Category Archives: Random Thoughts

This week we had a temp come into the office, so I pulled out an old Windows XP laptop for them to use.

However, it had IE 6 on it. I needed to upgrade to IE 8. Easy, right? Nope.

Windows Update wasn’t working in IE6. NO UPGRADE.
The download link on the IE8 web page clicked to a download, but nothing downloaded – guess it didn’t support IE6 either. NO UPGRADE

I clicked around forever with no success. Maybe 30 minutes. Then I installed a security update to XP and it recommended IE7 – hallelujah! I followed that install and got IE7 working. Our apps worked and I moved on. (Ie8-less for now).

We all bitch about IE6, and while it’s a tiny percentage, Microsoft isn’t making it easy to kill off that browser. If I weren’t so motivated (and tech-saavy), we’d have another IE6 browser out there forever. Please MSFT, make it less frustrating to kill IE6, please test those flows for IE6 and get people off of it!

I’ve long known that getting into the big schools is the hardest part of the experience, but I’ve never looked at it this way:

It turns out that merely getting into Harvard is as good an indicator of future success as actually going. It turns out that being the sort of person that can invest the effort, conquer fear and/or raise the money to capture some of the elite trappings of visible success is what drives success, not the other way around.

Via: Seths Blog: Do elite trappings create success? Causation vs. correlation.

I’m cleaning out my WordPress and came across a bunch of half written draft posts from when I was much more active in writing this blog. I don’t want to just delete them and lose the thought forever. So here are the partial thoughts for posterity.

  • Managing your Middle 70% – Inspired by Jack Welch’s book. Of course you reward the top 20% of your employees, and you should be managing out your bottom 10%, but what are you doing with the “middle 70%” – are you helping them become better performers – are you setting up an environment where they are striving to be in the top 20% (and not just content where they are). If so, the whole organization does well.
  • Blogging is too hard – Inspired by how difficult it is was to set up a blog in your own style and voice. Searching for templates, getting a host, etc. At the time Blogger & TypePad were the only hosted solutions and I thought they were far too inflexible. Congrats to Matt & the gang, I think they’ve solved this for real. (funny, I just noticed that their tagline is “Blogging is too hard”. I guess great minds…
  • I want a RSS reader feature to ignore posts of a certain Tag – the post only said “Guy Kawasaki’s feed always has those flim loops. make them stop please!”. I still want this feature in My Yahoo and Google Reader (“give me all feed items EXCEPT those tagged _____”)
  • Billionaires Making Millionaires – A bit of a greedy post idea – What if Sergei/Larry or Jerry/Dave gave up $1 billion of their net worth up to their first 2,000 employees. At the height of their paper wealth, they wouldn’t even notice the loss (what’s 11B vs. 12B each) but 2,000 people would be guaranteed millionaires. Even better, give $1M to anyone who didn’t have enough options to get there on their own. I know lots of yahoos and googlers (in the 1000th-2000th employee range) that contributed more than earlier folks who are millionaires. Wouldn’t it be great to see that wealth better distributed. Ditto on wall street.
  • Web 2.0 in the “Enterprise”: what works – This was an almost completed post. I wish I posted it. About 10 12 years ago, I worked for an enterprise software startup. I talked to tons of corporations who felt this pain: “person in department A knows the best way to solve a customer problem, person in department B doesn’t know about it, gets stuck and tells the customer the wrong thing”. This costs companies in dollars, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. We tried to solve it with personalized search. The part I never finished was talking about Cameron Marlow’s work at Yahoo called Tagsona – it could be the ultimate solution to the Enterprise 2.0 problem. It was an employee directory with tags. People tagged others with the projects they worked on, and what they have knowledge about. Need a MySQL expert, browse that tag and find them all. Also was some fun/frivoulous “brown hair”, “old school”, “bmw driver”, etc. We almost worked on commercializing this at Yahoo. I wish we had, someone should.
  • Thanks for letting me share. Have you cleaning out your “I should blog about that” folder lately?

    I know first hand that building a local or travel listings/review/recommendation site is extremely difficult. You are judged by the quality of your listings: are they comprehensive, are they up-to-date and looking at the community: are there enough reviews to make it interesting. As an industry, we suck.

