Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dedicated Podcast Audience Up 300%

via PodcastingNews

Podcasting continues to grow by leaps and bounds, with the total audience for podcasts increasing by 58% in under two years, according to research by the Pew Internet Project.

The dedicated podcast audience - those that download podcasts every day - has gone up 300% in the same time, from 1% of those surveyed to 3%.

The survey promises to provide ammo for podcasters and critics alike. While the number of dedicated podcast fans is up 300%, the technology's steady adoption rate is closer to something like RSS's, rather than the rocket-fast adoption of something like YouTube, which has a much lower barrier to entry.

Pew also found that men continue to be more likely than women to download podcasts:

  • 22% of online men have downloaded a podcast
  • 16% of online women have downloaded a podcast

Men and women are equally likely (3%) to download podcasts on a typical day.

Age differences are more defined with regard to podcast downloading than they were in 2006 when all age groups, except for those 65 and older, were almost equally likely to download podcasts. Now, the dividing line is around the age of 50, with internet users under 50 years old significantly more likely than older users to download podcasts. Fully 23% of those under 50 say they have ever downloaded a podcast and 4% downloaded one yesterday, compared with 13% and 1% of their older counterparts. Since 2006, younger generations have more fully embraced the technology, their percentages nearly doubling since 2006.

Pew also found a strong correlation between broadband access and podcast use:

Internet users with broadband and premium broadband access at home are significantly more likely than the average internet user to have ever downloaded a podcast, with twice as many premium home broadband users being daily podcast users.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wouldn’t you like somebody else to pay for your advertising?

via Podcasting News

WillItBlend? vs Nike Air Max Remix

Aug 15th, 2008 | By James Lewin | Category: Internet TV, Making Money with Podcasts, Video, Video Podcasts

We've been following Blendtec and their WillItBlend? video podcast for several years now and are amazed at how well the company has reinvented the infomercial as something that people will actively seek out.

The company is taking its success to another level, though, as their most recent video demonstrates. In the video, Tom Dickson notes that Nike has asked him to do some custom blending, and he proceeds to do a blender shoe mashup.

While it's fun to watch shoes get blended, what's really amazing is that Blendtec's is getting hundreds of thousands of people to watch infomercials for blenders - and getting third parties to sponsor the whole thing.

Wouldn't you like somebody else to pay for your advertising?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

12 testing tips

via ReadWriteWeb

Written by Alex Iskold / August 14, 2008 12:45 AM / 0 Comments

Unit Testing is one of the pillars of Agile Software Development. First introduced by Kent Beck, unit testing has found its way into the hearts and systems of many organizations. Unit tests help engineers reduce the number of bugs, hours spent on debugging, and contribute to healthier, more stable software.

In this post we look at a dozen unit testing tips that software engineers can apply, regardless of their programming language or environment.

1. Unit Test to Manage Your Risk

A newbie might ask Why should I write tests? Indeed, aren't tests boring stuff that software engineers want to outsource to those QA guys? That's a mentality that no longer has a place in modern software engineering. The goal of software teams is to produce software of the highest quality. Consumers and business users were rightly intolerant of buggy software of the 80s and 90s. But with the abundance of libraries, web services and integrated development environments that support refactoring and unit testing, there's now no excuse for software with bugs.

The idea behind unit testing is to create a set of tests for each software component. Unit tests facilitate continuous software testing; unlike manual tests, it's cheap to perform them repeatedly.

As your system expands, so does the body of unit tests. Each test is an insurance that the system works. Having a bug in the code means carrying a risk. Utilising a set of unit tests, engineers can dramatically reduce number of bugs and the risk with untested code.

2. Write a Test Case Per Major Component

When you start unit testing, always ask What Tests Should I Write?

The initial impulse is to write a bunch of functional tests; i.e., tests that probe different functions of the system. This is not correct. The right thing is to create a test case (a set of tests) for each major component.

The focus of the test is one component at a time. Within each component, look for an interface - a set of publicly exposed behaviour that component offers. You then should write at least one test per public method.

3. Create Abstract Test Case and Test Utilities

As with any code, there will be common things all your tests need to do. Start with finding a unit testing for your language. For example, in Java, engineers use JUnit - a simple yet powerful framework for writing tests in Java. The framework comes with TestCase class, the base class for all tests. Add convenient methods and utilities applicable to your environment. This way, all your tests cases can share this common infrastructure.

4. Write Smart Tests

Testing is time-consuming, so ensure your tests are effective. Good tests probe the core behaviour of each component, but do it with the least code possible. For example, there is very little reason in writing tests for Java Bean setter and getter methods, for these will be tested anyway.

Instead, write a test that focuses on the behaviour of the system. You don't need to be comprehensive; create the tests that come to mind now, then be ready to come back to add more.

5. Set up Clean Environment for Each Test

Software engineers are always concerned with efficiency, so when they hear that each test needs to be set up separately they worry about performance. Yet setting up each test correctly and from scratch is important. The last thing you want is for the test to fail because it used some old piece of data from another test. Ensure each test is set up properly and don't worry about efficiency.

In cases when you have a common environment for all tests - which doesn't change as tests run - you can add a static set up block to your base test class.

6. Use Mock Objects To Test Effectively

Setting up tests is not that simple; and at first glance sometimes seems impossible. For example, if using Amazon Web Services in your code, how can you simulate it in the test without impacting the real system?

