Saturday, March 31, 2007

How To Visit Cuba

Most Americans don't know how easy it is to visit Cuba - and frankly, I am very glad. Cuba is an incredible place to visit and would only become less so with more traffic. Since only a *small* group of 'thought leaders' read Mattishness, I think it is safe to describe the process here.

Find a Canadian travel agent on the Internet - most any one will do. Call the agent on the phone and book a flight from Toronto or Vancouver (whichever is easiest) to Havana. Ask the travel agent to FedEx the paper tickets to you in the U.S. Then buy a separate ticket from your home to the Canadian departure city - match up the dates/times, etc.

When you land in Havana you may ask the passport stamper to stamp a loose piece of paper tucked in to your passport rather than the passport page itself. He may or may not oblige - but don't worry, it doesn't matter. The Cuban passport stamp is very small and illegible and does not say Cuba or anything else descriptive on it.
Go on and enjoy your trip.

When you return to the U.S. - tell the customs officer that you quite enjoyed your trip to Canada, thanks. As always when 'leaving a couple things out' use common sense and a reasonable level of discretion.

I may or may not have done this myself, and, or I may or may not know people who have.

Friday, March 30, 2007

How To Be Right

Guy Kawasaki has become (always was?) quite the guru. 'How To This', 'Ten Biggest That'. Next thing you know he will be blurbing the ROM and have his own Fijian resort.

But lets face it, at the end of the day what you really want is just to be RIGHT. I tell you how in 3, count them, 3, easy steps:

Rightness only really exists in relation to wrongness, so compared to the competition:
1. Do more research, and gather more information.
2. Think more deeply and critically.
3. Limit the scope and detail of your answer to what you do know.

That's all there is to it!

Writing Specs? Who Knew!

Rahul has a very nice post up describing the benefits of functional spec writing. Usefully, he also points at the wealth of spec writing information that is JoelOnSoftware.

We are now devoting more time to this sort of thing than we may have in the past, and early returns indicate that it seems to be working out quite well so far.

As a preface, let me just say that I don't know much about anything. Nonetheless, with reasonable regularity, I have promoted the process described by Rahul for the last year and a half to most people who are willing to listen - and I am thrilled about this development!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

My Favorite Thing About Blogging

I get to say:
"I met someone really cool on the Internet last night . . . "

With a straight face.

She said she really wanted to come visit me, but she has a fashion shoot in Milan coming up, so it won't work out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My Organic Search Footprint

# Profile Name:
# Date Range: 2/19/2007 - 3/28/2007
# Overall Keyword Conversion
funny job titles
mattishness blog
pre-roll mid-roll end-roll
mathew johnson seattle
matthew johnson nairobi
angel investors biotech exit
"- pre-roll, mid-roll, end-roll "
we are an affiliate site
vista voice recognition agile programming
vista rediboost
bronte media
summit partners
joel spolsky mattishness
orolix isp brazil
where are the customers' yachts text
mathew johnson
zyb msnnext
mathew johnson torrent

Internal Politicking

Dave just wrote a good post about trying to find the ‘right’ level of transparency in his blog. Coincidentally, Microsoft is dealing with this problem right now. The ‘right’ level of transparency infers a tension between too much, and too little – and an equilibrium between the two. Is Microsoft materially damaged by this week’s memo leak? No. So, why do people care? I know: it is internal politics.

I have been surprised by the importance of politics in small start-ups. People, and me, generally associate politics with large and ponderous institutions – but consider this: the fewer people on a team, the more important it is for each member to personally buy-in to the current goals. A corollary is that in a small team, even a single opt-outer can be lethal to success because all hands are needed. Further, organizational structure tends to be more fluid than in a larger organization, both in name and in practice. Managing up, and managing across are nearly as common as managing down. The established, institutional momentum (and inertia) of a larger organization often help wrangle workers on to the right plan – without politicking.

Basically, in a small start-up, if you spot a hole, or a glaring need, you have to go around and lobby everyone to build consensus.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mathew Johnson, Mathew Johnson

Mathew Johnson is interested in landing page quality score as it relates to Adwords. Mathew Johnson has noticed that Couponmountain added keyword heavy store descriptions like this one a few months ago. Mathew Johnson is interested in the efficacy of this rudimentary tactic. Mathew Johnson wonders how much, if any, bidding advantage this buys Couponmountain. Mathew Johnson noticed that the above linked page text was about 150 words long and included ‘’ 7 or 8 times. Mathew Johnson would, coincidentally, like to rank higher in search results for the phrase ‘Mathew Johnson’. Furthermore, Mathew Johnson will keep the readership posted on ‘how this works out’.
Mathew Johnson

More Time In Europe - Or Somewhere!

