• Productive Paranoia = Good

    Curiously enough, what got Segway into this problem was that the company was itself a kind of Segway. It was too easy for them; they were too successful raising money. If they’d had to grow the company gradually, by iterating through several versions they sold to real users, they’d have learned pretty quickly that people looked stupid riding them. Instead they had enough to work in secret. They had focus groups aplenty, I’m sure, but they didn’t have the people yelling insults out of cars. So they never realized they were zooming confidently down a blind alley.

    Paul Graham, YCombinator

    My take:


    – I agree, raising “too much” capital for an idea is poison. Having to do a lot with a little instills discipline, and forces one to be uber-resourceful, razor focused, and quite frankly a little paranoid 🙂 I’m extremely lucky to have mentors like David who have drilled this mantra into my head. We achieved a lot with little at both Lookery and, and now Shareaholic.

    – Iterative design is the way to go. All of us that create applications for which we can push updates and upgrades at-will at not much cost are blessed. Criminal not to take advantage of this gift.

    – Focus groups? Community Managers (= everyone in the company) should be curating the feedback loop from in the field – talking to real users, asking them how we can improve our products, create the most value for them, and knock down the most roadblocks in the process — in short, make their lives easier.

    Users first, always.

  • How To: Online Community Management at

    Community Conversations

    This morning I rediscovered this (previously unpublished) transcript from February 2008 in my archives.

    I was Product Manager of at the time, and it goes into how we managed and thought about our user community at Compete, a critical component that helped us surpass 1 million monthly unique visitors to very quickly. I’ve carried much of this thinking over to Shareaholic, a tool that has been used by over 1 million people. At Shareaholic we obsess over our users, always putting our users first.

    Hope you find this to be a useful read. Enjoy!

    1. Who do you work for, what do they do, and what is your official job title?

    Compete, Inc is a competitive web analytics company. We have a diverse sample of over two million U.S. internet users that have given us permission to aggregate and analyze all the web pages they visit and ask them questions via surveys. We believe that web analytics means analyzing what consumers do across the entire web, not just what they do within a particular site, and that marketers can use this rich information across the entire company, not just for online media planning or site design decisions.

    We’ve been doing custom web analytics work for big brands such as Verizon, Chrysler and Wells Fargo for over 7 years now. Just over 13 months ago we launched is targeted towards the millions of people dependent upon their website/online presence to drive their business. Up until the launch of there really was no affordable, reliable and consistent source of competitive web analytics for the average marketer.

    As for my own role with Compete, I’ve been with the company for just over 3 years, and my official job title is – Product Manager,

    2. Now that you have experience actually doing it, what does community management mean at Compete?

    We won’t be satisfied until is the go-to industry source for the most precise competitive web analytics data available. For this to happen, we need to build a large community users that regularly use, trust and recommend Compete data – our advocates.

    Generally, communities do not build themselves. They need some nurturing. I like Chris Brogan’s description of the role:

    “The people gathered before you aren’t an orchestra and you are not a conductor. At best, you are a jam manager. You are the person helping bring about the experience, but with your hands as far off the overall end results as possible.”

    At Compete, community management/evangelism translates to encouraging and supporting early users, enabling two-way transparent conversations about Compete, looking for and enabling people who might be interested in what we do, listening and responding to feedback (the good and the bad), setting up and managing user expectations, integrating user feedback into product roadmap decisions, being the customer’s voice within Compete, and generally being available, easy to reach, and responsive.

    3. If a community manager does their job well, what happens as a result?

    We hope good things 🙂 In all seriousness, in my experience users tend to feel a greater sense of ownership of the product. This leads to our users being happier, they engage more with the product, tend to talk more favorably about their experiences, and give us more (constructive) feedback in return. They become our advocates.


  • FlipKey – applying web 2.0 principles to an underserved market

    It was great catching up with TJ last night. TJ and I worked closely together on from inception to launch. He also taught me a lot when I was at Compete, and I thank him every day for those seemingly small, but significantly valuable life/work lessons that stuck.

    TJ is now one of FlipKey’s co-founders. FlipKey was conceived with the basic idea of applying web 2.0 principles to under served markets — in their case vacation rentals.

    TripAdvisor invested in FlipKey last year, and it’s great to see how well they’re doing. TripAdvisor now includes FlipKey reviews on its own network of sites, which attract over 30 million visitors a month worldwide.

    The big challenge with UGC is reaching critical mass quickly. FlipKey took an alternative approach compared to its parent TripAdvisor. Rather than offering an open review system where consumers were required to find the site and home/accomodation they stayed in to leave a review, FlipKey went directly to the source (the rental management companies) and created a Reputation Manager that invites confirmed past guests via an email to leave a review. This also ensured higher quality of reviews, as the reviewer is guaranteed to have actually stayed at the vacation rental. Smart.

    Last night we also brainstormed some _big_ ideas for Shareaholic, which took me right back to when was hatched — lots more on that soon 🙂

  • Can Digg keep up with Facebook’s growth? So far it surprisingly has, and here are the stats to prove it.

    Below is Digg and Facebook‘s monthly Unique Visitor chart going all the way back to the month they were launched. After looking at the first chart, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that Facebook has been growing faster than Digg (isn’t so), so before you do, make sure you take a look at all the charts in this post.

    The chart below overlays the same Facebook vs. Digg’s traffic data to their respective launch month’s:

  • Compete revises search market share numbers; Why Microsoft may want Yahoo Search even more now

    (cross posted on CenterNetworks)

    Compete just revised UP Yahoo’s market share number significantly – by 5.3 percentage points.

    To put this number in perspective — combined market share of AOL and = 4.1%

    On Monday we released our May Search Share numbers. As a result of some conversations we were having with Danny Sullivan in parallel we sent over our “rules” we use to mine the search data. Danny threw these up on his post reviewing our data and one savvy reader very quickly identified an issue with our rules. So, long story short, we have fixed our Yahoo! rules (and also reevaluated all the other engine rules in the process). Here’s the updated data based on adjusted rules.

    According to the revised market share numbers, a MSFT/Yahoo Search combination would yield:

    Yahoo+MSN/Live = 28.5% combined market share (revised)
    Yahoo+MSN/Live = 23.9% (old)

    However, as Jeremy points out in his post, trend wise not much has changed. Yahoo Search market share is still trending downwards.

    I’m sure folks at Microsoft (and Wall Street) have been watching these numbers closely (along with those from comScore, Hitwise, etc). This revision certainly makes Yahoo worth more, but is it enough for Microsoft to change its mind? Only time will tell.