• The Digital Soul, Part II: Google Pro

    Why doesn’t Google sell a Google “Pro” version to all you addicts out there?  A paid version that indexes more webpages, provides faster results, gives you more search filters and less web spam than the “Basic” version?  With a billion users globally, wouldn’t it make sense to give the best features and functionalities to those most willing to pay for it?  To understand that question, we’ll need to understand something about the nature of web businesses, users, scale, and monetization.

    Pre-internet information technology businesses correlated to the DIKW hierarchy: data – information – knowledge – wisdom.   In the 20th century, IT businesses provided the hardware to store, the tools to gather, the software to visualize and report, and the consulting services to understand, the inputs and outputs of human experience.  The atom, the core irreducible mote, underlying the DIKW hierarchy is the stimulus outside of ourselves which we perceive with our senses, thus creating data capable of being recorded.

    The web enables, and therefore requires, a very different structure.  With the rise of the web we see businesses based around a different atom, a different mote: that of human behavior. Without our recognizing it, the global communications and technology network that has been our obsession for the past two decades has changed from being about things, to being about people.

    Even more compellingly, it has changed from being constituted of data on the nature of things, to data generated by the nature of people.

    The web hierarchy is:

    Information – Intentions – Inferences – Interaction

    If the pre-internet IT hierarchy is composed of bits that correlate to atoms, the web IT hierarchy is composed of behaviors that represent users:

    -  Users seek information on the internet, thereby

    -  Developing and revealing their intentions, thereby

    -  Enabling inferences that are valuable and non-intuitive, thereby

    -  Allowing for interactions or communities of which the user was previously unaware

    This last step, the provision of discovery to users, has been an obvious, productive, and compelling application of the web since at least the founding of Firefly in 1995. (If you roll that way, here is Suck’s awesome 1995 review of the launch.)

    Seeking information

    We use Google to seek information, which in Google’s case is composed of requests that let us know who the Yankees play next Tuesday, how much butter to put in the cookies, where to eat in Luang Prabang, or the molecular weight of tryptophan.  We use other sites to seek other types of information – on jobs, on stocks, the definitions of words.  In either case, in each act of information-seeking we do not just learn about the information, but reveal something about ourselves.

    Revealing intentions

    John Battelle defined Google as a database of intentions: “The Database of Intentions is simply this: The aggregate results of every search ever entered, every result list ever tendered, and every path taken as a result.”

    Beyond the search engines, users generate data about their actions at ecommerce sites, in dating applications, in the job search, in fact, every click, search, form, survey, poll, and mouse-over tells us something more about the user and their intentions.  What they think they are doing tells us something about what they think, but also tells us a great deal more.

    Enabling inferences

    Intentions may or may not represent the conscious understanding of the user – for anybody who’s sat through usability labs and heard the subject say “I don’t know why I clicked, just seemed like that’s where I should go”, you know what I mean.

    Based on their apparent intentions and expressed preferences, web businesses can make inferences about users.

    As I am writing this, I’m listening to my Pandora Station named “Smog” after the band I seeded it with.  Looking through the resultant list of songs to which I’ve given the “thumbs up” I see seven new bands that I’ve discovered in the past two weeks that I’d never heard of before and of whom I am now tremendously fond.

    Surprising, non-trivial, productive inferences may not be unique to the web, but surprising, non-trivial, productive inferences at scale, are.

    Allowing interaction and community

    And those surprising inferences will create a user with the desire to act: to buy music, or join a discussion, or purchase an appliance, or go to a concert, or attend a Meetup.  The things we can teach users about themselves allow them to participate in a broader set of activities, and understand the context of why they are doing so.  It is not just generating behavior, or trial, it is generating self-enlightened behavior that is the most compelling aspect of this web hierarchy.

    The IIII business hierarchy

    The DIKW hierarchy had a corresponding business hierarchy: hardware for storing, tools for collecting, software for analyzing, and consulting for understanding.  Each successive step in the hierarchy uses the bits provided by the prior step as the raw material from which it creates value.

    Similarly, the IIII hierarchy has a corresponding web business hierarchy, as shown in bold below.  And where the DIKW hierarchy passes bits from one level to the next, the IIII hierarchy passes user behavior from one level of the hierarchy to the next.

    If access is your product, information is your revenue

    If information is your product, intentions are your revenue.

    If intentions are your product, inferences are your revenue.

    If inferences are your product, interaction / community is your monetization.

    If interaction / community is your product, time-space is your monetization.

    If time-space is your product, trial is your monetization.

    (In italics are the pre- and post-web-hierarchy business models, representing 20th century informations services business on one hand, and online-enabled offline businesses such as Meetup and Groupon on the other, respectively. I will discuss these in another post.)

    Because each level of the hierarchy generates the “raw material” for the next level, web business have the interesting characteristic that you cannot monetize your core product – that is, the part of your product that generates user behavior, engagement, and attention for your site or app in the first place.   For any particular product or service, one level in the hierarchy must be unfettered, cost-free, and generate as much user behavior as possible, in order for the company to monetize it effectively at the next level of the hierarchy. (In another post, I’ll discuss the scale – the perhaps surprisingly massive scale – of behavior required to generate monetization.)

    And it is thus precisely because the user behavior on one level of the IIII hierarchy is the raw material for the monetization on the next level of the hierarchy that Google cannot have a “Google Pro” version.  And it is precisely because the web is composed of human behavior that a new hierarchy is required to explain it.

  • The Digital Soul, Part I

    “Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” – Oscar Wilde

    What if I told you I was willing to pay you $1.81 if you tell me about your bulimia?  Or at the other end of the spectrum, $1.05 to tell me about your gout?  How about $1.93 in your pocket if you’ll admit to me that you and your spouse need marital counseling?

