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Ad Network studies continually represent network as modeling the space!

February 18th, 2013

The Onion recently released an article entitled “Cogmap, dismayed over poor data quality of other vendors, releases one man’s opinion in data sampling errors”. Link below!

Flurry recently released a delightful set of Mobile 2013 data, but they did not caveat it enough for my taste. (I will soon be guilty of doing the same thing, FWIW.)

So I thought I would complain because, in short, when I see an ad network release data my perspective on every single slide is “How is this skewed by network composition”. And usually the answer is: “I bet it is skewed a lot.”

A couple of examples:

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 9.35.28 AM


This is kind of set-up as “the growth of mobile”, but really it is the growth of Flurry. What we need to add to this is a retail storefront data point: How much of this is “same store sales” versus “new sales”? I will say, Flurry is big. This data is probably pretty good, but it is probably not unfair to say that many of their biggest customers are probably tracking a lot more data than they were. This could cause in-application events to skyrocket even as application usage remained static. Those big jumps could be a change to the way Angry Birds tracks apps, or it could be the installation of a new app, or it could be some broad market growth descriptor. It would be nice to know which.

Much later, we saw this slide which has similar issues:


Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 9.36.48 AM


They disclose that this data comes from Flurry. So this is really more about their network composition. This means that one of two facts is true: They either have Facebook or they don’t. If they have Facebook, then their data sample over-indexes the Social Networking (i.e. they capture most of the Social Networking activity happening in phones, but they don’t capture all of the other activity.) If they do not have Facebook (as seems likely from this graph), they are missing most of the social networking activity people perform on their phones. Instagram? If they disclosed the sites they track, we could better understand the relevance of this data.

Last slide:

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 9.36.08 AM

There is a more interesting problem here: They are comparing apples to oranges. They pull the television time from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, then they pull the web browsing time from comScore and Alexa, and then they pull the Mobile App numbers from their own data. I assume that the Bureau of Labor Statistics does a good job controlling for people that don’t consume any TV – and I assume that pulls the average down substantially. I assume comScore does an OK job controlling for this – once again, pulling the average down substantially. I assume Flurry does a terrible job controlling for this – they are not really that kind of company, why would they? So I suspect that this data is quite wrong.

I know people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, I just can’t help it. If you are still looking for the Onion article about me, go buy a book from the Onion using my affiliate link. You owe me a nickel for falling for that.



Your First Day

February 13th, 2013

walrusNot enough companies work hard to make an employee’s first day at work special. Frankly, I include myself in that category. But I am a big believer in first days. The old saying is true: “You never get another chance to make a first impression.”

An employee’s first day is that chance to make an impression. A chance to establish tone and culture. For the employee, it would be nice if it was a mix of unboxing an apple product and a trip to Disneyland – a thoughtful experience that shows that you are thinking about them, that they are going to have a great, great time, and that they will never be happier.

I am a big believer in getting people right to work. On the first day, an employee will never think more highly of a new organization, be more eager to make a great first impression, and more excited to show the kinds of contributions that they are capable of. Don’t waste a new employees excitement with filling out HR forms – help them show you what they are eager to demonstrate: how incredibly productive and useful they can be as a member of your team.

Most companies screw this up because it is hard. Usually it takes time to figure out how to get someone productive in your work environment. Hey, if great on-boarding was easy, everyone would do it.

What is the next big trend in mobile advertising?

February 5th, 2013

Go read my answer to this question (and vote it up!) on Quora:

The Best Thing About A Vacation For Entrepreneurs

January 29th, 2013

Vacations are great.

But vacations for entrepreneurs are opportunities.

This is your chance to step outside your regular routine and see other problems out in the world.

You need to find pain people have, but you have designed your life to minimize pain. Only by breaking with routine can you discover and learn new things.


Night School

January 22nd, 2013

If an employee at your company announces their intention to go to night school, what does that mean for the organization?

Caveat: I have never gone to night school. I barely finished college. Also, I am talking about technology professionals that already have an undergraduate degree and are getting an MBA or something.

Generally I would say that people that decide to go to night school fall into a few buckets:

  • People looking to make a career shift.
  • People that believe that upward mobility in their chosen profession is restricted by their lack of degrees.
  • People are bored.

Frankly, to me, when an employee tells me that they have decided to go to night school, that is a red flag. Are they not challenged enough? Do they think that their upward mobility at our company is limited? My objective as an employer is to capture as much of my employees mindshare as possible. I recognize that people have personal lives and I want employees to have a healthy work-life balance, but to me, this is “work” and I want “work” to be focused on work. Why are you spending your nights thinking about problems that other people assigned to you besides your colleagues?

Incidentally, if I was interviewing someone and they were doing night school, that would not be a huge negative. That just means they aren’t challenged at work today. Good for them to not settle.

