San Francisco Debrief

My business partner Adam and I spent a few days doing business in San Francisco last week.  All business and/or relationship development, no fundraising.  

I've been to San Francisco multiple times, but this was my first visit as the CEO of a start-up.  (If you're new to this blog - my company Argyle Social is based in Durham, NC.)  It was an eye-opening experience.  Turns out that a lot of what they say about the Valley is true.

1.)  Everyone very genuinely wanted to help us out.  We met with 8 companies - some big companies that you may have heard of like Twitter and some smaller companies that you will probably hear of soon.  Every conversation was incredibly transparent and collaborative, even though Adam and I were complete strangers for the most part.  A case in point of start-ups (and former start-ups made big) helping each other out.

2.)  Everybody knows everybody.  The UserVoice guy went to a beer night at Klout.  The Klout guy's brother is the API guy at Twitter.  The business development guy at Twitter went to UNC.  (You get the idea.)  No different than any other start-up community...except that the Valley connections are with the most important companies in the world.  Adam and I made great connections on this trip and I'm confident that these great connections will yield even more connections.

3.)  Start-ups are everywhere.  Adam got the great idea to start using Foursquare on the trip...and he convinced me to join the effort.  It was amazing - and, frankly, frustrating - to do a Foursquare check in at Klout and find that GitHub, EventBrite, EngineYard, a laundry list of other interesting companies are within a 100 yard radius.  There are a handful of start-ups in Durham, NC that I consider peers.  There are a handful of start-ups in every building south of Market in San Francisco.  And we didn't even venture out to Mountain View, Palo Alto, etc.

I'll be making trips like this (at least) once a quarter going forward and I strongly recommend it to any other CEO of a web start-up.  It is useful to get away from the office so that you can think, helpful to build relationships outside of your geography, and energizing to get plugged in to the epicenter of the business.  

Book a few meaningful anchor meetings that actually warrant the trip and then work your network to fill up the rest of your time with spec meetings.  

Should Marketers Rent Or Buy?

Brian Halligan - HubSpot CEO - gave a great marketing startegy interview on earlier this week.  In the interview, Mr. Halligan drew an interesting parallel between renting and buying as an online marketer:

Marketers are traditionally renters. They rent space on shelves, they rent space in Adwords, they rent space at tradeshows or they rent giant lists to cold call from. None of this is anything they own.

We believe that the best way to market a product or service is to create assets that you own and can nurture. Things like unique content, links, Facebook fans, Twitter followers are assets that stick around and, from a monetary aspect, can cost a lot less than the old model.

I dig the analogy.  Here is my addition $.02:

  • For start-up marketers, it probably make sense to begin with a rental strategy to find your audience and hone your message.  It takes a lot of effort to develop "owned" marketing assets, so I suggest investing wisely.
  • Halligan makes the argument for quantity over quantity.  Even though he has internal data to support his claim, I think that this is a fine line.  HubSpot generates a ton of content and I read none of it.   Other companies and bloggers publish less frequently, but I read every single piece they produce.  Depends on your target customers - are they sophisticated or are they beginners?
  • Creating is more valuable than sharing in the long run.  I'm blown away by the number of social media marketers that seem to think that curation is just as important as creation.
  • Content marketing is a habit.  The recent rebirth of The Boggs Blog is my effort to get back in the habit.

Lowering Sales Input In Software Start-Ups

For the past 12 months - (Argyle turns one next week) - I've called nearly lead inquiry we've gotten at Argyle.  And I've given one-on-one product demos to lots of them. 

It is really time-consuming and obviously not sustainable/scalable.  But - it is has been a great way for me to build relationships with customers/prospects, get close to the market, and *really* understand the problems that we're addressing with our product.

Lately, we've done a few things to lower the sales input necessary to qualify/close new accounts:

- An email drip campaign.  This was a no-brainer and super-easy to set up.  Even we don't call, we know that all free trial accounts will get a few marketing touches before their trial expires.  We've seen a noticeable up-tick in trial adoption as a result.

- A getting-started wizard.  Step-by-step tutorials are a great way to lower the "getting started" hurdle for new accounts.  We've had this from the beginning, but it was terrible.  Josh - our amazingly talented designer - spent a few hours cleaning it up and turned it into strategic asset.

