A great friend of mine, Todd, has often relayed bits of wisdom he picked up along the way as he built @Plaxo. One was that you could tend to categorize people as either “show” or “go” personalities.

So what’s a Show person? Let’s use modifying your car as an analogy. If you’re a Show person, you’re more likely to tint the windows, throw on a rear wing or throw on bigger wheels. There’s no real performance enhancement to your car after doing these things – it won’t accelerate faster or turn any better, but it sure does look faster (even menacing!) to the casual observer.

A Go person, on the other hand, will modify their car in ways no one can see – unless they go for a ride. They’ll modify the suspension to make it turn better, the ECU to make it accelerate faster, or maybe throw on a short shifter to make it shift quicker. No one can see these modifications on the outside by just looking at the car, but they’re all designed to make it perform better.

The inner “I wish the world were purely meritocratic” side of me wishes that only Go people won – but that’s just not the way the world works. For certain personality traits I often think it’s better to be largely on one side or the other…Followers versus Rule Breakers, for example. But in this particular case, I think you need a little bit of both to win.

Show people tend to be good at getting people to follow them. They’re fantastic at convincing folks of things and getting them to follow their lead. They’re so good at the sell, that they often convince very Go oriented people (who naturally tend to look down on Show people – admit it – you do) that they’re in fact Go people themselves. Now, if they’re too far over on the Show side of the equation, things tend to fall apart – their followers come to realize that they’re largely hollow. But if you combine a Show person with a smart person who has great insights that they lead other Go people to execute on – you end up with a very powerful combination.

And it turns out purely Go people don’t tend to win without a little bit of Show either. Go people are fantastic at building things, accomplishing things, getting things done. The problem is, they may not be able to get people to notice. Dean Kamen, much more a Go person than a Show person (and obviously wildly successful), recently talked about how much it bothers him that he has built amazing things that could revolutionize people’s quality of life in developing countries, but he’s just not been able to get society to adapt quickly enough to adopt these technologies. Go people execute on and build amazing things – but if success is defined by how much one creates impact in the world, you’ve got to Show people how great what you just built really is.

And for me, that’s the rub. At heart I’m definitely more a Go person – I don’t want to Show people what @Meebo has done, I just want us to do it and have people magically discover it. But, I’ve learned a lot from Meebo over the last few years – and one such lesson is you really do need to get out there and Show people the amazing things you and your team have built. If your goal is to maximize impact on the world – you’ve just got to have a bit of both Show and Go.

Or maybe I mean a New Haven dinosaur – either way, it doesn’t matter, the point’s the same – my east coastness is frozen in time.

Ok, some background. When I lived in NYC I took a trip out to Coney Island – I think it was roughly 2000. Now, I’ve never been to Russia, but after visiting Coney Island I thought I knew what Russia must be like. For those of you who’ve never been – Coney Island, and in particular, Brighton Beach, has a large Russian population.

But then my Russian friends told me I was dead wrong. According to them, going to Coney Island was like visiting Moscow in the 1960s. They told me that the folks from Russia who settled in Coney Island kept the culture of 1960s Russia and stopped keeping up with cultural shifts back in Russia proper.

Interesting point – you grow up somewhere. You’re trained somewhere. You start your life or career somewhere and you are what you’ve grown up in. But what happens when you move away? Culture’s always changing – and when you’re gone, it’ll keep changing without you. Would you even notice if culture back “home” moved on and you were stuck in the proverbial past – all the while self identifying as a person from back home?

Welp, I’m pretty sure it’s happening to me. I’ve lived in California for the last 6 years, but spent the first 25 years of my life in Connecticut and New York. I still feel like I’m from the east coast – oddball New York Jewish humor and all. But there are these little things that bite at me every time I head back east – and it usually centers around food. My favorite cafe in New York became a Tasti-D-Lite. Then I read, from California, about the owners of my favorite Vietnamese restaurant being arrested for violating labor laws (that one shut down!). Tonight, walking around New Haven, I discovered that my favorite Indian place is now also no more – they used to know me by name.

I’m not sure that I’ll be able to identify the subtle split between my old New York culture and present day. At some level, the world behaves the way you want to see it – and I frankly can’t really see that New York’s new “way” has drifted substantially from mine. That said, it’s pretty clear I’m at least really out of date on the best restaurants – most of my go to joints are now gone and I really have no way of creating strong bonds with new ones – I’m just not here enough. At the end of the day, I take this as a sign – I can’t see it, but I’m pretty sure I’m stuck in New York’s past.