Having recently spent 10 days in Norway - I have more consciously resolved to try to find some useful, professional reasons to spend more time Europe, or honestly anywhere outside the U.S. in the future. Hell, I would be happy to spend more time in New York or L.A.
This wish has no specificity or time line, but it's something I want to keep in mind.

Seattle is a really great place and I have immense civic pride, but having grown up here, sometimes it gets old - and some of my own bad qualities (misanthropy?) tend to surface here from time to time.

But much more importantly, I really like spending time in Europe especially, not to mention Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and most other places in between.

Monday, March 26, 2007

What Did I Do Wrong, Yahoo?

Somehow, frigging Yahoo recently started making me type in a headache-y capcha everytime I send an email to even one person. This is on one of my primary email addresses - the one that most of my friends use - and definitely not one that I have ever used to "bulk email" or anything like that because I would never do that.

Please. Make. it. Stop.

Stepping Up - The Beauty Of Ignorance

Andy wrote a great post about successful role-players who want to step up to honcho level.
Basically, Andy pointed out that people who are successful salespeople or developers may not also make great managers - and they may be better off sticking with their proven skill-sets.
I spotted this one along time ago (from birth?) that's why my plan has always been to avoid cultivating any actual, useful skill. This way, my competitive advantage is to be in charge, of course.
For those of you who missed out on Econ. 11 - the principle of competitive advantage has some subtleties - I take advantage of one such subtlety here: Even if you are better than me at both telesales, and being in charge, maximum efficiency is achieved when I am in charge, and you are doing telesales, because I am no good at telesales.
This reminds me of one of my favorite punchline-less jokes about barflies: "You never want to be BEST at darts." I think, this is because if you are, you don't have anything better to do.
I am (kind of) joking around - I wrote Andy a comment on his post to this effect a couple of days ago and he either hasn't gotten around to approving it - or he just felt it wasn't constructive enough to allow :)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I Am Currently . . .

Listening to "Best Club Anthems 2006" on *11* and generating large keyword lists.

And occasionally harassing a variety of bloggers. Ah, Saturday night!

MSNNext - Big Idea For Zyb

MSNNext is built on top of MSN Messenger and allows you chat with buddies of buddies - social networking inside IM. It's only in Chinese at the moment - and I think it's awesome.

Martin Schaedel clued me in to MSNNext - Martin's former firm, LundKenner works with Tommy Ahlers's Zyb - which provides, at least, this: "an easy way to backup your mobile while allowing you to share and manage important data"

My great idea for Zyb is to use the contact list on your mobile like MSNNext uses your IM buddy list - and let you leave notes or messages for contacts of your contacts.

Rich Tong, one of our investors at Judy's Book, spends a lot of time on China through Qiming Ventures - and Rich, if I'm not way behind you already, you should check out MSNNext and its creator 5sai.

Extra credit for identifying this guy:

Friday, March 23, 2007

My Favorite Atheist

Well, I guess No. 1 would be me - because I like myself - and then there is Richard Dawkins - brilliant - but since I spend so much time reading blogs, I must include David Cowan of Bessemer Ventures.

David, if you haven't seen this already, let me hook you up with some funny stuff:

GodTube - a great pick-up by Ugo Cei, who is part of the Joost team.

Idea Percolation Metric

Obviously, as Judy's Book CEO, part of Andy's job is to set direction for the rest of us to execute.

I maintain that Andy has lots of great ideas all the time (although he modestly says: "I don't know about that") - some of which we grab and run with, and others that, at least temporarily, fall by the wayside.

Yesterday, I asked Andy if, in his view, A) the team dropped the ball too much on executing his ideas, B) he didn't follow up on ideas enough, C) we chased too many ideas at once or D) we had the correct level of idea filtering in place.

We agreed that we are doing a good job modulating focus at the moment - but, wait for it, the situation may change in the future.

And, the important thing is just asking organizational diagnostic questions like this on a regular basis - not necessarily what the answer is.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ethical Crisis

Honest to god - I just generated a list of circa 2000 keywords related to the phrase "mail order brides". Not sure whether I think this is just really funny, or if I am in fact, a terrible person.

I thought about finding an pertinent picture for this post, but then decided against it.