There are a couple of ways. You can create fake data and use that in tests. In the system that has users, a special set of accounts can be utilised exclusively for testing.

Running tests against a production system is risky: what if something goes wrong and you delete actual user data? An alternative is fake data, called stubs or mock objects.

A mock object implements a particular interface, but returns predetermined results. For example, you can create a mock object for Amazon S3 which always reads files from your local disk. Mock objects are helpful when testing complex systems with lots of components. In Java, several frameworks help create mock objects, most notably JMock.

7. Refactor Tests When You Refactor the Code

Testing only pays if you really invest in it. Not only do you need to write tests, you also need to ensure they're up to date. When adding a new method to a component, you need to add one or more corresponding tests. Just like you should clean out unused code, also remove tests that are no longer applicable.

Unit tests are particularly helpful when doing large refactorings. Refactoring focuses on continuous sculpting of the code to help it stay correct. After you move code around and fix the tests, rerunning all the related tests ensures you didn't break anything while changing the system.

8. Write Tests Before Fixing a Bug

Unit tests are effective weapons in the fight against bugs. When you uncover a problem in your code, write a test that exposes this problem before fixing the code. This way, if the problem reappears, it will be caught with the test.

It is important to do this since you can't always write comprehensive tests right away. When you add a test for a bug, you're filling in the gap in your original tests in a disciplined way.

9. Use Unit Tests to Ensure Performance

In addition to guarding correctness of the code, unit tests can help ensure the performance of your code doesn't degrade over time. In many systems slowness creeps in as the system grows.

To write performance tests, you need to implement start and stop functions in your base test class. When appropriate you can use a time-particular method or code and assert that the elapsed time is within the limits of the desired performance.

10. Create Tests for Concurrent Code

Concurrent code is notoriously tricky and typically a source of many bugs. This is why it's important to unit test concurrent code. The way to do this is by using a system of sleeps and locks. You can write in sleep calls in your tests if you need to wait for a particular system state. While this is not a 100% correct solution, in many cases it's sufficient. To simulate concurrency in a more sophisticated scenario, you need to pass locks around to the objects you're testing. In doing so, you will be able to simulate concurrent system, but sequentially.

11. Run Tests Continuously

The whole point of tests is to run them a lot. Particularly in larger teams where dozens of developers are working on a common code base, continuous unit testing is important. You can set up tests to run every few hours or you can run them on each check-in of the code or just once a day (typically overnight). Decide which method is the most appropriate for your project and make the tests run automatically and continuously.

12. Have Fun Testing!

Probably the most important tip is to have fun. When I first encountered unit testing, I was sceptical and thought it was just extra work. But I gave it a chance, because smart people who I trusted told me that it's very useful.

Unit testing puts your brain into a state which is very different from coding state. It is challenging to think about what is a simple and correct set of tests for this given component.

Once you start writing tests, you'd wonder how you ever got by without them. To make tests even more fun, you can incorporate pair programming. Whether you get together with fellow engineers to write tests or write tests for each other's code, fun is guaranteed. At the end of the day, you will be comfortable knowing your system really works because your tests pass.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

startups for dummies

via ReadWriteWeb

Often people start a company without any clear idea of what a company is. Entrepreneurs closet themselves in the garage and start writing code. While the modern tech world could not exist without obsession, artistic inspiration and crazy engineers, there's more to a startup than passion.

In this post, we explore the basics behind corporate entities, stock, financing, and the key non-technical infrastructure every company should have.

To make an idea really powerful, a startup needs to become a real company. In former days, this might have meant bureaucracy, and lots of financial and legal infrastructure. Today's tech companies are simpler, but still require a set of rules, and you need a rudimentary understanding of business law when forming a corporation.

Business Entities

There are several ways of conducting business in the United States. The most basic is a Sole proprietorship, which is essentially self-employment. A sole proprietor, such as a grocery store or restaurant, assumes full legal liability for the business, but all income is direct personal income and is taxed once.

Another form of business is a Partnership. This is a venture between several individuals who share in the profits. Partnerships, and particularly Limited Liability Partnerships (LLP), are created to address the personal liability issue with proprietorship. With LLP only one or a couple of partners assumes the legal liability.

Corporations are a separate legal entity. When a corporation is sued, in general the individuals behind it (shareholders, directors, management) are not impacted. This legal protection comes at a price - double taxation. Companies have to pay tax and only then can pay salaries and dividends to the shareholders.

In recent years, people have been incorporating in two principal ways - LLC and Inc. LLC is a limited liability corporation, a hybrid between corporation and a partnership.

LLC enjoys the legal status of a corporation, but has partnership-like taxation. It is a great way to incorporate before you know how big your company will become. The caveat with LLC is that you can't have more than a certain number of shareholders (typically around 70). For this reason, Venture Capitalists would normally not fund an LLC because it's impossible to take such a company through an IPO (Initial Public Offering).

Most tech startups end up being C-Corp or a corporation (often, you can start with LLC, then convert to a C-Corp right before raising substantial funding). A corporation is the most sophisticated business entity. It is a powerful but complex vehicle, with flexibility.

Shareholders, Directors and Management

A company starts with incorporation - a process of forming. These days it's cheap (around $300) and straightforward. You can either incorporate on your own or, better, utilise your accountant or lawyer.

