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Is Your Business Dead?

Even twelve years ago, when I started my business, it was significantly easier to survive than it is today. Big companies acted like big companies, only going after the giant targets, leaving a lot of smaller targets for small companies. If you could provide a unique value proposition, with great customer service, you could survive. However, making it big was harder, because it took a long time and a LOT of money to extend the reach of your products/services and build the necessary infrastructure. Neither of those things is true anymore.

Today you can look big fast because of the internet. You can get big-company infrastructure for cheap…again, because of the internet. You can reach the entire world, 24 x 7…because of the internet. However, big companies are now offering amazing levels of service, flexibility, and customized products… all because of the internet. The “long tail” theory is giving niche products a much bigger marketplace, but big companies are now able to justify competing in those niches.

So, if you can leverage the internet, your new business can get ahead like never before. If you ignore the internet, you’re dead before you know it. Here are ten signs you are in the dead category:

  1. You think the internet is a coming revolution. Sorry to break it to you, but the revolution already happened. How often do you use the yellow pages compared to five years ago?
  2. You still don’t have a website. Unless your business is less than one month old or you are intentionally trying to make this hard, you have a major problem.
  3. You have a website, but you don’t know how to change it. A website that doesn’t change frequently is dead. And a dead website is a dead business.
  4. You acquire less than 1/2 of your customers via the internet. Over 1/2 of your customers are looking for you online, so who is getting your share?
  5. You think your website is just for acquiring new customers. Most businesses earn over 50% of their revenue from repeat customers. Is 50% of your website dedicated to driving repeat business?
  6. You think your business is local. Flower shops, travel agents, tax preparers, bookstores, all thought they were local businesses. Guess who dominates those categories now? ‘Nuff said.
  7. You think your website is just for the “front office.” More and more “back office” services are being offered on the web: payroll, voice services, accounting, marketing, etc. all can save you time and money and help you compete.
  8. You think your website is your internet strategy. Without connections to lead sources, comparison shopping engines, online communities, search engines, mobile services, other websites or blogs, etc. you are living in a Field of Dreams. Trust me, if you just build it, they will NOT come.
  9. You try to hide that you are a small business. Don’t hide it, small is beautiful. The internet can help you provide big company value, but customers still want small company service.
  10. You take all of my advice (or anybody else’s). No two businesses are the same, so you have to figure out for yourself exactly how the internet can help your business. Test, learn, improve.

Written by Justin Kitch at

Rules for Business E-mail

In the days of yore, people communicated by writing using a portable highly compact printer known as a pen (or sometimes a pencil). The products of these instruments were known as “letters.” Sometimes, whole novels were written as if they were collections of these letters. This was when people would wait days or weeks to receive news from loved ones. Even news of the birth of a grandchild might take days–unlike today’s birthing room cam broadcast on the Internet for instant world-wide viewing.

In the days of yore, people communicated by writing using a portable highly compact printer known as a pen (or sometimes a pencil). The products of these instruments were known as “letters.” Sometimes, whole novels were written as if they were collections of these letters. This was when people would wait days or weeks to receive news from loved ones. Even news of the birth of a grandchild might take days–unlike today’s birthing room cam broadcast on the Internet for instant world-wide viewing.

When people wrote letters and waited days to receive them, they wanted something substantial. If you wrote a novella detailing your latest adventures in the suburban jungle and asked your recipient “How’re you doing?”, you’d be miffed if the response was merely “Fine.” These days, with the near instantaneousness of e-mails and the frequent deluge of them in your inbox, the long-winded e-mail can be aggravating.

To the point: E-mails should be short, pithy, and necessary. In my day job, I do work for many people in my company. They send me e-mails telling me to do such and such. Many people abuse their e-mail priviledges. E-mailing for work is not a social activity. I have come to the point where I need to set some ground rules–but my position in the company doesn’t really make this appropriate. So, I’ll do it here.

Rules for Business E-mail

1) Make the e-mail necessary: Is this information I need to do my job? Too many people CC me on developments. In my position, I only need to be told WHAT to do, not WHY, and not HOW the decision was made. I don’t care about the back-and-forth of the debate. Is it red, is it blue, is it now green? When you decide, tell me, otherwise don’t clutter my inbox.

2) Make it short. I know who I am, so I don’t need “To Jeff” or even “Jeff.” I know who you are (if I don’t, you probably can’t be telling me to do something), so I don’t need your signature. God help you if you have one of those obnoxious signatures with every means on the planet to contact you or, worse, with some idiotic character picture. Say: “Do x by y date.” My reply will be “Done.” If you send me a “Thanks,” you’re violating rule 1.

3) Not everyone uses Outlook, so if you must send one of those Outlook meeting announcements, please include some human readable text. For example: “Meeting: 1:30 to 2:30. Topic: How much should we raise your salaries. Place: Room 121.” (I’ll get into this more in another article, but this meeting should satisfy the first two rules here, too.)

4) Give me a meaningful subject. Ideally, the subject line could tell me everything I need to know. For example, the meeting notice human text in rule 3 could be the subject line. I have my hands in many projects, so it would be great if the project name could be part of the e-mail. That would make categorizing it a snap. (It would also help me trash e-mails without reading them.)