- Contextual help and demos.  Again - we've had in-line help blurbs and video demos since the earliest version of Argyle.  And we've tended to include lots of descriptive text in our application.  Both are a great way to mitigate support inquiries.

- Immediate value.  We're launching our most aggressive effort to lower sales input in our upcoming release of Argyle Social v2.  (You can read a preview at  When our prospects log in for the first time today, it isn't obvious that Argyle is aggregating data and such.  First log ins going forward will see data immediately - both real-time updates and historicals.

- A product that markets itself.  In the next couple weeks, we'll have email notifications hooked to key features.  So that prospects (and customers, of course) will get notified by Argyle when important things happen - such as a priority mention on Twitter or a spam comment on their Facebook wall or a runaway success campaign.  These notifications obviously provide business value...but they're also a tap on the shoulder of sorts for prospects that are still deciding!

We'll still do tons of phone calls and tons of demos - but I suspect that we'll do less educating and explaining and instead more convincing and closing.  :)

How Start-ups Should Think About Competition

The short answer is:

1.  It is good.
2.  Bring it on.

The long answer vis a vis web start-ups is:

Competition validates.  If you're building a start-up and have no competition, then one of three things is happening:

1.  You're a visionary Picasso-type.  This is possible, but amazingly unlikely.
2.  You're targeting a market that is so teeny tiny that no one else cares about it.
3.  You haven't yet Googled to look for competitors.

In other words - there are very few original ideas when it comes to Internet products and there are always competitors.  Ideas that are somewhat original and potentially lucrative end up with immediate copy-cats.  (The small army of Groupon and flash sale clones come time mind.)  Attractive markets that don't have competitors at the start eventually end up with lots.  (Dodgeball, Foursquare, and the location-based game/service craze are a great example.)

Soooooo.  Having competitors means that you're on to something.  This is a good thing!

Competition isn't a risk.  I wish I had a dollar for every time that someone has said "But what about Social Media Co?  Aren't they a competitor?" because it happens a lot - mostly because we're in a hot space.  (See above.)

We're early enough in the market such that I'm not worried about a single company (or a handful of companies) drinking all of the milkshake.  Our market is going to play out over the next few years and have a few big winners and a handful of good companies.  On the contrary - if I were building a new search engine, then of course competition would be a pretty big risk.

For companies like Argyle, the majority of the risk lies in execution.  Can we build a great team?  Can we augment our product with the right features?  Can we generate sales leads?  Can we convert them?  Can we do so at a large scale?  Can we do all of this at blinding speed?  Those are the risks that I'm worried about.  Not what the other guy is going to do next.

Competition sharpens iron.  True playaz don't let competition define them, they use it to get stronger.  

Great competitors drive great companies to work harder, sell faster, etc.  For start-ups especially, great competitors can create a singular, easy-to-understand "enemy" that can galvanize a team to achieve great results.  You gotta think that NetFlix had a "Kill Blockbuster" sign hanging in their office during the very early days.

Note that the Biblically-derived "competition sharpens iron" has a counterpoint based in 10th grade chemistry - "Competition melts sodium".  Sodium is an extremely soft metal and can be easily cut with a kitchen knife.  (BOOM!  Thanks, Mr. Legget.)  

In other words - if you don't have game, then you worry unnecessarily about your peers and you eventually lose focus as a result.

Zombie Good Times

The Sequoia Capital "RIP Good Times" presentation is about a year and a half old.

In the past few weeks:

  • Quora - which most of you have probably never heard of - raised $11M at a $84M valuation.
  • FourSquare is rumored to have gotten a $100M offer from Yahoo! with less <1M users.
  • Groupon supposedly raised another round of capital at a $1.2B valuation.

These are all great companies, but - based on nothing but an uninformed hunch - these valuations seem awfully frothy to me.  Perhaps the good times have risen from the dead...

Prediction - HubSpot Will Acquire An ESP In 2010

The ExactTarget / CoTweet deal got me thinking...and here's one of many thoughts:

HubSpot is going to buy an email marketing service provider 2010.  And I have a few pretty good ideas of who it could be.

Here's why it is going to happen:

It is blatantly obvious. 

The guys at HubSpot have built a fantastic B2B lead management machine with some nicely integrated SEO, blog, and other content tools.  (And probably more - I'm not an expert on their platform.)

