Tuesday, March 29, 2005

new post over on my new blog ;)

for those still checking this page or subscribed to this feed, check out my latest post on my new blog. i've posted up a draft of plaxo's public communication policy and i'd love to get feedback from the community :)

also, update your aggregators to hit my new feed. thanks!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Goodbye Blogger

Sorry if anyone tried to hit my blog today and got some weird formatting. I was trying to transfer my old posts and comments so I was messing with my template.

Here are my new URLs:

http://blog.plaxoed.com (main blog site)
http://blog.plaxoed.com/index.php?feed=rss2 (RSS feed)

I'll keep this site up, but all new content will be posted over there. Update your aggregators!

P.S. Since so many people requested it (including Scoble, Zawodny and other blogging veterans), I started capitalizing correctly too ;)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

blog and adsense stats

blog stats 2, originally uploaded by 99zeros.

well, here's the updated traffic info from my blog. you can see a very slight traffic spike a few weeks ago when news that i joined plaxo hit the press. in general, things are settling down - which is quite nice! now, i can use this blog for its original purpose: keeping friends and family up to date on what i'm up to and my thoughts and feelings in general. looks like there might be a few thousand extra readers, but i'€™ll just count you guys as a few thousand extra friends ;)

in related news, since google has done some revision of their adsense rules, i can finally increase transparency of the advertising i've been running on this site.

i put adsense up on my blog on 2/9 and for the month of february, i made $194.21. at the time, the ads were only running on the right hand side so it was getting really crappy exposure.

for the month of march, so far i've made $133.22. sometime a few weeks ago, i added a second ad unit at the top of the page as an experiment. i figured that clearly the more prominent placement would net me better results; however, click through rates stayed approximately the same though. numerous people have told me how they've optimized their sites for adsense. i find it quite interesting that people spend so much time fiddling with the system - the way they describe it, it sounds like a full time job! fortunately, i’ve already got a full time job, so i'€™m not too interested in optimizing my ads.

so in total, that'™s $327.43 plus another $60 some odd bucks from amazon going towards celiac disease research :)

i'm blogging from flickr again; i hope this time the connection between flickr and blogger doesn't get messed up, resulting in duplicate posts. with the performance of blogger lately, i'm keeping my fingers crossed!

update: well, it got messed up again and double posted. they need to make posting blog entries transacted! (props to my old co-workers at microsoft working on indigo)

Monday, March 21, 2005

two weekends ago @ mt. si

oops this is really belated, but two weekends ago i went up to visit rose in seattle. while i was up there, we hiked up mt. si with jon, one of my childhood friends. here's a picture from the top of mt. si:

Seattle.3.12.05 044

truly breathtaking, eh? (and scary too if you're afraid of heights)

here's the rock face at the top of the trail you have to scale to get up there :O

Seattle.3.12.05 034

anyways, if you're the outdoorsy type and are in seattle, i highly recommend you check out mt. si. it's a great day hike; it's 8 miles round trip and it only took us 2.5 hours to get to the top of the trail. if you want to get to the summit, figure in another half hour for scrambling up the rock face. and of course, if you're more of "enjoy nature from the comfort of your couch" person, you can check out the rest of my mt. si photos on flickr.

i wonder if lenovo will do better...

i finally got my shiny new work laptop today, an ibm t42p. it's got all the fixin's including a 15" 1600x1200 screen, 1GB of RAM, 128MB of graphics memory attached to an ATI mobility fire gl t2 chip, and a 60GB 7200RPM hard drive. so far, i'm really liking this machine but i'm pretty annoyed with my purchasing experience.

the first problem (though minor) was that ibm's website sucks. if i hadn't been set on this laptop, i would've just said forget it and went to dell.com. not only is the website unnecessarily slow, but there's an extremely limited selection available online and the product information is scattered everywhere. i literally had to open up 4 or 5 browser tabs just to compare the specs for two laptops. since i'm a big thinkpad fan, i'm able to gruel through this, but you'd think they'd make the purchasing process as smooth as possible. after all, they want people to buy their products don't they?

the next problem was that it took forever to get the laptop. the only customization i put on it was to upgrade the wifi to 802.11b/g (the default config only had 802.11b). seemed like a pretty vanilla order to me, but it took them a full 10 business days to ship the thing out. maybe i've just been spoiled by dell, but what's up with ibm's supply chain? the worst part was that when i called up to check the status of my order, the reps had no idea when my laptop would be ready. one rep would tell me that my laptop would ship in a week and then another would say that there were hundreds in queue and it would be until next month.

