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Archive for August, 2012


Why You Can’t Have It All.

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

On the other side of the gender divide, there is a conversation that has been going on for decades but has grown louder in the last decade: Can women have it all? People like Sheryl Sandberg talks about how she can have it all by leaving at 5:30 every day. Anne-Marie Slaughter takes the other side of the debate by explaining how she found she could not in a widely read article in The Atlantic.

I want to wade into this debate myself. Let’s start with a simple statement:

I can’t have it all.

These articles all talk about women, but they could be about the human race. The evolution of technology has changed the way we work to a point where work life and home life are a blur. This is not a female problem, it is a people problem. When people can work any time, the expectation becomes one where people are expected to work all the time.

In the 1950’s, when it snowed, people couldn’t go to work and kids couldn’t go to school and the world stopped: There was sledding and snowmen and snowball fights and that was it. In the Snowpocalypse a few years ago, with three feet of snow on my front lawn, my wife and I desperately juggled schedules as the power of the Internet moved every meeting to a conference call and the email became, if anything, even more unrelenting.

I have my kids in day care and picking them up by 6pm is the law of the land. We don’t have a nanny and we joke all the time that this is a key part of our work-life balance. If we had a nanny, we might forget about our children entirely.

The best jobs are fun. That means work is fun. It engages the brain. So people with jobs like Sheryl’s love to work.

But she knows a fundamental truth. As I always tell my wife: “I will never regret skipping that meeting. There will always be another meeting. But going swimming with my kids. If I don’t go swimming with them, I will regret it.”

Every time I go swimming with my kids, they want me to get into the pool. They love to play swim tag – a game that involves them swimming near me and then racing back to “base”, while I hopelessly try to lure them off base far enough for me to get them. I don’t love to play swim tag. I frequently would rather they play in the pool with each other while I read a book. But every time they ask me, I remember how, when I was very young, I wanted my mother and father to play with me in the pool and how frequently they did not – for the exact same reasons I had: it’s boring, I have better things to do, I was planning to leave in 20 minutes, whatever. But I really wish they had. So more often than not, I get in the pool. I will never forget the time I spent with them in the pool. They love it so much. And seeing them happy makes me happy.

I want more of that. I agree with Paul Graham: School is prison. It is a place we send our children when we have to work because we need a place to send them. I would prefer to home school my children. But I am unwilling, due to my own selfishness and materialism, to give up all the things that I would have to surrender to do so. I live in a nice house, I go out to eat at nice places, I buy local, organic food at the farmers market, I go on nice vacations from time to time, and on a day-to-day basis, I feel like I never need more money. And I think all of this benefits my children and in the big picture is a somewhat reasonable trade-off. Of course, in the macro, I could use a lot more money. My car is a piece. We write a huge check for our mortgage every month. I have a day care bill that is unsettling. I can’t retire. I have friends who have start-ups and I would love to give them money but I can’t afford to.

But I have no illusions: My kids would rather be at home than at school. And I drop them off early for school before care. And they stay late at school for after care. And they would rather be with me. And I would rather be with them. But we can’t be.

Why? Because I value my job. I like my job. I want to do a good job at my place of employment. And I work hard at my job. Working hard takes time.

When people talk about the compromises one makes to accomodate work-life balance, that is what they mean. Time taken with children is time taken away from work. In the kind of white collar, knowledge worker jobs that I have – that my peers have – there is always more work. In the time I took to write this blog post, I could have written a deck. So the time we take to raise our children is time that is not invested in work. In modern day parlance, it is time we are performing poorly at our job. Because there are no boundaries. Time we take at work is time I am taking to do something I enjoy (“work”), that makes my children suffer (generally speaking, they spend most of that time in school/prison), albeit the money from my vocation helps them too – it pays for swimming/pool membership, it pays for gummy bears, it pays for…. uh, I think that is all my kids appreciate that money buys.

