Archive for January, 2011

Why work is so much like a video game!

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Think about it! Working a job is analogous to playing a video game. How did I come to this conclusion? It is just something that materialized while working this January. I will present my idea in comparing work to a role-playing-game (RPG later on).

A typical RPG starts of with yourself creating a character. It involves a bit of randomness which is what we get with our genetic and upbringing lottery. Then you take what you have and try to turn the numbers into a fully functioning unit (not always a person :) ). You start off with lowly equipment and no experience in what you want to do, and what you want to do is usually solve puzzles and kill all kinds of evil things. With everything you do you gain a certain amount of experience ( XP ) and when you have enough collected you are able to gain a “level”. Each level grants you the possibility of improving your lottery numbers in a way you would like to specialize.

Now that you start progressing you are able to fight stronger foes and solve harder puzzles which in turn give you more XP. But there is a caveat, as your levels progress so does the amount of XP needed for the next one. And its not proportional. Foes for example give you x2 amount of XP but you need x4 for the next level, so double the time needed.

At higher levels you will be fighting specifically hard enemies and will have to devise specialized strategies for beating them even going to the brink of the rules of the game. This is called meta-gaming. Conclusion? Higher the level, stronger the foe, bigger the reward.

Now does this sound somewhat like your job prospects? You come into a job that you don’t really know how to do or have some basic XP maybe even gained a level by attending some type of training. This leads you to the every day slog at work, or does it? It all depends on how you see work. As in gaining levels in RPG, upgrading yourself at work requires more and more as your level raises. Thus if you keep doing the same thing everyday you will plateau quickly.

So for progress you need to find more challenging and novel work to do. And if you relentlessly keep at it you will progress in time and reach a certain step which is built to be a chasm to scare people away from it. Only the brave shall even attempt. It is easy to attack a three-headed dragon in a game, but in real life going to your boss (or your bosses boss) and requesting a promotion or a raise is not that easy. Now you meta-game a solution. What do they say you need to do to get promoted? What actually works? Usually these two are not the same. Craft your solution and get that dragon! :)

Now the question is at which level you want to stop? If you are happy with your current position and work, you could be just counting the days working the same old thing and that is totally OK. If you are a perfectionist you will be working your tasks to the maximum, even when it is not needed. There are situations when a good enough solution is the best solution. And then you have those who are all about the ROI which let us be honest is the essence of meta-gaming.

As this one was just spewed out from an idea I got last night it might not be thoroughly thought out. Please do comment if you have any input!

Thanks!

Why I don’t buy and sell websites anymore?

Monday, January 24th, 2011

The title today could also be “How to navigate a minefield when trying to buy a website?” or even “How to cheat someone when selling a website?”. In the early 2000′s I started creating some sites trying to see how to get some passive income rolling. After a couple of misses I managed to hit a niche which later on worked out pretty nice for myself. But those were the good times where adds were paying well, you could sell your site without too much problem and scammers  were few and far between.

As time went on it looked like the proportion of honest people to cheaters was going the wrong way. This bugged me so bad that I had to investigate how easy it would be to trick someone into buying your site even thought it was not really what they thought it was.

During the 6 months of somewhere in 2006 when I was working hard on a couple of projects I decided to create a site for the sole purpose of checking how easy it would be to trick someone (disclaimer: no I didn’t take anybodies money but I could have). So lets see what a site has to have to be sold as a property and the steps you need to take.

  1. Content is king, yeah you need it. To present your website as a legitimate content provider you need to have some. The more the merrier. You could actually create this content, or you don’t have to. Hire a cheap English speaker to rewrite content from sites in the same niche (so that a copy paste search won’t find anything). Build enough content across a 6 month period and you will be nicely indexed in Google, you might even get some traffic.
  2. Do a decent design that is either made for adds or to look fancy. If you make an AdSense looking site you can easily explain why it is ugly. Or just make it to look awesome and sell it for what it looks like.
  3. Put up Google Analytics and hire a bot net to create legitimate traffic (different countries, depth and time of visit, number of pages).
  4. Put up Google AdSense and when you need to take screen shots of your earnings just save a page into HTML and edit the numbers in text. So this is not a photo manipulation and no one can tell the difference since there is no difference it is a real screen shot. Google if you are watching please do something about this!!!
  5. Find a customer, present your inflated visits and earnings. Let them have their Google Analytics and AdSense on your site to verify visits and earning (just go about your business as usual and have the botnet clicking).
  6. Do an Escrow.
  7. Collect your large sum of money.

