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Bessed Search Plugin for Firefox

August 22, 2007

Many thanks to Jeremy Weiss of Blue Phoenix Consulting, who created this Firefox plugin that lets you search Bessed straight from your browser’s navigation bar. It’s easy as pie to add—just click the link and it’s ready for use.

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Quickie Book Review: The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

August 21, 2007

I don’t think I would want to work for Chet Holmes, author of The Ultimate Sales Machine. That sounds like a slam, but the truth is that I wouldn’t want to work for him because I think he would demand the very best out of me at all times, to the point where I would get annoyed.  I’m just too lazy to be great all the time (if I’m great any of the time), and his “pigheaded discipline and determination” might be too much for me. On the other hand, instilling his ideas to the best of my ability would put me far ahead of where I’m at today, so I’m going to give it a try. (But I’m still not going to work for him.)

As the name suggests, The Ultimate Sales Machine is about sales, and it’s a great book for any sales organization.  But only if you really have the “pigheaded discipline and determination” that Holmes repeatedly speaks of.  Because Holmes’ biggest message is that he’s got all kinds of strategies and tactics to make your sales organization better, but they’re only going to work if you do them and stick with them, which most people won’t. (Which is why most people would probably not want Holmes leading them, as he’d hold their feet to the fire, which unfortunately too many of us do not want.)

This is not strictly a sales book, though, at least not in the “here’s how to make a sale” sense. While the tail end of the book is very tactical, the front end is more about getting in the right mindset to market effectively. Holmes is relentless in his ideas on time management, on repeated workshops to work on getting presentations and pitches down to a science, and to selling customers on education more than products.

Holmes’ method of getting in the door with customers works because he really is suggesting giving something in order to get.  All of us know that when a salesperson calls on us, he/she is trying to sell us something, but even knowing that we can still get roped in if they offer us some bit of information or research that is going to help us be better.  After all, we can always say “no” to the pitch later. From the salesperson’s perspective, though, the first step is getting you into the funnel, and giving away something of value upfront is the best way to do that.

I said I wouldn’t want to work for Holmes, but that’s a shortcoming on my part.  Because I sure would hire him, so he could whip my employees into shape, and use these winning strategies to drive my business (and get rid of slackers like me that didn’t want to do the painful work of improving).  Whether you’re in sales or not, this book really has some inspiring chapters that I’d recommend.

P.S. I just went to Chet Holmes’ Web site and signed up for his newsletter. I absolutely hate his site, which is the run-of-the-mill sales pitch after sales pitch type of site that so many online marketers use. I still signed up because I liked the book so much, but I’m a little disappointed to see that Holmes uses the same rah-rah tactics that so many of these guys use.

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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Quickie Book Review: Buzz by Ed Koch

August 21, 2007

I like to read books about “buzz” because I’m always looking for ways to get a little traffic love for Bessed on a small budget. So I got the book Buzz by Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York.  It’s sort of a strange book, but it had a few insights that were worthwhile, which I will share with you now.

First off, I had forgotten that Ed Koch, a lifelong Democrat, had pulled a switcheroo and vehemently supported George W. Bush for president. As far as I can tell from this book, he hasn’t changed that opinion. Therefore it appears that going against your lifelong stated philosophy is one way to build buzz, as this worked for a while for Koch, and it got him another book deal.

But that’s being nasty.  Here are some good points and bad points about the book itself, in case you’re interested in picking it up.

It’s broken down into four parts, from “How Buzz Begins” to “Recognizing Victory”. Personally I felt like the chapters could’ve been thrown together any which way and made as much sense as they did in the order presented. This isn’t really a “how to go from Point A to Point B” kind of book; it’s just a lot of different ideas thrown together. That’s fine, I don’t need a framework, but these types of books always insist on making it seem like you’re getting a more cohesive picture than you are. All us readers want is a few good ideas, so dispense with the grand plans I say.