5) Don’t e-mail me about work that needs to be done in minutes or even a few hours. I usually only check my e-mail in the morning, maybe in the afternoon. If the work is urgent, there’s a device known as a phone. Simply call me; say “I’ve sent an urgent e-mail. Please read it for the details.” I know I could use an application like Outlook or Thunderbird that would notify me when new e-mails arrive, but this rule is intended to instill discipline in others. I don’t want them e-mailing me at the last minute with urgent work. Tell me as early as possible.

Leave comments for Jeff about this article:

Why Are So Many Bloggers Selling Their Blogs?

We have seen some fairly high profile blog sales, at least in the make money online niche, including – ($6,000) ($15,000) ($8,500) (Not Sold Yet – Predicted low five figures)

If I had the writing resources available to me I would have loved to have snapped up all these blogs to create quite a nice make money online network, but that would simple be beyond my capabilities to manage at this time.

Blogging Fingers was the first to tip the scale, gathering attention from plenty of other blogs about the sale. This in turn led to the other sales, which haven’t quite garnered as much attention but that certainly hasn’t harmed the final selling price and I think therein lies one of the main motivations for this spurt of blog sales – the money is good.

I’ve been in personal contact with a few of the people behind these sales and I think it’s safe to say for every blog listed above, the main reason for selling is “personal reasons” of some kind, which to me means there are other projects they would like to move on to, they have grown tired of writing to their blog or something a bit more serious has forced them into the sale.

Does This Indicate The Start Of A Mass Exodus?

I expect we haven’t seen the last of high profile blog sales – we never will as long as there are buyers and sellers – however I think the last few weeks occurred purely because a few bloggers found themselves in a situation where they were thinking about selling, for whatever reason, and then when they noticed the amount of money they could get, that tipped the scales.

The final selling price for these blog sales was above average based on recent history. I still think they were fair deals given the readership and potential for revenue, but compared to the prices you can get for other website purchases, these outgoing bloggers made very good money for what they sold. Price is always a subjective matter and it depends ultimately on how the new owner can leverage the asset to whether they got a good deal or not.

What I think is sad about these sales is the lost potential. These bloggers were on the tipping point of big success. If they just continued what they were doing they would have possibly grown into leaders in the industry – which is very hard to do – and when you get there, the perks are fantastic. Sometimes the lure of a nice cash exit is tempting, but you really want to be clear about what you are letting go of. It’s going to be harder and harder to stand out from the crowd and these blogs were well on their way to doing that.

Building an authority blog is a challenge, and frankly, there are much easier ways to generate a few thousand dollars online, so if you want the money, selling your asset should be the last resort. That being said, I think for many of the bloggers in question for these recent sales, there was a need for urgency or a clear desire to leave the market, so the sales are justified.

Will The Market Sustain These Prices?

The World Wide Web is MASSIVE. That means there is and always will be bargains to be found if you are looking to buy websites. Usually the best way to find sites and pick them at cheaper rates is to approach websites that represent value to you (they target the market you target and you see a way to get a return on your investment) and then make a casual approach. If you find sites that are clearly being neglected (look for blogs with recent inactivity), chances are you can pick them up for much lower rates than what these blogs recently sold for.

On the flipside, if you want to increase the value of a website for sale, focus on the core metrics like traffic, RSS, revenue, content and incoming links, and then go out and drum up some buzz for your sale. I think with the growth of the Web and the strong interest in successful blogs, they will continue to attract higher and higher prices. Expect more of what we are experiencing now in the future.

Currently, the make money online and blogging niches have enough buyers that blogs like those listed at the start of this article enjoy high demand. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but I suspect it’s because people see that there is money to be made about talking about making money.

Buying a blog instead of starting one from scratch is definitely a quick entry strategy, although there are risks involved since you may lose a lot of the value you paid for as soon as the blog changes owner. Some readers are only readers because of the person who was writing the blog. As soon as they leave, the readers leave too.

If you want further advice about buying and selling websites, try these articles –

Yaro Starak
Not Selling His Blog at

10 Ways To Make Work Fun

We can make work fun, enjoyable and emotionally satisfying. Don’t dread certain tasks, use these 10 ways to turn even the most challenging tasks into a game. Find the psychological rewards of doing good work.

Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. -Mark Twain

With all due respect to Mark Twain, I think there is a better way. Work can be fun. Any work can be turned into a game.

Here are a few ideas to help you find the fun in any job:

Play music. Turn on your CD player, MP3 player or even the radio. Music has the ability to draw our minds away from the more disheartening aspects of any job.

Make your work a competition. If you are working with someone else, make it a race to see who can get it done soonest. Or who can complete the most of each task.

Just dive in. Most of our feelings of dread disappear once we become immersed in a project. Whatever it was that made us put it off or want to avoid it, just goes away once we get started.

Ask yourself, what can I find to enjoy about this? Few jobs are totally devoid of any feelings of satisfaction that comes from just doing it. Psychologically, we need work in order to be happy. Work itself is often its own reward. Make an effort to find what gives you satisfaction in the job at hand.

