The Basic Fundamentals Of Writing: Word Fat

With a 140 character limit every word must count on Twitter.  One easy writing tip from writing blog There Are No Rules is to trim the fat from redundant words.  Word wonks would call the headline of this post “The Basic Fundamentals of Writing”, pleonastic. A more efficient headline would have used either “Basic” or “Fundamental”, but not both.

From their post 5 Creative Writing Tips:

Pleonasm is the use of words unnecessary for clear expression. Here are some other common offenders to watch for:

• advanced warning
• circulated around
• close proximity
• close scrutiny

These redundancies seem obvious, but the phrases are used frequently so you forget about their wordiness.  I did a quick search on Twitter, and the offenses were abundant.  The Pleonasm’s above are linked to a real-time search on Twitter for the phrase.

Even if you don’t care about grammar, I hope this tip will help you get the most out of your 140.


Hug A TSA Agent

Summertime and the living is easy, except for those that insist on boarding a plane.  Pushing SUV-sized strollers & booking 2 stop connections to earn more frequent flyer points, many travelers set themselves up for failure.  The customer is always right, so indignant air travelers will share their air whines at barbecues and on Facebook posts.  You’ve heard them all —  lost luggage, crying babies, canceled flights everywhere, you know the airlines just don’t care.

The most pedestrian of the genre is the TSA shake down. From the start you know it ends badly with fructose-free yogurt confiscated from the lululemon MILF.  A child goes hungry.

TSA is always good for a quip and agents are easy targets for passive aggressives to unleash the latter half of their personality disorder.   A Florida woman who asserts she was groped by a TSA agent went Rambo and is now facing misdemeanor felony charges for grabbing the crotch of a TSA agent  as payback.

It’s rarely a hot girl complaining about being felt up during a pat down, I would remember that. TSA only picks on the bacon-fed lardo’s. Wouldn’t you want to use those scanners to check out those muffin tops and beer belly’s?

Politicians have jumped on the TSA-hate wagon. Crafty Rand Paul raised $250k in 3 days when he pledged to privatize and end the reign of TSA.   Rand also demonstrated his Tea Party cred by refusing a TSA pat down when he triggered a scanner alarm.  He was not allowed on that flight, his childish protest is just another reason he’s stuck in the fringes.

In an official hearing on TSA, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Transportation Subcommittee suggested TSA stop doing pat-down searches of well-known passengers such as Beyonce and Donald Rumsfeld.  Maybe TSA should keep copies of TMZ nearby to identify all the celebrities trying to fly incognito.

Much respect to the TSA agent who padded down Rumsfield. Why would anyone trust “Rummy” after he pushed us into the Iraq invasion and then ignored the advice of our military leadership on resources, strategy, and a post-invasion plan.  He was probably concealing that weapon of mass destruction Saddam was hiding.  Oops my mistake, there were no WMD’s found.

The subcommittee went on to address the agency’s efforts to fix its “poor customer service image and become a leaner, smarter agency.

Leaner and smarter is always good, but a better image shouldn’t be a priority.    I don’t want my TSA to be friendly, just effective.  I like security that is intimidating, serious, focused and on high alert.  I’m not proposing Rodney King beat-downs (well maybe on those who wear flip-flops into airplane bathrooms), just the right level of authority and unpredictability to deter evil-doers.

TSA agents work to keep us safe and for that reason alone we should respect them.  Like anything else, there are both good and bad actors.  We get to travel, while they are on the ground working in the same place doing the same thing.  Even with business travel, visiting another city is at least change of scenery and an opportunity for a different experience.  Flying is a luxury not everyone can afford.

But please do not really hug a TSA agent, you may get in trouble for that.  I’m sure just a simple thank you to the TSA agent is enough, reminding us all that they are doing their job to keep us safe.


I’m guilty of almost everything I call out above, especially ranting and whining about “first world” problems I should be thankful to have.


Guns found in the week of 6/15/12-6/22/12 by TSA.  During this week, they also confiscated a Bazooka round, throwing stars, IED training aids, knifes, stun guns, mace, and 2 cane swords.

What A Wonderful Word


While most folks bunt with easy F bomb’s, @oskarfone horked this one out of the park.

Horked sounds like an accidental snort from the nose, quite the embarrassing onomatopoeia for Amazon on Black Friday.

