Good Sharer

Thoughts from a good sharer

How do we know Google+ has limited appeal? Because Larry Page is the #3 most followed person.

What do restaurant guests want?

Saison's Chef's Counter

Saison’s Chef’s Counter

I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to enable restaurants to serve guests better.

Because my company SeatMe handles both the guest-facing reservation side and the restaurant-facing restaurant management side, we have a real opportunity to improve a guest’s experience at a restaurant.

As a frequent guest to restaurants, there are a lot of things that I think would make my experience better. I want the restaurant to know who I am before I introduce myself. I want them to know to put a glass of diet coke down on the table immediately at lunch. I’d like the waitress (or waiter) to flirt with me. Just a little. I want my check delivered to me promptly after I finish eating and I want them to wait a minute while I put my credit card down instead of walking away. I sort of want to know what they think of me.

Some of these things we can help with. Others, probably not.

I’d love to hear what other people want from their restaurant experience.

Is there anything you have to call the restaurant about before you arrive? Is there anything you wish they knew or didn’t know?

Downloaded - The Napster Movie

Downloaded - Napster Movie Logo

Alex Winter mailed me the other day saying that the Napster movie Downloaded is finally nearing completion. I’m super excited to see how it comes out.

Apparently it’ll be a full-length feature that I’ll be able to actually go to a movie theater to watch it. I’m stoked. It’ll be interesting to see how everyone is portrayed. I think everyone has their biases and my view of that time is clouded by the drama that happened in my small sphere. I mostly spent my time at Napster head down building the server software and keeping the thing running, so I didn’t see a lot of what happened outside my office unless it was printed in the news.

Alex Winter is a bit of a cultural icon for me. Bill & Ted’s is the source of my company SeatMe’s unofficial motto, "Be excellent to each other", so I’m really looking forward to this.

For those who are going to SXSW this year, Alex is moderating an interview of Fanning and Parker on the movie and Napster.

What are other good anti-charities?

The only problem with my Rick Santorum Diet is that he could drop out of the race making my pledge to him less effective as a deterrent to breaking my diet.

So what other anti-charities could I donate to that would be as effective?

My criteria for a charity is as follows:

  1. The charity involved must be antithetical to my beliefs
  2. I must be publicly shamed by donating to the charity
  3. There must be some long-term consequences to me donating to the charity

Now, donating money to a terrorist organization would do the trick, but I don’t think I would willingly send myself to jail just to punish myself for breaking my diet. Donating money to say Sarah Palin would make me feel bad, but I don’t think she’s particularly effective at effecting change so I don’t think it is all that awful. Ditto with Mitt Romney. Ron Paul has that whole white supremacist following, but I’m not sure there would be long-term consequences.

Donating money to some sort of group that “fixes” gay people would work if I could get the public shaming in. Not sure how to accomplish that since no matter how much I broadcast it, it isn’t nearly as effective as showing up in a public donation database.

Any ideas?

The Rick Santorum Diet

Rick Santorum - Photo by Gage Skidmore

"The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong." - Rick Santorum

I’m not good with diets. There have been some that worked for me that involved strict adherence and hundreds of dollars in pre-packaged foods. There have been others that have been miserable failures. My restaurant tech startup ensures that I’m surrounded by food all the time which hasn’t made things any easier.

A couple weeks ago I decided to try a new diet. Actually it is an old diet with a new twist. And so far, it has worked fantastically. In fact, it has worked so well, I’ve managed to convince a couple other people to go on it and from what I hear, it is working well for them so I decided to share it.

The problem with diets traditionally is that there isn’t really any immediate downside to cheating. Sure you feel guilty, but a single doughnut isn’t going to show up on the scale. In my case, I use a single small cheat to justify binging. After all, if I broke my diet by eating a couple jelly beans, then today must be a free day and I should just eat what I want.

Donation envelope

What I needed was a psychological hack to make my diet stick. I had to create a strong disincentive to breaking my diet. Some horrible consequence that would make cheating on my diet unthinkable. The site sticKK does something like this where they’ll let you donate to a anti-charities if you break your goal, but I didn’t find any of them particularly bad and while donating money to say, the George W. Bush Library might make me feel guilty, I really didn’t think it would really affect me much.

I thought and thought. I needed the nuclear option. It had to be something so awful that not only did it go against my ethics, but it would harm me personally. I finally found it in Rick Santorum.

"President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob!” - Rick Santorum

So how does it work?