You incorporate in a particular state, usually Delaware with its liberal laws and taxation policies. You don't need to live in Delaware to incorporate there, but you do need to also declare your existence to whatever state(s) you plan to operate in. The corporate laws vary substantially, so ask your lawyer and accountant about regulations in your state.

After incorporation, you issue a stock - a unit of ownership in the company. In startups before funding, there is little reason to spend time on issuing shares, because when financing comes you'll need to reissue. Easiest is to declare that you have 100 shares of common stock and divide it between the founders as agreed prior to starting a company.

There are three principal types of participants in every company - shareholders, directors and management. Shareholders, or the owners, vote and elect the board of directors, who set long-term strategic direction and appoint executive management. The management (CEO, CTO, etc) is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the company.

While you might find this 3-tier structure initially confusing, it does make sense. In large companies directors are mostly outsiders. Directors represent the interest of shareholders and hold management accountable for the performance of the company. In a large corporation, typically the CEO is also a President or Chairman of the board, but the rest are directors outside the company. For small startups, the situation is simpler. You are a shareholder, a director and a manager of your own company.

Key Documents

In a startup, you need to understand when to wear the hat of a shareholder, director or a manager. Looking at a company from the perspective of key legal documents helps you do that.

The first document is Articles of Incorporation, which declares the kind of entity, state of operation, classes of stock, and number of shares. The next is a Shareholders Agreement, which typically discusses the rights and obligations shareholders have in situations like sale of the company, sale of stock, or death of a shareholder. And Corporate Bylaws is the guide by which the board operates; it specifies who can be a director, how often meetings are held, how voting is done.

The employees of the company - e.g. CEO, VP of Design and Software Engineers - all sign an agreement. These days, employment agreements typically consist of a short offer letter and a lengthy non-competition agreement. The letter outlines the position, salary, vacation, and other benefits. The letter asks the employee to obey standard corporate rules and regulations. In addition, a lot of startups offer employees stock options - a way to earn the right to buy a stock in a company.

Legal and Finance

A first-time entrepreneur will find the legal complexity and accounting for a corporation overwhelming. It is essential to hire lawyers and financial professionals. There is a saying amoung startups and VCs that a good lawyer pays for him or herself, despite the fact that hourly fees are whopping.

There are three kinds of lawyers needed in a tech startup. A corporate lawyer drafts the basic documents and will advise on daily matters. A deal lawyer specializes in financing and sales transactions. And if you have intellectual property to protect, then you'll need an IP lawyer.

Financials of a startup can be split into daily simple things and annual complex matters. For a startup, it is ideal to get a bookkeeper - a person to take care of payroll, monthly profit and loss, and basic financial documents. You need an accounting firm for annual taxes and larger issues.

Accountants are more expensive than bookkeepers, but since you don't need to use them for daily operations, it makes sense to have an accounting firm do your annual finances. In addition to taxes the accountant will product a compilation - a summary of annual activities. After you get funding, the board of directors will ask for an audited financial statement - a full, certified financial review.

Venture Financing

To turn your idea into a big company, you will likely need to raise money. This is essentially a sale of shares to investors. A typical company goes through several financings - angel investment and then a few rounds of venture capital. The angel round is typically small, traditionally less than a million dollars and lately substantially less (thanks to YCombinator and TechStars). In the angel (or seed) round, the founders may offer 10-15% of the company in exchange for a convertible loan. Technically, this is not a direct sale of shares, but instead a right to buy shares in the next round of financing at a discount, while accruing interest.

Traditional angels are wealthy individuals, often former successful enterpreneurs and executives at large companies. Each angel might be willing to put down between 10-100K, with 25-50K being typical. So if looking to raise 500K, you would need to line up 10 or more angel investors. You can simplify it if you find a local group, for example New York Angels.

The next round of funding, called Series A, involves Venture Capitalists (VC). A venture firm is essentially a partnership that manages an investment fund. The fund raises money and invests into startups and later stage companies.

The VC world is complex and it's important to know how to navigate it.

The first rule - know what firms are right for you at what stage. The right firm will be the one that's interested in the sector you're in as well as the size of the investment. VC firms manage anywhere between $150M - $1B, with a typical tech fund being around $300M. Since the time of each partner in the firm is limited, there are only so many investments the fund can make. So, if looking for 500K, it doesn't make sense to approach VCs.

A typical Venture Firm will look to own 20 - 30% of your company over its lifetime. When the investors put money into your company, they will protect themselves in cases when the company might not do well. They will ask to create a class of preferred shares (preferred stock) that will be subject to different rules than the common stock (those you own). Preferred stock is paid first in case of an exit, and it enjoys veto rights such as precluding you to sell the company, or the opposite - forcing a sale.

It is common for a venture firm to elect a director on your board. This is the partner you are essentially working with. In early stage companies, a VC plays an instrumental role in mentoring the CEO and shaping the course of the company. As the company grows and perhaps even goes public, the VC director steps down from the board.

More Funding

Each round of funding expands the number of Venture firms at the table and results in dilution. To understand dilution, one needs to understand the mechanism by which startups raise money. Each round of funding results in additional shares being issued by the company and sold to the investors. Typically, investors are not buying shares that you already have, they are buying newly issued shares.

The money raised is not going into your pocket, it goes to the company. In some cases, when you're doing stellar, investors would be willing to buy your shares - but this is atypical. As a result of each raise, founders and employees own less percentage of the company (their number of shares remains the same, but the total number of shares increases). Prior investors are able to maintain their respective ownership by buying additional shares (this right is given via preferred stock).

