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Valentine’s Day Thank You

February 14 2011 // Career + Life // 12 Comments

I often fail to thank folks properly. I mean to do it but … I wind up getting busy and then a week goes by and then a thank you seems false. Yet, I truly do appreciate it!

Invisible Double High Five

So it seems apt on Valentine’s Day to thank the many people who have influenced, supported and helped me over the past year.

Aaron Bradley (@aaranged) at SEO Skeptic has consistently provided engaging dialog on my blog. I hope to return the favor. Aaron is a thought leader, willing to rely on his own critical analysis in looking at a subject.

Michael Martinez (@seo_theory) at SEO Theory isn’t going to give you the same old SEO spiel found on hundreds of other blogs. Like Aaron Bradley, it’s great to find free thinkers in an industry with plenty of sheep.

Rob Diana (@robdiana) at Regular Geek is amazingly smart and engaging. Not only has he been a great supporter but he is vital to helping me find the best information on the Internet.

Matt McGee (@mattmcgee) and Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) are great people who have given me the opportunity to be an Editor at Sphinn. I sincerely appreciate their confidence.

Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) is a decent and generous guy. He may not always provide the answer I want to hear, but he’s nearly always there with an answer nonetheless.

Paul Buchheit (@paultoo) is, among other things, the founder of FriendFeed. That alone gets him on my list but his personal blog has also been inspirational.

Rick Bucich (@rbucich) has been a long time supporter of me and my blog. He’s wicked smart about SEO, so it’s a real compliment to have him in my corner.

Andrew Hanelly (@hanelly) has made some complimentary comments on the blog. That’s great, particularly since his own blog is great as well.

Jeremy Post (@jeremypost) is the best colleague I’ve had since I began SEO. Smart, hard-working and an all around good guy. He keeps me on my toes. Bonus – he brews his own beer.

Jonathan Mendez (@jonathanmendez) at Optimize and Prophesize provides amazing insight, bridging search and display. I’ve been lucky to interact with him a few times and always feel smarter afterward.

Lisa Barone (@LisaBarone) at Outspoken Media was kind enough to feature my Facebook SEO Guide in one of her posts. I’d be lying if it wasn’t nice to be acknowledged by one of the ‘cool crowd’ in the industry.

Rand Fishkin (@randfish) is CEO and Co-Founder of SEOmoz. You’d have to live under a rock not to know of Rand. I don’t know Rand personally, outside of a small email exchange, but his personal blog has been influential. I’m blogging more and better able to deal with haters because of his writings.

Aleyda Solis (@aleyda) at Aleyda Solis has been a tremendous supporter. My Spanish isn’t very good so I’ll simply say muchas gracias.

Kirby Freeman (@kirbyfreeman) is whip smart with a true gift for building product. She made me look good.

Michael Fruchter (@fruchter) has been a great supporter and another source for great content.

Micah France (@micah_france) has been generous with his comments and Tweets. They don’t go unnoticed.

Eric Logan (@ericloganvanman) is nearly always the first person to Like one of my posts on FriendFeed. It just seems like he’s got my back.

Roberto Bonini (@rbonini) is also quick to Like my content on FriendFeed. I appreciate it.

Louis Gray (@louisgray) introduces me to new and interesting services – constantly. He’s perhaps the nicest guy you’ll ever meet too.

Tad Chef (@onreact_com) at SEOptimise is always interesting and was kind to include me in his 30 Great SEO Blogs You Might Not Know Yet.

Elisa Gabbert (@egabbert) at WordStream is smart and funny. It’s awesome when someone like that references your work.

Alexia Tsotsis (@alexia) put my contact information smack dab on TechCrunch. That can’t be bad for business.

Tamar Weinberg (@tamar) at Techipedia does a fantastic job finding the best in Internet marketing. It was an honor to be on her list of Best Internet Marketing Posts of 2010.

Matt Gammie (@mattgammie) has been an interesting new and diverse voice. I appreciate the dialog.

Derek Perez (@perezd) at Perezium is wise beyond his years. He’s a hoot to be around but serious about the intersection of code, UX and start-ups.

Chris Eppstein (@chriseppstein) is an amazing Software Architect. Many of our conversations about search wind up as blog posts. I hope that continues.

