Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

My theory on Twitter's latest bomb

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

This is just a guess, and I have already admitted that I’m not a techie, but I think that Twitter’s latest failure – the one that has suddenly caused Twitter users to lose followers and people that they’re following – is time-based.

BombMy first account, which I use actively, I signed up for in October 2007. With that account, I have been hovering around the 400 followers mark for a month or so with my followers growing at a pace of about a two per day. I’m following about 530 people and have been since about the time that I joined Twitter. I recently wanted a way to easily see every single post from certain people, so I signed up for a second Twitter account a few weeks ago. Until this morning, I was following 15 people. Two people were following me.

My first account has lost about 50 followers and very few people that I’m following.

My second account has lost ALL my followers and people that I’m following.

My guess – the recent failure is time-based, with most recent followers and people that have been followed being lost. (Hopefully not for good!)

Icon by ten safe frogs

Foreign language keyboards

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

When I was writing a few articles about Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and International Domain Names (IDNs), I started thinking about what the keyboards must look like for people who live in countries that don’t speak languages that use Roman characters. Since those people need to have their own alphabet on their keyboard – along with the Roman alphabet in order to type domain names at the least – the keyboards must be a mishmash of characters. But I had never seen one.

So I decided to do a little research, and it turns out that this issue is much more complicated than I thought.

Not only are the keyboards for countries that speak languages that have non-Roman characters different, but countries all across Europe use different keyboards, as well, to accommodate the various characters that are popularly used in their languages. You can find more information on all of this here.

QWERTY – This is the most common layout in use, and is used by standard keyboards in the United States.

QWERTZ – Used extensively in Germany and Central Europe. The main difference is that the Y and Z are swapped, and most special characters are replaced by diacritical characters.

AZERTY – Used in France and Belgium, it differs from the QWERTY keyboard in the following: A & Q are swapped; Z & W are swapped; M is moved to the right of L; and to type a number, the shift key must be used (non-shifted numbers are used for accented letters).

There are other Roman-alphabet keyboards that have things moved around for ergonomic benefits, or to increase typing speeds, but the three just mentioned are the primary Roman alphabet keyboards.

Here is some more info on keyboards in non-Roman languages:

Chinese – Conventional keyboards are used to write Chinese characters through software called an “input method editor,” according to Slate. There is no standard system, however, so if things weren’t confusing enough, no two keyboards necessarily look exactly alike in China. This article is very informative about all the other ins and outs of Chinese language keyboards.

Chinese keyboards

Japanese – There are two main ways to input Japanese on a computer – through the use of a romanized version of Japanese called romaji or via keyboard keys that correspond to the Japanese kana (syllabic Japanese scripts.)

Japanese keyboard 

Arabic – Made up of an Arabic AZERTY layout that is common in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia & Arabic countries in North Africa. 

Arabic keyboard
Photo by dweekly

Tibetan- I am including this one here because it was the most unusual one that I saw during my research, with no Roman characters and no numbers. It’s worth mentioning that this is an illustration from Wikipedia, because perhaps in “real-life” the keys would have Roman characters on them.

Tibetan keyboard

The rare woman tech start-up founder

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

The first time that I became really aware of how unusual it was to be a female start-up founder was a couple of months back. At the time, I was writing a series of articles about entrepreneurship based on the book Founders at Work (you can find links to all the articles here). When I finished the series, I sent a note to Jessica Livingston, the author and co-founder of Y Combinator, to thank her for the book because it had a big impact on me. The following is a small snippet of her reply:

“I am especially pleased that you have started your own thing as a woman. Female founders seem so few and far between.”

Female symbolI think it might be because I don’t live in Silicon Valley (where I live, start-ups themselves are few and far between) but I hadn’t thought too much about the rarity of a female founder until I read Livingston’s email. Since then, I have thought quite a bit about it. And today, this post – Girls in Tech (Yes, They Exist) - by Sarah Lacy crossed my Google Reader, and I wanted to share it. One of my favorite bits:

“It’s understandable not wanting to be treated as a “token.” But the way I look at it, if I’ve got disadvantages of being a woman in a male-dominated industry, why not take the advantages?”