Despite the fact that startups are reluctant to give up ownership to VCs, the economics actually make sense. Even though your percentage of ownership goes down, the total value of the stock is higher after the financing, because the value of each share rises. As long as the company is doing well, fund-raising makes sense and is beneficial to its employees.


There is a considerable amount of complexity surrounding building a company. Way more than just a great idea and elegant code is involved. But building a company, learning the intricacies, understanding the law and venture world, is fun.

Instead of being afraid of this complexity, startups need to appreciate it and embrace it. Most lawyers, accountants and investors are smart people whom you will learn from. They will help you make your startup into a real company.

As a start point, you should create an LLC and not worry about much paperwork. Once you get into investment, you'll need to change to an Inc, get a lawyer, bookkeeper and accountant, and start diving into the details discussed in this post.

There are two excellent resources to get additional material: Ask The VC - a blog maintained by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson; and Ask The Wizard - a blog by former CEO of Feedburner, Dick Costolo.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Fundrising Survival Guide by Paul Graham (YCombinator)

A must read like most other essays of Paul Graham

Internet & Mobile in China - report

very interesting and insigtful report on China Internet and Mobile usage.
Via ReadWrite Web

Friday, August 08, 2008

awesome sales case

via Hacker News via Piloted

What I Learned Buying a Rug in Turkey

I had no intention of buying a rug on our trip to Turkey in December 2006. Certainly, not on the first day. I'd already purchased a rug; when my son and I had been abducted in Tunis, Tunisia in 1999. But, that's a different story.

Yet, there I was, just 4 hours after arriving in Istanbul, shaking hands with a rug merchant as he packed up our newly purchased kilin carpet. How did this happen?

Educators, business people, publishers, we all seek to influence others, and we are all influenced by others. Perhaps my experience in Turkey, seen through the prism of an expert in the principles of influence and persuasion can help us all.

First, let me describe the events leading up to the purchase. Then, I'll relate those events to principles contained in the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.

Our hotel, the Mavi Ev, or Blue House Hotel, was just across the street from the famous Blue Mosque in Turkey. As soon as we stepped out to go visit the mosque, the first person approached us,

Salesman: "Do you want to buy a rug?"

Me: "No thank you."

Salesman: "Where are you from?"

Me: "No thank you, we're on our way to view the mosque."

In the 50 yards between the hotel and the entrance to the mosque, we were approached at least 5 times, in similar ways. The sales people were pleasant, often humorous, never hostile. But always persistent, asking at least 5 to 6 questions to try to engage us.

"How long are you staying in Turkey?"

"How do you like Turkey so far?"

"Are you thirsty or hungry?"

"Would you like some apple tea?"

"Do you know where you are going?"

After the Blue Mosque, we walked across the park to the Hagia Sophia, and were approached another 5 to 6 times. But, as we walked up to the Hagia Sophia, we found out that it had just closed, and someone came up to us.

Person: "It's a shame that the Hagia Sophia closes so early. Have you seen the Cisterna Basilica, yet? It's still open."

Me: "Yes, that's one of the things I've wanted to see."

Person: "Let me show you where the entrance is, it's just a block from here."

Me: "We can probably find it."

Person: "I know, but it is really no trouble and will save you some time. How long are you in Turkey for?"

Me: "We're staying for 9 days."

Person: "The entrance is just here, make sure that you walk through all of the passages. Some people just go into the Cisterna, take a look, and then come back up. There is a whole passage to follow, and you'll see the pillars of Minerva and eventually come out about a block down the street."

Me: "Thank you."

Person: "I'll wait for you at the exit. In case you'd like to have a glass of tea and see our showroom. There won't be any pressure for you to buy anything, but as long as you're in Istanbul, you should get to know what types of things are on sale."

Me: "Thank you, but we're not buying anything today. If we buy anything, it will be on our last day."

Person: "I didn't say anything about buying anything. After all, no one needs to buy a rug. But, this will just give you a chance to get educated, and no museums or mosques will be open at that time, anyhow, and it will be too early for dinner."

We entered the Cisterna. And, sure enough, at first it seemed that we should just go in and take a look, but we walked around the whole path, and it was definitely worth the extra time. By the way, if you do end up in Turkey and visit the Cisterna, bring a tripod. It's large and dark, and you can get striking pictures with a 2 to 3 second exposure. As we emerged from the exit, who do you think we saw?

Person: "How did you like it?"

Me: "It was pretty extraordinary."

Person: "Did you get to take any pictures? Can I see them?"

Me: "Sure, take a look."

Person: "And, now, maybe you would honor me by taking some time to have a glass of tea, relax, and learn about Turkish carpets. My shop is just 20 meters this way."

And so, on our first day, we ended up in a Turkish rug merchant. But still, we had no intention of actually buying anything. The job of the first person was to bring people to the shop; he was the shill. This was actually the end of our interaction with him. Once in the shop, we primarily interacted with one of the owners.

Owner: "Come, sit down. Let me explain the different types of rugs to you, and educate you so you'll know a good rug from a cheap one. Here, have some tea."

Owner: "You know, no one comes to Turkey to buy a rug. It's not something that you need. Yet, most people end up buying one. Why? Because, it's art. It's something they decide that they like. And, it's something that they will have and enjoy for the rest of their lives. A good rug will last for over 100 years."

