SmallBusiness.com is an excellent free site. The following is a Q&A interview which describes it and some new features.
Rex Hammock , President of Hammock Publishing , is the driving force behind SmallBusiness.com. SmallBusiness.com is one of those superb domain names that undoubtedly could be sold for a nice chunk of change. Instead of selling it for financial gain, Rex has generously transformed it into a site for small business community members to use. What’s more, Rex donates his time and that of some of his staff, to maintain and improve SmallBusiness.com.
SmallBusiness.com is built on wiki software. To the non-technical among us, that means visitors to the site can make changes to it.
If you are familiar with Wikipedia, the free online user-generated encyclopedia, then you understand the concept. SmallBusiness.com is like the Wikipedia for small business — but with some important differences.
Rex and his team have been enhancing SmallBusiness.com quietly and regularly. Recently I caught up with Rex for an email interview. Here are highlights about SmallBusiness.com and what the site can mean to you and your business:
Q: How does one add or change an entry in SmallBusiness.com?
A: You will see an “Edit” tab next to the section you want to add to or change. You just need to click on “Edit”.
Q: What kinds of items can be added or changed?
A: The core of the site consists of small business guides. The guides are intended for beginners and those new to a subject, and are written by community contributions. Examples of guides: Starting a Business; Setting up a Small Business Website; and Buying a Franchise.
SmallBusiness.com also contains directories of links to relevant small business resources. One directory is for small business weblogs — we encourage bloggers to list their own blogs.
Q: SmallBusiness.com suddenly got a lot easier for the occasional visitor like me to update. You made some changes to improve it, correct?
A: There is now a convenient editor so that you can make changes as easily as writing in a word processor. You don’t need to know geeky wiki codes (although if you know how to compose in “wiki language” you can still do that).
Also, for some time now users have been able to set up individual Profile pages, containing a photo and other information. Now we’ve added a “contributor bar” at the top of each entry containing a picture of the most recent contributors who added content to a page, linking to your Profile:
I’m convinced that most wikis are designed to “hide” who contributes information — rather than raise the visibility of the great folks who share their wisdom. We wanted to bring visibility to contributors and make the site seem more friendly and vibrant.
Q: How are news items chosen to be included in the SmallBusiness.com Newswire?
A: The Newswire consists of news stories and original-content blog posts that appear on the sidebar of the site. I’m the editor of what stories appear in the Newswire.
As we are very open-source and don’t want to reinvent the wheel with SmallBusiness.com, we still use Del.icio.us to serve as a simple content management system for managing the Newswire. We experimented with a Digg-like tool (the open-source Pligg) but it can be gamed and, frankly, the news feed is not our primary focus. The how-to guides and community interaction is what’s most important.
If anyone sees a story they believe should be included, they can alert me to the story by bookmarking it on http://del.icio.us  and tagging it with the following: for:smallbusiness
Q: How do you decide which feeds go into the Small Business Blogwire blog headlines section of the site? Can bloggers request that their feeds be added, or add their feeds on their own?
A: This is an experimental page that is, basically, a feed of headlines from small business blogs I find helpful. If someone wants their feed included, they can just click on the “discussion” tab on that page and say, “add my feed” and the SmallBusiness.com team will review the request.
Q: You mention in the SmallBusiness.com blog that users will soon have an additional page, which will be about their companies. What will this page consist of?
A: I think small business owners and managers often want to promote their businesses and not themselves. Our User Profiles are now focused on the individuals who use SmallBusiness.com. We’re going to add another page to the Profile (another tab) that will be a business profile.
It won’t (or, who knows, surprise me) be a substitution for someone’s business website, but should be viewed as means to promote that website. It will have features that display RSS feeds from a company website, for example. And we’ve added some standard “local” features like a Google map feature. It’s not designed to compete with the other Wikis, Yellow Pages or Google Local, etc. However, I think any small business would want to fill it out if, for no other reason, it’s a good SEO (search engine optimization) tool.
Also, we’re working on a “semantic” feature that will create directories of Users and Company pages that are related via “tags” that we’re including. These are close to being added.
Q: What is the “My Talk” tab that I see when I log in to my User Profile page?
A: It is part of the commenting feature. If you click on the “Discuss” tab of any page and then on the “+” tab and you can add a message to that page. If someone does that on your User Profile page, all of those comments can be found on your “My Talk” page.
Those of us who come from the blogger world, want comments to be at the bottom of the page. Or those of us who use forums, want it to work another way. This is the wiki way. Go figure.
Q: Are you doing “no follow” for the links? (Links tagged as “no follow” are not counted by search engines like Google for ranking purposes, although they still drive traffic.)
A: We are not following Wikipedia’s decision  to make links “no follow.” A site as big as theirs is a magnet for link spamming. If we run into spamming problems that our vigilant users don’t fix, we’ll address that problem when it occurs. I want small business owners to get any search juice possible from their contributions to SmallBusiness.com.
Q: Who is the team behind SmallBusiness.com?
A: For technical issues and general strategy and oversight, primarily it’s me and the tech guru at Hammock Publishing, Patrick Ragsdale, who has to put up with my constant desires to tweak the software and add more features. But we both have more than full time jobs doing other things, so it’s not even a part-time job. Then, there are other employees who help administrate sections from time to time.
The project is one of passion. We really believe in the mission of the site — that knowledge on how to start and run small businesses is something that is best understood by those doing it. Many people doing it want to share and pass along their knowledge.
That passion shows through, so the real team behind SmallBusiness.com are the people who contribute to it. We’re merely providing the space and the tools. It doesn’t take a lot of a team to do that.
Q: What future enhancements can we look forward to?
A: Shortly we will be able to offer widgets for those who register and contribute to the site. One widget is a simple button that will link to your User Profile. Another will link to the most recent entries you have created or contributed to.
We have lots of ideas we would like to implement. We have more ideas than time and resources.
Q: Thank you, Rex, for taking the time to share this information with the small business community.
A: My pleasure. Thanks for your interest and great questions and support.
Editor’s note: if you run a small business or work in one, become a part of SmallBusiness.com. Visit SmallBusiness.com, create an account, and set up a Profile. Then list your website/blog, and contribute to the guides and directories. Visit the SmallBusiness.com blog for more details about the latest SmallBusiness.com enhancements, and for a video tutorial on how to set up a SmallBusiness.com User Profile.