Keep score. If your job is to make cold calls all day, keep records of how many calls you make. Break down how many you make before noon, how many you make each hour and how many you make for the entire day. Then on subsequent days, see if you can beat your previous day’s numbers. This builds a challenge into the job instead of it being one huge objective.

Can you make your job a team effort? Involve a friend or work side by side with someone whose company you enjoy. Companionship can make most experiences more enjoyable.

Take breaks. Don’t let fatigue rob you of any joy that comes from doing good, honest work. Stop occasionally and stretch or walk around. Come back to the job when you feel refreshed.

Break the job down into more manageable tasks. Big jobs tend to overwhelm us and demoralize our will. By making a big job several smaller jobs, you can enjoy that feeling of satisfaction sooner and more often as you cross each small job off your list.

Do quality work. Sloppy, get it done work feeds no one’s ego. There are tremendous psychological rewards that come when we know we just produced good work. This sounds silly, but I have gone back into a clean garage, after spending my entire Saturday morning straightening it out, just to look at and appreciate my own workmanship.

Change the setting. Can you take the job outside? If you have a back deck on your house, take some jobs outside and enjoy a beautiful day while you work. Do you remember those beautiful Spring days when a teacher might have occasionally taken the entire class outside to teach outdoors? Try to do that with your own work.

Work is what you make it. Few jobs are as boring or agonizing as we sometimes make them. If you can turn work into fun, how much more enjoyable would your entire life be?

COPYRIGHT(C) 2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.

Download your free copy of 99 Ideas For Writing Irresistible Web Content, written by Charles Brown, a Dallas, Texas based freelance copywriter who writes web copy, advertisements, white papers and direct mail. Subscribe to his “Freelance Copywriter Secrets” at or contact him at 817.715.3852 or ****.

5 Steps to Getting the Raise You Deserve – A Guide for Women

Women often feel their work should stand for itself and therefore tend to wait for someone else to tell them when (and if) they deserve increased rewards or recognition, such as a raise. Rewards and recognition are a crucial part of your job and play a significant role in your confidence and sense of control over your career. Unfortunately, you relinquish a lot of control by waiting for others to bestow favorable things upon you. As with many things in life, you will not know what is possible unless you ask. Of course, asking for a raise is a very anxiety producing and scary proposition for most. However, with the proper preparation and perspective, you just may be surprised at how successful you are. Berkman Fives has developed an effective and actionable approach to this process. This approach not only takes holistic perspective on the process, but also helps prepares you for effective negotiation.

Effective negotiation requires you to persuasively merge the needs of the other party with your own. Knowing your own value and what you bring to the negotiation table gives you a psychological edge. Research will arm you with competitive information to make important decisions. Knowledge will empower you to advocate for yourself with confidence. A persuasive pitch or value proposition will enable you to deliver your request in an organized and strong manner. Taken together you will be well on your way to taking control over your career, starting with your rewards and recognition.

Taking control requires that you approach your career from a position of strength. The following 5-step process will help you to deliberately and thoughtfully structure the process of preparing for and conducting a “Raise” discussion.

1. Gather information from the environment.

What other jobs exist in the marketplace?

You must begin by determining what your options are both inside and outside the company. There are several ways to go about it. Start with the papers and the internet. Are there a lot of help wanted ads for people with your skills and experience? While these can often prove to be a difficult way to find a job, they can usually be extraordinarily helpful for research purposes. Also, you will want to use your network to gather further information. With your updated resume in hand (you should always have a resume nearly ready to go!!), begin to put the feelers out for positions in your field at the level you are currently or the level you are trying to attain. Are people with your background and experience in hot demand or is it a slow time in your industry? This knowledge will give you a better sense of what type of leverage you have at the negotiating table.

What am I worth?

Find out what you are worth in the marketplace. Do your research and due diligence. Use Internet sites (,, and your professional network. Be sure to ask men as well as women, since women typically make only 76% of what men make. Make sure to factor in your geographic location as well, as this can dramatically impact salary norms.

2. Gather information about your accomplishments, past and future.

What do I have to offer?

If you have decided to move forward, you must then document your past and current achievements. It is your job to effectively depict and demonstrate your past, present, and future value, not your boss’.

Ask yourself:

  • What are your unique accomplishments and strengths? Document your performance with products, testimonials, and client letters if necessary.
  • What impact has your accomplishments and strengths had, internally and externally?
  • How do you fit into the company and department goals? Show your future commitment and vision. What role will you play? Where do you plan to add unique value?

Numbers are your friend

Next you will want to try to translate this qualitative information into facts and data. Numbers are an effective way to tell the story and give powerful proof of your accomplishments. Plan to use data and numbers to support your request, not emotions. This will help you to not personalize the discussion. You do not want your boss thinking of your increasing your rewards as a personal favor, rather it should be viewed as what it is – performance-based compensation.