Then, he proceeded to explain the five different types of rugs, the different materials, the different types of knots, and how rugs changed colors as you looked at them from different angles. And also, how December is their slowest season, how they would never be able to devote this much time to someone in the summer season, how to tell real wool and natural dyes from synthetics, and how the prices of rugs are usually 25% less in December than in the summer.

After about 45 minutes, with the education winding down, he asked us which, if any, of the rugs we liked, and if we wanted to see more of that type of rug. Rightly or wrongly, at this point, I felt a little guilty. We'd used up 45 minutes of his time, along with three assistants, we'd drunk his apple tea, we'd learned a lot about rugs. I was still not willing to purchase a rug, but we were at least willing to let him know which of the rugs, we liked.

Once the family had picked one of the rugs, he then proceeded to show us about 20 rugs of the same type.

Next, he asked us which three of those rugs we liked the best.

It was then that my wife said, "you know, we really do need to replace the rug in the dining room sometime, as well as the rug in Rosie's (our daughter) room. But, we do not need to purchase a rug at this time."

The owner then asked my daughter, "if you could have one of these rugs, and if you didn't have to pay for it, can you see any of them working in your room?"

And she pointed to one of the rugs. "I really like that one."

Owner to Rosie: "You have very good taste. That rug is 100% wool. Look here, that's how you can tell that they dyes are natural and not artificial. Look at the weave, this is how you can tell it is not machine made. It takes someone three to four months working full time to make a rug like this."

Owner to me: "I know that you are not looking to purchase a rug. In the summer, I would start off with a price of around $3,000 for this rug, and we would easily sell it for more than $2,500. But, if you were interested at all, I'd offer you this rug at $1,800."

Me: "Thank you, but we really are not interested in purchasing a rug right now."

Owner: "Nearly everyone who comes to Turkey is not interested in buying a rug. But, you know, nearly everyone who comes ends up buying one. Because they find something that they really like, something that is going to last them the rest of their lives, and something that they will forever remember their trip to Turkey with."

Owner: "Is there any price, where, if you could own this rug for that price, you would walk out of here happy?"

Me: "Well, I'm really not looking to purchase a rug."

Owner: "Yes, and you may end up not purchasing one. But is there any price where you would say, 'I am happy to buy that rug."?

Me: "I guess, if I could have that rug for $800, I'd probably be happy."

Owner: "This is a rug that I would be selling in the summer for over $2,500. But you know," looking at Rosie, "you are a very lucky young lady to have a father who has the means and the desire to purchase something like this for you that you really want. I hope you appreciate him."

Me: "Wait a minute, that's a line that I've used in sales training before. That comes right from Joe Girardi."

Owner: "You are in sales? What do you sell?"

Me: "I'm in education, but I used to sell and I used to train sales people."

At this point the owner comes right up to me, within about two inches. He grasps my right hand in his, starts shaking it, and says, "I think we can come to a deal. How about $1,500 for the rug?"

Me: "I really didn't come here to buy a rug. I said that I'd be happy to purchase the rug for $800, but it really wasn't my intent to purchase one.

Owner, still holding and shaking hands with me: "How about $1,400?"

Me: "Well, maybe $900."

Owner, still shaking my hand: "$1,300."

Me: "1,000"

Owner: "I just cannot sell it for 1,000, let's say we have a deal at $1,100."

Me: "Okay."

And that was it. My daughter now has a Kilin rug from Turkey in her bedroom. My son is just shaking his head, "Dad, you did it again."

How did the two sales people do it?

According to Robert Cialdini, there are 6 weapons of influence. We can all use them, and they are used on us, either knowingly or by accident:

  1. Reciprocation: we try to repay what another person has provided us

  2. Commitment and consistency: we desire to be consistent with what we have already done

  3. Social proof: we tend to rely on what other people are doing to determine our own actions

  4. Liking: we tend to go along with and follow people we like

  5. Authority: we feel a sense of duty to follow someone who has authority

  6. Scarcity: opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited

You can see how the rug salesmen used practically every one of these weapons in getting me to purchase the rug.

Reciprocation: The shill gave helped us find a suitable site after we were unable to enter the Hagia Sophia, then, he provided additional instructions to make sure we enjoyed it fully. The shop owner gave us snacks and apple tea, plus spent a lot of time with us educating us on oriental carpets.

Commitment and consistency: Once the shill told me that he would meet us at the exit, and once I had not denied that we would, consistency led us to follow him to the shop. But the real and masterly use of the consistency weapon was by the shop owner, who came up to me and started shaking my hand as we negotiated price. It's hard to back down from making a deal as you are affirming it by shaking someone's hand. I'm going to try that technique sometime with my kids when I need them to do something that they really don't want to do, like pick up their rooms.

Social proof: There was the shaking of hands by the shop owner; if he was signaling that we had a deal, who was I to say we did not? But, there was also the assumptive closing by the shill, saying that we would meet at the exit of the Cisterna Basilica.

Liking: Both the shill used helpfulness, stories, interest in our concerns as ways to get us to like them, to create a rapport, before any selling started.

Authority: We went into a lot of shops in Istanbul. I have to say that in practically every single one, we ended up talking with the owner. Of course, I have no way of knowing if it was really the owner, but the person spoke as someone in authority.

Scarcity: knowing that prices were generally a lot higher, and that was confirmed by my son, who'd been in Istanbul for the past three months, let us feel that we would not have the opportunity to purchase at that price in subsequent trips.