Srikanth AD (@srikanth_AD) has been a great supporter, particularly on Quora.

Jill Whalen (@jillwhalen) at High Rankings is quick with an answer and always has an informed opinion. I may not always agree, but I like that she’s got an honest point of view.

Mark Essel (@VictusFate) at Victus Spirtus let me ride shotgun on his entrepreneurial ride. It’s been amazing to follow and his frequent blog posts often point me in interesting directions.

Mahendra Palsule (@ScepticGeek) at Skeptic Geek is a gold mine of information and insight. I’m thankful for his support and appreciate his editorial prowess.

Kristi Hines (@kikolani) at Kristi Hines is a dynamo. I certainly appreciate the mention.

Ruud Hein (@RuudHein) at Search Engine People is a great writer and search historian. Bonus – he’s friendly on Twitter.

Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) has included me in a number of his daily search recaps. Thank you.

Danny Brown (@dannybrown) is a paragon for all bloggers. He’s smart, down-to-earth and incredibly responsive.

Greg Sterling (@gsterling) at Screenwerk was kind to chat with me at SMX Advanced. He’s the guy to talk to about local and mobile.

Bill Slawski (@bill_slawski) at SEO by the Sea provides an incredible service to the SEO industry. We all appreciate it.

Donna Fontenot (@DonnaFontenot) at DazzlinDonna is as generous and nice as she claims to be.

Bill Rowland (@billrowland) at Nexus Interactive Marketing has commented on the blog a number of times. I’m thankful for his contributions.

Marty Weintraub (@aimclear) at aimClear for reminding me that search is fun. I hope to deliver as much value when I next present.

The music is playing so let me quickly squeeze in others who have written about me on blogs, mentioned me on Twitter or included me in their daily news.

The number of folks who have been kind to me is overwhelming. I hope I continue to earn your comments and support. And I know I’ve left off a lot of people (particularly folks at FriendFeed). So thank you to those that I have unintentionally missed.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Quora’s Not A Competition (But I’m Winning)

January 03 2011 // Life + Social Media // 2 Comments

It’s a new year and like millions of others I’ve taken stock and made some resolutions.

The Dark Passenger

Perhaps it was in this state of mind that I caught myself turning Quora into a competition. It’s not (or shouldn’t be) and my initial motivations for answering were more altruistic than self-serving. But like some dark passenger (hat tip to Dexter), my competitive nature has emerged. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with being competitive.

I’ve been criticized for being too self-assured, cocky or condescending. “You seem to think your opinion is always right.” I’ve heard that a number of times. My response is another question. Why would I give an opinion that I didn’t believe in?

While true, I doubt that response helps my case. That’s not to say that I’m never wrong or that I don’t change my mind. I can be persuaded to see another point of view. I enjoy intelligent debate.

That brings me to Adam Lasnik, who started off the new year with two great blog posts. I wholeheartedly agree with his publish first, think later criticism. His musings on why and whether we should contribute to sites like Quora got me thinking.

Why are we contributing to Quora? It’s a funny business in a way. Quora’s business is our contributions. It’s the same knock I have against article directories. They make a business on your content, leasing back a small fraction of their trust and authority in the form of backlinks. It’s not a particularly healthy relationship.

Is Quora different?

I still see value in contributing to a community like Quora and Stack Overflow. I don’t think a policy of isolation is the right course of action. Sharing your expertise is good business. But it makes me think about the motivations for contributing. On the face, you want to share your knowledge with someone. They have a question. You have an answer.

But it’s not like someone asking you in person, or via email or any other number of mediums. They’re not just asking you. Instead of getting one answer, they’ll get a number of answers. That can often be good, but it’s then up to the person or community to determine which of those answers is … best. Dress it up as most useful or interesting – people assign judgment to your content.

Keeping Score

Should we be surprised when we get caught up in wanting to have that best answer? It reminded me of a lyric from Love’s Not A Competition (But I’m Winning) by the Kaiser Chiefs.

I’m not sure what’s truly altruistic anymore,
When every good thing that I do is listed and you’re keeping score,


So I’m guarding against this ego based, game mentality. I don’t want to want to be first to answer a question, nor do I want that dark passenger to push me to contribute more. I’d like to be far more collegiate in nature, because this isn’t a zero sum game.

