Lately I am less and less satisfied with reading blogs or news sites – I’m leaning heavily towards content with immediate, actionable lessons. I joined Mixergy Premium (more on that another day) but hadn’t taken any of the courses. Since Noah Kagan is a better marketer than Andrew Warner, I ended up buying a Startup SEO course from AppSumo without even realizing that it the same course was already available to me through Mixergy Premium. AppSumo has a generous refund policy, but I have to give them credit for actually making the sale – the $25 I spent at AppSumo has greatly amplified the value I’m getting out of Mixergy Premium, now that I see how useful the courses are.
For most of my career, my extracurricular learning has been about software development. That’s my job, right? Unfortunately, that left me with a narrow set of skills. I’m trying to fill those gaps strategically, trying to get the first 50% of knowledge of a topic extremely fast. AppSumo courses and Mixergy Premium are great for this – reputable, accomplished instructors, Andrew Warner’s guiding hand and high standards, and easy access to video and supporting materials. The SEO course gave me exactly what I hoped – before the course, SEO was a hazy concept that I was not confident about, and after it, I have a framework to choose and prioritize SEO actions going forward.
I took a whole bunch of notes, but more important is the summary:
SEO is about finding the terms you want to rank for, and getting strong inbound links for those terms.
The basic process is:
- Choose keywords based on high volume, low ranking difficulty, and high value to you
- Do basic, table-stakes optimizations – using search terms in titles and headers, putting alt text on images, helpful internal linking for crawlers and users, etc
- Use a mix of hustle and creativity to get links that will help you rank
The course goes into much more depth on all of those points, and I won’t spoil the secrets. If you want the details enough to sign up for Mixergy Premium or buy the course from AppSumo, then I just did you a big favor.
Bonus: Why do I need SEOmoz’s help? I’m a reformed software developer who’s tired of seeing great software go nowhere because the developers don’t know how to market it. I believe that marketing is an engineering problem and from everything I’ve heard, SEOmoz has the best SEO tools in the business. Help me Rand!
It’s no secret that I have a man-crush on Michael Ellsberg’s writing, and being a modern writer, he has a book, a website, a column in Forbes, and some videos of talks he has given. One of the talks he calls out is his counsel to young geniuses from the Thiel Fellowship Retreat. As expected, I loved it and took time-stamped notes so that others can benefit as well.
One note: the video is a little shaky and the lighting goes in and out. Don’t let that get in your way! The conditions were not ideal for producing a video: they’re in a room with bright windows, and Michael, the Thiel Fellows, and the cameramen all move around so it takes time for the focus and exposure to catch up. THE CONTENT IS STILL GOLDEN!
[I tried to embed the video but WordPress defeated me]
00:00 Explode the myth that you need to go to college to get an education
00:20 People hate Peter Thiel because he suggests that smart young people should not go to college
01:50 Education is hanging around smarter, wiser people and learning from them
02:00 College is one way to do this because there are brilliant people there, but it’s often inefficient because many professors haven’t accomplished anything in the real world
05:00 At college, some amount of learning and mentorship is given to you on a silver platter, so you don’t learn how to find them in the real world
05:40 The mentors you want in the real world don’t have office hours or published contact info
06:20 How do you find mentors?
