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Time for a reset

I've been busy since I was last active on my blog. There's a saying that is apt:

"The cobblers children have no shoes."

I spent a lot of time scheming my exit when I was still working as a mechanical engineer and this used to be the venue for me to think out loud. I pondered grad school & ultimately went on to finish a MBA. I started consulting (while still in grad school) and my life became a bit of a wreck. I finished school just as things were starting to slow down in the consulting world, at least for me, so I reached out to an old classmate for an informational interview.

That led to my next gig, and where I continue to work today.


manifesto of a modern agency from space150 on Vimeo.

It's been an amazing experience so far, but also very demanding. It's completely consuming of all of my best cognitive ability. I will most likely expand on this more in the future, but today is about refocusing on getting some content posted.

My goal is to wrestle back some of that cognition and start making a stronger effort to write. To share some of my experiences and some of the lesons learned in the trenches of the digital battle field.

I want to update the content as much as the focus and the visual design. So, in the coming weeks, I'll be do some rearranging or even self hosting. I haven't decided yet.

I also want to try posting shorter entries so that this can be easier to keep up with.

Stay tuned.


Entrepreneurship Social-Media and Skeptics Oh My! (Prt. 3)

This is the final part of a three part series I wrote in 2008. It was my take on the developing web 2.0 landscape. Now that the fall semester has come to a close, I'll be able to dedicate a little more mindshare to this website. I want to put a capstone on this, revisited, 3 part series and this year by offering my thoughts on a book I read about a month ago - Guy Kawasaki's Rules For Revolutionaries. I offered some brief thoughts over on my "short-form" tumblr blog, but I really want to expand on those thoughts here. Check back within the next week or two for that.


In my last post on this subject, I spoke to the benefits I've experienced thus far with social-media, where I think social-media is heading, and how social-media is all in all a good thing. I'm going to try to address some of the concerns present with current day social-media as I see them and also try to cover some of the criticisms skeptics have raised pertaining to social-media and maybe a rebuttal to them.

Time to wrap this thing up.

The Skeptics

The internet, since its inception, has been criticized for its lack of credibility and rightly so; the internet and its predecessor has been a hotbed of piracy, copy write infringement, porn, and all things sinister and evil. Services such as Apple TV, Netflix, and iTunes have only been around for a few years and those services have only recently become widely accepted mediums for utilizing the internet as a legal source of media. The long and skinny of it is that the internet is still a very unrefined place - the wild wild west of our generation.

There is no clear model of how to generate revenue from the internet; although many have profited greatly from the internet thus far, those successes are few and far between and there are no clear answers why some have succeeded and others have failed miserably. Furthermore, there is no sign of what will and won't work in the future of the internet. We're all pulling at straws, hoping that something sticks and this is the very reason there are so many skeptics of web 2.0.

In the past, the most effective way to make money on the web was through banner ads. But banner ads have been just a piss poor attempt at digitizing traditional advertising formats, producing abysmal performance per dollar spend in comparison to their traditional counterparts. Furthermore, it's been argued that people don't want to be marketed to while online - that they want to get in and get out and move on while surfing the web. Others claim social-networking is superficial, too time consuming, dilutes your personal brand, and is no replacement for face to face contact

I can't help but think of Guy Kawasaki when discussing this topic because he seems to have been on the forefront of some of the trends brought on by the internet, if not create some trends, but I asked my business formation professor about what he thought of him (since he referenced him in one of his lecture notes) and my professor had one simple question: What successful ventures has he created or financed?

The question floored me to an extent, mostly because of the sheer simplicity of it. He had a way of cutting straight to the chase in his lecture style and he definitely delivered in this razor sharp questioning. He continued (and I'm paraphrasing here):

He [Guy Kawasaki] seems to have written some books on the subject of business formation and have had some success there, but be careful about what you read and really vet your sources because anyone can write anything they want, especially on the internet. Look into what they have actually accomplished and always take everything with a grain of salt.

Fairly basic advice, but for some reason it really resonated for me: So I asked myself "I like Guy Kawasaki, what ventures of his do I know of that have been wildly successful?" Well, I can't really say for sure. I can only assume his "Alignment of Interests" section on his blog indicates some of the ventures he's involved in and that his venture capital firm Garage Tech has a pretty impressive portfolio of companies listed (at least I'm impressed by the fact that one of my favorite finance sites, Motley Fool, is listed).

