• The Digital Soul, XII: The Internet has become the place where we discover our own soul

    What do we mean when we talk about our “soul”?

    Perhaps we mean our “true” selves, who we really are and what is deepest and most true about us.

    If you were introduced to somebody new, and got to know them a little bit, and ended up spending a lot of time with that person, doing things together and exploring fun new stuff, you might say you were.. I don’t know, “friends”.

    And if you got to know this person a little better and began sharing news clips that you found clever or funny, or telling them that you were thinking of going up to the lake for a few days but weren’t looking for anything too luxurious or stuffy, but just wanted to hang out and fish and maybe find a place to get a cheap case of beer for the weekend, you might say that person had become, you know, a “good” friend.

    Then as you got to know each other better, if you started to share deeper, more significant stuff with them; if you started telling this someone things you wouldn’t tell your other friends, things that you wouldn’t share with your family doctor, your shrink, your pastor; things that you certainly couldn’t tell your parents, or that you wouldn’t tell your wife or husband; if you told this someone things that, in some cases, you wouldn’t or couldn’t even admit to yourself, you might — in view of all of this very private information you were sharing — describe it as “baring your soul” to this new friend.

    And if that person really listened, very closely and intently, to everything you told them; got to know your tastes, your likes, your dislikes; remembered what month it was that you went on that big trip to Barcelona; and knew, without your reminding them, that you’re a big fan of Godfathers I and II but can’t stand Sofia Coppola’s “acting” in the third one; and if that person even, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, shared your interest in 19th century French poetry, wouldn’t you say your new friend understood you?

    And if this new friend, who has become an old friend by now, knew all your other friends, and that you liked to watch hockey with John, but shared a soft spot for Korean food with Angela, and were an opera buff with Ralph and Susan; and knew not just the names of everybody you worked with, went to school with, and grew up with, but took the time to learn their tastes in order to know you better; wouldn’t you say that person was getting to know the “real” you?

    And if this new friend started recommending things for you to buy, places you could go and tickets you could purchase, and always seemed to be pressing new ways for you to spend your dough, you might find it really creepy and be totally turned off by it — that is, unless you trusted them… trusted them so implicitly and completely that their suggestions on what you might trade for your dollars came across more like gifts of thoughtfulness than icky sales pitch, even if, in a kind of way, that’s what it really was.  What if your trust became so complete that you started to think it wasn’t you doing the favor for them, but that all your friend’s suggestions were actually them doing the favor for you?

    And what if your friend was able to tell you things about yourself that even you didn’t know, and while you feel like such a fool for not knowing them, thank goodness your wise and sagacious friend was right here for you to teach you about yourself and who you are.

    And if that friend was able to tell you not just what made you happy in the past but what places and people would make you happy in the future; where you should work and live, where you’d like to vacation and what you’d like to do when you got there; and, even, when it came to that part of your life, what if your new friend was able to tell you who was going to make you happy for the rest of your days on the planet?

    And if, after all of this, when you found yourself marvelling at how… uncanny… it was that your new friend knew you so well, would it be absolutely out of the question to ask whether that person was, in some sense, your soulmate?  Would it be crazy to think that? Crazy for the thought to even cross your mind about somebody who did all that for you?

    Well, the Internet is that person for you.  And for me. And for the one billion internet users today. And the one billion users coming online tomorrow.  And the internet is only going to become more meaningful for the next billion and the next billion and the next billion.

    When you consider the horrifying and sublime admissions we make to Google, the revelations about ourselves we share with Netflix and Amazon and all of the internet, and the inferences that can be made from those relationships, the conclusion you’ll make is that the emergent behavior of the internet is the discovery of our own soul.

    The realization that we have entered into an intimate relationship – in some ways, the most intimate relationship of our lives — with a global network of telecommunications equipment and the code running therein must come as a shock to us.