Was I a victim, yes! I got sucked in twice once while buying a domain and once a site. So how to defend yourself against this? Check incoming links on Google, if it is disproportional to the traffic the site is claiming that is one clue. Check keywords that the site is advertising for, if they are not ranked anywhere it is fishy. Search for keywords from article titles and compare texts by actually reading them. Do copy paste searches in Google to see if it is a copy paste job.

All in all you can never be sure, and for me it is safer, better and easier to start a site from zero the way I want it and like it than buying a “developed” site which is shady.

Watch out these scammers are good, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

AdSense pays Chuck Norris more then everybody else!

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Recently I was able to acquire a piece of information from my contacts inside Google.

This might shock you a bit but there are more privileged people in the AdSense program. As they say “We are all equal, just some of us are more equal!”. After digging through a list of those who get a percent more here and there I had a startling discovery. Google pays Chuck Norris more than it gets from advertisers!

Not only that but if you look at Chucks CTR you will see he has over 100% which is unheard of! Also this brings me to the question are Sergey and Larry laundering money through Chuck? Would make perfect sense as it is well known IRS does not check his account (there is a post on wikileaks, link to follow later).

Now this would not be so strange that we didn’t dig up a couple of emails with Google support from none other than Bruce Lee! So you thought he was dead? Guess not, and he wants the same privileges like Chuck.

Re: [#63252312]
From:
Google AdSense <adsense-support@google.com> 
To: bruce.lee@gmail.com

Hello Bruce,

Thank you for notifying us of the clicks that have been seen on Google ads of Mr. Norris. The advertiser you are referring to is a valued member of our community and blogs often on his trouble of blending in the ads on his site. We have even consulted Mr. Norris to work with an SEO expert on improving his incoming traffic from search engines. If you have put in half the effort as he has instead of punching people out you might have had more money.

Please note that clicking on your own ads for any reason is prohibited, as it has the potential to inflate advertiser costs. We appreciate your efforts toward avoiding such clicks in the future.

For additional questions, we encourage you to visit the AdSense Help Center (http://www.google.com/adsense_help), our complete resource center for all AdSense topics. Alternatively, feel free to post your question on the forum just for AdSense publishers: the AdSense Help Group (http://groups.google.com/group/adsense-help).

In case you feel frustrated, watch a video of Mr. Norris doing roundhouse kicks, always helps me sleep better.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

—————-
To access the Google AdSense home page or to log in to your account,
please visit: https://www.google.com/adsense

There are rumors that Chuck is going into affiliate marketing, so earn something while you still can or just run for the hills. I heard growing tomatoes is a nice profession.

Yours truly

Branko Santo

What Poker thought me about life and business?

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Why wouldn’t I start with a disclaimer? Poker is a game of skill, it is not gambling.

Poker at its basic is a simple game. There are 52 cards and anywhere between 2 and 10 players. The rules are clear and enforceable. Everyone has the same chance of winning if the skill factor is removed. The basic rule in poker as postulated in “Theory of Poker” is “If your opponent plays differently than he would, if he knew your cards, you already won.”.  You will not win every hand, as sometimes they will get lucky, but in the long run you will beat them. Now lets look at some lessons.

Lesson 1: Not everybody is on the same level!

Is this really something that needs to be said? But hey read the rest of the lesson.Every player thinks on a basic level

Level 1: Which cards do I have?

Level 2: Which cards does he have?

Level 3: Which cards does he think I have?

