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The Official Blog of Cogmap, the Org Chart Wiki

 

Archive for the ‘Theories’ Category

 

Social Media Changes How Job Hunting Works

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

I have talked to a couple of people who are job hunting recently and I noticed some interesting things.

First, generally speaking, I have historically been of the opinion that people that quit their jobs without having their next job lined up are suckers. Here is why:

  1. Being paid is nice. You want to get paid. If you don’t believe me, believe Latrell Sprewell. Everyone needs to feed their family.
  2. I always thought it was harder to get a job if you are presently unemployed than if you are employed. This is the dating corollary: A married man is attractive to women because he demonstrates that someone else thought he was a good catch. A single guy has no external validation. Stuff like that.

However, I recently came to doubt my wisdom and here is why: With the growth of social media, the tools one can avail oneself untoward when job searching publicly are much more powerful. And that is pretty interesting.

I recently had discussions with a couple of buddies that are job hunting while employed and each time I was shocked to hear that they were job hunting and I told them, “You should have called me sooner in your process.” It made me think that they are going to miss out on looking at some great opportunities because people don’t know they are looking.

Similarly, I have a buddy who is perennially unemployed and he is always getting good job offers and talking to tons of people because he is always tweeting and blogging about how he is looking for gigs. When I sold Deconstruct Media, a few people approached me and said, “If I had known you were open to selling, I would have wanted to have a discussion with you.” You can bet your bottom dollar that I regret not engaging in those discussions!

 

How Attention Was Destroyed By The Internet

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

Everyone talks about how the Internet is mucking up people’s ability to focus and pay attention. To whit:

I actually recently figured out the problem: Bad writing. I have blogged at length about the collapse of journalism in the face of new media aggregation.

However, I have realized that even scanning the RSS feed headlines of Alley Insider is no longer enough to keep me from giving them untoward attention. Essentially, virtually all of these organizations pay writers by the page view. The result is that writers are incented to reblog things left and right (Note the rreblogging of the Verge’s commentary on this unfunny ad that they prop up anyway) – in particular, reblogging their own stories with new headlines in a transparent attempt to drive additional traffic. This is something we are seeing more and more on alley insider and it does nothing but diminish the value proposition of the site.

Here are two clusters of alley insider articles. These articles came out, in most instances, within hours of each other:

Or how about this:

Why can’t we just have one well-written article with a link? Instead, these are all a paragraph, with two paragraphs of interlinking to the other articles driving them. This is woeful.

UNSUBSCRIBE.

The Gift of Daily Deals in the Internet Landscape

Monday, December 19th, 2011

I realized recently that my  perspective on “what is interesting about daily deal companies” is different than most people, so I wanted to articulate it.

Lot’s of people worry that consumers will suffer daily deal burnout and they say, “these daily deal companies whole businesses are built around email marketing lists, when consumers burn out, they are doomed”. That drives headlines like, “BURNOUT IS HAPPENING”. Don’t get me wrong, that is a concern, but this is not what makes the daily deal companies so interesting to me, and it is precisely what I find interesting about them that makes them so valuable in my opinion.

For a decade, Internet start-ups bemoaned the challenge of penetrating the local market – no one had the sales force. Everyone dreamed of partnering with people like the Yellow Pages that had 10,000 feet on the street. Every start-up had a product that, if they could somehow magically motivate a third party salesforce of thousands of people, they could turn into a mint of money. The problem was, building a sales force was super expensive. Only one company really did it: ReachLocal. They raised huge chunks of money at extraordinary risk and successfully made it happen. But they were the exception, not the rule.

With the advent of the daily deal, several companies have had the chance to build out giant sales forces – Groupon and LivingSocial now have sales organizations that dwarf ReachLocal and they are rapidly going international.

Sure, there is a finite limit to the amount of daily deals a vendor will offer. And a finite limit to the amount of daily deals that consumers will buy. But that is not bad. All they need is more product. LivingSocial and Groupon suffer today because they have this huge sales organization, but they really only have one thing for them to sell. They go to all this trouble to build a relationship with a business, they do a daily deal, and they are done. Can’t really sell them anything else for six months or a year. What they need is MORE STUFF TO SELL THEM.