The topic Sarah’s post is that men and women are different. And it’s true, that might account for there being fewer women founders. But, although it may have been said many times in many ways, I think it’s a mistake to gloss over the issue of having kids. It is possible that I believe this is such a major factor because I read Penelope Trunk’s blog, which, honestly,  scares  the  hell  out  of  me. (Go read some of those posts, you’ll fall in love with her blog, but you’ll be scared, too!)

For every start-up founder, I think, balancing a career with the rest of life is something to think about. But as a woman, the issue rarely leaves my mind. It adds urgency, pressure and stress. And I’m sure for some women, this trifecta of bad emotion is enough to keep them from starting that start-up.

What do you think?

New B2B online advertising data out this week

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

BtoB interactive marketing guideBtoB Magazine just released its Interactive Marketing Guide for 2008. (PDF here) The 36 page guide features a lot of great data about the state of online advertising, including the following gems:

- In 2007, U.S. marketers’ best performing advertising tactic was search engine optimization (SEO) at 57%, followed by behavioral targeting (44%) and email house list (42%). Rich media ads, which rated at 28% last year, trailed the list at 7% in 2007.

- In 2008, U.S. ad spending will break out like this:
         – Search: 40%
         – Display ads: 21.5%
         – Classified: 17%
         – Rich media/video: 9.5%
         – Lead generation: 8.3%
         – Sponsorship: 2%
         – E-mail: 1.8%

- 82.4% of marketers plan to increase their email marketing this year, compared to 2007.

- In the U.S. spending on online social networking advertising by marketers is on the rise with the following growth:
         – 2006: $350 million
         – 2007: $920 million
         – 2008: $1.56 billion
         – 2009: $2.02 billion
          -2010: $2.4 billion
         - 2011: $2.7 billion

There’s lots of other interesting data in the report, as well, so check it out.

5 ways to make sure that skimmers will read your email message

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Everyone knows at least one skimmer. Someone who doesn’t really read their email that closely, the person who reads enough to “get the point” but might miss a lot of the details.

The life of a skimmer is trecherous. They go to meetings and get asked a question “about that email that was sent yesterday” and have absolutely no idea how to answer. They never know what time the party is going to start, or who was invited, or what day it is going to be held.

Skimming causes problems. But for whatever reason, skimmers can’t stop. They might just think it’s ridiculous that people send long email messages. They might be “all about efficiency” or “impatient” or “don’t care.” The list of reasons is long.

I know some skimmers, and they are going to think this blog is about them. But it’s not. It’s about what happened to me when I became a skimmer and what I learned from the experience.

I am NOT the skimming type. I am detail-oriented, I read every word. I’m the person who explains what’s going on to the skimmers during the meetings. But with starting all these businesses, I have a lot of details going on at once. And a couple of weeks back, I forgot that my book club was meeting in a week and I still hadn’t bought a book.

My book club is a little non-traditional - it’s a history book club, we pick a different historical topic every time we meet, everyone reads a different book, and then we attempt to explain to each other what we read to try to surround the topic and get a better understanding of history. This is not because we are history buffs, but because – to put it kindly – our historical knowledge is somewhat lacking. In past book clubs, we have read about apartheid in South Africa, the time of the Cultural Revolution and Mao Zedong, and the Crusades. This book club topic was Cuba and Castro, which turned out to be very timely.

So I headed over to Amazon.com to search for a book on Cuba. I have learned my lesson in previous book clubs to not get a book that’s too long, or one that’s too intellectual – I wouldn’t be able to get through either in a week. I also know that the crowds are usually right, so I always go for a bestseller.