Don’t Lose That Billy Idol Sneer

November 19 2010 // Life // 6 Comments

(From time to time I post things outside of search, marketing and social media. This is one of those posts. So if that’s not what you’re looking for, this is your time to bail.)

For my birthday I received a Kurt Kinetic Bike Trainer. I’ve been on it a lot lately, spinning away in my new garage while listening to a variety of music. Yesterday it was Billy Idol’s Vital Idol, a collection of extended versions and remixes of some of his more popular songs.

I’m not exactly the biggest Billy Idol fan, but he – and this album in particular – captured a moment in time for me. I recall driving down to the shore (Long Beach Island to be exact) during the height of summer. I left at 3 or 4 in the morning to beat the traffic that inevitably stacked up on the two lane highway. It was rather desolate, my headlights making a small hole in the darkness as I flew past the gnarled Pine Barrens on Route 72.

Vital Idol was in the cassette player. The music was loud, drowning out the roar of the wind through the open windows. The adolescent sex fueled lyrics, thumping beat, synthesized surround wash and Steven Stevens blazing guitar riffs seemed to make the car fly.

What I remember is being in that moment. Being completely content – not complacent – but simply enjoying the small horizon ahead of me, arriving in LBI and doing whatever felt right once I got there. The future was small, yet large. What happened next? I simply wanted to find out.

Return to splendor

I believe that state of mind is important to retain. Yet, as we get older we accumulate responsibilities (families, mortgages and retirement portfolios) and a history of experience (success and failure) that makes it difficult to do so.

Instead of being consumed with the future and protecting ourselves, what if we let things happen? What if we got that teenage swagger back? What if we didn’t dwell on that track-record of experience, the knowledge that failure could lurk around the corner?

Am I talking about risk taking? Sort of, but not really. Am I talking about ‘thinking out of the box’? It’s more about throwing the box out altogether. That box is how things are supposed to be, but why are they supposed to be that way? Who says!

Paul Buchheit has written eloquently about this on a few occasions, helping to remind me not to live based on fear or lack of imagination.

It’s a nice day to start again

Thankfully my past is littered with examples of starting again. When I knew advertising wasn’t going to be my career, I quit. No job to go to, just the knowledge that it was time to move on. I did data entry temp work for PBS in Alexandria, Virginia until I got a job in fundraising.

When that job disappeared, a retroactive job freeze of all things, I took it as a sign. I drove cross-country from D.C. to San Diego with girlfriend (now wife) and cat in tow. When I tired of fundraising and wanted to get into Internet marketing I moved to San Francisco.

The Web 1.0 bubble burst and I wound up back in fundraising at De La Salle High School. One of the Lasallian teachings is that you can only take the step right in front of you. You can only make the next best decision. Trying to forecast the future is fruitless because each decision leads to something completely different.

I’m not a religious person, but this resonated strongly with my own personal beliefs. So when I broke down sobbing at an assembly, mourning a miscarriage and depressed over my job, I knew it was time to really do something.

And I did. I got back into Internet marketing. In fact, I got into search marketing. And see where that led?

Sweat, Sweat, Sweat

Here I am today, a husband and father with a new mortgage. The reflex for economic stability is huge. Yet, I began consulting because I wanted to spend more time at home with my family. I had no idea if it would be successful. But it was and I couldn’t be happier.

So now I spin on my trainer. I sweat. I sing along with my 17-year old self. My heart is full and I look forward to what comes next.

I tell myself I’ll do the Mount Diablo Challenge again in 2011. I tell myself that I’ll continue to work from home and spend time with the family. I tell myself that I’ll figure out ways to leverage my growing consulting business. There will always be people who say you can’t, but if you’re one of those people, you’re doomed from the start.

I had chronic appendicitis as a child. I’ve been hit by a car while bicycling. I’ve been mugged. I was unemployed for nearly a year. I dealt with the heartbreak of a miscarriage. I went through a crisis of confidence. Do those experiences make me stronger? I don’t know. But I know I have my sneer back.

It’s a sneer that says I’m going to enjoy the life I create … and you can’t stop me.

Don't Lose That Billy Idol Sneer

Don’t lose that Billy Idol sneer

Google, is there a …

March 20 2010 // Humor + Life + SEO // 1 Comment

Google suggests can be an endless form of entertainment and insight. Here’s one I caught in late January.

