What’s In Your Pipe?

Yahoo! Pipes You’ve probably heard by now. Yahoo! (YHOO) just released a new service called Pipes.

Pipes is an interactive feed aggregator and manipulator. Using Pipes, you can create feeds that are more powerful, useful and relevant.

I described it to a non-technical friend as: “A way to create mash-ups of RSS feeds through a WYSIWYG UI.” My friend said, “Wha?” then bonked me on the head. So I punched him.

After he regained consciousness, I tried again: “It’s a way to make a new web site from a bunch of other web sites.” “Oh! Cool!” he answered as he rubbed his head. He’s not too bright, you see.

He’s probably not the target market for this tool anyways. But I am. And here’s how:

I’m currently looking for an apartment in San Francisco, CA, that has a garage. Sounds simple enough, right? Unfortunately, Craigslist doesn’t have advanced search options that allow me to really pick out the listings with a garage.

So I created this Pipe. All it does is filter out a bunch of text like “street parking only” and “no garage”, making it a heck of a lot easier to find an apartment with a garage.

This is just one really simple use for this tool. Apparently, there are more profitable ways to use it too. Rok Hrastnik from site-reference.com has written a lengthy piece entitled: “How Marketers Can Use Yahoo! Pipes to Increase Their Online Sales” to show just how.

If you understand RSS and technical concepts like filtering and aggregation, give Pipes a try. Maybe it can improve your online sales. And if you know of a good apartment in San Francisco with a garage, let me know!

How to Assess a Resume

You get hundreds of resumes a day. Your eyes tear up at having to shuffle through those endless piles. Yet you need to hire a rockstar. NOW. What do you do?

If you’ve ever been in this position, you’ve inevitably developed shortcuts to cut through the “crap.” That’s good because it optimizes your time. That’s bad because you may throw away some rockstars.

Here are some tips that can help you minimize the crap and lost rockstars. (And for job seekers, this can be a helpful peek into the mind of a hiring manager.)

In order of importance:

  1. Check personal website & portfolio (for web/design/writing industries)
    • This can give a fairly good view of the candidate’s personality, skill set, and/or style. It’s not always current, but is the best indicator of demonstrated skill you have so far. (For the web industry, a personal site also shows an interest in web design and/or development.)
    • What kind of demonstrated technologies, skills, & style does the candidate have?
    • What is the candidate trying to communicate with site? Is it a personal site? A hobby site? A professional/freelance site?
    • Any demonstrations of innovation or originality?

  2. Check job progression
    • This can give an overall view of the candidate’s actual experience. It’s more accurate than other items on resume.
    • What kinds of roles has this person held?
    • Is this candidate on a management track or individual contributor track?
    • How long was the candidate at each job?
    • Did the candidate ever relocate?
    • Are the past duties relevant to the open position?

  3. Check education
    • This can give a very general idea of the candidate’s abilities, though it’s not always an accurate measure.
    • What kind of degree(s) does the candidate have?
    • What university did the candidate attend?
    • When did the candidate graduate?

  4. Check skills
    • This only gives a very general view and is hardly ever accurate. Most candidates inflate their list of skills.
    • Does candidate list the basic skills we’re looking for?
    • How many years has the candidate been using this skill?

  5. Check interests/hobbies/extracurricular activities
    • This only gives a very general view and most don’t even list it. It can provides additional info on candidate’s personality.
    • Are there any matching interests to the open role?
    • Are there any artistic/creative or problem-solving/puzzle interests?
    • Are there a wide range of interests & activities?

  6. Check current location
    • This can tell you whether or not it will take longer to interview and hire this candidate, especially if candidate is out-of-state. It’s is mostly useful as additional administrative info.
    • Does this candidate require relocation?
    • Do phone screens have to be made with consideration to time zones?

While this may seem like quite a few steps, after a few resumes, you’ll hopefully get into a regular rhythm. Sometimes, I’ll add a small low-med-high rating next to each item. For candidates that score low on the first two items, I’ll immediately move on to the next resume.

For job seekers, this may sound harsh, but that’s the reality of a hiring manager’s job. The better you’re able to structure your resume, the easier you’ll make it on a hiring manager – which will also increase your chances if you truly are a fit for the role.

Don’t Believe Everything You See

I used to be a pre-press operator. I digitally touched-up photographs and artwork for a national magazine. This included preflighting, color correcting, retouching, positioning, and raster image processing.

Back then, doing all of this work required a Scitex machine, which costed about a quarter of a million dollars. Today, all of that can be done on a MacBook Pro.

But that’s not the scary part. The scary part was what I manipulated.

