BlogMutt News: Scott Yates Stepping Down as CEO

(This post originally appeared here.)

As of today, I'm going to be stepping down from day-to-day leadership of BlogMutt.

This news is big for me because I love everything about the company: the staff, the writers, the customers. Even the goofy name. BlogMutt is an exceptional operation.

So, why leave?

Scott-first-blogmutt-office

Well, we all have our strengths, and it's clear to me that my strengths are more in starting things... in creating something out of nothing. That and working out of 100-square-foot offices on a desk of a piece of plywood, like in the picture of me above in BlogMutt's very first office.

What BlogMutt needs now is someone who is good at:

1. Operations. Managing everything from sales to health insurance to product.

2. Growth. Understanding how to reach into new markets, reach new audiences, and build great partnerships.

For the short term, I'll be spending most of my time looking for someone to do that.

We need someone who can manage KPIs, EBITDA, CLV, etc. and not get MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over). I'm not that kind of CEO. As much as I love BlogMutt, I am just not that person.

Together with Wade Green—BlogMutt's other founder and technology head (who is staying on)—I'm now looking for that person, someone who can move us forward on all that management stuff, but also someone who can understand the magic we've created here.

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Me, Courtney & Wade in the world's shakiest selfie, in BlogMutt's second office.

Qualities of this individual include:

  • Someone who is delighted to help small agencies be able to compete with much larger agencies because they have the power of BlogMutt behind them.
  • Someone who is moved to tears, as I am, by our writers. I spoke about them here, and we’ve shared some of the stories on our blog here, here, here, here, here, or really just about anywhere on our blog.
  • Someone who loves loves loves small businesses and understands the battle they face is almost always time, and how much BlogMutt can help them.
  • And someone who recognizes that the greatest assemblage of talent in any one office anywhere in the great state of Colorado is found on the second floor of an otherwise-boring building behind the PDQ gas station and convenience store in south Boulder, BlogMutt's fourth office.

 

Do you know that person? If so, please be in touch. See below for more.

BlogMutt-staff.jpg

(Most of) the aforementioned assemblage of talent, complete with my
wrangling of the mascot mutt, Buddy, in front of BlogMutt's third office.

What comes next?

So, with BlogMutt getting some new management, what's next for me?

Well, you'll still see me around plenty. I'll still be on the board of BlogMutt, and will come by the office with my mutt, and hang around in the writer forum. I may even write a post or two, like I did in the earliest days. I'll probably still do public appearances, like the one I'm doing about man vs. machine at Denver Startup Week.

scott_speech_outsourced_blog_writing.png

Speaking from the heart, at Sum and Substance in July 2016.

I'll continue to do the #TechTuesday spots on 9News.

I’ll keep mentoring at TechStars and elsewhere.

I have a book idea.

I'll also be spending more time on my plan to fix Daylight Saving Time.

And I may be starting something new. What would that be, you ask?

Well, six or seven years ago I was fascinated by "crowdsourcing" in the loosest possible sense of the word. After a lot of conversations came the world’s best crowdsourced blog writing service, BlogMutt. Now I'm interested in "food." I read stuff like this about our broken food system and I find myself interested. Or maybe I'm just hungry.

In other words, it's time for me to sit under my own vine and fig tree. I’m no George Washington, but I am inspired by what he did, stepping down. That really had never happened before. And now we all get to live in a world where "no one can make us afraid."

And like Washington, I’ll be able to show the world that I can step down and the company will thrive because BlogMutt is so strong.

I’ve been lucky to have grown up in that world that Washington envisioned.

Really, I’ve been lucky my whole life. I had a great childhood, and I have a great family now.

I was lucky enough to work as a reporter and writer for years in New York City and all over Colorado.

And in a world where most startups fail, I’ve been lucky enough to create three of them that have all succeeded.

Thanks for joining me on this journey.

And by the way, before I can do any of the new stuff, I need to know that BlogMutt is in good hands. So if you know of someone who might be a good fit for the CEO job at BlogMutt, please contact me at CEO [at] blogmutt.com. That won't be my email much longer, so write soon.


Management (and other) lessons from the movies

The best scene in Moneyball is not in the trailers, is not available (yet) online, and isn't even in the first version of the screenplay or the book.

But it's the scene that years from now will be shown in management classes and will inspire generations of those who try new things.

Sports movies are often described as motivational, usually because there's some stirring speech given by a coach before the player goes out and does something miraculous. That's great… I've loved plenty of those movies, but they don't hold much intrinsic value because most of us are not the kind of freaks of nature that can see a round ball hurling toward us at 90 MPH and use a round bat to hit the ball real far the other way, even if we do get a motivational speech just before.

The best single scene for management types from any movie before Moneyball, I think, is this one:

 



So what's the scene in Moneyball that ranks right up there with that one from Apollo 13? It's near the end, when Billy Beane is talking to the owner of the Boston Red Sox, John Henry.

That scene is not on YouTube, and isn't in the original script, as I mentioned, so I don't have the exact quotes here. I do know that it's not just fiction, however, because Henry reportedly told the screenwriters about the scene later, and Beane agreed that it was a better recollection of what was said. 

In it's essence, Henry says that what Beane has done is nothing short of revolutionizing the game. He knows the numbers cold. Beane knows them, too, of course, but says that "baseball" doesn't like it. 

Henry's response is the pinnacle of the movie, "The first one through the wall always gets bloody." He says that what Beane is doing is bringing real change and people who are comfortable with the way things have been are naturally going to resist the change. 

It's an important lesson for me. I'm co-founder of a company that's disruptive. It won't get as much attention, but it could end up having more of a direct positive effect on the lives of more people. I mean, if the As beat the Sox or the Sox beat the As, it doesn't give writers something new and meaningful to do. Blogmutt does.

Luckily for me the Blogmutt customers like what we are doing and the writers like doing the writing. There are some writers who are comfortable with the way things are right now in the world, however, and are resisting the changes coming. I think that comes out in subtle ways by the very writers who are covering our blog writing service. It seems we get more love from a Robot Dinosaur than from some writers.

I hope that I learn both sides of the lesson, that I'm one who's comfortable creating some discomfort. And on the flip side, I hope that I'm not one who tries to "bloody" the first one through the wall, no matter what that wall is.

I mean, my background is in writing, and I could easily be one who casts stones at guys trying to build a business that relies on writers without paying them nearly as much as a reporter at the New York Times makes. If I were still writing full time I hope I would be able to recognize that Blogmutt is creating a new market for writing, that the customers of Blogmutt are not the kinds of businesses that have ever hired writers before. I hope I'd see that in an era when there are only rotten opportunities for writers to get legitimate writing work, Blogmutt is a hugely positive big-picture change for writers everywhere.

And so I need to watch myself that I'm not critical of other new ideas just because they are new.

Here's one, for instance: Scientists want to release genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild. The modification? That the mosquitoes will produce offspring that will self-destruct.

My first reaction is that self-destructing organisms released into the wild is a stunningly bad idea.

But maybe I'm just being one of those critics, one of those who only wants to put up walls in front of something new.

On second thought, however… no. This is a post about learning lessons from movies, and I've seen enough movies where experiments like this go haywire to know that genetically modified self-destructing organisms are just a bad bad bad idea.

Just the thought of that is too much. The only antidote?

 

A bit of sweet music from Moneyball. One minute and seven seconds that can just about break your heart. Sort of like baseball itself.


Now is the August of our Discontent

I invite you to sit back and relax as you read this post, probably the only one you'll read all summer that ties together the U.S. economy, Richard III, New York tabloids, neuroscience, venture capital and crowdsourcing.

OK, not just this summer. Ever.

I just won't have time to do that in a few sentences, however. Pascal-like I only have time to write about this at length.

So grab a cold drink, prop up your feet, and join me if you like.

The kernel of this post started with a simple Facebook post after a lovely evening of corn on the cob, ice cream on the deck, and relaxing with the family:

Scott Yates fb post


 Just a lovely summer evening out there. Seems to happen every August: life seems so wonderful within the family and the world goes nusto -- the stock market goes screwy, some youths somewhere go all nuts (London's turn this year) and politicians become especially unsavory. I wish summer could last longer for us, but the world could use a good rain shower and some adult supervision.

I got a big response to that, which got me thinking -- using the parlance of the day -- that I might "unpack" that notion a bit here.

Let's start with the one everyone knows about, the stock market.

First, the NY Post put it best, the stock market was going up and down like a hooker's drawers.

New-York-Post-Cover-1312990193

What's going on with the market? I have no idea, but I have a hunch, however, that part of the problem is that all the grownups on Wall Street are on vacation, and a bunch of kids got a little carried away with themselves.

If that's the case, wouldn't we have seen this kind of thing happen in August before? Probably, and it turns out that's exactly what has happened. (Read this hilarious post about that.)

Of course, the market was also wacky because of the uncertainty created by the debt-ceiling shenanigans. My old boss, Kurt Andersen, is exactly right when he says that our politics these days is suffering from some kind of autoimmune disorder where the body mistakenly attacks itself.

All of those August events led some notable folks to start talking about something very much on my mind these days, investments in startup companies. I won't link to those posts, because I'm going to slam them now by pointing out simply that it's always easy to forecast doom.

What I didn't read anywhere was this: If the stock market sucks as a place to keep money, wouldn't that help startups and other alternative investments? I mean, only those with tinfoil hats are suggesting that you should take all your money out of the markets and put it in gold. You'd have to be exceptionally bad at math to keep it in a bank. Wouldn't all that money do better investing in something that actually has a chance to grow? Not to get preachy, but they'd be also be able to invest in the one thing that everyone says is the best way to create new jobs. I understand there's more risk, but with risk comes...

Ahh nevermind. Let's move on.

The good news for startups is that smart investors understand that market fluctuations are materially irrelevant to what they do. George Zachary made the case very clearly in a single tweet

No matter what happens with public markets, my CRV partners & I will still be actively funding early stage founders pursuing the bold.

Adeo Ressi made the case, properly I think, that this is actually a time when we should have some cautious optimism. Brad Feld and Seth Levine of the Foundry group both made essentially the same case as Zachary and Ressi, but they did it in their own inimitable style, Brad saying "ignore the dow" and Seth with a long, reasoned post full of words like "numerator" and "capital efficiency."