Google Suggests for Is There a

At first glance it seems like a strange combination but upon further inspection it’s a lot like a Google-style Burroughs cut-up.


You’ve got the adult and kids version of theology with is there a god and is there a santa claus. The current suggester also includes is there an afterlife. Some heavy stuff.


From herpes to AIDS to cancer, health queries are rising. I imagine that many dealing with these issues might wind up typing in is there a god or is there anybody out there. The Internet can isolate but also connect.


The Pink Floyd song is easy to spot, though at first glance I thought it was a Duran Duran reference. I’m an 80s fan and won’t apologize for it! The other song is by Band of Horses. I’ve never heard of them until now. All the songs do have a yearning and ethereal feel to them.


The meteor shower must have been very topical at the time because it’s not included in the current suggester. However, things falling from the heavens certainly fits into the overall theme.

As for hdmi cables, get the cheap ones.

Friend Is a Four Letter Word

June 22 2009 // Life + Rant + Social Media // 1 Comment

Technology now provides a level of connection that was unheard of just a scant twenty years ago. The cell phone, the Internet and the marriage of the two in smart phones (BlackBerry, iPhone etc.) have rapidly increased our ability to stay in touch. But who are we staying in touch with exactly? Do we have the time for all these people, and do we short-change family in the process?

Friend Is a Four Letter Word

Friend Overload

Automated report emails from work, status updates from Facebook friends you never really talk to and follower notifications that often wind up being spam consistently interrupt your weekend like a toddler tugging at the edge of your shirt.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when getting an important email while you’re on the go can make a real difference. But most of the time it could have waited until the next day, never mind another hour.

More and more we’re getting messages from online friends: Facebook updates, Twitter followers and FriendFeed subscribers. I get a lot out of my social network, which is nearly all on FriendFeed. There are a slew of people I now count as friends through my FriendFeed experience.

Yet, should I be using my time to chat with them when I could be spending more time with my family, or visiting with friends? To be clear, I’m not saying I’m quitting FriendFeed (far from it!) I’m simply working through how to best use my time in relation to all the ‘friendships’ new technology has enabled.

Technology allows us to keep in touch with more people. But should we? Are these quality interactions? Voyeurism friendships (or those people with whom you’re connected via a social network but rarely interact with online and never speak or meet with offline) take up time, energy and emotion that might be better spent elsewhere.

The First Social Network

And it’s not just about the time devoted to these voyeurism friendships. Technology makes it possible to disrupt real friendships with these voyeuristic updates. Even worse, they might make you inattentive to your first social network: family.

The Annenberg Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California is reporting this week that 28 percent of Americans it interviewed last year said they have been spending less time with members of their households. That’s nearly triple the 11 percent who said that in 2006.

Each Saturday morning I take my four year old daughter to dance class. Parents stand outside and watch through a massive window. I bring my BlackBerry with me, but I am very rarely on it and try not to use it at all.

Instead I want to watch my daughter, react to her wave, thumbs up, wink or smile. I want to be present! Because all too often there’s a parent there, head down, tapping away on an iPhone or BlackBerry, oblivious to what’s going on with their child.

I wonder how many children are competing for time and attention with the tiny people living in that smart phone. I can’t believe it feels very good.

Friend Overload

How do these voyeurism friends stack up against other friends or family? I’m a firm believer in Dunbar’s number – the maximum number of healthy social relationships a person can maintain at any one time. Dunbar’s number is approximately 150. The question is, do these voyeurism friends count against this number?

I’m beginning to suspect they do.

You might not think they do, but they’re taking up social and emotional space. You are inserting a random piece of information about a person into your memory. A person who you went to high school with – not really a friend then or now – just got back from a trip to New Orleans. You can’t turn that information off. It’s been received and transmitted to your brain, mixed up with other random facts like song lyrics or television commercials from your childhood.

Whether you like it or not your brain is processing this stuff. You can begin to think about why Dunbar’s number makes sense in this context. As your brain is trying to sort, track and shelve data on more and more people it becomes far more difficult to maintain. You can’t crack the case and stick in more RAM.