07:10 The best thing you can do to recruit mentors is to GIVE to them
08:40 What do you have to give
08:50 FIRST THING TO GIVE: Advice. How can you give great people advice? You know things that people you want to meet want to know about
10:25 MYTH: Accomplished people have nothing left to learn; REALITY: You have valuable knowledge and accomplished people learn a lot
11:00 Ellsberg’s experience with copywriting
11:45 Entrepreneurs know and need to learn lots of areas of expertise
12:20 Youth is a valuable area of expertise that people pay consultants millions to know
13:30 Technical skills should never be underestimated
14:15 Beginning of interactive portion discussing how to connect to potential mentors
15:35 Start with chit-chat, move to inquiry about what they’re working on and ways you can add value, then offer
16:10 Role-play of how to connect with someone at a networking event – connect by giving. Ellsberg plays the role of seeker
20:55 Steer the conversation to areas where you can add value, then offer it
21:10 Givers gain, givers get
22:30 When you help someone get closer to their goals, they’re more willing to help you
23:10 Proactively look for ways to add value – people rarely admit or profess their weaknesses. That’s why you steer to ways you can help
23:50 “All the world loves a giver, all the world hates a taker”
24:55 SECOND THING TO GIVE: Connections
25:55 Giving a connection takes a couple minutes but can change someone’s entire business – it’s a highly leveraged activity
26:25 Key: it has to give value to both parties being connected
29:30 You can’t give with strings attached – people can tell. Trust that goodness will come back to you. Don’t be a used car salesman
30:40 Connections don’t need to be business only – they can be social, romantic, etc
31:50 Role play on making a connection
34:40 Connections are a network game – the rich get richer, so the sooner you grow your network the larger and more valuable it will be
35:40 Networking had a bad rap because most people do it poorly, as takers
36:25 Focus on giving. It’s not totally selfless because you’re choosing to give to powerful, valuable people, but in that context, give liberally
36:50 Measuring time taken – half of Ellsberg’s time was spent networking. One connection can completely transform your business and your life, so the time is highly leveraged
37:55 Put yourself in the right environment – i.e. business conferences like the Summit Series – and the returns can be tremendous
39:00 Social Networking – the non-useful ways are just entertainment. FB/Twitter/RSS people that you want to connect with – that is valuable and worthwhile
40:20 When your business grows, other people will be doing work for you, and your role will be the rainmaker, so there’s never too much networking
41:20 The best contacts/clients/investors/partners come through referrals
42:35 THIRD THING TO GIVE: Willingness to bust ass putting their advice into practice
43:00 Successful people want to leave a legacy, want to see more people use what they learned
44:40 The wrong way is to leach off of successful peoples’ knowledge and effort
45:05 Right way: do your homework, Google them, read news about them, read their Twitter feed, find connections, read their book, etc
46:00 When you contact them, have a SPECIFIC reason. NEVER say “I want to pick your brain” And it should be a question that they are uniquely positioned to answer. Their effort to answer is multiplied by your willingness to put it into action
47:40 Old models of education are crumbling, 22% of people with BA’s under 25 are unemployed, another 25% are doing jobs that don’t require a BA
49:30 These tools will help you get the teachers and mentors that will give you the education that will give you the success you want
Michael also gave a great interview on Mixergy. It’s worth reading or listening to the whole thing, but he gave two calls to action for people that want to improve their direct response copywriting skills.
- Eben Pagan: has a $30 million a year info marketing business, absolute master copywriter
- Dan Kennedy: master copy-writer, extreme hard sell
- Matt Furey
- Marie Forleo: brings in a more feminine touch to the art of copywriting and does it totally different style
- Jonathan Fields: much more of a soft sell, a master at very sweet, authentic, like you would, thereâ€™s just no sleaze with him at all
Get on all these lists. Itâ€™s free and read what they send you. These people are masters and you can just read their e-mails and see how they do copywriting.
2) Read these books:
- Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples ~$9 A legend in advertising for more than 60 years, John Caples’s classic work has been updated to retain all of the candid analysis and invaluable award-winning ideas from the original while bringing it up to date on the many changes in the field.
- Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins ~$7.50 or $1.99 on Kindle – Claude Hopkins expresses powerful, statistically tested truths about “salesmanship in print” which remain relevant through the decades and across all media – including today’s internet marketing.
- On Advertising by David Ogilvy ~$17 – “Advertising is salesmanship.”
- Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz – $lots (expensive because out of print) – “The person who should get this book is the person who would like to create a million-dollar business with an idea, a product, or a division of an existing business. There is simply no other resource that will show you how to do that with marketing.”