    Or $10.11 that your house doesn’t have a security system, $7.16 that you’ve finally given up on paying off your student loans, and $9.24 if you’ll ‘fess up to your coke problem?

    $130.34 if you’re afraid you might have asbestos-related mesothelioma?

    Or $31.06 if you think you need a DUI attorney? (But only $29.03 if you need a DUI lawyer?)

    Or, and I know this might seem chintzy, $0.72 if you think your husband might be gay?

    Would you do it?

    If I pulled out my checkbook or a stack of bills and the correct change, would you agree to tell me truthfully?


    Well, maybe it’s just because we don’t know each other that well yet…  perhaps this would work better if you asked your friends?

    Let’s try it.  Click here to send an e-mail to all of your contacts with the subject line “I’ll pay you $9.37 if you admit to your drinking problem.”

    How many takers do I have?  Are you up for it?

    Now what if I took this thought experiment a step further and proposed to you a business where the model is, in fact, that I am going to ask you to tell me all of these things… for free…  because you’ll want to.

    And then I’ll plan on selling that information to a bunch of people you don’t know for the cash.

    If you’re gout-stricken, I get a buck and change, almost $2 if you and the Mrs. are at it again. Your being a cokehead nets me a Hamilton.  I get three times as much if you’ve had a run-in with the law at a nighttime checkpoint. And if you’ve been sucking on asbestos for the past decade, I get a crisp Benjamin plus plus.

    Are you ready to invest in my venture? I think it’s got real potential.

    I’m naming it “Google”… perhaps you’ve heard of it?


    How did we become these people?  Telling such personal things to machines? Sharing what we wouldn’t share with colleagues or classmates or co-religionists or competitors?

    Sharing, in fact, our gravest and riskiest confidences with an unforgetting, uncorruptable, unerring, and utterly amoral machine?

    Forever, our secrets will be hidden there; they were not stolen, we gave them away willingly.  How did we become those people?

    The internet wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.

    While it can be conceived, in the words of one late befuddled Senator, as a “series of tubes” through which passes the world’s information, to be strictly precise the internet wasn’t conceived of at all.  It was, rather, the logically inevitable but unplanned, outgrowth of the invention of packet-switching.  Eliminating the single point of failure germinated a thousand, a billion, a trillion, points on the graph.

    The World Wide Web was to be the nodes on the graph.

    As Tim Berners-Lee shared early on: “The WWW world consists of documents, and links… [It] is a way to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will. It provides a single user-interface to large classes of information (reports, notes, data-bases, computer documentation and on-line help).”

    The World Wide Web was about information – large classes of information – and information technology and information scientists were here to assist with its management.  The excitement you feel in reading Berners-Lee’s original proposal, his proselytizing emails, and his usenet posts come from the sense of a man on the brink of enabling a great discovery: the discovery of where we already are.

    By creating access to the world’s research, its thought, and its insight, Berners-Lee imagined minds all over the planet downloading, consuming, sharing more and better information than they ever had before.

    The information, the beauty, was in the nodes, not between them.

    Today, when there are 1,112,000 DUI arrests in the United States annually and 1,620,000 Google U.S. searches on the phrase “DUI attorney” over the past twelve months, do you have any doubt that the majority of the former shared their predicament with the latter?

    And all of the examples of payouts above come from searches conducted this morning on Google’s Adsense tools, which estimate how much each click will cost an advertiser in response to keywords such as “alcohol abuse”, or “bulimia”, or “mesothelioma.”

    Today the information, the beauty, the shock and surprise, come from between nodes: their interaction, their aggregation, their implications.

    Emergence is the occurrence of novel properties in the whole which are not present in the components, and are unpredictable from the knowledge of those parts.  There is nothing about ice crystals that tell us what snowflakes will look like.  There is nothing in the raindrop that can describe the hurricane.  Studying the grain of sand will not yield knowledge of the dune, nor will knowing the bird teach you about the flock.

    In every case, it is the interaction between the “nodes”, whether they be water droplets, birds, ice crystals… or keyboards, that leads to the surprise of scale.

    What, then, we can ask ourselves, is the emergent behavior of the internet?

  • Your $100,000 order with Amazon has been placed.

    ** From my weekly newsletter to TheLadders.com subscribers **

    I’ve been on the road these past few weeks, meeting with our customers Microsoft, Lucas Group, Starbucks, and many others. What I’m hearing from them is what you would expect during the turnaround year of a recession: budgets have stopped being cut, HR staff is stretched thin, and the conversations are all about the hundreds or thousands of employees that these companies need to add in the coming year.

    I was particularly enchanted with my friends at Amazon — I’ve been visiting their campus for the better part of the decade, and this year the buzz is as strong as I’ve ever felt it. And, no, I don’t think it’s just Seattle’s awesome coffee culture that’s got them buzzing.

    So I thought I’d ask them a few questions on landing your $100,000+ job order with Amazon this Monday morning…

    Susan Harker, Amazon’s Director of Global Talent Acquisition, was kind enough to spend some time answering my questions on Amazon’s hiring philosophy, innovation, and what it’s like to build at the company with a smile on, and in, every box!

    MC: Amazon has pledged to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Does that affect hiring decisions even for jobs that aren’t traditionally customer facing? If so, how?

    SH: Being customer-centric is the cornerstone of Amazon’s business, and our teams work hard every day to innovate on behalf of our customers. It doesn’t matter which area of the business you’re in. We always start with the customer and work backwards, and this touches every part of the hiring and employee experience. Every position in the company impacts our customers, and Amazonians work hard to build solutions in every area of our business.