That is easy. Go buy companies. You have the equity to do it. You have cash in the bank too. I predict that Groupon and LivingSocial will start munching up companies left and right in the next few years. They need more product in the pipeline for their salesforce. And being a salesforce, they will always want something new. Now the ideas will meet distribution in a beautiful marriage and tons of early stage companies will be gobbled up to feed the hungry maw of sales. And many entrepreneurs will get to see their dream fulfilled as their idea is used by thousands of small businesses.

Check Crunchbase out: Groupon has already done 10 acquisitions. LivingSocial has done 7. This is just the beginning.

 

Do Fish Drink Water?

Friday, March 18th, 2011

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tyrian123/479220075/

I scraped this answer, but I thought it was so interesting, I am reblogging it:

Fresh water fish absorb water through their skin and gills, saltwater fish actually do drink water.

In saltwater fish, they have to drink because their body’s concentration of salt is lower than the surrounding water. Therefore, they have to drink huge amounts of water every day to stay hydrated.

In freshwater fish, their salt concentration is higher than that of the surrounding water, and, as osmosis dictates, they absorb water through their highly permeable skin. To keep from bursting, freshwater fish actually have to excrete water, up to 10 times their body weight daily, unlike saltwater fish.

Is Twitter Evil?

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

It is super tragic watching Twitter struggle to find a business model. As has been widely documented, they have made, at some level, a fundamental shift that implies that people should no longer be able to build businesses using the Twitter API.

Frankly, this change in their Terms of Service is nothing less than shocking:

Courtesy of TechCrunch

Now, I am sure that Twitter represents this as “focusing development activity”, but when you look at developer-focused companies (“developers, developers, developers”), developers have always migrated to the most profitable areas and been slowly pushed out of business niches by the integration of functionality. If companies make Twitter clients and fill them with ads, will those end up being more popular than a Twitter client without ads? If Twitter can’t make a client people want to use, what does that mean?

The flip side of this is that, obviously, Google doesn’t let third parties scrape their organic search results and not show the ads.

Twitter is struggling toward some sort of balance, but it is very tough to turn a ship.

6.5 Tricks To Becoming A Better Writer

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

1) Have linkbait titles.

I was recently reflecting on whether all this blogging has made me a better person because, we all know, no one reads this stuff. Similarly, it is unlikely that it has made me a better person in any respect other than that I may be a better writer. Am I a better writer? Well, I read Tim Ferris’ study on titles that get retweeted. I have heard the standard Digg-bait logic for title writing.

2) Appreciation of SEO.

My gut instinct is that most of that stuff about linkbait titles only has value at scale. Am I getting value out of that? I suspect that the only real value I am getting from writing better titles is probably SEO and Tim’s suggestions about writing crazy titles probably diminish the SEO value of a post. Of course, I am knowledgeable enough about SEO to know that the real driver is not my amazing title writing but the number of links to my post/blog. Which is few.

3) Writing a good lead.

I am terrible at this. Most of my posts are stream of conscious rambles – also, generally, rambles that are continuations of things that were going on in my head already, so the first paragraph rarely tells you the preceding story. I would actually say that my tendency is far more to have the first sentence be either a sub-title to the title, an explanation of why I am writing a post with that title, or a bad joke. Mostly bad jokes. The good news is, if this were fiction, I am doing a good job of starting in the middle rather than the beginning, so it is Hollywood.

4) Story Structure

Alas, I rarely even bother with this any more. When I was a high school debater, I was required to do extemporaneous speaking events as well – until I proved so consistently terrible and disinterested in it that I was finally put out of my misery. Every competitor in that game knew the format:

  • Introduction
  • Point 1
  • Point 2
  • Point 3
  • Conclusion with circular reference

I have found that most of my blog posts today are something like:

  • Introduction
  • Point 1
  • Peter out……..