Email is the obvious missing piece.  I think HubSpot already provides customers tools for simple nurturing campaigns...but my hunch is that there remains MUCH room for improvement. (What about mailings that are independent of a lead form or the HubSpot platform?)

I also suspect that many of HubSpot's low/mid-tier customers would gladly dump their existing email vendor for a reasonable, integrated offering from HubSpot.

(Yes - email marketing kinda goes against the inbound credo.  But if you do it right, email marketing makes inbound marketing MUCH stronger.)

Email marketing isn't easy...

...and it certainly can't be dumbed-down into a grader.  (Zing!)  Deliverability, workflow, reputation, best practices, etc. all have a steep learning curve - both for the customer and the vendor.  The best email marketing apps are highly specialized and get all of the little details just right.

Instead of trying to build it all in-house, HubSpot would be smart to buy a platform and all of the email marketing product/industry expertise that comes with it.

They've got to keep pace.

Eventually, HubSpot will to start bumping into up-market vendors like Marketo, Eloqua, and - all of which have very strong email marketing components, either native or through amazingly tight integrations.  Thus, it would take them a long time to build out a feature-complete email platform that is strong enough to compel marketers to switch from their existing vendor.

So they'll buy a mid-tier vendor, integrate the platform with HubSpot, happily accept the top-line bump from the new contracts, and make up a lot of ground with their biggest competitors - all in one smart acquisiton.

They're flush with cash.

HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan recently said that the firm's next financing round would hopefully come from public markets, which means that their last round came at a great valuation and gives them a nice, long runway to grow...a runway presumably lengthened by the gobs of cash they're raking in every month.

A $8M - $15M acquisition is certainly in their sweet spot.  And the list of email marketing vendors that match that profile is fairly short.

PS - Here's why it won't happen:

  • They won't be able to get a good price from a good ESP.
  • Despite everything I just said, HubSpot seems like a builder...not a buyer.
  • I'm just taking a wild guess.

Help Hajo Meet The Hoff

My friend Hajo is in the cereal business.  (I've written about him before.)  He specializes in delicious, gluten-free, custom cereals.  The concept comes from a similar business that has been very successful in Deutschland.

My friend Hajo is also German...which means he LOVES David Hasslehoff - because all Germans love David Hasslehoff.  This is a fact. Seriously - what is not to love about his legendary Berlin Wall performance

(Why did the Berlin Wall come down?  Because The Hoff rocked it so hard with the piano key neckerchief and blinky Christmas light leather jacket, that's why.)


  • Germany's greatest export to the US = delicious, custom-mixed cereal.
  • America's greatest export to Germany = The Hoff

Thus, over lunch last week, Hajo - with help from Allen and your's truly - came to the only logical conclusion:

David Hasslehoff MUST have Hajo's delicious Custom Choice Cereal. 

So Hajo set the goal of personally delivering a bag of cereal to The Hoff by the end of March 2010.  More on the CCC blog.

Here's how you can help in 3 easy steps:

  1. Get inspired.
  2. Repost this on your blog/social network of choice.
  3. Buy some yummy cereal from Hajo so that he can afford a plane ticket to LA.

Twitter Forcing A Strategy Switch

Came across an article on the Chicago Tribune regarding the strategic impact of social media.  This blurb jumped out for me:

While about five officials at Southwest Airlines typically vet every press release for accuracy and nuance, communications staffer Christi Day flies solo on Twitter. She acts as the discount carrier's voice without editing from her bosses.

This is fascinating, though I suppose it isn't really surprising given that social is largely still an experiment for most marketers in the space...and a curiousity to the majority marketers that remain on the sidelines.

Still, I can't help but imagine that there will eventually be a need for oversight, approval, etc. for social posts.  Every corporate post to a social stream instantly reaches hundreds of thousands of people that matter.  It facilitates the holy grail of marketing communications - one-to-one conversations with your customers - yet it isn't getting any attention from management?  (Actually - it is probably better this way...)

On the other hand, a press release gets slowly cycled through the creaky traditional media machine and often leads to follow up conversations before the "story" actually happens, if it happens at all.  This paradigm is shrinking fast.

