Aug 252008

Half as Long, One Third as Hard

Half as Long, One Third as Hard

(Post written on Saturday, August 23.) I ran the Mesa Falls Marathon & Half Marathon near our house in Teton Valley, Idaho today.  I ran the 1/2 and Brad ran the full marathon as part of his quest to run 50 marathons, one in each state, by the time he turns 50.  Return Path is a proud sponsor of Brad’s running, donating $1,000 for each race he completes to the Accelerated Cure project for Multiple Sclerosis.

Brad chronicled the race here.

The run was set up well for us.  I wasn’t up for training for a full marathon, and this race had a half marathon that started at the halfway point of the full race, 2 hours after the start of the race.  So I waited a few minutes with Amy at that point until Brad came cruising by us, and then he and I ran it in together.  I was in charge of keeping him fresh and focused during a big hill and when he hit the proverbial wall.

As usual, the 26.2 mile run is an awe-inspiring distance.  Even more so running the second half of it with Brad today when I had fresh legs at the beginning and he had already done 13.1 miles.  My conclusion, based on my training, my strength at the finish, and the way my legs feel at the moment (pre-Advil and pre-cocktail), is that a half marathon is a nice accomplishment, but it’s not 1/2 as hard as a full marathon.  It’s probably about 1/3 as hard.  I’m sure there’s some great CEO metaphor about doing something halfway with a third of the effort, but I can’t conjure it up at the moment. 

So hats off to Brad on completing #12 in his amazing series. I was delighted to have my favorite people in the world meet me at the finish line, shown herePost_finish_with_family_and_brad  with Amy taking our picture.  (Yes, for those who are wondering, we are expecting #3 in January.) 

Also, Happy Birthday to my colleague Brian Westnedge, who was born in Ashton, Idaho (right near Mesa Falls) a bunch of years ago on the race day of all days.

Mar 172006

A New Member of the Internet Axis of Evil

A New Member of the Internet Axis of Evil

Fred has written a series of postings over the years about the Internet Axis of Evil, roughly in order here, here, here, here, and here (I’m sure I missed some).  The basis of the postings is great — that, as Fred says:

There’s a downside to an open network. It’s the same downside that exists in an open society. There are a lot of nuts out there who want to do bad things (the evildoers as George W Bush calls them). And we all have to spend a lot of time and money making sure that we are protected from them. It’s a huge burden on an open network and an open society, but i see no way around it.

So far, the members of Fred’s club are:

DNS Hacking
Comment Spam/Link Spam
Click Fraud
Really Simple Stealing

So today, I propose a ninth member of this esteemed club:  Survey Fraud.  A lot of people don’t know it, but one of our biggest businesses at Return Path is market research — or a subset of market research known as online sample.  Our brand for this part of our business has historically been Survey Direct , but next week, entirely appropos of this posting, we are changing the name to Authentic Response.

What we do in this business is work with market research firms to drive qualified, interested, double opt-in members of our research panel to take online quantitative surveys.  It’s a little like the email database marketing business (which is why we’re in it), although the dynamics of qualifying for and taking surveys are totally different than lead generation, and we have a separate team that supports the research business.

Occasionally, surveys carry a small cash incentive, usually in the $2-5 range, to thank people for the time they spend taking the survey, which can often be 15-20 minutes.  Usually we just pay people via PayPal, although we also allow people to donate their incentives to our favorite charity, Accelerated Cure.  You’d think at $2 a pop, it’s not so interesting, but there seems to be a cottage industry that’s sprouting up that I’m now calling Survey Fraud — the art of faking your way into a survey or completing a survey multiple times, in order to collect as much incentive money as possible.

First, there are message boards on the Internet where the Survey Fraud perpetrators hang out and share information with each other about surveys — things like “hey for XYZ survey, you need to be a 40-year old homemaker in zip code 12345 with a college degree” that encourage people to fake their way in.

Second, there are more serious thugs out there who write bots and scripts and create dozens or hundreds of phantom online identities in order to “take” a single survey 100 times over.  $2 adds up when you can earn it 100x in 5 minutes with the help of a little Perl script.

The people who conduct Survey Fraud are just as pathetic as the other members of the Internet Axis of Evil.  We have to constantly stay 10 steps ahead of them in making sure our system has state of the art security — a feature we are trademarking called Authentic Validation — in order to fend them off and make sure our clients get 100% authentic survey results as promised.  I can’t share with you our complex security methodology, since that would compromise it (geez, I sound like the White House, sorry), but as Fred says, it’s a huge burden that we have to bear in order to run our survey business on the Internet.

So congratulations to our Authentic Response team on their new name and their constant efforts to fight the Axis of Evil, and to all who commit Survey Fraud, please take your “business” elsewhere!

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Jan 132005

Email Marketing 101

Email Marketing 101

We just published a book!  Sign me Up! A marketer’s guide to creating email newsletters that build relationships and boost sales is now available on  The book is authored by me and my Return Path colleagues Mike Mayor, Tami Forman, and Stephanie Miller.  What’s it about?

– At its core, the book is a very practical how-to guide.  Any company — large or small — can have a great email newsletter program.  They’re easy, they’re cheap, and when done well, they’re incredibly effective.

– This book helps you navigate the basics of how to get there, covering everything from building a great list, to content and design, to making sure the emails reach your customers’ inboxes and don’t get blocked or filtered.

– Our central philosophy about email marketing, which permeates the advice in the book, is covered in my earlier New Media Deal posting (which is reproduced in part in the book’s Preface) — that customers will sign up for your email marketing in droves if you provide them a proper value exchange for the ability to mail them.

– I’d encourage you to buy the book anyway, but in case you need an extra incentive, we are also donating 10% of book sales to Accelerated Cure, a research organization dedicated to finding a cure for Multiple Sclerosis, in honor of our friend and colleague Sophie Miller.

More postings to come about the process of writing, publishing, and marketing a book in 2005 — boy was the experience we had different than it would have been 10 years ago.