Archive for April, 2007

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Disney and the Details

April 26, 2007

My family went to Disney World as part of our spring break vacation.  I don’t particularly buy the whole “magic” of Disney—it’s an interesting enough place, an impressive business success, but I didn’t spend a lot of time oohing and aahing over anything.  Granted, my kids’ ages kept us completely in the Magic Kingdom, so I can’t speak to the place as a whole, and I did LOVE the Mickey’s Philharmagic 3-D movie. If you’ve never quite understood the hubbub over 3-D, that movie will show you, and I hear Disney has other 3-D movies in other parks that are pretty awesome too.

Anyway, since I wasn’t so taken with the magic of Disney, why am I wasting time writing about them? Because I was particulary impressed with one aspect of Disney, and it illustrated why parents shell out the big bucks to bring their kids there.

My son has certain food allergies that are often difficult to explain to restaurant waiters & waitresses. They don’t understand why his hamburger can’t touch the bun, for example. They’ll come to the table with the hamburger on the bun and when we tell them he can’t have it (which we already made clear when ordering), they often think they can just take the burger off the bun and everything’s hunky-dory, not understanding that the contamination has already occurred.

When we sat down at a Disney restaurant and looked over the menu to see what would be OK, a waiter came to our table. We explained our son has allergies, and he immediately said “I’ll have the chef come talk to you.”  Which is exactly what happened.  The chef showed up, made sure he understood the issues, offered some suggestions on dishes they could prepare that weren’t shown on the menu, and even came back a second time with a box to show us a gluten-free product we’d never heard of. It felt great to be taken care of, to not have to worry whether the food coming out was going to be OK.  And it also gave us a more nutritional option for our son than we usually have when eating out.

So, while I may not admire the magic, I admire the attention to detail.  And I understand why Disney succeeds in getting people to return repeatedly. It’s often the little things that make people return to you for business, and I think this one is a great example.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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Book Review – Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World’s Greatest Company

April 18, 2007

For those of us who’ve known Hewlett-Packard mostly for top-of-the-line computer printers and recent corporate scandals, it’s somewhat mystifying to hear or read the almost religious zeal of an older generation that seems to regard the “old” HP as some sort of business utopia.  It’s just a company—could it really have been that great?

Michael S. Malone says yes, and his new book Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World’s Greatest Company sets out to show just how groundbreaking the company was. Its founders’ innovation in both new products and new ways of doing business created an environment in which customers wanted only HP products, employees reciprocated the loyalty HP showed to them, and future Silicon Valley generations tried and usually failed to follow in their footsteps.

Right off the bat, what makes Hewlett-Packard so noteworthy is Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard—their skills, their personalities, and the fact that for almost 50 years they partnered at the top of the organization they founded. It’s rare to see a business partnership last so long, and so seamlessly, especially in an era where CEOs prefer to have the spotlight shone squarely on them alone. Hewlett and Packard’s skills and demeanors were perfect complements to each other, and their lack of desire to put themselves on a pedestal is what helped create the family atmosphere that came to be known as “the HP Way.”

Malone writes Bill & Dave as a straightforward corporate history, but at the same time he wants you to read the book as a primer on how to run a business that not only turns a profit, but also takes care of its people and cares about the communities in which it does business.  To that end, throughout the book he notes particularly important lessons with an asterisk, then brings all of these lessons together at the end to create a roughly 10-page document that lays out a blueprint for entrepreneurial success. At first I thought the asterisk thing would annoy me, but once I’d finished the book I liked this short summary of how Hewlett and Packard made it all work.

The book begins by tracing Hewlett and Packard’s paths to their eventual meeting at Stanford, where Dave Packard was the tall, gregarious, can’t-miss golden boy sports star and Bill Hewlett was a short, dyslexic, somewhat reserved sort still getting over his father’s untimely death. Their shared interest in electronics would lead the two to eventually start Hewlett-Packard in the celebrated garage of Dave and Lucille Packard’s home on Addison Avenue in Palo Alto.

As with any corporate history, Bill & Dave is most interesting when tracing the early years, when Hewlett and Packard baked HP instrument panels in Packard’s oven and randomly priced their first product  in such a way that it was  impossible to make a profit.  They were quick studies, though, and it wasn’t long before the company was on its way.

Bill and Dave worked hard throughout HP’s ascendancy to create a family atmosphere, and this is perhaps their greatest legacy and why they are still so adored.  In the beginning, it was the founders handing out bonus checks to employees based on Hewlett-Packard performance and having Friday “beer busts” to let off steam.  Later on it was flex time and the Hewlett-Packard policy of avoiding mass layoffs by sacrificing revenue in favor of employees keeping their jobs—whether that meant sacrificing revenue by not hiring for short-term busy times or reassigning rather than firing employees whose skills no longer matched the positions they were filling.