Whenever I interview someone for a job at Meebo, one of the questions they’re bound to ask is “what kind of a person are you looking for to fill this role?”

My canned answer goes something like this, “Someone who takes ownership and is proactive, yet at the same time is team oriented, collaborative and open. This is a really hard mix to find.”

At Meebo, we believe strongly in these traits. Ownership, Proactive, and Team are three of the 5 areas we both actively look for in our interviewing process and use to assess employee performance once someone’s joined Meebo.

Yesterday I found myself talking to our newest group of employees at Meebo about what this really meant and figured something out. I always knew this mix of “I’m super team oriented” and yet “I’m a rock superstar who OWNS my projects and PROACTIVELY carries them through” was basically an oxymoron. I finally realized the trait someone needs to have in order to contain all of these attributes in a single person: humility.

When I talk about the ideal configuration of a founding team, I often mention the need to have at least two people with synergistic skills. The underlying assumption here is that you want people who are great at their particular area of expertise, but that no one is good at everything.

So it dawned on me, in talking this out with roughly 8 new Meebo employees yesterday, that someone who is unbelievably good at what they do can truly take ownership of their particular area and, by default, be proactive in it. And if this same person is not caught up in how great they are at this particular thing, but rather knows their own boundaries, then they will naturally work with others to fill in their gaps.

Yesterday Meebo announced XAuth along with Google, Microsoft, MySpace, Yahoo!, Disqus, Gigya and JanRain. The goal of XAuth is to make it easy to know which services a given user cares about and then to reduce the friction in connecting that user to those services.

The media made a lot of hay over the fact that Facebook wasn’t part of the announcement. Many (though not all) cast XAuth as the rest of the industry versus Facebook. That was not the intent (nor was it part of our media briefings). Rather, here’s why XAuth mattered enough to Meebo to push the industry to adopt it as a standard:

Meebo has been connecting users to various social services since 2005. One of our early learnings was that users have different types of content they talk about and share on each type of social service. Think about the type of content you personally put over a social network versus IM versus email versus Twitter. For most people, all of these styles of communication are relevant, but what you put over each network differs. In addition, for each style of communication, there are multiple players. The decision tree gets complicated pretty quickly. XAuth attempts to solve this problem by signaling which services a user actively cares about so those services can be readily available to the user as they browse the web.

So is XAuth competitive to Facebook? Nope – it doesn’t seek to replace what Facebook does today – rather, the goal is greater efficiency for publishers and a more relevant experience for users. Here are some specifics:

1. XAuth does *not* replace Facebook Connect, or anyone else’s external APIs, for that matter. Rather, XAuth is a way to know which of these connection choices to put in front of the user. Once XAuth does its thing, the connection happens via existing APIs, like Facebook Connect or Google’s APIs.

2. Facebook already has a way to ping their servers and ask if a given user is connected to Facebook (what XAuth enables). Since Facebook is not currently part of XAuth, this means that Meebo’s Bar (or other services) needs to look up whether a user is connected to a given set of services in *two* places — Facebook’s servers and XAuth’s. Were Facebook to be part of XAuth, this could be accomplished in *one* ping. No difference in user experience, but better performance for the website.

3. Prior to the XAuth announcement, we ran it by folks at Facebook and had a good technical conversation with them. XAuth came together quickly and Facebook was likely just a little busy with planning for f8. I obviously can’t speak on Facebook’s behalf here, but hope they’ll become involved.

4. Given how large Facebook is, were they to be part of XAuth, they’d frequently show up in the list of services a user cares about anyhow.

XAuth solves a really simple problem that’s been around for a while — how to help connect users to the services they care about most. From a selfish Meebo point of view, it also pushes all of the various services to make their networks easier to work with, as Facebook has done with their own. My hope is that XAuth, in the end, lets users more easily connect with all their friends as they travel around the web.

Seth

It hit me this morning that the composition of the new management teams at MySpace, AOL and Yahoo! are pretty interesting. All of the teams have been brought in to accomplish a turnaround of a large consumer internet company. Yet, when comparing these teams against each other, each brings a very different perspective.

Doing a quick scan of the *latest* job held by a few of the new senior managers, you realize that each of these three teams are pretty homogeneous within themselves. However, comparing these teams next to each other, they’re quite different.

MySpace
Former consumer internet entrepreneurs and startup execs.

