DSCOOP8 Nashville Photo Dump

DSCOOP8

DSCOOP8, held in Nashville.

This past week, a few members of the MindFire team visited Nashville to attend the DSCOOP conference.

DSCOOP is an HP user group, specifically for folks who own the HP Indigo (a digital printer), and companies that help these folks maximize their investment in HP equipment.

(By the way, these aren’t the little printers that sit on your desk; rather, they’re large $500k+ pieces of machinery for printing very personalized marketing pieces. If you want to know what a $1.5 million printer looks like, click here to see a picture of the Indigo 10000…)

I arrived a day earlier than the rest of the team to work on setting up our booth, and configuring our integration with HP (see the official press release here).

I’m very proud of how everyone on the MindFire engineering team worked to prepare us for the show. Our team worked with the HP engineering team to enable our multi-channel marketing automation workflows to easily print to the Indigo — with no human intervention. No human intervention means less errors, more value-added opportunities, and more margin for our mutual Clients.

We demonstrated the integration at the show, which required running a very long Ethernet cable from our booth to the HP booth. You’ll see that Read more of this post

Why It Sucks To Be In Multiple Places At Once

Daddy & Abby

What does it take to be present, like Abby is in this picture? I doubt her mind was anywhere but on my lap, in that swing.

Do you ever have days you just don’t feel completely present — like there’s something between you and the outside world? Or where you’re physically present, but mentally somewhere else?

Maybe you’re:

  • With family, but wanting to check that newly arrived text message
  • In a meeting, but worrying about the emails you’re falling behind on
  • On vacation, but dreading the last day when you’ll mourn that it’s over

I’m sure you’ve got your own examples (I’d love to hear about them in the comments).

So here’s the question: Why is it so hard to be fully alive in the present? Why is it that we’re often (mentally) somewhere else?

For me, one root-cause seems to be my addiction to

Read more of this post

Blog Traffic Monthly Report: January 2013

Welcome to the second monthly traffic report, where I share the blog’s metrics (you can see last month’s report here). My purpose is to give insights and ideas that may help in your own blogging journey.  In the comments, let me know what other data are helpful to you.

Before we begin, here are some things I did differently in January 2013:

  • Added Pinterest as a sharing option (before, it was only available behind the “More” button).  Content started to get “pinned” almost immediately.
  • Started posting every few days, as opposed to once daily.  You’ll see the results of this experiment below (you might be surprised).
  • Completed my Google Authorship, which I had started in December 2012, but for some reason didn’t finish.
  • Revised the “About” page to be less formal.  Instead of referring to myself in the third person, I modified the text to the first person, and intentionally made it more personal.  My intent was for you to feel we were sitting down over coffee and chatting about our lives.  This page was the 5th most requested in January.

Let’s see what these changes did to traffic.

Read more of this post

What Happens In Vegas …

I’ve been in Las Vegas the past few days, attending the PODi conference.  Focused on print and marketing, the conference is an intimate gathering of a few hundred industry members.

I flew in Monday morning, and except for accidentally shaving (the second time this has happened on the road — the razor’s piece that keeps my 5 o’clock shadow trimmed fell off during the flight, and I neglected to make sure it was on the razor before diving in — oops), everything has been smooth.

View from my hotel window

Vegas from my hotel window

We’ve had some great speaking opportunities.  On Monday, Joe and one of our Clients spoke at a 3-hour session about marketing automation and our Client’s real-life examples; it was well received.  Yesterday, I participated on a panel centered on the evolution of marketing automation; with me were a few industry friends from XMPIE and Pageflex.

Throughout the show, I’ve had some amazing conversations, many of which are blog-worthy material to share in future posts.

For example, I had an interesting conversation with the CEO of a company who shared a model to understand a person’s “time horizon”, and how the concept can help you better lead and manage your team.

In a nutshell, the idea is simple: everyone is different in how they think, and one such area is the time range they tend to think in.

For example, at a construction site, the carpenter thinks about today’s work, whereas his supervisor is thinking about today’s work in the context of the entire job site and other sites s/he is managing.

The carpenter’s time horizon is in days or weeks; the supervisor’s is 1-3 months.

The theory argues that once you understand your own time horizon and those of the people on your team, it becomes simpler to arrange your people in a way that maximizes their ability.