    MC: I’ve heard that the interview process at Amazon can be long and exacting. What can a senior candidate expect from first interview to offer?

    SH: One of Amazon’s leadership principles is hiring and developing the best. Through our interview process, candidates talk about their skills and experience and ask questions through phone and in-person interviews. As well as understanding our candidates’ backgrounds in depth, we ask our candidates to get hands-on in interviews, which may mean coding on a whiteboard in real-time or solving a business problem. This is what it’s like to work at Amazon — senior level Amazonians provide vision and direction, but can also roll up their sleeves.

    MC: What are some of the hottest skill sets in demand at Amazon today?

    SH: At Amazon, we’re looking for analytical and critical thinkers with great judgment who can both think big and roll up their sleeves to solve hard problems on behalf of our customers. A spirit of innovation is part of our DNA at Amazon, and we’re looking for leaders who can drive innovation in their area and enjoy solving hard problems. While technical skills are important, we really value these more intangible traits.

    MC: I enjoyed your 2008 video series showing the working life of Amazon employees (http://www.youtube.com/user/InsideAmazon). How do you assess cultural fit at Amazon?

    SH: Our company motto is ‘work hard, have fun and make history’. There’s no particular formula for assessing cultural fit, just as there is no formula for a typical Amazonian — we look for smart candidates that are great problem solvers, have a bias for action, and can get the job done. We also have a set of Leadership Principles, which include thinking long-term, innovating, and thinking big, that define successful leadership traits at Amazon. We look for people to join Amazon who embody these principles.

    MC: What would you like a former employee to say first about Amazon if someone asked about working there?

    SH: Employees at Amazon have an opportunity to make an impact and solve hard problems on behalf of our customers. It’s a place where builders can build and anyone can drive great innovation for customers. It’s a place where employees are super engaged and passionate about creating a great customer experience.

    MC: For our 4 million professionals thinking about their next great job, what’s the first thing you’d want a prospective employee to know about a career at Amazon?

    SH: Amazonians are builders. We work together every day to innovate on behalf of our customers, and we’re looking for people who want to join us in building solutions in every area of our business. We have tough and interesting problems to solve in all areas of the business, and it’s an environment that values and recognizes builders.

    MC: Thanks for your time, Susan!

    …Well, folks, that’s the straight scoop direct from the folks who brought us the Kindle, Mechanical Turk, and Earth’s Largest Bookstore.

    Amazon has 187 jobs live on our site today, check them out!:

    Fianance Jobs
    Senior Financial Analyst Phoenix, AZ
    Senior Financial Analyst Carlisle, PA
    Site Controller Carlisle, PA
    Site Controller Lexington, KY
    HR Jobs
    Sr. Human Resources Business Partner PA
    Diversity Program Leader Seattle, WA
    Human Resources Business Partner – Phoenix, AZ Phoenix, AZ
    Human Resources Manager Plainfield, IN
    Human Resources Manager New Castle, DE
    Sr HR Business Partner Phoenix, AZ
    Sr. HR Business Partner Lake Forest, CA
    Sr. HR Business Partner New Castle, DE
    Sr. HR Business Partner Lake Forest, CA
    Sr. HR Business Partner, Technology – eCommerce Platform Group Seattle, WA
    Sr. Human Resources Business Partner Plainfield, IN
    Sr. Recruiter – Digital Seattle, WA
    Sr. Recruiter Corporate Operations Seattle, WA
    Sr. Recruiting Manager, Retail Seattle, WA
    Marketing Jobs
    Email Marketing Manager – New Products Division Seattle, WA
    Marketing Manager Seattle, WA
    Senior Product Manager – New Products Division Seattle, WA
    Category Marketing Manager, Computers Seattle, WA
    Manager, Editorial Kindle Content Store Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager, Marketing – Amazon Mom Seattle, WA
    Senior Merchant Product Manager – Automotive and Powersports Seattle, WA
    Senior Merchant Product Manager, Video Games Seattle, WA
    Senior Product Manager, IMDb Studio City, CA
    Senior Site Merchandiser, Appstore Seattle, WA
    Senior Site Merchandiser, Computers Seattle, WA
    Sr. Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Sr. Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Sr. Product Manager Kindle Content Seattle, WA
    Vendor Manager – Video Games Seattle, WA
    Principal, Product Management – AmazonWireless.com Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager, Divisional Merchandise Manager -Toys Seattle, WA
    Senior Product Manager, Amazon Fresh Seattle, WA
    Senior Vendor Manager / Senior Buyer, Home Improvement Seattle, WA
    Sr Mgr, Print Magazines Seattle, WA
    Amazon Green Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Director of Business Development – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Operations Jobs
    Manager, Content Operations Seattle, WA
    Capacity Planning Manager Seattle, WA
    Customer Service Manager Huntington, WV
    Customer Service Operations Data Analyst Seattle, WA
    Director – Kindle Accessories Business Seattle, WA
    Director – Kindle Worldwide Demand Planning and In-stock Management Leader Seattle, WA
    General Manager, Author Central Seattle, WA
    Global Import / Export Program Manager Seattle, WA
    Global Security Systems Manager Seattle, WA
    Kindle Project/Program Manager – CS Seattle, WA
    Senior Instock Manager, Tools & Home Improvement Seattle, WA
    Senior Operations / Ingestion Manager – Disc on Demand Seattle, WA
    Senior Technical Account Manager, Kindle Content Operations Seattle, WA
    Senior Vendor Manager / Senior Buyer, Home Improvement Seattle, WA
    Sr. Mgr of Program Management – Transportation Platform Seattle, WA
    Sr. Operations Research Scientist Seattle, WA
    Sr. Product Manager – Customer Notification Seattle, WA
    WW Physical Security Project Manager Seattle, WA
    Director of Engineering – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Director of Engineering – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Manager, Content Operations Seattle, WA
    Programmer / Analyst – Customer Service Seattle, WA
    Senior Engineering Manager – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Sales Jobs
    National Sales Representative – New Products Seattle, WA
    Head of Kindle Content Acquisition – USTop Tier Publishers Seattle, WA
    Sr. Manager, Account Management Seattle, WA
    Director of Business Development – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    Principal Business Development Manager – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    Senior Business Development Manager – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    Senior Vendor Manager Seattle, WA
    Sr. Account Manager Retail Seattle, WA
    Sr. Manager – Publisher Operations Seattle, WA
    Technology Jobs
    eLearning Developer Seattle, WA
    eLearning Developer Huntington, WV
    Customer Service Operations Data Analyst Grand Forks, ND
    Sr. Business Analyst – Operations Seattle, WA
    BuildMaster – Device Drivers and Linux OS Seattle, WA
    Business Analyst Seattle, WA
    Data Analysis Manager Seattle, WA
    Data-Mining/Information Retrieval-Senior Software Engineer Seattle, WA
    Director of Engineering – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Director of Engineering – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Front-end Software Developer, Display Ad Execution Excellence Seattle, WA
    Hadoop / Lucene-Sr. Software Development Engineer Seattle, WA
    Hadoop / MapReduce – Senior Software Development Engineer Seattle, WA
    Intl. Program Manager, Amazon Digital Seattle, WA
    Machine Learning, NLP, IR – Senior Technical Program Manager (TPM) Seattle, WA
    Manager Quality Assurance – Device Drivers and Linux OS Seattle, WA
    Manager, Software Development Lake Forest, CA
    Operations Manager – AWS Dev Suppt Seattle, WA
    Principal Technical Program Manager Seattle, WA
    Principal Technical Program Manager Seattle, WA
    Principal Technical Program Manager Seattle, WA
    Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Product Manager – AWS Cloud Front Seattle, WA
    Product Manager – AWS New Business Seattle, WA
    Product Manager – Elastic Block Store Seattle, WA
    Product Manager – Simple Storage Svc Seattle, WA
    Programmer / Analyst – Customer Service Seattle, WA
    Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer – Ads, Search and Browse Experience Seattle, WA
    SDE in Test – Digital Products Seattle, WA
    Senior Engineering Manager – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager – Quality Assurance Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager Software Development- Amazon Green Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager, Infrastructure – Digital and Mobile Platforms and Applications Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager, Software Development San Luis Obispo, CA
    Senior Production Manager, Kindle Books Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Amazon EC2 Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Device Drivers and Linux OS Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Digital and Mobile Applications Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Digital and Mobile Platforms Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Digital and Mobile Platforms Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Digital and Mobile Platforms Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Digital and Mobile Platforms and Applications Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – High Performance Services Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Scalable Systems Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Search Experience Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer – Targeting and Prediction Systems Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer -Targeting and Prediction Systems Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer, Amazon Studios Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer, Digital Media Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer, Display Ads Customer Experience Excellence Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer, Online Display Ads Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Engineer, Online Display Ads Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Development Manager – AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Engineering Manager – Browse team Seattle, WA
    Senior Software Engineering Manager – Display Ads, Web and Mobile Seattle, WA
    Senior Technical Program Manager – Search Experience Team Seattle, WA
    Senior Technical Program Manager – Website Application Platform Seattle, WA
    Senior Technical Program Manager, New Products – Display Ads Seattle, WA
    Senior Technical Program Manager- Display Advertisement Seattle, WA
    Senior UI Designer Seattle, WA
    Senior UX Designer Seattle, WA
    Senior UX Designer Seattle, WA
    Software Dev Engineer in Test (SDET), Ads, Search and Browse Experience (ASBX) team Seattle, WA
    Software Development Engineer – Amazon Studio Seattle, WA
    Software Development Engineer – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    Software Development Engineer – Distributed Systems Seattle, WA
    Software Development Engineer – KDK Dev. Connection Seattle, WA
    Software Development Engineer – Machine Learning and Data Mining Seattle, WA
    Software Development Engineer – Scalable Infrastructure, Search Experience Team Seattle, WA
    Software Development Engineer – Scalable Merchant Systems Seattle, WA
    Software Development Engineer – Scalable Services- Ad Security Seattle, WA
    Software Development Engineer – Web Services and Applications Seattle, WA
    Software Development Manager Seattle, WA
    Software Development Manager – AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) Seattle, WA
    Software Development Manager – AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) Seattle, WA
    Software Development Manager – Kindle Offline Retail Seattle, WA
    Software Development Manager, Digital Media Seattle, WA
    Software Development Manager, Studios Seattle, WA
    Software Development Manager- AWS Simple Storage Service (S3) Seattle, WA
    Software Manager, AmazonFresh Seattle, WA
    Sr Tech PM WW Customer Returns and Kindle Operations Seattle, WA
    Sr, Product Manager Seattle, WA
    Sr. Applied Research Manager, Yield Optimization, Advertisement Team Seattle, WA
    Sr. Product Manager – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    Sr. Software Development Engineer – Amazon EC2 Seattle, WA
    Sr. Software Development Engineer – Amazon S3 Seattle, WA
    Sr. Software Development Engineer – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    Sr. Software Development Engineer – Digital Media Tech Seattle, WA
    Sr. Software Development Engineer – Whispernet Seattle, WA
    Sr. Software Development Engineer in Test, Kindle Seattle, WA
    Sr. Software Development Engineer, Digital Fulfillment Seattle, WA
    Sr. Software Development Engineer- Amazon EC2 Seattle, WA
    Sr. Software Development Manager – Digital and Mobile Platforms and Applications Seattle, WA
    Sr. Software Development Manager – Digital and Mobile Platforms and Applications Seattle, WA
    Sr. Software Development Manager- EC2 – CloudWatch Seattle, WA
    Sr. Software Localization QA Engineer, Amazon Digital Seattle, WA
    Sr. Technical Program Manager – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    Sr. Technical Program Manager – Digital Services Seattle, WA
    Sr. Technical Program Manager, Display Advertisement Execution Excellence Seattle, WA
    Taxonomist & Browse Developer Seattle, WA
    Technical Program Manager Lake Forest, CA
    Technical Program Manager – Website Application Platform Seattle, WA
    Technical Program Manager, Amazon Studios Seattle, WA
    Technical Program Manager, Amazon Studios Seattle, WA
    Technical Project Manager Marietta, GA
    UX Designer – Digital and Mobile Products Seattle, WA
    UX Flash Framework -Senior Software Development Engineer Seattle, WA
    UX/Flash Framework- Senior Software Development Engineer, Online Display Ads Seattle, WA
    Web UI-Software Development Engineer -Display Advertsing Seattle, WA
    Other Jobs
    Regional Safety Manager Seattle, WA
    Senior Manager- Taxonomy Development Seattle, WA