Like I said before, I came across an article in the WSJ about Penelope Trunk and through her blog found out about Guy Kawasaki, then alltop, then all kinds of super relevant and informative blogs and people like Zen Habits, Unclutterer, Life Hacker, Chris Brogan, Problogger and on and on. I kind of got so enthralled in all this new and intriguing information, I think I kind of lost a little bit of my analytical and usually skeptical approach to new or untested information. Once you start clicking through a lot of these links, you'll notice that a lot of information will end up getting reused and recycled in a flurry of almost circle jerk proportions - not necessarily a bad thing in its own right when the information is relevant, useful, and legitimate. But very dangerous when one blogger makes baseless claims that get substantiated by multiple bloggers who may find that stance convenient to what ever world view they promote. Copyblogger speaks to the "circle-jerk" nature of bloggrolling I'm referring to here as a barrier to success for social-media as a means of revenue generation.

One of my close friends is very much anti social-networking. The irony here is that he's a programmer who spent a significant amount of time in the bay area during the mid to late nineties who worked with a lot of start ups (even to the level of being the CTO for one). His gripe? He wants to spend less time on the internet not more. He shares the sentiments of social-networking being too much of a time commitment for little personal gain. He also argues that every time he logs onto what little sites he's a member of (a fairly infrequent occurrence), one site falls out of light in favor of another. There's really no keeping up with who uses what site and to what end, leaving you with a disconnected network of friends in different circles spread throughout the internet.

Look, I get it... I get that the "true" utility of social-media has yet to be defined, I get that no one wants to be pitched wares by their "friends" every time they log-in and check their messages, I get that legitimacy is in question every time you open google reader to check out what's happening in the your world, I really do. But look, there is a new landscape out there, and I'm not talking about technology, I'm talking about new attitudes to and expectations of the internet.

Web 1.0 didn't look any different from web 2.0 (well, maybe there were less annoyingly flashy websites in web 1.0), no one really knew what to do with it or what to think of it. We were still used to very limited sources of news and opinion at that time, and for that reason, those sources had to be highly scrutinized, editorialized, and legitimized through a systematic source of checks and balances. That process lead to a centralized monopoly of information providers simply out of the necessity to develop and maintain the resources needed to maintain the infrastructure of information. Web 2.0 isn't about new internet technologies, it's about new ways of generating and processing information, it's about new attitudes towards an open channel of information that democratizes our most precious asset - knowledge.


Education, Experience, or Expertise?

The Case For Education:

As you may or may not know, I’m in the process of getting my MBA. I have an epic love/hate relationship with school and I have only had a brief two years in life (between undergrad & grad school) where school wasn’t an overbearing and all consuming portion of my life. The short and skinny of it though, is that I genuinely appreciate school, education, and academics. This is a far cry from my brother who has struggled with school his entire life. His is the classic case of “too smart for his own good,” where he ended up going through three different high-schools before graduating, and getting generally shitty grades and pissing off as many teachers as possible.

My brother’s take is obviously more extreme than my own, but somehow I think we end up with the same conclusion. Signing up for a “program” and executing it isn’t enough. I thankfully ended up getting interesting classes this semester. The one that is most closely aligned with my interests and the general direction of this blog is brand management. The marketing staff at Carlson is fairly highly regarded (close associations with Target, Best Buy, IBM, et al), but I highly doubt my professors are very active on facebook , myspace, twitter, linkedin, and the like. Web 2.0’s impact on the field of marketing and brand management is dynamic and is in constant flux.  These areas can't be taught in an academic setting, you have to live (or die) by the sword.  You have to get in the shit (so to speak).

So Then, Experience is Most Important, Right?

Well, not exactly.

Jon Gordon recently made a call for a national tweetout, his reasons are perspective, my reasons are more focused on having all of the people who consider themselves to be marketing experts and Web 2.0 gurus shut their damn trap for 2 seconds while I try to have conversations with my friends and family. Yes, I'm being somewhat of a hypocrite since I really enjoy marketing (and particulary branding) right now, but sometimes it's frustrating that every time you write something in 140 characters or less, you may have to be mindful of the potential impact on your personal brand.  Bullocks! [/rant]

But seriously, I do enjoy the fact that I’m participating in a lot of these new venues. It is still unclear how the facebooks & twitters of the world will generate revenue, but it is clear that the world of marketing will coalesce around these Web 2.0 properties in one form or another. So, education clearly isn't enough, and participating in some of these websites (phenomenons?) helps to understand the momentum of a lot of the unfolding Web 2.0 services.  But just because you dance in the mud a little here and there, doesn't mean your contribution is moving us forward as a society, or that you are becoming an expert on the matter.

