Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

August 27, 2008

Is Your Company Hippo Prey?

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 12:10 pm

failpictures.comMarc from BrandLabs and I were talking about business today, and he introduced me to a term called HiPPO. HiPPO stands for “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion” and it’s a great acronym to describe a phenomenon that occurs in a lot of companies. HiPPO occurs when employees are afraid to challenge the ideas of their bosses.

Often times the CEO of a company knows what’s best – that’s why he’s in the decision making position. Sometimes though, his ideas aren’t always the best. This usually happens when somebody in management is making a decision in an area where they don’t have much experience. It’s these times where the boss is counting on everybody else to guide him, and it’s these times where you shouldn’t just blindly agree with him.

CEO’s come up with bad ideas too, and as an employee it’s your job to let them know when they do. Bad companies run with bad ideas. Good companies run with good ideas – even if the person who came up with it doesn’t have an office with a window.

Take a look at your company. Are you currently slaving away on a project that you know is destined for fail? Do you know a better way to do it? Can you back up your ideas with numbers or research? If so, why haven’t you spoken up? This civil rights lawyer in Indianapolis will fight for your equal rights in the workplace.

Don’t let the HiPPO consume your company.

August 26, 2008

Can an Ordinary Blogger Get Diggs?

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 12:04 pm

I must admit, I’m not a very big Digg user. By the time most stuff gets to the Digg homepage I’ve already read it from it’s original source. It’s part of my job to monitor social media, and as such I see a lot of articles every day.

I’m starting to notice an interesting trend in Digg though. Most articles on the front page are from sites that have a Digg widget on the site. How much is this little Digg widget (I have one) actually helping the articles though? My guess is that it’s a major factor in a website getting on Digg.

Here’s why:

The other day I submitted an article to Digg and then monitored what happened to it.

After 27 seconds, that article was near the bottom of page 2 of upcoming articles.

After 1 minute it was at the bottom of page 4.

After 2 minutes, page 13.

Call me crazy, but I have a hard time believing that people search through 13 pages of articles deciding what ones to “digg.” There’s no way in hell more than a handful of people saw this article.

Does this mean that the best way to get on Digg is to have a large following of people clicking your “Digg this” button?

I know that the creme always rises to the top, but I’m not talking about the viral articles here, or the Scobles or Arringtons. These people have followers who not only click their “digg this” links, but also try to submit their article. I’m talking about a normal unknown blogger who just happens to write something good. (yes, it can happen) It seems to me like nobody will see their articles.

Don’t take this as me being bitter that none of my stuff gets on Digg – I’ve gotten on Digg and Fark and everything else before and I’m not really obsessed with it. Other than SEO there’s really no benefit to it (certainly not in people clicking ads) and I don’t care about SEOing my blog. I just find it interesting to examine what makes it and what doesn’t.

It seems to me that there’s a bias toward sites that already have pre-existing communities. That’s well and good, but there’s lots of good stuff out there from unknown people too. How can that stuff get noticed? Social media and news aggregators are still in an infancy, and whoever can solve this problem will certainly have room to succeed. Maybe that’s why sites like stumbleupon are doing so well.

August 25, 2008

Fixing America’s Problems

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:49 pm

I just posted this over on Shoutwire, but I know not all of my readers read that, so here’s the repost:

Look America, I love you and all, but you’ve been having a lot of problems lately and I think you need to start making some changes or this relationship isn’t going to work out.

I’m willing to give you some time, but you really need to address some key areas.

The Auto Industry

Jay Leno has a piece up on wired that hits the nail right on the head. Listen to him. Start building a good quality low level car. We all want to “buy American” but we won’t do it if your product isn’t as good as the competition and costs more.

Stop tying features to models and give me everything everywhere. There’s no reason a minivan should tell me my gas mileage but my Mazda6 won’t. Why doesn’t an ipod jack come standard now in every car? Why does my radio not show me the song title from the CD?

Make a good product and we’ll buy it. You may also want to remove some of the dealerships so you can scale back a bit. I don’t need 6 Ford dealerships within 15 miles of my house, but I have them.

The Mortgage Crisis

The housing market is going to hell because nobody can afford to pay their mortgage. That’s because most people have mortgages that they never should have been sold in the first place. We’re talking people who make $40,000 / year who have $300,000 homes because of low introductory rates that then skyrocket up.