<side rant>speaking of slowness, anyone notice how laggy blogger is nowadays? *sigh* all the more reason to host my own blog i suppose...</side rant>

the last - and by far the worst - problem was that they shipped me the laptop without installing the 802.11b/g card. at first i figured this wasn't going to be a big deal; on my t30, it's extremely easy to access the miniPCI slot. however, after much head scratching, i finally looked online and found out that i would have to pretty much take the entire thing apart to install my wifi card. i had to slide out the battery, take out 20 screws, pop out the keyboard and remove the palm rest bezel just to get to the slot. it took a good 45 minutes, but after much tinkering, i finally got the 802.11b/g in there and put everything back together. i mean, if you're going to take 2 weeks to ship a laptop, at least put the wifi card in there!

so all in all, i'm really liking the laptop, but lenovo really has its work cut out for them. if they manage to improve the purchasing experience while maintaining thinkpad's legendary quality bar, they should do quite well - but i'm sure that's easier said than done :D

Monday, March 14, 2005

best buy sucks

in deciding to work at plaxo, i also signed on for a 45 minute commute, twice a day. i don't mind too much, i just use the time to listen to music, talk radio or the news. for the past two months, i've had the same cd in my stereo: a david crowder album rose gave me (btw, it's quite good but you can only listen to the same songs so many times before you start to get delirious). so after work today, i decided to swing by best buy to look for some new music.

i didn't do any research on what cds to buy; instead, i figured i'd just browse the selection and pick a few cds that looked promising. this proved to be a huge mistake.

i guess i just haven't bought anything at a brick & mortar store for quite some time now (except for groceries, i still go to safeway for those). i expected it to be easy, but i had forgotten that best buy wouldn't have any customer testimonials, nor would i be able to sample any of the tracks. this realization didn't faze me at first, so i started perusing anyways.

a few minutes later, i realized i was in trouble. best buy has strategically placed all the best sellers in one place, thus people are always able to find the hottest music in the same place. however, i hadn't listened to new music in so long that i didn't recognize most of the artists - even worse, i didn't even know what genre some of the artists were!

well, 15 minutes later, i finally just randomly picked the newest jack johnson cd. then, i walked around the store, waiting for something to jump out and demand an impulse buy. believe it or not, none of the gadgets were too enticing - which makes it seem that either they are stocking the wrong toys or whoever plans the floor displays is failing miserably.

as i rounded the corner on my way to checkout, i encountered a huge line. to make matters worse, only one register was open and the employee working it didn't seem to have a clue. a single transaction took almost 10 minutes! since there were 4 or 5 people ahead of me and i didn't feel like wasting more than 30 minutes to overpay for a cd that might be terrible, i left frustrated and empty-handed.

needless to say, i'm not going back to best buy anytime soon. from now on, i'm just buying my music online.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

work is crazy and i'm liking it

with the exception of yesterday, i've been staying quite late at work. there's just so much to do! i've got tons of stuff to ramp up on, we're actively developing new stuff and i'm trying to get to know everyone as soon as possible. between all that, i've been putting in 10-12 hour days - not counting the time i spend checking e-mails before i head to work and when i work remote after i get home. hey, working at a high-intensity start-up isn't for everyone - but it sure fits me just fine :)

why am i so jazzed? first off, everything in the system at plaxo is subject to change. if something's not working, we'll see how we can fix it; if things are working well, we'll try to make it work better. none of this "if it ain't broke don't fix it" crap. think we're crazy? go see what's made toyota a leader in the global auto industry. in a recent interview with fortune magazine, toyota's ceo likened the growth of the company to pushing a cart uphill - he felt that if the company stopped for even a moment, the cart would come flying back down the hill, taking them along with it.