Friend Turnover

At some point, you’re only storing a very small amount of data on a slew of people, which makes those relationships tenuous as best. The issue here is that you’re threatening the strength of all your relationships as you expand your reach. You might try to store more about ‘good’ friends and family, but I’m not sure we’re wired that way.

There’s a reason why you lose touch with friends. They aren’t really friends (anymore) and you don’t want to clutter your head with irrelevant data. You outgrow friends. Recent research suggests that you replace half of your friends every 7 years.

I question whether technology is inhibiting the natural shedding of friends necessary for us to move on, to establish new friends and evolve as a person.

The Future of Friends

I’m writing about this, in part, because I don’t know the answer and am struggling with the topic. I’m on FriendFeed constantly, sometimes when I could (perhaps should) be spending time with my wife and daughter.

I’ve taken steps to address this disconnect. I attended the FriendFeed open house so I could actually meet some of the people to whom I’ve been chatting – something that goes against my natural introverted nature.

And I’ve walked away from the computer – completely – to spend more time with family. We walked the Golden Gate Bridge together and explored the California Academy of Sciences.

Time and attention are in short supply in our accelerated society. Sometimes you need to remind yourself about what’s really important.

Why You Should Care About Cheating In Sports

May 09 2009 // Life + Rant + Sports // 3 Comments

Manny Ramirez is the latest athlete to be caught using performance enhancing drugs.


Who Cares!

That seems to be the overwhelming reaction. From radio host Gary Radnich to one of my favorite blogs – Reign of Error – they’re not just tired of the scandals but they fail to see that it’s a problem.

The range of excuses and rationalizations seem endless.

Some view athletics as a form of entertainment and, as such, they don’t see a problem with steroids or cheating. If they’re entertained, they don’t care.

Athletics != Entertainment

I submit that athletics is a form of competition. The competition is entertaining. It is not entertainment. The latter is used by far too many to equate entertainment to business. Athletics is not a business. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of people make a business from sports and competition. But they are not synonymous.

If athletics is entertainment then lets get rid of wins and losses and forget about those silly standings. Instead it’ll just be like 81 trips to the movies. I assume you’ll have no problem with that.

By all means, lets crown the winner in terms of who was most entertaining. Forget the World Series, lets track who made the most money and have an end of the year awards ceremony. We can fight about whether the most profitable team should have won the most entertaining team award. Which outfield wins for best supporting cast? That sounds delightful!

Still think sports is entertainment?

Why do people leave when it’s a blowout? It doesn’t mean that there won’t still be home runs or touchdowns or goals or dunks. It means the competition is over! So please stop saying you’d be pleased as punch to sit and watch some ‘roid filled lunk hit 6 home runs in a 34 to 0 laugher.

Can you blame them?

Many say it’s hypocritical to blame these cheaters. ‘Wouldn’t you take steroids if it meant making $20 million a year?!’ My answer is no. I wouldn’t.

I understand this motivation. I acknowledge that it can be a very alluring idea for some. But I would not cheat for money.

The heart of this argument comes down to greed and it exposes a very real problem with American culture.

People seem willing to accept those willing to do anything in the quest for the almighty dollar. Success is no longer about attaining our best through hard work, practice and determination. Success is about attaining a big bank account … period. That sad statement is reflected in our ambivalence toward cheaters.

Cheating is a slippery slope

If it is okay to cheat to make more money, this means Ken Lay and Bernie Madoff shouldn’t be vilified. They were simply taking every advantage they could to get ahead.

This means you shouldn’t be angry at Wall Street fat cats. And don’t even try to be upset about mortgage lenders. No whining about politicians taking money from lobbyists. Stop complaining about black hat SEO and click fraud. Get comfortable with colleagues sleeping their way to the top.

These people are all just trying to gain an extra advantage. They were all just doing what they had to to make a buck.

If you accept cheating in sports, you accept it everywhere. You abdicate your outrage and muddy your ethical discernment. So spare me the ‘hypocritical’ tripe and look for that label in the mirror.

Empathy not sympathy

Some sympathize with the athlete (particularly an aging athlete) who is trying to stay competitive. To them I say that it is okay to empathize with the athlete – you might understand why they did it – but in no way should we condone or accept this behavior.

I understand the weakness of these athletes. Just like I might understand the reasons behind someone perpetrating a violent crime. That doesn’t mean I sympathize with them, nor do I think what they did is okay.