The bottom line for all of them was the same bottom line I got reading about why love is the opposite of underwear: Do what you love so much that it doesn't get boring, and have grit about sticking with it. VCs and neuroscientists agree!

And so does the writer of this excellent story: "A Few Thousand Reasons to Be Optimistic."

Now, I know you are on the edge of your seat, wondering what all this has to do with Richard III. 

The prognosticators who came out and said that the market volatility signaled the end of all investments in startups were, I think, essentially emulating Shakespeare in saying: "Now is the winter of our discontent." (One of them, whom I still respect a great deal, actually said "winter is coming.")

What they didn't do, however, was read the next line.

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this son of York

You see that? What Richard is saying there is that the winter is now made into a glorious summer by the son (sun).

The doom-and-gloomers are missing that. They want you to believe that things will be bad bad bad.

This is something that was not lost, by the way, on Steinbeck when he wrote The Winter of our Discontent. That book centers on a man who worked hard, had strong ethics, but then let his ethics slip so that he could make a buck and get ahead. It was a cautionary tale that we've seen played out in everything from Glengarry Glen Ross and Bonfire of the Vanities through Gordon Gekko and right up to The Social Network.

Some people learn from these kinds of stories what not to do, and some learn the upside down lesson that if they cheat, if they worry about superficial gains, if they wear a hoody and tell people that a billion dollars is cool, that somehow they will get ahead. Those people might for a while, too, but for the world winter is a good thing because that hoody just isn't enough to get you through a winter.

Here's how this became concrete for me just yesterday.

Just by way of background, I'm the CEO of a startup that uses a crowd of writers to help businesses do the blogging that they don't have the time or ability to do themselves. We sometimes get criticized because we don't pay writers very much. As a former journalist, author and writing instructor, this pains me. I want writers to do well. I understand that for many aspiring writers, there are just no good opportunities to write professionally.

Blogmutt now has paying customers and a crowd of writers working for them. I sent a note congratulating one of the writers yesterday because in a single day she wrote awesome posts for four different customers ranging from a super high tech website to a local boutique retail store. She's never been a paid writer before, but she is now. She wrote back and told me that she would like to donate the money she's earned to Water for People.

I really just about cried. Why? First because it's such a great idea and it will be so wonderful to be able to help out some deserving non-profits. But I was also moved to tears because it confirmed what we've been saying all along: that there is a group of very talented writers out there who would love an opportunity to write something real, something that will be helpful to real people, and get a foot in the door of writing professionally.

I have to admit that I've perhaps spent a bit too much of the last few months getting too close to the world of the kid in the hoody talking about how a billion dollars is cool. I participated in a kind of beauty pageant for startups, I "took meetings" and I talked about valuations for Blogmutt with some pretty exuberant numbers given that at that point we didn't have any customers.

We are still technically fundraising. We are still taking those meetings and we certainly would love to have some more money in the bank. We'd also love to have the connection to real leaders in our world that comes in an unparalleled way with a real investment. But now that we have customers we are realizing firsthand the truism that the best kind of investment is a customer paying for something that provides value. We have those customers now, and we have freelance writers who enjoy writing for those customers.

Our plan is that the warmth radiating from delighted customers and writers will make a glorious summer out of whatever winter comes our way.

A glorious summer. Not the August zaniness, just the ice cream gloriouisness.

Mmmmmmm. Ice cream.


CRM Pipeline for Beta List Tracking

This blog is not for my usual followers (Hi, Mom!). This is just the handiest place to put this tool. This will only be useful for startup companies with a beta invite list. I looked around a lot and none of the Customer Relationship Management tools work for what I needed, which is to track the people who've signed up to be early "beta" customers or users of a new product.

(In my case that's Blogmutt.)

So, in true start-up fashion, I built one. Here it is:

 

Feel free to use this and download it here. The rub is that you can't just save a copy and then start using it, you have to download it as Excel and then upload it back into Google Docs. (I suppose you could just use it in Excel, but... Ewww.) If someone knows a way to get around that with Google Docs, let me know.

I have to give major props here to the team at BetaLi.st. They are the ones who did the heavy lifting of making it possible for anyone to quickly launch an excellent beta list signup tool. My spreadsheet is just a way of taking the results of that and turning it into a CRM pipeline. If Salesforce.com didn't suck so much, and one of the promising new entries in the world of online CRM would add this feature -- I'm looking at you, Capsule -- I wouldn't have had to do this, but here we are. Luckily, in this crazy world, just about anyone can suddenly become a niche CRM venture.

So, feel free to use this, and if you feel compelled by the universe and decorum to give some credit, give it to Blogmutt, the best blog writing service on four legs. Woof!


A Pull Carr TechCrunch Homage Loosely Related to Blogmutt

Blogmutt (the company I'm starting with longtime partner Wade Green) has studiously avoided seeking too much attention just yet. With no PR effort at all we currently have more beta test customers than we can handle, and more sign up every day for our closed invite list.

Foundershowcase Soon, though, we're going to be getting some coverage, as I'll be on stage at the Founder Showcase. Reporters signed up to be there, and the organizers had to change venues to accommodate demand from them and others, so it's going to be hard to keep Blogmutt a secret.

I don't know if we'll win. We did get more votes than any of the 63 companies that applied, so based on that alone we might even be the favorites. (That's bad luck, now that I think about it. This is an underdog kind of crowd. Luckily, we are a company named for a mutt, so the underdog-lovers will want to at least sniff our butt.) [Insert panting noise here.]

No matter what happens, there's likely to be some coverage, and I was a reporter long enough to know that the more I try to manage the coverage, the more I'll be frustrated with how the coverage comes out. Indeed if I had a PR person right now I'm quite sure they would insist that I not run this blog post, which is part of the perverse pleasure I'm getting from writing it.

I can't help but think about coverage, though. The reality for Blogmutt is that the best place for coverage would be the Costco Magazine. But we have a ways to go until we are ready for that, so for now I just daydream.

I read TechCrunch every day, and have for years (thought not as closely as this computer!) Anyway, I think a story there would be fun.  I thought about trying to make that happen, for instance, by issuing a press release with an embargo, just so TechCrunch would break all the PR rules and run with it anyway. 

Meh. 

I thought about hosting a secret dinner in San Francisco and making it clear that everyone from TechCrunch was barred from the meeting.

Better. But still "meh."

Blogmutt is based on the idea of writing, so for fun I decided to write up a story as if it appeared on TechCrunch written by one of the writers. But which one? I considered Sarah Lacy, but it would be perverse for me to sprinkle in references to the baby in my belly and international travel. I considered MG, but I couldn't figure out how to work in enough Apple fanboy references, or somehow rant (justifiably) about cable and SMS fees. Jason, Erick, AlexiaLeena and the others are better known for the content of what they dig up then the way they write it.

So that left only one choice: Paul Carr. He's such a distinctive writer, and yet the challenge here is that he so rarely does stories about new companies. Even Arrington, flush with cash after his sale and six years later, writes more here's-a-new-company stories then Paul.

Paul's specialty is writing… well, stories like this, complete with periods on the outside of the quotation marks:

 

NSFW: Why You're a Duffer if You Write for Blogmutt (And Why I'll Tell So Many People To Do It Anyway)

By Fake Paul Carr

I love writing books, it's my favourite activity, but it comes with a sidecar of baggage that I never know what to do with. Amoung these is the inevitable questions from aspiring writers wanting to know what they should do to become a writer just like me.

(I am indeed a writer and you can tell because I sprinkle everything I write with completely whorish announcements such as this: The Upgrade is now available here in the UK, or here with free worldwide shipping.)

The part I love about writing is the sitting in a hotel room at three a.m. composing words about me living my life. It's a tad self-obsessed, yes, but it's what I am.

So imagine that, say, I meet a woman whilst flying or attending some function. She's a decent enough sort, perhaps she did quite well in college meaning both that she did a right proper job with her class work in English Literature, and that she met a spectacular bloke who had the misfortune of being exceptionally skilled at something highly valued in the workplace. I'm thinking something financial that is completely lost on me, or perhaps something making it possible for Exxon/Shell/Whatever to make 0.000001 shillings more per barrel of oil, thus making this bloke so much money that his wife really shouldn't work, and instead should have the job of making sure that their lovely offspring shall never know a moment of want.

Now the children of this woman are, let's say, 8 and 10. This woman is right busy with all the things that you might expect, but she's got an eye on the fact that her job essentially expires about a decade hence and she -- the bright shining star on her campus not so long ago -- will be left without much of a purpose whilst still in possession of a majority of her faculties.

Have that woman fixed in your mind. OK, now imagine that woman asks me what she should do to become a writer just like me. My only answer and the thing that I like as not might say makes me sound like a complete wanker: "I suggest that you leave your husband and children and do nothing but write all day every day for years. It's the only way you might be able to become a writer of any substance whatsoever".

You can see why it is that I try to avoid these conversations. 

Paul-bosom I'd so much more fancy signing the buxom cleavage of an adoring admirer and then retire to my hotel for more writing and perhaps a bit of watching weirdly anachronistic perks on the telly. 

But really, back to that woman. Consider her other options. She could spend the odd bits of time that she has writing a blog for herself. Along with the unwashed masses she'll drop pebbles into the ocean of words out there and cause not a ripple.

She could also consider writing for one of the content farms. This would be far worse, in my view. Her work would get reviewed by the mouth-breathers who aren't talented enough to get a proper journalism job. She might actually write something worthwhile, but the sods who work for the farm will reject it because that's their chance to do what soul-crushing editors have done through the ages. They have a bizarre job in the first place, reviewing writing that's written on the odd hope that someone searching for the 2,472,834th most searched-for phrase on the 'net will click the story written to appear just for that phrase. Dante's circles can't quite imagine something so horid.

Blogmutt-150 So now comes onto the scene this Blogmutt, with the particularly American fascination for animals. (Did the founders name it that hoping to get invited to the party thrown each year by SurveyMonkey and attended by TheBlogFrog, MailChimp, SeatHound and the rest?)

Blogmutt, which debuts in less than a fortnight at the Founder Showcase, is doing something so insidiously evil that I find myself with a kind of fond admiration. What's so evil? They are offering to that woman a chance to write blog posts and get paid not much, but an amount that is agreed to ahead of time and seems fair all around. That's not the evil bit, I don't give a jot if she wants to write blog posts because she happens to be a competent writer and the blokes who run the business with a blog can't string two words together, which appears to be the point of the whole endeavour.

