Jul 312006

Social Computing: An Amusing Anecdote About Who is Participating

Social Computing:  An Amusing Anecdote About Who is Participating

We learned something about Wikipedia tonight.  Mariquita was reading an article on Castro on CNN.com entitled “Castro Blames Stress on Surgery” about his upcoming intestinal surgery.

[Quick detour — I’m sorry, Castro blames the surgery on stress?  Isn’t it good to be the king?   And he’s handing  the reins of government over to his oh-so-younger brother Raul, at the tender young age of 75?]

Anyway, we were debating over whether Castro took over the government of Cuba in 1957 or 1959, so of course we turned to Wikipedia.  Ok, so Mariquita was right, it was 1959.  But more important, we learned something interesting about Wikipedia and its users.

There were three banners above the entry for Casto that I’ve never seen before in Wikipedia.  They said:

This article documents a current event.  Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

This article or section is currently being developed or reviewed.  Some statements may be disputed, incorrect, biased or otherwise objectionable.  Please read talk page discussion before making substantial changes.

The neutrality of this article is disputed.  Please see the discussion on the talk page.

That’s interesting of the editors, and it made me rush to read the entry on our fearless leader, George W. Bush.  It only had one entry, a bit different from that of Castro (who, at least in my opinion, history will treat as a far more horrendous character than Dubya):

Because of recent vandalism or other disruption, editing of this article by anonymous or newly registered users is disabled (see semi-protection policy). Such users may discuss changes, request unprotection, or create an account.

Well, there you go.

Jul 292006

links for 2006-07-29

Filed under: Uncategorized

Jul 272006

Your Goal: Professional Nirvana

Your Goal:  Professional Nirvana

Brad wrote a delightful post the other day entitled "My Work is Play to Me."  His theory about how to achieve it is worth reading.  I, too believe that my work is play (under this definition), and that has been one of the things that’s kept me going as an entrepreneur for nearly seven years now.  And you don’t have to be a VC, or a CEO, or be working remotely to achieve the state.

This is reminiscent of the Fish books (here, here, and here), although in a more fundamental, philosophical, internally-generated way.  Those are good, quick "airport" reads — at least get the first one, which is the story about the famous Pike Place fish market in Seattle, which is a great place and experience.

This is easy.  Repeat after me:

If you have a job, your goal should be to make your work play.

If you manage other people, your goal should be to make work play for anyone on your team.

Filed under: Business, Entrepreneurship

Jul 272006

links for 2006-07-27

Filed under: Uncategorized

Jul 252006

links for 2006-07-25

  • Fred has a good posting on some of the downsides of having managed through the bubble bursting. I wrote about this (a little bit) last year in Ratcheting Up is Hard to Do (/2005/01/ratcheting_up_i.html), but Fred’s posti

Filed under: Uncategorized

Jul 242006

Good Help is Hard to Find

Good Help is Hard to Find

We’re having a bitch of a time lately hiring good sales people.  We’re growing like crazy this year and are trying to invest more in our salesforce, but it’s not easy.  And we’re a good catch.  Good brand, healthy company, good comp and benefits, charming CEO, the works.

I just traded emails with a friend who is CEO of another online marketing services firm who said the same thing, with the exact same explanation I have:

I have been so unimpressed with everyone from our space (weak links drop out, mediocrity churns from company to company, and true talent is retained).

Anyway, we have gotten very lucky with a few key hires the past few months — and we certainly work like mad to retain the talent we have (or at least we try hard!) — but the reality is that it’s a good year for Internet businesses, and it’s hard to get people to jump ship when they have an established book of business and good commission check flow. 

Most of the people I know who are doing well with sales recruiting in our space these days, including ourselves, are mostly pulling people out of adjacent industries or even out of clients.  I’d ask my general readership for advice, but I assume if you have the secret sauce here, you’ll hoard it for yourself!