I Was CubaSo I searched on “Cuba.” The first book was a travel guide, I knew to skip that. Number 2 was a book called I Was Cuba: Treasures from the Ramiro Fernandez Collection, and it was under $20, had a 4.5 star rating with 12 reviewers. I clicked to the page to find out more. The book description said this, the full text is below. But to show you what I saw, I will BOLD the parts that I read (when skimming):

While most think of Cuba as a mythical island of rum, rumba, and revolution, period photographs reveal a more complex place. I Was Cuba is an original look at Cuban history as seen through the Ramiro Fernandez Collection arguably the world’s leading archive of Cuban photos and ephemera. I Was Cuba showcases rare, vernacular images from the nineteenth century through the revolutionary period, exploring the everyday and the eccentric. With texts from famed Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas (Before Night Falls), this captivating volume is an intimate view into a bygone era of glamour, political upheaval, and astounding visual culture.”  

I bought the book. When it came, I found that this was not a book that I could read for book club – because there were no words. The “texts” were few and far between, and were simply short quotes. This book was a collection of (random, interesting, but not even that historical) photographs.

I bought a picture book for my book club.

Cuba thumbnails

And I was caught – a skimmer!

This experience helped me realize that being a skimmer is painful. But that sometimes everyone is going to skim. However, since I don’t want skimmers to skim when they are reading something that I wrote, especially an email, I need to work to combat skimming every way that I can.

So here are the five things that that you can make sure that your email messages get read by skimmers:

1) Put the point of the message in the subject line. Don’t waste the subject line with “hey” or “hello.” Put the subject of your message right in the subject line.

2) Make your point in the first sentence. Don’t take a long time to get to the point or explain background – you can do that later. Make the point in the first sentence of the first paragraph of the message.

3) Elaborate in the rest of the email – but keep your main point in the first sentence of each paragraph. Sometimes skimmers will “read” the whole email by reading the first sentence of each paragraph – so keep your main point up top.

4) If there is something that someone must read and it’s not at the top of the message, use the person’s name, in bold. And maybe underline it. This might offend a non-skimmer just a bit, but the skimmer is sure to notice their name bolded. Skimmers look for bold and bullets – they are a skimmer’s lifeline – so use them for important points in your email message. Because when she’s skimming a long email, Melissa I need you to do this, will really stand out.

5) Put a call-to-action before your signature. At the very end of the message, if there is some action that needs to be taken based on the message, remind the person at the end. “Please call me by the end of the day tomorrow.” or “I need your list of suggestions by noon.” That way the skimmer will know that they need to do something with the email, and your chances of getting a response will go way up.

And don’t follow my example and put a long personal story before the five main points in your message - the skimmers will never get that far.

Guy Kawasaki practices what he preaches

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Guy Kawasaki just formally released his latest project. It’s called Alltop and it’s getting widely panned across the Internet. Michael Arrington doesn’t like it, and neither do these people. (Although some people like it.)

Alltop basically is simply lists of blogs and publications, organized by category. Kawasaki calls it an “online magazine rack.” The most popular criticisms of the project are that it’s a redo (of popurls and Original Signal) and that the format neglects all the benefits of RSS.

The art of the startEliminating a discussion of whether the site is good or useful or worthy of attention, I find this launch particularly interesting because I just started reading Guy’s book, The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything. And it’s not often that you get to read a book about starting companies while the person who wrote the book is starting a company. So here’s my take on that aspect of the launch.

(Major Disclaimer: I am only on page 31, so my analysis of the book is going to be weak, and is not the point anyway!)

Guy says: “Make meaning – create a product or service that makes the world a better place.”

Does he do it?  I would say yes. According to the official announcement of the release, the “goal is to satisfy the information needs of the 99% of Internet users who will never use an RSS feed reader or create a custom page.” This is a pretty meaningful purpose, and one that I can really relate to as most of the people I know in my non-work life do not use RSS or even know what it is.

Guy says: “Make Mantra. Forget mission statements…instead, take your meaning and make a mantra out of it.”