My favorite sounding words:

  • Kerfuffule:  a commotion or fuss
  • Sycophant: a self-seeking, servile flatterer
  • Tomfoolery: foolish or silly behavior
  • Nemesis: a formidable and usually victorious rival
  • Bamboozle: fool or cheat

Share some of your favorite words in the comments below.

Related Links:

Wacky Word Origins

Hamburger Hill Post-Mortem: Best Spartan Legs

I Kicked A Guy In The Balls

Over the weekend I competed in the Spartan Sprint race with fellow tech geeks Joe Heitzeberg and Will O’Brien.  Some call it a Burning Man triathlon mash-up, the race is designed by ultra athletes and a Royal Marine.  The Spartan tagline is “you’ll know at the finish line”.  This 3 mile course with 15 obstacles was suppose to be a warm-up training session for the much longer 10-12 mile Tough Mudder we are doing later in September.

To prepare, I ran hills, hit weights to get strong and Yoga to stay limber. I was ready.  I suspected that these macho mud tests were more pro wrestling spectacle than ironman endurance.  No worries.

We arrived to a sea of cars parked over rolling hills, it felt like a concert.  Right after we got out of the car, 3 cuties competing in the race parked next to us and started flirting.  Yes they did.  Either the sunblock we just sprayed on was loaded with pheromones, Will & Joe are babe magnets in geek clothes, or the symmetry of the 3=3 math was undeniable — this kind of shit never happens to me.  Ladies loved us Spartan’s.  My middle-aged ego was pumped up, until they passed me on the course.

Over the PA system, the words  “Are — You– Ready” reverberated through the hills over the thumping music.   This was definitely WWE time, I was ready to rumble.

We started the race at the back, which means we had a frustrating start pressing forward as the crowd funneled uphill on a narrow path.  The hardest part was just keeping my footing on the slippery path wearing a pair of old running shoes with no traction.  I didn’t want to buy a pair of trail running shoes. Spartan means frugal, right?

The night before I saw a tweet from @ben_watts who was buying gloves, a camelback hydration system, & knee pads.  Really, is all that necessary?  The unspoken dude rule is not to be that over-geared ass clown.  We hit the first obstacle, pulling a big concrete weight with a rope and pulley. I let the weight down too quick and burned my fingers on the rope.  @ben_watts was right about the gloves.  It hurts to type this post.

The crawl-in-mud-under-barbed-wire obstacle was next.  The photo of the barbed wire crawl in the Spartan registration page is flat,  optimized for conversion.  Our reality had hills,  lots of them.   Being sandwiched between the mud and barbed wire is claustrophobic.   You feel like a meatloaf sandwich.  But I made it, barbed wire mud crawl done, check!  I expected our young buck & former captain of Harvard’s Ultimate Frisbee team Will O’Brien to have smoked me and looked ahead for him.  Instead he was behind, helping several people get through the escape from San Quentin.

While the Tough Mudder competition has a help-thy-fellow-mudder ethos, none was called out in Spartan. We were mostly strangers, yet everyone helped, providing  grips on slippery slopes and high-five audibles when it got tough.  We didn’t bifurcate into a two-class helper and receiver system.  Almost all of us needed a hand, we were all enablers.

I wasn’t shy about taking handouts.  As I approached a 10 foot wall, a guy backed up against the wall and cupped his hands together to give me a boost.  I needed momentum, so I kicked up with all my strength and I nailed the guy right in the nuts.  He groaned, and doubled over.  After a few minutes of making sure he was ok, he insisted that I try again with his help.  Will looked at me and said “hey buddy, you may want to move a little slower this time”.  I got over that wall with no collateral gonad damage.

There were more obstacles like climbing up ropes or a balance walk on thin alder poles.  A fall or fail resulted in doing 30 burpees.  Burpees are a cruel combination of  push-up, sit-up, and squat into a movement that burns 50% more calories than other exercises.  No one hates burpees more than Joe Heitzeberg.  I love working with Joe because he has a “reality adjustment field”.  When he sets his mind to something, he is unstoppable, he adjusts reality. So the next challenge was chucking a spear about 15 feet to hit a target.  Everyone missed, everyone did 30 burpees.  Joe hit the target, but was more excited about not doing burpees then realizing he is one of a few folks who actually beat the challenge.