What lessons can we take from this?

First, in subsequent negotiations and interactions, we can be more cognizant of the techniques that the sales people were using; "Oh, this is the 'reciprocation' technique, don't feel that you need to reciprocate. Only purchase if you want the item." Being more aware of these weapons let's us be more resistant.

Second, we can utilize these techniques ourselves. Instead of launching into immediately telling someone what to do (as in "go clean your room", or "do you want to buy this service?"), we can find a way to offer something, we can spend time to insure that the person is in a receptive mood where they like us, we can create a perception of scarcity.

Third, read Robert Cialdini's book. It will provide even more examples to help you manage better, lead better, and resist others who would try to influence you to do things that you don't really want to.

And, with all that, we're happy we bought the rug; it will provide us with a lifetime of memories of our trip to Turkey. If you want to view a short slide show of our trip along with commentary, you can view about 40 pictures at

Sunday, August 03, 2008

F|R: The Top 5 Reasons Tech Execs Fail



Marty Abbott and Michael Fisher, Saturday, August 2, 2008 at 9:00 AM PT Comments (10)

Regardless of the title your company's top technology executive uses — CTO, CIO, Chief Product Officer or VP of Engineering — your company will ultimately look to this person to produce the software and technical products upon which your business success depends. Through our earlier career experiences (at Quigo, eBay and PayPal), and now through our consulting practice (AKF Partners), we've noticed that there are five consistent reasons why a tech executive fails.

Perhaps the most commonly assumed "failure scenario" is that the CTO is simply not technical enough to inspire confidence in the engineering team. This is not the case. In fact, it is actually rare that a CTO is removed because he or she lacks technical acumen. The truth is that your senior technology officer does not need to be the brightest technical mind in the business, except, potentially, during the startup phase of your company. Over time, he or she need only be geeky enough to challenge the strongest technical minds in your company to add value to technical decision-making. Most often, we find that senior executives come to a bad end when they spend too much time relying on their technical brilliance and not enough time cultivating other important aspects of their job.

The Top 5 Tech Exec Failure Scenarios we list below are not mutually inclusive, but they all support one very important conclusion: when technology executives fail, it is not because they lack an individual skill. It is because they lack an an adequate balance of the many technical, operational and leadership skills necessary to make them a complete manager.

5. Failure to Build World Class Team

As important as any other aspect of your job is the need to cultivate the best team possible given the limitations of your budget, mission and headcount. Rather than spending time on improving the capabilities of their teams, we find that many chief tech execs spend a great deal of time attempting to compensate for deficiencies within their teams. A very typical example of this is a CTO personally taking responsibility for every technology decision within a company. While this is a necessary practice when the team is very small, it does not scale into organizations of hundreds or thousands of engineers. All managers must be able to delegate to succeed.

4. Failure to Execute

At the end of the day, our jobs are all about creating and maximizing shareholder value. Failing to bring products to market in a timely fashion, releasing products with unacceptable levels of defects, and failing to meet contracted delivery dates are all examples of failing to execute to the expectations of your customers, partners and, ultimately, your shareholders.

3. Failure to Lead/Motivate/Inspire

Leadership has to do with those things that inspire an organization to achieve remarkable and extraordinary results. Painting a vivid description of the ideal future of your organization and setting aggressive but achievable goals are some of the aspects of leadership most often missing within the office of the chief technology executive.

2. Failure to Manage Operationally
Often, performance lapses by technology executives root to a lack of planning, communication or measurement — the very building blocks of operational management, as taught in business school. But you cannot improve what you do not measure, and you cannot guarantee maximum shareholder value without showing how you are improving results. Planning is an essential management activity as it helps align your team with your vision, mission and goals and helps ensure the efficient use of resources. Communication between and within organizations as well as to your shareholder base helps keep everyone in sync with your progress, needs, accomplishments and corrective actions.

1. Lack of Financial Acumen
In our experience, this is the top failure scenario among technology executives. Most technology curricula do not teach the basics of how businesses operate in financial terms, such as: capital markets, equity or debt finance, sales accounting, cash flow management, or even business strategy (such as Michael Porter's 5 Forces). By the time most technologists have become executives, they've spent a lot of time learning their engineering trade, but they've had precious little opportunity to really learn about the mechanics of how a company runs.

Cartoon courtesy of

Friday, August 01, 2008

How much bloggers are paid to blog

via The Blog Herald

Blogging Jobs: How Much Are Bloggers Paid to Blog?

Blogging Jobs by Lorelle VanFossenAs we continue with this series on blogging jobs, it's time to look at the income a blogger can make by blogging for pay.

The skills and qualities a company or blog owner is looking for from a blogger are extensive, far beyond just writing abilities. As with any freelance job, determining how to put a value on the time it really takes, and the costs associated with the time and production, is really hard when the real cost is in time, not materials. Bloggers should be paid for the time as well as their expertise and abilities. Are they? This is a problem that has been around for a very long time. How much is your time worth?

For many decades, professional editorial writers found a compromise on the time/value issue with payment by the word with a restriction on word count. I often was told, "We'll pay you a dollar a word up to 1,000 words maximum."

