Archive for November, 2008

Yammer, what are you good for (for my workplace)?

November 24, 2008 3 comments

The New York Times came out with a story about microblogging in the enterprise. It makes references to Yammer,, and of course, Twitter. Most of the interviewees are companies that have adopted the services – Rubicon Project was the one that stood out for me. 

As a few of you know, I’m a recent convert to Twitter and am slowly getting wrapped up in the missionary evangelical zeal that I mocked for so many months. When Yammer went live, I tried to get the good folks at Kosmix involved and so far the “launch” has been a miserable failure. A few updates trickle in here and there. No one has been instantly “hooked” onto the service. Several folks have come by my desk and made it a point to roll their eyes (these are the crusties who still don’t use Twitter, so we can ignore those data points) at me. 

Why, I wonder, would a service like Yammer draw glowing reviews from Rubicon and fall flat at Kosmix? Here are some details that I could come up with:

  • I have been unable to articulate a clear value prop to folks on our end. As a Twitter user, I “know” that Yammer will be useful to us but I’m unable to pinpoint exactly why and am unable to sell it. 
  • The service spread virally through our office and lots of folks signed up, then posted a message saying “What the hell is this?” and then bailed. 
  • Kosmix is 65 people with almost everyone located onsite. To top that, we’re a VERY instant message heavy culture, more so than the 2-3 other places I’ve worked at. People dont perceive the need for an additional IMish service. 
  • We’re horribly open door and the joint resembles a fish market right around 1130 am every day. There are about four hallway conversations occurring at high pitch and ping pong balls flying around as shots go awry. We know too much about other departments, not too little. The founders are very accessible. We eat lunch together every Friday. Getting updated isn’t usually a burning problem. 
  • We’re small. I can see Yammer being more valuable at the 100+ level with lots of sales people that are remote and see engineers once in three months (my previous company). 
  • We’re NOT a Twitter heavy culture. There around 7 people who are heavy Twitter users. More than a few others share a bewilderment at the Valley’s obsession with Twitter (you know who you are). 
Categories: silicon valley, tech Tags: , ,

On the survival of startups

November 22, 2008 Leave a comment

Anand (our co-founder) just cranked out a cool post for GigaOm that attempts to defy the doom and gloom pervading the tech blogosphere. Sun cuts 6000. Yahoo! cuts 10%. Mahalo spruced some ungodly percentage of folks and Seesmic hits 33% of their workforce. 

Needless to say, I’m happy to see Kosmix continue down a path of prudent and cautious growth – I mean, we’re treating things as business as usual, working hard, playing ping pong and being ultra-lovable web geeks. What has changed is that since no one is looking at their stock portfolios on Google Finance anymore, productivity has probably taken a slight uptick – all in all, not a bad state of affairs. 

Read the post if you’ve got five minutes. I didn’t know some of the stuff around VC firms carrying zombies around on their portfolios and that was pretty educational. 

Also, stay tuned and keep an eye on We think you’ll like what we have to show over the next few weeks.

Categories: silicon valley, tech

Saumil’s Guide to Riding Caltrain Like a Champ

November 20, 2008 3 comments

I suffer the ignominy of riding Caltrain four, sometimes five days a week. I live in SoMa and work on Castro in Mountain View. Sure, both locations are supposedly “convenient” to the train but then why is it that I feel like my life is being spent in the company of granola-ass crazy pocket protector could-use-a-shower-badly Caltrain freaks? Because, well, I guess it is when you spend 10 hours a week riding the rails. 

So – here’s the deal with Caltrain, put together in a bullet list of rants, hacks, tricks and tips. Enjoy and profit!!