And the game goes on to other levels. What does this mean to us in real life? If someone is a nice person with a straight forward agenda you don’t really have to “put him on a hand” (guess which cards he has). He plays the way he gets cards, if he has something he bets, if not, he folds. But as levels go up, the players get trickier. Also in life and in business you just can see that someone is doing something behind your back, but you may not know what.

Lesson 2: If it is in the books, everybody knows it!

Progression of knowledge is such that the most profitable knowledge is hidden from people. Imagine if you had a secret formula which would bring you a lot of money and nobody else knows it? You wouldn’t be sharing it around, you would be making money. So is knowledge from the books useless? Definitely no! The mainstream of players know at most the stuff from books. You separate 95% of your opponents into those who don’t have even book knowledge and are really bad and those who have book knowledge. This ties into Lesson 1, therefore you can adapt your play according to your opponents level to maximize profits. So where is the cutting-edge knowledge? Well on the edge! There are poker coaches which charge $1.000/h (one thousand dollars an hour), but if every class you take increases your profitability by $500 a month it pays off. This is very similar to taking a lower wage to be able to work with great experts in your chosen field. You are spending money (which you could earn) to gain higher potential future earnings.

Lesson 3: You can’t do it alone!

You alone, cannot change your ways. If you work alone, study alone and try to do everything on your own you will go down a very narrow path. Poker-wise this is called a leak, where you have an exploitable trait in your game. Business-wise it would be like working for only one customer or having only one product. Sooner or later you are going broke, that is just how business works. You need opposing ideas and views, you need somebody to stand up to you, there needs to be somebody to tell you they discovered a new trick. Alone you can get to a certain point, after that you need a network as in business to really be able to use your talents and determination. Sitting down with a couple of friends that are doing the same thing you are for coffee and exchanging the highlights of yesterday is the surefire way of advancing results for everybody.

Lesson 4 and 5: Side income might turn into main income. Tools can increase your productivity by far more than you expect.

Several things that have shown how serving a hobby population can make big money is creating software for easier or more efficient consuming of the hobby and training for the same. In poker it is evident by for example a program called TableNinja which lets you use keyboard for everything required to play (I managed to increase amount of tables played at the same time from 6 to 18 in a month) which in itself increases the throughput and thus your income. On the other hand the best players can create a site with training videos and services where the biggest one in the poker world (Cardrunners) charges $30 a month. If we make a guesstimate that they have five thousand subscribers that is an insane constant income. Therefore if you are making tools or training it can be a great income or if you are using them can increase your income significantly.

Lesson 6: There is only so many hours in a day.

You are one person and even if you play 12 hours a day (I burn out totally at 8), PLAYING poker is not scalable as a business unless you are really really good (and then only by going up in stakes). No hustle will help you there if you don’t have the chops for it.

Lesson 7: You are going to hate some days of doing what you love.

No matter how much I enjoyed playing, some of these days were pure torture. You are not playing well, or it just is not your day with the cards (there is a possibility you are doing everything ok and still loosing). You get angry/depressed/demotivated and are not sure how you are going come back to it tomorrow. When you go to work, just by going there you make a statement, but when you work at home and for yourself it is much much harder.

If I come up with some new ideas, will add them, until then, enjoy :)

What is wrong with cursing online?

Monday, January 10th, 2011

There is a term NSFW, often used online when communicating to mark inappropriate content behind the link. Now if you  want to be seen as someone who upholds wholesome values and behaves in a business like manner you will not curse in meetings, e-mails and especially not in the hallway of your office building.

So why do we see so many people hacking of their moral compass and just spewing stuff out of their mouths like this is desirable? Just a couple of days ago I read Crush it! and I feel for the guy. I really do think he is an honest, energetic, brash type of a guy. But that is who he is, and I like his attitude, he does overdo the cursing and talking but it is all part of his persona. But these days you get a feeling everybody thinks that this is cool to do. Just because someone can become a great success story because/in fact of being like this does not mean it will work for you. People used to sell out and wear suits and carry briefcases, are they now selling out and starting to curse all day long?