This meant the magazine, newspaper, newsletter, or other print publication had space for one thousand words that needed to be filled. Going over meant changing their magazine or newspaper design structure. Giving them less meant I'd be paid less, but somewhere in the middle was a compromise for both of us, usually in the form of me setting a minimum fee I was to be paid, no matter the word count, such as "I want $500 minimum for 700 words and a dollar a word thereafter." If the article came it at 400 words, I would still be paid my minimum. If it crossed the 700 word mark, at which point I should have been paid $700 for a dollar a word, that's when they have to start paying me the dollar a word rate. It wasn't the best, but the companies felt like they were getting a deal and for the most part, I covered the minimum I needed to pay my rent and eat.

Here is a chart for the various traditional writer's pay scale based upon a dollar amount per word. The more experience and expertise, the higher the fee per word.

Paid by the Word Count
Word Count
Fee Per Word100 25050010002000
$0.25 $25$63$125$250$500
$0.50 $50$125$250$500$1,000
$1.00$100 $250$500$1,000$2,000
$2.00$200$500 $1,000$2,000$4,000

Compare this to the word count of pay-per-post pay scales of today. If a blogger is paid $5 per 100 word post, they are paid 5 cents a word. If they are paid $100 per 100 word blog post, it brings the payment up to scale from 25 years ago. However, if they pass the 100 word mark, and most blog posts range from 200 to 500 words, the fee per word drops significantly.

Paid by Post - How Much Per Word
Word Count
Fee Per Post100250 50010002000
$5.00 $0.05$0.02$0.01$0.01$0.00
$10.00$0.10 $0.04$0.02$0.01$0.01
$25.00$0.25 $0.10$0.05$0.03$0.01
$50.00$0.50$0.20 $0.10$0.05$0.03
$100.00$1.00$0.40 $0.20$0.10$0.05

What does this mean? With the change from a per word fee to a per post fee, bloggers have to work longer and harder to make any money on content generation alone.

With the pay-per-word scale, you were paid more for generating more content. With the pay-per-post model, the more content you write, the less you are paid. So it pays to write as little as possible and generate the most posts you can. While shorter tends to be better in web and blog writing styles, what quality of content can you offer consistently in 100 words or less?

The dollar-a-word pay scale took into account not just the time it took to type the word, but the research, editing, and experience and training it took to generate that word. The pay-per-post mass content generation process is about getting the most posts published in the shortest amount of time, the sweatshop mentality of blog content. The pay-per-post bloggers never make enough money to adequately compensate them for the time it takes to produce the content, thus they have to work longer and harder. So how much time does it take?

How Much Time Does It Take to Publish a Blog Post?

The average hours worked annually in the United States is 1777. The average household income is about $60,000 a year right now. To make that, you'd have to earn $34 an hour minimum. How many blog posts can you generate in an hour to come up to $34 an hour? How long does it take for you to generate a single blog post? And how many posts would you have to write across a year to meet that average income if you are a full-time blogger?

If your goal is to make $40,000 a year, you'd have to earn $23 an hour. If your goal is to make $30,000 a year, you'd have to earn $17 an hour.

In How Long Does It Take You to Write a Blog Post?, the responses were fairly consistent from 30 minutes to an hour for a single post. Longer posts take more time.

What is interesting is how people didn't count the time they spent writing in their heads, composing and torturing the story idea, making notes, and processing the information and research before they actually started typing. That's part of the work time that goes into writing and shouldn't be discounted or dismissed. How do you account for that time? Many of us do our best thinking and writing in our heads while doing other things or sleeping. Still, the time it takes to jot down notes, read our feeds, uncover story ideas, and tug and pull at our stories is all part of the time it takes to write a blog post.

Remember the list of all the things a blogger does and is expected to do beyond just writing and generating content? I'd estimate that on a per-post basis, each post would consume 1-2 hours. Do you take that time into account as you calculate what you should be paid to blog?

There are 52 weeks in a year. Most paid bloggers need to produce a minimum of 3 posts a week. That's 156 posts a year. Divide the annual average income of $60,000 by 156 posts, that's $385 per post. Anyone getting paid that much to blog? I doubt it. Notch this up to 5 posts a week and you'd need 260 blog posts at $230 per post. That's better but most bloggers are paid $$25 or less per post.

At $25 a post, you'd need to write 2,400 blog posts to earn $60,000 a year. How long would that take you? Do you have 2,400 original blog posts within you?

If your blogging business is only about generating post content, here is a chart to gauge how many posts you would have to create and sell in order to make whatever is your desired annual income level.

At USD $25 Per Post,
How Many Does It Take To Earn
Your Desired Annual Salary?
Desired Annual SalaryNumber of Posts Sold
$25,000 1,000

Those who make the most blogging don't do it with pay-per-post unless they can get top dollar for their blog post content. Professional bloggers make money generating content on their own blogs combined with direct and indirect income sources such as advertising, speaking, ebooks, product sales, and consulting. This discussion isn't about them, though. It's about those who want to survive on blogging alone.

All this talk of income numbers is one thing. The core is how much time does it take to create and publish a blog post. Many workers are paid by the hour, so if you are paid $5.00 for a blog post and it takes you 15 minutes (.25 hours) to generate the blog post, that would be the equivalent of $20 an hour. Produce four blog posts at $5.00 an hour and you would get that $20. Ah, but that's more work. Indeed. You work 15 minutes to produce a $5 post and not have any other posts within that hour, you are still paid only $5. You have to generate four posts in that hour to make the $20.