  • The Bizarro NDA: why demanding everybody blab about your idea is important to your success

    After you’ve set off to raise money, talked to your friends and family, and heard the first of the many thousands of “no”s you’ll need to hear to become a success, you will want to branch out and approach many more potential investors about investing in your new company.

    At some point, you may come to believe the idea that Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are an important part of the fund-raising process for entrepreneurs.  This idea may be inflicted upon you by well-meaning attorneys, former work colleagues who have watched movies about startups, your mother, or any number of other people who love you and know absolutely nothing about startup success.

    Regardless of who puts it into your head, once it is there, it is a very bad idea.

    Not only do you not need an NDA, you, in fact, need something that does whatever the exact, polar opposite of an NDA is: a Bizarro NDA.

    A Bizarro NDA requires that your future investor / employee / partner promise to tell as many people as possible about your idea, your role in it, and your plans for how you’ll get there successfully.  It might cite the 2 or 3 specific key, confidential points that the counter-party must mention to others.  And a really effective Bizarro NDA might even require a specific number of disclosures:

    The Recipient agrees to disclose the confidential information obtained from the discloser to at least ___3___ other people within 30 days of meeting with discloser.

    For every startup, buzz is your buddy, silence is deadly.  In fact, the more novel, unique, or genius your idea, the less likely it is that normal people will understand it the first time they hear about it, and will need to hear it multiple times before they understand how world-rockingly awesome it is.

    Entrepreneurial success does not come from keeping things a secret.

    Entrepreneurial success does come from understanding a promising area for new product or new customer development better than anybody else, and then attracting the capital for you to execute on that idea.  And it’s not just investment capital, by the way, it’s also human capital in the form of employees, and reputational capital in the form of press / blog / industry wags mentioning you in their speaking and writing.

    The more your sources of capital identify the idea you are working on as an important / interesting / inevitable one, and you as the genius behind it, the higher the likelihood of your success.  The more people you have talking about your idea and how you are the expert in a promising, burgeoning area, the better.

    Not only is buzz your buddy, but silence is deadly: no stealth start-up has ever exited for more than $100 mm (and I am having a hard time finding examples between $10 mm – $100 mm, although I know they must exist).

    Think about that: out of all of the hundreds and hundreds of companies that have grown to be worth more than $100 mm, not one started in stealth mode.  Not only is secrecy “not important” to your success, it is actively detrimental.

    That’s because the impediment to entrepreneurial success is ridicule, not ripoff: Scott Cook getting rejecting 225 times before he got funding for Intuit is just one famous example.

    As you will discover as a CEO, the challenge is not preventing third parties from outside your company hearing your idea, understanding it in a flash, and implementing all the ideas, features, immediately and effortlessly.  No, in fact, the challenge of entrepreneurial success is getting the people you pay to work on this idea full-time to understand it as fully as you do, the press that spends all day thinking about the industry to believe in your vision, the investors that make a career out of picking winners to understand that you’ll be a hit.  You will discover that the reason “communication” is ranked so highly among the management attributes is that it is so damned hard to do.

    I spend at least 40% of my time today on communication, and while TheLadders has had some success, one of the reasons I’ve decided to refocus some of my writing from my 4,500,000 subscriber weekly e-mail newsletter (which is really awesome and you ought to subscribe right now, by the way) to the much smaller audience that reads this blog is that you are important, influential, and essential to our success in a different way – the better the folks like you understand all of the great work going on at TheLadders today, and the inventive thinking that my colleagues are coming up with, the easier it is going to be for my company to explain to the rest of the nation why our latest and greatest stuff is important.

    Getting the word out will never stop being your most important job.  Investment, human, and reputational capital – getting them all to understand, and believe in, and chat about, your vision is critically important to your success.

    So if you’re looking for a way to make your new startup a big hit, consider crafting a Bizarro NDA that does exactly the opposite of what an NDA is designed to do: get people talking.

  • West Coast vs. East Coast: April Fools’ Day in Internet startup culture

    To the differences we’ve always known about West Coast versus East Coast:

    Haight Ashbury vs. The Factory

    The Dead vs. The Velvet Underground

    Tupac vs. Biggie

    The new Black vs. the old Birkenstocks

    Towncars vs. Teslas

    Fred vs. Michael

    …we can add another: April Fools’ Day culture in internet startups.

    Each April 1st, West Coast startups release a batch of clever fake product announcements, self-parodies, advertisements, and phony news stories that showcase the brainy, nerdy, geeky brilliance of their teams, while East Coast startups… do nothing.