    The geeks, being geeks, fretted over a future in which the Internet was more rational, more intelligent, more strategic and better able to make decisions than we were — a future in which SkyNet or the Borgs outfoxed, outsmarted, outwitted us.  They never suspected, never feared, what it has actually become, never thought it would become more empathetic, a better listener, a better shoulder to cry on, a better friend.

    They never thought the internet would become the place for us to put our soul.

  • Wow, that worked! I can’t believe it!

    Thought I’d  share with you some of the amazing Hiring Alerts going out through MyPipeline from recruiting professionals over the past week…

    I love this one from our friend Joan Allison at Amazon because she uses her 140 characters to entice readers with what their future could be, and an exhortation to greatness. Plus, her profile picture is a cool pic with her kids. This is top notch, Joan!

    Joan Allison

    Up next, Brandon Johnson uses his hiring alert to speak the language of engineers — “Are you a ninja?” Although Brandon is new to using TheLadders, good Hiring Alerts like this will turn him into a star in no time. As a matter of fact, since he sent this alert last week, Brandon has already tripled his number of followers!

    Brandon Johnson

    Antoinette Tapia of Hewlett Packard sends this great alert with a lot of specificity for one of her jobs in the nation’s capital:

    Antoinette Tapia

    David has built a core following with great jobs, and has used the ability to send a message sparingly. Just goes to show: there’s more than one way to greatness on TheLadders!

    David Honig

    Stacey Boldt from Raytheon underscores that secret clearance is required in this Texas Supply Chain job:

    Stacey Boldt

    And I’m saving the best for last with Stephen Green from The Judge Group makes a subtle and interesting point in this Alert: “Candidates with pharmaceutical product marketing / branding will receive highest consideration.”

    This Alert wins the Trifecta: first, it encourages candidates with those backgrounds (wow, that might be me) and I think it also discourages candidates without those skills (hmmm, not really worth my time to click through) but makes it easy for them to envision who they ought to forward it to (gee, maybe my friends Jehan or Jack will be perfect for this job?).

    Stephen Green

    And that’s how you write a great Alert in 140 characters or less. Great work, Stephen!

    Agree or disagree? Join the conversation by posting a comment below.

    Enjoy the rest of your week!

  • Are you sleeping in the control tower of your career?

    Are you feeling a little bit sleepy behind the controls as we kick off another week in your career, Readers?

    The serious news about snoozing at the nation’s air traffic control switches is cause for concern and consternation (yet another incident occurred early Saturday morning in Miami).  But to be truthful, the far bigger danger to you and your family’s comfort and future is what’s happening in your career, not some South Florida control tower.

    As I travel around the country and talk to professionals like you, a most remarkable and common comment that I hear over and over is “I just wasn’t thinking that something like this could happen to me / my career / my company.  It came totally out of the blue.”

    We often find ourselves happily focused on the things that matter most in life — the kids’ soccer game, helping out at church, weekends on the lake with family and friends — which is as it should be… most of the time.  It’s also really important that we keep an eye out for the dangers that threaten our domestic tranquility.

    So what are the big blips on the radar to which you ought to be paying attention this week?

    Trouble on the horizon

    Have you taken the time to survey the horizon?  If there’s anything we’ve learned these past few years, it’s that the world can change suddenly, and famous old names can fall in an instant.  Have you taken stock of your industry, your profession, your area of expertise, and thought through the implications of incidents that might head your way?

    What if your employer was involved in a scandal, was acquired by your largest competitor from overseas, or had the laws changed under your feet? Have you taken the time to consider what your contingency plan will be? What evasive maneuvers you’d take should it come to that?

    The best time to make a plan is when you don’t need one… may I suggest “now”?

    What’s your speed and altitude?

    How is your career going right now?  Are you hitting it out of the park, or are you just “phoning it in”?

    Do you have the energy to make it happen, and is the work you’re doing adding fuel to the fire or just dragging you down?

    As the person at the wheel, er… yoke, you’ll need to decide how important it is to go fast and high, and then you’ll need to do something about it.