This is because mortgage brokers get paid a commission when the deal is closed. If the people default on the first payment, the mortgage banker still gets paid. The banks are willing to take this bet too because they usually sell the mortgage to another bank up front for a discounted price.

The good news is we can improve the markets with mortgage fraud prevention. Let’s pay mortgage brokers based on how long the mortgage lasts. If it’s a 30 year mortgage, we’ll pay you your fee over that 30 years. It’s less up front, but it’d make you re-think selling that $200,000 house to the Wendys manager.

Predators On MySpace

We’re always hearing about this one and I’m tired of it. What gets me is, why are these underage girls accepting a friend request with a 40 year old man anyway? Get rid of the friend count so it’s not a competition to see how many “friends” somebody can get. Also, make it so that if a 40 year old and a 15 year old want to be friends, that the 15 year old has to initiate it. Simply take away the “add to friends” option if I’m over 21 and the other person is under 18. Then, the only girls who will get raped are the ones who are actively seeking out old men – and that’s another problem entirely ( that I already addressed ).

Mexican Border Security

3 words: 1952-Mile WalMart. Americans shop in the front, Mexicans work in the back. It stimulates the economy and prevents illegals from entering by creating jobs.

Identity Theft

I solved this one earlier.

The Airlines

You can’t have a partially regulated industry. Either fully regulate it or get out of their damned way and let them run a business.

Having said that, start running the airlines with the attitude that you’re thankful I chose you, not that I’m lucky to have a seat. Treat me like a customer. Don’t insult my by charging me $3 for a bag of peanuts – just raise my ticket price $3 and give me the damned food.

If you’re really concerned about cost cutting, I don’t need 3 flight attendants (nor do I need a pepsi served to me on ice) for a 1 hour flight. Just sell bottles in the terminal and let me bring my own on (which I do anyway since you don’t have diet mountain dew on board)


Ok, here’s the deal. Bands – if you’re not making enough money, read your contract before you sign it. Nobody’s forcing you to enter into agreements that you’re not happy with.

With that said, recognize that your songs aren’t the product – you are the product. Your music is promotional material to get people to come see you in concert. Put out a good CD and people will buy it. Give me more than 1 page of just thank yous in the liner notes. How about some pictures, lyrics, or stories about what inspired each song. I’d pay for that. Digital content that I can access by purchasing a CD is good too.


Instead of taxing as a percentage of income, let’s tax based on what we use and consume. Let’s abolish the state income tax (as some states already have) and instead let’s adopt a more “fair tax” type of system. Tax the luxury items like fancy TVs, bottled water, and other non-essentials. But don’t tax my essentials (groceries, toilet paper, stamps, electricity, etc)

This way the poor don’t pay taxes unless they’re wasting their money, and the rich pay taxes on their frivolous spending (but not their income)

Steroids in Baseball

Hey, I like the long ball. If an athlete has a prescription for something let it go. It makes the game more exciting. If he doesn’t have a prescription for whatever drugs he’s on, charge him with the appropriate crime. This isn’t a job for baseball or congress, it’s a job for local law enforcement.


I don’t like welfare. I can quote you all kinds of statistics about countries that don’t offer it have higher employment rates, etc. When it comes down to it though, there’s just too many people that are too good at playing the system.

Not to be confused with disability (if you can’t work, then yeah we should help you out,) there’s just no reason somebody should need to be on welfare for 3 years if they’re fully capable of holding a job.

As a former fast food manager myself (in college) I had several employees who would say things like “I can only work 10 hours this week or I’ll lose my welfare.” Sure, they’d have made more working 40 hours per week, but this way they got paid for working 30 hours by actually only working 10.

If you need welfare, great,I understand some people face hard times but let’s put some limitations on it. It’s good for 1 year. If you’re capable of working and still refuse to take a job, we cut you off. And while you’re on it, you have to show us at least 2 jobs per week that you applied for.

If you’re receiving welfare, you can’t have any more kids. Let’s provide free birth control and condoms for all welfare recipients with the stipulation that if you have another child you lose all your benefits (and if you can’t support the child, the state will take it from you.)

Also, if you’re capable of working and on wellfare, let’s put you to work. Let’s make them spend 15-20 hours per week picking up trash on highways until they’re motivated enough to work a real job.

buy neurontin canada There you go America. I just gave you a good start, now you have to show me you’re willing to put in the work on your end. You’ve got tremendous potential, but you need to sit down and focus on some of these issues. I still love you, but you need to show me that you love me back.