    TechCrunch’s Big List of April Fools’ jokes records dozens and dozens of efforts by startups across the Valley ranging from clever industry in-jokes to adorable reimaginings of today’s culture through the lens of 1911, to outrageous spoofs intended to give puppy lovers a brief, wholesome fright.  Overall, one gets a sense of the post-docs run amok in the faculty lounge on Saturday night — it is silliness for scientists, gags for geeks.

    By contrast, the TechCrunch list and a review of the company blogs of New York’s 22 Most Valuable Startups, yield  exactly two April Fools’ pranks emanating from Gotham: a third-party spoof of Joel on Software, and the HuffPoAOL’s dirty middle finger to a cross town rival that is really more Lenny Bruce than Leonardo da Vinci.  There’s nobody like an adopted New Yorker to use April Fools’ Day to show how we ain’t taking no mutherf*ckin sh!t from a washed up hack like you, Keller!

    And perhaps that’s what is at the root of it all.

    As the April Fools’ Day prank becomes the replacement for the annual Season’s Greetings card in California’s technocratic culture, is this just one more item we’ll have to add to Heif’s brilliant distinction between working there and working here?

    Is this yet another confirmation that California nurtures and cherishes the best in creative thinking, with the precious and the precocious showing us how humor is an important part of self-actualization and creating meaning in the world?  Or are they a bunch of sprout-eating rubes — naively delusional “woo woos” entranced with their own cloyingly twee self-referential navel-gazing?

    And are New Yorkers the brash, crass unimaginative spawn of a $24 real estate deal that haven’t stopped talking about lucre and Mammon since?  Or are they the straight-shooting realists who know not to wear shorts in a city and are focused on using technology as a tool to get something useful done like digitizing the Met or finding out where to drink with hot hipsters in an underground after-hours club (and who know that after-hours means “sunrise on somebody’s fire escape” and not “midnight at the Cupertino’s TGIF“)?

    And will we forever remain one people divided by two coasts?

    UPDATE: The Google April Fools’ prank “Gmail Motion” has inspired real live geeks to build a live, working version of the gestures demo’d in the Google video. I love the stamp-licking gesture for “send”.  Score one for California!

  • The art of accepting “no”

    Before, during and after raising money, you will encounter “no” in a wider variety of shapes, sizes, forms, affronts, evasions and back-handed compliments than you will have ever thought possible.

    You will get “no”s from angels, from VCs, from fellow entrepreneurs, from lawyers, from accountants, from dentists, from uncles, from aunts, from experts, from idiots, from the worthy and from the lame.

    If they were to write a biblical verse about your fund-raising process for your start-up, it would read “And, yea, verily, all looketh upon your works and sayeth ‘nay’.”

    Every single one of these “no”s will stick in your gut like a sharp little knife. After all, each decline is starving your baby, every negative is a slap in the face of your ambition, each “pass” a dollop of dirt on the grave of your dream. It’s very difficult not to take this all personally.

    And when this happens, you will want to hate them, those who have said “no.” You will want to hold a grudge against them and their grandchildren. You will want to scribble their name in your ledger for such time that you can serve revenge cold — that distant date when, you fantasize, your much larger yacht will spray wake all over their smaller, inadequate vessel, as you steer off, cackling, into the far distant horizon.

    All of these feelings are completely natural, understandable, and wrong.

    It makes about as much sense for you to be mad at a non-funder, as it would be for a job candidate that you didn’t hire to hold the same kind of grudge against you.

    As you know from being a hiring manager, the errors of omission in hiring are many. When you don’t hire a particular person, there is so much more involved than whether or not they are worthy: you might not have an opening at all, or a just not a slot for another marketing person, or you don’t have the bandwidth to make good use of another Photoshop genius right now. You certainly don’t mean it personally, and most candidates can accept their disappointment graciously.

    Capitalism is voluntary exchange between two or more parties, each believing the exchange makes them better off than not. So that we may exchange, we seek out and study many alternatives. And because we’re human beings, with limited amounts of time, intellect, and capacity, our search and study aren’t perfect.

    The simpler and more standardized a need and its supply are, the easier it is to conduct a search, complete your study, and connect for a good exchange.

    Purchasing an apple, for example, is rarely difficult, lengthy, or taken personally by either party if an exchange doesn’t occur.

    Determining whether or not to enter into the exchange called “hiring”, in which an employee gives you their labor in exchange for your paying them a rather tidy sum, is quite a bit more involved, and there are probably, in total, more mistakes made in hiring & being hired than there are successes.

    The complexity of deciding whether to purchase the equity of a company with limited or no operating history is several orders of magnitude more difficult. And with greater difficulty, there are more chances for the buyers, being human beings, to make mistakes.

    I was an investor at Riverside Company for a couple of years, and reviewing 1000s of deals to pick perhaps a dozen each year as investments meant that there were likely hundreds of great companies that we passed on.

    My team’s greatest error during my tenure there was passing on Burt’s Bees because of a 20% difference in price between the entrepreneurs and ourselves. Of course, the company sold for 30x the asking price several years later.

    Among better investors, it is almost a badge of honor to show one’s humility by listing all of the great companies that your firm declined to invest in. Bessemer Ventures has perhaps my favorite helping of humble pie on what they call their Anti-Portfolio page.

    The reasons investors, being humans, make these errors range from the structural (their fund doesn’t support your industry, your size is too large / too small / not quite right for the life cycle of the fund), to the cognitive (they’ve incorrectly assessed the market, competition, size, or products of your company), to the chemical (you just didn’t hit it off).

    Any human activity requiring our making a decision about entering into a relationship with another human being is likely to be riddled with errors, goofs, and missed opportunities.