No, the evil bit is that Blogmutt plans on rewarding the writers with badges, awards and the kind of digital ephemera served with such brutal efficiency by Zynga and the others. Writers are so firmly entrenched at the bottom of any normal social circle that, in general, we latch obsessively onto any dollops of affirmation that might slip our way. Now matter how derivative, or dull, any praise for our writing is cause for an immediate hit of the refresh button in a way that would make any heroin dealer recoil in horror. That's the fucking evil part of Blogmutt's plan. They are supplying crack to an army of pierced urban swots in hoodies. Fucking evil, that.

And yet it's exactly what I'll tell any callow aspiring writer who dares ask me for advice on becoming a real writer. I'll be the one hooking them up with their first dime bag, and from there I'll just hope they stay home writing away, waiting for another hit. I'll feel so superior to them in every way.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to refresh my Amazon page to check for any new customer reviews.

[Anyone interested in actual information about Blogmutt can check out the Frequently Barked Questions, our blog, sign up for the beta on our home page, or feel free to contact us for more.]


What's the right length for a blog post?

I've been fascinated for years by the concept of form when it comes to works that appear creative.

Like all callow reporters fresh from J-school, I had a mind to upset the applecart and write in totally new ways.

That didn't last long.

I started using some of the standard forms of journalism early on for two reasons.

One is that I read The New Journalism and then basically everything else that Tom Wolfe ever wrote. I've written in this space about how Facebook is like the newest form of New Journalism, but this was something different. My writing took on the forms of journalism that had gone on before me because it worked. Wolfe was the first to point out that the "new" journalism was really the exact same writing of Dickens and many others.

The second reason I started using the forms of journalism was that I discovered they were forms for a reason, and the way in which words get written can follow a form, and still sing. What matters most is that the content is compelling, and then after that the words must just do the job of getting the compelling bits into the craniums of the readers.

For example?

No less than Bob Woodward recently wrote a tic-tock, a story that is not breaking news, but goes back to recount an event in chronological order. Publishers turn to this kind of story quite often when the news isn't new, but is so compelling that they want to run the story again a few days later. It may contain some new tidbits, but it's really not news. In the chronological style, however, it clicks right along like a clock. But how to end such a story? Well, you need a "kicker," a quote that's so delicious, so authentic, and so encapsulating that you want to make sure every reader sees it.

When I'm consulting on communication topics, I always tell people that documents, paragraphs and sentences all have two strong spots: the beginning and the end. The start of a story is crucial for sure, but the kicker can help you walk away with real understanding.

Bob Woodward knows better than to screw around with that form, so at the end of his tic-tock on the Osama bin Laden story he ends with a quote from President Obama. "We donated a $60 million helicopter to this operation. Could we not afford to buy a tape measure?"

Yes. Just so.

There are plenty of other forms. The form of a story reporting on scientific discoveries gets used all the time, primarily because the people doing the writing have no freaking clue what it is they are writing about, so they fall back on the standard ways. That's what makes this satire so spot-on.

Sports stories have their own form, so much so that a couple of clever coders came up with a way to generate an AP-style baseball story just by entering the box score of a game

There's a form to good screenplays, too. I wrote here about movies that seem like they are all over the map and yet when looked at up close they indeed follow classic forms of three-act screenplays. Following a form does not mean giving up on creativity.

The other reason, by the way, that writers use forms is time. I remember struggling, on deadline, with a late-night crime story when working on the late, great New York Newsday. Someone came over to ask how it was going (maybe Peg Tyre?) and said, "Look, this is a cop story. First graf: What happened. Second graf: Where's the body. Third graf: Your best quote. Then just fill in details and quotes until you get to nine inches. 

(Translation: graf=paragraph. inches=column inches in the paper. It never really works out to measure it that way because the columns always changed, so basically an "inch" was about 30 words. Also, there's always a body in the crime story. It's either in "fair condition" or "recovering at home" or "awaiting toxicology reports" etc.)

Why all this about forms for me right now?

Two reasons.

One is that I'm currently raising investment for my newest business, Blogmutt. When I put together a deck for my first business, MyTrafficNews, I wanted to break the mold and do something really different. With the second business I pushed some boundaries, but mostly stuck to the script. With this one, I'm following the form. I've seen a few different forms, including this one that's a MadLib for the one-sentence description, and this one for the overall slide deck. Garage.com says I should have 10 slides, I have 10 slides.

I'm coaching some companies right now that are headed to the Colorado Capitol Conference, and mostly I just tell them the same thing: Be creative, but be creative within the form of a slide deck that follows the form of a pitch deck. And I also tell them to just cut words.

The second reason I'm thinking about forms is also blogmutt. We will be asking a crowd of writers to come up with blog posts for small and niche business blogs. The pay won't be fantastic, but it should rival or exceed what spec writing jobs on the internet pay. It will certainly exceed what most bloggers make on most blogs -- that is: zero. I'm expecting that we'll have quite a few writers who perhaps studied English in college but have never been able to write professionally, and they just want to make some extra money for scrapbooking, fantasy baseball, or maybe to pay bills if they do really well. We'll be helping those writers to understand the form of a classic blog post. Some writers who want to work with blogmutt may want to try some fancy stuff and alter the very form of a typical blog post.

They can do that, but just not for Blogmutt. That's why even though I'm writing lots of posts for the Blogmutt blog these days, those posts in general follow the form of a helpful blog post.

It's only over here, on sco.tt, that I babble on about everything from Bob Woodward to a slide deck. This is my personal blog, and that's just what this is all about.

So, the answer to the question, "What's the right length for a blog post?" is that it's exactly long enough to do what you want the post to do. What do you want your posts to do?

What did this post do? Several things, even though there's not much form here…

Sorry about that, but thanks for reading anyway!


Scott Yates year-end wrapup

A quick post with some odds and ends for an end to an odd year...

  • With Steve Maxwell, I finished writing the manuscript for The Future of Water, which will be published in the Spring by the American Water Works Association. Look for much more on that here, and let me know if you want to come to the party!
  • I'm a huge fan of Brad Feld. He's a hugely successful founder, and now investor. I've been a successful founder, but haven't yet got to start investing in other companies. Someday soon, I hope. He often blogs about all the books he reads, and now he's teaching himself a programming language. Sometimes I wonder how he does it all, and then I remember that in addition to just being smart, he doesn't have kids. That difference became stark for me because right while he's learning Python, I'm learning a programming language, too. It's just that I'm learning NXT, the language that programs the LEGO Mindstorms robots.
  • The robot was a gift from my son, who asked me a day later if he could have the robot if I died. I wasn't sure how I should respond to that. Anyway, if I die in some suspicious way, make sure my son has a rock-solid alibi.
  • I had a rough go of it getting the software working, and had my first rotten experience with Lego. Turns out I had a bad disc and the software isn't available online (I know, right!?!?) so I took just the disc to the store to swap it. They told me I needed to come back with the whole set. So I schlep out there a second time with the whole set, and they give me -- you guessed it -- just the disc. Anyway, if you have any hints about learning that NXT language, let me know.
  • One last note related to my son... He's been enjoying his club house most of this winter. Only now, when it's below 10 degrees outside, is it too cold. It doesn't have a front door, so, we'll probably head over to the best place in Denver for used doors, Bud's Warehouse. If you haven't been to Bud's you should check it out. Amazing place, a great story, and one of the true gems of Denver.
  • Second Saturday Science, my attempt to have a fun activity for the family with some learning thrown in, is still on ice. It was lots of fun, and the gang at the Wash Park Whole Foods was very helpful, but I just ran out of time. If you have questions or interest in that, just let me know. The funniest thing about doing that for me was this: Friends of mine could never keep straight what Saturday of the month we had the event. The lesson I learned is that even if you put a message in the very name of your venture, the message may not get through.
  • I'll be waiting once again for the Denver Public Schools calendar for next school year to get approved by the board. Until then, the current calendar has all the weird and wacky days off provided in a format that is useable. This is the No. 1 way that people find this blog through Google: looking for the DPS calendar.
  • I've started doing some consulting and training about writing through the Murawski Group. It's been a real honor to work with this group, especially the namesake Tom Murawski. Tom's been improving writing for thousands of people all over the world for years now, but he still delights in clear writing. I'm proud of my small part in encouraging Tom to enter a poetry contest put on by the National Punctuation Day website, and he won! Here's his delicious haiku:

Time to eat Grandma!
Save her with a comma, or
She's yours to savor.

  • One last note: With my longtime collaborator Wade Green, I'm exploring a business that will help small businesses create the blog content that they need in this Googly world. If you have, or know of, a small business that has a blog and would be willing to let us run some tests, contact me directly. Thanks.

If you are a friend, and somehow you didn't get the Yates Family Christmas Card by email, the fault is entirely mine. Please contact me so I can get you on that list.

And to friends now and friends yet to be, here's my wish for you and yours to have a wonderful 2011.


Wikileaks Shows Generational Divide (And a Startup Lesson)

The whole Wikileaks event is fascinating on so many levels. There's been ton's of great coverage. I've read lots of it, but there's one thing that hasn't really been said: This seems like essentially a generational issue, yet another sign that the world is changing fast and the Hey-man-let's-change-the-world Boomers are the ones standing in the way of history.

Let me explain.

For all the hand-wringing, the actual upshot of the leaks has been... zilch. No covert operatives have been frogmarched down the streets of Moscow or Beijing. No foreign secretaries have been sacked.

(In the funniest tweet I've seen in a long time, my old Spy Magazine colleague Nell Scovell said: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange thinks Hillary Clinton should resign. Does he know NOTHING about the Clintons???")

Clinton, of course, will not resign and neither will anyone else. If anyone was harmed even a little, all the governments and journalists so outraged about the leaks would point to that harm as an example of why the leaks are so dangerous. They've got nothing.

The only reason they are so upset is that they like keeping their little secrets. It makes them feel important. So far, however, the leaks show that the government of Russia is corrupt (Say it aint so!) and in most cases that diplomats have done a pretty good job. If all this stuff hadn't been leaked information, this "news" would be classified as "not news."

