Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Want to create value?

You need a sense of personal ownership. People tend to treat their own possessions better than public goods.

My good friend, Andy Monfried has a great post on how to go about value creation in a startup.

I'd like to synthesize his post down a bit and add my own two cents.

1. People respond to incentives. Give people clear incentives that help a company achieve it's goals and you get everyone swimming together in the same direction. There may still be some debate over what stroke to use, but that's ok. The metrics to determine success have to be clear and measurable. To do this you need timely data.

2. Transparency of timely data is critical for point one. If you don't have clear and easily accessible data it's difficult to set goals which drive incentives. The longer the lag time in access to the data the less accountability, less relevance of goals, and loss of empowerment.

3. Great managers at all levels are critical. Great managers encourage the right amount of creativity and help channel it in the right direction. Creativity without direction can kill startups as well as large companies. Startups don't focus enough to get traction, large companies sometimes brand these people as difficult, they spin their wheels, get frustrated and leave (there goes your next big idea). Good managers help leverage the creativity while making sure the work gets done.

4. Believing your own hype - successful startups take off like a rocket. Leaders and managers who are in-charge get caught up in this success. Their responsibilities grow, their titles grow, their challenges grow. The question is do all of these things grow faster then their abilities? If they do there are three options, 1) understand and accept that you may need help and ask for it 2) believe your own hype and think you are infallible 3) realize you maybe in over your head, but behave in ways you think will cover this up etc. ~ engage in politics, empire building, etc.

5. While the idea of a "politics free" company is a nice thought, as many of Andy's commenters wrote it's impossible when there is more than one person. I agree, the question is really what degree of politics you will allow and the intentions of the politics. Politics aren't necessarily bad, you need to rally the team behind a goal.

Good leaders are good politicians. (this becomes more important as companies get bigger)

Sure if we think we are right, we can pound our fist on the table and say, "my way or the highway." Will everyone around you come along? Probably not.

Bad politics are when special interests come into play. Different types of bad politics would be personal special interests, division special interests which go against the overall company goal.

In the end it's easy to say someone is being political because their objectives don't align with your own. What's critical is that there is strong leadership from the top down that set the vision, the ground rules. The less ambiguity of goal, the easier it is for people to rally around the vision. If the vision isn't clear then the process of determining the vision becomes political and the company suffers.

In summary, you set the vision and it could be the wrong vision. The more focused and aligned your company, the faster it can realize the mistake and take corrective actions. Lack focus and alignment and you'll plunge into political battles and miss your chance to adjust your course.

Pink Floyd marries Judas Priest with Blue Oyster Cult as the best man

On my flight out to LA today I had the opportunity to chat with an interesting fellow who was an aspiring musician. His day job was sales, but his passion was music and he's getting his band back together, When Thunder Comes

He described it as Pink Floyd marrying Judas Priest. After listening to the first 2 minutes of each track for free on CD Baby I must say it seems to have some BOC thrown in as well. Maybe also some Styx.

It definitely has medieval themes in the songs. Take a listen and let me know what you think.

I wish the band well.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone enjoys a safe and fun Thanksgiving!


Contextual Video Advertising

Since I'm from Westchester, NY I keep an eye on local news.

The twin shooting of the Clinton neighbors is something I've been following. I watched a tv piece a few minutes ago and sure enough they play an ad for a car video before a piece on two people being shot in a car.

Click here to watch (not sure if you will see the car ad)

Does it affect my purchase intent? No Would it affect others? Not sure

PPC search has negative keywords.

Airlines usually pull all of their web ads if there is any kind of plane crash.

Video will need a solution.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Uncle Leo? Uncle Jason?

Jason Calacanis is leaving AOL, that's what his blog says.

I'll miss him, he definitely stirred the pot and kept people on their toes.

One recent comment by Jason on www.Valleywag.com left me scratching my head.

Point #3,

"The email page views are worthless--no one buys email inventory on the web."

Uncle Leo?

Jason - I'd love to understand how you came to this conclusion.

I know we sell email inventory at AOL and I'm sure MSN and Yahoo do as well.

As Stein Kretsinger always said, "there is no bad inventory, just mis-priced inventory."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Southwest Airlines Gets The Web

I've always been a big fan of Southwest Airlines, previously living in Locust Point I was ten minutes from BWI Airport. For Southwest, BWI was one of their largest airports and with the new terminal it's even better.

Faster security lines, better food (if that's possible at an airport).

DING! Their windows applet that delivers deals to your computer multiple times per day.

They've built an excellent web experience (at least once they had fixed the problem of losing your reservation settings when you hit the back button). You quickly see when you earn flights, etc.