secondly, at plaxo, everyone is in it together. i'm not the only one who's got the drive and motivation to stay late and get stuff done. at microsoft, forget about it. most people pretty much do 9 to 5 nowadays, unless there is a major deadline coming soon. at google, a few people would stay late, but the "campus feel" of pulling late nights and getting stuff done was missing. during the two short weeks i was at google, i'd leave around 8 or 9 and i'd see maybe a few people on my way out. sure, there were a few diehards at the googolplex, but i got the feeling that most people were just staying for the free dinner and checking out.

lastly, we're actually listening to customers and using feedback and metrics to enhance their experiences. we don't hail from a grand vision at the top and plan out features that won't get shipped until 2008. we take real customer feedback and implement it into the system as soon as we can get the bits out the door. we try different things and empirically figure out what works and what doesn't. it's almost like a large scale science experiment, where the outcome is a better product and happy users.

for those who are wondering what's in the works, check out this article on SFGate. for those too lazy to click through, here are the interesting parts:
... "Ten years ago, people were afraid of buying anything on the Internet," said Golub, who knows a thing or two about Internet security from his days at VeriSign. "Largely, Plaxo has a perception problem. Plaxo is far safer than most of what is done online."

So, how you gonna make money? "We've started to introduce ways to make money," said Golub, who added the firm has plenty of seed money left but wouldn't specify how much. "We're creating premium services. Cell-phone synching. Address book optimizers that eliminate all duplicates in your system. And premium support. But there will always be a free service."
anyways, needless to say, some people's wishes will be answered soon. for those who had other requests, give us some time, we're getting to it as fast as we can :)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

what is plaxo?

a lot of people have been wondering what plaxo does. by now, most people have, at some time or another, gotten a request to update their contact information from a friend through plaxo. oftentimes, as plaxo spreads through a social group, those who join plaxo last end up getting sent a large number of these contact info update requests. these people naturally - and unfortunately - mistake plaxo for a spam company :(

what plaxo actually does is harness the power of social networking to keep your contacts up to date. if you and all of your friends are signed up for plaxo, when someone moves, they only need to update their info in plaxo. plaxo then automatically sends the updated info to everyone in the group - to make it even smoother, the people in the group don't need to do anything; their address books are just always up to date. for me, the only contact info i have left for most of my college friends is an e-mail address. fortunately, with just an e-mail address, i can quickly reconnect with all of my friends and keep in touch effortlessly.

the best part is, if you use outlook or outlook express, plaxo has a client plug-in. this plug-in will automatically keep your outlook contacts up to date too. there are also cool features that help you keep your calendar, tasks and notes synced up. if you have multiple computers, you can install plaxo on all of them and your information can be synced automatically.

they also have a really cool web interface and an IE toolbar in the works - it's got integrated yahoo search too, so you don't need a search toolbar anymore (don't worry, they haven't put in an autolink feature... yet ;P).

what about privacy concerns? well, plaxo, unlike other social networks, is very concerned about privacy. first of all, you choose what information other people can see and get updated from you. also, no one ever knows who is in your address book unless you tell them they are. plaxo isn't a spamhouse so they aren't interested in selling your information; plus, even though you only get e-mailed by plaxo when one of your friends requests it, you can still opt-out and you won't receive any more e-mails from plaxo.

hope that answers most questions. if you want to keep in touch with me, just add my e-mail to your plaxo account (it's 99zeros at gmail).

for the doubters out there, don't worry, i haven't drunk too much corporate kool-aid; check out the product and i think you'll see why i am so excited to be working here :)

Monday, March 07, 2005

hello plaxo!

today is my first day of work at plaxo.

as many people have guessed, i've been interviewing for the past month. when i accepted the job at google, i thought i'd be able to escape the hectic interviewing process for a while - at least 2 or 3 years. but as life would have it, i only escaped for 2 weeks :O

after i was let go, i went around networking with a lot of people. along the way, i met jeremy zawodny, robert scoble, david sifry, joyce park, russell beattieand many others. they were all extremely supportive of helping me find a new job - thanks for all your support. they've also been responsible for helping me find and explore a bunch of awesome opportunities.