How is all this related to startups? I recently saw a presentation from one of the best startup guys working these days: Eric Ries. Ries is an advocate of taking the absolute minimum product that you can create and putting it on the web so you can see if and how people will use it. Then you learn your lessons, iterate quickly and keep moving. Someone asked him how it was possible to do this without alerting your competition to what it is you are doing.

Reis' answer was spot-on. In essence, he said that your competition is just busy trying to do whatever it is they are doing, and really won't be paying much attention to what a startup is trying to do in the same space. He said that you could actually take all the code you've written and send it to your closest competitor, and the chances are that they really wouldn't know what to do with it. So don't worry about them, Ries said, worry about your biggest challenge, which is to just do a good job of figuring out what your customers want and providing it to them.

So it is with all these "secrets" that are now out. They are only secret because of the legacy of the positions the people hold who are doing the communicating.

That's why I say this is a generational issue. People over 45 or so have this assumption that all communication is private. Gen Xers and younger -- the people who regularly post on the 'net where they are eating lunch -- understand that all communication is essentially public.

The reason there's been so much handwringing among the older parts of the media is that they liked the world back in the day when they, and they alone, would get to see all the private stuff and publicize it when they felt that it was interesting. The gatekeepers are just not that useful any more. What's useful is a search engine that allows anyone interested to find what they are looking for.

For those of you keeping score at home, gatekeepers are the Boomers, and search engines are from Gen X.

The person who allegedly provided all those cables to Wikileaks? A kid. The one calling for that kid to be executed? A presidential candidate, a boomer, who cloaks himself in Christianity. (Hypocrisy infects all generations, but its most friendly host is the Baby Boomer.)

So just remember these two things: First, if you really want something to be private, don't put it on the 'net. Second, ask yourself why you want it to be private. Chances are that if you try to keep it private, it will just make really boring stuff that much more sensational.


TechCrunch Meetup in Denver

As of this morning at 8, nobody had volunteered to be the TechCrunch meetup organizer for Denver for the big fifth anniversary party. So I raised my hand.

I've been reading for most of those five years, and admire what Mike Arrington has done a lot.

And it's not exactly hard to get me to go to a bar on a Friday afternoon. I mean, I've posted on my permanent Scott Yates contact page that the best way to reach me on Friday Happy Hour is to go to the Pub on Pearl.

So, if you read this, I hope you can stop by starting around 5. But in honor of Arrington, let's not shake hands.


All Signs Point to the Fact that I am a Traffic Nerd

The first step to, I'm told, is to admit that you have a problem.

My name is Scott -- ("Hi, Scott!") -- and I'm a traffic sign nerd.

Last night the incomparable Tim Jackson tipped me to this amazing story of a guy who took it upon himself to fix an Interstate Highway sign in Southern California, specifically in Pasadena. The sign lacked what one guy saw as an obvious bit of information, so he decided to do a bit of performance art and fix the sign himself.

Sign-new
 

I actually knew that sign. My wife's family is in Pasadena, and I've driven under that sign many times, and I remember thinking that it didn't seem like it followed Federal Interstate Highway sign standards. I never said anything, thinking California maybe had its own rules. I also didn't want her family to think I was a total traffic nerd. 

Now the truth is out: The sign was non-conforming!!!!

Ahem.

Anyway, even though CalTrans knew about the citizen's modification, they didn't do anything about it because they knew that his fix made the sign better. When they finally fixed the sign themselves, they essentially incorporated his modification.

That guy had guts.

I was able to get one sign changed on the Interstate Highway system back in 2004, but I did it the old-fashioned way: lobbying Colorado's DOT to do the work for me.

At the time, I was operating MyTrafficNews, and a bunch of readers wrote in to tell me that a new and nearly constant traffic jam we were reporting about was not the fault of traffic, it was the fault of a sign. The story was that at the end of one highway a new sign gave people a choice of going north or south, but the sign telling people to exit on the right was to the left of the sign telling people to exit to the left. The result was drivers trying to merge suddenly at the last second when the realized they were in the wrong lane.

We took pictures and made a big stink. We submitted the pictures to "This is broken," then a great service of user-experience expert Mark Hurst.

CDOT, to their credit, had a crew fix the sign within a week or so of our campaign.

We had lots of fun with signs at MyTrafficNews. When a truck hit one of those Variable Message Signs, leaving it dangling and threatening -- as we wrote at the time -- to turn a Pontiac into a pancake, we jumped to action. First, we did our best to alert people, as the sign that was designed to help traffic instead made traffic horrible for half the city for an entire day. ("Don't these signs take a Hippocratic oath?" we wrote at the time.)

Then, we wondered what the sign would say if it could make its own message on that day. In haiku.

All signs looking down
Gridlock is all around me
I must blame myself

You see, I really am a traffic sign nerd. 

So my question is, what's the second step?


Welcome to the tt neighborhood, Twee.tt!

The unusual domain (sco.tt) of this blog gets as much attention as any of the content. When I first got it more than four years ago, I was wandering in the wilderness to some degree.

Then when Matt Mullenweg (the Wordpress guy) signed up for ma.tt, it made the neighborhood feel a bit more inhabited.

The domain had another great day when the incomparable Adeo Ressi praised it. (I wonder if that's a part of why he decided to open a version of the Founder Institute in Denver? Probably not, but a guy can dream.)

Anyway, now the couple of modest dwellings here in the land of .tt learned today that we are getting a new high-rise: Twitter is going to use twee.tt.

The story has only speculation, and the whole notion of URL shorteners is a weird one that I think we will look back on like we look back on "baud rate" now. Somehow I think the internet will figure out a way to eliminate the need for those soon enough.

But for now, it's a new bit of fun attention being paid to our little corner of the internet. 

Should I bring them a fruit basket?


Techstars AND Founder Institute! This is going to be a great summer in Colorado

Update: Brad Feld/Jim Franklin just linked to this post, so I thought it might be a good idea to include an update. I'm now a Founder Institute graduate, and I've seen many TechStars company up close, and I agree with Brad/Jim that they are both great programs, and it's worth checking them both out. Note that the deadlines are for last year, they are different this year. Other than that, this guide is still helpful, I hope. -Scott

 

Colorado is going to have a great summer; the weather will be awesome and there are lots of great chances to hear music, hike, etc. That's always been the case.

What's new is that there will be two startup accelerators (we don't call them incubators any more.) The big kid on the block is TechStars, which has a track record that is getting up into the Harlem Globetrotter realm for win percentage. The program has done so well that it has expanded, but the Boulder program is the bedrock. Anyone interested in the tech scene in Colorado can tell you the energy and enthusiasm from the companies working in "The Bunker" is infectious.

I'm also now excited about another entrant, the Founder Institute, which was founded by legendary starup guy Adeo Ressi, who started TheFunded, a pretty disruptive (in a good way) site in the VC world. Adeo started that after a string of successful exits.

He's also landed a big name to be the lead mentor for the Denver version of Founder Institute, Jon Nordmark of eBags fame.

Now, if I think TechStars is so great, why did I apply to the Founder Institute?

Well, the answer lies in one of the items in the grid below. I'm busy enough with my other projects that it would be hard for me to get to Boulder every day for three months. Also, I don't really have an idea that fits into the TechStars motif, and I also don't have a co-founder. Most of the TechStars teams are just that: teams.

So I will be be attending the classes, and I have a new business idea that may fit perfectly into the Founder Institute system, but Adeo keeps saying that with Founder Institute it's really all about the Founder, and not about the idea. I've heard David Cohen say similar things about TechStars, but the application does ask several questions about the business plan, market, and the like. Even if the plan changes during TechStars, it's clear most of those accepted go in with a plan. I'll be going into Founder Institute with just the vague outline of a business idea.

There are other accelerators around the country, and they are getting plenty of attention, but I can't think of a better place to be than Colorado in the summertime.

Bottom line, Colorado is going to be an amazing place to start a company this year. If you want to be part of it, now is the time to check it out. No matter what your situation, there's an accelerator ready and waiting for you here. You just need to apply!

Colorado New Technology Accelerators

A Comparison Chart

Name Founder Institute TechStars
Founded in San Francisco/Silicon Valley; 2009 Boulder; 2007
Now also in Seattle, LA, San Diego, NY, DC, Singapore and Paris Boston, Seattle
Colorado application due April 25, 2010 March 22, 2010
Cost of application $50 None
Application Personality/Aptitude test, LinkedIn profile Background, business concept
Team application? Allowed, but not needed Generally needed for acceptance
Economics You pay $600, and contribute 3.5 percent equity of your company into a pool that is owned by all founders and mentors in your class You receive $6,000 per founder (up to 3), and you contribute 6 percent common / founder equity of your company to TechStars
Full-time in program Not required, many keep their "day job" Immersive, full-time for three months
Time Commitment One night a week, plus extra work on your own, for four months Yes
Companies in each session 10-45 10
Percent women historically About 25 About 10
Average Age About 37 About 27
"Big Names" Jon Nordmark for Colo., Adeo Ressi of The Funded started it David Cohen started it, with involvement and support from Brad Feld
Acceptance based on Aptitude test, strength of founder; idea not part of application Combined strength of company idea and team
Mentors Only successful startup CEOs Successful startup CEOs, VCs, lawyers and others
Also included Free or super-reduced legal and other services from 40 partners Office space in "The Bunker" in Boulder, some legal and other services

The Mark Cuban Effect at DefragCon

The DefragCon kicks off in an hour, but the pre-conference get-together was plenty interesting.

I've been to a number of tech conferences, but somehow some of the dynamics always surprise me, especially what I think of as the Mark Cuban effect.

Cuban, of course, is the brash and bold entrepreneur who built up an early "dot-com" and sold it to Yahoo at the absolute peak of the market before the tech crash in 2000.

Now he's involved in all kinds of stuff, but is best known for owning a basketball team. The name of the team, the Mavericks, matches his personality perfectly.

Cuban is known in tech circles for having contrarian viewpoints, and issuing them as loudly as he can. For instance he railed against the Google acquisition of YouTube.

He's certainly earned the right to do that.

Now, I don't want to pick on DefragCon, which is actually much better than some of the other tech conferences, but it is still full of people who just love to do a "Cuban." They make loud, bold pronouncements about why an idea will absolutely not work, how it's been done before, or why some competitor will demolish the idea before it can get any traction, etc.