An interesting aspect of HP’s history is that on two separate occasions one of the founders left the company to the control of the other.  In World War II, Bill Hewlett left to serve while Packard stayed behind to run the growing HP alone. (Hewlett-Packard equipment was being used by the U.S. military and thus the military wanted at least one founder back at HP to run the company.) During the Nixon administration, Dave Packard became Deputy Secreatary of Defense and helped revamp the United States’ procurement policy, leaving Hewlett to run the show in his three-year absence. In both cases, Hewlett-Packard hummed along, showing that while the founders preferred to be together, each could handle the job alone. Had they become so similar as to be interchangeable or had “the HP Way” become so ingrained that it no longer mattered?

Inevitably the book loses some steam as HP grows to be a massive international corporation and Bill & Dave grow old and eventually retire, but it’s amazing to read how they make the transition from that garage partnership to an incorporated small business to corporate behemoth so smoothly, always with an eye on profits, sentimental toward their employees but never sentimental toward products that no longer make the cut.

While author Malone can be a little too fawning in romanticizing Hewlett & Packard—they can’t possible have been as perfect as they are in these pages—overall Bill & Dave is a book worthy of the men whose remarkable lives it chronicles.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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To All the TechCrunch Haters

April 5, 2007

My man Mike Arrington over at TechCrunch is asking me to bring the hate. He wants me to find the worst post on TechCrunch and say why it’s bad. But I can’t do it, man. That’s like asking who’s the ugliest Miss America, you know what I’m saying?

I mean, that TechCrunch is so useful. I went through some of the old posts and they were awesome, man. (Mike likes to use the words “awesome” and “cool” a lot and so I picked up on that, yeah?) Like there’s all this Web 20 stuff for your celly, right? And TC’s got it all, and I love it all. I downloaded all of those mofos today even if I didn’t know what Mike was talking about with his SMS and OpenID and Twitty and whatever. My phone’s goin’ crazy, dudes! It’s beepin and boopin and I got people I don’t know tellin’ me what they’re doing 24/7! One time the phone flew up and kissed me on the nose. I wouldn’t have had this experience without Mike and the TC crew, know what I’m saying? I digg it. (See what I did there? I’m gettin all Web 20 again.)

So I’m already loving the TC brigade, right? But then I latch on to this one old post I missed. I don’t know how I missed it, cause I’m on TC religious-like, right?

Anyway the post’s about this site KritX, which I’m loving cause it’s got the Web 20 name going on. It’s like “Critics” see? But they spelled it all wacky, right?

So in the post Mike says that KritX is “very raw, but they are on to something big – aggregation of reviews from blogs (the edge of the network).” I don’t know about that edge of the network— more stuff for my celly?—but I’m digging the aggregation of reviews from blogs, because, as Mike says, “I’d like to see someting like this be built.” If Mike wants it, you think I want it? Yuh-huh.

Mike says “kritX is combinging blog reviews and microformats with a vertical search engine to present these edge reviews to users” and even though he says it “has a long way to go” he knows it to be “a good idea that can grow into something incredible.” I’m on this baby!

I went to KritX today and it’s filled its potential, man. I admit I was confused at first because it had a message that said “This site is under construction” on top of the page. But it must’ve only been part under construction because right under the message I saw all these reviews about all my favorite stuff. I mean, KritX must have like ESPN, man, because it knew totally what I was into. Homes For Sale, Apartments, Dating Services, Chat Rooms—that’s all me, dudes. Weight Loss, Fitness, Plastic Surgery, Skin Care, Pregnancy—those fit my profile, too, right?

One of my pet peeps, though, is Web 20 sites that don’t deliver, right? Could KritX really aggregate and supplimate the best reviews on so many topics? That’s like a rhetorical question, man. Check it out:

I clicked on “Download Ringtones” and right off the bat I’m seeing a review that gets to the heart of matters. It says “Ringtone Jam Jam – Your One stop Destination For Cell Phone Ringtones We have a huge collection of the most popular ringtones for handsets on AT&T, Cingular, SprintPCS, T-Mobile, Alltel, Nextel, Verizon and more. As little as $5.99 per week”

That’s a review I can understand from a fellow blogger who’s tried this stuff out, right? Ringtone Jam Jam—that’s a name that inspires confidence and I wish I could thank the reviewer who was good enough to take the time to write about it.

Now check this. I clicked on “Debt Consolidation” and there were some great reviews that got straight to the point. First one up said “Consumer Debt Consolidation Family Credit Counseling offers free budget counseling, credit counseling and if you choose to enroll in a debt management plan, FCC charges no setup fees, nothing to lose but your debt.”