    Where are you going?

    Of course, most important to you should be the direction you’re going.  A blue sky and a fast plane don’t make a bit of difference if you’re just going in circles.

    So now that your career has taken off, where do you want to land?  Yeah, sure, that annoying old interview question where do you see yourself in ten years? has about as much relevance to you today as it ever will, but on a deeper level, what’s your daydream?

    When your mind wanders, when you catch yourself staring out the window or you’re absent-mindedly driving along in traffic, who do you see?  Who is the next person you’ll be turning into?

    Is it the next step up at the office, is it taking a bigger role someplace else, is it moving on to a different and greener pasture entirely?

    Whatever it is, and more importantly, whoever it is that you want to become, just letting it happen to you isn’t the best way to make sure you’re getting out of life what you need.

    So perhaps this is a good week to take a hint from the Air Traffic Controllers and wake up (and, yeah, sure, smell the coffee too… it cost you enough) and think through where you’d like your career to go.

    I’ll be here to help you think it through!

  • The Digital Soul, Part XI: Transactions layer

    The transactions layer enables the user to complete an experience, frequently accomplished in the physical world.  The media of the transactions layer are time, space and money. (Which brings to mind this wry cartoon from a quarter-century ago:

    Transactions layers improve their quality with execution, as well as the breadth and diversity of options made available (delivery, meeting times, couponing and trialing).

    Transaction layers provide a time or place to transact business, participate in a product, relate to people or a specific person, purchase a physical or metaphysical object, or save on a price.

    Because the inputs and outputs of the transaction layer (time, space, money) are similar, if not coincident, the transactions layer may charge for varying inputs.  This is in contrast to the other layers.

    Though it is beyond the scope of this framework, the transactions layer enables the clientele layer — ongoing relationships with recurring buyers, which may make the transactions layer a first step in creating lifetime value with customers.

    Transactions layers are widely varied by aspect: geography, topic, community, goods or services sold.

    Examples of the transactions layer include Meetup, Foursquare, Groupon, Valpak, Beer of the Month club, Restaurant Week, eTrade, JetSetter and Gilt.

    Conflicts arise between the transactions layer and subsequent layer over the nature of potential customers who are brought into the business of the company or project.

    [My original explorations led me to believe that there was a time-space layer separate and apart from a trials, testing & diversions layer. My examinations lead me to now believe that trials, testing, and diversions are components of a larger “time-space-money” layer, for which transactions is more suitable terminology.]

  • The Digital Soul, Part X: Interaction layers

    Interaction layers provide the ability to interact with products, entities and people over the Web, and enable the transactions layer.  The means for doing so are the the virtual representations of the goods, objects and personalities presented to the user.

    Interaction layers improve in their absolute quality with their UX, their context-specific UX, scope (which may be broad – “Earth’s Largest Store” – or incredibly small and curated – “Daily Deal”), features, and customizations.

    Interaction layers segment provision by various aspects related to physical objects, novel behavior patterns, and the demographics, psychographics and affinities of human relationships.

    Interaction layers must not charge by the inputs – the numbers of listings of products or people or entities shown, but by the outputs — purchase or rental of physical products (“space”), the meeting or connection with people either virtually (“space”) or in-person (“space- time”), for trials, testing, or diversions of space-time-money expenditures, or investments

    Examples of the interactions layer include iTunes, The Well, Amazon, Match, Quora, Polyvore, eHarmony, Tumblr, Monster, Twitter, message boards, and Flickr.

    Interaction layers thrive by enabling as much interaction as possible so that the user can make decisions about selections for the subsequent layer.  The interaction layer must not charge for sub-components of the experience – additional conversations, access to additional people or their ability to access you, or additional products to browse; these are the means of the experience, not the end results.