Expensive workshops are just people regurgitating the material from these great old books.
Thank you to Michael Ellsberg for being inspring at a time I needed it.
I just read the first issue of a new magazine called Distance. In their own words:
Distance, a new quarterly publication featuring long-form essays about design and technology.
There’s a lot of writing about the hows and whats of design, but we wonder where the whys are. So much of the writing about why we design, and the ramifications of our work, lacks the research and analysis that is critical to any serious discourse. We want to change that.
I just finished reading the first issue and I wanted to give feedback, both on how the magazine measures up against its goals and what I personally thought of it.
Distance does a great job of measuring up against its goals. The articles were thorough, long (~15-20 pdf pages), and well researched. There was empirical, historical, and reference data to support or refute any claims made. These are definitely not opinion pieces. Any of these articles would be a useful reference or starting point for further research into a topic. For instance, I know a lot about the rise of Zynga and modern social gaming because I was very plugged into that industry as it was developing. Ben Jackson’s article in Distance #1 covered the important points in that story, both historical and critical. If all Distance essays are held to the same standard of research and documentation, I would have no problem trusting them.
My own personal opinion of the magazine is not so rosy, but that’s because I’m not the target market. Like any scholarly material, you have to really care about the topic to read the much denser, less narrative material. I’m not a designer, so the specific topics (research as part of the design process and local design community organization) were not very interesting to me. The writing and research was of the same caliber but I was less invested in the subject. Also, since the goal is research and analysis, the writing isn’t necessarily entertaining. Given the goals of the project, that’s a feature, not a bug. But don’t expect a page turner.
Finally, I’d like to offer Nick Disabato (creator of Distance) praise for a job well done and the following advice:
- Consider switching from footnotes to end notes. There were a ton of footnotes on every page and it chopped up the flow of each article. For electronic versions, jumping back and forth between text and endnotes is super easy. (I read the pdf version)
- Require an abstract for each article. These are too deep to summarize with a title or sentence, and too long to skim. It will also make Distance a better research source.
- As the number of articles grows, have all the abstracts on the site and a searchable index of the articles on the site. Then you can provide different options for accessing single articles.
If you wonder about the “Whys of design”, you should subscribe to Distance.
I read. A lot. In fact, I’d probably write more if I read less. Blogs have a special place in my heart, because reading a few special blogs back in the mid aughts guided me to where I am professionally today.
Three classic tech blogs were especially influential on me:
- Joel on Software – most of my understanding of the software business comes from Joel or things Joel linked to. It’s also interesting to see his evolution, given his early emphasis on slow, Ben and Jerry growth and desktop software, to heading a VC funded Amazon-style monetize later service like Stack Exchange and Trello. He defined many terms that people use to describe the software business today.
- Paul Graham – full of powerful, challenging ideas. He has about half of the entries on my list of “Life-changing, perception-altering quotes.” Again, interesting to see how he changed his leverage from spreading ideas through writing to spreading ideas through investing, mentoring, and execution.
- Raganwald – doesn’t have as many “big idea” posts that stand out in my memory, but his writing felt closer to home. Unlike Joel and pg, Raganwald always felt like a programmer, exploring issues that programmers cared about. Joel and pg felt like something else, but Raganwald seemed like a better version of what I could become.
Even though they’re 5+ years old, you’d still be better off today reading their old essays than most of what’s new. None of my three favorites still write much, but there’s so much gold on the table already.
I’m in a very different place than I was in 2005, 2006 when I started reading blogs. The cutting edge thoughts and ideas from back then have spread and in many cases become common knowledge. So I want to mention three new writers that excite me the way Joel, pg, and Raganwald did back then:
- Ramit Sethi – I came across Ramit’s blog several years ago and I thought he came off as a cheesy hustler. His cockiness and attitude kept me from believing his savings tactics. I wrote him off until a few months ago he came onto my radar again, and it’s different between us now. Now he dives deep into the psychology of high performance, how to make changes when most people fail, and more. Very strategic things. Now I think Ramit’s writings are some of the most exciting things for an ambitious person to read. Here’s a good recent post about mastering the game being played around you.