This is a visceral trade-off in some ways. Would people prefer me to bang out a post or three per week (my target is three per week) or would you like a monthly post that is a ten page well-constructed diatribe?

I have opted to ere on the side of volume and pointless-ness. Certainly, that means many posts are simply me getting a quick thing off my chest, but that isn’t necessarily bad. Some of those things are good.

5) Value Brevity

Some days I think I should simply focus all my wittiness on Twitter. Some days I think I should abandon Twitter to capture all the wittiness on my blog. Maybe I should more aggressively stream my wittiest tweets onto Twitter. Regardless, I certainly look at some of my blog posts and how they peter out and think, “If I could get this down another ten characters, it could just be a tweet.” But I like to tell my stories how they are. I do think of myself as an entertaining storyteller and I am loath to ruin a good story simply to get it down to 150 characters.

But I do think it tells you something about the market that if you go google “blogging makes you a better writer”, 4 of the first 8 results are actually “twitter makes you a better writer”. If twitter actually makes you a better writer, we are doomed as a society.

6) Writing makes you a better writer

This is probably the best thing that I have gotten out of blogging – besides the relationships I have built through blogging. Every single writer says, “to become a better writer, you have to write.” I have cranked out almost 400 blog posts. There has to be a pony in there somewhere.

Despite that, I do not think I will ever write a book. I love great writing. I appreciate great writing. I have found that if I work very, very hard I can write very well (few examples of this exist on my blog, but you could look here or here), but I cannot sustain it. And I have bad writing so much that I cannot write a book. You want good writing? Go read Jonathan Safran Foer.

6.5) Annoying writing devices are annoying

Any time people use that “and a half” cliche in list writing, I instantly loathe them. I loathe them. Jeffrey Gitomer? LOATHE HIM. (I cannot link to him but let’s say that every week he tells you X.5 ways to do something in sales.)

I cannot read a post, no matter how linkbait, that starts that way. I encourage you to never, ever do that. It is a stupid thing to say and a stupid device. It reminds me of people that price things with a $0.99 on the end – maybe studies demonstrate its effectiveness, but I find it so smug and I feel like I am being sold the post – and Jeffrey Gitomer knows that no one likes to be sold, they like to buy.

Your transparent use of devices makes me hate you. That is not good writing. It is as unsubtle as a jackhammer.

Was this post facetious? As I mentioned, I ramble. That was not the original intent. I was spending some B-time thinking about what I could do to improve my blog posts, but unfortunately I have been struck with the stark realization that the key to this is time and the only way I can create time to improve my posts is to post less frequently.  My informal polling, as well as research by third parties, indicates that frequency right now is pretty good and I would be hurting myself to lower it. And I am barely keeping up as it is.

So I have decided to settle – a recipe for non-greatness.

New Five Minute Diet Revolutionizes World

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

I know I went after Tim Ferris pretty hard earlier this week. As a Tim Ferris disciple, as I am sure many of you are, it was a hard thing. But I must keep going. I MUST KEEP GOING.

Maybe you are saying, “Maybe the moral of the story is that losing weight is hard. The MED is high.”

Maybe. At the end of the day, there is an element of caloric restriction that is basically a law of nature. If you eat less than X, you lose weight. Eating less is hard, ipso facto, diet is hard.

But I want to give you an example, unexplored by the Ferris, of what I was hoping for.

Saw a new study on CNN last August that I have tried to take advantage of and I recommend it to you as well. This was a small sample size, but it was published in the peer-reviewed journal “Obesity”, which is the leading journal in the field for medical research, so it is the real deal.

Here was the study:

  • The scientists prescribed the exact same low calorie diet to two different groups.
  • The variable they introduced was that one group drank 16oz of water before each meal.

What happened?

The group that drank water before each meal lost 4.5 pounds more than the control group in three months.

That is a great diet. All you have to do before dinner each night is drink a large glass of water and you will lose a tiny, tiny amount of weight.

You will soon see Facebook ads for “water” replacing the ads for Acai Berry. I suspect the conversion rates will be low.