3. Anticipate and plan

Take a walk in your boss’s shoes

Identify your boss’s pressures, concerns, and future needs and plan to address them throughout the meeting. Again, this line of thought may influence the timing of the discussion. If the entire department is experiencing budget cuts right now and many people are being laid off, this may not be the time to ask for a promotion. If you do decide to move forward at this time, consider how you can set yourself up for success. What are his/her future needs? How can you align yourself with them?

Also, there are a few little things you can do to further ensure a successful outcome. Is your boss is a morning person? If so, schedule a breakfast meeting so you are catching him/her at his best. Does your boss prefer things in writing in advance? Then draft an agenda of the topics you will be covering during the meeting and send them a couple of days prior (divulge enough information to put your boss at ease but don’t give away the house).

Create options through scenario planning

Like for a job interview situation, preparation is the key to a successful raise discussion. Be clear in your own mind about what you want the outcome to be and be prepared to articulate your request and the rationale. Then think through all possible outcomes and anticipate the actions you will want to take in each case. Finally, make sure you have a plan in your back pocket for any scenario. Like an elite athlete, you want to visualize yourself fielding any ball.

Ask yourself, “What is your range of acceptable alternatives?”

Consider what you would like the outcome to be and be sure to identify alternatives to a monetary raise. What is important? What is non-negotiable? If your base salary is firm, consider other forms of reward e.g., a better title, more flexible hours, interim performance reviews or additional vacation time. What is your realistic best case scenario and what is the smallest gain that you are willing to accept?

4. Communicate with confidence and competence

Match your strengths to their needs

At this point, pull everything together and make a list of 5 good reasons why the employer needs you.

Match your previously identified strengths and projected contributions to your boss’s future needs. Make these matches the focal point of the discussion. Be sure to have specific examples to support any key point and use data and numbers to support your request, not emotions.

Prepare to take control

Approach the meeting from a position of strength. You called the meeting and therefore it is incumbent on you to effectively manage it. You will do the preparation, bring the materials, and control the conversation.

You are not asking or groveling. You are proposing and requesting. Make sure to prepare any documentation you will want to have in the meeting. Consider using client letters, testimonials, products, presentations, etc. If you are feeling very nervous and uncertain – you don’t want it to show. Act as if you are confident – fake it ‘til you make it if you have to!

Practice, practice, practice!

Role-play in advance to anticipate roadblocks. To practice, put each point of emphasis and the supporting examples on a separate index card. Say each of these points aloud – on videotape, in front of a mirror, or with someone you trust. Don’t forget about your body language. 70% of communication is non-verbal so your body language has to emanate confidence and success, too!

5. Initiate and follow up on the discussion

Ready, Set, …Go!

Once you feel prepared and ready, indicate to your boss that you would like to set up a meeting. Do not say that you want to talk about a raise. Leave the specifics for later. Do let you boss know that you are interested in discussing your performance and compensation. Using a professional tone and approach will signal that the meeting is formal and that you are the responsible party. Rely on your best judgment to select the right circumstances for both the initial conversation and the meeting. Consider timing of day (is your boss a morning person? – plan to have the conversation over coffee and bagels) and season (are you in the middle of budget season and working around the clock? Maybe this should wait until the high stress period is behind you), etc. If your boss tends to be forgetful it is ok to remind him/her about the meeting a couple of days prior. If your boss insists on reading materials before meetings, send through any information that may be relevant for review.

Follow up in writing

After the discussion, summarize all decisions in an email to be sent within 24 hours to ensure that everyone is operating from the same base of information.

Lessons Learned

Congratulate yourself on a job well done. You have put your best foot forward and demonstrated your ability to communicate your needs in a professional manner. You should feel good about your initiative and willingness to advocate for yourself. Regardless of the outcome, you do not have to plague yourself with ‘what if’ questions.

After the meeting make sure to record what went well and what did not. Which tactics were particularly useful, which arguments were particularly persuasive? Make note of these reactions so you can use them at future negotiations. Going forward, continue to document your performance and successes and nurture your professional image. A continually updated file of your accomplishments will make it easier to take charge and be in control of your career.

Not all you wanted?

If you don’t get an acceptable outcome or everything that you wanted, ask for a follow-up meeting to revisit the matter in 3 or 6 months time. Additionally, be prepared to initiate the ‘Plan B’ that you selected earlier.

If you felt as though you and your boss were on completely different pages, consider the root cause of the disconnect. Are you getting enough accurate feedback about your performance? If not, how can you adjust the frequency and quality of the feedback that you receive? Is your boss receiving enough data about your successes and accomplishments? If not, how can you keep them updated in the future? Use this interaction and data to help you better manage your career.

Article courtesy of Berkman Fives

My Work Stories – My job is to give away Microsoft stuff

During my freshman year in college, I joined and eventually chaired our school’s ACM Windows programming student group. One day, one of my friends, who is now at Microsoft Research, mentioned that Microsoft was looking for a new Student Consultant for next year His friend was the current SC and his only job seemed to be giving away xboxes and software, so I thought, hey I want to do that. We set up a dinner for the three of us where Microsoft picked up the tab, and the SC said “Hey, I’ll refer you to my boss. You’ll do some interviews, okay?”For more articles from Tasty Research please visit his blog at

That segued into me being Microsoft representative at our campus the following year. The job gave me unlimited freedom to do whatever I wanted to promote Microsoft on campus, and great money to top it off. This included giving away xboxes, pocket pcs, software, and other toys to students and professors for their projects. It was like having Microsoft groupies. I frequently fielded emails like this:

Hi, this is [student], i was in your cs173 last year and we meet again on the day that you were bring the x-box to the bang give away. I am the vice-president of the new RO called Student Enjoying X-box. Our aim is to unify students through the use of X-box. … We are in desperate need of more X-boxes. We would like to know if Microsoft could be kind enough to donate X-boxes, games, and/or controllers.