My takeaway from the book is that being honest and honestly enthusiastic will help build you buzz. Say what you’re going to do, do it, and be honest and as friendly as you can be along the way.  On the other hand, don’t back down when challenged, or people lose respect for you and they lose some of the hope you’ve given them. This strikes me as being more about personal buzz than buzz for your business, but I think there is some crossover. I also think this applies if you run a company with employees that look to you for leadership, especially if you’re a startup. After all, a lot of startups are riding on a vision, and they need a strong leader to make people keep believing in that vision.

Koch is a good storyteller, and there are some very good anecdotes here, including one about Mother Theresa and some chocolate chip cookies that I particularly enjoyed. (That Mother Theresa always did crack me up!)

One of the more bizarre chapters is the one in which Koch tells you how to create buzz by writing letters to important people. He reprints his exact letters to various New York City honchos as well as Pat Robertson, and even lets us in on a few e-mail exchanges between him and random people.  I have no idea how these letters create buzz, but even if they do, I’m sure they create more buzz if you’re already a well-known person like Ed Koch than if you’re me. Very strange.

If you’re looking to build your business’s buzz based on your product features or your marketing or social networks, etc., Buzz is not about that at all. But if you’re a CEO who wants to build buzz to your business via your own personal brand—and there’s nothing wrong with that—Buzz could be helpful. After all, Ed Koch came from nothing to be mayor of New York.  That’s a rise to stardom worth emulating.

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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Bessed, Mahalo and Human-Powered Search

July 18, 2007

I’ve been asked about it several times, but have been tardy in writing about Mahalo, the new human-powered search engine that Jason Calacanis is spearheading. I did get a chance to talk about it a bit with the New York Times‘ Randall Stross, who wrote this piece on Bessed, Mahalo and other search competitors a few weeks back.

I’m grateful to Stross for including Bessed in his piece, as my initial fear about Mahalo was that people would think that Calacanis had thought this up all on his own, and had thought of it first, when in fact Bessed was launched in October of 2006, long before Mahalo. I was afraid people would think that we were the copycats.

To his credit, Stross did his homework. He realized that Bessed had launched this concept of a “human-powered search engine” before Calacanis came out beating his chest and talking up the VC money he has backing him up.

I’m not upset about Mahalo launching almost a carbon copy of what Bessed is doing—or, as a friend e-mailed to me, “Dude, they stole your idea!” (Although it was a litte disheartening to see them tout themselves as the “first human-powered search engine.”) That’s the nature of competition. Frankly, I’m jealous of the money Calacanis has behind Mahalo. It will be interesting to see what it gets them.

However, there are some differences between Mahalo’s game plan and that of Bessed, and I think those differences are what will ultimately doom Mahalo, or at the very least force it to change course from it’s currently-stated plan. I’m also afraid Mahalo might kill the idea that human-powered search can work, because its current offering doesn’t offer a ton of value. And if that happens, it could hurt Bessed over the long run. So, while I would not be unhappy to see Mahalo fail, how it fails matters to me 🙂

First, here’s what is good about Mahalo. (Generally it’s the same as what I think is good about Bessed.) Mahalo is having human editors find results, which is eliminating spam from its results. The site looks attractive. It’s allowing visitors to suggest new sites to add. And I think it offers good results for the topics it’s covering.

But Mahalo makes one big mistake. It is attempting to create results for only the most searched-for terms. The problem is, most people are perfectly happy with Google results for the more common searches. They aren’t looking for an alternative. Where Google and other engines often fall flat and and are susceptible to spam is in the “long tail” of searches—searches for specific people, products, facts, etc. These are the searches in which searchers come away dissatisfed and are open to an alternative that can solve their problem and save them time.

I don’t know if any human-powered effort can adequately cover the millions of potential searches that take place each day, but by simply ignoring them Mahalo has no compelling reason to exist. It does not solve a searcher’s problem, so beyond what Calacanis can drum up traffic-wise based on his own personal celebrity, it will fall flat.

