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Performance Enhancing Drugs in the Workplace

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

adderallThey are coming!

In sports, people take performance enhancing drugs for one reason:  Professional sports are extremely competitive.  The difference between a superstar and an average professional athlete is a razor thin margin.  The push to be your absolute best is intense, no less so when the compensation differences between superstars and average players (all of whom were huge superstars in college and high school) is orders of magnitude.

This is an area where people are under intense scrutiny to not use performance enhancing drugs.  In many respects, being caught taking them is comparable to a death sentence, yet the incentive to perform better is so enormous, people take that chance.

In the workplace, without such oversight, if there were drugs you could take that make you a superstar, what would you do?

I suspect people will dope like crazy!

I have been reading many articles lately about the Adderall trend.  I now believe the following facts to be true:

  • There are drugs that you could take today that would improve your performance in the workplace.
  • These drugs are frequently taken by college students today and have been taken for years by a younger generation, illustrating that the long term side effects of such drug use are relatively low.
  • The generation entering the workplace today is taking these drugs and performing better as a result.

Given the evidence we have seen of how professional poker players and college students have reaped the benefits of Adderall use, I suspect that today many Wall Street employees probably take Adderall.  It is a competitive industry and compensation is tightly linked to performance.

If your peers were suddenly working harder and being more productive than you, would you feel pressure to enhance your performance artificially?  What if the people working for you were suddenly working harder and more productive than you.  Would the person performing poorest be less likely to be promoted?  Would you promote the least productive person on your team?  Who would you promote if everyone else was using Adderall?  The possibility of not just upward mobility halting, but continued employment may be threatened for non-enhancers.

This is you entering the world of professional athletes.  Everyone is doping to get ahead, if you do not, you risk not getting ahead.  Is your company suggesting people don’t?  Nope, they are in a battle to the death with competitors and the enhanced performance of their employees is critical to victory.  Your company wants you to do it, your co-workers are doing it, and not doing it makes you a worse employee.

Is this bad?  I don’t know, but it is certainly seductive.  If I told you that you could take a pill when you got to work that would give you unparalleled ability to focus for the next 12 hours, would you refuse?  Who doesn’t like to flow?  Be in the zone.

The American Psychological Association believes that achieving “Flow”, the state of intense focus, is critical to a person happiness.  Hey, I believe it.  When I am flowing, it is awesome.  Flowing is the most awesome thing around.  Now you can self-medicate to instantly flow.  For me, it typically requires 4-5 hours of uninterrupted time for me to be able to achieve flow for the last 2 hours.  And that only works 25% of the time.

I work with coders.  Coders are the kind of people that would probably benefit disproportionately from the ability to decide to instantly flow for a few hours.  What would you be willing to do to flow on command?

Are you tempted?  Comment.

Tradevibes Acquired, Can Cogmap Be Far Behind?

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

logoYay!  Venturebeat recently announced that they had acquired Tradevibes, a crowd-sourced web site of company information, for an undisclosed sum.  A huge victory for Venturebeat, as the acquisition of crowd-sourced company information is a key strategy for success in the modern economy by any company.  Surely Venturebeat is just one good acquisition away (hint, hint) from dominating the tech news market.

Tradevibes is an interesting company.  Great pedigree: 4 paypal guys raise $900k from Ron Conway and Dave McClure, some of the best angels out there.  They blew past 10,000 companies in the database a year ago and I eyeball that they probably have more than 20,000 companies in their database today.  Is the data good?  I checked out Facebook:


  • Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO [x]
  • Dustin Moskovitz, Co-founder & VP of Engineering [x]
  • Owen Van Natta, Chief Revenue Officer, VP of Operations [x]
  • Matt Kohler, VP Strategy & Business Operations [x]
  • Chamath Palihapitiya, VP of Marketing & Operations [x]
  • Gideon Yu, CFO [x]
  • Sheryl Sandberg, COO [x]
  • Jonathan Heiliger, VP of Technical Operations [x]
  • Elliott Schrage, VP Global Communications & Public Affairs [x]
  • David Fischer, VP Online Sales & Operations [x]
  • Christopher Kelly, General Counsel [x]
  • Ben Ling, SVP Development

A lot of those people are gone.  Dustin is gone, Owen is gone, Chamath is gone, Gideon is gone and Ben is gone.  And those are just the ones I know about, and I know nothing about Facebook.

Obviously, I live in a glass house, so I won’t be throwing stones, but the data is certainly no better than ours and in many cases sparser.  The page was viewed 50,000 times and has 100 edits.  The most recent edit was 9/30/2009, so you have to like that it was edited recently – although many obvious errors were not corrected. 1 in 500 users makes an edit, which seems realistic.

On Cogmap, Facebook has had more than 3,000 views and has 20 edits, so we are getting edits about every 60 views.  A more engaged community?  Hard to say, we have fewer maps: Slightly more than 7,000.  It would be interesting to compare their most popular companies and our most popular maps head-to-head, or global site activity, however we don’t have that data.