Jonathan Rosenberg recently posted an email originally addressed to fellow googlers on the google blog that really resonated with me:

"Of course, the greatest user experience is pretty useless if there's nothing good to read, a truism that applies not just to newspapers but to the web in general. Just like a newspaper needs great reporters, the web needs experts. When it comes to information, not all of it is created equal and the web's future depends on attracting the best of it. There are millions of people in the world who are truly experts in their fields — scientists, scholars, artists, engineers, architects — but a great majority of them are too busy being experts in their fields to become experts in ours. They have a lot to say but no time to say it."

I think it's no secret that my blog is completely anemic in the updates department.  Not to whine or anything,  but my life schedule is completely insane.  This semester has been super crazy.  I travel every week for work, consulting clients who have serious levels of anxiety (is there such a thing as an ERP implementation where the client isn't riffe with anxiety?  If so, I wan't that project!).  Meanwhile, I spend Saturdays at school from 8am to 4pm. And somewhere in there, I have to spend time with my partner of 4 years (just celebrated!), do laundry, pack, and leave again.

So How Do You Develop Expertise?

Honestly, I can't tell you from where I'm sitting, but an ungodly number of bloggers will try.  This post was originally going to be about education, then it morphed into experience, then into expertise, then I realized I couldn't really separate them as discreet topics to blog about.  My suspicion is that it takes not only a combination of education and experience, but also a certain amount drive and perseverance.  But more importantly, it isn't anything that can be absorbed through a 1000 word blog post and that you should be quite skeptical of anyone trying to sell you that kool-aid.


2008 in Review & Welcome to elliottpayne.com!

2008 was a big year for me, as you might be able to tell by the severe lack of updates to my blog. There's a lot I want to say here but I may have summarize for now.

  • Welcome to elliottpayne.com - First and foremost, I'm switching the blog over to elliottpayne.com. I'm making the move to coincide with some of my earlier thoughts on Web 2.0 and about generating an online presence. In summary, our online persona's and offline persona's need to coalesce as one and we need to move toward a more accurate representation of ourselves regardless of the venue. This move is the beginning of such a transition. I'm not sure how I want to format it, but I want to (either through tags/categories or pages) write posts that represent my various interests, mainly separated by the following categories: personal, professional, and creative.
  • Holy career change batman! – 2008 was punctuated by a massive career move for me. I went from being a manufacturing engineer in a dysfunctional working environment (let alone all the damn metal shavings that would always get stuck in my shoes) to a business consultant for a software company. I posted briefly about this right when it happened, but this is such a huge deal for me. This was always one of my dream jobs, and something that I was hoping to be able to someday do after I finished my MBA and here I am, still a year away from graduating, already at the “promise land.”
  • What economic downturn? – Consultants get paid significantly more than engineers. Just an FYI. So when the news broke that we were basically going back to the stone-age, I was getting on a plane to fly to a client and getting paid much more than I used to in the process. Of course the fantasy of a dream job and the reality of that same job are never in alignment. I’ve been traveling 100% (gone Monday through Friday, home on weekends) since the end of September. The pay bump for consulting isn’t because it’s difficult (it’s challenging no doubt, but in a fun way), it’s because I’ve spent more time with the bartender at a stupid micro-brewery in a dingy suburb of Philadelphia than my charming, lovely, wildly creative, stunningly sexy, scientifically genius, philosophically wonderful, and intellectually stimulating girlfriend in the last few months. There’s no free lunch here. Sacrifices are being made, but I have hopes and dreams beyond making money, so I’m hoping everything pays off in the end. Besides, student loans are no joke, gotta make it up somehow!
  • We got a puppy – Miyagi is the most awesomest laid back Chinese Crested you’ll ever meet. And I’m glad he keeps my lady company while I’m away. He’s also damn adorable (and I’m comfortable admitting it).


  • I sold my CRX – Seems like a piece of minutia at first glance, but this car has meant a lot to me. One of the things that motivated me to go to engineering school in the first place was my first passion of car racing. I used to literally close my eyes and imagine myself taking laps around Nürburgring when I would get stuck on a thermodynamics or deformable body mechanics problem and not have an answer after 4+ hours of really intensive work on just one problem (man those classes sucked). I’d close my eyes and remind myself of why I was putting myself through the pain and the hell of it all. A very momentous chapter of my life closes with the sale of this fine automobile. Gladly, it goes to the home of another car enthusiast and hopefully I’ll be able to grace the wheel some day at a future autocross.

I used the proceeds to fund my latest passion of photography and bought myself a new D-SLR, then banked the rest. This was also the first major step of uncluttering my life and putting more focus on what matters to me. I will return another day to racing (the WRX is pretty damn fun to drive too), but I need to focus on priorities right now.