Plus - this is an awful lot of trust to place in one person/role.  Do the people at Southwest realize that - to the thousands on Twitter - Christi Day is the voice of Southwest?  Not that she's doing a poor job - just seems like they'd want to put a bit more thought/effort into the channel.

Launching A Business In The Cloud

I started writing this in early July...and just now finished it.  So some of the temporal references are a bit off.


I've built most of the operational plumbing for a small business over the past few weeks...and I've done it all without installing a single piece of software or building a single MS Office document.  (OK - except for an overly-MBA'ed financial model in Excel.) 

Here's the playbook for launching a lightweight company in the cloud:


I showed my friend Tristan an early (and hideous) mock-up of Argyle's website one afternoon in the Kenan-Flagler cafe.  After a quick look, he replied with three very wise questions:

  1. What are you doing?
  2. Don't you know the best time to change directions in an IT implementation is at the beginning of the project?
  3. Will you please let me show you Squarespace?

I was on the cusp of a custom-built disaster...and Tristan intervened just in time to introduce me to the best web app I've used in a long time.

Except for the images I bought from iStockPhoto and a few blurbs of custom CSS and HTML, Squarespace elegantly powers every pixel of  Point and click, drag and drop, save and close - it could not have been easier to put together a polished, professional website.  All for ~$30/month.

I can't say enough good things about the service.

(Note - Tristan works there now.)


Admittedly, is waaaay more than I need at this point.  However, it is very helpful for getting out of spreadsheets, formalizing processes, and taking baby steps towards becoming a data-driven company.

I paid $99 for a year's worth of Group Edition - which includes a handful of users, several helpful Google integrations, and more than enough functionality to keep me going for a long time.

I haven't done it yet - but it is (kinda) easy to integrate a web form to dump contact data directly from my site to my CRM.

Accounting/Billing - Quickbooks Online

While it isn't the prettiest application, Quickbooks gets the job done.  As far as I know, the online edition offers the same functionality as the installed edition. There are some other apps that offer similar services - Freshbooks is probably the most popular - but QB is the most comprehensive.

They also offer a merchant account service that is a little pricey, but integrates nicely with the service.  It is a little clunky billing customers, but I don't really have the volume to warrant an upgrade.

Operations - Google Apps

I run my email, my calendar, and (most of) my documents through Google.  Extremely easy and beautifully functional. 

I can't imagine why any small business would deal with the hassle of hosting their own productivity services when - after some easy DNS changes and a quick set-up - they can run it all through Google for free (in most cases) or cheap. 

The integration makes it an even bigger no-brainer.

Social Streams Are The New Inbox

A surprising amount of activity that I've "traditionally" managed via email and other tools have moved to my social streams - which is a fancy of way of saying my Twitter and Facebook feeds.  For example:

Personal Emails

I can't remember the last time I wrote a lengthy email to any of my close friends/family. (A look at my sent mail from 2001 proves that I used to do a lot of this.) With most of my friends, there usually isn't much "catching up" to do because we all post our activities online.

More and more, interpersonal relationships are becoming a function of tweets, photo comments, and status updates. From a convenience/technology perspective, I admit that I like where this is going. From a cultural and anthropological perspective, this trend may or may not signal the beginning of the end of complex human thought and interaction.

Email Newsletters

I started working in email marketing long before it became an "industry".  Not to give myself too much credit, but I was a very early evangelist of the email newsletter as a sophisticated, technology-driven marketing program.  I suspect that the monthly sales commmission checks may have had something to do with my fervor...

Fast forward to now.  I don't read a single email newsletter.  (Well - maybe a couple that I'm just not remembering because I haven't gotten them in a while.)  My email address is strictly used for personal communications and transactional messaging from my bank, online retailers, etc.  I very very rarely consume information, read newsletters, make purchases, etc. via email.

All of the content I previously consumed through my inbox, I now consume through one-line blurbs on Twitter and - to a much lessor extent - Facebook:

  • The content is more digestible.  I go from "subject line" directly to the content as opposed to subject line to an email message often filled with noise.
  • The content is timlier.  I recall recently unsubscribing from an email newsletter because I had read the entirity of its contents 12 hours previously via links on Twitter.
  • The content is socially-driven.  The social stream makes it very easy to find new sources of interesting content.

