Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Cameraphones driving Blog Adoption?

Ross Mayfield, on Many-to-Many, looks at cameraphone uptake, why it is the fastest growing area of the blogosphere, and why we entered the photo-sharing business at a very good time. He says that Lycos, in its latest survey of Angelfire and Tripod users and their "device penetration", "make[s] the case that blog adoption is being driven by media sharing, abundant connectivity and advances in ease of use."

"Device Penetration" sounds a little too J.G. Ballard for me, thank you.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Jeff Bezos on the Power of Word of Mouth

BusinessWeek: How important is advertising to building the brand?

Jeff Bezos: We don`t do any television advertising, and we take all of the money that we would put into television advertising, and instead put it into things like free SuperSaver shipping [free shipping on most orders over $25], lower product prices, category expansion, and invention of new features. We take those funds that might otherwise be used to shout about our service, and put those funds instead into improving the service. That`s the philosophy we`ve taken from the beginning. If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful. ...

BW: It`s fascinating that the increase in the value of your brand has happened at the same time when you`re not advertising in mass media at all. Do you anticipate ever needing to use broad-scale advertising again?

Bezos: No. Never say never, but I don`t anticipate that. I like the strategy we`re on.

(via heif)

And the Bushel Goes Bad

One Bad Apple by Lori Howard.

Never underestimate the impact of one person on an entire team. One person with a problem attitude or divisive nature can stifle communications, make people tense, and ruin the productivity of everyone around him.

I've worked on a couple teams where there was one person like this. In both circumstances I talked to the manager in charge and while both of them were aware of the problem, they were both reluctant to do anything. In one case the problem was so dire, two valuable team members gave notice and left, since they could see no one would do what needed to be done, i.e. fire her. After about 6 months, management finally fired the Bad Apple, but not without significant damage having already been done -- bungled projects, missed dealines, low morale, a toxic environment. They scrambled to try to rehire the two employees who had left because of that one bad egg, but they were already happy at their new jobs and wouldn't return.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Plunge Protection Team. A bookmark to read later when I'm not so swamped.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

You're a manager now. Congratulations.

Great article on Rands in Repose: What to do when you're screwed.

The state of being screwed is unique. You know when things are going smoothly because you can arrive in the morning and quietly sip your hot beverage until your first meeting at 11am. Screwed is the oppposite. Screwed is being accosted the moment you walk out of the elevator and being unable to even check your mail... until Winter.

Screwed is mental paralysis.

Screwed is career panic.

Screwed is also an opportunity to hit it out of the park. Overcoming screwed will give you confidence, experience, and respect, but you need to figure out how screwed you actually are and then then figure out and how to fix it. If you aren't interested in unscrewing yourself, I'd suggest this article is not for you. I'm assuming you've have passion regarding your professional career. You want to do more. You want make more money and, if it all works out well, you want to change the world.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Google Acquires Picasa

Google Acquires Picasa, which makes sense, no? Email, groups, now photo management. They are going to offer the full suite of services that Yahoo now offers. I think chat will follow within the year. And when are they going to improve their image search?

This is of course of great interest to us at Flickr. :)

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

VC's and Valuation

A good summary of valuation over on A VC by Fred Wilson, as well as a follow-up on Feld Thoughts.

Entrepreneurial Drive

Q. Describe a day in the life of Nick Denton.

A. Coffee at Balthazar at 8:45. Deal with the morning's e-mail backlog, lounging on the sofa. Check for the details of the conference call. Agonize over the name of the next site. Try out name variants on IM with Gabriela (advertising operations) in Paris, Patric (design) in Chicago, and Choire (editorial) in the East Village. Lunch at Lever House or Balthazar, with a media buyer, if possible. A nap. Surf aimlessly around the Web. Hey, I can always *pretend* I'm on the lookout for new writing talent. Exercise, sometimes. Alcohol, often.

There's other intesting stuff in the article, but that was my favorite part.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Pravin Jain, Part III

I continue with a passage in Jain's essay about the structure of the "Capitalism Inside An Organization" as it played out at Enron in the 90s. This may be have been all over the business press during the scandal; I was not tuned to that wavelength at the time, so this is new to me:

Enron needed to create a moblike energy for their task, one that only Adam Smith's relentless pursuers of self-interest could come up with. To attract and cultivate such an army of zealots, Enron was internally designed along free market principles. Every level of the organization invited opportunistic risk-taking. Just as Walt Disney had asked every employee at his theme parks to view himself as part of a performing cast, Enron cast every employee as a potential dealmaker.