Owen Van Natta, the new CEO, was the COO at Facebook as it transitioned from startup to largeco. Jason Hirschhorn, the new CPO, was an exec at Sling Media before it was acquired by EchoStar. Mike Jones, the new COO, founded Userplane and then Tsavo before heading to MySpace. And as if to prove the point, MySpace recently bought iLike, and 1/2 of the press release was about the founding team.

AOL
Former consumer internet large company execs.

Tim Armstrong, the new CEO, came in from Google where he was President of the Americas Operations. Brad Garlinghouse, the President of Internet and Mobile Communications was SVP of Communications and Communities at Yahoo! before joining. Jeff Levick, the President of Global Advertising and Strategy, was VP of Industry Development and Marketing in the Americas at Google. Admittedly, there’s a chink in the armor on this one – Armstrong got to Google in 2000, when it was still effectively a startup.

Yahoo!
Former enterprise large company execs.

Carol Bartz, the new CEO, was the CEO of Autodesk prior to joining Yahoo!. Carol was there for 14 years. Ari Balogh the EVP of Product and CTO, joined before the new team came in. However, he fits. Prior to Yahoo! he was EVP and CTO and Head of Global Product Development at Verisign. He was there for 10 years. Bryan Lamkin, the new SVP of Applications, was previously the SVP & GM of the Creative Solutions business unit at Adobe. He was there for 14 years.

This all raises two questions:

Is one of these team compositions inherently more likely to succeed in a turnaround effort of a large consumer internet company? You could argue the startup guys at MySpace are scrappier and have direct domain expertise. That said, maybe the AOL folks have an advantage – they’ve most recently operated large consumer internet companies and have seen systems, functional and not, which can help them guide the company. The Yahoo! folks, frankly, would seem the odd team out. Large company enterprise people running a consumer internet turnaround? Well, I remember when I joined IBM as my first job out of undergrad. I felt like my outsider perspective actually let me see broken things more clearly. Perhaps this is the inherent advantage of the Yahoo! team?

Do these teams recognize their biases? Like I said, in founding a startup it’s critical that you create a founding team with synergistic skills. That likely goes for management teams of large companies as well. The problem, though, is that just like folks tend to found companies with people like themselves, they also tend to hire people like themselves. I’m just as guilty as the next. Hopefully these management teams recognize they lean one way or another and work to compensate accordingly.

What do you all think? What are the inherent advantages / disadvantages of the various teams?

It really feels like we’re about to relive the 1990s Apple v Windows/DOS wars all over again. Rewind to the late 80s / early 90s. Apple had a proprietary OS running on proprietary hardware – it was a great user experience, but cost a bit more too. Heck, I remember playing on the Macintosh SE at my father’s office while I intermittently begged him to finish up work! Meanwhile, there were numerous PC manufacturers releasing relatively standard hardware – all running Windows/DOS. They were priced lower and they were more open to developers.

Look at what’s happening today. iPhone, a proprietary hardware device, which runs OS 3.1, a proprietary OS. It works really really well, and it’s beautiful. It’s an awesome consumer experience. Meanwhile, a bunch of manufacturers are about to release a whole slew of mobile devices running the Android OS. And of course, they’ll almost certainly be priced below the Apple solution, and likely be more open to developers, too.

So, last time it was Apple v Microsoft. Looks like this time it’ll be Apple v Google/Android.

So far, it seems like the same dynamics, on a similar timeline, are unfolding. I wonder if there are any market dynamics in mobile / 2009 that’ll make this one play out different than last time around?

I’ve been riding motorcycles on and off for 10 years. One of the things that has irked me, continually, is that not all traffic lights “sense” that the motorcycle has stopped at the red light. These lights are on sensor systems and only change when triggered by a car pulling up – motorcycles are too small to register at some traffic lights. Result? Well, if you’re lucky, another car comes up behind you in a reasonable amount of time. However, late at night, you will just sit there indefinitely. You end up just running the light.

On my way into work this morning, the left turn signal at the corner of Shoreline and Villa (for those who care, when switching from southbound on Shoreline to eastbound on Villa) missed my arrival, and even though it was 9:30am and you’d expect multiple cars to come up behind me, there I sat for three cycles of the light. Still no one.

So, I called the cops. “Here’s the situation. (insert here everything i just wrote above). What should you do?” The officer who answered the phone asked me to hold.

