be right rather than investigating the opinion to getting it right. If Sperber was interested in getting it right, she would speak with those working on the project from the ANA headquarters to see what they are doing. If Sperber was interested in getting it right, as a member of the Board of the Governors she could ask to see the contract, project plan, and records of the costs. If Sperber was interested in getting it right, she could have asked the chairman of the Technology Committee for a meeting with the committee members, who are ANA members and professionals in the computing industry, for a frank discussion on the project.
In fact, Sperber could have asked to talk with me at the Whitman Baltimore Expo where Legend Numismatics always has a prominent table. I attended the show on both Friday and Saturday providing ample opportunity to meet and discuss her concerns.
“There is no way anyone can justify the price paid.”
Other than throwing verbal stones at Board meetings or in her blog, Sperber has not reached out to anyone to make sure she gets it right. Not only is the price in line with industry standards but the team working on the project at the ANA’s headquarters have really worked to keep the costs down and prevent overruns. As a long-time critic of the ANA’s technical acumen, Executive Director Kim Kiick and her team has done a phenomenal job.
Sperber may be a good numismatics business person but she is not knowledgeable in the business of technology to understand how foolish she sounds.
“I know I have a far more reaching and complicated new web site that cost me MUCH LESS to build at LM Auctions.”
With all due respect, no you do not. Buying auction and shopping services off the shelf is not difficult or complicated. What is difficult and complicated is choosing amongst the dozens of vendors to provide the service. If you do an Internet search for “create an auction site” you will find the list of vendors and instruction as to how to go about doing this. If you have the technical background, you can build the site yourself using any of these services. Otherwise, there are plenty of people who can be hired to do the work for you.
In creating Legend-Morphy, Sperber and her business partners purchased technology for the auction services from Sebae Data Solutions of Ocala, Florida. Sebae may not be the company that did their integration, but it appears the Legend-Morphy site was built on top of Sebae’s Bidopia auction platform.
How complicated could creating an auction website for this company be when her partner, Dan Morphy Auctions, uses Sebae’s services to manage their auctions? Morphy Auctions is well known and respected in the antique collectibles business, thus it would make sense that if they were to branch out into other areas, they would use proven technologies they are familiar with.
The use of Sebae’s software and services is not a problem. What is a problem is Sperber’s misrepresentation of what it takes to build storefront and auction site. The difficult part is to create an experience to entice customers to bid and buy. From what I can see, the company they hired to integrate these services did a good job for what they did, but it is not complicated.
In comparison, the new ANA web presence is not about selling goods and services. The new ANA web presence is about education. It is about providing an experience to welcome people to enjoy numismatics on all levels. The new web presence has to be able to integrate the business of the ANA including processing membership requests, bring the library closer to the members, allow those from the web experience the exhibits of the Money Museum, deliver education, provide a forum for numismatists to meet virtually, facilitate virtual attendance of shows, and possibly be able to allow people to participate in live events such as the Money Talks sessions at the ANA shows.
If you want to compare what the ANA is trying to do with its website versus having a site that is a numismatic catalog such as the one Sperber thinks is so complicated, go to the website of any college or university and look at the content offered. Those sites offer online classes, registration, recruitment, information about seminars, and information about activities including athletics.
Unlike an auction or retail website, there is no commercial off the shelf (COTS) software to support the functions the ANA or any educational-based organization could buy. Rather, the ANA and the colleges have to buy services and pay to have them integrated. In this case, the ANA is buying the membership services and backend processing but it has to be integrated to support the ANA mission. The ANA will be buying other services that can be used to support the ANA mission, but you need something to bring those services to the membership and public.
Think about your car. The automobile manufacturer may buy parts to build an engine but it does not manufacture those parts. They will buy the door assembly because it is cheaper for them to hire a dedicated company to run the electronics or buy the seats that are built to their specification. But when it is all delivered, the automobile manufacturer integrates the parts into the one unit that appears on the showroom floor.
It is the same analogy in the website building business. Legend-Morphy’s business model allows them to choose one vendor with a few selected products that can be integrated without a lot of work as compared to the ANA’s model that has to provide very diverse services that cannot be purchased in one place but still has to be built to look like one product.
Based on my previous conversations with Sperber, I believe she has been in the business of numismatics as long as I have been in the computer and technology business. I respect her passion, knowledge, and accomplishments for what she has done in her career. But when she makes her pronouncements that the Legend-Morphy website is “a far more reaching and complicated new web site” when those of us who know better, then not only does she come off as foolish, but she proves that she is out of her league when it comes to assessing technology.
This initiative was started by then ANA President Tom Hallenbeck. Hallenbeck understood that the Board and the ANA headquarters were not technically savvy enough to do this without help, so he formed the Technology Committee consisting of members who are professionals in all aspects of technology. Current ANA President Walt Ostromecki, who will jokingly be the first to tell you he might be less technically aware than Hallenbeck, was insistent on keeping this committee together to ensure the success of the site.
When this started, the committee Chairman James Reinders reached out to me knowing that I was a staunch critic of the lack of technology used by the ANA. It was also clear that my background in building systems and computer security would be a benefit to this effort. Sure, they were hesitant in contacting me because I had not been exactly complementary to the ANA (examples are here and here).
This was essentially a put-up-or-shut-up opportunity. I could sit in front of my computer and kvetch or I could be part of the solution. I hope my input to the committee, headquarters staff, and Board has been helpful because as a member I am trying to do what is best for the organization.
Laura Sperber is no longer an outsider. Sperber is directly inside as an elected member of the ANA Board of Governors. She has access to the same information about this project as I do. However, she has chosen to throw verbal and written rocks at the issue in an attempt to be right rather than get it right.
Therefore, I challenge Governor Sperber to put down her verbal rocks and get it right. I challenge her to reach out to the ANA headquarters, the Technology Committee, and even participate in our weekly status teleconference to learn about the project. If she is serious about representing the best interest of the ANA as an elected member of the Board of Governors then this is the opportunity to learn about the project.