    To get angry about the people who haven’t funded you is natural, understandable, and wrong.

    And when I say wrong, I don’t mean from a moral standpoint – that’s for you and your religion to figure out – but I mean, rather, that it is wrong from an efficiency standpoint. There is nothing to be gained and, in fact, much to be lost for your start-up in the distraction and wasted energy that can be expended on ruing your fate and cursing the gods.

    Learning to accept “no” and letting go of the negative emotions that the fund-raising process generates are important to your eventual success. You shouldn’t like it, want it, or seek it out, but learning how to accept “no” as an entrepreneur is an important pathway to your triumph and might be the first step toward being just a little bit wiser.

    So, please, don’t have disdain, and perhaps, if you’re a big enough person, you could even have a little bit of sympathy, for those error-prone humans whose understandable limitations led them to say “no” to your remarkable company.

    Because, boy, are they going to feel foolish when your yacht cruises by….

  • Why should I work at TheLadders?

    We’re kicking off our Summer of Customer Love today at the W Hotel in New York. What’s going on?:

    Let me see that up close:

    What does this mean for me if I am an outstanding engineer, product person, designer, lean UX freak, agile app afficianado or just a smart, friendly, curious person that wants to make the world a better place?:

    So, if you’re wondering “should I work at TheLadders”, here’s what you should ask yourself:

    Do I want the customers and my colleagues to just leave me alone so I can develop in peace and quiet and not be bothered with all those distractions?  If the answer is “yes”, you won’t be happy here, and we don’t have a home for you.  (But it takes different strokes to make the world go ’round, you can find plenty of jobs for all types of people on TheLadders.com.)

    Do I want to meet real live customers, listen to their problems, and invent cutting-edge stuff that nobody has ever even dreamed of before and roll it out to the 4.5 mm high-end professionals that use TheLadders for making their careers better?

    In that case, you belong here, and ought to apply on our careers page.

  • Job Posting requests “sober person”

    We do a lot of research into the job search here at TheLadders (as a matter of fact, we’re the only job company that underwrites research into job search efficacy at American and international universities) .  As part of my look into the history of job search, I set out with my colleagues to find the oldest Help Wanted Ad we could find in the United States.

    Here’s the leading claimant thus far, an ad from the Williamsburg, VA Virginia Gazette of February 24, 1752:

    Transcript: ”A Sober Perfon, well recommended, who hath been us’d to the Employment of an Oyfterman on York River, may meet with good Encouragement, on applying to Benjamin Bryan.”

    In addition to the long s, I love the very, very soft sell of this ad: “may meet with good Encouragement”.  I wonder how much more effective our Job Postings could be if we all used a little more of the “soft touch” in our communications to professionals.

  • How to raise angel money with the ‘send’ button: TheLadders’ $635,000 angel round

    3-18-2011 8-25-00 PM

    There are lucky, fortunate, brilliant people who have the right entrée into the right environs in Silicon Valley who are able to raise angel money by dropping a leetspeak tweet early enough in the morning to close the round that day.  If you are one of those people: congratulations!  There is nothing I can add to your success, and I hope you realize how fortunate you are to live in America in the 21st century.

    But maybe that’s not you, and I certainly know that in the fall of 2003, that wasn’t me.  I wasn’t lucky or fortune or a brilliant seer into the future, and angels were most definitely not beating a path to my door.

    I was a kind of successful loser: I’d managed to avoid a paycheck for a year and a half after helping to sell HotJobs to Yahoo!, and I was hustling to get back into the online recruitment business with an outlandish idea about helping the top ten percent of America get into their next job.  But I wasn’t connected, I wasn’t in Silicon Valley, and I certainly didn’t have the finger-snapping ability to conjure up a million bucks for my curious fantasy.

    But I had a story.

    And the way I raised $635,000 in February of 2004 with my co-founders at TheLadders.com was to share that story — our story — with the right audience.  I’d send emails, like the ones below, to our potential investors weekly — short, sharp, to the point, celebratory emails that shared our passion, our excitement, our challenges and our adventures. And with this approach, we ended up raising more than the half million dollars we’d set out to raise.

    So before telling you how smart and clever we were and how you should be just like us, let me share with you my lack of qualifications: I know nothing about raising angel money, having only done it only once seven years ago, in a business closely related to the industry I’d just exited, from a group mostly composed of financial professionals and attorneys located in Manhattan.

    In other words, the one time I’ve done this right, I was a goofy newbie whose dumb luck overcame not having a whit of experience or street cred.

    But the way to overcome any of our disadvantages in life is to focus not on what you could have if you were somebody else, but on what you do have here and now.  And as an entrepreneur, you have a passion that attracts an audience, you have a story that people love hearing, and you have an opportunity for them to be a part of it without their risking everything by writing a check when you close.

    That’s what we did in the winter of 2004, and how we got to where we are today…

    Get an audience.

    Professional angels like Ron Conway, the Lerer Group, and Dave McClure are wonderful, insightful, clever, successful people, who I would love to work with if I were raising an angel round today.  Part of the fun of having a little success in this business is that you meet the most amazing people who you can’t wait to work with in the future.

    But the super angel community wasn’t as well developed when I was raising money in 2003 and that wasn’t an option for me.

    So you need to realize why angels are investing — for fun, for adventure, for the ability to be close to the fire without getting burned, for the ability have an interesting story to tell at cocktail parties, backyard barbeques, and family get-togethers.

    You need to realize that your investment opportunity is not a judicious choice with prospects for a reasonable return on a sensible investment.  Trying to make your start-up look like a good, safe place for your angels to put their money is ludicrous and counter-productive. If that was the case, they’d invest in Vanguard ETFs.