At this point, I thought the rest would be downhill, but then I looked up and saw  a 200 foot muddy hill with people inching their way up and pinned down by more barbed wire. I thought we had checked that obstacle off.  Now I know why so many great war movies like Hamburger Hill involve taking some hill.  There is no better metaphor for an uphill battle.  At this point most of us were tired, dehydrated, and over-heated.  As I crawled up our Hamburger Hill, I became painfully aware of the rocks cutting my knees into chopped liver.  Did @ben_watts buy knee pads?  Mud flew in my eye and I couldn’t see, for a couple of moments I thought I might need to bail. Then I heard some navy seal fire jumper triathlete yelling out like a drill sergeant “let’s move, let’s move… hand over hand.. man-up, let’s go”.

Mr. testosterone, STFU!  This did not motivate or inspire me.  I was thirsty and needed to take a crap.  The worst part about this hill is that it has 2 sections, and is longer than you think.  My final ascent was powered by annoyance.  Mud is good for your skin until it gets in your cuts.   I was done with this shit.

Nearing the end, there is a big bonfire burning and you jump through it — everyone knows it’s not as difficult or dangerous as it looks.  Most of the crowd sees our high spirited leaps over the campfire, and not the hell on knees plodding ascent of Hamburger Hill.  That is deviously hidden in the middle of the course, to convert more spectators into Spartan’s for the next race.

The last obstacle is borrowed from American Gladiator with a bunch ofsuper- sized guys stopping you from reaching the finish line with Q-Tip shaped training weapons the Marine’s call “pugil sticks”.  There was no one in front or behind me, I had the crowd’s complete attention.  Red rover, red rover send Kevin right over.

Let’s do this!  I mustered all the strength left in me, and started running as fast as I could straight into one of the guys, dropping my right shoulder before impact to take him down.  Instead he flicked me to the side, getting me off balance spinning past the finish line landing into the dirt, chest first.  In my mind, this Spartan just kicked a Gladiator’s ass.  The crowd headline was different:  Spaz Flails Across Finish Line.

The Spartan race was no sunday stroll. We climbed ropes,  went up walls, traversed walls, jumped over walls, lifted semi-truck tires, dragged cinder blocks, carried heavy weights on our shoulders up a hill, swung on pull bars and climbed more ropes.  I didn’t respect it until I was mud-deep.  I got whooped, but left feeling like a bad-ass.   After the race, we even did 50 more push-ups for the US Army to win a free water bottle.  HOOAH!  We were unstoppable.

As fortune would have it, we again bumped into those 3 cuties.  We are all Spartans after the race,  and toasted our shared accomplishment with a cool beer provided by the event. There is no catalyst for new friendship like physical pain.

I saw the guy who boosted me up the wall and I yelled out  “sorry for kicking you in the nuts”, he gave me a big smile back and said “dude… great job, we did it.”

Kevin Nakao, Joe Heitzeberg, & Will O’Brien: Tough Mudders in Training

I originally wrote this post for  The Best Thing This Year .

Control Your Destiny [All Things D Re-Post]


I had the pleasure of meeting All Thing’s D writer Ina Fried and being interviewed for this article.  Everything that follows is her work…..

Frustrated By Apple’s Long Approval Process, WhitePages Goes Android First With Latest App

Ina Fried, All Things D

JULY 12, 2011 AT 9:00 PM PM

When WhitePages launches its Localicious app on Wednesday, it will be in the Android Market rather than in the iPhone App Store.

There’s a simple reason for that. Although WhitePages still sees iPhone owners as a key target, Apple’s approval process is just too difficult to time a launch around. As evidence, the Seattle company notes that one of its apps, a reverse phone lookup directory, has been in Apple’s hands for the past two months awaiting approval. So, this time around, the company decided to go Android first.

“I think we are going to see a lot of people start to ship Android first,” WhitePages Chief Operating Officer Kevin Nakao told AllThingsD. “You can’t be held hostage.”

Localicious isn’t the first app that WhitePages did first for Android. The company also has launched a Caller ID app for Android after finding, like others that wanted to offer such a service for iPhone, that Apple wouldn’t allow the needed access.

Even when Apple does approve apps, it generally doesn’t give a clear enough time frame to fully plan a launch, Nakao said.