    Conflicts break out between the interaction layer and the transaction layer over immediacy, cannibalization, tone, and the tension between commerce and experience. (The best depiction of this conflict that I have read is “Where the Suckers Moon”, the story of a Subaru ad campaign: the drama between the art-is-an-end-in-itself creatives and the move-the-metal dealership franchisees is perfectly and wonderfully absurd.)

  • The Digital Soul, Part IX: Inference layers

    Inference layers make connections for users – unexpected revelations or correlations based on data from the intention layer.  From the inference layer, users make decisions about which interactions and communities to engage with.

    Inference layers can improve their absolute quality with the number and context of intentions from which they are correlated. Knowing whether the link clicked on in response to the search “jobs” was from the web search results, images, maps, news, finance page, Wikipedia’s Businesspeople from California category page, or Wikipedia’s entry on Economics, tells us more than just knowing the characteristics of the link itself.

    It is presumed, though not necessarily true, that more inferences lead to a superior outcome for the user.  The Netflix prize winner, BellKor, notes:

    We strongly believe that the success of an ensemble approach depends on the ability of its various predictors to expose different, complementing aspects of the data. Experience shows that this is very different from optimizing the accuracy of each individual predictor.

    This is very significant, and essential to understanding the nature of information businesses.

    Inference layers segment provision by various aspects: books, music, restaurants, dates, and friends.

    Inference layers enable the subsequent layer – interactions.  The inference layer must display as many inferences as possible to the user so that they can select interactions or communities or topic areas in which to invest their time-space behaviors, and must not attempt to charge by inputs – data from incremental or contextual intentions included in the inference generation, as those are the means, not the ends, of the layer — or for the provisioning of incremental inferences themselves.

    Inference layers enable the subsequent layer — interactions – and monetize via purchases or fees or advertising generated at that layer.  As of this writing in April 2011, the inferences-to-interaction transmission is integrated with the intention and/or the interaction layer for all known web businesses.  That is, the transmission remains internal to companies’ or products’ capabilities and is not externally monetized or organized.

    Examples of inference layers are Hunch, “Amazon Recommends”, “Netflix Suggests”, eHarmony’s Compatibility Matching System, Facebook’s “People You May Know”, thefancy.com (ThingD), and Firefly.

    In a de-integrated future, inferences layers may charge for outputs – for delivering interactions or communities.

    Possible sources of inter-firm conflict could be disturbing the nature, number or need for indicating intentions; the context of the inferences provided could not make sense for interactions or communities;the display of inferences previously unknown to the user to a public audience could give pause; the ability to generate accurate inferences could trigger the “creep factor” in commerce or community; or the need for collecting particular intentions may not feel contextual for the user.

  • How can I tell if I am really an entrepreneur or just somebody who likes talking about being an entrepreneur?

    It was the fall of 2003 and the four of us co-founders were all working from our homes.

    TheLadders was a free product with 15,000 subscribers to our weekly newsletters at that point. We’d get together for a weekly meeting on Tuesday nights at my apartment in the East Village. It being a bachelor pad, and my being a bachelor, meant that hospitality was a generous helping of all the Pringles and salami you could eat. Mmmmmmmm-mmm!

    We’d talk about all the stuff we were going to do over the next week and divvy up the work.  This worked fine at the beginning, but after a few weeks, you just kinda knew that this arrangement wasn’t putting us on the path to prosperity.

    If we were going to make it, we needed to be working together, closely, every day.

    We needed an office.

    So we went looking for office space and found Select Office Suites, a really good-looking and tidy space with 170 offices for rent on an enormous floor at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street here in Manhattan.  The office manager Ray showed me around the place, and it had all the characteristics we needed: cheap, cheap and cheap.

    The offices were twelve feet by six feet, and you could just barely fit four desks in there. Ray asked if we wanted an interior office without a window for $1,000 / month, or an exterior office with a window for $1,500 / month. It didn’t take more than a couple seconds for us to rationalize to ourselves:

    You know, sunlight is for sissies anyway. We’ll take the dark box.

