The Official Blog of Cogmap, the Org Chart Wiki


Archive for December, 2010


The Difference Between Ads You Love And Ads You Hate

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Scott Kurnit’s new AdKeeper is offering the following challenge, outlined by AdExchanger and Forbes:

In an interview with Ad Age’s Edmund Lee, AdKeeper CEO Scott Kurnit discusses his company’s ad-banner-keeping technology and boldly challenges Ad Age readers: “I will make an offer of $100 to Ad Age readers for the first person or the first 10 people who find me an ad — they’ll have to capture that with a camera or something — that wouldn’t be more useful to a reasonable segment of the audience if it was kept for later.” Not only is Kurnit giving away $100 (potentially), his company is also providing “keeping” services for free to big brand marketers for 6 months.

This is a hilarious offer because only an ad that explodes is not worth “keeping” for later. If it was a University of Pheonix ad, one that I would never click on, it would be worth keeping for later because I might change my mind. Irrelevant = worth keeping. If it was an ad I wanted to click on, “Check out new TVs at Best Buy”, then wouldn’t I consider surfing some more and keeping it for later? Maybe. Relevant = worth keeping.

Only an ad that said, “click in the next 60 seconds or lose me forever”, an offer essentially impossible to manage given Internet latency today, loses value in the future.

What about the 5th ad on a Google search result. It is simply wrong. But it might not be later? Seems easy to either take Scott’s money or have Scott deny that I am correct. The email where I read of this challenge had a Google sidebar filled with ads for Django consultants. I am not even remotely involved in a Django project right now. Does Scott owe me $100? Might I want Django consultants later?

Frankly, my original thesis when I started this post was that only the most viral and interesting ads are worth keeping to most consumers. Once again, proof that lucking into mind-blowing creative is probably the greatest marketing there is.

I am not a believer that consumers will want to keep enough ads to make it interesting and the ones they do want to keep are already viral Youtube sensations, so the earned media effect of keeping an ad is probably de-valued. My wife can’t figure out how to get interstitials offer her browser fast enough. The ability to keep an ad and replay it later does not make the ad more engaging on an a priori basis. The ad must already engage to generate a keep. I think that is the bigger problem in media today. What ads here engage me? Elf Myself? Subservient Chicken? Having said that, my impression (I don’t know any of them except Sim Simeonov) is that Scott and his team are super smart. It will be interesting to see where they pivot from here.

NFL Division Rivalries 101

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

A quick post for all the dad’s and/or husbands in need of help out there.

My kids wanted to better understand division rivalries in the NFL, but they can’t read (3/4 years old). So I built a handy, dandy graphical chart that you can share with your children.

A Handy Dandy NFL Division Rivalries Chart

It is hosted on github, so feel free to fork it and make this chart more useful. My kids have studied this chart every day for weeks. Within days your kids can also know their divisional rivals.


How To Put Twitter Into Your Email

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

A review of Gist, Rapportive, and Etacts

Everybody wants their email to be better. I recently tested a variety of email plugins that focus on bringing social data into gmail. The short answer is: Use Etacts. Here is what I saw:

Three companies are the market leaders in the space:

  • Rapportive
  • Etacts
  • Gist

Rapportive has raised $1m from an impressive group of angels: Dharmesh Shah, Jason Calcanis, Paul Buchheit, Dave McClure, David Cancel, CRV, etc..

Etacts has raised $650k from Y Combinator and Ron Conway.

Gist has raised $10m+ from Foundry and Vulcan Capital.

Interestingly, I think this explains why Gist has seemingly much better marketing, but it fails to explain why Gist’s product seemed not as good.

Disclaimer: I was looking for a specific kind of added value. It could be that these products do other things that I just fail to appreciate. Most specifically: I am not interested in spending any time on other web sites, I just want my gmail to be better. Caveat emptor.


Anyway, here was the Gist UI in my gmail inbox.

I was looking at an email thread with my lawyer, so it shows his latest tweet and my latest tweet. Links to our facebook and twitter.

It also put the whole thing in an iframe out to the side. It felt like it loaded a lot slower than other things. While I bet owning an iframe is a lot easier from a backend support perspective – you don’t break when they change gmail, it felt a lot more web 1.0 than the other solutions.


