Daily Archives: March 4, 2006

Lenn Pryor: master of change

Who the heck is calling my cell phone with a Skype address I asked myself before picking up the phone. “Hi, this is Lenn,” the voice said. Damn, it was like Skype itself was calling me. Heheh. (Lenn Pryor is my former boss, who left Microsoft to join Skype).

So, we quickly made plans to meet at the local Fry’s in Campbell. It was great seeing him again. He told me all about what’s happened in his life. Moving to new countries (two different countries in less than a year). Having a new son. New job. Hey, Lenn, is there any other life change that you can possibly squeeze into one 12-month period?

But, you know what? All that change made Lenn wiser and very interesting to be around. I won’t break the news (that’s for him and his blog) but sounds like good times are ahead for the Pryor family. Oh, and more change. :-)

For those who don’t know, he’s helping keep the developers at eBay/Skype happy and working together.

I snapped a picture of Lenn inside the Fry’s. Which, of course, is breaking the rules. John Fry told me a few years back that he doesn’t want photos taken inside his stores. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.

Rolling snowballs!

When Doc Searls says he does blogging to roll snowballs down the hill I totally understand that.

When geeks attack me saying “he’s just a user and isn’t technical” I should take that as a compliment.

Damn straight I’m a user. And, I want better software. That’s why I praise developers who do cool stuff. I find that that brings better results than any other technique I’ve found so far.

Pay the developers with love. Roll a snowball down the hill.

Found any new software that you love? Praise it!

Here’s a hint to developers: if you treat users with disdain, maybe that’s being reflected in your software! I think that’s the point Dave Winer is trying to make when he’s talking about the language geeks use to describe users.

I’m guilty of saying what Dave is talking about, by the way. We need better personas to talk about different kinds of people who use computers.

By the way, Doc, I still read your blog every day and have done so for more than five years now. Thanks for being such an inspiration to me and sharing so much of your life with me.

The role of anti-marketing design

At the Northern Voice conference I met Markus Frind, founder of Plentyoffish.com. He’s Google’s #1 Adsense user in Canada. His site is pulling in more than $10,000 per day from Google, he told me, and has millions of passionate users. Tens of millions of page views EVERY DAY. Whew!

What’s the secret to his success? Ugly design. I call it “anti-marketing design.”


He says that sites that have ugly designs are well known to pull more revenue, be more sticky, build better brands, and generally be more fun to participate in, than sites with beautiful designs.

Ahh, yet another example of anti-marketing marketing.

He joins a good list. Google. Is it pretty? No. Craig’s List? Pretty? No. MySpace? Pretty? No.

He says he designed his site to be easy to use, fast to load, and uncluttered, but he didn’t pick pretty colors or fonts. He did, however, spend a lot of time learning how search engines indexed their contents.

Why does anti-marketing design work? Well, for one, big companies will never do a site that doesn’t look pretty. Why? Cause of the prevailing belief that great brands need to be beautiful. Look at what corporate branding experts study. Apple. Target. BMW. Everything those guys do is beautiful. Aesthetic. Crafted by committees of ad marketing department experts.

But, go deeper: we’re sick of committee-driven marketing. We don’t believe it. If we ever did. We’ve built a bulls**t filter that filters out well-designed things in a commercial context. We trust things more when they look like they were done for the love of it rather than the sheer commercial value of it. That’s why my Channel 9 videos work. What kind of company committee could come up with something like that? Let some goofy guy with a goofy laugh go around with a cheap camcorder, no lights, no makeup, no editing and record conversations? Fire the guy who came up with that! :-)
Look at Plentyoffish again. It was designed and coded by one guy: Markus. Seriously. One guy did that and is making all that cash. No committees. No experts. Just a guy who wanted to learn to program and did.

Oh, and I love that he picked .NET to code his site. It’s all running in .NET 2.0 and you should hear the praises he has for .NET. I wish I could film him and put him on Channel 9. It’d end all the talk that Windows isn’t scalable, isn’t secure, and can’t keep up a highly trafficed site.

But, back to the anti-marketing design. I think I accidentally fell into this as well. My design is ugly. Anti-marketing. Why? Because I wanted to make it fast. I didn’t choose a pretty font because doing so would have added a little bit of weight to my CSS file. Does this matter? I think it does. I read a LOT of blogs on my cell phone and mine loads WAY faster than many blogs out there.

It’s amazing how few corporate types get that the quality and engineering thought behind your HTML matters more than whether your site is pretty or not.

Maybe MySpace is kicking blogging’s behind because most blogs are simply too pretty!

By the way, his anti-marketing message continues right to his about page.

If it’s ugly is authentic. Not corporate. It is good. No?

Dennis has a good point about Origami vs. OQO and others

For the record, I loved the OQO I was sent. It’s sexy. Fast. Has a nice screen. Is a great executive computer. But, and it’s the only but I have about it, is that it’s $2,100. I’ll be honest. I couldn’t afford it on my current salary and lifestyle. And, if I could, it would be one of those six-months-of-thinking decisions for me. It would be at the expense of something else. Get a new TV, or get an OQO? Get a new car or get an OQO? Get a new full-size Tablet PC or get an OQO? I’ll be honest, I would pick something other than the OQO in all those matchups. Why? Sheer utility/ROI for my life.

Is the Origami going to be any different? We’ll see on Monday. Dennis Rice’s post is what caused me to write this post. He’s right. It’s not going to be a device for everyone. If I were an executive making $400,000 a year I’d buy the OQO or Motion in a heartbeat. At my salary level, though, I’ve gotta be far more discriminating about where I spend my own money.

Mobile Jones buys into the “traffic is all important” meme

Mobile Jones says that MySpace is beating blogs (er, Technorati).

She’s right. In terms of sheer numbers MySpace is beating blogs. Hands down. Not even a close contest.

But, yesterday I discovered there’s a lot more important things than just having traffic. If you want traffic, there’s lots of ways for you to get it.

I’m looking to hang out with people who love what they do. If that’s on MySpace, I’m all for it. If that’s on blogs, I’m all for it. If that’s in Second Life, I’m all for it.

My son has a MySpace, he tells me, but thinks they are lame. He’s 12 years old. Deal.

Book tour part #468

I didn’t realize just how much work publishing a book caused AFTER publishing the book. Shel and I have been on dozens of radio stations, most of which are during drive time on the East Coast which means waking up at 4 a.m.

And then there’s the interviews. Ahh, the interviews! I thought this was glamorous, but it’s hard work to say something new and interesting. Here’s the latest in One Degree. The neat thing about doing so many is that I can experience a variety of interviewing styles and see which ones I like. The ones I like I subscribe to to watch other interviewees on. Ken Schafer’s One Degree is one of those.

On Thursday, Eric Schwartzman interviewed Shel Israel and me for his podcast. Do you know who listens to Eric’s podcast? Some of the top CEOs in the valley. He was an interesting guy to talk with, both on and off of the microphone. In his past life he was a director of promotions for quite a few big Hollywood events. I liked his style and am listening to many of his other podcasts now. Good stuff.

I wish I had more time to listen to more podcasts. There’s so much good stuff out there.