What if it takes you 30 minutes? Then your pay scale would drop to $10 an hour for a $5 post. If it takes you two hours to publish a $5.00 blog post, that's $2.50 an hour. For the United States, that's way below minimum wage. It's not looking so good any more.

If you are paid $100.00 per post and it takes you two hours to develop the concept, research the story and materials, write the post, edit it, prepare it for publishing, find an image to accompany the post, publish it, then respond to comments and maintain the post over time, and include time for networking and promotion, you would be paid $50.00 an hour, a much more reasonable rate for an expert blogging specialist.

Pay by Post Hourly Rate
Hours to Write a Blog Post
Fee Per Post0.25 0.500.451.001.502.004.00
$5.00$20.00$10.00$11.11$5.00$3.33 $2.50$1.25
$10.00$40.00$20.00$22.22$10.00 $6.67$5.00$2.50
$25.00$100.00$50.00 $55.56$25.00$16.67$12.50$6.25
$50.00$200.00 $100.00$111.11$50.00$33.33$25.00$12.50
$100.00$400.00$200.00$222.22$100.00$66.67$50.00 $25.00
$200.00$800.00$400.00$444.44$200.00 $133.33$100.00$50.00

These calculations take a generalized look at the comparisons to help you get a picture of how much you are worth as a blogger, how much time you have to spend blogging to earn enough money, and to determine if you are being paid enough.

If you are an expert in your subject matter, you might be getting paid $50 to $100 an hour for consultation or service fees. To be paid less than that to take the time away from your business to write a blog post has to be offset against the return on that investment of time. If it brings in more business, then a lower blogging fee would be acceptable. If it doesn't, then your time might be better invested elsewhere, like on your own blog generating business and only occasionally guest blogging. You have to explore the number to see if they make sense - and enough money - for your needs. It's all about the return on your investment (ROI) on time and energy as well as money.

Let's look at some more time calculations. If it takes 30 minutes to write a blog post, to write 156 posts would take 78 hours. To write 260 blogs in 30 minutes each, it would take 130 hours. To write 2,400 posts, it would take 1,200 hours, coming close to full time work of 1777 hours a year, not counting the time it takes to read and respond to comments, network, promote, and all the many other tasks involved in blogging.

Is 30 minutes a blog post a realistic time frame? It often takes an hour or more to generate a single blog post, especially by a professional writer concerned with editing and making the content the best possible. Here are some estimates on how long it would take to generate the number of posts per week based upon how long it takes to write and publish the post.

Total Number of Hours to Produce
X Number of Blog Posts
Hours to Write a Blog Post
Average Work Hours Per Year = 1777
Number of Posts 0.511.524
156 (3x a week)78156234312624
260 (5x a week) 1302603905201040
500 (10x a week) 25050075010002000
1000 (19x a week) 5001000150020004000
2400 (46x a week) 12002400360048009600

Some posts take only a few minutes, but others take much longer. These numbers are just a general guide to help you determine how much time it takes to generate blog content on average.

How Much Are You Paid to Blog?

Bloggers love their independence, their freedom to work when and where they want, but at what price? The hours are long and hard. As the NY Times reported, it is becoming a serious sweatshop industry to generate the volumes of content demanded by the ever-growing web.

To make the average annual US income of $60,000, you need to make $34 an hour. If you are paid $5 a blog post, you would have to write 12,000 blog posts. At $25 a blog post, you would have to publish 2,400. For $50 per post, that's 1200 posts. At $100 per blog post, you would have to generate 600 posts.

I've only touched lightly on the price paid by those who work so hard for so little. Bloggers rarely see the inside of an office, which overjoys many of them, but the relationships that are formed within a work environment are denied them. Still, many stay-at-home parents are thrilled to be able to work and control their hours as well as take care of their family. I know of a growing number of bloggers dependent upon blogging income (and their online social life) while they stay at home or work only part-time to care for elderly parents.

As a freelancer and contractor, there is little room for advancement when you blog for someone else. You don't get regular pay raises and have to beg for increases in your blog fee at a time when many are paying less and less and advertising income is dropping. You have to chase down jobs and prove your worth over and over again.

There are also legal issues to consider such as the rights and usage of the sold blog posts. Who owns them? Who dictates what will happen to them after they are published? What about syndication and reprint rights? Can the blog owner do whatever they want with the posts after they've been published?

What about copyrights? Who owns the content after it's been published? Will the copyright ownership remain with the blogger or go to the blog owner? Will the blog owner protect the rights of the content and help the blogger defend copyright violations?

What about maintenance and upkeep of older blog posts once the blogger leaves the blog? Who is reponsible? It is still work representing the blogger's quality of work and reputation. Who is responsible for maintaining those?

Blogging for a living is definitely not for everyone. If you are a talented writer and understand the hard work, discipline, and endurance test that blogging can be, there is money to be made and a lot of companies are desperate to hire quality writers and bloggers.

If you want to blog for a living, don't take just any blogging job or low paying jobs. It isn't worth it. Get paid what you are worth so every blogger within the industry can get a chance to make a decent living and not be undercut by those blogging for $5 a post. Consider your expertise and ask for what you deserve.

In the next article in this series, I'll be addressing the issues of what businesses need to know about hiring bloggers. Many companies think they need blogs, but don't have the staff to maintain and produce blogs, so they are hunting. Unfortunately, they are hunting within a new industry of writers and thinkers who don't behave in accordance with traditional working standards.