There should be no entitlement to ability nor having the same ability for perpetuity. There is no exemption for entropy.

Winning through cheating is not winning

Let’s give the marathon record to the joker who rode the bus for half the race. Hey, he was just trying to use any means necessary to win, right? What’s the big deal!

Winning is not about short cuts.

In 2003 I completed the Mount Diablo Challenge in one hour and twenty-six minutes. I was not first that day. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But I won that day.

A year of training – of hard work, sacrifice and determination allowed me to climb 11 miles and 3,200 feet that day. I still rely on that day and others on my bicycle to remind me that hard work pays off, that seemingly insurmountable goals can be overcome through hard work.

Cheating! I’d wonder if it had been me or the drugs. I’d have robbed myself of that hard won self confidence and fulfillment. No thanks.

Lip service

Oh, we try to promote the idea that it is the journey that matters and not the destination.

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

We tell our kids this but many now fail to honor this adage. Some, sadly, even find this statement quaint and outdated. And that’s scary because isn’t this what America really stands for?

America shouldn’t cheat freedom to win.

Everyone is doing it

Nonsense! Everyone isn’t doing it, and even if they were every mom has the perfect response.

If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?

Only a few get caught

Others focus on the fact that only a few cheaters get a lot of media coverage and that many cheaters never get caught. I find speeding is a useful analogy to show the specious nature of this argument.

A lot of people speed. Only a few get caught. Those driving candy apple red sports cars at excessive speeds may get caught more often because they naturally attract more attention.

The fact that only a few get caught, or that those driving really fast in extravagant cars are often singled out does not change the fact that speeding is against the law.

Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod and Manny get an unfair amount of attention for their misdeeds because they’re the candy apple red sports cars of the bunch.

Life is unfair. Get over it.

Life Is Unfair

Oddly, some use the ‘life is unfair’ argument in support of cheaters. They throw their hands up in the air and shout that it’s never a truly level playing field.

So I’ll revise the argument. Life is unfair enough without our artificial contribution. Or to rely on yet another saccharine saying – ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right.’

Don’t Cheat Yourself

Don’t give cheaters a free pass. Don’t say it’s okay because it’s just sports. Don’t say it’s okay because it’s entertaining. Don’t say it’s okay because it’s about money. Don’t say it’s okay because you understand why they did it. Don’t say it’s okay because winning is what really matters. Don’t say it’s okay because you can’t catch everyone.

Don’t cheat yourself with these flimsy arguments. Even if you don’t aspire to some lofty ethical paradigm, think of it as preserving your own self interest. Don’t invite cheaters into your own life.

Parents Run the Internet

April 07 2009 // Career + Life + Technology // Comment

That’s right, parents are the driving force behind the Internet. I don’t mean end users, I mean those who are creating, building and managing the sites, applications and companies that power the Internet.

Parents run the Internet

Web 1.0

15 years ago a bunch of young visionaries and entrepreneurs developed new businesses and companies that would change the way we get news, do research, communicate and purchase goods and services. It was the wild west of business and I was lucky to get in on the tail end of that era.

Web 1.0 was about youthful exuberance. Many spent like drunken sailors and the stories of excess are legendary. Nearly everyone in the industry was young and it didn’t seem like we had to conform to the way anyone else conducted business.


People lived to work and often slept at work. Kitchens were stocked with free soda and munchies. There was no dress code. We shot Nerf guns at each other, rode around in the office on Razor scooters, got good at foosball and relaxed in our comfy Aeron chairs. Companies grew without the aide of a business plan. We counted our options and talked about what number we were in the company.

Po Bronson captured the time in The Nudist on the Late Shift.

The Nudist on the Late Shift came out at the height of the great social experiment – dot com fever, summer of 1999. Amazingly, it still stands the test of time, being the definitive portrait of that crazy place and time in our modern history, when all the rules were rewritten. My classic piece is the first chapter, The Newcomers, which was inspired by the works of Joan Didion, Upton Sinclair, and John Steinbeck, who chronicled other great migrations to California. From 1996 to 2000, almost 400,000 young people moved to the Bay Area from elsewhere to seek their fortune and fate in the internet industry …

It was the era of WebVan, and Kozmo. (Ah, Kozmo how I miss thee!) In retrospect it was a lot like college.