So you can see 2008 was pretty big year for me. And I think it’s also pretty apparent why I haven’t been updating at all. I’m starting to adjust to the travel, so I’m hoping to work the blog into my routine.

I’m a fairly active blog reader, so I’ve installed a widget to the right that shows my shared google reader articles. If I haven’t been updating in while, at least check out some of the things I’ve been following out in the ether. At times, that says more about me than anything I write.


Web 2.0 & The Google Cop-out

I'm going to attempt to kill two birds with one stone here and give an update while finishing some homework.  The following post is going to look really academic, that's because it is :p

This is a brief homework assignment that I had for a strategy class that kind of intersects some of the topics I cover in this blog.  It's not my best work, but that's kind of you're signing up for when you're trying to get an MBA & working at the same time.  At least that's my qualifying disclaimer.

This is a case study published by Harvard Business School on Google which was released in 2006, so some of the details covered are ancient history relative to the pace the search marketplace has been evolving.

Sorry for the sensationalist title, enjoy my personal cop-out to blogging:

  • What are the key factors behind Google’s success?

Google has been so successful because of the focus and importance they placed on technology; this strategy contrasts that of its closest competitors, Yahoo and MSN, who focused on pushing content to users through internet channels called portals.  Yahoo was one of the earliest search services, but relied on human editors to organize websites into categories via a directory service; technology was only an afterthought for Yahoo once it realized the Web had grown much larger than human editors could manage.  They soon turned to indexing services such as AltaVista, Inktomi, and even Google to utilize the algorithmic search engine method that has made Google so famous today.  By focusing on technology out of the gate, Google was able the gain the first movers advantage of getting ahead of the learning curve of search algorithm technology.  Through the learning curve, Google has managed to identify and resources and capabilities necessary to deliver its superior algorithm based search technology (server farms, engineers, etc.).

  • Will the search business become more concentrated? Is search a winner-take-all market?

In the months following the authorship of this case study (2006 and beyond), it was considered that the search game was over and that Google had won.  Still, to date of this writing, Google is considered the dominant and most effective search engine on the market; however, the internet is an ever evolving marketplace.  In 2008, the dominant theme within the world of web technology is Web 2.0.  Web 2.0 has an ever-changing definition, but it generally refers wide use of web technologies in the enterprise and the development of social networks.  Web 2.0 literally encapsulates the network effect; that is, the more users of a web service, the greater the benefit to the installed base of those users.

Through its first mover position, Google has been able to capitalize on its installed-base in generating a strong network effect.  However, new entrants have begun to eek out a slice of Google’s market share for search.  Users are increasingly relying on their social networks, such as Facebook.com and LinkedIn.com, to find relevant information on the web.

Ironically, there is a movement in web technology towards human influenced search, or Semantic search technology.  Semantic search technology relies on the aggregation of human arbiters to rank web pages by relevance, which effectively personalizes a web search; seemingly contrary to the purely computational approach that Google has pursued to date.  Interestingly, Microsoft is experimenting with Semantic search with its U Rank prototype search engine.  This service rewards users for ranking web pages by relevance by providing credits to active users who share their ranked search results with their social network of friends.
One fact is clear moving forward in the market of search; that is, different users search for different reasons.  Some search for commercial reasons, other search for academic reasons; Google effectively captured a broad market of search users utilizing its algorithmic approach. However, there are many new entrants entering the web technology arena, all with the Amazon approach of “get big fast.” Social networking sites Myspace.com, Facebook.com, Twitter.com, and Friendfeed.com are all generating substantial network effects by developing a large installed base and many users are relying more and more on these types of sites for their information, particularly the social website aggregators such as Digg.com and Stumbleupon.com.  Google clearly has the first movers’ advantage with its huge installed base; however, this is not enough to sustain its competitive advantage.  Finally, Google has the opportunity to leverage its installed-base and its track record for innovation to compete in the ever changing technology sphere; nonetheless, there is still room for search, or more generally, information aggregation beyond Google as it stands today.

  • How important is Google’s deal with AOL? How did Microsoft’s bid for AOL’s search traffic compare to Google’s?

Microsoft’s bid was a direct response to Google’s growing dominance in web search and the ad revenue it created.  Microsoft failed in its bid where Google succeeded due to competitive nature of the bid; that is, Google was able to identify the Value Net advantage of partnering with AOL.  Google understood that AOL offered a complimentary service to Google search and that the Value Net of the deal allowed them to offer a premium the generally accepted market-valued of AOL.  The network effect of Google search coupled with their cost-per-impression basis of paid listing demonstrated their ability to generate greater returns because it ensured users would see the most relevant adds first.  Microsoft’s competitive bid for AOL was much less nuanced in its approach to Value Net benefits.  Microsoft was much less interested in creating a win-win relationship with AOL by offering complementary services as it was in creating a joint venture to compete directly with Google, which would inevitably lead to a competitive price war for paid ad listings.


