Tag Archives: Gigaom

Gigaom Search & Alerts

I never got around to writing about the Search and Alerts products I worked on while at Gigaom. Using native WordPress features and extending it just a bit, we were able to build a full-fledged faceted search engine and notification platform at a fraction of the cost of what it cost to do when I was at Factiva.

search.gigaom.com pulled in content from across gigaom.com, research.gigaom.com, and events.gigaom.com and presented results in a way that allowed you to filter by tags and explore relationships between tags applied on to the content. Built in was a well structured taxonomy and basics smarts which would map a keyword to the appropriate tag.

Gigaom Alerts solves a different problem. While search allows you to search back in time through the archives (which at Gigaom were a significant portion of their total traffic), Alerts let’s you, in a sense, look forward. One of the problems of a media site is that it is often not a destination. Visits come by way of an app or aggregator so the challenge is getting your readers to return. Newsletters are one way but we are experiencing a proliferation of newsletters competing for readers’ attention.

Alerts was built as a way to store a standing query which would deliver notification if and only if there was new content which matched that query. Results are highly relevant because the alerts are constructed by those who read them. If you explicitly state your interest in “Nest” or “Tony Fadell” then there is a high likelihood that you will click thru on a notification of new articles about those topics. Indeed, we did see high engagement from readers that came in via Gigaom Alerts, they stayed on the site longer and read significantly more pages per session the our average readers.

Gigaom Alerts leverages the native WordPress post-taxonomy architecture so that you can have scale to a large number of individual alerts without a significant cost.

  1. Each saved alert is a post
  2. The terms for the alert are taxonomy terms on the post
  3. The author of the post is the user to be alerted

WordPress VIP kindly archived a talk that Casey Bisson did at one of their meetups which I’ll share here along with a link to the slides.

Hat tip to the folks at Followistic.com who let me know that Casey’s session was posted. If Gigaom Alerts sounds interesting to you, I’d check them out. They have built a plug-in which works much the same and is super-easy to install if you’re running WordPress.

I no longer have a role at Gigaom

Last week certainly was interesting. On Wednesday morning I was abruptly informed that, along with my VP and two engineers, that our services were no longer needed at Gigaom.

While unravelling my personal social profiles from the various company pages I had set up for Gigaom, it was Facebook’s robotic bit of micro-copy that really brought it home, “You no longer have a role on Gigaom.” Harsh.

No Role at Gigaom

Japanese has this wonderful phrase, iro iro (いろいろ) which means roughly, “lots of things that I’d rather not go into now but feel free to ask me over drinks” and I’ll leave it at that. Nothing dramatic, just a sudden shift of course that made it clear that it was time to move on. I’ll leave it at that.

I had a great run at Gigaom and I thank Daniel Raffel for the introduction and Paul Walborsky and Om Malik for their support while working there.  I joined when Gigaom was a collection of blogs with a nascent premium subscription business. Gigaom Research is now a major driver of revenue. As a Product Manager and later Director of Product the team tackled a number of projects of which I’m proud.

  • acquired and integrated paidcontent.org
  • redesigned Gigaom, Gigaom Research, and Gigaom Events as responsive
  • replaced the e-commerce back end
  • redesigned the gigaom.com post page and front page (twice)
  • rolled out a major re-brand across all properties
  • re-configured the Gigaom Research subscriber acquisition funnel
  • launched Analyst Connect, a simple way to connect to Gigaom Research analysts
  • launched Data Connect, a charts-centric view into Gigaom Research
  • launched Gigaom Search, a faceted search engine across the 15 year archive
  • launched Gigaom Alerts, a free tag-based notification service

In addition to the projects above, I am also pleased with my contribution to setting up how the Product Team is run. As the company grew through the critical 50 employee mark where unstructured cross-department communications begin to break down, the daily stand-up, weekly Dev Diary, Friday Show-and-Tell presentation, and quarterly Product Roadmaps all played an important role in keeping things on track. The methodology was simple and I think that’s what led to its success.

The engineers greased communication even further by migrating off our group Skype chat into HipChat rooms with integrations into GitHub and a script that could spawn a Google Hangouts on demand. We even had a Sonos-driven alarm that would play Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up on queue to remind us all when it was time for our daily check-in. Sometimes it’s the little things.