- Michael Ellsberg – Speaking of exciting, I can’t get enough of Michael Ellsberg since I heard him on Mixergy. He covers a lot of the same ground as Ramit but in a different way. Ramit seems to dance around the point more and use sales and persuasion techniques like testimonials a lot, but Ellsberg just attacks like a tiger wielding Thor’s hammer. I believe Ramit because he’s convincing, but I believe Ellsberg because he’s so aggressively open and confident. My favorite example of this is his article about his brand promise – to shatter limited thinking.
- Venkatesh Rao (also has a book called Tempo)- While Ramit and Ellsberg cover a lot of the same ideas, Venkatesh is completely off the wall. He explores history, technology, psychology, culture, business, and whatever he feels like, and he does it in a way unlike anyone else I’ve read. I don’t always agree with or understand everything he says, and I’m never sure if it’s because my thinking is too limited or if he’s off in left field. But there’s no one else today who has repeatedly reshaped my perception of things I didn’t even know I didn’t understand. Good places to start are his articles about leaving the middle class and a brief history of the corporation.
Give these writers a try and maybe they will reshape your mind forever too!
Discussion: Who do you think is writing the best stuff right now?
I recently got an email from someone who was starting a business, including a website. He asked me for some very specific technical advice around modifying his WordPress theme to improve SEO. I feel like the advice I gave him was pretty useful, so I’m reposting it here.
First, my quick response to his technical questions about his blog software:
- Stop worrying what your blog looks like. Really. No one is going to see if for a long time because it takes time to build meaningful traffic. As long as it doesn’t look atrocious, it’s good enough for now
- Spend $25 to join Mixergy Premium and take the courses on traffic generation. Specifically, “Blogging for Business”, “SEO for WordPress”, and “Startup SEO”
- Buy the book Start Small Stay Small and read the first couple chapters, specifically the part about gauging demand by queries, etc.
Then, after I learned more about the business (independent auditing of buildings’ energy use), I told him the following. (Even if you’re not auditing energy, pretend like I’m talking about your idea instead. It’s very generally applicable)
1) Doing energy audits: have you actually done any of these audits? Who did you do them for? How did you find those people? Why did they choose you? Why did they care about energy audits? Most of success in business comes from having a good mental model of your customers. This lets you figure out how to give them things they value. If you can’t answer all those questions, all the other effort you spend on anything else is probably going to be misdirected and ineffectual.
2) If you haven’t done any energy audits, YOU MUST GO DO SOME! If you can’t find anyone who wants to let you audit them, then it’s either not a good idea, you’re not a good salesman, you don’t care that much, or you’re missing something about the it. If you talk to households and/or businesses and they say no, try to find out why. Try to find something they do value. Note that right now you don’t have to have people pay you for the audit – what you need more than money is market understanding.
3) When you have done a few, go over what you learned. What common problems did people have? Did people know about the problems? Did people know about possible solutions? If so, why didn’t they implement them? Do they lack of confidence in their ability to implement a solution? Do they perceive the benefit as too small? Are the solutions too much work and/or cost even if the benefit is valuable? Everything you find will help you shape your message when selling and presenting your audit findings, and give you fodder for writing on the website.
4) Once you have some patterns in the information you learned, THEN you can work on your website, both in your main marketing message and your specific content you create. Web businesses are attractive because you don’t have to take time with every customer, but that also means that you can’t give any personalized attention to any customer. That means that a website, especially one that drives business to real world work, has to be LASER focused at addressing a specific pain point for a specific audience.