I organized xbox tournaments, install fests (bring your computer and get Windows or Visual Studio installed for free), and programming competitions. We could expense meals and took student leaders out to nice italian restaurants. Lastly, we had retreats to Seattle and Brazil. A week in Brazil was the perfect climax, where we partied and enjoyed caipirinhas. We crashed in nice hotels and ordered room service at four in the morning. The cherry on top was taking a private jet to see the Foz do Iguaçu waterfalls. Unfortunately, good things never last forever and they replaced the Student Consultant program (did we spend too much money?) with the fairly limited Student Ambassador program. I will always think back to this as the best job a 17 year old could get.

I’m a Microsoft Intern (Twice)
Being the SC connected me to our campus Microsoft recruiter, and I was flown to Microsoft headquarters in Redmond for a day of interviews. I met with the Web Platform team and people working on the next next next version of Visual Studio. I had been booked for a full day of interviews, walking from office to office. Most of the day, I had thought I did well, but the last interviewer stumped me with a question about malloc() and free(). How do you store the information about which memory locations were available and which were not? I gave what I thought was an acceptable solution but it seems like the interviewer always has a better answer in mind. Luckily, I still ended up with an offer to be a software engineer intern for Microsoft Project which I accepted. Let me backtrack for a moment and mention that this is not the first time I interviewed for a Microsoft internship. I did one screening interview as a freshman on campus where I was rejected without mercy. Apparently the answer to “Can you tell me what was the most difficult bug you faced while programming and what you did to resolve it?” isn’t “My programs don’t have bugs.”

Back to the summer of 2004, where I accepted a Microsoft internship instead of doing another Motorola internship. I arrived at the beautiful Redmond Microsoft campus full of excitement. Microsoft EntranceIt was the first time I had been so far from home and I lived in some very nice subsidized corporate apartments. Everyone I met was really friendly and my mentor was a developer with a PhD. I worked on a core feature of the product that was on a slide during a large conference. There were parties going on every day and I was in Building 16, right next to the field where giant tents hosted other teams’ celebrations. With so many products, it felt like there was something launching every day at Microsoft. Along with some other interns and intern-wannabe-fulltimers, we would often crash the parties on the field to take a break from work.

Being an intern here was a blast and I was among good company with around 500 interns in Redmond. One memorable intern event was a barbeque at Bill Gate’s mansion by the bay. It was quite a palace and I couldn’t even see the entire house because it was 90% covered in trees. We munched on h’orderves and chatted with VPs while waiting for the BillG to come out. He finally made an entrance near the end of the evening and was immediately surrounded by interns shaking his hand and asking press questions like “How does Microsoft plan to position itself in the future?” During his informal talk, I was about 2 feet behind him and I wasn’t paying much attention to the speech but only noticed his shoes — they were actually slightly worn out normal looking shoes. I had always wondered what the richest man in the world wore and did not expect that.

What was really cool was we interns (or internz, was the mailing list) organized activities like white water rafting, ultimate frisbee, halo tournaments on the conference room projectors, Texas Hold’em, and Mafia every weekend. All the fulltime employees had their own offices, which was a nice change from cubicle-land. Looking back, I have to say that Microsoft has one of the most organized, amazing internship programs. The work was challenging and sometimes I would stay late to try out my changes in the latest build. I met many smart and interesting people there, including the internet famous Windows developer Raymond Chen, who gave me his collection of spamfor a research project I was doing. If you ever become a Microsoft intern, I would recommend you participate in as many activities as you can! Your one work goal should be to get the “good checkbox” when you leave, so don’t feel like you need to work much harder than that. I saw some interns who were diligently working late at night and on weekends while I was playing ping-pong.

A Google-y Good Summer
I got a call next April from Google asking if I wanted to do some phone interviews for a summer internship. There were two 30-minute phone interviews with one engineer who would turn out to be my mentor, and one who would be a co-worker. I was pretty nervous during the phone interview, but was asked great questions rather than riddles or short programming problems. The memorable ones were:

  1. Describe what happens when someone clicks on an ad?
    • I named all the steps from the browser request to the server connection and so forth
  2. How would you detect click fraud?
    • I described a bunch of ways I would catch bad guys trying to cheat the system

I worked in the [confidential name] team and our job was to detect invalid clicks, namely click fraud. People were always amused when I told them what we our job was. I’m not sure how much more I can talk about this subject so I will just end it right here.