Senior People Can Always Be Fired

January 15th, 2013

Couldn’t find an unoffensive photo for this blog post. Sorry.

If you are a middle manager at a large organization, you will find that letting someone go is difficult. In fact, at Time Warner/Aol, it was near impossible. True story: I was told by a fellow manager that he had tried to cut a poor performer but had been told by Time Warner legal/HR that because the poor performer was a female minority it could not be done. IT SIMPLY COULD NOT BE DONE.

This isn’t true at higher levels in the organization. The CEO can let anyone go simply because.

“We have re-organized and no longer have a CFO.”

“We have re-organized and no longer need a head of sales.”

“We have re-organized and no longer need you.”

These are all plausible things a CEO can say to fire you. Or generally, any senior person can say to any senior person that reports to them.

Just FYI.

People Hate Advertising – And That is Why You Should Love It

January 8th, 2013


The current meme sweeping the entrepreneurosphere is “A product has to be 10x to 20x better than current solutions to win” because the market is stacked against a start-up.

I buy into this, generally. A product can’t be a little better to overcome switching costs. It has to be a lot better.

Good news: It seems that everyone thinks advertising sucks. All you need to do is make a product people don’t hate and it will 12098205820458420x better than the status quo.

My personal feeling: This is a tricky subject because it probably has to do with the creative experience. Agencies hate digital advertising because it lacks the story arc and interruptive attention-grabbing qualities of TV. Consumers hate TV ads also. You don’t want the solution to be one-off brilliant creatives a la subservient chicken. It needs to scale. But it probably isn’t 100% algorithmic. It probably has to do with better creatives, but it also has to do with better targeting.

Good luck!

Best Hacker News Posts of 2012

January 3rd, 2013


In many ways, I am annoyed by Hacker News and trust me, my forthcoming post: “All the popular posts on Hacker News are posts I wrote poorly re-written” will be a doozy, but I wanted to do an end of year wrap-up post and decided that, for lack of a better idea, I would feature my favorite posts from Hacker News. These tended to be topics that were not rehashes of topics I have already covered, so in that respect, they are interesting. Here they are:

Couple of comments to add some value: You know my topics if you follow this blog, so not many of these should come as a shock. The single hardest part of most start-ups is user acquisition, so there are lots of articles about user acquisition across a broad spectrum here: Book authors acquiring users, inbound marketing, bands acquiring users, growth hackers. Quick comment on growth hacking – I love it. I love the idea. I love the original conceit at Facebook for growth hacking. I totally buy in. Having said that, growth hacking is similar to Gangnam Style in that the moment it came into existence it simultaneously jumped the shark. 99.9% of the time, people are simply intellectually dishonest with themselves about what they are doing if they think they are growth hacking.

The UserVoice article is kind of lame, but there you go. Something product management-ish.

How to Nap is probably the single most important piece of news from 2012.

Finally, as everyone knows by now, smart drugs are my obsession. They will change the world.

The Blog Post Where I Explain When You Should Pivot

December 6th, 2012

How do you know when to pivot?

It is never obvious if you should pivot or stay the course. Sometimes you are banging your head against that wall and if you just bang your head one more time, the whole wall will come crumbling down. Sometimes you are banging and banging and if you keep banging all you are going to do is hurt your head. When you are on this side of the wall, you never know which.

The true essence of entrepreneurship, when distilled down to its crystalline core, is that a great entrepreneur is able to tell if they should pivot or if they should keep banging their head against the wall.

Here is the secret: When you pivot, you will still feel like you are banging your head against the wall, it will just be a different wall. Few companies experience some immediate sense of relief when they pivot.

Being an entrepreneur is hard. If it was easy then everyone would have their own companies. Furthermore, most companies don’t work out. It is all just banging your head against the wall. Picking the right wall – one that is hopefully paper thing – is what being an entrepreneur is all about.

(This post was inspired from reading a blog post by Sandy MacPherson (, whose Quibb is interesting in a very pleasant way for me, but probably doomed to fail. Sandy wondered about what it means to different people to pivot vs. stay the course and I actually know the answer to that question. Rather than helpfully post it on her blog as a comment, I thought, as I long as I was being incredibly unhelpful, I would post it on my oft-neglected blog for the permanent record.)

Top 5 WordPress Plugins for the Easily Frightened

December 4th, 2012

I use Media Temple, which means people try to hack my WordPress installation basically all the time.

Here are some key plugins I have used to really improve the situation:

  1. Block Bad Queries: – This prevents people from trying to do things maliciously with URLs.
  2. Akismet: – Duh. Slam dunk.
  3. Limit Login Attempts: – This prevents brute force login attacks.
  4. WordPress File Monitor: – This is unmaintained at this point, but it does what it does well, which is preventing general Media Temple hackers from hiding files in my file space. Critical stuff.
  5. WP SpamFree: – Another unmaintained library, but it supplements Akismet well.