Anyone at any level could initiate and pursue a deal, and all profitable deals were rewarded promptly. At Enron International, an employee could receive up to three percent of the earnings generated by his deal, no strings attached. This could easily run in the millions. The dealmaker was free to distribute the bounty as he pleased, usually as rewards to people who helped him close the deal, including his superiors.

Jain points out that bonuses were deliberately made the largest piece of an Enron employee's compensation, to encourage this entrepreneurial behavior. But the most interesting part was this: Employees had to "sell" their deals within Enron in order to gain access to company resources:

No one was entitled to anything. Support groups such as legal and finance could allocate their efforts based on their own estimation of a deal. If they chose right and supported a high-stakes deal that succeeded, they made a lot of money when the dealmaker handed out his rewards....The net overall effect of these dynamics was the awesome competitive energy generated in every part of the company. Manipulating others, devising spins and stories, doing whatever it took to move a deal forward were all part of this ruthless, tribal, capitalistic culture.

Ultimately, though, Jain believes that what happened at Enron is part of what happens and will always happen in capitalist economies, and that it can't be legislated out of existence. He believes they are a necessary part of the process, and that government intervention to "slow or stifle" the reemergence of Enron's method's will fail. There will always be Enrons.

Either that, or we will see the slow atrophying of the larger capitalist experiment. This acceptance and honesty may make us, as a nation, less hypocritical and more tolerant of societies that choose not to embrace capitalism

Friday, July 02, 2004

Ruining it for everybody

Seth Godin says on his blog today that search engine optimization is a black art and is generally not worth paying for. This is true. The other thing not mentioned there is that search engine optimization essentially undermines Google's value as a search engine. I posted about this before. If everyone is gaming the system, the comment spammers, fake site builders and SEO-d sites rise to the top and the search results are crap. Of course, if everyone else is doing it, your business probably can't afford not to be doing it too. And so the circle becomes increasingly vicious.

Blaming the User

I made the mistake of visiting Photosite using a Macintosh computer and received Homestead's Browser "Warning"

One moment, please!

You are using a computer that does not support Homestead.

If you would like to take advantage of the Homestead's flexibility, power, and ease-of-use, please return to with a Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, or NT computer.

Astonishing. Flexibility, power and ease-of-use? Au contraire! And their tagline is YOUR web site company. Hahahahaha!

Emphasis mine, of course.

The user-centric and customer-focused parts of an organization should really be writing or reviewing the 404 and "browser alert" type pages, as well as any alerts. We, of course, have also been guilty of such faux pas; there was one of these on Flickr, and it drove me nuts. When you were in FlickrLive and away from your keyboard and someone tried to acquaint themselves with you, the invitation would expire and you'd get a message that said "You took too long to respond to this request". It wasn't the user's fault, they were just off having coffee or something. What had really happened was we had done some poor programming and made it so the invitations expired. This has, thankfully, since been fixed.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Pravin Jain, Part II

Jain emphasized throughout the essay (see prior post) that capitalism was practised in its purest, most unimpeded, form within the confines of Enron, as if Adam Smith were its patron saint. And this was was responsible for the great successes and innovations that Enron was able to achieve, as well as its final downfall:

Laissez-faire capitalism within Enron did not discriminate between wannabe entrepreneurs -- the con men -- and the genuine ones. Both were equally nurtured by the intoxicating environment, much like weeds and grass growing side by side in an untended lawn. But however dangerous, this was a logiacal, even invigorating, engine for Enron's greatest potentials. New worlds are not easily born, and Enron sought nothing less than a new world in their attempt to loosen potential commodities such as energy and bandwidth from the grip of old monopolistic systems. Con men -- the energy release by the intensity of their passions -- helped the older, sclerotic systems break down, so that new markets could be born.

I read this with fascination and horror. It reads like the part of Beowulf that describes Grendel's spawn. But I also read this with complete recognition. If you've ever worked on Wall Street, or in Silicon Valley, or anywhere that great fortunes were being made and lost, you will recognize this frenzied, monomaniacal activity:

Innovations this far-reaching require a radical mutation in their environment to grow beyond a certain point....To catalyze more far-reaching changes, the economy seems to mobilize a special breed of people -- people so obsessed with self-interests that they end up deceiving themselves and others. The intensity of their passion imbues them with the amorality of any destructive force.

I'll post a third part to this series.

Flickr Blog

We have put up Flickr Blog, an off-site blog, which will have news, offsite status (for scheduled maintenance, etc.), and selections of great photos from the Flickr community. Check out the new stuff we added this week: Creative Commons licenses, a beta of the Mac Uploader, and Calendars. What a great company!