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I am now blogging at CN Reviews and Elliott Ng. Please visit me there!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Offshoring vs. Homesourcing, or 2 great tastes in 1?

There is a nice thread on the Alibaba BBS about homesourcing in China. The post highlights that all that theoretical gain of 24 hour work day is eaten up by different holiday/vacation schedules and by the time difference. So with office schedules, every day is "effectively a three day weekend in both countries." This may be true in some industries, but in high tech the sentiment is "work a full day here (in the US), then work a full day at home in the evening (when China wakes up)."

The solution: flextime and work at home. Well, Jet Blue and the Utah based, heavily LDS (Mormon) homesourced agent has been widely chronicled, and according to IDC (via USA Today) the number of home-based agents will triple during the next few years.

The post is focused on freelance providers of trading services. Costs can be:
- 3% of total invoice value, or $250 fixed sourcing only fee
- $10/hr, for a skilled person with factory relationships
- $150/wk, for a junior clerk

In another post (what would you expect to pay a sourcing individual from China), the claim is that you can build your own sourcing operation for about $500-600/week by hiring 3 key people:
- Translator - a challenging job because China is so diverse and not culturally/linguistically unified
- Technical - an "expert clerk from one of the bigger shipping agents...7 years...experience in all sorts of different documents / regulations"
- Entrepreneur/Boss - person in their late 50s/60s with great ethics, stature, and connections. Maybe a senior State Owned Enterprise official who is semi-retired.

So this gets into an interesting question. How do you find these people? Maybe a specialized labor marketplace like RentaCoder or Odesk would be useful.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Great Matt Cutts' SEO example

Matt (Google search spamfighter and celeb) provides a nice little case study on how to do good SEO. I like Matt's comment: "Look for a progression of niches so that you start out small or very specific, but you can build your way up to a big, important area over time." Take a look at Writing Useful Articles that Users will Love. Or look at his category Google/SEO.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Advisor: Gary Angel

I had a great meeting yesterday with Gary Angel, Founder and CTO of SEMphonic, a web analytics and search engine marketing firm. Gary was my Web analytics partner when I was running interactive marketing for Intuit's QuickBooks Group. I'd characterize him as "one of the best vendor's I've ever worked with." I'm pleased that Gary has agreed to be a node on my Advisory Network. His firm also has a little discovered tool called CampaignTracker that does keyword research, competitive tracking, and PPC campaign reporting. After seeing it, I told him to raise the price, but only after I purchased the software!

Gary has deep customer and Web analytics experience serving firms like AOL, American Express, Bank of America, Visa, Morgan Stanley, and Hotwire. See his profile here. And his blog here.

Thanks Gary for your willingness to come on this adventure!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Board of Advisors 2.0?

During my 1st startup, I was blessed with the generosity of talented, accomplished people who were willing to play the role of advisors. I've given a lot of thought to what worked and what didn't.

Earlier this year, Ross Mayfield wrote a great post on Advisorship that better captures my thinking than I can articulate:

"I liken the role of a BoA [Board of Advisors] as a group with strong ties to the company, playing a role in it's social network as the first degree. Initially, names alone provide credibility or thought leadership, but to really gain advantage, a structure such as above needs to ensure information flow and set expectations."
Seems like Web 2.0 can apply toward Boards of Advisors as well. Anyway, I think the Board concept is a bit of a misnomer (makes me visualize the Apprentice boardroom or something). In my next start-up, I aim to build a "situated social network" built around the mission of the company.

Google's struggles in China - the Google chain letter

A popular English language blog in China, ESWN, translated a popular chain letter going around that highlights the depth of Google's problems in getting popular adoption in China. In short, the chain letter blames Google for not providing search results for "Nanjing Massacre" and "Diaoyutao Islands" and claims:

This is an obvious display of contempt against the People's Republic of China and the men and women of China.
The ugly American ghouls are attempting to block information about China on the Internet! Their intention is extremely dangerous and evil!
Will everybody please attempt to experience this personally. If I am correct, then will you please relay this message so that all the Chinese people will know! We must resolutely boycott GOOGLE and use the search engine for the Chinese people: BAIDU! Let us use GOOGLE out of China!
In fact, according to ESWN, Google is providing results, that when clicked are going to sites filtered by the Great Internet Firewall of China. I'm not sure what to make of the apparent popularity of this chain letter, but its clear that Google has big challenges when people are willing to blame Google for providing results that don't filter sites banned by the Chinese government!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Google as the next Microsoft

So everyone (web 2.0 pundits that is) is talking about the demise of Kiko, a slick little AJAX calendar. John Battelle says this highlights the fact that Google is the next Microsoft.

I think everyone building new businesses need to contend with this fact. But there are positives (as only a former Microsoft'ie like myself can see). Looking at their developers' site, the potential for accelerating innovation is clear. My biggest hope is that Yahoo! will stay in the game and create a competitive dynamic that was missing during the Microsoft era. Yahoo! points to Rollyo as an great example of leveraging Yahoo! Search API. My favorite session at Search Engines Strategies 2 weeks ago (great coverage here at SERoundtable) was Search APIs. So Battelle is right: search as an apps development platform is here! (and just in the nick of time for my next startup!)

Monday, August 21, 2006

RapLeaf - its all about reputation (and having fun)

Migrating this from typepad (I guess there is no way to migrate Auren's comment!)

DATE: 06/24/2006 08:26:31 AM

I guess I should start with a "hello world" post...but I'll do that a little later since right now I'm my sole reader :).

But if you happen to be not me, I had some fun brainstorming with Auren Hoffman and Manish Shah on their reputation startup before Rapleaf even had a name! In fact, I think I was the one who first introduced the "rap" in Rapleaf, emailing from the balcony over the gates of Tiananmen Square on my global roaming blackberry with a bunch of name suggestions!

This is a cc: of what I posted on their RapLeaf forums:

First of all, thanks Auren and Manish for allowing me to be a small
part of what will be a big journey. I've always been a sucker for
reductionist, single-factor theories, so since we started our chats
about RapLeaf...I SEE REPUTATION EVERYWHERE! I saw it in China, where
the environment is super low-trust, without a legal framework that
works for you, and people are forced to rely entirely on relationships
and reputation to make decisions. I see it in World of Warcraft, where
players form Guilds to create a social compact so people can engage in
more sharing and altruism that ultimately benefits the whole.

On that note, I think there are things to be learned from game design
toward all consumer applications design, and I recently saw a
presentation at Supernova2006 from Amy Jo Kim of that
I really liked. She comes up with the 5 key factors that drive game

1. collecting
2. points
3. feedback
4. exchanges
5. customization

Here's her pitch from an earlier conference:

So my challenge to you guys is: how can you make RapLeaf more FUN? What
would make me want to trick out my blog, my listings, etc. with
RapLeaf? What would get me to put more content into RapLeaf about

So anyway, I see everything through the lens of REPUTATION, except when I see everything through the lens of GAMING!