Most interns stayed at the NASA Ames Exchange Lodge, which I would describe as “sketchy but interesting”. Frequently sighted inhabitants at the NASA Ames base included armed military units, skunks, bored interns, and cockroaches. There were probably about a hundred Google interns there, and maybe two hundred NASA interns. It had a coed college dorm feel to it, except we were in the middle of nowhere with guards at each gate asking you where you were going. I tried to get to know them all in the beginning by walking around and knocking on everyone’s door to say hi-wanna-come-to-my-bbq-or-hangout? but after a few weeks there were just too many interns to know them all. Often, there were interns idling around with nothing to do; one night we even decided on a whim to drive off to Las Vegas for a weekend.

The rumors about Google were mostly true: free gourmet food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and kitchens with cereal and snacks nearby. The chefs would chat with you while you were filling your plate and answer any questions about the ingredients or cooking methods. Googlers are picky — I remember a > 100 email thread on the Mountain View misc mailing list discussing conspiracy theories about why our biodegradable recycled take-away food containers were replaced by cardboard ones. The variety of drinks was my favorite thing: you could get fresh squeezed juices of allGoogle Cafeteria Entrance kinds or whatever soft drink or tea you preferred. My chosen desk drink was Naked Juice at first, but eventually switched to Honest Tea

for a lighter beverage. Before I worked there, photos of Googlers riding Segways in the hallways made me think that I would be doing the same. Unfortunately, there were no working Segways the whole summer I was there; we had scooters, but it was nearly impossible to take one out during the day. The 3 in the building would already have their keys taken by the time I got to work. Apparently “Don’t be evil” doesn’t apply to scooters. Other cool things included famous people/authors coming in to give talks and giving us movie tickets or books they authored. There were so many great talks every day that I could have spent my whole day listening to interesting presentations by geek (and sometimes non-geek) celebrities.

There was a t-shirt cabinet that would be stocked at random times. When it did get stocked, an intern would email the mailing list, and you could literally see swarms of interns coming in from each building to grab a couple of t-shirts (2 max). Lucky for me, I was just down the hall from the cabinet so I usually got a pair, until they wouldn’t fit in my suitcases anymore. Sometimes, I would bring my friends to just hang out at Google, eat some free food, play pool or asteroids, sit in a massage chair or lovesac, or just walk around and look at the cool toys everywhere. One night we accidentally went into Larry and Sergei’s hangout space and played with his bop-it toy, thinking the section was just a lounge.

There were blue shirted security guards everywhere at almost every door of every building. They were like an army, and it would be funny to see recruiters sometimes ordering around a dozen or so blue shirts to prevent visitors from exploring. It always made me wary, and I was quite friendly with one of the security guards and she told us they would watch us at night when there was no one else in the building. Everything at Google was confidential and there were always cameras watching.

My Future is Yahoo
I chose to work at Yahoo when I finally graduated. A few months ago, Yahoo was almost the last of the 3 search engine companies I thought I would be working at. I started out on my path to working at Yahoo at the college career fair. After the quick and painless pre-screening at the booth, I was invited to an interview at our computer science building in the afternoon the next day. I arrived with my pen and extra copy of Resume and sat in the conference room for about half an hour. Unfortunately, my interviewer, Kevin didn’t show up. I got stood up for an interview! Granted, this was the first time Yahoo has come to our school to recruit, but it was still frustrating. Even more frustrating was that my numerous emails to the college recruiter went unanswered. I also had a few friends at Yahoo that I contacted but no luck. A few weeks later, I had been asked to fly out for a few days of interviews in the Bay Area / Silicon Valley with a bunch of other companies and had a free day. It just so happened that one of my friends who interned with me at Microsoft, won the Yahoo Hackday competition and met a Yahoo employee that got me in touch with a few hiring managers. I went to the Yahoo offices in Sunnyvale and did a full day and a half of interviews, and ended up where I am now — a software engineer in SDS, the data mining group in the company.

I have to admit I have only worked here for a month so far, but it’s a pretty good place to work. I use my knowledge of operating systems, algorithms, and data structures to work with the massive amounts of data Yahoo gets. My favorite perk is an espresso bar downstairs where baristas serve your choice of caffeinated drinks as well as chai and chocolate milk. I miss the less bureaucracy at Google though: at Yahoo I have a manager, his manager, THREE directors above that manager, and then THREE VPs before the CEO. That’s right — I have 9 promotions to go before I’m at the top. And I have to confess that I still use Google for my internet-based needs.

My group at Yahoo is SDS, which is basically the Data group. We take all the data from all our websites, store it in lots and lots of servers, and process the heck out of it. The other day, I wrote a tool that grabbed the list of the popular search terms on Yahoo Japan and the #1 term [an english “word”] was not something I had ever heard of before. SDS is actually a cool group (and we’re hiring!) and fits me just right since I become a bit of a data geek when I was doing my Masters. I kind of like having my own space in a cubicle as opposed to a fishbowlshared lab, where everyone can turn and look at what you are doing all the time. I just like a little privacy. My pet peeve is that everyone has weird email address which is not easy to tell someone over loud music. However, I think I made the right choice to join Yahoo.

