Archive for June, 2008

Nice catch!

June 23rd, 2008

Deliverability, unsolicited email and political communication

June 19th, 2008

Everybody hates spam, which is often defined as “unsolicited email.” I’d argue, however, that spam ought to include the notion “unwanted” in it. If I get an email from an old high school buddy out of the blue, I hardly consider it spam!

I broach this subject because of an e-thePeople I am working on: how to contact campaigns to invite them to participate in election guides. The problem: hotmail and AOL automatically filter our invitations as ‘junk.’

Of course, our emails are technically unsolicited. In most cases, neither we nor the media company has ever communicated prior to the invitation. But unlike regular spam, our emails are arguably wanted, not unwanted. How do we know? Our response rates among campaigns that we do contact ranges from 60-95% depending on the guide.

Now, there are some solutions to help with this ‘deliverability’ problem like ReturnPath. But as its name suggests, this company is trying to make sure that you receive the emails that you’ve requested like newsletters and registration emails.

The other solution is to reach people via opt-in email lists. But there does not exist such an opt-in list for campaigns due to several challenges. First, campaigns are temporary organizations that are created and destroyed rapidly. Second, they are highly fragmented geographically. Third, campaigns are designed to send not receive messages!

But I’d argue that “free speech,” e.g., effective speech, requires that people be able to communicate with their campaigns! Moreover, as I previously argued, these invitations are generally wanted by the campaigns. So what can we do?

In the short-term, I think we can rely on pragmatic solutions. For example, if we send invitations through our affiliates accounts rather than our own, it becomes much more likely that the emails will be delivered. Also, we can target the laggard campaigns that use hotmail and AOL through other channels.

In the longer-term, I hope that we can develop more “democratic” filters. For example, email communication by citizens who can verify that live within a certain district should have higher priority in reaching their elected officials than those citizens that do not live in that district. Perhaps there is someway to differentiate between communication that is commercial in purpose from communication that is political or civic in nature. I know this standard is a little vague, but hopefully it can be developed more as the need for it increases.

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One of the cheapest deals ever valued at $1bn

June 18th, 2008

Oh, boy! Social networking continues to be white hot. I like these VCs, but they do seem a tad cocky in this video. David Sze says that “when they look back, they will say this is one of the cheapest things that those investors ever did.” Cheapest things–really? I hope, for your sake, David, you are wrong about that statement. The video is fun to watch:

I think David Cowan gets it closer to truth. He says “Compared to most startups, LinkedIn’s valuation is very high. But compared to what we think LinkedIn’s future valuations will be, it’s a bargain.”

I wonder about this deal. LinkedIn is a good site. My friend who is a VC uses it for research on new industries, but not sourcing deals. So, it adds value for him but it isn’t essential. I conducted an experiment when recruiting a hire at e-thePeople by launching campaigns on LinkedIn, Facebook and a targeted job board. I got a couple of warm leads from LinkedIn, so it was probably worth a couple of hundred dollars for my listing, but we hired someone sourced from the targeted job board.

I think that my experience is a cautionary tale for LinkedIn: death by paper cuts. They are certainly the market leader across, but if they are #2 in each of little niche, they may not be the most effective medium.

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Rent vs. Buy

June 17th, 2008

Here’s a great site that computes the median sales price/monthly rental price by town or county and plots it on a map. As you can see in the screenshot below, my town of Menlo Park is an expensive place to buy: the ratio of sales/rent is over 20x compared. In contrast, Newark/Fremont in the east bay are near the national average of 14x. You can check out your current or prospective neighborhood(s).


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