    Now Ray is nobody’s fool. He’d seen plenty of start-ups come and go and he filled me in that payment would be 6 months in advance plus one month’s security deposit.  Which meant that our new office space was going to cost $7,000 out of pocket.

    Out of my pocket.

    And this was at a time when I hadn’t gotten a paycheck in 18 months and wasn’t bringing in any dough from this new project either but I sure had dough going out the door the other way.

    It was the entrepreneurial moment: I’d hit that point where you kinda need to figure out what you’re going to do.  And I remember thinking that this could either end up being the greatest decision ever… or it could end up being the stupidest, most expensive hobby I’d ever had.

    So I went over to Ray’s office, pulled out my checkbook and got out my pen:

    November 13th, 2003

    And then filled in “Payee”:

    Select Office Suites, Inc.

    Followed by the amount:


    Then, because “they” want to rub it in, want you to be entirely aware of what a fool you’re being and all, “they” make you write it out again, this time in long form….

    Seven Thousand and 00/100 ——-

    Next comes the Memo:


    And then… and then you come to The Line: the signature line.

    It’s the line that separates the past from the future.

    It’s the line that separates who you were from who you will be.

    It’s the line that separates the people who want to talk about being entrepreneurs from those who just became one.

    It’s the line that separates you from you.

    And the most beautiful thing about The Line is that you get to decide.

    You’ll be standing there — in an empty office park outside of Dallas, or your in-laws’ garage in East Egg, or in the parking lot of the Jack in the Box in Cupertino, or huffing under a cold icy full moon night in Union Square with Coffee Shop twinkling in front of you…. and The Line will be there, and you will be there, and you’ll be there together, and nothing else will be there.

    For just one moment in your life, just one moment… you’ll get to decide who you are.

    What a gift! What a moment! What a treasure from the heavens above to have just this one moment in the whole expanse of time and space and the stretch of days from when you began on this earth to the stretch of days when you’ll leave it…

    …and the only person who can make that decision is you.

    And you may find that on that day, you’ll walk up to the line, and look over to the other side… And look back to where you came from…. And look over again….

    And you may find yourself deciding that it is, in fact, a country too far: too cold and too cruel, too careless and too clobbering for who you can be right now.  And you’ll decide that you need to stay on this side of the line.

    And that’s OK!  The world needs people who do big things at big companies — we entrepreneurs love you and cherish you and want to work our asses off around the clock in order to invent your future for you.  Please! We are here to create for you!

    But for those tiny few of us – for that slice of the population that is too unbalanced and too dreaming and too antic and too fired and too bold and too bored and too much of everything and yet not enough….

    …for those of us for whom the line is not a choice, but a need, The Line is a definition.

    As for me, I knew what I had to do.

    I took my checkbook in hand, and swallowed hard; a comet exploded in my stomach and the hot sweat in my head burst open like I’d been microwaved…

    And I signed myself away and beat on, a boat against the current, borne forward ceaselessly into the future.

  • The Digital Soul, Part VIII: Intention layers

    Intention layers capture the intentions or indications of interest by users via clicks or other indicative behaviors.  From the intention layer, inferences can be made about the user in the form of correlations.  Prior to the 21st century, intention layers required a human to contact another human to indicate intention – via telephone, physical presence, or in written form.

    Intention layers improve their absolute quality with the volume of information over which they are enacted, specificity of the information acted upon, number of intentions expressed, and trackability; but they must not attempt to charge differentially for provisioning based on volume, specificity, number of intentions expressed, or trackability.

    Intention layers segment provision by various aspects: (car-buying, dating, job-seeking, home-seeking, search results, and content pages.)

    Intention layers enable the subsequent layer – inferences – but do not yet monetize the relationship.  As of this writing, in April 2011, the intentions-to-inference transmission interface takes place within the firm, and no market has yet emerged. Using Christensen’s innovation architecture framework, this suggests that the transmission is not yet sufficiently understood, remains interdependent with the intentions layer, and requires additional work to become a modular interface.