  • Follow if you use Twitter or refer to the webpage before you get on. 
  • The morning bullet trains are great if you don’t work on your laptop. If you do, having 40 minutes is simply not enough to get a lot done. This is especially true when you’ve got jerkoffs hassling you about the tickets and the damn conductor braying over the PA system about every damn stop every 3.5 minutes. 
  • If you are on your laptop, take the slower trains and get more shit done. Plus, the slower trains are emptier and you have to deal with a smaller quantity of MORONS. 
  • If you’re bringing a bike, try to steer clear of the morning bullet trains. The bike car gets packed FAST. Plus, the imbeciles that run Caltrain frequently put in just ONE bike car with 16 bikes on it. Translation: they’ll tell you to, ahem, leave your bike somewhere or take the next train. Nice work, tools. Real well-managed. 
  • Why the hell doesn’t Caltrain have a coffee bar on the train? Staff it during the morning hours and it still turns a profit. 
  • If you’re riding one of the older model trains from San Francisco, make sure to walk at least 3 cars back before boarding. Why?? Because the first one is the bike car, the second one usually smells and the third one is a first one that’s tolerable and therefore packed. 
  • In each car, there are 4-6 seats (2-3 rows) that have extra leg room. They have enough leg room that you can pop open a laptop comfortably. Look for them in the back of the car.
  • Caltrain is obviously very granola. If you like wearing fluorescent straps on your pants so you dont “ruin them with your bike” (mmm news flash, those pants aren’t that nice to begin with), you’ll fit RIGHT IN. If you’re like me, however, you’ll cringe silently in despair.

Eureka! A brilliant post idea

November 20, 2008 2 comments

As an inveterate Caltrain rider, I’ve picked up some tips/tricks/hacks along the way. I’ll post them so your life won’t be quite so miserable as mine (and yes, I do indulge in embellishments and “rhetorical flourishes” but so what?)

Categories: life

Facebook Engagement Ads

November 17, 2008 Leave a comment

Great piece in The WSJ on Facebook’s newish ad format. is where you can find it. One piece of information in the article sounds odd. The writer quotes Jeremiah Owyang and claims that the banner ads on the site get less than 1% CTR. 

Umm. And the problem is? I’d be willing to bet my paycheck on the fact that the CTR is *far* far worse than 1%. People would be paying more than 7 cent CPM if the CTR were 1%.

Categories: tech

On Twitter followees (yeah, I know) and continuous partial attention

November 16, 2008 2 comments

My addiction to Twitter as a daily – even hourly – “utility” continues to grow. Even though I pale in comparison to other VentureBeat-ers and even other Kosmix-ers in terms of usage, I’ve now hit 83 followees. 

It is already hard to separate good signal from better signal and the minor amount of stupid noise (my dog took a shit, etc.) amongst my venerated followees. The iPhone Twinkle client by Tapulous tries to do a good job but is slower than a mule on some serious chronic. The website’s okay, I guess, but its hard to justify a visit to it more than 3-4 times a day. tWhirl is fine, too, but I dont know if they have a Mac client and even if so…mmm, the unsteady stream of tweets is simply shoved in my face, much like Outlook. 

What’s a mildly bored fella without any real-life problems to do?? Is there a way to batch tweets? What about other UI paradigms that make all the tweets more digestible?

Categories: life, tech

I’m switching out of Kosmix RightHealth

November 16, 2008 Leave a comment

For those of you that know me (and several of you that don’t but have met me at conferences, events and other unsavory events that are unmentioned), you know all too well that I’ve spent the last two years obsessing over Kosmix’s RightHealth site. I hesitate to ponder the number of man hours that have gone into poring over photos spider bites, looking at videos of skin rashes and reading articles about every obscure condition known to mankind. 

It has been a rewarding and fun time. In the last 2 years, I’ve seen us go from a million uniques to well over ten million uniques – mostly on account of the good work of folks on our team. I’ve seen our company build a new platform and have spent an inordinate amount of time poring over user analytics data like abandonment, ad clicks per visit, page views per visit, net promoter score and other inside-baseball-web-geekery that a minor number of people seem to care about in the real world. 

Finally, while I’m no physician, I’ve attempted to piggyback on doctors’ superior social status by trying out the “I’m here to save lives.” pickup line at bars. So far, it has not worked out as I had expected. 