I ran into lots of those people when I was founding, then running, a web-based business dealing in traffic information. If I would have listened to them I never would have started the business, and I certainly never would have sold it to Traffic.com. 

Heck, I may not have even bothered to wake up most mornings. 

Yesterday I talked to a couple of entrepreneurs who spent good money to come to the conference to learn and try to connect with others, and almost upon walking in the door they got the full "Cuban" from people who have never built, let alone sold, a company. (I actually had two experiences like that just in one day. The other was at the practice session for the upcoming Angel Capital Summit. More on that next week.)

I'm not saying that every idea walking around is great, and a little pushback is always a good idea. But for the next two days at Defrag I'll be attempting to tunnel through some of the bravado and find the great stories of new ideas, and bring them to you on Examiner.com or on sco.tt. I may not get to all of them right away, but I will try to report on many of them.

If you have a great story to tell (not just a press release announcing with great fanfare that version 3.2 of your whatever has just been released) look for me and let me hear it.


Stay-at-home dad

It's true, I'm essentially a stay-at-home dad, and what's weird is how busy I am. Most of the things I'm doing are open to the public, at least on-line, so join me for any or all of it. I know you are busy, too, but it's like they say, "If you need a job done, give it to a busy person."

Here's what I'm up to:

  • Getting ready for the second installment of Second Saturday Science.

    The first was a big hit, check out the photos on the site for more. We're expecting a similar crowd of kids for this month's event, so we will not be in the community room this time, we'll be right out in the cafe area. If you have kids from around 6 to around 12, c'mon by. It's a lot of fun.

  • Doing some coaching for TheBlogFrog in advance of the Angel Capital Summit.

    This is a great new company doing something that is great now, and will get even better.

    Remember how comments on blogs looked about the same for years, and how they didn't really interact with people in the modern, socially connected world? Then IntenseDebate came along and made the comments make more sense, and connected the commenters to their real-world profile, etc.

    Well, you know how forums on blogs have looked the same for years, and how they don't really interact with people in the modern, socially connected world?

    You catch on quick! You guessed it, the BlogFrog team has developed an easy way for bloggers to plug a fantastic forum into any blog, and maybe even make a little extra money on it in the process. They've already gotten some great traction with that most discerning of internet groups: the Mommy Bloggers. Keep an eye on BlogFrog, I know I will.

  • Attending and reporting on Defrag Con 2009.

    It's been a while since I was a full-time reporter, but I've been attending a few events lately for this blog, but also for my Examiner reports on New Technology and on Google Wave. It's something that's quite comfortable for me to do: walking up and asking questions, and trying to write something coherent about it.

    The difference these days is that with the Internet as cool as it is, you can actually create things instead of just writing about them. Case in point is that just last week I wrote about how Wave could be integrated into a conference, and today I contacted the chief Defrag Confrencista to ask permission, he said yes, and a few minutes later I had launched the DefragCon Wave. (You need to already be in Wave to see that. Sorry.)

    Wave is still in its infancy, but it's fun to try it out. If you are on Wave, be sure to contact me in that brave new world. My username is "scodtt" (like Sco.tt with a "d" for the dot.)


  • Helping Bud's Warehouse with a new site.

    You can click the link now, but wait until you see the new one, it will be much better. Really the best way to keep up with Bud's until the change is to check their Twitter account. This in some ways is the best twitter account I follow because the information they get about new merchandise is so handy, if I happen to be looking for what they get in.

  • Lastly, but bestly, I'm spending time being a husband and a father. Kathy is busy keeping the world safe for arts in education, so I end up picking up a lot more of the time with our son, but that's just getting to be more and more fun every day.

So, if I'm not as in touch, or I'm not keeping my Facebook page quite as up-to-date, now you'll know why. 

Do keep in touch with me, however, especially if there's something I can do for you. These days we all need to count on our friends more than ever.

Thanks for reading!


Greatest Day of Sco.tt's Life!

I'm spending much of the day at the DemoGala event in downtown Denver. I'll be reporting on it for the Examiner soon enough, but I first have to say that this is the greatest day in the life of Sco.tt.

No, not my life, my domain's life. 

You see, I have a card with the domain on it, and that's it. The picture you see above is the whole image on the card. Kind of a minimalist thing that I thought was kind of cool. Turns out that for most people... not so much. They just look at it, and then look at me. Some people are genuinely annoyed.

But not the people at this all-technical event today. They all love it.

The best reaction so far came from the incomparable Adeo Ressi. He's the guy behind two of the great ideas of the last few years: TheFunded and the Founder Institute. He and I have communicated about another potential project a few times, but today was the first time we'd met in person. When he had to go off to speak, he asked for my card. I handed it to him and he said it was the greatest card he'd ever seen. "This makes it worth the trip to Denver!"

Then he went to speak and I went off to a different session hosted by Examiner COO Dave Schafer. Why? Because I said I would, and because Schafer and I long ago toiled side-by-side at an actual newspaper printed on real paper. It was actually an excellent panel with Matt Cohen of OneSpot, Boulder and BDNT's own Robert Reich from OneRiot and the very impressive Lisa Stone of BlogHer. (I'm a sucker for journalists turned entrepreneurs.)

Anyway, one of my spies (I have them everywhere!) told me that Adeo held up my card during his speech, and said it was great, and then he called me a jack-ass because I didn't come to his speech.

To be called a jack-ass by Ressi. Man, if that's not awesome I don't know what is.


Don't Name That Trend... Be The Trend!

I've seen three different "Blegs" from people casting about for a new name for three different big picture phenomena.


(As they taught me in my magazine writing class back in the day, three makes a trend!)

One is looking for a name for the movement toward more technology and openness in government. This is a topic I'm endlessly fascinated with, but I don't think it will ever have a name because this is just the march of history.

A second is looking for a name for the flow of status updates that come in through Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest. This one may get a name, but I'm not sure what it will be. All the ones suggested, even by me, pretty much stink. 

I think this is becoming a real issue. People are really grappling with how to deal with this stream. It took a long time for people to deal with e-mail, and now people just don't know how to deal with a flow of blogs, status updates, tweets and all of it.

It helps me to think of that stream as my "published lifestream." My private stream is, of course, email and phone calls, but my published stream is the collection of published status reports that I want to read, and then there is the stream of what I publish both here on this blog, on my twitter account and my Facebook page.

In my mind the solution uses RSS, which right now works just the way I want it to work for blogs, but doesn't work for the others and even though the difference between a Facebook status update and a blog entry is one that is very difficult to explain because they are essentially the same thing at heart.

There are no good solutions for ways to deal with that stream. Even turning tweets into an RSS feed just doesn't work yet. There's much more to say on this, but I'll save it so I don't get too far off topic.

The third (and therefore trend-making) trend looking for a name is the hunt for a name for the Denver-Boulder high-tech scene. This one absolutely positively will fail, and here's why: The Silicon Valley needed a name because it didn't really have any name before. It was, and is, really, the suburbs of Oakland, which is the original place where there was no there there. The Silicon Valley is the outskirts of the place with nothing there. 

There's absolutely nothing interesting about the Silicon Valley outside of the fact that a whole bunch of revolutionary high-tech companies have done very well there. It's amazing for that one aspect, and completely free of any other attributes that make for an interesting society.

Denver is an actual place. There IS a there there. Same goes for Boulder. Coming up with a name for one aspect of a place that is interesting on it's own won't work because people are already familiar with Denver and Colorado, and do not need a new moniker to help understand it. 

And, by the way, having a name for one aspect of the economy here also won't do anything to make it super-dooper-fabulous, as I have a hunch some of the boosters are hoping.

All three attempts at naming, however, I think come from something of a Baby Boomer mindset. It's important for people who were part of "The Summer of Love" or "Watergate" or "Getting Fat and Lazy and Moving to the Suburbs" to name things to show to the world how different they are, how much they really are "Changing the World, Man."

As Jeff Gordinier points out in his excellent: X Saves the World, it's Boomers that really want to label how they are changing the world. It's the Gen-X crowd that first of all eschews the Gen-X label, and then eschews any other labels before going out and actually changing the world.

I don't know if you noticed, but the people behind the aforementioned revolutionary changes in governing and in publishing of status details are not the ones trying to put a name on it. They are too busy doing what they do.

Good for them! Long live the Name-Free Trend!

Mark and Me

I created the category of "Fantasy Business League" so that I could comment about big business decisions in the way that others like to talk about sports. That is, I could comment and dable in the world that I follow, but not have any real interaction with those who actually play in the big leagues.

Well, today the fantasy business league got to go into the dugout for a visit.

I’ve followed Mark Cuban’s blog for years. This is a guy who is in the big leagues for sure. He started Broadcast.com and sold it to Yahoo back when that was a good thing. He’s gone on to other huge successes, including buying the Dallas Mavericks and appearing as himself on the Simpsons. It doesn’t get much better than that, unless he buys the Cubs, which would be just fine with me.

So today he decided in what is his classic style to get into the whole “stimulus” thing by trying a completely open source method of soliciting business ideas and then giving the criteria to fund them. The ideas were to be submitted right on his blog.

Many people reacted, as so often happens, with fear, saying that they didn’t want their precious idea to be distributed to the public. I’ve been there, but then I learned the reality is that there are plenty of great ideas out there, and unless it involves some kind of hard science, it is exceedingly rare that the idea on it’s own is worth 10 cents. Actually doing the work -- usually called “executing” in today’s parlance -- is the only way to succeed.

So I took an idea that I’ve had for more than a year and posted it. I worked hard to follow the rules that he put out there, something that very few of the others did.

And he responded. In length. Twice. So far.

His response to my idea (Second Saturday Science is what it’s called, more on that in another post) was so genuine, so engaged, and so, well, out there, that a reporter was inspired to do a story.

The stories about the crappy economy have moved way past depressing and are now downright annoying. It is, however, the biggest story going on right now, so this reporter, Craig Civale, to his credit wanted to do a story about a stimulus plan that might actually pay off, you know, this year.

His station, WFAA, is in Cuban’s town of Dallas, so it was a natural for him to do the story. He called me, and I actually answered the phone -- something that doesn’t seem to happen much these days. He asked a few questions, and then called back a few minutes later and asked if I’d go down to the ABC station in Denver to tape an interview.

