The Official Blog of Cogmap, the Org Chart Wiki


Archive for November, 2007


I miss you Stylehive or How filling a page with ads depresses customers

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Stylehive used to be a go-to site for me when I felt like looking for home decorations or clothes for my wife. Unfortunately, I feel like that is no longer true. The front page now contains so much stuff, compressed so tightly, that it is no longer easy or fun to breeze through. It has been made super-efficient for the Stylehive power user. Also, they have worked so hard to incorporate text links into product pages that the user experience is virtually destroyed every time I look at a product.

Here is a screenshot:

Stylehive Screenshot

Correct me if I am wrong, but half this page is ads and I have to scroll to see the full-size image of the picture I just clicked on. That’s awful! I can’t imagine that eHub is as proud to show this as they were the initial site design.

Why would Stylehive corrupt their own site? Well, they have taken $4m in venture capital. Probably hoping some revenue will offset anemic page view growth – here is the comScore data:

What’s crazy is that they are seeing strong unique visitor growth. comScore data:

I would maintain, because it selfishly serves my purposes and I know nothing about what I am talking about, that the page view growth is flat in the face of growth of uniques because visitors are coming to this site with good buzz and then are driven away by the morass of advertising.

With $4m in capital, they need to get to breakeven pretty quickly or start to show the kind of revenue ramp that might make people pay more than $50m for this company. Ouch. We have talked a lot about how easy it is to build a company with a little capital today. The downside of raising a little capital (and in this instance we will consider $4m little) is that you can never run out of cash. So if you aren’t getting to profitability and the looming threat of bigger and bigger raises with what is, in many instances, essentially niche sites that probably won’t justify 9 figure valuations, the real concern that a company has an unsustainable business model emerges.

I go to Stylehive less and less and today I could not figure out why I should ever go back. They are pushing community features out the wazoo, but I am not interested in being part of the community, I just want to find out what the hot new stuff is. Before, I knew Stylehive would give it to me. Now, I feel like Stylehive tells me about communities I don’t care about then tries to get me to click an ad.

I am reaching here, but it is how I feel. It is a shame they make me feel this way.

Wiki power in Sean Taylor

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

I recently tracked some of the events that unfolded around Sean Taylor’s shooting death by following Wikipedia.

When I first went to Wikipedia on November 26th to find out the details, after reading about it on CNN, Wikipedia reported that he had died.  Sadly, I cannot find the exact version I was looking at because it said after the death date: “Trust me admins, I know”, which I found hilarious.

In a tribute to the power of Wiki’s, the next revision of the article comes less than a minute later and deletes this bad data.

SEO and PageRank

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

I spent a little time on SEO on the site recently and saw a definite lift in traffic. Now, I am no SEO expert and at some level I would say that the site is more or less what it is. There are not a ton of things I can/should/want to do regarding changing H1’s, adding anchor text, blah blah blah. Cogmap is an application. It does what it does. I don’t want to add a bunch of unnecessary verbiage to improve search results, etc.

But, what I did has resulted in better traffic! 30%+ better with just a few changes. I was talking with a friend about some of the things we did and some of the things I learned as we went through the process and he was interested and surprised, so I said, “Man I should blog that!”

Here it is!

First, PageRank is huge, but checking PageRank is kind of bogus. See Matt Cutt’s commentary.

PageRank from the Google toolbar is some static number that gets dumped out quarterly, while your actual pagerank is constantly being computed. So all it provides is some raw quarterly directional indicator. That is kinda weak!

Second, I used SEOmoz’s Search Engine Ranking Guide, which seemed like a relatively complete and reliable resource, to rapidly generate the small list of high impact things I could do to rock my pagerank.

Frankly, the thing that caused me the most agitation is that I would love for the URLs to all be Wikipedia-esquely the company name of the org chart. Unfortunately, we continue to refuse to code all of the pain in the ass code to make it happen and make sure that we don’t get 404’s if someone links to a chart and then someone changes the name. There are a host of version control issues there that are Pandora’s box that we have shied away from. We have API’s that let people access pages that way, but we use UIDs to identify each chart in our internal linking scheme. That makes us kind of weak! I would pick up so much pagerank steam if I overcame this.

Moral of the story: SEOing applications is hard because you do not want to make significant functionality changes that hurt the user experience simply to improve rank. Most SEOing articles are assuming that you are simply improving content on the page for machine consumption.

User Question: Does anyone use anything besides Cogmap?

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

I recently received an email question that I offered to post to the blog:

Currently I use Cogmap as a reference for a company’s general reporting structure.  Is there a way to get in touch with other Cogmap users to pick their brains about what programs they use for their finished product org charts?

Speak up, although my response was that everyone uses Cogmap for the finished product!

I see Zombies!

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

No, not Facebook Zombies. As it turns out, it is really easy for me to ignore Facebooks most viral applications because I totally don’t care.

I see Venture Capital zombies. Junior Hines over at Clickety Clack covers two topical rounds of fundraising: Rapt and Specific Media. TechCrunch covers Specific Media more here. Rapt has raised ~$50m, Specific Media ~$110m. What kinds of exits do they have to look for to create success? Now, if Specific Media found someone willing to pay $500m dollars for their company, if the investors own 50%, then they only see a 2.5x return on their invested capital. On an absolute basis, it might be ok, but for multiples it is pretty low. Rapt has the same issue. Both of these deals are swing for the fences shots.

I fear Rapt has some of the same issues that a Vignette or a Revenue Science has. How many really big web sites are there that can justify this expense? Vignette benefited from being able to target Intranets. Revenue Science has struggled to transition to a network model as they realized that there are very few sites with great behaviors and lots of excess ROS inventory to arbitrage behaviors with.

Are these exits going to be exits that investors and employees can feel good about? I am not so sure. I have blogged about valuation challenges a ton.

Regardless, I wish them luck! If Specific can IPO or sell at a multi-billion valuation, then Time Warner will certainly spin off