RSS Feeds 

My feed reader is slowly dying the same death as my email newsletters.  RSS-to-social apps enable content providers to easily zip their stuff into my stream, so why shouldn't I centralize my content?

The Bigger Question

Or at least the bigger question(s) that I'm trying to answer.  If social streams are the new inbox:

  • What does this mean for marketers? 
  • How will retailers, salespeople, fundraisers, non-profits, etc. manage this channel?
  • What are the "new" analytics that indicate social stream success?
  • How long before these become big problems?
  • What are the new products/technologies that will solve these problems?

Thinking About Short URLs

Over the past six months, there has been much ado about Twitter and social media in general...which in turn has created a similarly sizable ado about a host of related issues - including short URLs, social media ROI, and Twitter apps.

I have an above-average understanding of the key issues regarding short URLs and why so many nerds think they're bad.  I'll skip the details - read this well-circulated and well-written piece if you're interested.  Despite the salient arguments against the construct, there are a couple issues worth pointing out that I haven't seen elsewhere...

If you use the "potentially weak intermediary" argument, then you have to consider that email marketing apps are just a big a threat to the DNS framework as URL shorteners.  Every email marketing service provider (ESP) on the planet redirects URLs and counts clicks in a fashion very similar to URL shorteners...and thus serves as an intermediary between me and the content I seek with each click.  I don't see anyone worried about the health of the scores of ESPs and their potential impact on the old links sitting in my inbox.  And I don't expect to - partially because these links are in my inbox and not the wild, but primarily because these things just become less of an issue over time.

Using the same argument, I posit that the longevity of short URLs posted to social streams like Twitter and Facebook are even less important than that of the links in my inbox.  I'm willing to bet that 99% of the click graphs in and every other shortener on the planet look just like this one:

The vast majority of the clicks happen in the first couple hours and - save for retweets and such - the click volume declines rapidly.  So who cares if the link still works a year from now?  Just saying is all...

Regardless - this problem eventually solves itself.  The social media skeptic will say that Twitter will relax its character limit and render all short URL providers useless.  I say this is unlikely - short URLs extremely valuable to marketers because they're the gateway to social media ROI. 

The more likely path is that and other providers prove to be legit and eventually build real businesses around social media management, with short URLs playing a key role.  HootSuite and CoTweet are already making great headway down this path...

Lastly, the kerfuffle-almost-failure indirectly supports my thesis.  Their business failed expressly because they tried to monetize short URLs as a service, not as a part of a broader offering. 

Plus - those guys are morons.


Is Facebook is using the LinkedIn API to make friend suggestions?  I've had several "recommended" friends on Facebook that:

- share no mutual Facebook friends with me.
- I haven't talked to since 2004/2005.
- I'm connected to "professionally" on LinkedIn.

I can't come up with any logic for the recommendations outside of FB using my network and/or email address to triangulate my LI identity and then comparing the connections between the two services to make suggestions.

If this is happening - is it smart or creepy?

Prohibition Homebrew

Check out my friend Alex Foley's latest venture -

Prohibition Homebrew is an e-commerce site specializing in homebrewing supplies, ingredients, etc.  They're doing some smart stuff through Facebook Connect to cultivate a community of homebrewers.

From their site:

Prohibition Homebrew is the world's first fully integrated online community where homebrewers can share their recipes as well as track and document each batch of beer throughout the brewing process. Users can share photos, videos, equipment recommendations, and shop for necessary items in the online store. Each Speakeasy Community member can record and store data on every batch of beer they brew in order to improve and perfect their recipes.

Spread the word to your brewmaster friends!

Custom Choice Cereal

My friend Hajo is launching an online business in Chapel Hill called Custom Choice Cereal.  You can check out an early version of his site here.

Brief description from the site:

Custom Choice Cereal is a venture dedicated to remove the traditional  trade-off between healthy gluten-free cereal and tasty ingredients.  The idea is simple - through an online platform, celiacs and all of you who voluntarily choose a healthier lifestyle and want to go gluten-free will be able to individually assemble your favorite cereal from a variety of exclusively gluten-free ingredients.  Custom Choice Cereal will then deliver your personal mix conveniently to your doorstep.