Should Zero Be A Natural Number?

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 12:28 pm

Over poker last night we got into a little bit of a number theory argument. One of my friends mistakenly used the word “integer” instead of “prime number” and somehow we got onto defining sets of numbers. (yea, I know we’re dorks, whatever I’m cool with it.)

That led a debate about whether 0 was an integer. Adam and I said “yes, it is an integer, and it’s a real number, you’re thinking of natural numbers. Zero isn’t a natural number.”

But why not?

The natural numbers are often referred to as the “counting numbers” and since defined in the 19th century haven’t included zero. But why?

As a computer scientist it makes a ton of sense to me to include zero, since whenever I run a loop I start counting at 0.

Looking at it from set theory, it makes sense to include zero too.

Each set of natural numbers is equal to the set of sets less than it.


0 = {} (an empty set)
1 = {{}} (the set containing 0)
2 = {1, 0} = {{ }, {{ }}}

This gets very ugly as you go on further, but it makes sense.

From a set theory or a computer scientist view, zero should be included in the natural numbers.

In fact, the only reason I can see not to include it is for nostalgia reasons and confusing test questions in number theory classes.

What do you think? Is it time we let zero in on all the fun of being a natural number?

August 22, 2008

The Startup Thought Process

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 3:17 pm

When I was out in Bellevue I did a lot of brainstorming sessions with all kinds of people. Some were employees of my company, others weren’t. Many had worked in startups most of their lives, but there were a few Microsoft transplants among us. Everybody contributed some great ideas and we had some productive things come out of those sessions, but what I found most interesting was the various people’s thought processes.

There were 2 main types of thought processes that I observed. The first group, we’ll call Microsofties (even though not all had MS experience) basically thought in terms of PowerPoint. They adapted their thoughts to fit the construct of a powerpoint presentation. They had great ideas, and they made sure their ideas fit within the scope of the current tools.

The other group, lacking experience in giant corporations did the opposite. It was clear that they adapted their software to fit their thought process. If the tool they were using didn’t fit their vision, they’d create their own tool to do it. If you have the ideas, the best software tools such as Patient Engagement Software can really help you automate and simplify your business, while reaching a bigger audience. In addition, if you are having problems with accounting tasks, you may consider using Quickbooks enterprise software. You may visit sites like https://www.fourlane.com/intuit-quickbooks-enterprise/ to know more.

And if your organization needs computer hardware inventory management, you may consider getting help from sites like https://www.recastsoftware.com/endpoint-insights/features/hardware-inventory-planning/.

Both of these schools of thought have their advantages and disadvantages, but I was intrigued by the difference. Which way do you think?

What Makes Old Media Legitimate?

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:03 pm

It’s no secret that old media (newspapers mainly) not only hates, but is afraid of new media (blogs.) I’m focusing on the print versions here, but that’s not to say it doesn’t apply to Radio vs Podcasting, CDs vs MP3s, or anything else you want to put here.

There’s basically 2 issues to examine here:
1. Why does old media fear new media?
2. Why does old media think they are more legitimate than new media?

The fear isn’t based on the new so much as it is a fear of change. As a whole, people don’t like change. We’re creatures of habit. The biggest factor here though is change of business model. It’s a large jump to go from subscription based to ad based. It requires a whole new way of thinking about your product.

If you’ve ever taken out a newspaper ad you’ll notice 2 things right away. The ads are extremely over priced and it’s impossible to know how many people saw your ad (and in most cases even how many acted on it.) The ads are overpriced because you can’t track them. The level of thinking by newspaper ad salesmen still goes like this: “I have 100,000 subscribers, so let’s charge him for 100,000 ad views.” That’s not how it works though.

There simply isn’t as much value in a newspaper ad as there is in a Google ad. Online, I can track impressions, clicks, and sales. I can tweak it so that my online ad costs me less than $1 per sale. I’ll never get that ROI out of a newspaper ad. (yes, there’s value to branding for large corporations, but they’re not the norm here.)

That’s why newspapers are so hesitant to take their content online. Not only does it dilute the value of an actual subscription, (why pay when I can read it online?) but it also puts a hard value on their advertising. If people see that they can get an ad on the online version for less than $2.00 CPM, they’re going to expect the same rates for the print version. That’s a big discount from the $50 – $100 CPM rates that most newspapers currently charge.