Does he do it? Heck yeah. Check out this catchy mantra – “aggregation without the aggravation.”

Guy says: “Get going. Start creating and delivering your product or service….Don’t wait to develop the perfect product or service. Good enough is good enough. There will be plenty of time for refinement later. It’s not how great you start – it’s how great you end up…The wisest corse of action is to take your best shot with a prototype, immediately get it to market, and iterate quickly.”

Does he do it? YES! And I think that this is the No. 1 best thing about this launch. Guy didn’t wait until the product was perfect, refined, pretty and loved-by-all to launch. It was “good enough” and he let it fly. Now, he’s getting unbelievable feedback and commentary by everyone who is watching the launch. Love it or hate it, the feedback is real and immediate, and I bet that tomorrow he’ll be working on version 2.

Verdict: Guy Kawasaki practices what he preaches – at least what he preaches in the first chapter of his book.

Gen X & Gen Y: How can we all get along?

Friday, March 7th, 2008

I recently had this conversation with my Gen X friend (disclaimer: I am also in Gen X) that went something like this:

Friend: This intern, she would just come to work whenever she was available.

Me: You mean, she didn’t come in during her regularly scheduled hours?

Friend: No! She would call and tell me that she “Had class,” or “Something came up.” She just wouldn’t come in. She was an intern, we gave her this job, which was a pain in my butt to organize and manage, and she didn’t show up!

Me: So what happened?

Friend: She eventually asked me to meet with her and said “I’m sorry, but unless you have a specific project for me, I don’t think that I can keep working here.” I was psyched! I told her that the internship wasn’t working out, that I was sorry and that I wished her the best of luck. But good riddence!

Me: What was her deal?

Friend: She’s Gen Y.

Gen XGeneration X – Those born from approximately 1961 to 1981, 51 million people.

Generation Y – Those born from approximately 1981 to 1995, 75 million people.

There are some pretty significant differences between workers from Gen X and workers from Gen Y (just as there were differences between Baby Boomers and Gen Xers). There are also some pretty significant stereotypes and perceptions floating around on both sides. We may not always get along, but we do always need to understand each other to be able to work together.

In the spirit of teamwork, here are some generalizations about each generation that may help. (Remember – these are generalizations, which means that they will not apply to everyone!)

Generation X: 

  • Move in and out of workforce to accommodate career and kids.
  • Practical and pragmatic.
  • Self-reliant, individualistic.
  • Want flexibility & freedom.
  • Don’t trust institutions.
  • Want to learn and have new work experiences.
  • Value relationships over work.

Gen YGeneration Y:

  • Pampered, nurtured and programmed with a slew of scheduled activities since birth.
  • High-performance. High-maintenence.
  • Believe in their own worth.
  • Question everything.
  • Like to work on a team.
  • Want a structured and supportive work environment.
  • Tech-savvy.
  • Financially smart.
  • Think work-life balance is essential.
  • Line between work and home is blurred.
  • More than half move back home after college.
  • Friendship is a strong motivator.
  • Searching for meaning.
  • Internet super-users.
  • Incredible multi-taskers.

So how does this all combine when Gen X and Gen Y are working together (which is fairly standard these days)? Here are some great resources that are must-reads for understanding the dynamics of working with someone outside your generation:

- The Rising Rift Between Gen X and Gen Y
- Gen Y, Gen X and the Baby Boomers: Workplace Generation Wars
- Generation Y Rules: The Flexible Workforce Revolution
- Management Techniques for Bringing Out The Best in Generation Y

If you have a favorite article on this topic, please leave a link in the comments.

X photo by PixelFixer
Y photo by exfordy

Photogamer and my new digital camera

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

My birthday is at the beginning of January, and this year Chris bought me a digital camera. I had been asking for one, getting the iPhone reminded me how much I enjoyed taking pictures (I am always pulling the phone out to take photos), Canon PowerShot SD750
but I really wanted a camera with a higher resolution and a flash, as well as a camera that could take movies on occasion. I also wanted something small enough that I could carry it around with me easily. He ended up getting me the Canon PowerShot SD750. I love it.