Any ways, more on that later.

This past weekend I spent some time with Dave on both Saturday and Sunday.  I’m eager to share more of his story and keep you involved with how this is unfolding.  I’m in the midst of writing about our time together and will share that soon.

On that topic: it is interesting to see how many people at the show know about Dave and J.  I see lots of pageviews for these posts (about Daveabout J), but it is difficult to discern who is reading.  However, I’ve met many people who have been touched by the stories.  It is encouraging.

I can’t wait to share that with my homeless friends.

Cheers!

Engineer Fired For Outsourcing Himself To China

The 4-Hour Workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek: Inspiration for an engineer outsourcing himself to China?

If you’ve read the 4-Hour Work Week, you know that one of the key concepts is outsourcing routine or repetitive work to Virtual Assistants. Timothy Ferriss calls it “geoarbitrage”, which is a fancy way of saying that you can benefit from the fact that what costs $60 dollars an hour in the US is $12 elsewhere.

In the book, Tim suggests that geoarbitrage is a great way to build a lifestyle business — one that can eventually free you from your day job.

Well, here’s a brilliant guy who has taken this idea to the next level. His name is Bob (not his real name), but get this: Bob is believed to have outsourced his own full-time job to a Chinese sub-contractor.

With his free time, he surfed the web and took it easy.

According to this article on The Register, Bob caught got because his company noticed that he was regularly logging in from Shenyang, China.

They probably thought, WTF?  (I’m thinking WTF — is this story true!?)

Allegedly, Bob is said to have FedExed his two-factor authentication token to a Chinese programmer, and was paying 1/5 of his 6-figure salary — freeing Bob up to spend the rest of his time taking it easy.

Believe it or not, here’s Bob’s typical schedule:

  • 9:00 AM: Get to work, surf Reddit for a few hours, and watch cat videos
  • 11:30 AM: Eat lunch
  • 1:00 PM: Spend time on eBay
  • 2:00 PM: Do some Facebook updates, visit LinkedIn
  • 4:30 PM: Send an end-of-day update via email to management
  • 5:00 PM: Leave the office

Apparently, this was working out pretty well. Bob’s performance reviews showed him as a top engineer for many quarters.

It gets better.  It turns out that Bob had also taken jobs with other companies, and had outsourced that work as well. Allegedly, he was netting hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit.

Wait, Does This Really Work?

OK, so I’m a nerd, but stay with me for a moment: let’s put aside the legality of what Bob did, and just take a quick look at the business model:

  1. Let’s imagine Bob’s salary is $120,00 p/year, or $57 p/hour. Let’s assume that’s $40 after taxes.
  2. Let’s imagine the Chinese programmer’s hourly rate is $12 p/hour.
  3. This yields a p/hour (after tax) profit of $28 p/hour — a 70% profit margin.
  4. In a year, Bob takes home $83,200, and out of that, pays $24,960 to the Chinese contractor so that he can spend time surfing the internet. He’s left with $58,240 to compensate him for his ingenuity.

And finally: Let’s imagine that Bob somehow figures out how to get hired at one other company (oh wait, Bob did do that) for the same yearly salary of $120,000, and puts the same process in place.

Assuming all other things are equal, he nets $58,240 from this gig as well, bringing his total yearly take-home to $116,480.

I must say I’m dubious of this story, as I cannot substantiate that our friend Bob actually did this.  But what if it’s true?

Question: Legal issues aside, what do you think of Bob’s scheme? Is it stupid — or brilliant? 

Why I Will Be Posting Less

Since launching this blog late last year, I’ve posted every day (even Christmas!). Many of you have provided feedback (both online and offline), and there are two common themes woven throughout:

#1: “How do you manage to write each day!?” (Answer: Use a template, be disciplined, love what you do …)

#2: “Posting once a day might be too much.”

Regarding #2: Traffic has gone up rather consistently since the start, but since I am a big believer in experimentation, I’m going to create fewer posts per week — and see what happens.

I am reminded of an idea in The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss. It’s called the “minimum effective dose,” or MED. He explains it as:

…the smallest dose that will produce the desired outcome. Any thing beyond the MED is wasteful. To boil water, the MED is 212°F (100°C) at standard air pressure. Boiled is boiled. Higher temperatures will not make it ‘more boiled.’ Higher temperatures just consume more resources that could be used for something more productive.