“Marketing an application becomes increasingly important given the number of apps that are being published,” Nakao said, noting that the company wants to time its product launches with a PR campaigm as well as mobile, Web and social media advertising campaigns. “Since apps can still get tied up in the iOS approval process, it makes this marketing planning almost impossible.”

Nakao’s comments echo sentiments expressed earlier on Tuesday by Android co-founder Rich Miner, who now works for Google Ventures. Even though he works for Google, Miner said that he used to recommend mobile developers launch first for iOS because of the platform’s size. These days, Miner said the size of the opportunities are more similar, while Android offers more flexibility, such as making it easier to allow developers to offer test versions prior to launch.

Android is not without its challenges either, of course. Developing for Google’s operating system means testing for a large number of devices as opposed to just a couple of iPhone models.

Nakao notes that the company has two testers just for Android now. “I’d rather hire more people and have options,” he said.

As for the app itself, it’s a local search program. It’s main distinguishing feature is that it allows people to search local listings by neighborhood as opposed to just geographic distance. That means users in San Francisco won’t see listings for Daly City unless they want to and those in Hollywood won’t be forced to go over the hill to the Valley. More importantly, those in Manhattan’s TriBeCa district won’t be sent over a bridge to Jersey just because it happens to be geographically proximate.

Nakao notes that there are more than 82,000 distinct neighborhoods within American cities, places with which most urban dwellers have an affinity. Localicious also aims to be more current by offering tips based on nearby places where people are “checking in.”

“That way it is more alive,” Nakao said.

Those who want to give Localicious a try can find it for free as long as they have an Android device — iPhone owners will have to wait until Localicious comes to their neighborhood.

Less Bounce Per Ounce

Crazy Egg Heat Map

With the explosion of social media sharing and help from smartsearch engine optimization, many web users are bypassing businesses’ home pages and landing directly on product pages and blog posts. Thus, businesses need to optimize their “first impressions” at all entry points in order to reduce bounce rates.

Bounce and exit rates are often confused, but have different definitions and purposes. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that hit a page and don’t visit any others within the same site. It should be used to measure the effectiveness of landing pages and is connected to SEO and paid advertising campaigns. In some cases, a page may be designed to give the consumer the information they need and nothing else. In this instance, bounce rate may not be a relevant metric.

Exit rate, on the other hand, is the percentage of visitors that leave a site from a given page. It should be used to monitor specific pages in a process, such as a “shipping options” page that appears during the checkout process. A high bounce rate means you are making a bad first impression; a high exit rate means you have a leak in the process.

Bounce To The Full Article On Mashable  (8 Ways To Reduce Your Bounce Rate)

TechFlash Article Of The Year: Intrapreneurs

DealPop Launch Team: Cindy Hewitt, Troy Morris, Melissa Brewer, Drew Hackleman, Travis Pearl, Julie PItt. Not Pictured: Liz Powell, Suryn Longbotham, David Pederson, Rebecca Caroll

The word intrapreneur was first coined by Pacific Northwesterner Gifford Pinchot III, grandson of the first Chief of the United States Forest Service, who popularized the term in his best-selling book “Why You Don’t Have to Leave the Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur.” According to Pinchot, Intrapreneurs are those people within a corporation who turn an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation.

Seattle is home to a number of startups and corporations alike, the most successful of which leverage intrapreneurism to foster innovation and bring products to market efficiently. I have been lucky in that intrapreneurship has played a fulfilling role in my professional life at both the startups and mid and large-sized corporations that I have worked for.

The recent launch of WhitePages’ new social buying site, DealPophelped me to reflect upon the concept, and to identify some best and worst practices based on my experiences. Here’s what I have learned:

Mash-up Stars with SME’s

Build a dedicated team of both internal stars and external Subject Matter Experts with deep domain experience in the category you will be competing in. Several years ago AT&T and NTT DoCoMostarted a joint-venture in Redmond called MMS that was dedicated to the launch of new wireless services.

MMS followed the DoCoMo playbook and was staffed with wireless veterans, former entrepreneurs, and media executives. While it can be argued that AT&T popularized text messaging in the U.S. through a very integrated “American Idol” promotion led by the media expertise that was brought in-house, the internal stars were very critical for navigation and the company knowledge it took to get things done.