That reviewer’s got a way with words, right? “Nothing to lose but your debt.” I love it. That’s not something just any old hack could write. I bet even Mike would’ve had a hard time coming up with that line. But that’s why I love KritX so much. Anything you can think of, they got like 20-40 reviews on.

Mike was right, as usual. Kritx is incredible!

I feel happy right now. And I got TechCrunch to thank. You haters can just leave through the side door.

Your friend, Adam

P.S. Mike if you’re reading this I also want to thank you for the 411 on Mechanical Turk. Like you said, it’s “brilliant.” Like I got someone to pay me 98 cents to identify the color of cars in about 200 pictures. I love cars! I would’ve done that for free, right? Much love Mike.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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Free Home Page Links on Bessed

April 4, 2007

One of our challenges in building Bessed is how to cover the thousands of topics/keyword searches that people do every day. Obviously a human-powered search engine will never be able to cover it all. For example, I can’t imagine a day when you will be able to “Bessed” any person’s name in the whole world like you can with Google.

However, we believe we can increase our coverage to the vast majority of searches if our site visitors will help us Build A Better Bessed. We’re asking interested writers to submit a short list of at least 5 links, with descriptions, for topics of interest to them. When you do, provided you attempted to do so coherently and didn’t just heap junk at us, we’ll get your topic submissions listed on our site within one business day AND we will offer you the chance to have your site linked both on the topic page you created as well as on the Bessed.com home page. (Go there now and see sites already listed in the right-hand column.)

We’re not asking you to help us out of the goodness of your heart. We’re asking you to help us in order to help yourself, whether that means promoting your business, your blog, or your association of amateur astronomers.

Contributors on our home page will be ranked based on the number of submissions, so the more you contribute, the higher your listing will be. Also, the more topics/keyword searches you get started, the more pages your link will show up on, helping to make you an authority on the subjects that are near and dear to your heart.

Sound good? Go to Build A Better Bessed for details on how exactly to get started.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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Book Review: Make Your Contacts Count by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon

April 4, 2007

I’ve never been overly comfortable networking.  I like people, but I often feel like “networking” is a synonym for “faking.”  Everybody has an agenda,  making small talk when all they really want to know is “can you help me?” And, if you’re not the person who does this, you’ve at least met the person who shakes your hand while simultaneously looking around the room to see if someone more interesting/important is around.

People like me are exactly who the book Make Your Contacts Count is intended for. It makes networking sound like fun, not something you need to apologize for.  And it is a great guide for networking without the fakeness.

The essential message of Make Your Contacts Count is that you hurt yourself when you spend all of your time thinking about how to get your personal sales pitch across instead of thinking about the other person’s needs.  Spend more time listening and then see how you can help the person you’re speaking to, either with your own skills or via other people in your network. That will make you a valuable resource, so even if you don’t get a direct benefit today, every time you help someone, you increase the chances someone will help you.  Why? Because people don’t like to feel indebted to others.  If you help them, they want to pay you back.  So the more help you give, the more people you have out there wanting to give back to you.  While authors Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon don’t use this word, I’d call it networking karma. What goes around comes around.

However, that doesn’t mean the authors think you should network without an agenda. Far from it.  In fact, they’re adamant that networking is a waste of time if you aren’t spending time before an event thinking about what you want to accomplish.  Standing around in a crowd with a drink in your hand and hoping for serendipity is what breeds hatred of networking events.  Instead, while you’re learning about the needs of others, there’s nothing wrong with making your needs clear as well.  After all, the whole point of networking is to create a “network”—a group of people that you try to help and who in turn help you.

Make Your Contacts Count is a great book on networking because it tackles the big issues of how to create a network and how to deepen relationships with people in that network, but then also the smaller issues—How do I get a conversation started? How do I end a conversation politely? How do I do a better job of remembering people’s names?

For me and my networking shortcomings, the chapter titled “What Do You Do?” was especially helpful.  As you might guess, it helps you to answer the question “what do you do?” in the best way possible. For example, saying “I’m a lawyer” is not as good as “I’m a patent attorney.  I just helped CrineCo Industries stop a competitor from manufacturing a knockoff of their scuba diving equipment.” The first answer gets you a head nod and uncomfortable silence.  The second gets a conversation going while making it clear where your skills lie. But most of us will only offer the second, better answer if we’ve planned for the question before it comes up.

I haven’t read a lot of books on networking, so I can’t compare Make Your Contacts Count to other books on the subject.  But I found it to be so comprehensive and so full of good ideas that I can’t imagine seeking out other books on the subject. From a networking neophyte, you should consider that a ringing endorsement.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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Andy Warhol Portraits

April 4, 2007

If you’re an Andy Warhol fan, I recently got a cool coffee table book called Andy Warhol Portraits. As you might guess it’s a collection of Andy Warhol’s portraits of famous and not-so-famous people.

If you’re interested, I gave it a more in-depth review here.