Jul 202006

Feedburner…They’re Real AND They’re Spectacular

Feedburner…They’re Real AND They’re Spectacular

Sometime in early 2004, I met Dick Costolo, the CEO of Feedburner.   We met about at the same time he also met Fred and Brad (I can’t remember who met who first), both of whom subsequently invested in the company.  We hit it off and had a number of informal and formal conversations over the past two and a half years about online media, the interplay of RSS and email and blogs, and entrepreneurship.  Feedburner and Return Path have developed a still-somewhat nascent partnership as well to bring ads in feeds and ads on blogs to Return Path’s Postmaster advertisers.

I was recently fortunate enough to be invited by Dick and his team to join Feedburner’s Board of Directors.  You can read the official note (as official as Feedburner gets!) on Feedburner’s blog here.  I am huge Feedburner fan and am jazzed to be part of their extended team.  The company is impressively leading its market of RSS publisher services and RSS advertising.  It’s all very reminiscent of the early days of email, and the early days of banner advertising before that.  More than that, though, I’ve been incredibly impressed with how the company operates.  They execute swiftly and flawlessly, they have a ton of fun doing it, and they have a very authentic voice and ethos for communicating with and handling their customers that I admire tremendously.  Very Cluetrain Manifesto.

In a much earlier posting, I wrote that entrepreneurs should join other boards as well to get more experience with how different organizations are run and how different board dynamics work, so I guess this means I’m following my own advice.  And so far, it’s all true — I’ve gotten a lot out of the first couple of meetings I’ve attended.  It’s a little weird for me to be the “old media” guy around the table (old meaning web and email, of course), so I’ll have to work hard to not be a Luddite and keep pace with all the new toys.

Jul 182006

Listen Up!

Listen Up!

I’ve always felt that the ability to listen (and the related ability to ask smart questions) is highly underrated in business, while presentation and speaking skills tend to be overrated.

We practice the art of SPIN Selling at Return Path, which is a sales methodology based on asking questions and listening rather than constantly pounding features and benefits.  And boy, does it work.  When done well, sales close much more quickly and prospects/clients are much more engaged because they really understand the need that they have for our services.

The same principles apply to management and leadership as well.  While you certainly have to be somewhat authoritative and clear thinking as a leader, it’s almost always better to ask questions, listen to conversations, and shape them around the edges rather than dive in with the answer at the onset of a debate.

I remember when I was a little kid, my cousin David asked my Grandpa Bill why, at some extended family gathering, he spent the whole time listening to some friend or distant relative yammer away rather than talk more himself.  Grandpa’s response:  “I already know what I have to say — what I didn’t know was what he had to say.”

While Grandpa’s words ring true, I heard an even more memorable catch phrase today from my colleague George Bilbrey that summarizes this point:  “you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”

Filed under: Leadership


Jul 162006

Amazon: Icky Slippage Business Model

Amazon:  Icky Slippage Business Model

I never signed up for Amazon Prime, Amazon’s “pay a bunch up front then get free fast shipping all the time” deal, mostly because I usually buy more than $25 worth of books at a time, so shipping is free anyway.  But today, they hit me on the checkout with a free three-month trial of Prime, so I clicked yes – what the heck?

My bad for thinking they were just being nice to me as a VERY GOOD CUSTOMER.  The confirmation email they sent had buried in the fine print that my subscription would auto-renew after three months for the usual $80 if I didn’t proactively opt-out on their web site.

That’s a business model based on slippage or breakage like so many others out there (they assume I’ll just forget about it and let the charges go through).  I don’t have a problem with that model, but WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO YOUR OWN LONG-TERM CUSTOMER?  Ick.

Filed under: Books, Business


Jul 112006

Less is More

Less is More

The latest research shows that people spend 51 seconds reading any given commercial email newsletter, as opposed to 15 seconds on a promotional email.  I find this credible based on personal experience, at least the ratio of the two, although I might do a little less on both.

Return Path’s Stephanie Miller blogs about this and the implication for marketers on the Return Path Online Resource Center for Email Marketers.

Filed under: Email