So, what if I can get the same traffic — but with half the posts? This means gaining several hours per week that can be invested in other activities, like:

  • Finding great material to share with you, and writing higher quality posts (as Google’s Larry Page puts it: “More wood behind fewer arrows.”)
  • Writing an e-book or creating educational material
  • Seeking guest blogging opportunities

I still believe posting often is one of the best ways for new bloggers to build traffic.  But let’s challenge the status quo and see what happens.

Lastly: since some of you have asked for clarification around what this is blog is about, I’ve updated the “About” page to give you a clearer idea what you can expect as a reader.  Take a look.

Let me know what you think!

Jerry Seinfeld on How to Write a Joke

One area this blog examines is how successful people do their work, asking “What do they do differently than the rest of us?“.

Watch someone skilled do their thing, and it probably looks pretty easy. But don’t be fooled: greatness takes a buttload of work.

In this short video, Jerry describes his work process, and how it took him two years to create “The Pop Tart Joke”.  

On stage, Jerry takes one minute and 34 seconds to tell the joke — so that’s 16 months of work per minute of performance.  Imagine how much time it takes to prepare for a full routine!

Case Study: Building a Blog That Generates $500,000 Yearly

Have you ever wondered how bloggers generate income?

John Chow, blogger

John Chow: A blogger who generates $500,000 p/year.  Looks like a nice guy.

Previously, we looked at Tim Ferriss and methods he used to build a high traffic blog, and today we’ll examine a blogger named John Chow, who claims to generate on the order of $500,000 per year with his blog.

John has an interesting story: read more about John here, and take a look at his smiling face on the right of this page.

He seems like a regular, down-to-earth guy, who has put in hard work to intelligently build his blogging business.  While some of his stuff seems a little salesy, his methods are worth a look.

At the bottom of this post is a video [56 minutes] where he describes the techniques I’m about to summarize.

Most often, people think that selling advertising on a blog is the only way to make money. John’s model certainly incorporates advertising, but he claims that only 1/3 of his revenue comes from the model where you get paid based on the number of pageviews.

The majority of his revenue comes from what’s called the “back end”: a well-planned system for generating income behind the scenes, even while he sleeps.

Here’s how John does it. Read more of this post

How To Work A Room Like Joe Biden

One area this blog explores is the subtle things successful people do differently than the rest. (When I speak of success, I mean achievement in any field, and by any measure — doesn’t just mean financial success.)

Have you ever watched a politician or high-power executive work a room, and wonder what these “successful” people say (or do) differently than you?

A case-study is Joe Biden, who many say is extremely personable, and great at making people quickly feel comfortable. I can’t comment from personal experience what methods he uses to accomplish this, but I came across a video of Joe working the room at last week’s Senate swearing in ceremony, which gives some insight into his tactics.  (By the way, I’m equally interested in how Reagan worked a room, so please don’t read anything into the subject of this commentary.)

Here are a few things I notice about how he works a room: Read more of this post

Opinionated Product Development

I was recently speaking with an entrepreneur about a failed software start-up, reflecting on lessons learned.

During our chat, I shared a thought that has crystalized over some years of experience: the idea that as a software company, you need to have a perspective on how the world works (or how it could work).  You could call this an opinion.

When your product has an opinion, it is capable of resonating with Clients, Users, and Partners.  If your product is opinionated, you may find that people drawn to the product because of the ideas and possibilities it inspires.

For example: at MindFire we’re trying to solve the challenge of how to do marketing automation in an increasingly multi-channel world, while maintaining our mission of helping marketers generate higher quality leads for their sales team.

We’re certainly not the only ones trying to solve this challenge. But we have a set of ideas, theories, and hypotheses embedded in our platform, which add up to give our software  a point of view — a way of seeing the world. (By the way, I believe these hypotheses are what you try to validate with a minimally viable product; read more about that here)

I think it is good to have opinionated product development. By that, I don’t mean that you should have a product development team of jerks and a-holes — but that there needs to be a strong sense of what drives the product and its values.  

Otherwise, it is easy to fall victim to development by committee, which is one of the things that seems to have led to problems for the entrepreneur I mentioned earlier.

What do you think?  Does the idea of opinionated product development make sense?  What are some of the dangers of opinionated development?

 

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