    Intention layers must not attempt to charge per action, click, or preference indicated, as these are internal to the expressions or indications and are means, not ends in themselves.

    Examples of intention layers are Google, QVC, direct mail, Match.com, blippy.com, eBay,  Kayak.com, ServiceMagic, and lead gen services.

    As there is no market yet for intentions-to-inference transmissions, there has not yet been the opportunity for inter-firm conflict to arise. Possible sources of conflict are: the inference layer will constantly desire additional increments of information about intentions which could impede the expression of intent in the first place; relevance of inferences within the context of the intentions (somebody clicking on 1950s baseball cards on eBay being shown ads for tree doctors, for example, because that is what is inferred, even though it is out of context, could be a jarring experience); and whether the display or communication of inferences inhibit the display of intention.

  • The Digital Soul, Part VII: Information layers

    Information layers provide the sensory material that users watch, read or listen to.  From the information layer, users generate intentions about possible behaviors. Those intentions take the form of conscious or subconscious user volition, or explicit expressions such as clicks or calling 1-800 numbers.

    Information layers improve their absolute quality with accuracy, timeliness, and breadth of information provided; but they must not attempt to charge users differentially based on accuracy, timeliness or breadth of information provided.

    Information layers segment provision by various aspects: geography, topic (medical advice, financial opinion, sports scores), or source.

    Information layers enable the subsequent layer – intentions – and charge for the delivery of it.  A wide variety of pricing models exist: cost per lead, cost per action, cost per click, or, indirectly, CPM.

    Information layers must not attempt to charge on a per bit, per word, per second, measure or frame, as these are sub-components of the complete sensory experience. They are internal to the provision of the experience:means, not end results.

    (Charging per article is achievable when it comprises the entire experience, such as in distinct articles required for research, but is not achievable when the article comprises a sub-component of the complete experience — the “daily news” experience for example.)

    Examples of information layers are Gawker, Google, Gannet, TechCrunch, Grey’s Anatomy, Pandora radio stations, Twitter.com, ESPN, podcasts, Hulu, and NYMag.com.

    Information layers must provide a sufficient amount of material for users to peruse in order to generate sufficient indications of their intentions.

    Conflict breaks out between the information layer and the intention layer over editorial purity, the “separation of church and state” between editorial and advertising, instances when the desire to monetize attempts to override the provision of accurate information in the interests of generating more indications of intention.

    Conflict also arises over signalling: whether or not the consumption, production or display of information signals an intention or not. If interacting with or participating in the information layer is a signal of intention, it has the tendency of deterring the proper functioning of the information layer and the causing the user to behave in a more constrained manner.

  • The Digital Soul, Part VI: Access layers

    Access layers provide the means for users to consume information in a human-understandable format.  The means for doing so include telecommunications networks, broadcast, newsprint, magazine stock, oral advice from human beings, cable networks or any other media delivery format that allow for human understanding.

    Access layers improve in their absolute quality with higher fidelity, larger pipes, broader distribution or coverage; but they must not attempt to charge users differentially based on fidelity, speed or coverage area.

    Access layers segment provision by various aspects: geography (covering your country, your city or your house), topic (medical experts, financial info, ) or medium (radio, TV, GSM frequency bands, human experts)

    Access layers enable the subsequent layer — information — and can charge for delivering it.  A wide variety of pricing models exist: per sip, all-you-can-eat, time-delimited, periodical delivery, or advertising-supported.

    Access layers must not attempt to charge differentially for the means of access — per access pipe, number of nodes used in conveying information, size of frequency band, etc.  These considerations are internal to the layers’ provision of information — means, not end results.

    Examples of access layers include cable networks, radio broadcast networks, FiOS, expert networks such as Gerson Lehman, Bloomberg terminals, LexisNexis, 3g networks, Whispernet for Kindle, and Netflix.

    Conflict breaks out between the access layer and information layer around pricing, distribution, and positioning.