Why me?

February 25, 2010

There’s an odd phenomenon when I walk down the street. On a crowded street in Brooklyn, or pretty much anywhere, if someone needs directions they invariably ask me.

At first I thought I was just imagining it. But then I started paying closer attention. There’s no denying it. The number of people who ask me for directions is statistically improbable. Even Danielle has noticed it. She started asking me, “why does everyone ask you?”.

This morning on the way home from taking Danielle to school, two more people asked me for directions. Even when travelling in a city I don’t know, people ask me (I’m obviously not very helpful).

I guess I’m just the quintessential non threatening white guy…


February 22, 2010

We recently started advertising OrigamiRisk with Google AdWords.  Nothing much, just an experiment to see how it drives traffic. If you aren’t familiar with AdWords, this is what puts a “sponsored link” next to your search results. The most fascinating thing about AdWords is the data. Google is great with data. And since you only pay if a user actually clicks on the ad, the costs are not much (and if you are paying a lot it’s because your ad is working).

You can create multiple text versions of your ad. Google will automatically detect which one is getting more clicks and show that one more often.

You can let you ad run and later Google will suggest other keywords that you might want to include in your ad. And Google will show you exactly how many searches you might get per month with that keyword. And how much competition there is to advertise.

The most fascinating part about it is the whole algorithm for how it works. Every time Google displays ads it is running a mini auction. Every advertiser has specified how much they will pay for a keyword ad. Or you can let Google optimize your bid to the auction (and your budget). Then with a combination of the auction price and what Google views as your “quality score” (Google doesn’t want to be serving up ads that aren’t relevant) your ad will get placed higher or lower depending.

I’m not sold on the “content network” though. You can advertise on Google search and you can include their “content network”. The content network includes web sites, blogs and gmail. But you have less control because Google is just trying to detect relevance. I recently turned off the content network because none of the sites really seemed relevant. We are in such a niche market.

And one of the best things you can track is a “conversion”. That means that the ad actually got someone to click where you want. So if we are trying to get people to sign up for a free demo, we can track if a user who clicked on our ad actually went to the demo page.

It’s quite fascinating, but again the best part is the data. I know how many times each of our ads was displayed for each keyword and how many times someone clicked on it. And based on the data I can modify the campaign on the fly.

Kind of fun actually…

A Chilly Vacation

February 19, 2010

Well, no one ever promised balmy weather in February, even in Florida. We took a quick trip to visit my wife’s brother in Orlando and friends in Palm Beach last week.

Obviously we booked the trip well before a weather forecast was available.

We arrived Thursday night to temperatures in the low 50s. Friday was all rain and never got out of the 50s (Chuck E. Cheese, here we come). Saturday was supposed to be sunny, so that was our day for the Magic Kingdom.

When we got there it was a hardly magical 45 degrees.

People were in winter coats, hats and gloves. It would have been comical if it wasn’t so frickin’ cold. The sun did come out and warm us up, but it still didn’t get above 55. But Danielle got to ride Space Mountain and that was the most important thing (Tori loved the Dumbo ride).

On Sunday we headed south to Palm Beach. It was still chilly so our friends (this is Danielle’s best friend’s family) wanted to go to Wannado City. I had never heard of this place. It’s a mock mini city inside a huge mall. You pay your admission and the kids get a “bank account” of 150 Wongas (the fake currency used in Wannado City). They can go to various places in the city and either spend their Wongas or do “jobs” and earn Wongas.

It’s an interesting concept. I’m not sure it totally works, but the kids had fun and they weren’t cold.

Finally, the next day it warmed up. It actually hit 70. So we stayed at our friend’s house with their pool.

Did I mention that our friend is an investment banker? A very successful investment banker? With the crazy bonus and all that? They live a block and a half away from us in Brooklyn. And they aren’t pretentious at all. You wouldn’t even know how much money they have.

Until you saw their house in North Palm Springs.

I don’t think I actually saw all the rooms. It’s a $10 million dollar place. Simply spectacular. And the pool was heated, so even the next two days when it got cool again, the kids had plenty of fun in the water.

But talk about how the other half lives…

Manning and Favre

February 10, 2010

Peyton Manning’s legacy took a bit of a hit in the Super Bowl. He’s back to being a great quarterback who isn’t always great in the big game. As I was thinking about how quarterbacks rank, I saw many similarities between Manning and Favre.

They are completely different quarterbacks of course. Manning, the cerebral one. Favre, the gunslinger. But both will have amazing careers setting all kinds of records. Both are clear Hall of Famers.

And so far, both are in the “only one Super Bowl” category of great quarterbacks. Hell, they both threw critical interceptions late in the game to the same guy in the playoffs this year.

I’m big fans of both of them. But unless Peyton comes back and wins another Super Bowl, he’s not in the Montana category, no matter how many records he breaks.