No problem! If Second Saturday Science is going to take off, it’s going to need some publicity, so I hustled my arse down there and answered some questions. I understand it’s already been on the air in Dallas, and should be on the interwebs soon enough.

So, will this be my new “job”? I don’t know. If Cuban signs on to be a part of it, than for sure yes. He will be able to help me draw attention to it and open doors in ways few others could.

If not, well... stay tuned!


I'm baaaaaack

I consider myself a data-driven person. If something is working, do more of that. If not, then stop.

I was not having luck finding a job, and I was blogging a lot.

I had an inkling that my blog posts were a part of me not finding a job. I knew the economy had a lot more to do with it, but I couldn't control the economy. I could control my blog, so I basically just stopped.

And then, well, I STILL didn't get a job.

So I was going to, this month, switch over to a different blogging platform, Wordpress, which I used in my volunteer fight against the expansion of gambling in Colorado. I liked it a lot, so I thought I would switch before I started blogging again.

But as Rick says, destiny has taken a hand.

Later today I'll be blogging about me and Mark Cuban. Yes, that Mark Cuban.

 


Drudge Report let's me down... Again

The whole story of the Drudge Report is such a great American story. Here's a guy who was a night manager at a convenience store, and in his spare time he starts a site that is crude even by the standards of the 1990s.

And the site has a huge part to play in the impeachment of a president.

Ever since then I have gotten slightly itchy if I go more than about eight hours without checking Drudge. He just seems to have a nose for the stories that are going to have legs, and he always gets them first. I don't know how he did it so well for so long.

I love that site so much that a friend and I created the Drudge Widget, which you can see on the right side of my site if you are looking at the https and not the rss.

Earlier this year, Drudge let me down in an understandable way, getting the wrong name for Obama's VP.

Then Drudge spent a bunch of time trying to make it seem like McCain has a shot of winning, and anyone who's watched the race closely knows that just isn't true. The most reliable site for polling has had to spend a post nearly every day debunking Drudge.

Here's the problem with a huge ideological bias in breaking news: It's boring. I have to say I now go for days without reading Drudge, and then I don't find much new when I get there. Maybe it's because I'm using my RSS reader (NetNewsWire) so efficiently either on my machine or on my iPhone, but I don't think that's it.

Drudge-2009?I think it's just that Drudge has lost his edge, and seems to be flailing a bit. I'm hoping that after the election he'll get back to normal.

And maybe by next year he'll stop putting the wrong year in his title tag, and maybe he'll finally getting around to making a favicon (the little icon in the URL window of the browser). If I can make one, Drudge can certainly make one.

Come back, Drudge! We need you!

Hyper-Bowl!

I shouldn't pick on this poor guy. Lord knows that there have been plenty of times that I've only seen a word, never heard it pronounced, and didn't know how to pronounce it.

Nah, I should make fun of him. When that happens to me if I don't know is I ask someone the correct pronunciation, or look it up. I did this recently with "inchoate." I did that just so I'd use it properly in conversation; I think if I was going to speak on a video available on the World Wide Web I'd really check out any word I wasn't sure of.

So, you don't have to watch all this video, which is otherwise essentially information-free infotainment, but do watch up to the pretty boy try to use the word "hyperbole" at about 1:01 in.

Maybe this guy needs to turn this into a thing -- the day after the Superbowl host a HyperBowl giving out awards for those able to generate the most hype out of a campaign with some obvious exaggerations.


Air Apparent

I've been reading lots and lots and lots of commentary about the new Mac Air, and they always seem to go along the theme of, "I don't want to like it, and it has all these issues, but I somehow can't help myself and now I'm so happy."

Apple has this amazing ability to infuse people with the opposite of buyer's remorse.

The funniest write-up, as so often is the case, comes from Guy Kawasaki, the title pretty much sums it up: Into Thin Air: How I Spent $5,000 on Air and Made Fifty-Year Old Women Swoon

The thing that has gotten almost no write-up, however, is Apple's new "One to One" service. Most people that write about technology on the Interwebs love hardware, especially the latest, skinniest, most powerful, whatever. I love all that stuff, too, but for this post I'm trying to look at the bigger picture.

Most folks actually don't care about technology. Most folks just use the IT department in their corporation to provide them the tools they need to do their job, even if they grumble about it.

Of course, the world is changing fast, and the number of people who work for big organizations continues to drop. We are becoming a free-agent nation.

What Apple has figured out is that free agents want an IT department, too. And what they want is not just some kind of service plan to fix the hardware if it breaks, what they want is someone who will show them how to use the tools to do the stuff they want to do. But nobody likes paying by the hour for that.

So, the really genius thing that Apple has done is said, "OK, we'll be your full service IT staff for $99 a year. You can use us as often as you like, just make an appointment."

Of course, then people are coming into the stores more often, buying more stuff, etc., but I think the genius of this product from Apple is that the company has decided it wants to be the single-source IT vendor to the Free-Agent Nation. Brilliant.


Welcome to the TT neighborhood!

After more than a year with this domain, I finally have seen someone else using the same top-level domain, so welcome to the club, Ma.tt.

As he writes, getting Ma.tt was a kind of life-changing thing for him. I know what he means. I got it as a small gift for myself when I sold my first company. Maybe when I sell another company I'll buy an Audi (Sco)TT.

The domain is so short that it's a bit startling for a lot of people, but once people get used to it, it's cool.

My niece actually started calling me "Ska-dot-tt."

The funny thing is that Ma.tt is best known as a blog publisher, the power behind WordPress, which I loved for the late, great CreditCardVC.com. But I couldn't figure out how to make it work for a weird domain like sco.tt, so I switched over to TypePad, which I do not love. It's fine, but I loved WordPress.

So, don't be surprised if there's a switch a comin'.

One thing a commenter on his site said is that he thinks it will hurt Matt's Google rankings. It's actually helped mine, even though this blog is only in it's very early early days I'm already the top result in a search for Scott Yates. So, Google doesn't discriminate against odd domains. Nice to know.


Futzers Untie!

Reading this terrific post:

And how does one amass this information, you may ask. Well…by what I lovingly call: FUTZING.

I’m not sure if I am even using the word correctly, but what it means to me is the process by which one wanders around without aim, having conversations (with new and old friends), gathering random information, learning ostensibly useless knowledge and avoiding all tasks/duties clear and present.

I think there are Futzers all around the world, millions of them.

Few are getting paid for it, it's true, but they can and do have a lot of power taken together.

It reminds me of the line from Casablanca where the German in charge is saying to the Renault that the desert is honeycombed with traitors, and they are waiting for a leader.

Hmmmm.


Google like the National Enquirer?

Ne

I'm guessing I'm the only guy weird enough to make this connection between these two big stories in the news: Google starting a wikipedia competitor and supermarket tabloid claims that John Edwards knocked up a woman (not his wife.)

The connection is money.

The big difference between Google's new thing called "knol" and wikipedia is money, Google will allow the authors of knol pages to share in some of the ad money that comes in to that page. The basic theory is the same as if you run a site that gets lots of clicks on ads, i.e.: if you do something that creates value, you should share in that value. It makes sense. In general wikipedia is terrific, but there are some weird and rotten bits that get in there all the time.

Because nobody's making any money at helping keep the content on wikipedia good, it relies on volunteers to do a good job maintaining it. What is the motivation of people to get information out there when they won't be paid? I'm sure there are lots of answers, but it's a valid question.

Got_gossip

I once saw the editor of the National Enquirer speak on a panel. Everybody else on the panel criticized the idea of "checkbook" journalism, saying it corrupted the whole august tradition of journalism. This editor very responded by saying, essentially, "The thing about paying for information is that I know exactly what the motivation is of the people who give me information; they want money. When someone tells me some information that has value in the marketplace, and they want to give it to me and not take money, well, then I really question what their motives are."

I'm not saying Edwards did get that blond knocked up. (I'm not linking to that story. Ewww. But the graphic here really did come from the NE site.) And I'm not saying checkbook journalism is better than the Wall Street Journal or whatever, but I do know that the National Enquirer has to live under the same libel and slander laws as all the other papers.

I'm also not exactly equating Knol to the National Enquirer, but I have to say that I will feel better knowing exactly why someone wrote a Knol page (money) rather than trying to guess why someone might have written a wikipedia page.

OK, two posts in a row about Google, one comparing Google to Stalin, the other to the National Enquirer. The funny thing is, I like Google.


Quantity has a quality all like Google?

I love Google, I use it all day every day. And that's what's starting to worry me.

There's a great quote from Stalin that a friend told me: "Quantity has a quality all it's own."

People make a great deal about how smart the gang at Google is, and I'm not taking anything away from that, but it's becoming clear that it's the quantity of users they have that are contributing to the quality of the product. That is, if it wasn't for all the people using it, we wouldn't have search results that are as good as they are.

Here's Google's Marissa Mayer, the legendary head of user experience in an interview with Infoworld:

You may have heard about our [directory assistance] 1-800-GOOG-411 service. Whether or not free-411 is a profitable business unto itself is yet to be seen. I myself am somewhat skeptical. The reason we really did it is because we need to build a great speech-to-text model ... that we can use for all kinds of different things, including video search.

The speech recognition experts that we have say: If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken by a particular voice with a particular intonation. So we need a lot of people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that. ... So 1-800-GOOG-411 is about that: Getting a bunch of different speech samples so that when you call up or we're trying to get the voice out of video, we can do it with high accuracy.

She goes on to say essentially the same thing about search results, and about much of what Google does.

It's great that Google is learning from all the activity they have, it really is. But here I am watching Google expanding in to one new area after another -- the latest being a version of Wikipedia that has a real and I think admirable business plan behind it.

It all has me starting to wonder if there will be more and more quotes from Stalin that apply to Google.


Serial Entrepreneurs

Now in the midst of my second startup, people often say to me, "Wow, so you are one of those serial entrepreneurs."

It's true, I suppose. I didn't exactly plan it this way, but here I am.

The whole notion is regarded with a great deal of reverence, the latest example of which is here. (Hat tip Brad Feld.)

I'm not disagreeing with any of the sentiments. Lord knows I learned lots of lessons in my first one, MyTrafficNews, that I'm applying to the Legislative Database, LgDb.com.