It’s always bittersweet to leave a place of employment, like the breakup of a band. There’s a lot of talent there and I’ll miss working with them. I will also personally miss the vortex of activity that comes with working at an organization that takes in the news of the day and validates, organizes, and distributes it back to its readers.

Gigaom is a premium content business with increasingly valuable content and services made available to customers at its higher tier customers. I often tell people that the most valuable content is in the internal Gigaom newsfeeds, the price of which is full time employment. As of now, I am unsubscribed.

New Job, Two Weeks In

A friend from Finland asked how things were going at the new job which nudged me to put some thoughts down. Here are some highlights from the past two weeks,

  • was introduced to everyone via a broadcast message to everyone in the office as, “the guy who helped get the MSFT/Nokia deal done.”
  • made my first edit on pro.gigaom.com, albeit an FAQ page.
  • manned the live, on site chat for a few hours where I was promptly asked “how can I build a life-sized Optimus Prime out of Lego?” I suspect one of my new colleagues.
  • met Om Malik who approved of my sense of humor.
  • was met with stunned silence when I asked if someone could, “provision” my new work laptop – everyone sharpens their own knives here.
  • after reading snarky comment about a low-res version photo of contributor, contacted them in New Zealand on Skype, was given a new image, cropped and uploaded the same and fixed the issue, all in less than 5 minutes.
  • drove to Napa to attend VIP party for WordPress customers. Met Matt Mullenweg and his fine crew to enjoy wine, sunset, and the future of publishing.

If you’re wondering where I work, here’s a short video describing the service. I work with the dev team pulling levers and twirling knobs to keep things running smoothly.

Back to Base

Today is my last day at Nokia. The great mobile adventure is over. More accurately, the need to define a mobile web as something other than the internet at large has mostly vanished.

I left Yahoo for Nokia with a vision of building services to connect the social web to phones that knew more about you and the world around you than a desktop PC could ever hope to know. I built a few prototypes and white-boarded many more. The potential is rich and the rush of apps and services that are “location aware” is only the beginning of what we will see in the years to come. In many ways it feels like 1995 all over again and we’re all re-discovering developing for the web browser. All that’s missing is a “View Source” to bring in the masses.

It’s been an amazing experience highlighted by a two year assignment to Helsinki which gave me, my wife, two kids, and our little dog Mimi an experience of a lifetime. Nokia is a global brand and the multitude of languages and cultures that you bump into day-to-day in the hallways and canteen is mind-boggling. Helsinki is a global hub with many families moving in and out of Finland exposing us to a broad group of people from all over who became our friends. We hope to continue to keep in touch with as they move around the world. My Finnish colleagues too were gracious in taking in this relatively bombastic Californian, tolerating my bubbly “Good Morning!” greetings and gently instructing me in gentler, more subtle methods of salutation.

But now we’re back in California. While the new Nokia offices in Sunnyvale are beautiful, the commute is not. While I learned heaps from Nokia about the mobile phone business, particulars in mobile UI (design for the one-handed strap-hanger in Bangalore), as well as unique aspects of localization (make room for long German place names, right-to-left Arabic script, and currencies in Europe use a comma, not a decimal), the excitement for me is further up the stack with the applications.

I’ll take a few days off then start anew at GigaOm on Monday where I have accepted their invitation to be Product Manager of their premium subscription product, pro.gigaom.com. In many ways this is a return to my roots when I was a PM for Factiva.com – another premium news subscription service. Coming full circle from a time when content was screaming to be free, we are entering an age of content factories where well-edited media and curated content will be something worth paying for. Anyone can sit and read everything coming through on ReadWriteWeb, TechCrunch, and yes, GigaOm and branch out to regional tech sites such as Arctic Startup and Asiajin that do an excellent job of covering their region but who has the time to read it all? Algorithms are getting better (check out Summify) but social networks that mix up family, friends, and professional contacts are getting muddy as filters and we all run the risk of building filter bubbles around ourselves.

There is a market for summaries and curation and I want to build a platform that enables that. The internet has made infinite distribution available at little to no cost. The challenge (and opportunity) is for publishers to maximize revenues by offering ever greater premium upsells to their True Fans on a steep value curve so that everyone wins. The folks I’ve met at GigaOm totally get this and I’m psyched to get cracking on building out  features to meet the demand. This is going to be fun!