additionally, as the news broke of what had happened to me, recruiters started contacting me. this was a very unique experience; while most job seekers have to go to great lengths to get a foot in the door, i was being aggressively pursued. in this regard, i would have to say that i was extremely - and unexpectedly - blessed. God really does provide in difficult times.

then came the interviews! while interviewing these past few weeks, i've learned a lot about different corporate cultures. i used to evaluate the job environment just by gut feel; now i know to ask very specific questions regarding how open the company is, how it likes to communicate and what the corporate dynamics are like. i've always thought of interviewing as a two way street, both the employer and potential employee checking for the optimal fit. now, i realize that interviewing can serve as a deep thin-slice of a company. in other words, checking a company's website gives you a broad overview while going through an interview loop with a company gives you an opportunity to get in-depth knowledge.

anyways, enough commentary and on to the results! as most people expected, i interviewed with the big tech companies: microsoft, yahoo and amazon. i also interviewed or chatted with a ton of start-ups (including places like technorati, filangy, etc.). in the end, i was looking for a very specific mix of attributes that would constitute the perfect job for me. the company had to have:
  • commitment and transparency to customers
  • a passion for revolutionizing the end-user experience
  • an open environment where people are free to be different and fosters creative expression
  • the ability to be nimble, ship solutions quickly, and adjust to market changes
  • extremely talented people and cohesive, productive teams
  • awesome mentorship opportunities
after getting quite a few offers, i sat down to consider my options. in the end, plaxo had everything i was looking for and more. as a bonus, they fully support my blogging activities as well - they recognize the power of keeping the door open to the community through blogs.

i'm super excited to be at plaxo. for those who are wondering, the HR orientation presentation was approximately 5 minutes. now that's efficiency :D

Saturday, March 05, 2005

99 zeroes but my job ain't one - hit me!

a microsoftie was inspired to write a remix of jay-z's song "99 problems" in light of events that have happened to me. not all of the song is completely accurate, but i would say it's definitely entertaining :)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

the autolink battle is over

it looks like google is winning, publishers are losing and users are too ignorant to care. i've read quite a few opinions on this feature in the past few days (since setting up a pubsub for the term - which, by the way, is an awesome service) and it looks like, in general, publishers are up in arms and users don't really know what the problem is. since it has been made quite clear that google doesn't care about what publishers want, it seems that the battle is over. even scoble has resigned on this one. once again, google's mindshare - or rather mindlock - on users will win out and people will just take what's given to them.

of course, as a user, i actually like the feature. but i recognize the danger in giving a tool that kind of control and it just gives me a bad gut feel.

the next logical step? MSN should immediately add smart tags into their toolbar - they wouldn't even have to write it, it's probably sitting around in some old, archived repository. then, when the user navigates to google.com and is about to attempt a search, the MSN icon on the toolbar should begin to blink and animate, begging users to click on it. when they do, it imperceptibly changes google's search page so that queries are actually directed to MSN search. additionally, they could even release a "security update" to IE that prevents google from blocking the smart tags like publishers are blocking autolinks.

those who don't believe in the slippery slope arguments are really blinded by the brand. we're not at the top of that slope, we're already more than halfway down!

some companies are willing to learn new tricks

as i was going to bed, i noticed that jeremy and others had posted about the launch of Yahoo Search Developer Network (YSDN). note the striking resemblance in name to MSDN - i'm sure that isn't a coincidence. yahoo is really taking the lead here by not just providing web apis (which google has had for a while now), but in really creating a developer community. a good chunk of YSDN is focused on getting the word out about user developed apps, connecting people together through mailing lists and having people share expertise through a community wiki.

it seems that yahoo is clearly imitating microsoft in creating an ecosystem for developers; aside from fueling the creation of new and innovative user experiences, the emergence of a developer community enhances platform stickiness.

after all, if you build it, they will come.