Our goal with Bessed is to fill the holes in the long tail, sifting out the junk on those specific searches that so often are maddening—when you find one site selling the same thing on four different domains or you are lured to a site on false pretenses because the site has pasted your keyword (and a hundred others) on a page that is completely irrelevant. Those searches drive you crazy, and Google’s algorithm, which puts so much stock in the links between sites, has a hard time sifting the junk because there are so few links between sites in the long tail, thus making it hard to give any of the pages credibility over others. This is where the humans can and should be; this is where we can make a difference.

This doesn’t mean Bessed will ignore the “short tail,” but it means we know that we can create more value in attacking searches that robots have not yet mastered. If I had Calacanis’ money, this is where I would be spending it. Maybe he’d like to give it to us?

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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Life After Death

July 17, 2007

My mom, Geraldine Jusko, died on June 21, 2007.

My father, Ronald Jusko, died in October of 1979.

I was only 9 when my dad died, and, like most 9-year-olds, I didn’t know what to think. I felt sad, and a little scared, but mostly I wondered what you do when someone dies, how you’re supposed to act. I thought maybe I should cry all the time, because if I didn’t it meant I didn’t love him enough. He & my mom had been divorced, so he didn’t live with us when he died, which made it even more difficult for his death to have the full impact on me that it might’ve had. But I definitely remember having the idea that I would never see him again.

Like a kid does, I bounced back from his death fairly quickly. My home life didn’t change considerably; his death hadn’t changed the fact that my mom and my brother and sisters and I lived in the same house and would keep doing essentially the same things. After the initial shock, I was pretty much back to normal. (Other than the unhealthy fear of death that spends too much time near the front of my brain even today, and the lingering knowledge that the heart attack that killed him occurred when he was only 8 years older than I am now.)

That was roughly 28 years ago, and of course my 37-year-old self is a lot different than that 9-year-old. I’m married and have two kids of my own now. But it’s weird to see that my mom’s death has brought on some of the same feelings I had as a 9-year-old. Except the ability to bounce back is still eluding me.

My mom had battled leukemia on and off for over 10 years, and had some very bad times. But she’d always come back. Maybe not better than ever, but her body was amazingly strong, especially for a woman that had never worked very hard at keeping it that way. When she ended up in the hospital after a bad reaction from her latest round of chemotherapy, I braced myself for a long slog, but generally thought this was just another thing to get through. I felt that my siblings and I could just be there for her and we’d will her back to health eventually.

After two months in the hospital, I thought that I’d been right. She made a recovery after several very tense times, and it looked like she might be on the road back. She celebrated her birthday in the hospital, just 11 days before she died, and on that day she ate a little birthday cake the hospital had made her, and my kids sang Happy Birthday to her.

And then it all fell apart, so swiftly I’m still trying to save her in my head. What if they’d….? We should’ve…

I’m still having trouble believing that I will never see her again. How can she be so fresh in my memory and yet so completely gone from my life? How long will it be before I stop thinking of little things in my life and my kids’ lives that I want to share with her, as I would store them up previously in my mind for our phone conversations or when we’d next see each other in person?

In the same way that my life didn’t substantially change in a material way after my father’s death, my life doesn’t really change now. I didn’t need my mother to take care of me any more; I didn’t live with her anymore. I still live in the same house I did before, with the same family that I love, and the same career. The day my mother died, I checked my e-mail before I went to bed. That sounds wrong to me somehow, but it’s the truth.

Except a lot has changed. I now have no parents. The biggest constant in my life, my mother, is gone. It’s a hard feeling to describe, but I feel untethered, as if this world has become a little more unreal and that I could just float out of it. Many things seem pointless in the light of knowing that my mother will never see or experience them again (and that at some point I won’t, either).