I decided that I would go on a diet for two weeks and if, during those two weeks, I broke my diet even once, I would donate $200 to Rick Santorum’s campaign. Because of campaign finance rules, my name and address would be recorded in public databases as having donated to Rick’s campaign for the rest of my life. Once this happened, I would no doubt receive all manner of solicitations from ultra-social conservatives begging for money for causes that I find abhorrent. For years. Not only that, but I will have helped fund the Presidential campaign for a man who I find personally nauseating.

I printed a copy of the donation form on Rick Santorum’s website, filled it out, put it in an envelope with a check, addressed it and handed it to my partner Lisa. Then, in order to ensure I kept my bargain, I told everyone I knew that I was doing this so that if any of them caught me eating or thinking of eating anything remotely bad for me, it would take one message to Lisa to trigger the donation.

"Science should get out of politics" - Rick Santorum

So far it has worked beautifully. I’ve lost about three pounds a week. I’ve been around sugar and sweets and haven’t given a second thought about cheating. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so confident about being able to stick to a diet. In fact, I’m so confident that I’m going to extend my diet for two months.

Anyone else willing to do the Santorum Diet with me?

Don’t let the photo fool you, I know nothing about wine. From left: Ani, Drew, Alex, Michele and me. Photo by Robyn Twomey via 7x7

Don’t let the photo fool you, I know nothing about wine. From left: Ani, Drew, Alex, Michele and me. Photo by Robyn Twomey via 7x7

Passwords as Madlibs

After this wonderful xkcd comic about the futility of obtuse passwords, I’d like to propose a new standard for passwords: the madlib password.

When you sign up for a new website, you are shown a random madlib to fill out which constitutes your password.

Madlib passwords

Ok the formatting needs some work, but it should be relatively easy to remember and provide a good amount of entropy. There are some difficulties to work out with foreign languages and non-native speakers of course, but it should make selecting a pass phrase significantly easier.

Plus it has the added benefit of making phishing attacks a bit harder.

How would you dominate the 15th century world?

Risk Map - Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Risk_game_map_fixed.png

My girlfriend and I occasionally play a little game of past world domination. The rules go like this:

You are able to travel to any place and time in past. You may not bring anything (not even clothes). It is a one way trip. Your goal is to dominate the entire planet. Nothing you do in the past will affect your existence (no grandfather paradox).

What time period would you travel to, where would you go and what steps would you take?

Now, we both agree that we would need to travel to some place where we could speak the language, so going back too far back in time would obviously be a problem as neither of speak Latin or French particularly well. However, we also both agree that we would need to go back far enough such that the inventions we come up with could not be easily reverse engineered.

There is an argument for landing in the America’s pre-Columbus. You could build up quite a small civilization, introduce penicillin, invent keel boats with triangular sales, sail to China and use the (to our knowledge) rather abundant amount of gold in California to buy yourself quite an empire.

Still it seems that you could also do the same thing in Europe. If you arrived right after (or before) the black death, quickly created penicillin, you might be able to use the vastly weakened state of Europe to your advantage.

What would you do?

Landing a job with LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for landing a professional job if you know how to use it properly. Nearly every company decision maker at every company in the US is on LinkedIn as are every kind of recruiter. Unfortunately, most people seem to think of LinkedIn as a place to stick your résumé.

I worked at LinkedIn as a product manager in the data analytics department. During that time I had the chance to interview hundreds of people and see how they used LinkedIn. The differences between how a power user uses LinkedIn and everyone else is striking. So I thought I’d put together some basic tips on how to use LinkedIn.

Your Network

For any of these tips to work, you must have a network and your network must be high quality. What do I mean by high quality? Only add people to your network who:

  1. You might do business with later
  2. You could ask for an introduction to one of their contacts

I don’t generally don’t add recruiters as they would pollute my network (how many recruiters do you know that would introduce you to someone else?). I definitely don’t add LIONs. Family and friends are ok. In fact I would encourage you to connect to anyone who would go out of their way to introduce you to someone else.

If you’ve just joined LinkedIn and have no contacts, LinkedIn is pretty much useless. I highly recommend uploading your address book. LinkedIn has a great contact uploader that can upload from most webmail services and from Outlook or Apple mail. Be sure to uncheck anyone who doesn’t meet the high quality criteria.

Don’t know anyone at all? Join a group. It’ll be far less useful, but at least you’ll get some use out of LinkedIn and hopefully meet someone. Groups will extend your network so you can see more profiles on LinkedIn, but they are no substitute for a real network.

Your Profile Settings

You’re on LinkedIn to connect with people and you want to make that as easy as possible. So you need to change a few settings. First, update your visibility settings to show your full name.