And I want more. I would say that work is far more about all the things that I want that are not even on this list. Most of them include my kids: Scuba lessons. Fishing trips. I want to take my kids on a trip to the Far East. I want to take my family to France for three months. I want things that there is no possibility I can afford in the near term. I would say that is the real reason that I work. My kids suffer today so that I may strive to make their lives better.

This is the essence of the trade-offs we make. We do things today that we like, hoping it does not screw up our kids in the future. We do things now we don’t like because we hope to make our kids lives better.

The worst part about spending time with kids is when you are thinking of all the other things you should be doing. If I could get rid of all of that and simply live in the moment, every time I successfully do that, I find that I am incredibly happy. But then, that is also true of things I do at work, or when I play basketball.

Live in the moment. Flow.

But remember, you will never regret not working another 15 minutes and going to leave and spend it with your kids.

(This was written very quickly. Excuse the nonsense.)

Why would publishers put ads all over a page? Why? Why! Why?

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Hilarious excerpt from Kirby Winfield Q&A:

Kari Bretschger Presz and CEO IMW Communications: Why would there be a market for a non-viewable ad? It would be a tough sell…Why would publishers offer it?


LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL. Why would publishers offer it, indeed! The combination of the race to the bottom and the prisoners dilemma puts publishers squarely at odds with the desire to introduce viewable impressions standards.

This makes me laugh. It implies such incredible ignorance of how display advertising works today.

Because I was chewing through my feeds, it reminded me of a quote highlighted in the eCPM blog from Dalton Caldwell’s Digiday interview:

There’s two ad businesses. There’s the brand ad business and then the dark underbelly of ad networks

This shows how tough it is for a CEO of a general marketing business to understand what is really going on in digital marketing. Kari, call me if you want me to explain how screwed up your media buying practices are.

Agencies are getting exploited on a daily basis by bad actors. Even your performance buys are not working because attribution is a train wreck!

The good news is we are approximately the same screwed up as your TV buys, so just jump right in, the water is warm.

Call Your Stuff a Platform, See If I Care

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Dalton Caldwell is getting a lot of press these days. In some of this press, he said things I disagree with. Like this:

What’s the fundamental flaw of ad-supported platforms like Facebook and Twitter?
“Platform” implies providing a service that others are building on top of. Amazon Web Services provides a platform you can build services on top of. The platform doesn’t reach up and do weird things. In the Amazon example, you can build a competitor to Amazon on top of the platform. You can build anything. They’ll never charge you a percentage of business or threaten to get into your business. That’s a true platform because they’re getting paid to provide a service. There’s not this notion of retribution and reaching through the stack.

Err, so AWS will never get into the business of people that build on their platform? What if I built “management tools for people running AWS” that runs on AWS. They got into that business. What if I got into the “no-SQL database on AWS business”. They started offering data stores also.

Was Windows a platform? They consumed tons of companies. Every platform is constantly negotiating boundaries. To imply otherwise flies in the face of appreciating that customers like to buy complete stacks from single vendors. No one wants to have to cobble together solutions to meet needs, and certainly no company wants to feel dependent on the ecosystem to generate revenue. If you need functionality to create value, build it. That is capitalism.

To imply that Facebook has a “fundamental flaw” is to imply that it is a failure. I think $4 billion in revenue and $1 billion in profit have already proven that statement wrong. This is not some pyramid scheme. This is one of the biggest, most valuable, fastest growing companies in technology history. There are probably only a handful of technology businesses, that if you had to pick one to own, you would choose over Facebook. It is one of the two or three most widely used technologies in the world, fast growing, and wildly profitable.

It wasn’t all bad. The comment he made that I most liked was this:

You need to rely on your U.S., U.K. and European user bases to make enough margin to carry all your worthless foreign traffic. It’s a Faustian bargain. The people you need to keep the most you have to show the most ads.

That is interesting, isn’t it? If you build a global site, you have to be prepared to pay the tax.