Rapportive was well implemented, but had no features. It successfully found that I am LinkedIn to Mike, but didn’t include tweets. All it really lets me do is easily click through to Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook and record a note about a person – kind of CRM-ish.

Both Etacts and Rapportive integrate neatly into the gmail pane so I barely notice they are there unless I want data.


Etacts is the easy winner, hands down. It identifies that we are LinkedIn and shows me shared connections. It shows me several of his last tweets, and it shows me other related threads. Finally, they offer me the “Remind me to contact” feature (a note feature similar to Rapportive was below the fold here), which I am actually intrigued by – I should stay in contact with people better than I do.

Winning the Baltimore Hackathon

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
I participated in the Baltimore Hackathon this past week and had a ridiculously awesome time. How great: we won!
I wanted to talk about my experience and our strategy, although it will probably not be instructive to anyone.  I had had a weekend project sitting in my queue for more than a year.  As is well documented in other places, I had read a story about how the Huffington Post split-tests headlines for their articles and had thought, “WordPress blogs should have that!” A little research had implied that such functionality did not exist, but I thought it seemed easy to build using the WordPress API.
When I read about the Hackathon, I thought it sounded like a perfect place for me to try and scratch the itch: If I could get one good coder for 2 days, we could probably get it done. In spite of this, I assumed that I probably would not be able to attract a developer to work on such a simple project, but I figured I should take a shot so I could knock this off my to-do list.
When I got there and did my chat about my project, only two people self-identified as PHP developers – both college students that seemed uninterested in the small scope of my project compared to other ambitious plans to build entire web apps. Then, right as I despaired at attracting sufficiently skilled talent to be able to bang this out, Pete Bessman jumped in and said that he loved the idea and wanted to work on it. What did Pete love? As he said repeatedly, “The reach to grasp ratio on this project is very good.” Pete and I hunkered down in the quietest corner of the Hackathon (hence I think there are fewer pictures of Pete and I working than any other project at the Hackathon, I suspect) and got to work. While Pete started working on the basic infrastructure of the app, I dissected some WP plug-ins to understand how WP handled things like namespaces. I found the first few API calls that Pete needed to implement and I wrote the algorithm we would use for testing headlines. Pete then implemented everything lickety-split. By the end of the first night, I had realized two things:
  1. My wife wasn’t going to let me disappear all weekend
  2. We would finish way ahead of schedule
Our project was far less ambitious than most of the other projects going on, so I started thinking at the end of the first night about how we win and my answer was “user adoption”. Certainly, we could have added many more bells and whistles, but I have always had a “ship early and often” philosophy, so Pete and I agreed that we should tightly limit the feature set and get it out there. After spending the morning of the second day writing code for the admin menus, I then moved onto marketing the plugin while Pete finished making it sing. By Saturday night we had established a relationship with prominent WP plug-in blogs and had an account on the WP plug-in official site. By Sunday, we had positive reviews of our product, some tiny level of adoption, and the look of something with some traction.
While I did not attend at all on Sunday, Pete presented our success on Sunday afternoon and by all reports was awesome. He has a nice flair for showmanship and we were able to turn our story of rapid user adoption into a successful Hackathon victory. As Pete told me when I asked him about our performance relative to other Hackathon projects when it was time for the judging, “every project there was more ambitious than ours in some dimension but many of them had last minute problems completing their work that made it hard for them to win and none had the 24 hours of rapid adoption to endorse their product like we did.” Further evidence that tightly controlled scope was very effective.

Huge thanks to all involved – having events like this to help people like me scratch an itch is awesome. Also, I got a much bigger job done: As I told Chris Brandenburg when I saw him the first night and he asked what I was doing there, I said: “Scouting for talent”. His response: “Yeah, me too.” Pete Bessman has a job for life. He is awesome. Thanks to all my friends at Millenial. I would like to think that when Millenial doubled the prize money, that was really Chris hooking me up as he anticipated my victory. Thanks Chris!

Obviously, I should thank my wife as well.  She watched the kids Friday and Saturday while I indulged my inner geek. It is very tough for old guys like me to do things like this, but supportive significant others are critical for career success and we saw further evidence here.