It is therefore a bittersweet experience to hand over my baby to a colleague. As for me, I’ll be switching over to lead Product for a newly minted group within our little family. This group is called “Kosmix Publishers and Consumers” (or the horrendous shorthand “Pubsumers” if you prefer). I’ll be working on traffic acquisition via strategic partnerships and other distribution channels that remain unnamed and unseen for now. I will also be far more “outbound” and you can expect me to be Cheerleader-In-Chief for Kosmix going forward. Pom poms *not* included. 

Send me email if you know of folks who’d be interested in partnering with us.

Categories: life, silicon valley

Unbelievable: YouTube tries to compete with Hulu?

November 10, 2008 Leave a comment

Just caught a story in The New York Times about YouTube courting studios more aggressively and emulating the Hulu model. 

I am not yet officially eating my hat on this one but boy Hulu continues to steamroll along on the back of an excellent product and (of course) wonderful content. When Hulu was first about to leave private beta in October, I wrote up a quick story about it for VentureBeat arguing that Hulu’s only competitive advantage was the (sometimes) exclusive redistribution right to content and the 2 year window for that content. 

I am fascinated to see, then, that YouTube is paying close attention to Hulu which is a tenth of its own size. Anyone who has dealt with ad agencies and large brands knows that they’re, ahem, a picky and risk-averse bunch to put it kindly. No wonder, then, that YouTube is a bitch to monetize while Hulu *seems* to be selling inventory aggressively (I haven’t done my homework to figure out what their overall sell through is and what kinds of CPMs they are seeing). 

BTW, I also love this totally redundant and useless quote in the story:

“We believe in comprehensiveness, and we want to have deals with everybody,” said Jordan Hoffner, the director of content partnerships for YouTube. “We want to be able to give users the most content possible.”

Um, Okay. And dogs don’t get along with cats and mailmen.

Categories: tech

A Few Thoughts on Tina Brown’s Daily Beast

November 9, 2008 Leave a comment

I was first introduced to The Daily Beast when Christopher Buckley (author of Thank You for Smoking, Boomsday, etc. and son of William Buckley) infamously bucked the stupid Sarah Palin trend and endorsed Barack “Messiah” Obama on his weekly column at The Beast. Christopher Buckley is an excellent satirist and his blog posts are laced with crisp, crackling prose. I was hooked not only to Buckley’s column but also – and this is important – to The Beast’s sensibility, design and voice. 

The Daily Beast is – funnily enough – run by Tina Brown, who is supposedly a force to reckon with in the magazine business and edited Vanity Fair as well as The New Yorker in the days when print mattered (more than it does now). Its raison d’etre is to “curate” the web and to bring a hybrid of sizzling original topical content as well as the best links, or “cheats” from across the web to their readership. 

Umm, viewed through a certain prism, that sounds a decent bit like my company Kosmix. Or like Mahalo, whose goal in life is to “curate” the best links for a topic as found by their editors. Or like HuffPo and Drudge, which are very close in nature.

When viewed glibly, the site sounds like a TOTAL DUD – but there are a few interesting things about DB:

  • The site feels like Magazine 2.0. Its not a walled garden like other magazine websites. But it has the same glossy feel, the same editorial voice that you expect from a classy rag. 
  • On the flip side, it goes without saying that it doesn’t look like link vomit (which H DOES. Arianna Huffington is a stylish whipsmart society type – so why does her site look like my Mom designed it on Microsoft Frontpage?)
  • The original content is tastefully chosen and genuinely interesting, not unlike something you’d see at The Times. 
  • The site’s UI is, by and large, excellent. 

I’m excited to see where they go next. Unless they run this thing like a print operation and burn a bunch of cash on what is essentially just a fancy blog.

Update: Just found this item in The NyTimes showing that The Olds are getting more comfortable with the idea of linking out – hallelujah! You can read the original here:

Categories: life

Late to the party but am set up with wordpress on iphone

November 9, 2008 Leave a comment

Hello world, bitches!

Categories: life