LinkedIn Visibility Settings

When you visit someone’s profile now, they’ll be able to see that you’ve done so and visit your profile. This is a great way to do a passive contact to a potential lead when you don’t have a paid account and can’t email them. I always imagine it as a three-way handshake: I look at them, they look at me and if I look at them back, it implies that we both want to talk to eachother so I’ll spring for sending an inMail or adding them as a contact.

Next up. Upload a picture! Your picture is a tiny 80x80 thumbnail and really makes you stand out in search results and on your profile page. Your photo should be simple taken from a level angle and cropped to your face. Make sure everyone has the ability to see it.

Image upload

Go ahead and edit your professional headline. In some cases, besides your name and photo, this will be the only other bit of information about you that someone else sees. It is a chance to do a little marketing for yourself. A good headline can mean the difference between being glossed over and having someone view your résumé.

By default, LinkedIn sets this to your Title at Company which is pretty good. Sometimes however, what you do is different from your title.

If you’re a software engineer, what kind? If you’re a lawyer, what’s your field?

Your Profile

Now I’m not going to say much about your profile other than it should be complete and tuned to the job you want to get. People search on LinkedIn for skills as often as they do for people, so make sure you list any specialized skills you’ve had and specialized software you’ve worked with at particular companies.

There is a résumé uploader on the right side of the edit profile page, but I’ve never used it. If you have a completely blank profile, it can’t hurt to try.

Having recommendations is nice, but I just don’t think they’re all that necessary.

If you have a website or a portfolio site, add them. LinkedIn also allows you to add portfolios directly to your profile. There’s even a way to link your github account to it if you’re a software developer. These can be find on the LinkedIn homepage on the bottom of the right column under Add an Application.

Using LinkedIn

So now you’re setup to use LinkedIn and you’re ready to be discovered. Now comes how to use LinkedIn to get a job. There are two ways of going about this, active and passive and I recommend you do both.

Reaching Out to Insiders

After you apply to a job at a company, always visit the company’s page on LinkedIn and see if there is anyone at the company within 2 degrees that you know.

Your Network

These people are the key to you getting a job at the company and why you want a high quality network on LinkedIn in the first place. Obviously 1st level connections are your best bet, contact these people first and let them know you’ve applied (or are interested in applying) to a job and if there are any openings. Ask the person to contact/make an introduction to HR on your behalf.

2nd level contacts require an introduction. Go through your shared contacts and look for a connection that you can ask for an introduction through, email/call the person and ask them how well they know their contact at the company and if they could introduce you because you’re interested in a job.

Getting Insiders to Reach Out To You

Don’t know any insiders? Well you can still get a slight leg up on the competition. Flip to the employee tab on the company page and start looking for decision makers and recruiters. Any time you see one, click on their profile. As long as you’ve changed your privacy setting to show your name, that person will now see that you’ve viewed their profile using a feature called Profile Stats. If you have a headline that matches what they’re looking for, you’re almost guaranteed they’ll visit your profile.

This same technique can actually be used for passively contacting anyone from venture capitalists to headhunters.

You might want to visit Profile Stats yourself. It’ll initially be empty, but it provides a great overview of who’s viewed your profile and how many times you’ve shown up in search. If you haven’t shown up in search very often, it is probably a hint to update your profile. Note: the graphs are only updated a couple times a week, so changes won’t be immediately apparent.

If you upgrade to a subscription account, you get access to Profile Stats Pro which shows you what people searched for when they found your profile plus demographics information. It is terribly addictive to watch.

Before An Interview

So you’ve landed an interview. Congratulations! Before going into the interview, ask the recruiter who you’ll be interviewing with and look them up on LinkedIn. Pay close attention to their job histories and specialties. They’ll also see that you’ve viewed their profile and personally, I’ve always favored people who did their research before walking in the door to an interview.

On Boss Spying

While conducting interviews with casual users of LinkedIn, I heard a lot of fear about the perception that using LinkedIn implies that you’re looking for a job and they don’t want their boss to know their looking. This is a valid concern. You can actually turn off activity broadcasts to prevent others from being notified that you’ve updated your profile.

However, you should also realize that your boss probably uses LinkedIn in a completely different way than casual users do. Most power users of LinkedIn use it to research people they are meeting with, recruit, keep on top of what their connections are doing professionally, connect to new contacts they’ve met and for things like lead generation. They tend to edit their own profiles far more frequently than anyone else and to a power user, there is really nothing unusual about keeping your LinkedIn profile up-to-date.

Final Words

I hope that I’ve given some helpful tips on how to use LinkedIn effectively to help land a job.