But allow me to throw one other thought into the mix:

Let's just say that I wanted to get a big job at a big company. Part of the accepted wisdom is that I would never want to do that, that I could never work in such an environment. There's probably a grain of truth in that, but lets say that I could set that to the side and get excited about the goals of a large corporation, and would enter that organization in a position that would be interesting. The pay would be great, I wouldn't have to worry that I'm taking all the risk, and when I went on my paid vacation I could leave the job at the job, and not think about it constantly, the way I do now.

Let's say that could happen. Here's the problem: It would NEVER happen. Never.

Why? Because I would feel stifled the first time I had to fill out a form to get a box of paperclips, or whatever?

Well, maybe, but it wouldn't matter, because I would never get that job. It just wouldn't happen.

For all the talk from big business about how they need to be more entrepreneurial, bla bla bla, they really all like their gig exactly the way it is. Nobody working within any large corporation is going to hire someone who will come in and upset the apple cart.

"Entrepreneurial" is another word for "Disruptive." Corporations will issue press releases embracing "market disruptions" but what they really mean is they want to keep doing the same thing in the same ways, and by issuing a press release the execs can feel that they have done what they need to do to react to changes in the markets.

I'm not just blowing smoke here. If you are a person who has a steady career, you should think carefully before becoming an entrepreneur. It's great, no doubt about it, but you may never be able to go back even if you want to.

(One note about this blog, it's been quiet for a bit. It will be seeing some big changes and a big announcement soon. Stay tuned!)


No Compunction about No Competition

Quite often, it seems, people violate, or come too close to violating a non-compete clause after they sell a company. Here's the latest example.

Davis previously sold a recruiting blog to Jobster, and worked with the company for a while. He eventualy left, but apparently had a non-compete in place.

I never really understand why this noncompete stuff ever comes up.

When I sold MyTrafficNews to Traffic.com, I worked hard for them, and enjoyed it. When the contract was over we parted as friends. I gladly signed the non-compete.

Now I'm running another startup, but in a totally different indsutry. As much as I loved the traffic business, I'm very happy to NOT be in it any more.

That's why I don't understand when this kind of thing comes up. I would think entrepreneurs, by nature, would want to move on to a different challenge, and apply what they learned in one area to a different industry or niche that needs the same kind of new thinking.


Another Credit Card VC adopter

I know I'm linking to Guy twice in a row, but his latest post makes it clear that he fully groks the Credit Card VC ethos:

By the Numbers: How I built a Web 2.0, User-Generated Content, Citizen Journalism, Long-Tail, Social Media Site for $12,107.09

Because of Truemors, I’ve learned a lot about launching a company in these “Web 2.0” times. Here’s quick overview “by the numbers.”


  • 0. I wrote 0 business plans for it. The plan is simple: Get a site launched in a few months, see if people like it, and sell ads and sponsorships (or not).

  • 0. I pitched 0 venture capitalists to fund it. Life is simple when you can launch a company with a credit-card level debt.



Now, Guy will tell you that this is not the next Microsoft or Google, it's a service that may grow on its own and maybe someday some bigger organization will want to add it to a portfolio because of the user base or whatever, and so it may have a nice exit someday.

But the best part, I think, for Guy is that when people send him business plans about how they really need to have $1 million Angel Round so that the team can develop a prototype, he can look them right in the eye and say, "Why? I launched a site for $12,107.09, and within two weeks it had 315,000 hits in Google. Why do you need 82.596 TIMES the money I spent to do what you want to do?"

They better have a darn good answer to that question.


VC and the long tail

I love the whole Long Tail concept, and I saw a story and a chart that made me wonder if the concept could be applied to VCs.

...what success there has been in the venture industry has been highly concentrated among fewer than 40 venture firms.

So, the big "hits" of the VC world do very well, but after that they have not been doing well at all. This is important to note in this blog, because there may be some people who think they could self-finance a startup, but you think you have as a backup plan of going to a small VC firm and getting an investment.

If your goal is just to get back what you put into the business, I guess that's OK. If your goal is to make your company something that really does change the world, well, then you are in trouble.

If you've got a big expensive idea, position it so that you can get one of the biggest and best VCs in the country to buy in. Go big or go home.

If you've got a big idea that can be created for a lot less money and funded significantly by sales, that's awesome. That's why we're here. But don't have some small VC as your backup plan. Don't move up to the curve part of the tail, that's a recipe for heartbreak. You may need to move a little to the left on the curve, up to an Angel, but there are lots of good Angels out there.


Introblogtion

Introspection for a blog is a good thing, and will always be part of any good blog. Old media doesn't do as much of that, they don't have to wonder what is their core purpose -- they know that their job is to deliver advertising. The good ones try to reach that goal by being interesting, etc., but that's not why they exist.

(That said, it's clear that the big papers will soon be much like sports teams, owned by people with oversized egos. The two best examples are David Geffen trying to buy the LA Times and now Rupert trying to buy the Wall St. Journal. Warren Buffett and I spotted this trend at the same time!)
A blog is different. Well, it is for all those people who aren't so nefarious as to get into pay-per-post, etc.

I've seen two great bits of introblogtion recently from two of the best.

The first one is from A VC:

I know one thing for sure. This blog has to have a personal feel or its just another windbag pontificating about technology and we already have enough of that on the web.

The other one is local to me, Brad Feld. In that one, he makes a connection between what he read about Global Warming and what a reader sent to him complaining about the blog.

Both are good, but Brad's, I think, does what good blogs do best, which is make connections between things that may not seem to be connected.

Now, you may be asking, why am I linking to two different VCs in a blog that is designed to talk about how to avoid VC? That's a good question!


Thanks for nothin’

If you are building a company, and you are hoping that company has a healthy exit some day, the way to do that is to focus on what it is you are doing, and do it so well that some larger exit opportunity comes along.

It's kind of Zen, but you really can't focus on the exit, you have to focus first on the task at hand. Sure you have to be smart, be well positioned for an exit, etc., but most of getting well positioned for a good exit is the same stuff you have to do to run a smart and solid business in the first place.

There's a flip side to all this, however. If you do have an exit; If your company does get bought by some larger company, the way the rules of this country work, and the way the rules of human nature work and even the way manners dictate is that after the exit, it's no longer your thing. It belongs to the ones that wrote the check. You have to just let go.

Here's an example of two otherwise fine young men screwing that up. If you don't want to click, it's the story of two guys quitting Google because -- grab your Web 2.0 Kleenx -- they weren't getting enough attention from their bosses.

So.... Alex and I quit Google on Friday.

It's no real secret that Google wasn't supporting dodgeball the way we expected. The whole experience was incredibly frustrating for us - especially as we couldn't convince them that dodgeball was worth engineering resources, leaving us to watch as other startups got to innovate in the mobile + social space. And while it was a tough decision (and really disappointing) to walk away from dodgeball, I'm actually looking forward to getting to work on other projects again.


Whhaaaaaaaaa!

Look, if these guys want to quit, I have no issue with that. Fine. It's the whining about not getting enough attention that rankles me. If they wanted to complain privately, I'm sure they could and some other sources could make their case in probably a much more effective way, as in this post from A VC pointing out how Google really is just a big company now. He easily could have written that post without having to link to that whiny missive.

I speak from direct experience here, as my first company was bought by bigger guys. I suppose I could have complained about something or another (though probably not as it was a great transaction.) And now that I'm out looking for investors in my next thing a connection from California through New York actually made it back to Traffic.com in Pennsylvania. The key guy there had great things to say about the whole transaction. If I had complained publicly, would I have gotten that positive back-channel feedback? I don't think so.

And worse, I'm now running a great business, one that won't be as big as YouTube or DoubleClick, but still could be a great acquisition for Google or some other big name. Knowing the bad taste left in the collective mouth of Google about this Dodgeball thing, aren't they going to be just thismuch more shy about all the deals that are less than $1.5 billion?
Look, if you didn't get the support you needed from within the acquiring company, that says more about your inability to work within the structure of a big company. If you can't succeed at that, don't blame the big company for acting like a big company, blame yourself for not being better at playing by those rules. If you just don't want to be good at it, that's fine, but don't burn those bridges... other people may still want to use them.

So, thanks for nothin', Dodgeball.


Cheating

Don't do it.

I know sometimes it's tempting, especially when mothers are going around cheating on board games with their own children just because the mother -- not the child -- is bored.

Michelle Hastings admits she's sometimes cheated to get through a game of Candy Land with her 5-year-old daughter, Campbell. The board game can take just too long, she said.

Candy Land?!?!?

I've played Candy Land plenty of times with my 3-year-old son. The game doesn't take that long, and if he was bored he would just walk away, but he never does.
What does this have to do with running a business without VC? Simple: Follow the rules, don't get bored, stick with it. If that woman wants her child to learn to succeed, and not to cheat to fulfil her own need to be constantly stimulated, she needs to start right now.

Same for us: If we want our businesses to succeed, we need to behave ourselves in the way we want the business to behave; with real confidence, determination, stick-to-itness, and above all trust.

OK, maybe it's not that related, but thanks for letting me rant.


Here’s some good news out of DC

How often do we get to say that?

The Wall St. Journal has a story out this morning that Congress is considering a tax break for Angel Investors.

The idea, as reported, is that investors would get to write off as much as $250,000 per company -- up to $500,000 per year -- in Angel investments.

It sounds awesome, though part of me wonders if the unintended consequence will be way too many Angel investors, and too many investments going to stinky companies. The investor will have already written off the investment, so they may see any possible gain down the road as something like winning the lottery. The upshot: Who cares if they don't really understand the business model or have much faith in the founders? They were going to be writing a check to the IRS, and now they will be writing it to some startup, so how much do they care if the company they invest in is going to passionately go after a new idea?
I think it's a risk worth taking. All the good jobs are being created by startups, and it's just the way the world is going. If there are a few more dogs out there, oh well.
(One shameless plug joined with a hint of Catch 22: My company, LgDb, the Legislative Database, would be really useful to the Wall St. Journal, and any other blog writer or publisher of any kind to allow people to easily see the proposed legislation, and all of the associated links. That way people could easily read the actual bill, which is something I wanted to do after reading that Journal story, but I knew there was no easy way to do it. If the bill was in Colorado, I could do that now, but LgDb doesn't yet have Federal stuff. For that, we need an angel investment. Catch-22.)