There’s a finance blogger named Ramit Sethi who writes a lot of great stuff about the psychology of success. He told a story about one of his students (I think it was in this 90 min video of Chase Jarvis Live) who was trying to sell music lessons. She started with typically generic “music lessons” and made little money and had few customers. But while taking Ramit’s course, she talked to her customers and found out some specific things. First, her customers were almost exclusively Asian and Jewish mothers. Second, they didn’t particularly care about music, but they believed that playing the violin (always the violin) would help their kids get into Harvard. So she changed her generic music lesson flyers to say something like “Playing a musical instrument helps your kid get a great education” and had a picture of a girl in a cap and gown holding up a violin. She proceeded to make $80,000 in the next few months.
You might find something different when you talk to people, but this is my guess about who your golden customers would be: businesses (b/c they’re better at valuing investment in savings) that consume a lot of electricity that are inefficient in non-obvious ways (old uninsulated pipes, rental buildings where tenants pay electric, etc). Once you find your “Asian and Jewish mothers” then customer acquisition, content creation, SEO, ad buying, etc all get a jillion times earlier.
A final note, since your first instinct was to customize your blog theme, odds are that doing steps 1-3 will probably not be fun. They might really stink. That might mean you should do something else, but this kind of groundwork to verify demand and marketing is necessary whatever you do. Best selling books like The Lean Startup, and business classes like the Micropreneur Academy and the Software Roundtable all say start with identifying demand before you work on the solution. It’s just part of success. It’s the real hard work, not the busy work like picking business cards that people love to start with.
Today I got my copy of Design for Hackers by David Kadavy. I’ve followed the writing and marketing of this book since it showed up on Hacker News months ago. I’ve read the first chapter so far and I’m enjoying it so far. David presents himself as very knowledgeable, but not in an obnoxious way. Instead he seems like he’s genuinely awed by the power and value of design and he’s bursting at the seams to convey that information. I’ll write some more about it when I finish.
One thing I’ve tried to do lately with books is to get the big picture message besides just what the words say. Not every book has one, but here are a couple things I picked out of the first chapter:
- Section headings are in a sans-serif font while text is in serif. I assume this is demonstrating how to separate markup from content.
- Paragraphs are all roughly the same length. This makes the text flow and let me get into a good rhythm while reading.
- The page headers have the chapter number in bold, chapter name in regular, same font. This both unites and distinguishes the parts.
None of these points have been referenced in the book so far, and I don’t if the were intentional or even true. I’m just trying to see what a book about design says about design.
Great job David and I can’t wait to keep reading!
Shill time, baby!
Anyone who has read this blog knows that I love my iPad. I’m a sucker for the apps, the screen, the feel of it, the whole package. So I was excited to see a new project on Kickstarter for a new kind of accessory.
I don’t play games on my iPad as much as I did when I first got my iPod touch, but I used to play a lot. One of my few complaints about iPod gaming was the fact that there was no tactile feedback when you pressed the screen. The guys at Joystickers are making a button that you can stick onto the screen to solve just that problem. Go there, watch the video, pledge some money.
The part I’m really excited about are a couple of fancy styluses – one like a nice pen and one like a paintbrush. I love using NoteTakerHD, but the stylus I have is too short and thin to feel really comfortable in my hand. I’m dying to try out the Flow and the Scribe. To sum up, this is a great looking project worth contributing to. Check it out!
- Strong Linux admin and Java stack experience – he could get a job in that kind of shop no problem.
- Evidence of interest in other programming tools – he did a Rails project in 2005(!) for an internship and some Django projects at his main job. This showed awareness of new tech trends and willingness to use the best tool for the job, not just what he’s comfortable with.