To sum up some points:

Comparison Chart for Microsoft Yahoo and Google

A Prestigious Internship Circle
The best thing about working at such a variety of large software companies is the people you meet. 90% of the interns from these places are really smart guys and girls — the best of MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, CMU, and UIUC. One of my friends coined the term “prestigious internship circle” to define internships at software giants like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, Yahoo, and IBM (especially Extreme Blue, which unfortunately I had to turn down for Google). The rationale for this is that once you have worked at one, it’s a lot easier to get into another. Pre-screenings and interviews basically just involve them asking what you did at the other companies since making it somewhere else probably means you’re not a complete idiot. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve asked a familiar face “Hey, didn’t you intern at Microsoft with me a few years ago?”, I would be able to buy a nice pen.

Getting In
My best advice to getting a job at one of these companies is to know your algorithms. Know how to reverse a string or how to sort a linked list. Heck, you probably want to know everything about sorting. I’ve probably written string reversal code in front of an interviewer half a dozen times, and I have never gone through a set of interviews without some question involving linked lists.

I have been lucky to have the opportunity to work at these companies and I would highly encourage any college students out there to try for an internship — you won’t regret it. You will work on challenging problems, be surrounded by really smart people, work in a casual environment with flexible work hours (engineer hours are usually 10 to 6 or 7), and make good money. [Did that sound too much like recruiter talk?] You can expect to work 8-10 hours a day but time goes by fast. While it may sometimes seem these rival companies are battling over products like search, email, photos, and maps from the outside, on the inside we’re just a bunch of clever developers writing code to build cool stuff.

What they didn’t tell you about blogging – A few more items

Not only is blogging addictive, blogging stats are addictive too… Blogging can be addictive. Checking blogging stats can be addictive too. Imagine you were fascinated with a video game. At first, it is hard to clear level one. Once you clear level one, you want to go to the next level. After that, to another level. Then to another level. Blogging game is similar but except there is no clear top level. You can keep on going for a long time – fascinated by the growth (or no growth) of the traffic on your blog. There are many things to be fascinated about blog traffic * where are the visitors coming from * what are they reading
This blog posts provides a sneak preview of what will be covered in the book. Of course, as you all know, the book will take a life of its own. I have a dream team of friends who have offered to help with all aspects of publishing the book. So I am quite excited. I would love to hear your ideas, thoughts, inputs related to the blog posts or the book. You can click on the email link on my blog and send me an email. Please mention whether you want to be notified about the progress of the book or when the book is published or both.

The links to the earlier posts in the same series are here

Here are ten more:

31. Not only is blogging addictive, blogging stats are addictive too…

Blogging can be addictive. Checking blogging stats can be addictive too.

Imagine you were fascinated with a video game. At first, it is hard to clear level one. Once you clear level one, you want to go to the next level. After that, to another level. Then to another level.

Blogging game is similar but except there is no clear top level. You can keep on going for a long time – fascinated by the growth (or no growth) of the traffic on your blog. There are many things to be fascinated about blog traffic

* where are the visitors coming from
* what are they reading
* where are they clicking through (as they go out)
* how are they finding your blog (search terms)

One clear reason you can be carried away with blogging stats is the “surprise” factor associated with it. Think about it –

* Which of your posts get popular?
* Which posts get linked most?
* Which posts get the most number of comments?

There is no way to predict the above or a dozen other questions. You can be pleasantly surprised or disappointed. Nothing is certain. The only way to find out is to keep watching the traffic 🙂

32. Barring exceptions, older posts are considered dead

Posts in a news site have a short shelf-life for obvious reasons.

I have been a big proponent of creating “timeless” content – meaning content that stays relevant for quite some time. That is only the first step. Just as you won’t go past a few pages of search results when you are searching something, don’t expect your audience to keep browsing back to the day you wrote the first blog post. Posts go dead faster than you think.

There is hope though. Think about what you can do creatively to ensure that some of your best posts stay alive. Here are a few ideas:

1. Create a section for the most popular posts and highlight them

2. Create categories to organize your posts

3. Create a series of posts and number them. If some posts in the series create an interest, chances are that readers will seek out other posts in the series.

4. Create lenses with a topic where you are an expert and link to all relevant posts on your blog.

5. Publish a manifesto on with excerpts from your favorite posts for a topic.

Invent your own ways to keep the posts alive.

Fair warning: Don’t try to trick your readers by linking to posts that waste their time. Link back to high-quality posts only. Otherwise, it will hurt you more than it will help you.

33. Variety helps; too much variety hurts

Imagine a speaker who speaks with a monotonous voice from beginning to end of his speech. That can be boring. That won’t work, right?

You seek some variety.

On another extreme, imagine a speaker who, in the middle of his speech starts dancing and singing that have no connection to his speech. That won’t work either

Some variety is good. Too much variety (especially if it is incoherent) hurts.

Blogging is no different. When you blog, think that you are on a stage and talking to a set of people. They need variety. But not too much.

34. Blogging is personal

Blogging is more personal than creating a book. The audience expect to discover your personality through your blog. If the content is the king, the emotions associated with every post will be the queen. A good combination is desired.