Normally they send cards during important holidays, like your birthday.

Today I received an Flash email card wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving (click here to check it out). I'm not a designer, but I thought it was well put together.

Enjoy yourself and start flying Southwest to get your own.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Last Day In Baltimore

My Baltimore rowhouse was sold this Friday. I met the buyer at closing and it's in good hands. I spent many hours working on that house, many people helped me out with the various projects. Met some interesting contractors and made new friends.

Here's a view of the from the living room of the kitchen. Notice the nice wood paneling. Notice the new view.

Here's my Advertising.com demolition crew, them in addition to friends from Johns Hopkins we gutted the house in a day and a half filling a full size dumpster. I did have to send Ryan home to get some actual shoes, flip-flops were too dangerous with all the nails.

While living in Locust Point we had a hurricane and some serious snow.

My real estate agent Steve Murphy did a great job getting my house sold, most houses are still sitting on the market.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What is a trebuchet?

Check out this very cool DIY trebuchet project. Wondering what a trebuchet is? Check out the wikipedia.

watch the video

Fix Social Security

I'm normally not a USATODAY reader, but I'm at a hotel all week. Two words: Captive Audience.

They had a good editorial today regarding the impending problem with Social Security. This is something we need to tell the Democrats and Republicans to fix NOW.

I've always considered myself a Republican, but I've recently become more disappointed with the party. My new identify is a fiscal conservative, stop wasting tax payers money on pet projects etc. Politicians are either spenders or savers.

It's difficult to identify who's doing what, or maybe I don't have the time.

Therefore I regularly participate in email campaigns through Citizens Against Government Waste (www.cagw.org), a current campaign supports the line item veto. If passed it should save us $29 billion dollars. Click here to check it out.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Brilliant Gmail Google Spreadsheets Integration

I just noticed that if you get an Microsoft Excel file emailed to you as an attachment in Gmail, you are offered the option of opening it with Google Spreadsheets.

What a great way to encourage trail and usage of their spreadsheet product.

Doesn't seem like they are doing the same for Word documents.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Finished Wild Fire

I'm happy to report I finished reading Nelson DeMille's new book Wild Fire early this morning.

I have to say he's met or exceeded Night Fall. I definitely recommend this book to everyone. I'd love to see a movie made of this one.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Book signing with Nelson DeMille

I'm a big fan of Nelson DeMille, having read almost every one of his books. When I saw his new release of Wildfire and that he was going to speak and sign at a B&N on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan I decided to head over and check it out.

The place was packed - standing room only.

Mr. DeMille spoke for about twenty minutes and answered a bunch of questions. Told a funny story about Bruce Willis calling him out of the blue asking if his main character John Corey was created with Bruce in mind.

I turned into the defacto cellphone camera tech support person as the lady sitting next to me asked if I could show her how to delete a picture on her phone. She wanted a picture with Mr. DeMille. From my helping her the man in front overheard and asked me to show him how to take a picture with his Treo.

Next while waiting in line, a man whipped out every single book DeMille had ever published for him to sign. There were books there that weren't even published in his name. The cell phone lady asked him how he found out about these books, his response was that it took a long time. Hmm.

After I got home I fired up wikipedia and looked up Nelson DeMille. Sure enough all of those obscure titles were listed. Was this literary sleuth the writer of the wiki post? Or did he just undergo a lot of work for something that was a few clicks away?

Either way, I'm about 75 pages into Wildfire and I recommend it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Working in the backyard on Sunday / Trying out AOL UnCut Video

I spent some quality time today with my wife's family cleaning up the backyard. A friend came over with some serious heavy equipment and went to work. He moved old farm equipment as well as pulled down trees and cleared brush and old firewood.

I thought I'd try out AOL UnCut Video with my some videos from my Konica Minolta camera. The quality isn't that great, but it'll do. They don't have any sound but the work is impressive.

Update: The embedded videos don't show or work correctly on IE 6.0, Firefox 1.5 they display and work just fine.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Jason's 10% Better Posting

I have to point out Jason Calacanis' great post on November 2nd regarding AOL's new strategy.

He suggests a simple goal of making a five areas 10% better that will have a network effect for even greater levels of improvement.

At Advertising.com we used to go through exercise of how we could grow each account by 10%? Sometimes it was simply asking for it. Other times it was coming up with an innovative solution. Occasionally we had to stop what we were doing and start from scratch.

Overall we found some had no movement, but others far exceeded the 10%. It works.

I have to agree with Jason, we keep doing 10%s and AOL will continue to grow.