- More emphasis on greenfield, new applications than maintaining or growing existing ones
- Both desktop and web development projects
- Capable of integrating other tools and systems as needs (credit card payments, WordPress, SMS, etc)
- If he wanted to work in a medium-to-large, non-tech company environment, he had a great set of skills and should be gainfully employed in companies like that for a long time to come
- I did not think he was well positioned to switch to a Python or Ruby shop or a small startup because most places need someone who can contribute immediately without a lot of training or supervision, and it didn’t look like he had a lot of experience with those. Some, but not enough to hit the ground running
- Smart and fast growing companies larger than a certain size (say 10 devs) could be a possibility because hiring fast is hard and they need a broad skill set and a fast learner. He appeared to be those things.
- You might think you’d be happier somewhere else, but bouncing jobs doesn’t always work. I’ve worked at 6 places since I graduated in 2005 and Groupon is the first place I’ve really, really loved. Don’t expect to get it right on the first try, but don’t be afraid to try!
- Work is a huge part of your life, so it’s worth researching companies beforehand to give yourself a better chance of landing the best job. Find and meet people that work there, visit the office, interact with the blogs/twitter of the people that work there, go to meetups they attend, find connections on LinkedIn, etc. Also try to meet former employees.
- Bonus tip: if you do those things, then when you apply, you’re no longer a resume, you’re a real person
- Having a web presence can give a perspective employer a more complete impression of you than can fit on a resume. How you think, how you write, what you’re interested in, etc. Public projects, OSS contributions, etc set you apart from most applicants and turn you from a flat resume into a real person. They are indisputable proof that you can produce things and are engaged in software as more than just a job.
- Tactical tip – name your resume something like “Resume – Jake Nelson.doc” – it makes the hiring person’s job easier and cuts down the chance that your info gets misplaced.
- Take a long think about where you want to live. This guy had worked in the same region where he went to school, a couple hours outside a major metro area. Smaller places like that have benefits, but there’s also a lot to gain by moving. You enter a bigger and richer job market and it gives you a chance to reinvent your outlook on life.
- He was in the Eastern US, so I recommended looking into New York City. For every ten articles I see about how hard it is to hire good developers, 8 of them are about NYC. There have been several Hacker News threads about hiring in NY and how good developers are getting multiple offers. Etsy, Foursquare, Gilt Group, etc are all growing fast.
- Once you find a place you want to work, don’t worry if you don’t feel qualified to work there:
- If you take the advice I listed above about getting to know a company, you’ll be a much more attractive candidate and you’ll have an idea beforehand if they would consider you
- Getting a great job is a discontinuous event in your life. If you can land an awesome that you’re barely qualified for there, then a year or two of working at that job will teach you enough that you’ll be in the same league as the rest of your coworkers. If you sneak into a job at Facebook, then after a year, you’re a Facebook Developer. Ditto for Google, Twitter, Groupon, Foursquare, etc. Those opportunities can change your career trajectory for years to come.
Background: One of the new responsibilities I have at Groupon is getting lots of awesome developers to work here. [If you are or might be an awesome developer, email my work address - email@example.com - and check out the job openings at http://groupon.com/jobs ] So I’ve put myself out as a representative of Groupon’s dev team, announced hiring, answered questions, etc. In one week, two people have responded asking about summer internships.
[HILARIOUS UPDATE: I left off one sentence that has confused at least one person so far. Groupon doesn't have an internship program right now. We're just barely starting on campus recruiting for college graduates. The friendly advice was a consolation prize since I couldn't help with the internship. Sorry for the confusion!]
Here’s some advice I gave them through email that I thought was worth posting publicly:
- If you’re already reaching out to companies when you’re a sophomore , you should be commended for being so on top of your career this early in school. Too many people wait until two months before (or even after) they graduate. Even if you don’t get the internship, you make an impression.
- If there’s an established technology you’d like to learn, a book is still a good place to start. There’s a balance of theory and practice, it will be edited and consistent, and give you a complete end-to-end look at the technology. But don’t just read the books, do the exercises in them. If you want to learn Rails, the book Agile Web Development with Rails has you build a complete ecommerce website and you can do it in a week or so. Sometimes doing comes before understanding (or rather, you can’t understand without doing). EDIT: How do you tell the good tech books from the bad? Ask someone who is good at that technology. Too shy? O’Reilly and Pragmatic Programmer books are generally good, and you can often get good recommendations by searching on StackOverflow or SearchYC.