A few minutes later she came back. She said something to the effect of, “None of our officers who ride motorcycles have that problem at that intersection.” I responded that it may be because their bikes are heavier than the one I ride. Regardless, it was happening to me, so I’d like to know what the proper procedure is.

“Turn in the other direction.”

Ok, but there are three lanes that head south on Shoreline I’d need to cross to make a right. I’m in the fourth lane over waiting for the turn signal. So it’d be just as illegal (and more dangerous) to make a right from the fourth lane over on the left.

Her response: “None of our officers have this problem, including our officers who ride dirt bikes. I can’t tell you to run the red light.”

I explained I understood this. However, I just wanted to know what I should do in this scenario.

Growing more frustrated, she suggested that I back my bike up, cross to the other side of the road since no one was coming down the road, and take the right.

At this point, I didn’t even bother with mentioning the light is positioned on a downhill, and I couldn’t quite back a 500 pound motorcycle up a hill (most motorcycles – mine included – don’t have a reverse gear). Not to mention that just because cars weren’t coming behind me in the left turn lane didn’t mean that there weren’t plenty of cars passing at 40 mph as they shot down Shoreline.

Now, to the officer’s credit who answered the phone, she did research for a few minutes with other officers who rode motorcycles. She also suggested that I call the traffic engineering bureau and report this (I did – turns out they knew this particular light had been a problem in the past – they thought it was fixed and would increase the sensitivity again). I wish, however, that she had constructively worked with me to find a legitimate solution rather than constantly point out this didn’t happen to any of the officer and that she couldn’t tell me to run a red light. I’m pretty sure I took a constructive tone on the call…I wish I could say the same for her. Instead, so fixated on not telling me to run a red light, she gave me a bunch of less safe options.

seth

ps – shoulda just used Google in the first place – 21800(d)(1) CVC “The driver of any vehicle approaching an intersection which has official traffic control signals that are inoperative shall stop at the intersection, and may proceed with caution when it is safe to do so.” Net: run the light.

There’s a constant din in the media (old and new) about “who’s better?” Is it Twitter? Is it the old media? Blogs? This morning I read Robin’s post on the subject over at Techcrunch, pointing out that TMZ (blog) broke Michael Jackson’s passing and the news was all over Twitter (microblog). Only then did the mainstream media pick it up, and by Robin’s account, at times embellish its role in the reporting.

Unfortunately, the debate is often being set up with an “us v them” mentality. It also usually centers around who broke the story first. I think this is the wrong frame.

I was recently in the offices of one of the major newspapers chatting with a couple of their reporters. One of the reporters told me about the day US Air 1549 successfully landed in the Hudson River – her Managing Editor had her literally running down the side of Manhattan trying to catch the plane – but the River flows pretty fast. So the editor sent out another reporter to also look for the plane. The problem was enough folks were posting pictures to Flickr, videos to YouTube and tweets on Twitter that the newspaper reporters, just two of them, had no chance of breaking the news – or even being on top of it really. It was too temporal and too localized.

I think the classic reporter has been squeezed by new media. Think back to the transition from newspapers to television. Newspaper reporters used to distribute breaking news in the most timely fashion, but then television was able to deliver the message faster. Then, blogs happened. Blogs were able to beat newspapers and television to the punch. And then the final straw, YouTube and Twitter come along and begin to scoop blogs because they turned everyone with a cell phone and a YouTube or Twitter account into publishers – they could post that video of the jumbo jet floating in the Hudson or the video of Neda dying in the streets of Iran. All of this has seemingly squeezed mainstream journalists – they have almost no hope of scooping new media.

There is an area, however, where mainstream media can really shine. One of my heros is Dana Priest. Dana, a reporter at The Washington Post, is an example of how unbelievably powerful mainstream media can be in investigative journalism. Just read her bio, and you’ll understand. Not one, but *two* pulitzer prizes. One for her reporting on how VA hospitals treat veterans and another on the reality of the CIA’s secret prisons. This flavor of investigative reporting isn’t about being first to report on Michael Jackson’s passing. It’s about uncovering something that many try to hide and then getting out into the field and somehow, often through taking real risk, proving it, and exposing it to the light of day.

Frankly, these days any individual gazing over the Hudson can snap a photo of an airliner drifting down the River – spectacular as that may be. But the rare few can somehow get a U.S. Military Commander to disclose top secret information to her.

Seth

So this is my first test post. I guess that’s it for now 🙂 Seth

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