Think of it like an online version of the bulk bin aisle at the grocery store...with lots of gluten-free options.  You build your mix, check out online, and Hajo & Co. mail delicious cereals directly to your doorstep.

Pretty good idea, if you ask me.

The Craigslist Recession

I bought a new guitar from a guy on Craigslist a few weeks ago.  Great guitar, good price.  I haven't stopped playing it since I bought it.

Thing is...I haven't stopped looking at the Musical Instruments listings on Craigslist, either.  Sooo many favorably priced guitars, amps and whatnot.  (Kelly tells me everyday to stop looking because she knows that browsing leads to buying.)  My hunch is that many of these listings are a lagging indicator of a weak economy - people selling their wanted stuff to pay for needed stuff.

My friend Chris - a professional audio engineer and semi-professional guitar god - claims that the instrument deals listed in Detroit are mind boggling.  I haven't vetted his claim, but I believe him.  Gotta think that the more economically crushed the area, the cheaper the guitars on Craigslist...

Oddly - show's Craig's traffic flattening in February:

I would think that the free/used/bartered/borrowed economy would be booming as the broader economy wanes...which means that this should be a boom time for Craig.

Anyone know of an online resource that tracks Craigslist activity?

Speaking of Craig, check out the first comment in this post.  Nice guy, that Craig.

Return On Tweeting

I think I coined my first acronym a few weeks ago and feel compelled to broadcast it to the interwebs so that I can lay claim to it before it becomes the new LOL or ROI or FMFL.

ROT = Return On Tweeting


Joking aside, the acronym spawned from an email exchange with a friend in which we discussed Twitter's emergence as a mainstream social platform, its inevitable emergence as a real deal marketing channel, and some early-stage technologies that enable marketers to measure the impact of their Twittering - their ROT.

Case in point - in addition to my personal stream of consciousness, I tweet off/on as Kenan-Flagler Business School.  Last week, I tweeted (or twote?) Michael Porter's lecture on campus and used my friend Adam Covati's service to shorten the URL to this:

instead of this:

The short URL from idek not only lets me squeeze in enough characters to serve the link, but it also lets me track the response.  Kenan-Flagler has 135 followers as of today.  Per idek, my link to the Porter press release was clicked 29 times.  I didn't post the link anywhere else, so we can safely assume that all of the clicks came from my tweet.

Some quick math yields an astounding click-through rate:

29 / 135 = 21%

For those of you unfamiliar with online/email marketing - that is a ridiculous number.  If I were an ecommerce site and had 135K followers instead of 135, the 21% click-through rate would represent revenue.  Even better - it represents high margin revenue because Twitter is a free least for now.  (I look forward to testing other types of links and Tweet constructs.)

In my opinion, the strong conversion comes from a mix of the following:

15% - Twitter is still largely comprised of early adopters who voraciously consume information from the service.  I probably could have posted a link to just about anything and gotten a similar response from this crowd.  Yes - I'm talking about you @djwaldow...  :-)

15% - Kenan-Flagler's followers are MBA applicants desperate for any crumb of information that will help them improve their app and chances for acceptance.  This is actually a good thing - I'm aggregating these people and building a conversation keeps them engaged with Kenan-Flagler.

70% - Twitter is the real deal.  Marketing is about conversations...and so is Twitter.  The next Google?  Probably not.  The next Facebook?  Umm.  There is a reason that FB tendered an offer to acquire Twitter...and a reason Twitter declined...and a reason that the forthcoming FB homepage rev looks awfully familiar...

As for the measurement piece - it is a little rudimentary for now, but will get better with time.  There are a handful of apps out there now - and more to come for sure - that enable marketers to aggregate their Twitter and other social web activities, measure the effectiveness of their programs, and ultimately tie it all back to an ROT.

Believe me, this post could go on for much longer.  I'm a big fan of Twitter and continue to be amazed by its utility and evolution as an Internet powerhouse.

I wish more of my friends/family would sign up.  (Mom, Dad, Erin, Evan - HINT!)  It is a great way to keep in touch...

PS - If you're still a Twitter skeptic, then you should try following keywords in real time on during the next big event - televised or otherwise.  You'll be hooked immediately.  The commentary from the masses is WAY more entertaining and sometimes more insightful than the blatherings from the mainstream media talking heads.