The Nuclear Winter

Then the bottom dropped out of the Internet. Reality reared its head and the party was over. The dot com crash, or dot bomb if you like the nuclear winter metaphor, was a wake up call. Suddenly we were the butt of jokes. We finally got our comeuppance!

Thousands of us pulled the cord and found work in other areas and industries. It had been fun but it was time to grow up and start a ‘real’ career. But others stuck around – those of us who thrive on the edge of business. Those who like the chaos and can stomach the ups and downs of the roller coaster. We still saw promise in the Internet. We’d make it work.

By the end of the nuclear winter the fraternity of Internet colleagues was relatively small. Yet, we were well placed when the Internet rose from the ashes. We’d amassed a wealth of experience and learned from our mistakes.

Web 2.0

Something else happened when the Internet returned from the grave. We were in our thirties. Many of us who stuck around had started families. We matured. As any parent will tell you, your view on life and your priorities change once you’re a parent.

We became more fiscally responsible and that translated into the way we ran new start-ups. Excess was out. Making your dollar go farther was in.

The idea of living at work disappeared. Flexible hours became widely accepted and more and more found they could get just as much done working at home. We had kids and we wanted to be there for them. (Or we were made sick by them!)

It was about efficiency and output. It was about time-shifting. Just like TiVo, we’d pause work until later in the evening and then catch up with email.

We understood failure and that tempered our ego. (Tempered mind you, many of us still have big egos.) Our conversations were no longer about Burning Man, they were about elementary schools.

Parents Drove Innovation?

Think about the innovations in the last few years. How much of it was influenced by the fact that those creating it were parents? Parents want to be untethered from work, to time-shift, to document and to reminisce.

Mobile applications allow us to be elsewhere but still be connected. I can be at the playground with my daughter but still stay on top of any pressing matters via my phone. Add lighter more powerful laptops and wifi and suddenly I can go anywhere and still be ‘in the office’.

RSS and other feed based applications let us digest news on our own time.

Social Networks let us connect and interact with others without the time sink of meetings. LinkedIn makes it easy to network – something we learned was more important then we thought. Facebook lets us connect with old friends but only at arm’s length. No awkward coffee store meet ups, thank you very much.

Blogging lets us document our life and our passions. Could the need for self-expression, to keep your own identity as a person, and as a parent, be part of the reason blogs took off?

Is microblogging a way to do the same but a reaction to an infringement on our most precious resource – time? Is the rise of real-time blogging of conferences a way to optimize our information and time balance?

Are the rise of photo and video applications and platforms due to the desire to document our families? Flickr photo albums of first steps sent to family members near and far. The Flip Video Camcorder that lets us put all those dance recitals on video and share them with the world.

Really, why exactly are kids show mashups so popular?

Parents Run the Internet

The Internet has evolved and matured in parallel with those innovators who flocked to it in the mid-to-late 90s. It should come as no surprise that parents now run the Internet.

Twitter In The ER

December 13 2008 // Life + Social Media // Comment

It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest Twitter fan. But yesterday, we had to take my daughter to the ER to get IV fluids. She couldn’t keep anything down, even water, and having been born with just one kidney we’re always vigilant about her hydration.

During this gut-wrenching time (there’s no comparison to worrying about the health of your child), Twitter let me keep my family and friends updated without stepping out of the room or disturbing anyone. It served a very valuable function, something it hadn’t done for me previously. Oh, Twitter had been interesting, informative and sometimes fun, but never valuable.

Twitter is increasingly being used as a news service – whether it’s reports of an earthquake, opinions on Presidential debates or first-hand accounts from the Mumbai attacks. In this instance, I was simply using Twitter for my own personal crisis. Micronews.

I wasn’t expecting a dialog, though I got some very kind replies. (Thank you!) And that might be the reason why Twitter continues to do well. The expectation of dialog or replies is still low. When you shout into a canyon you’re pleasantly surprised when you hear someone, other than your own echo, reply.

Maybe this isn’t the big epiphany for you as it was for me. But it makes me think that Twitter can be more than just a promotional megaphone or “I just ate a mango” navel gazing. I also thought of new features I might want, like the ability to Tweet to a subset of my followers.