    Case in point: today GoodRec launched – my former co-worker Mihir Shah gave an amazing demo at TechCrunch 50 and it really made me want to use the service. It really seems slick and I think they’ve got a nice user experience approach to the problem. So I did what all users do to validate such a service: looked in my own neighborhood first to see how good it was. And sadly, I saw listings for 3 businesses that closed over a year ago and one that closed 2.5 years ago. Ugh – that’s a horrible first impression of their product and I’m guessing its not their fault – just licensed data from somewhere.

    But how, as an industry, do we solve this problem? There are a bizillion little startups like mine and like GoodRec and we all have the same problem: how do you stay up on all these businesses? CitySearch and Yelp have gotten enough users to keep up to date on it, google tries to crawl their way around it and other businesses (like mine) just try to stay super focused and instead of listing every last place, only listing the biggies and places recommended by users.

    Is there a solution? Should there be an “open directory” of local businesses? The big guys certainly see their database as being an asset to be guarded, but what if every site could leverage a giant database for free in exchange for giving data updates / closure reports back to the collective? Then couldn’t all these local services win or lose not on data, but on the community or quality of the service they offer.

    What do you think? Is there an easy solution? The people that license this data have so far proven they can’t keep up – so how do we solve this?

    I knew that Yahoo was growing up (and not necessarily in a good way) when we moved into our new campus and management cancelled “bagel day” and the free fruit. Yahoo had fallen on hard times and started to cut costs. The cafeteria had (bad) bagels and fruit for sale, so no biggie – right?

    Cutting the fruit wasn’t a big deal to me – I wasn’t eating healthily, but for those that did – what a bad message to send.

    But the real loss was Bagel Day; a great tradition – every Tuesday AM you would find people from all over the company surrounding the little wagon full of bagels. It was great and I got fat eating multiple bagels. But what was most fun was the social aspect. Lots of people chatting while waiting for a spot in the toaster. It was more than just free carbs, it was a way to connect. Ask any old Yahoo about bagel day and you are likely to get a smile.

    Google has it’s own share of traditions, but one of the most publicized is how well they take care of employees. Free food, healthy snacks, drinks, candy and good childcare. They put a priority on making their people feel special.

    Over dinner with a Googler (a father of a newborn), I heard frustration that he couldn’t afford the new only-for-the-millionaires childcare (that Valleywag covered here).

    And today, also on Valleywag, I read about Google’s food cutbacks. The cutbacks make sense on paper, just have dinner in fewer buildings – why do you need 10 dinner choices. Valleywag again: Perks: Dinner saved for Google’s geeks. But I see this as the first step on a long road – utilization studies of which snack stands get the least usage, a charge for “premium” food maybe – doesn’t really matter. It’s just Google saying to their employees “our good treatment of you has its limits”.

    Now, I’m not saying Google’s going out of business anytime soon, but I think it’s another inflection point in their growth. We’ve already seen lots of “the first wave” leave to do their own thing. Now, somebody is actually being “fiscally responsible” and looking for places to trim excess costs. Give it a couple of years and we’ll see more and more people complaining that “it’s just not as fun to work there anymore”. A natural evolution in any company, but a sad day for Googlers.

    It’s very odd that even 6 months after leaving Yahoo, I still get mentioned in the “brain drain” stories, see “Tracking former Yahoo execs” on TechCrunch. I’m honored to be included, I guess implicit in all of the stories is a recognition that I actually accomplished meaningful work while I was there and for that I’m happy. Particularly interesting was being included in the Business Week online article: Bidding Yahoo Adieu. The picked only 18 people, imagine: COO Dan Rosensweig, EVPs Qi Lu and Jeff Wiener, Peanut Butter Exec Brad Garlinghouse and me. Now I only wish I had a fancy headshot for them to use instead of the shot Don took of me when I met him for lunch at Google.

    Well, I’ve been teasing you for months on this blog – the day is finally here. My startup GayCities, the Gay Travel and City Guide unveiled our new site today.