No Frills

Don’t spend more than ten minutes on things like thinking about code names for the project, decorating the office, or relocating to some secret hide-out. The only thing that really matters is that you hire great people, that they sit together, and that they have a good space for open communication. Intrapreneurs are assembled to move fast, not to create a new sub-culture in a hideaway fort with secret handshakes. However, you should spend time on selecting the process that meets your project needs.

When I worked at RealNetworks and we moved Rhapsody from software client to the web, we switched from Waterfall to Agile development for efficiency. Similarly, at AT&T MMS, a streamlined version of Ma Bell’s product realization process was implemented.

Skunkwork Stinks

Unless your project is a matter of national security, do not create a clandestine operation hidden from the rest of the company. Chances are, your co-workers are going to find out about it anyway and the best way to overcome internal resistance is to be open. Getting the whole company behind your effort is more powerful than a single sponsor. At WhitePages, we held several open brown bag sessions for both our launch into mobile and for DealPop as a way to share the business model and product plans.

We received valuable feedback and recruited more volunteers to help out – many of whom became critical in the final stretch. An effective intraprenuer needs to be an evangelist for the project and should articulate the value propositions first to internal constituencies – this is critical prep work that should be practiced before going to market and communicating with external audiences.

Leverage Your Assets

Another benefit of promoting your project internally is to solicit help with any cross-marketing assets you may need to help make your project a success. If executed well, this could be a critical advantage when competing with a more nimble startup. In most cases, cross-marketing will require work from other business units and therefore it’s important to share your strategy so they can fully understand the benefit to the company and prioritize the work as appropriate.

At AT&T, our MMS team worked with the device team to help pre-load our instant message clients in more phones by sharing early tests that showed the incremental revenue per user. Another critical and often-forgotten best practice for intraprenuership is to leverage the values and mission of your company to guide the project. If you have a hard time fitting your project into your company’s value and missions, then it’s probably not a strategic fit.

Build Fast, Validate Quicker

The need for speed should not be used as an excuse to skip market justification. You just need to find ways to vet quicker.

One of the first questions we had to answer for DealPop was whether or not there was a good fit with our audience at WhitePages. In two minutes we had our answer by going to Quantcast to find a strong match between the audience demographics for Groupon and WhitePages.

We also ran ads on our site to test interest and spoke to over 20 potential merchants in two days. Always take the time to assess both supply and demand. While speed is certainly key in most instances, being too focused on getting to market fast can sometimes blindside you from thinking enough about long term integration. Always build for scale and success and don’t try to hedge your bets.

Reaping the Rewards

A common misperception is that intrapreneurship is not as rewarding or fulfilling as entrepreneurship. Years back, I ran my own record label start-up called Musicblitz. Despite the fact that we were nominated for a Grammy-award in 2001, I never got to really enjoy the company I built around my passion for music because I was so overwhelmed with everything it took to keep it running.

With intrapreneurship you get to spend more time focused on the product and less time on the important administrative, IT, and back-office demands. The Seattle tech community epitomizes Pinchot’s idea that “risk-taking and innovation” can certainly take place within the walls of an established corporation.

If you are currently at a start-up, remember that there are many valuable skills you are learning that can be applied to established companies, both big and small. And, if you are at an established company, don’t forget that there are many ways that you can think and even act like an entrepreneur.

I’d be curious to hear about your tips or experiences about intrapreneurship in the comments below.


Related Links:

A related article by DealPopper Jared Hart:  The Best Darn Job I Have Ever Had

2010 TechFlash Awards: The Flashies

Do You Really Need To Make A Mobile App?

Ever since Apple launched the iPhone app store, the company has been pushing its apps to get all of the attention. But when was the last time you read a review about a new mobile website? Thousands of apps and billions of downloads consistently steal the headlines, while the mobile web is largely ignored by everyone but the consumer. Yet, despite what the marketing would lead you to believe, consumers use the mobile web just as much as apps.

Link to the full article on Mashable

America’s Long Tail

Designed by Ryan Kazda

One of the biggest issues facing local is scale.  The population of the US is very distributed, with the largest US metro (New York City) representing only 2.71% of the US population.

I explore the challenges of scale further in my Mashable post:  “5 Things You Need To Know About Location-Based Social Media

(I threw the data at Ryan Kazda who designed the graph).  The image was selected and re-published in the book “Social Media For Dummies”  Is that at good thing?)