Hopefully my followers on both Twitter and FriendFeed don’t mind my tangent into personal chatter. (No Qwitters yet.) And I’m certainly hoping I don’t have to take advantage of this particular use of Twitter any time soon. But it’s nice to know it’s there.

Thank you Twitter.

Hockey Memories

October 31 2008 // Life + Sports // 2 Comments

On Tuesday I was lucky enough to see the Sharks play the Penguins. It’s the first hockey game I’ve been to in a long time and my first at the Shark Tank. I was lucky enough to sit in one of the corporate boxes, which is actually how I was first introduced to hockey in the 1980s, sitting in my Grandfather’s Superbox seats at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. The night brought back a slew of powerful and fond memories.

Superbox was great for a lot of reasons. It had a great view, you’d get the stat sheets every period and sometimes injured players would sit there during the game. It’s how I came to get autographs from Tim Kerr and Brad Marsh.

Even better, I got to see Wayne Gretzky in his prime. Not just during the regular season but also during the 1986 Stanley Cup Finals. Hoarse from screaming my Dad took Broad Street home after Game 6. Jubilant Flyer fans lined the street giving the slowly diving cars high fives as they passed.

That year I also went to Europe for a month, three weeks of which was on a bus tour filled with pleasant Canadians. Because I knew hockey I was able to flirt with a very pretty girl from Edmonton named Shelly. The last day of the tour she kissed me.

I remember going to an Eagles game one Sunday morning in 1985. Standing on a packed subway car at Fern Rock station and finding out that Pelle Lindbergh had died. First it was a murmur, then a hush fell over the car. A fan turned up his radio for the rest of us, and we all listened, shell shocked, rocking back and forth, as they described the car crash that had taken the life of such a promising goalie.

Say what you will, Philadelphia fans are passionate. We felt the loss. Deeply.

The girls at my high school were also infatuated with the Flyers and, for good or for bad, my favorite player: Peter Zezel. It got even worse when players turned up in the movie Youngblood. Hockey players were often very approachable so many girls would bring Polaroids of themselves standing with their objects of desire. How could we mere mortals compete?

Soon my Dad got season tickets and I went to more and more games, sitting in the second level, making friends with the other regulars around us. I learned all the motions the refs used to call penalties, screamed at Doug Crossman to stop watching the puck and moaned when Don Koharski made bad call after bad call or swallowed the whistle in the third period.

I recall the walk from the parking lot to the Spectrum. It was usually chilly but full of anticipation, my Dad and I trooping along with a happy plodding group of slightly inebriated fans. We usually sprinted back in an even more bracing night air, parked strategically to get out of the lot as quickly as possible and catch Gene Hart do the post game show on 610 WIP.

Then there was the 1992 All-Star game. My Dad and I went down to get a program and next to us is a familiar looking woman wearing a ‘St. James’ jersey. Who was it? Susan Saint James. Hockey fan. We forgave her for buying a Ranger jersey.

I’m still a hockey fan but just haven’t gotten around to seeing it live, which is a real shame. The energy and vibe produced by the crowd during the game is just unmatched by any sport.

The funny thing is, it felt very much the same as all those years ago. It turns out hockey fans are pretty similar, and what they do in Philadelphia they do out here in San Jose. Though with slightly less fervor.

I’m too far away to go to a lot of games but I’ll make sure I go to more from now on. In the interim, I’ve got my memories. I’ve got Ron ‘Flockey Hockey’ Flockhart and Ron Hextall.

I’ve got Section 38, Row 6, Seat 6.

Inspiration In My Wallet

September 19 2008 // Career + Life // Comment

I’m a bit of a minimalist when it comes to my wallet, never wanting to come close to having the dreaded Costanza wallet. However I carry one very important business card.

I picked up this card in a Starbucks down in Margate, NJ. I have no interest in surfing but was drawn to it for a couple of reasons. First was the superficial simplicity of a placid blue ocean as the business card’s design. The marketer in me thought that was brilliant.

The second reason was a lot deeper. I looked at this card and thought, here’s a person who’s doing exactly what they want with their life. It represented the ability to take life by the horns and steer your own course. The business was about making a living, but likely not about making a fortune. I imagined that Dominick got a lot of satisfaction out of his business.

I keep the card in my wallet to remind me that there are options. That I should pursue my passion and try not to settle.