If you are a calm, collected, business minded individual who likes rules and the high class parties where you have a string quartet, please do enjoy it. Don’t go around looking fou yo peeps if you are an investment banker without a soul. There is space for every type of person in this great big world of ours and I am glad that some of them are like Gary.

So…

Why is there such an increase in use of curse words online? I had a bad day two weeks ago when I was trying to buy books for my Kindle and used the F word publicly. I shouldn’t have, but I did and it is there, I am just not going to change it. But you see unnecessary use of profanity all around and here are some of the overviews from around the web.

Scott Berkun did a small research via Google Labs Ngram viewer and it does look very funny.

Tom Hume did something similar with the Guardian API.

And I emulated Scott on Twitter Trendistic. (Even on only 180 days you can see a trend, but it might be influenced by switch from Summer to Autumn/Winter, see you in 6 months with the graph of the first half of 2011)

As a bonus TV has 69% more profanity.

The problem seems to be on both sides of the pond. So how do we go about it? If it is a one off and you were not planning to use it, I don’t mind. But with someone who just doesn’t care and is doing it for shock value is ignored from my side very very quickly. Are customers/follower/fans smart enough to see through the charade?

What is wrong with bad workers being fired?

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

In modern company life getting hired into a good position is pretty hard. On the other hand getting fired is even harder. Why does this happen? Let us examine three ways a job can go: up, down and nowhere (yeah I know it is just two ways).

1) If you want to progress in your work environment you need to be able to do several things correctly. Deliver results, by doing this you clearly show your capability at work and how you increase your companies value. Get along with everybody, it is hard and harsh words are going to fly from time to time, but in essence you do need to be able to work with everybody in your team. Have a sense of dress code and office behavior, some people just don’t get that if you want to advance you just can’t be seen passed out drunk at the office party. You are not a college student anymore, you represent your company 24/7. Be politically astute, this is a silent rule that people who don’t advance hate and people who are good at it love. When you know how to navigate your direct political surroundings you will be able to advance much faster.

2) If you are inclined to stay put, you should use a different tactical plan. Come to work on time is I guess the most important thing you can do and the easiest one. Being on time at work will signal everybody that you are here day in and day out to do your job. Do not screw up! When I say this, I definitely am telling you that if you are unsure of something just tell your teammate, someone more skilled than you or your manager, someone else will do the job or show you how to do the job. You will not be blamed if something goes wrong as you gave heads up about your lack of skill or experience in the problem. When big decisions come up, just hide. No I am not joking, just run! This will take us at one moment to another article about the “runners” but enough about it for now.

3) How to get fired or degraded. It is much harder than you think!

Not interested in the job you do? Sorry seen people who hate their job and have been doing it for 20 years (which came first I am not getting into).

Have under average job performance? Come on, work is packed with under-performers, actually most people perform under the average. Out of a 100 employees I would say you have around 70 of these, 20ish average performers and 10 superstars who are pulling everybody else. So, sorry this is not enough.

Come late to work? If you don’t come late to work for every day for more than an hour, you are not getting fired! Even if you do and get the job done, nobody cares!You can even take an hour and a half break for lunch and still nobody cares.

Be a total ass in the office? Now this is debatable, if you are an ass plus you combine some of the before mentioned attributes, you MIGHT get fired. Still no guarantee.

So what then? Don’t come to work on time, be an acid person, and don’t do your job, and in like a year or two you will get fired. Yeah, you will like get 3 warning letters and have numerous talks with all kinds of managers and maybe your company councilor.

So what am I suggesting?

Get only good workers is a futile attempt, even if you try some bad ones are going to slip through the cracks. So how do you get rid of them fast and painless? I can tell you I am researching that one, and as I still haven’t been in a position to actually fire someone there are no clear pointers from me.

All this does not mean I cannot be really really angry with how we end up with badly structured teams, low morale and aggressive behavior in the workplace. Let us do something about it!