    Seriously, trying to point out what a great investment your start-up is, is, well, stupid.  It’s not.  It’s  a horrible investment with a 90% chance of failing completely, a 9% chance of returning your investors’ money, and a 1% chance of returning 10x or more.  Those are just the facts, so you really shouldn’t fool yourself or fool others into thinking this is a slam-dunk smart investment.

    No, what you need to realize is that smart, rich people set aside a tiny slice of their net worth to put into crazy ideas like yours, run by crazy people like you.  And you need to find rich people who have enough money in the bank such that $5,000 or $10,000 or $20,0000 isn’t make-or-break for their kid’s college tuition.  Otherwise, you’ll have to add guilt to all the other psychological challenges of being a start-up entrepreneur.

    The reason your audience is thinking about investing in your angel round is that they want a piece of the American dream.  Being a stalwart member of the American upper middle class pays the bills, gets the kids through college and is a lush, luxurious existence compared to just about any other time or place.  It really rocks.

    But it’s also boring.  Being a dentist or an audit partner or a corporate defense attorney is boring, boring, boring, compared to the high adventures you and your co-founders have embarked upon.  Let’s face it, you’re a living, breathing character out of mythology — you’re Jason and the Argonauts, you’re the Knights of the Roundtable, you’re the Old West and the Gold Rush and John Wayne all rolled into one.

    Your day-to-day existence might feel like sheer terror and anxiety and fear of imminent corporate death, but that is exactly why what you are doing is so exciting to people stuck in Dilbertville with their red Swingline staplers… it’s feels like being alive!

    So you need to find an audience of people who you can’t excite with your passion, and then you need to…

    Tell them the story.

    Now in order for a story to be captivating, it needs to have the truth about it.  Nobody wants to read a story or see a movie about cowboys sailing the open seas, or the three musketeers digging for gold.  Similarly, you’re startup story has to make sense, has to be true in the sense that you have a real idea that can help real people in exchange for real money.  You need to have a product or service that is going to change the world, because no amount of story-telling can cover up a bad idea.

    But presuming you have a great idea and great passion about it, the best way to tell your story is to tell it as it happens to you.

    Here’s how I told mine: I sent a weekly email to my audience of potential angel investors – -people I’d met at HotJobs, folks I knew from my brief stint in investing, friends I’d met in the internet business, anybody, really, who I thought could turn into a supporter, or who might know people who could be supporters.

    Here are four examples of my weekly emails to investors.

    You need to share your ongoing progress….

    … really celebrate your wins….

    …let ‘em now that you’re asking for dough soon….

    …and have some dorky fun sharing your adventures, your successes, and your customers’ thoughts….

    …and you need to be brief and exciting (six bullet points is the max!) to catch your audience’s attention during their busy day.

    And if I was doing this today, I’d be sure to include lots and lots of photos.

    And then you need to close your angel round.

    Nobody anywhere, ever, will write you an angel round check until the last possible moment when they absolutely have to sign on the dotted line or miss out forever.  Really.  They’ll indicate and promise and soft-circle and commit and intend, but until it comes down to the cold stark reality that if they don’t sign the check right now, their chance to be a part of the adventure disappears and they won’t have any high stories of adventure to share around the backyard barbeque… until it comes to that moment where not signing is more painful than signing, they absolutely will not actually write you the check.

    At the beginning of January, we picked an arbitrary date – February 23, 2004 –  and told everybody that come heck or high water, that was the date that all the other angels were committing and the door was really, really closing on that date.  It’s the only way to be fair to everybody and to actually get something done.

    So with an audience, our story, and a firm close date, we raised more than we’d intended to and closed our angel round of $635,000 the next day on February 24th, 2004.

    I hope what worked for me works just as well for you!  Now get back to succeeding!

  • A favor to ask

    ** From my weekly newsletter to TheLadders.com subscribers **

    Last week, I took you on a tour of TheLadders headquarters in New York City. Thank you for the thousands and thousands of comments, compliments and questions you sent back. To answer just three: yes, we all work together in an open environment, including the executive team; no, we are not all under 40 years of age (yours truly is on the “graying & distinguished” side of that line); and yes, three monitors really and truly are fantastic (and cheap!)

    So each year, after taking you on a little photographic tour, I ask a favor in return:

    Would you mind sending us a photo of yourself for our walls here at TheLadders headquarters?

    You see, we work all day on the internet, which means we don’t get to see you, our customers, in person. And what with the long hours, heartfelt dedication and total commitment to seeing you land your next gig, it makes an enormous difference to us when we can put a face with the, ummm, email address.

    So I’d like to ask you to do me a favor and send along a high-resolution photo of yourself to photos@theladders.com.

    Each year, about 10,000 subscribers like you send in their photos, and they now grace our walls, hallways and conference rooms. Our favorites have included the Marine in Iraq on a camel, the sportsman with a turkey, the subscriber who crossed the Alps on a bicycle in an eight-stage road race, and the loads and loads of pictures we get of families — at holidays, on vacations, at Opening Day (hint-hint), or just hanging out. Understanding that we are responsible for helping you and your family really hits home with the team here at TheLadders.

    Oh, and please be sure to include a little blurb — your name, hometown, your profession, and how you’re using TheLadders for your career — when you send your pics along to photos@theladders.com.

    We post your pictures along our walls and in our conference rooms to give our people a daily look at the folks we are helping. You can imagine how powerful it is during meetings when our customer is right there in the room with us.

    Please note, we just use these photos here at our headquarters and would never use them in any other way without asking your permission.

    So please send along your high-resolution photo — we print them out at 8″ x 10″ size. It would mean a lot to me and to the team, and we’ll “see” you soon!