And yet I’m supposed to just go on living. Get back to work. Get my daughter back to bed when she wakes up crying. Pay the phone bill. The basement wall needs waterproofing. The cat just crapped on the couch again.

Life doesn’t stop. That’s probably a good thing. But right now it feels pretty bad.

I’m trying to let the good things get a toehold again. My kids had a successful 4th of July lemonade stand, thanks to neighbors and friends. My son and I went for a bike ride today and he made me give him Olympic-type scores for his performance as he coasted down a tiny hill. Yesterday I asked him what he dreamed about and he said, “I didn’t have any dreams. Just the black screen.” There’s plenty to smile about.

Time heals all wounds, etc. But right now meaning is hard to come by. I’ll keep going through the motions, and hopefully somewhere along the line I’ll start to feel fully connected again.

Things won’t ever be the same. But there are still worthwhile things.

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: The Dip by Seth Godin

May 8, 2007

There are generally three phases that go into writing a book review.  In the first, I read a book. I like to read books, so it’s fun.  As I read I develop a few thoughts on what I might say about the book.  That’s fun, too.

In the second phase, I write the review.  That sucks.  Putting the ideas in a logical order, searching for the write phrases, trying not to write too much or too little.  Torture.

In the third phase, the review is done. I read it and feel satisfied with the work and proud of myself for the accomplishment. Except, of course, when the writing is bad, which makes me wonder if I wasted my energy.

Don’t worry, this is going somewhere.

In the words of Seth Godin’s new book, the actual writing of this review would be The Dip—the time where the fun and excitement of a new endeavor is over and you’re knee deep in hard work, with no guarantee of a satisfying conclusion.

Unless your company happens to be YouTube or you’re plucked off the sidewalk to star in a new movie opposite Jude Law, you will experience The Dip. It’s that time after people stop patting you on the back for starting a new company or getting accepted to medical school or deciding to run a marathon, when you actually have to do what it takes to get there.  If you’re strong enough, you suck it up and take the pain as your price of admission into the world of the high flyers, coming out on the other end smelling like roses, rolling around in piles of cash.

Except it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes you put in all the effort and you get pretty much nowhere. You get enough clients to keep your business going, but not enough to make you even remotely wealthy. Or you hit Organic Chemistry and think maybe being a doctor isn’t for you.  Or you realize you don’t have enough time to train for a marathon. And you quit.  Or you don’t quit because you’re not a quitter.  Or you go back and forth trying to decide if you should quit or not. Hey! This is not what you signed up for!

The Dip is Godin’s attempt to encourage you to fight through on the worthy goals, to quit the goals that you simply can’t accomplish, and to figure out which is which.

If you’re starting something new, here are the key questions Godin suggests you ask yourself:

  • Can I/we be the best in the world?
  • Do I/we have the resources to make it happen?
  • Is the reward worth the effort?

If you believe the answer is “yes” to all three, slog through The Dip, keeping your eyes on the prize. Because most of the others will quit.  (Or, if they couldn’t answer “yes” to the questions, they’ll keep on trucking but get nowhere.)

If you answer “no” to any of the questions, quitting is not just OK but smart.  Quitting when you can’t win frees up you or your company’s resources to go after something that you can win. Godin convincingly makes the case that the axiom “quitters never win and winners never quit” is wrong, as long as quitters keep searching for the things they can win.

One point that Godin makes is sure to fly over some people’s heads.  It’s the question of whether you can be the best in the world.  Godin uses the “world” to mean your world, the world you’re competing in.  If you run a flower shop, you don’t have to be the best flower shop on Earth, but you’d better run the best flower shop in your city.  To the victor go the spoils.  Those in second place get the runoff. Do you want to spend your life living from the runoff?

As always, Godin’s writing is crisp, making The Dip a pleasure to read.  And, at just 76 pages, the book quickly but successfully makes its point, leaving you plenty of time to decide if it’s time to get back to work or back to the drawing board.

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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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.