Anyway, enough head-to-head battles, let’s talk about the transaction: I bet it went poorly for Tradevibes.  VentureBeat has raised $300k in capital and doesn’t seem like it is awash in cash, so it is unlikely that Tradevibes saw the kind of exit that returns 10x to the investors.  Certainly, VentureBeat probably doesn’t have a plan to use Tradevibes in a way that generates the kind of value that would justify a 10x payout.

Did Ron and Dave get out with their initial investment?  I bet they did not get out at all.  I wonder if they realized Tradevibes was not working out and simply became investors in VentureBeat.  I checked LinkedIn in an effort to discover if the Tradevibes founders had stuck around.  All I was able to find was that Peter Chu, the CTO, left a year ago.  I had heard that Tradevibes was struggling, that is more evidence that the business was going sideways.

One of the funny exercises in small companies selling out to other small companies is that, if it is not an all cash transaction,  it is not simply about valuing Tradevibes – it is about valuing VentureBeat.   Assuming VentureBeat was not going to write a check for more than a million dollars (probably the only scenario where the investors get out whole), they took some cash and some stock – probably more stock.  If they took stock, then the question you wonder is how VentureBeat was valued relative to Tradevibes.

Here at Cogmap, we look forward to working with Matt and the VentureBeat team – or anyone that wants to crush them.  We love business development deals!

Complaining About Comments Yields Comments

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

22320000_fb685d1750Ever since my “Why Does Everyone Hate Me” Post, my site has gotten more comments.

Not all of them have been here, many have been via my cross-posting to Facebook, but it has made me feel goo-ier.

Here is the chart:


Of course, this does not include Facebook comments, which is where most of the comments have been, and if you look, it really reflects the Lookery discussion (easiest way to get comments on your blog: Talk about Scott Rafer and he will find your blog and comment), the love I got from AdExchanger, and the actual post about how no one wants to post.

Regardless, I think it drove my friends to want me to be happier, which is nice.  Thanks friends!  Amazingly, I didn’t get any comments on articles I thought were awesome.  In a tribute to awesome, here are some of my best posts that maybe you should click and read:

I have also made some interesting, albeit unrecognized news and technology breakthroughs:

3917737704_06419cbfacPat me on the back!  Oh wait, there is no room because my hands are so big and patting so furiously.


Managing Product Overload and Your Sales Force

Monday, June 15th, 2009

securedownloadI walked into my local Starbucks the other day and realized that they had made some serious changes to their menu: They had devoted 1/3 of the menu to Frappuccinnos (iced slushy beverages), 1/3 to teas, and 1/3 to coffee.  The result of this menu distribution was they no longer offered all of the “flavored” coffee drinks in a non-Frappuccinno form.  When I asked them about it, because I am somewhat partial to their “Espresso Truffle”, the barista’s indicated that they still, in fact, had all of these drinks, they are simply no longer on the menu.

My reaction to that was, “how are they going to sell any of them if they don’t tell people they are for sale?”

This is an interesting decision by Starbucks that gets at a larger sales force decision.  To wit: Starbucks could have simply added more menu space, covering their walls with the hundreds of drinks they serve, but would exposing every drink they offer actually cause more or less confusion?  Would it increase sales?

in-and-out-menuCompare and contrast this with In-N-Out Burger.  They have super simplified their menu.  It only has 4 products that are not drinks on it: Double meat/double cheese burgers, cheeseburger, hamburger, fries.  Doesn’t get much simpler than that.  They also have a “secret menu” that you can order from if you are “in the know”.  Amusingly, even the secret menu on their web site does not have all of the secret things you can order.  There are literally hundreds of discussions about the secret menu all waiting for your google query.

Let’s bring this back around to the enterprise.  At AOL Advertising, we literally have hundreds of products for sale.  Almost any combination of behavioral data (and we can generate basically any behavior) and web sites (and we work with almost every web site), geographic targeting, custom dynamic banners, whatever.  Netblocks, clutterbusters, morphing logos, sponsorships, takeovers.  People can buy this on a CPA, CPM, or CPC basis.  Besides display, we have a search product, an affiliate product, a mobile product, and a video product.

How can our sales force, much less our customer base, hope to understand the myriad products available for purchase.  Yet, if you split the sales force, you have multiple sales reps calling on the same customer competing for a single budget.  Not having one person sell everything de-optimizes the sales force in the eyes of the customer.  Certainly, AOLs attempts to address this have been well-documented.  And every customer wants something a little different.  I am partial to the Espresso Truffle.  If AOL Advertising took some products off the menu, some customers would be angry, some would think we lose business because people want those products, and some would not buy from us because that is what they want and they just don’t know it is available.  Yet our customers only have a limited amount of time to spend learning about our products.  What products should we talk about if we only have an hour to educate the customer?  30 minutes?  15?