- On that note, PLEASE don’t wait for a class to learn a new language or technology. CS classes have their place, giving you a broad foundation of principles and practice in certain specific subjects. But many techniques (e.g. source control), technologies (e.g. server administration, nginx configs, etc), and languages (many schools teach only C and Java) won’t EVER be covered in school. In the workforce, you’ll have to learn stuff on the fly and on your own for your whole career, so you need to start learning things outside of class now if you want to be decent.
- Don’t just focus on specific languages or frameworks, learn some general programming skills. Books like Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (free online at http://mitpress.mit.edu/sicp/full-text/book/book.html) , Clean Code, The Pragmatic Programmer, etc are great for that.
- If you glossed over that last point, go back! Reading SICP, watching the video lectures, and doing the exercises will make you a fantastic programmer.
- Learn at least one “obscure” language. It will help you learn things that are hard to learn in mainstream languages like Java. I’m partial to Lisp and the book Land of Lisp is a great, fun way to learn that language.
- Find a project. It doesn’t have to be something meaningful or important, just do it! Write a scraper to find the nearest Starbucks to you. Make a group management website for your study groups. Write software to control a LEGO mindstorm robot. Just do something, post projects online, put code up on GitHub, and write something about what you did, and put it on a blog. This gives you a public record of interest in programming outside of work, which is very, very appealing to employers and probably the number one thing in getting to an interview. It will also give you practice writing and show you how you improve over time.
- Get involved with developers in your area. If there are meetings in your area, you can find them in 5 seconds thanks to the other Big G. If you can’t find any, it’s because those things take time and hassle to arrange. Volunteer to help with the meetings, find locations, etc, or organize your own. That stuff isn’t hard, it just takes time and the confidence to do. That way you will generate a lot of goodwill and make connections with people you can work with and learn from.
So there you go. $100 worth of books to buy, a years worth of homework, and you will have made yourself more appealing to employers than most college graduates!
Bonus points: If someone answers you saying “We’re not ready now but get in touch next year”, make sure you do it!
About a month ago, I started working at Groupon. It has been a pretty exciting month since then. Here are some random observations based on that time:
1) Groupon is working on exciting technology problems. Big scale, big data, multi platform, etc. The problem space is straightforward but the scale and importance of every part of the system makes it a worthwhile challenge.
2) Groupon has a principled approach to software development. Pair programming as needed, small, focused teams, meaningful code reviews, sensible testing, operations and deployment options, etc. The team is a mix of permanent employes and long-term consultants, and they support each other. It helps that the consultants come from one of the most excellent companies in Chicago. The product roadmap for the coming year shows a legitimate need to balance short term business needs with building a platform to support continued growth into the future.
Groupon’s technology work isn’t bleeding edge or particularly innovative. It is extremely well done application to a profitable problem and has scaled from a team of inital whiz kids to a medium sized team better than any place I’ve worked or know of, and signs are that it will continue into the future.
3) By a quirk of seating, I sit right behind the CEO, Andrew Mason. I occasionally overhear him talking so I have a tiny bit of insight into the higher up business decisions. Let’s just say that if you’re competing against him an the rest of the exec team, good luck to you. I think a lot of people are fooled by how he comes of as a goofball in his interviews. Don’t get me wrong, he is a goofball, buthe is also a savvy business leader. He knows what’s going on with us, our competitors, the technology, the business, etc. If you still insist on getting into the deal space, build a small niche based on personal relationships, because the chance to be a big player in the deal business is gone and it will not be relinquished.
If you’re interested in more about what it’s like to work at Groupon, leave a comment or email me. If you’re a talented developer interested in working here, email me now.