    With GayCities we’re developing the most comprehensive, user-friendly online travel community and city guide for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. We want to be the place to share invaluable insider information on where to go, eat, and stay wherever your travel.

    I started the site after being disappointed in the lack of information online for the gay traveler. On a trip to Boston, I wanted to stay in a nice B&B in the South End and find out the most popular bars for gay men about my age. For the B&B, I turned to TripAdvisor only to be frustrated that there was no easy way to filter by “south end B&B”, and then when I did find places, I found it difficult to find opinions of people like me. Sadly, I even found a number of reviews that had veiled negative references to the clientele or owners. And when looking for nightlife I found almost nothing online and what I did find was out of date. And for a city the size of Boston, that shocked me. As I dug into it, I found that many cities suffer this same problem.

    So GayCities was born. A gay city guide with comprehensive, up-to-date info about gay bars & clubs, restaurants, gay friendly hotels with reviews, photos, maps – all the stuff you’ve come to expect.

    While reviews are the backbone of the site, today we’ve rolled out a bunch of great features. I’ll let you read about those over on the GayCities blog.

    I’ve focused on bootstrapping to get to this point, but now I want to grow the site, add richer content and tell the world about it, so I’ll be seeking a round of friends/family/angel funding. If you are interested in participating (or know someone who would be) in this round, let me know.

    You all have been so supportive to me through this process, and for that I am very thankful. There’s one more favor I have to ask – help me spread the word. Pass it on to your LGBT friends and link to from your blog or site – you know how Google/Yahoo love sites that are heavily linked to.

    and P.S. over on the GayCities blog, I link to some of the press we’ve gotten (washington post, sf chronicle, techcrunch)…

    I’m working on a launch for my new business, and while I’ve managed to do all the work myself, from time to time I get stuck and need help. In these times I’ve often turned to Craigslist for a quicky expert. However, in this case, I’m stuck on something relatively small that I know someone out there (maybe you fair reader) can help me with.

    Basically, my new site has a header element, that if you click open, it drops down like a drop down menu (floating over the content below) and fills itself with an iframe. Here are some mockups:

    Header menu open

    If you’re one of those guys/gals that finds this stuff super easy, can you give me a holler? I’ll buy you dinner if you can help me get unstuck (I’d much rather go to dinner than spend cash on a stranger). Comment here or drop me a mail at sgatz AT yahoo

    The last four months since I left Yahoo have been amazing, largely because I threw all my plans out the window and just allowed myself to enjoy the time instead of adding pressure to accomplish something. And the results have been great. So what have I been doing for the last four months?

    I got married – Well, technically, Craig and I were “registered as a domestic partner under California state law” (maybe one day it’ll be called marriage). Even though we have been together for 15 years, we thought now would be a great time to make it “legal”. Craig and I spent the better part of the last few months planning a party for a small group of family and friends up in Napa. We had the most amazing weekend, the weather was spectacular, the food & wine was out-of-this-world and most important our closest friends and family joined us and had an amazing time. I wish I could re-live it every weekend.

    I’ve been traveling – New York (2 times), Philadelphia, Baltimore, Palm Springs, and tons of weekend time up in Napa. I love to travel and to catch up with old friends, and I’ve been able to do that a bunch. While these trips have been mostly work related (see below), I made sure to add weekend time onto each trip to enjoy some quality time. And when you work on the internet you can work from anywhere. Have laptop…will travel.

    Starting my own company – I’ve been working on and off since January on my new company. I’ve taken lots of meetings (including a number of excellent ones about partnerships), gotten lots of good advice and have solid progress on building out the site. It’s been fun and challenging and now that the wedding is over, it’s finally time to work full-time. My next steps: a launch in the next month or so and raising a friends/family/angel round to help prove out the model. More to come soon.

    Taking care of myself – I’m finally going to the gym again and I hired a trainer to help me through it all. I already feel healthier, now onto looking good too!

    I keep saying that I’ll be blogging more here and I really hope to as I work through the next phase of my career. I’ll keep sharing my thoughts, but more importantly, I’ll be asking questions and (hopefully) participating in the conversation.