Look at the last few posts. Do they represent you – do they say who you are. If not, go back and add some emotions into them. Bring out your personality in each of you posts.

Consider the act of writing a blog post – it may take you only a few minutes from start to finish. Contrast this with the publication of a book. A decent effort with the book is at least an year-long affair. It goes through several rounds of changes and editing before the script is finalized.

Which one is more personal – you be the judge.

35. Traffic is not the only metric of success in blogging.

Actually, if you just go after traffic, you may do some things that you might regret later. Your have to define your goals for blogging based on your needs not based on what someone else has done.

Here are some reasons why people are blogging:
* get more leads for their business
* to secure speaking engagements
* to promote their books
* to park their thoughts for future books
* to extend their personal brands
* to build new relationships
* to extend their company’s reach
* to share their expertise to the world
and so on.

Think about your own life goals and see how blogging fits in it. If it does not, but you are just trying to fit it in – because everyone around you are doing it, at least know that this is what you are doing 🙂

36. Name of your blog matters

Not much if you are celebrity. Otherwise, choosing the wrong name may “box” your blog.

For example, it is hard to write about anything other than Java if the name of your blog is “Java Only” or “Java Unleashed”. It would be out of place to write about training cats on a blog titled “All about Dogs”.

You can always change the name of the blog. However, it costs to make a name change (be it a company or a person or a blog) and you should be willing to pay that price. Rather than that, think carefully before you pick the name and the associated URL for your blog.

Here are two simple steps:

1. Assume that you won’t be changing the name of your blog for the rest of your life.
2. Once you decide on a name, think about what will people think when they hear the name of your blog.

Is this what you want? If not, go and re-visit the name again

If you already have a blog name but you are not happy about it, better change it today. The longer you operate a blog with a wrong name, harder it gets to change it.

37. Create tipping points for your blog

Unless you have a huge personal brand before you started the blog, don’t expect your blog to be an instant success. Every time you hear an “instant success” story for a blog, look at who was behind that blog and how long they worked hard to create their identity before they started the blog.

For the rest of us, we got to create our own tipping points for our blogs. In simple terms, the tipping points are those circumstances that will lead to the proverbial hockey stick growth for the blog.

Personally, for the first few months, my blog would get only a few hundred page views a day – most of them from my friends and family. Here are a few things that helped me take my blog to the next level (not in any order)

1. Publication of the book “Beyond Code” (foreword by Tom Peters)
2. Reviews of my book in online and offline outlets
3. Publishing a free eBook “When you can’t earn an MBA…” (downloaded more than 80,000 times)
4. Publishing a free eBook “Personal Branding for Technology Professionals” (downloaded more than 100,000 times)
5. Publishing a manifesto on ChangeThis – 25 Ways to Distinguish Yourself (one of the top 10 manifestos at ChangeThis)
6. Publishing a free eBook “Lasting Relationships
7. Squidoo lens (especially: Blogging Starter Checklist)
8. Help from many many friends (too many to list) online and offline.

What could be the tipping points for your blog in the next few weeks or months?

38. You can get carried away sometimes

When you are just getting started, you have a ton of ideas. Ideas are easy as long as you don’t have to execute on them. Execution is the real culprit. Here are some examples:

* You might want to start a separate blog for every area of your expertise
* You might want to start a separate blog for every book of yours
* You might want a separate audio-blog
* You might want a separate video-blog

You get the point. If you don’t play the full scenario – for the next few years, you might be setting yourself up for failure. Any new initiative takes time. And, blogging – it takes more time as you go along. If you are successful, it takes you more time than ever – as you have to live up to progressively higher standards that the marketplace sets for you.

So, before you get carried away on the multitude of blogging initiatives, think again!

39. Set time aside for your blog fans

When you speak in public, at the end of the talk (provided you spoke well) people will come and talk to you – ask you questions, clarify things and share their personal experiences. It is your time to interact with your fans.

Blogging is different. Some people are not comfortable writing comments on your blog. They may send you an email or two. Unless the request is unreasonable, you are expected to interact with them. If you don’t have time to respond, people will think you are a operating a broadcasting station rather than a blog.

All it requires is to add a small percentage of time that you are setting aside for your blogging activities. If you are spending 50 minutes in a week to blog, make it 60. If you are spending 300 minutes per week on your blog, make it 330.

40. You can join the discussion but you got have something original to say

One way to get attention is to join an on-going discussion related to a hot topic. Chime in and link to the other relevant blog posts. Trackbacks from those posts will bring you some traffic. However, if you don’t have something original to say to add to the ongoing discussion in a meaningful way, it will hurt you more than it will help you.

Imagine giving free tickets to a movie you know is bad. You make the person feel good for sometime but if he knows that you knew the movie was bad, he or she won’t like you anymore.

Before you invite anyone to your blog, get your house in order. That way, you not only make a good first impression, you will get them to visit again soon.

When you add some original thought to the discussion and raise the level of thinking, you will get noticed. If you just say things like – “What a great post” or “You got to read this” you are not adding much to what is happening.

Remember, when someone “discovers” your blog by some means, it is only “relevant and remarkable” content that will bring them back.