By the way, I know that the fact that LgDb is looking for investors is not totally consistent with the idea of Credit Card VC, but as I write in the Credit Card VC manifesto, if an idea is big you shouldn't stifle it by keeping others away from helping you to grow. You can't throw a big party AND keep all your beer in the fridge.


The Pitch for Angel investment

This is a forum for those who don't want VC. If you are funding your own startup yourself, be it with credit cards or whatever, you are in a sense your own Angel investor.

Last week I attended an event in which five companies made a pitch for an Angel investment. The driving force behind the idea was Boulder's David Cohen, who wrote about the event on his Colorado Startups blog. It was also reviewed by the mysterious 5280 Angel. I think I saw that guy in the audience, though it was hard to make him out behind the fake glasses, nose and moustache.
The audience got some play money, and got to "invest" in one or all of the five companies. My only complaint with the format was that they lined the investors up and you put the cash right in their hands. A little awkward.

I was surprised by my own reaction to the companies. If I read a story about lice, or even Genetically Modified food, I get itchy, queasy or otherwise squeamish. Two of the five were medical companies, and I thought both of them would be solid investments.

The panel of experts picked Livengood, which makes essentially a glorified cart for use in hospitals. The presenter was Dr. Livengood, I presume, and he was anything but polished, but he showed one slide of a patient in a hospital trying to take a walk surrounded by an IV pole, a walker, a nurse, and aid and a family member. He said something like, "Anyone who's ever been in or visited a hospital has seen this scene many times." Everyone in the audience nodded, in fact I think I saw the fake nose almost come off of the 5280 Angel guy. His contraption basically puts all the stuff that hangs on or near a bed in one place. They've had some customers, and those customers helped with the second version of the product, and now they just need money to build some more units and do some marketing. Great investment, I think.

The other medical one was Torii Medical, which had a great patch that basically makes a patch that holds any tube that gets stuck into your body much more securely and cleanly than tape, which hasn't advanced much in 40 years. The presenter was the weakest, making the deadly sin of reading every word on every slide in the presentation. The product, however, was awesome. Just as with the other one, it fits in the category of medical advances where they are really needed. I know PET scans and all the new drugs are all super, but there seems to have been very little advance in the more mundane things like enabling a patient to take a walk or keeping an IV tube where it's supposed to be.

The audience winner was Chaperon, which has built a tool that makes offshore coding slightly more secure. The concept is that an offshore coder would have to use this software when writing the code, and this software prevents a person from copying and pasting the code to steal it. I think this company is on to a serious problem in a big-picture way, especially as made clear in China Inc. Intellectual Property protection is a huge issue, and will be for a generation.

One of the others, Kerpoof, probably has a great chance to make money, but they are involved in something I would never put money in: figuring out new and clever ways to get advertising in front of 3- to 5-year olds. Any business plan that carves out any demographic and then tries to figure out how to get advertising in front of it is inherently foul to me, but doing it with pre-schoolers is especially opprobrious.
The other was Magic Home Entertainment, which makes a kind of a glorified iTunes interface for very high-end home audio systems. I like country music on AM radio, so I just don't get it, but that probably says more about me than about that company.

Seeing the presentations was also an important reminder that anyone running a business should be able to make the business case for their business clearly and quickly at any time. It's not just a mind-game; it's being clear about goals, which is a crucial first step to reaching them.

OK, back to work!


Keep your eye on the ball

OK, Apple, nee Apple Computers, announced a phone that looks so awesome, I'm seriously bummed that I have to wait six months for it.

It's clear that the gang at Apple has put all their effort into making the best phone possible. Some marketing will flow out of that, but it will be easy, basically telling people, "Hey, why not own the best phone possible?" Not too tough of a message.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is doing whatever it can to make you look at anything other than their products, going so far as to send you into outerspace. From there, I suppose, even Microsoft products look good.

And compared to the new iPhone, the Zune looks really silly.

OK, back to my sales calls.


Free Your TV; Do not pay for cable!

Part of the Credit Card VC ethos, of course, is not spending money in the first place. That's the thin thread I'm using to insert this meme into this blog.

One way to save a small pile of money every month and also save a bit of your sanity is to cut off your cable company. Now, I'm not talking about figuring out a way to get cable, and not pay for it, that would be wrong; the moral equivalent of downloading music without paying for it. Really, though, you shouldn't have cable. If you have time to sit around and watch the Game Show Network, you are not spending the time you should be spending on your business.

This will not make you a Luddite. Indeed you can cut off cable, and the dish, and still be something of a video snob.

Here's how:


  1. Buy an HDTV. The prices have come down enough, it's time to do it.

  2. Get the rabbit ears antenna recommended for that TV. Do not go overboard and get one of those big ones from Radio Shack and kill yourself up on your roof.

  3. Put the rabbit ears as high as you can inside your house, if you can put it in an attic, that's best.

  4. Go to AntennaWeb.org and figure out which direction to point your antenna.

  5. In checking that out, you'll realize that you get a lot of stations, more than enough for the times when you do need to veg out.

  6. OK, here's bit that allows you to be a video snob: The signal broadcast by your local stations is essentially uncompressed, meaning that you will get better picture quality from that little rabbit-ears antenna than you would from cable or a dish! That's right, the stations send out the whole picture over the air, but the carriers take that signal and smash it down so it will fit in the pipe with all the other channels. So when you are watching that amazing snowcone catch that almost helped the Mets into the world series, you will be able to see every seam on the ball better than your brethren watching on cable.


OK, I know I haven't been at this blog long, and I've already referred to Mark Cuban's blog a couple of times, but now I'm going to do it again. He recently asked "How do you get people to see a movie without spending a fortune on advertising?" He got a zillion responses. I didn't read them all, but in my mind it's easy: Work harder to get more Little Miss Sunshines made.

So, he didn't ask, but here's my suggestion for how to get a lot more traction for his HDNet: Broadcast it over the air.

Here in Denver we have all the big networks broadcasting in HD, as they must under federal mandate. But we also have a bunch of smaller ones, Christian broadcasters, even shopping networks. If they can get a broadcast license, so could HDNet. It would be a great publicity play for the Maverick to do an end-around on the cable and dish providers. Combined with the fact that he could tout his ability to send true uncompressed HD images and the market penetration the HD sets have reached, well, this would be a huge win for him.

So, Mark, what do I want for this million-dollar idea? Only that you start in Denver as a test market.


Connections

Sometimes I see connections between items that aren't commonly seen. Sometimes this makes me seem brilliant, and sometimes people look at me like I'm Jerry Fletcher.
For instance today I wrote one blog comment on Mark Cuban's blog that made connections between three seemingly disparate posts.

But closer to the relevancy of this blog are two items posted right now on TechCrunch. One of them is also related to one of Cuban's blog items, and it concerns a new company that is paying bloggers to write about a topic. This new one seems slightly less invidious because it actually requires bloggers to disclose the financial arrangement.

The interesting link to me is between that topic -- trying to find new ways to generate essentially small amounts of cash -- and the one that follows that about an outfit that makes very small investments in new companies, because that small investment is all that's needed. This is all classic Long Tail stuff; i.e. making a few pennies here and there off a lot of people doing small things.
The bit about small investments should be familiar to readers of this blog, as we advocate investments so small that you could actually put them all on your credit card. It's the way that software and the world are moving, the end of the "hit" manufactured by an expensive process.

I just want people to remember one thing: There is no easy money. Even if you can start a business on your credit cards, it's not going to become a $20-million business without the idea AND boatloads of really hard hard hard work.

So, if you think you are smart, and maybe you are, just remember that there are boatloads of smart people out there. The only thing that will get you a big win is hard work. That said, I need to get back to work.

Thanks for reading.


Google Stinkum

OK, this blog will be about more than just the core topic (inspiration for entrepreneurs going it alone) and Google video and Mark Cuban's commentary, but this is just too fetid not to comment about. There's also a large and somewhat sad point to all of this, but you'll have to read to the end to get that.
Take a look at Mark's inside look at the GooTube deal. I'm not saying it's accurate... who knows... but it sure would explain a lot of things:


  • The crazy high valuation. The YouTube guys can tell their grandmothers that they sold for $1.65 billion but the reality is they sold for about two-thirds of that with one-third set apart for paying off big media. And of the money they got, most of that is in stock that -- my view -- will be worth a lot less because of this deal.



  • The suits against the smaller video hosting companies.

  • The big media companies silence about this deal. (They can't talk if they were part of the deal and the contract says they can't talk.)

  • The weird (for Google) announcement that it is doing a video hosting project that is pretty actively anti-long tail. I think the techcrunch guys got it right that Google has been the model of how to make money with the long tail, and this deal is the exact opposite of it. But if they have some deal in place with all the big media producers, then this makes a lot more sense.


I wrote a book review about The Long Tail, and my day job is running a site that brings the long tail to legislation. I think the long tail concept is brilliant. I also used to be a reporter, so I know that if that post about the junk that went on behind the scenes is true, that will be the big story as no reporter can resist a scoop that will eventually become lawsuits, etc. We'll be watching this unfold for a long time.

But to me the biggest story is Google turning it's back on the Long Tail. They aren't "dancing with the one's that brung 'em." Luckily the thing that Google has started is now in motion, so if -- IF -- Google really does turn it's back on the Long Tail there will be myriad others who will pick up the notion and move forward with it.

OK, back to work for me. You, too!


YouTube and You

OK, this is a blog for bootstrappers, for people who like being in business for themselves, and really there's no reason for us to be thinking about YouTube, etc.

But it is fun.

For me, the one guy who's been spot-on through all of this is Marc Cuban, who's been hammering away at this deal since it was just in the rumor stage. He's the one who really brought up the comparison between YouTube now and Napster from back in it's fun days.

And then on October 11th, he predicted that the suits would begin not against GooTube, but against some smaller outfit so that the big boys could establish some precedent without having to go up against all the lawyers Google can buy in the first trip to the courthouse.

I read Cuban's prediction, and actually thought to myself: "Boy, I hope my memory serves me well enough to remember this when and if it actually comes true."

Even my memory was able to hold up because it's only been a week, and now Universal is suing a couple of smaller sites.

So, what's the lesson for us? What are we, the small guys just trying to pay the bills, supposed to learn from this? Nothing really. The multiples of the YouTube sale, the whole Google zeitgeist, are classic Fantasy Business League stuff.

OK. Back to sales for me!