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What was I thinking? Old Draft Posts
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.
Thanks for letting me share. Have you cleaning out your “I should blog about that” folder lately?
The Local Problem
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?
The beginning of the end of Google?
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.
please be patient with any glitches as I move from Yahoo! Web Hosting to Joyent. See you over there!
Better than TechCrunch & Digg – Quality of MSM Traffic
Last week, GayCities was mentioned in Hilary Howard’s Comings and Goings column in the Sunday Travel section of the New York Times. Unsurprisingly, traffic spiked immensely and many more people were introduced to the site than ever before. Obviously, I’m thrilled at the jump in traffic and overall traffic has stayed at a much higher level since our PR campaign in June.
But what is most interesting was the quality of the traffic. On that Sunday more users submitted reviews, blog post comments and new listing submissions than any other day in our history. And it was significantly more than proportional to the traffic increase. And these reviews were thoughtful, detailed and of high quality (not the “drive by shooting” type of reviews we’ll often see from Google searchers who land on the site).
This phenomenon isn’t new. People have talked about how Yahoo! Buzz has not only outpaced Digg in terms of traffic driven to a site, but that the quality of these more mainstream users is higher: they comment more and join a more thoughtful conversation. In many ways, people in the valley think that getting “dugg” or being written about on TechCrunch is of value – and for our launch it did help quite a bit, but I’m guessing we got a lot more people that are jaded by technology and just come by for a “looksee”. Our users from the Times were much more targeted and actually passionate about travel – clearly a better fit for a travel site and a good place to target future outreach.
And one last surprise, people who work in travel actually read travel publications. We got a number of sales leads from the Times – people looking to advertise with us. From TechCrunch, we got a lot of people trying to sell stuff to us.
Has your experience been the same?
GayCities plus 1 month
I can’t believe that it has been a whole month since we relaunched GayCities and told the world about it. I want to thank you all for the supportive emails and comments – while it’s hard work building a company, it’s nice to know that people have got my back.
Traffic keeps hitting all-time highs – Since the relaunch we keep having our “best traffic day ever” (this past Saturday hit yet another record). And more importantly, now even the worst traffic day is better than the record high prior to the launch. I like seeing that.
Making progress on the ad front – with our ad network, we pitched and won (and are running) a deal to promote the city of Toronto as a gay friendly destination. It involves sponsorship on the site, media on our site and co-marketing. We’re pitching the idea to a few other cities and a European country. There is a business here 😉
Awaiting an amazing press mention – For our launch we got picked up by the SF Chronicle, TechCrunch (and re-syndicated on the Washington Post) and Inquisitor. Now we’re waiting for an mention to hit in a HUGE publication. I’m super excited about it, but don’t want to Jinx it until I see it in print. Stay tuned…
Starting hiring – The workload has gotten too much to handle, so I’ll be looking to build up the team. Initially I’m looking for a permanent part-time person to handle content updates/community management and for a full time jack-of-all-trades person to help run the business with me.
Thanks again for all the support. The rest of July we’re kicking off some marketing to small business owners, doing more marketing to consumers and setting up meetings with potential investors. It’s gonna be a busy summer.
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 â€œsouth end B&Bâ€, 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 http://www.gaycities.com/ 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)…