I airbrushed the wrinkles off of Oprah Winfrey’s face. And Hilliary Clinton’s face. I straightened out their hair, deepened their lipstick, and even shaved off a few pounds. All digitally.

Not scared? Okay, I understand. You never trusted magazine photos anyways, right? How about on TV?

Via: MediaBlog

The Pageview is Dead

Here Lies the Page View 1994-2010 Last December, ComScore reported that someone finally topped Yahoo! (YHOO) in pageviews. It was News Corp’s (NWS) MySpace.

This seemed like big news at the time. “Oh my goodness! Someone beat Yahoo!” Unfortunately, a poor metric was glamourized: the pageview.

David Dueblin at On Tokyo Time amusingly writes:

The page view metric (PV) is already dead! Not everyone got the memo though…

The pageview was important because it gave Internet advertising companies a way to measure the number of users as a means to price their advertising placements. They used it like newspapers and magazines used subscriptions. In the past, this was effective.

The adoption of modern web browsers, however, has changed the game. And advertisers either don’t realize this, or have known it all along (perhaps as far back as late 2005) but didn’t want to tell anyone. Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasian suggests that some advertisers may not want a more accurate metric either:

This is a dirty little secret in the advertising business that no one wants to talk about. Media companies love to promote how many page views their properties get. They’ve used the data to build equity. They will fight it tooth and nail to protect it, perhaps by not embracing interactive technologies as quickly as they should. But that’s not going to stop the revolution from coming.

Modern web browsers have given us the ability to change a piece of a web page without reloading the entire page. This is more popularly known as Ajax. And this technique effectively makes the pageview obsolete. How? Mike Davidson explains it well:

This would be the flow in a, say, Google-engineered network experience:

1. Click over to “GoogSpace”, or whatever we want to call it. (+1 page view)
2. Click through to read and reply to all mail (0)
3. Visit a few friends’ pages (+3)
4. Edit my profile page (+1)

That’s about 5 registered page views. The rest of the interaction comes from XML/HTTP requests.

Here’s the same sequence on MySpace:

1. Click over to MySpace. (+1 page view)
2. Log in, because MySpace doesn’t remember logins very well. (+2)
3. Click through to read and reply to all mail… about three per mail. (+21)
4. Visit a few friends’ pages. (+3)
5. Reload a few pages because of server errors. (+3)
5. Edit my profile page. (+10)

That’s about 40 registered page views… and it’s not an atypical pattern at all, from what I’ve found. Many people have also mentioned that web-based IM generates a ton of clicks for them as well.

In other words: the stuff on your page can dramatically change without having to load a whole new page. Since your page doesn’t change, it doesn’t technically count as a pageview. And if you can’t count it as a pageview, what can you count? What’s a better metric?

Evan Williams of Evhead answers with: “It depends.”

If you’re talking about what’s important to pay attention to on your own site, you have to determine what your primary success criteria are and measure that as best you can. For some sites, that could be subscribers, or paying users, or revenue, or widgets deployed, or files uploaded, or what have you. It may even be pageviews.

Here’s a summary all the metrics I’ve seen used at Internet companies or mentioned elsewhere:

  • Number of signed-in active users (as opposed to number of user accounts)
  • Number of repeat unique visitors (tracked by cookies)
  • Number of relevant actions (for YouTube, it could be number of videos viewed per user)
  • Number of clicks made (Ryan Stewart of The Universal Desktop calls this the “interaction rate“)
  • Number of feed subscribers (though this wouldn’t measure visitors to your site)
  • Time spent (this can be artifically inflated, however)

I agree with Williams. It depends. The best metric is the one that’s relevant for your application and/or market. In some cases, advertisers are going to care more about the number of active users in your system. In other cases, the number of relevant actions & clicks made.

The pageview is dead. Long live the pageview.

Times Square on a Web Page

Photo of Times SquareHere’s a dangerous thought. Every wonder what it would look like to see every ad in New York City’s Times Square on a web page?

Apparently, David Friedman of Ironic Sans has had that dangerous thought. The result is a wonderfully loose montage of colorful & varied promos. Sort of like a 2001 web page, where the business owners were whoring their site out to hundreds of advertisers.

Or, as one commenter put it: “wow, it looks just like f*cking myspace”

How To Minimize Interruptions

Don’t you hate it when you’re distracted by hallway traffic, chatty coworkers, and other things that break your concentration? Especially when you’re in The Zone?

Here are some helpful tips to minimize disruptions, even in your current cube layout.

  1. Physical Layout of the Workspace

    The actual arrangement of the furniture in your workspace can actually invite interruptions. If your desk faces a busy hallway, people are more likely to stop by and chat. Shifting around your furniture and placing subtle blockades in your entrance can reduce these incidental interruptions.