Tim Ferris Stole My Breakfast

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

The Minimum Effective Dose not only delivers the most dramatic results, but it does so in the least time possible… These are the types of prescriptions you should seek and these are the kinds of prescriptions I will offer.”

– Tim Ferris, The Four Hour Body

I have historically been a Tim Ferris fan. I blog about him all the time. I wrote an endorsement of his new book before it even came out and bought five copies of his book when it was released.

But now I am in a snit. I am trying to adopt the Tim Ferris philosophy regarding diet and it is sub-optimal. He outlines at the start of the book that he is looking for little changes that make a big difference. At the start of the diet chapter, he characterizes his diet thusly:

“Let me explain exactly how Chris and I reach and maintain sub-12% body-fat, often sub-10%, by strategically eating like pigs”

That is all well and good to say, but what he outlines is a diet where you can eat like a pig one day per week and the other six days you must follow a draconian diet plan that crushes my soul. Here are the things you are not allowed to eat on Tim’s diet plan:

  • No bread
  • No rice
  • No cereal
  • No oatmeal
  • No potatoes
  • No pasta
  • No fried foods
  • No dairy
  • No fruit

Tim further comments in a recent blog post:

“The following will address 99%+ of those who are confused:

– If you have to ask, don’t eat it.
– If you haven’t had blood tests done, I don’t want to hear that the diet doesn’t work.
– If you aren’t measuring inches or haven’t measured bodyfat % with an accurate tool (BodPod, etc. and NOT bodyfat scales), I don’t want to hear that the diet doesn’t work.
– If you’re a woman and taking measurements within 10 days prior to menstruation (which I advise against in the book), I don’t want to hear about the lack of progress.”

So much for taking the easy way out. My failure to do extensive blood testing and get access to tools like a BodPod mean I have no recourse to complain, yet my complaint is that I have to do all this stuff in the first place.

Enjoy meats, eggs, non-starchy vegetables, and plenty of beans.

I have to tell you, if that is the minimum effective dose to drop fat, then I am a monkey’s uncle. Am I losing weight? Some, not as much as I would like. Of course, I am basically getting there via caloric restriction: Egg whites are low calorie. Vegetables are low calorie. Chicken, etc. I don’t eat beans every meal.

Does this feel easy? Is this how I enjoy the holidays without the weight gain? Doesn’t sound like a recipe for holiday fun.

As I reflect on this, it seems like just playing the weight watchers game would be a more “Occam’s Protocol” than this plan. Or that thing that home delivers meals.

How Do You “Flow”

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Recently, a budding entrepreneur sent me the following question:

How valuable is “the zone” to you – that working flow state?  If it’s extremely valuable how do you protect it (closed doors? headphones? etc.)?  How do you protect it without alienating family?

I thought this was a fascinating question and syndicated it out to some of my fellow entrepreneurs and people I know and respect. Here were their answers:

Brian O’Kelley

I sit smack in the middle of the AppNexus office. We don’t have cubes, just lines of tables. It’s my job to be the nexus of communication for the company, to hear the  sales pitches and creative ideas (and dumb ones). I think I exude a “don’t bother me unless it’s important” vibe, but let me tell you: if somebody interrupts me when they know I’m in the zone – it’s important, and I want to be bothered.

Some of my developers say the buzz and murmur of the office is annoying, so they wear headphones. I don’t like headphones, because you don’t hear anything going on around you. There’s a lot of ambient information floating around. I can tune out the noise, and I’d argue that selective hearing is a skill that entrepreneurs need. I think it works well at home (and not just when the baby is crying). My family is priority #1, so they get dibs on my attention – but they also respect my need to focus.

Finally, I’d say that the ability to context switch quickly and fully is imperative. I can’t type and listen fully to someone, so I need to stop typing, give you my full attention, and then go back to total focus. Cooperative multitasking, if you will. That mitigates the need for “the zone” to be protected. If I can pop in and out easily, interruptions aren’t that big of a deal.