Getting Comfortable With Uncomfortable

I find the fact that I'm sitting at a bar an hour outside of boston sipping on a mezcal margarita an interesting metaphor for this post. I'm on my second client for as many months as I've been working at my new job. My earlier posts indicate how big a leap this job has been for me, and the fact that I've been sitting face to face with customers almost every week since I've started working here is testamount to that fact.

This has been a great challange for in ways that I haven't really experienced before. Even as I struggled through the rigger of engineering school, I felt like I was just going through the motions. It wasn't easy, but for some reason it felt more effortles. I've travelled for professional reasons before but I've never had the stakes of missing a wife (for all intents & purposes) before; I've never questioned my descisions before either.

I'm being pushed to limits that I feel I've never been pushed to before; personally and professionally. Stress is building, I miss my girlfriend, and I have a deliverable due that is barely defined... Yet, some how, I feel envigorated by this?

Sometimes it's hard to know what you're capable of until you're forced to perform. And I think it's at the point where you're just about to crack where you're able to see how much you can grow.

I might as well put down my phone, eat my diner, and get to finishing my accounting homework. And look forward to the day that I get to benefit from all this.


Lessons From History

I was thinking to myself on my way home from work about what the hell I’d write about next in my blog. One of the things that came to mind (and that I perpetually think about) is the fact that, seemingly, every single topic has been collectively written about a thousand times over throughout time. Love, religion, relationships, respect, philosophy, and so on has been done to death and, more over, most of those topics seem so goddamned cliché, what’s the freaking point in ever brining them up again?

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately, and that’s something relatively new for me. I’ve been reading a lot about career searching and advice because that’s becoming a higher priority of mine, but I’ve also been reading a lot of random design blogs peppered with blogs about starting new ventures and what they call "life hacking" which seems to be basically centered around Getting Things Done. The more I read a lot of these blogs, the more I notice a lot of the same thing being said but just in a slightly different way. It’s almost as if all of these blogs and authors could be combined into one summarized website that condenses and consolidates a lot of the redundancy of the myriad of information getting whipped around all over the place.

So one of my insecurities about writing a blog is centered on whether or not anything I have to say is: A) relevant and B) cliché/worn out/re-stating the obvious/preaching to the choir/etc. This post by Penelope Trunk is what kind of inspired me to write a blog because it seems like a practical reason. I came across her site when I was at a relatively desperate point at my job and was really looking for a way out; she offers some pretty radical thoughts on not only your career, but also life. But at the same time, a lot of what she writes about is basic common sense.

I had to go right to the radio after getting home after a quick bite to eat and I popped on the history channel as I ate and caught the tail end of a program about Galen. Galen was a physician during Roman times who meticulously studied and wrote about medicine. Apparently, he wrote thousands of pages of text about his studies and became, basically, the authority on all things medicine. He even performed brain surgery and cataract eye surgery 2000 years before they became common place in western medicine. The moral of the story? Well, doctors for the next two millennia relied on his works as the only truth and never progressed medicine beyond anything he discovered, basically halting all innovations in medicine for a couple of thousand years.

It turns out, no one person knows all things about all things. Duh? So, basically, we all need to hash and re-hash any and all topics to death because, hopefully, someone will come across a breakthrough and restate something in a way that is completely new in such a profound way as to more accurately get the idea across an ever wider audience. So sometimes it takes a lesson from history to move forward to do great (or even decent?) work.


bummpy 2.0

Well, this is my second go at enacting a blog. The first time was a bit of a bore and snore, I think it ended up being a whiney bitch fest of me moping about being a recent college graduate and without a job. Coincidentally, I find myself back in school and back on the job search horse. But I think I've got a few more interesting things to say this time around.

I'm not sure what kind of outlet this will evolve into, but I do know that I'm currently in a transformative phase of my life and that this venue might help sharpen my efforts. I'll keep it brief for now, but I'll wrap things up and keep in theme by noting my recent epiphany about "web 2.0": that is, I've found that the new socially connected web has presented me with the most relevant information I think I may have witnessed thus far on the internet. It seems like almost every page I read lately has exactly the information I was looking for, or exactly the kind of information I didn't know I was looking for until I came across it. So with that, you probably found yourself reading this very post because of the aforementioned phenomenon.

Kind of neat huh?