    1. Visitor’s Chair

      If you have a visitor’s chair, place it towards the entrance instead of next to your desk. It can actually act as a barrier to entry.

    2. Put a Curtain Across the Entrance

      Not very easy to do for some cube-dwellers, but it’s the ultimate barrier to entry; you’re literally blocking out the world.

    3. Put Desktop Computer on Desk

      Position your desktop computer so it blocks your face from the entrance. You’re less likely to be disrupted by traffic in your peripheral vision that way.

    4. Make the Entrance Smaller

      Sometimes your office manager can make your cube’s entrance smaller by extending a partition. This isn’t possible for all organizations though.

  2. Behavioral Patterns

    Sometimes, your own behavior may invite interruptions. If you’re a very open and friendly person, your coworkers are naturally going to turn to you for casual chit-chat. Take note of your behavior and try to determine which actions draw interruptions towards you. Then consciously change those behaviors when you’re busy, or try one of these suggestions.

    1. Use Signals

      You and your team can agree upon a common signal to let each other know when you’re unavailable. Some teams block out a block of “no interruptions” time. Others put up a flag on their monitor.

    2. Wear a Cap

      One such signal can be wearing a cap. Whenever you’re wearing your cap, no one can disturb you. Simple as that.

    3. Put up a “Busy” Sign Above Your Monitor

      Or you can be even more obvious. You can make this sign out of cardboard. This can help for non-team members from other departments.

    4. Earphones

      Contrary to popular opinion, earphones are NOT be a good idea, since you’re apt to be wearing them anyways. Most people are so used to seeing coworkers with earphones that they still will interrupt them.

  3. Be Assertive

    When all else fails, say “No.” That’s the most powerful word in the English language. Learn to say it politely and professionally. No.

  4. Visit Your Interrupter

    Or you can flip it around. When a coworker wants to chat, tell him/her that you’ll visit that person instead. By visiting your coworkers, you remain in control of your time. It’s also easier to decide when to end the conversation when you’re the visitor, as opposed to asking a visitor to leave your cube.

We’ve all been victims of interruptions. Sometimes they are welcome interruptions that break up a monotonous day. Sometimes, they’re important emergencies. Other times, we’re the ones interrupting!

But when you’re in The Zone and it’s Crunch Time, interruptions can waste valuable time & brain cycles. These simple techniques can help when you’re in one of those situations.

The Web 2.0 Lorem Ipsum Generator

Last Friday, the MIT Advertising Lab gave me a fun idea: a Web 2.0 Lorem Ipsum Generator!

So I grabbed some JavaScript “lorem ipsum” generation code from subterrane, compiled a list of made-up company names from TechCrunch’s company index (as of today), randomized the names, and whipped up this handy generator. Now you can greek your mock-ups in true Web 2.0 style!

UPDATE 2011.12.7: This generator now has it’s own site! I present to you The New Web 2.0 Lorem Ipsum Generator.

The Link Between Breasts and Stocks

TradingMarkets.com just completed their Playboy 2006 Stock-Picking Contest. In this contest, ten Playboy (PLA) Playmates each selected five stocks to be tracked throughout 2006. The one with the highest percentage gain received $50,000 to be donated to a charity of her choice.

So, does beauty have a brain? If I were to correlate something like, say, augmented breast size with overall portfolio percentage gain, would there be a relationship? Let’s see.

Playmate Breast Size Portfolio Gain
Deanna Brooks 36C 43.43%
Courtney Culkin 34C 32.84%
Amy Sue Cooper 34C 28.19%
Kara Monaco 34C 16.59%
Lindsey Vuolo 34DD 13.39%
Pennelope Jimenez 34D -1.28%
Christine Smith 34DDD -1.93%
Pilar Lastra 34C -3.32%
Jillian Grace 36D -5.39%
Amy McCarthy 34D -36.95%

I converted each cup size into a 20% fraction, starting with a C cup. So:

  • C += 0.2
  • D += 0.4
  • DD += 0.6
  • DDD += 0.8

Here is the chart of their percentage gains, ordered from highest to lowest:

Percentage Gain Chart

Now if there is a correlation, this next chart should have a similar curve:

Breast Size Chart

However, it does not. So apparently there is no correlation. Too bad. What does this exercise teach us? That:

  • 34C is the minimum breast size needed to be a Playmate
  • They’re doing wonders with plastic surgery nowadays
  • I had to do this “research” at home, otherwise I would have gotten an interesting email from IT
  • Yamana Gold (AUY) went up 99.39% in 2006!
  • Deanna Brooks is turned off by hairy backs