Dave Troy

It’s all about planning how you’re going to use your time. I block out each day in terms of what I plan to do; if I’m doing email, I plan a couple of hours to focus only on that. If I’m doing programming, I set aside a block of time for that. In general, bigger blocks are better. Also, if you really want to program creatively, there’s nothing worse than having something hanging over you – like a phone call at 3pm. Block out the whole day and leave yourself an open end-time. Amazing how creative you can be in that context.

Mike Subelsky

When I am feeling stagnated, I tend to leave my house and go to a coffee shop.  I can get a lot of things done outside the house, even though I have a pretty sweet office setup.  When I’m home and working I turn on a loud white noise generator app that blocks out all sounds, so I’m less tempted to stop what I’m doing every few minutes to see what awesome things my kids are up to.

But, I just recently started to change my mind about the importance of all this.  The Zone is extremely valuable to me, but there’s only so much I can do to get it. As much as I want to be in the zone all the time, I don’t want to miss out on a second of my young children’s development.  My wife also works and we share the childcare duties 50/50, so there’s a real limit to how isolated and creative I can be on a given day.  So, I’ve started to squeeze what productivity I can out of the short intervals that I do have.  I guess I’m saying that while nothing beats being in that flow state, I’m finding I don’t have to be in a flow state to be creative and get things done.

Andy Monfried

“the zone” is hugely valuable to me.  it comes in two ways.  one is verbal — which is phone time, and the other is idea, or email, writing time

i like to make my commute in, and drive home (and drive 60-90 minutes each way in and out of nyc, and its only a 15 mile drive) my “phone zone.”  i use this time to connect with employees, clients, and people i need to speak with.  i typically make a list of 2-3 calls i MUST make — and make sure i call them (scheduled or not) then.

second is writing emails and/or jotting down ideas.  most of my ideas come to me at odd times, therefore i leave myself long voicemails, and then the next day listen to them, and briefly transcribe my thoughts.  i will leave myself generally 3-5 essages on my phone per week (i call my office number and leave a message) — and, i’ve done it in the middle of the night, or while watching a game.

my REAL zone of thought and output typically comes from “solo” time (commuting, traveling on a plane) and 99% of my ideas are not good — but the 1% is important that i can capture the “lighting in a bottle” to remind myself and DOCUMENT when the “goodness” of the zone happens.

Capturing and documenting sometimes is AS IMPORTANT, as finding the zone….

Jonathan Mendez

best way to protect is get your flow on from 9pm – 2am when you can’t be disturbed

Jerry Neumann

It’s very valuable to me, when I can find it.

I protect it by:

(a) having an office (can’t get it when kids are around)

(b) having blocks of time when I don’t plan any meetings or calls, either whole days or half-days

(c) occasionally turning off the internet, when I’m having trouble concentrating

Root Markets: From Tragedy Spring Triumph

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

One thing I noticed recently is that Root Markets generated a host of entrepreneurial activity. Root Markets was a failed start-up in the 2006-ish time frame. I think the conventional wisdom is that successful start-ups witness a host of people spun out that then start companies. Root is an instance of failure begetting a host of start-ups and that seems interesting.

Root alum include:

  • Joshua Reich – founded BankSimple
  • Greg Yardley – founded Pinch Media (merged with Flurry)
  • Rob Leathern – founded XA.net

That is a lot of value for a company that didn’t really get too far. What was so unique about Root that enabled this entrepreneurial activity?

Here is my theory: One of the great things about a successful exit is that the founders become rich angels and everyone that didn’t get rich thinks that this adventure was easy. The result is a virtuous cycle of new entrepreneurial activity.

So Root had a few things that ended differently for them then your average start-up that doesn’t work out:

  • I don’t think people at Root came to the conclusion that the idea was a bad one. I think most of them felt that investors screwed up the company.
  • Several people came out of Root as prominent angel investors. Even though Root did not make them rich, Seth Goldstein and Jerry Neumann both were already wealthy and the credibility that people established at Root let to the opportunity to raise financing for their ideas.

I know Root people stumble across my blog all the time, tell me what have I missed here.

Does anyone know other companies outside Silicon Valley that saw such a prosperous cycle of innovation spring from the ashes of dead companies?