If there is one thing I have seen, it is that customers love the new stuff.  Our sales force would love it if there was a new, hot thing every two weeks that they could call their customers about.  Yet every new thing makes something fall off the back that a salesperson forgets he could sell.  Keeping the right things top of mind in such a world is a challenge for every sales organization.  And typically the new stuff is not the best stuff, it is just the new stuff.

I know, for me, I try very hard to avoid introducing new products.  And I run New Product Development!  How does your company manage the challenge of keeping the menu manageable and optimized?

Not All User Generated Content Forms Social Networks

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

twitter-addictsGreat post on the O’Reilly site on how “Twitter is Not a Conversational Platform“.  It made a number of points that resonated with me:

  • I can count on one hand the number of people that I have “met” via Twitter.  In fact, it might be zero.  I haven’t thought of one yet, but I am not saying unequivocably.
  • I suspect that this has increased since Twitter made the decision to cut down on feed spam and stop showing @replies.  Now, your ability to serendipitously discover new Twitter users has decreased dramatically.  At least, with the new Facebook, I am reading comments by people I don’t know and get to know them a bit vicariously.
  • The nature of how information is shared, but relationships are not really built is certainly true, and it made me want to go read Clay’s book.  Twitter is rarely building shared experiences.  In the same way, while Cogmap allows people to “collaborate” on charts, there tends to be little actual collaboration, much like Wikipedia.  The result is a site with lots of fans, but not a lot of community.

Interesting to think about how to drive truly shared experiences in a way that constructively builds community.

Follow Cogmap on Twitter!

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

twitter_icons_small@bhalliburton is the official twitterness of Cogmap!  All the cool kids are doing it.

Using Screengrab to fix Cogmap printing problems

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Drumroll please!

Oakland A's Org Chart

One of the most common emails we get here at Cogmap Intergalactice Headquarters is that printing huge charts is bad, putting charts in a powerpoint is bad, and doing anything other than playing with them inside Cogmap is bad.

While nothing is better than playing with them inside Cogmap, we have found some solutions! The printing problem, interestingly, is not actually a Cogmap problem. We actually have a fairly nice print.css that renders charts nicely for printers. Unfortunately, web browsers do a terrible, terrible job of printing web pages that are very, very, very wide and they all basically explode trying to print things like Cogmap charts.

Here is what we have found works pretty well:

  1. Install Screengrab in your firefox browser:
  2. Go to the chart you want to print or put in a powerpoint
  3. Zoom to large (this makes the chart show titles)
  4. Press the Esc key (this makes the chart go full-screen in your browser)
  5. Use Screengrab to capture the complete page

Now you have a giant image of the entire org chart.  You can compress this into a powerpoint slide or use how you see fit.  Good luck!

Feel free to post more printing tricks in the comments below.

Become a fan of Cogmap at Facebook!

Monday, October 27th, 2008

We made a facebook page!  Come be a fan!

DMNews loves Cogmap!

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Great article in DMNews on Cogmap:  Sara Holoubek writes a nice couple of paragraphs and is an official friend to the Cogmappers.  I owed her lunch before, now I guess we are going someplace nice!

New map type: “restricted editing” charts

Monday, October 13th, 2008

We are pleased to announce a great new innovation in public organization charting: “restricted editing” charts (or “read-only” charts). These combine the best (and worst) of our public and private mapping options. Like our public maps, they can be seen by anyone. Like our private maps, editing is controlled via access control lists. So once you create a restricted editing map, only you and people you designate will be able to edit and update the map (although anyone can leave comments).

The best use case for a chart of this nature would be companies that want to publish their organization charts to do so without fear of the chart being tampered with.

I do want to temper my enthusiasm and indicate that, despite the fact that this was an oft-requested feature, I am not a huge fan of this map type. We have very, very little malicious map editing here at Cogmap and many good contributions to maps every day. Maintaining access control lists can be burdensome and we do worry that charts will become stale.

With that in mind, we are reserving the right to consider implementing a rule like, “If a map is unedited for more than a year, we will convert it from restricted editing to public”. It would have to be a pretty small company to not have any changes in a year. If you think you are that small, then I can tell you there is almost no chance that your map would be maliciously edited if it were public.

We are also thinking about allowing people to edit these maps but make it easy for an administrator to roll back edits.  That would allow charts that have been abandoned by an administrator to remain living charts and evolve appropriately.

This release was coded somewhat haphazardly (it just suddenly seemed pretty easy to do, so we just whipped it out), so if you encounter any weirdness, don’t hesitate to dash off an email to us. I am sure a few things slipped through our fingers since a change like this impacts many different parts of the code base. As always, we figured you would enjoy having it now rather than waiting a few weeks for us to feel really, really good about the release.

Also, we need a better name for these charts. Would love your feedback on this via either email or in the comments. If you give us a name we use, we will hook you up with some schwag!