Natural Language Search: Asinine or Scam?

Periodically, natural language search gets trotted out as the next big thing - now is one of those times. As most people know, this has been going on for years and never seems to amount to much. Today's crop includes Powerset and Cognition and Hakia.

Why might this be? I can show you: take a look at this concise summary of the famous AOL search query data, how many queries are correct English prose (articles, prepositions, etc.)?

Now, I'm not much of a mathematician - but even I can see that the number approaches zero.

This fact established, I asked myself - are all these people stupid? It's unlikely, they seem pretty smart to me. So what could be going on? Well, Powerset has, in a very short time, created an impressive concealing cloud of coolness - not to mention high valuations. They were even able to structure their financing so that the founders can take cash out without any liquidity event - the so-called FF class of stock. Now, if I'm the entrepreneur, I can't get enough FF stock, but from an investment point of view, I am more wary.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Norway Photos - Good Times

(click on photo to check out the whole album)

Capital Efficiency - Failing Cheaper

Josh Kopelman, who writes one of my favorite VC blogs, has a great post today about Failing Cheaper

One of the things that has impressed me most about working for Andy at Judy's Book is our capital efficiency. Frankly, it is not that easy for a venture-backed start-up to use capital efficiently - and we do it well. Obviously, it's very easy to spend money too fast, and almost as easy to spend it too slowly. Experienced entrepreneurs like Andy know how to get it just right.

We can definitely do a better job at 'Failing Faster' - but we already do a great job at 'Failing Cheaper'

Intelligent Web Of Tomorrow

Forget Web version numbers - 2.0, 3.0, etc. It now appears that a consensus is building around the phrase "Intelligent Web Of Tomorrow"

And by consensus, I mean both the title of an article in The Hindu and the tag-line of a local "Stealth-Mode" start-up here in Seattle - Hypertext Solutions - P.S. In case you hadn't already figured it out - I use ironic quotes for mockery purposes.

Curry. No, Fish & Chips.

Back from my Think Week (ok, ok, vacation).

Anglophiles who free-associate the title of this post will come up with a single word: Takeaway. In fact, it looks like the title is 2 Different Takeaways.

Sometimes, a meeting will go just swimmingly - we'll have a great idea, figure out how to implement it, and agree to go out there and get cracking. Post-meeting, as the work begins to happen, it becomes clear that different people might have very different visions of what was agreed. 2 different takeaways. A) this wastes a lot of time and efficiency because work is not well coordinated, and B) people end up dissatisfied with the results of the work because they were expecting something else.

It might help to create more detailed specifications that describe how the higher-level business decisions are implemented. Simply being more vigilant about divergent takeaways will also help.

At Judy's Book, we have really smart people doing the business planning - and some other, even smarter people who design and build the site - but somehow we have not been able to retire quite yet. One thing that we (and everyone) can improve is communication and the other processes through which we turn a group of smart people into bags of cash.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Off to Norway

I am on holiday for about a week. Trying to line up a couple of start-up people in Oslo to chat with, just for kicks.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Dealflow From Adsense?

I noticed Summit Partners buying an Adsense ad on Feld Thoughts today. Summit is a legit firm (unlike the other 2 ad buyers). My favorite Summit investment is Triton a niche ATM company that exclusively serves casinos (ka-ching!). One of my best friends was an associate there recently; I asked him about it. He rather eloquently told me:
"Growth equity deals no longer require much artistry, but rather process execution and salesmanship."
Thats one reason he is not there anymore.
I am, ah, skeptical of the amount of great deal flow that Summit gets from Adsense.

Invest In Your Own Startup?

What if you were given the opportunity to invest your own cash - out of your salary, or another source - in the startup company where you work? Would you do it? Would you take money from family members and quietly invest it under your name?

Clearly, there are many good reasons why not - you are, probably, not capable of deploying enough capital to spread your bets around to a basket of high risk/reward startups. You already have stock options, so you stand to make some money if your company takes off. T-Bills offer higher returns than those 'lower quartile'(half?) venture funds. You name it.

But what if you were early at Google? Then would you invest additional cash? What if your company wasn't quite that kind of rocketship, so your decision to invest cash made a material difference to your wealth? What if you were given the opportunity to invest cash before it became clear that Google was Google?

This is one useful lens to view your startup job through. There are countless benefits to startup jobs - great people, tons to learn, excitement, relaxed rules - but face it, you're not saving the world in your day job, the point is to get rich.

So, would you invest?