If you’re interested in reading more about the camera, here are some reviews:

  • CNET: “Photo and movie quality rank high for an ultracompact.” (Also a video review)
  • Imaging Resource: “A feature-packed little camera, the Canon SD750 offers seven megapixels and a whopping 3 inch LCD display.”
  • PCMag.com: “For video, the SD750 has strong color and good contrast, and it picks up sound well.”

After getting the camera, I wanted to figure out a way that I could make sure to use it all the time – I read about Photogamer from CC Chapman’s blog, and I decided to give it a try. Photogamer is an online “game” that provides a daily task for players to take a picture of, then upload their photo to the pool in Flickr. For anyone who is interested in getting into a routine of taking pictures, I highly recommend this site.

Google is a publishing company

Friday, December 14th, 2007

After years of claiming that it most definitely is not a publishing company, yesterday Google announced that it is going to be a publishing company after all. 

Google logoThe company is launching a new tool called “Knol” (in private beta). With it, Google’s “goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it,” said Udi Manber, Google’s VP of Engineering in a blog post about the new project. From all accounts, Knol will eventually work something like Wikipedia. Google will provide a technology platform that will allow authors to contribute content. If the author decides to make some money on the entry, Google will split the advertising revenue.

Google didn’t come right out and say that it’s becoming a publishing company; in fact, it seems to be taking pains to try to prove that it isn’t one. Manber was careful to include this bit in his post:

“Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write.”

Does Google think that this means that they aren’t becoming a publisher? They aren’t convincing me.

The business model with publishing companies is that they have a group of writers (staff writers or freelance writers, it doesn’t really matter) who write content for the publishers. The publishers then have the ability to sell advertising around that content to monetize it, and often pay the writers for their efforts. Google may argue that it isn’t writing the content, and that it is leaving ownership of the content with the authors, but Google is in essence paying writers to contribute content to a giant database of information - that Google will own. And monetize. And Google is incentivizing writers by offering a revenue split. This looks like publishing to me. As Duncan Riley from TechCrunch writes, “Google is moving away from simply indexing the worlds content to being a content provider itself.”

Aside from the content/publisher issue, there is also a potentially tricky conflict having to do with Knol content showing up in Google’s “independent” search results. As Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land put it: “Does hosting content turn it into a competitor with other content providers and set up an unfair advantage in gaining traffic that might otherwise flow to them?”

I am not surprised by this move by Google. But I think it’s now time for Google execs to give up their claim that Google is not a publishing company. Claims like these:

June 12, 2006 – Eric Schmidt, Google founder - LA Times article

“It’s better to think of Google as a technology company. Google is run by three computer scientists, and Google is an innovator in technology in our space. We’re in the advertising business — 99% of our revenue is advertising-related. But that doesn’t make us a media company. We don’t do our own content. We get you to someone else’s content faster.” (emphasis mine)

May 15, 2007 – Marissa Mayer, Google VP - at the 41st Annual Carlos Kelly McClatchy Memorial Symposium “Pressing Times: Can Newspapers Survive in the New World of Journalism” at Stanford  

“We’re computer scientists; we’re not journalists. For us, it’s really about partnering with content providers and ultimately finding distribution and monetization channels for them.”

And this article about the same event:

Mayer didn’t add anything more than confirm that Google is not a publishing company, but aggregating, data mining and filtering of information.

Online advertising will double by 2011

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

More statistics on online advertising have been released by eMarketer, these showing that by 2011, Internet advertising expenditures should hit $42 billion. (The forecast appears to have been lowered compared to earlier eMarketer numbers that predicted $44 billion by 2011.) The 2007 total is expected to hit $21.4 billion, meaning online advertising will just about double in four years – not too shabby.