Given their current staffs most major newspapers would not be able to make payroll off of a purely online publication. A shift to mostly online would mean a loss of jobs and a re-organization of most companies – and that’s why old media fears new media.

That brings us to question 2:
What makes old media legitimate?

Techdirt has a piece about old media fearing new media, but the quote it gives is more interesting. The notice to journalists refers to broadcast media as illegitimate. Why?

The most common attitude among reporters is that they are professionals and bloggers are just the bastard sons who stay in the basement when company comes over. But what gives them that status? Is it money? It can’t be because people like Scoble, Arrington, Masnick, and Calcanis all make more from blogging than most journalists do.

I think a lot of the attitude comes from the journalism degree. It’s the same sense of being better than everybody that you get with your MBA – it also comes with a journalism degree.

But the times are changing. Some of the best writers don’t have a journalism degree, and they don’t really need one. Good writing can’t be taught, it flows from within. Good reporting is the same way. It takes somebody with the drive and the inquisitive mindset to uncover good stories, you can’t learn that in a classroom.

Have you looked at a journalism program lately though? Most still reduce “internet journalism” into 1 class that meets 2 hours per week for 14 weeks. That’s 3 credit hours out of 30 devoted to the internet. That might have something to do with journalists feeling that the web isn’t important. In my college technical writing class we devoted maybe 15 minutes to ‘writing for the internet.’ It covered how to make a hyperlink and briefly mentioned that your paragraphs should be shorter than a print article because “internet readers have shorter attention spans.” That class was a joke.

Journalism degrees will eventually go away as reporting shifts away from print, but that doesn’t mean the quality will go down or that it will somehow be less “legitimate.”

The shift toward equality is slowly happening, but as long as change threatens job security you won’t see newspapers fully embracing new media anytime soon.

August 20, 2008

Can We Go A Year Without Music?

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 11:49 am

Every day I read a new article about the RIAA suing somebody or trying to shut down something else. For once I’d just like to imagine they won everything they’re trying to do and see what the world would be like.

Let’s try an experiment. Let’s do away with all mp3s, online music stores, internet radio, music being played in oil change places, and everything else that the RIAA bitches about and see what happens.

Let’s limit music to mainstream radio and cd purchases and live concerts for a whole year and see what happens.

My guess, a lot less CD sales and empty seats at those live concerts.

August 19, 2008

How I Value Companies (or Websites)

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 2:29 pm

In a meeting with Susan this morning we started talking about what interests me about certain ideas, and how I judge websites to be a success. It’s something I hadn’t explicitly thought about until she asked me, but I’m pretty happy with how I answered.

For years now my friend Jeff and I have been discussing new business ideas. On a daily basis one of us comes up with an idea for a website and the other one instantly tears it apart. It’s a pretty fun game. Most of the ideas I come up with I trash, but there’s always the few that make it though.

All of my ideas that I’ve gone forward with can answer the main question:

What Problem Does This Solve?

I think that’s a good question to ask about any new website, company, or startup. You can have the coolest technology or the most creative domain name, but at the end of the day it all comes down to being useful – solving a problem.

Building something useful though doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve built something successful. After you can answer the problem question there’s still one more question to ask:

What’s the path to revenue?

Now, I measure success in a way that most people don’t. I’d rather see 100,000 users using a product than $100,000 invested in that product. I know this sounds odd seeing that I just talked about revenue, but it’s not. Investment is not revenue. The true measure of success is how well you can make a profit off of your user base. (If you don’t yet have a user base go back to question 1.)

As Dave Thomas once said, “Profit is not a dirty word.” Let’s face it, if you’ve built something useful it’s going to cost you money to run. How can you make a profit off of it?

If you can answer those two questions, then you’ve got yourself a successful company.

August 18, 2008

Another Case of Flying While Muslim

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 3:33 pm

Growing up in the suburbs with a 98% Caucasian population we used to joke about the “crime” of DWB, or “Driving While Black.” It’s not that we were racist, but it sure seemed like the local police were.

Luckily those times have changed and our city has grown culturally. Now they profile based on age and music genre – which is at least 2 steps up from skin color.

After 9/11 I started hearing people turn the DWB joke into FWM, for “flying while Muslim.”