Axl Rose Killed My Quip

One of the first lessons I learned as a product manager for a start-up software company was that you can't please everyone.  Different stakeholders - sales, marketing, support, customers, executives - have varying priorities and often divergent opinions regarding where the product needs to go next.

This is why product management is hard and product managers are ballers.

One of the first mistakes I made as a product manager for a start-up software company was ignoring the first lesson.  I was the world's worst at telling everyone what they wanted to hear and making sure that their feature was "in the pipeline" and "coming soon".

Boy howdy - have I learned to never make that mistake again.

Many moons ago, there was one feature in particular that "triggered" a strong reaction within our organization.  Some wanted it yesterday, others could not care less because they believed that other projects should take precedence.

My co-worker and I found the entire episode fairly entertaining.  Those begging for the feature didn't really "know" what they were asking for - they just knew it was a box that we needed to check in sales conversations.   My co-worker and I also knew that the application had a long ways to go before we could implement the feature in a way that would fully satisfy customer needs.  Plus, we agreed that other issues should take priority, thus we had no plans to move on the feature any time soon.  Moreover, there were a number of organizational factors precluding me/us from exerting any significant effort to advance the project.

Yet, despite all of this, the feature remained on the product roadmap as a "near term" priority.

My bad.

The borderline absurdity of the situation led my colleague and I to begin referring to the feature as Chinese Democracy - which is the title for the way-over-hyped Guns 'N Roses album that has been 14 years in the making, leaked and "unleaked" several times, unanimously thought to not actually exist, and mercilessly ridiculed in the mass media:

In 2005,The New York Times called it "the most expensive album never made" and the "music industry's most notorious white elephant".

Dr Pepper supposedly offered a free can of Dr. Pepper to everyone in America — excluding former Guns N' Roses guitarists Buckethead and Slash — if Axl would man up and finally release the record in 2008.

Spin reviewed the album in 2006 as an April Fool's joke.

Yet, Axl never shut up promoting the record and the music media never stopped publishing his stupid interviews.

As you might imagine, I reaped endless amounts of smug satisfaction from my little inside joke.

So, given the story I just told, try to visualize my shock/disappointment/laughter when I hear this and read that Chinese Democracy supposedly drops November 23.


So it is goodbye to such a thoughtful, flexible, and beloved wisecrack.

I guess nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.

Note from the author:  My former employer released the beginnings of the "Chinese Democracy" feature a couple months ago.  All we need is just a little patience.

Time To Buy...I Think?

After getting Kelly's permission via IM, I just bought GOOG at 393 and AAPL at 104.  Yes - I ignored my own advice and used more of my student loan to finance the (laughably small) transactions.  Why?


- Advertising budgets will shrink during a recession, but direct marketing budgets should remain strong.  Companies still have to acquire customers - even if they're treading water - right?  (I think I read that somewhere...or maybe I just made it up.)  PPC advertising is much closer to direct marketing than advertising and should remain relatively strong (compared to other advertising categories) during a downturn.  The ROI is a cinch to calculate and - more importantly - the service works, thus the case for AdWords should remain a no-brainer.

- My recent liberation from MS Office to Google Docs has been a complete success.  I've opened Excel only a few times over the past month - and each time was to work in a very complex financial model.  Otherwise, I've worked exclusively with Docs.  The formatting isn't as slick as it could be and I can't do page numbers - both of which are fixable problems for Google, by the way -  but the content is exactly the same and my work-flow is much cleaner.  The way I see it - businesses are going to look for ways to cut corners, MS Office is expensive, Google Docs is free/cheap, most people don't build buyout models every day, and I'll turn a profit with my piddly Google investment.


- This one isn't as clear cut for me - instead it is more a depedent argument based on my Google hypothesis.  As companies/individuals move to Google (or the web in general) for their productivity applications, platform becomes much less of an issue, thus more people will be comfortable switching to Macs.

- Unlike iPods, iPhones aren't a luxury purchase.  They offer true productivity advantages and stand to change computing game going forward...that is if they haven't already.  They might not sell like hotcakes this Christmas, but they're still going to a hot ticket item and should find their way into the enterprise sooner rather than later.

- The Jerry Seinfeld and "I'm a PC" commercials are horrible.

2 posts in one day.  Wondering why I haven't been doing this more often of late...