As I write this I’m somewhere over the barrens of one of the Dakotas (I think it’s south) on a 747 headed to Seattle. About 3 hours ago I learned first hand that FWM was indeed a harsh reality.

We were pulling away from the gate at Detroit Metro Airport and the stewardess was just finishing up her seatbelt, oxygen mask, seat cushion speech. As she finished she leaned over and tapped a man on the shoulder and said “you need to put on your seatbelt and bring your seatback forward.

Either he’d never been on a plane before, or he was having a bad day because he said “why?” to which she replied “we have rules.” While that should have been the end of it there, he said “well, I didn’t know the rules.”

Deciding that she needed the last word, the flight attendant shot back a rude “I don’t want to hear it.” That’s when he told her that it was her job to hear it. (rude, but isn’t it?)

After a brief discussion with the head flight attendant, I saw them pick up the phone. I knew right away what that meant, and sure enough about 15 minutes later I heard “flight attendants prepare for arrival.”

We’d already left the gate so we had to wait for 20 minutes until somebody could board and remove the passenger. That wouldn’t have been a huge problem but due to fuel restrictions airlines are only putting just enough fuel to get there in the planes. Our 45 minutes of waiting had used too much gas, so we had to refuel. Doesn’t that make you feel safer when flying? If anything unexpected happens, it better not take more than 45 minutes or I guess you just fall out of the sky. Comforting.

Would this have happened if he hadn’t been Muslim? Nobody knows for sure, but I personally doubt it. It all could have been avoided with a little pleasantry on both sides. Simple customer service techniques like asking “can you” instead of saying “you need to” might have been all it took to avoid this situation – and get me to Seattle on time.

Over an hour later, we got in the air. We’re somewhere over Idaho now and instead of already having landed I’m watching Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. I’m not sure if it’s irony or just a tragic coincidence that Harold and Kumar are also removed from a plane as terrorists. Whatever it is, it certainly supports my point about FWM.

What should have been a 4-hour flight just turned into six because of two rude people. I haven’t been trained in airline security, but nobody on the plane actually thought this guy was a threat to our safety. The stewardess was either profiling or just being a vindictive bitch (because he clearly had the better come back) – neither of these behaviors are acceptable though.

I hate to see what he’s going through now. He was probably treated to a routine strip search while his name was being put on the do not fly list and felony charges were brought. He really doesn’t deserve what he’s probably going through. It’s safe to say he probably won’t ever be flying again or he might want to just start flying private with Jettly so he doesn’t get discriminated.

August 9, 2008

Review: ChaCha

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 12:30 pm

There’s a lot of companies that are failing miserably at human powered search. Venture capitalists are all too eager to throw their cash toward anybody with a good domain name and a plan to be a “google killer.” (note: start a company to cater to this cash)

Then, there’s ChaCha – human powered search that’s currently the best out there in it’s field. ChaCha is a free text message based service that lets you text a question to 242242 (which spells chacha) and receive an answer back in a few minutes.

I tried it out by sending 2 questions. The first was rather simple factual lookup:

“When is olympic womens gymnastics scheduled to shoe on tv?” You’ll notice I put “shoe” instead of “show” because I wanted to test their ability to interpret what I meant (and whether or not it was outsourced to india – it’s not.)

In about 2-3 minutes I got back this reply:

8pm-midnight(NBC) women’s gymnastics team final; simming: men’s 100 freestyle, 200 butterfly.

It also gave me a web URL to my answer: http://chacha.com/u/zokazkyc

The next question I asked was more open ended and political:

“Why did Russia invade Georgia?”

The answer: http://chacha.com/u/hygaz3cu. It’s not a real human answer, but merely a quote from an AP news article with a link to the actual article. Still, the article was pretty useful.

So, how can this company make money? It looks like their current plan is to have a desktop version with ads, and to include ads in the text messages. There seems to be a smaller revenue opportunity in going the personal assistant route. For example if somebody is searching for a price on something, offer to buy it for them. If they’re searching for a flight, book it.

Will chacha be the next Google killer? No, but it’s still a pretty neat service for settling bar bets.

Why won’t it be the next Google killer? WIFI. As more and more phones become WIFI enabled and businesses start offering WIFI there won’t be a need to text message my question to somebody else. I can just Google it – which is why these services won’t beat Google.

Still, it’s a pretty neat free service.

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