Aaron Brazell

I Have a Face for Radio: Kris Smith Podcast with Me

Gnomedex was fantastic and it would be difficult toname the high point. However, ranking right up there was an opportunity to sit down with Kris Smith for a few minutes of podcasting. Notably, he observed that this site has just gone into Beta (heh) and we talked further about Digg, Facebook and Twitter. Great fun, good times. Thanks for the chance, Kris!

Listen in.

Update: Greg Cangialosi posts the video of the show:

Aaron Brazell

Personal Perception is the Key to Business Success

Today at Gnomedex there was a fascinating interaction between the user-centric Gnomedex crowd and Jason Calacanis. Jason, as you know from previous interactions and engagements on the web and on this blog, is the founder of several successful companies. His current project is the much maligned Mahalo which figures to despam the internet by providing human created search results. I didn’t understand the business before and after hearing him speak today, I don’t understand it now.

I encourage you to listen to the session which I’ve embedded below. In this session, which clips the beginning of the session where Dave Winer blasts him for engaging in “conference spam” after making villains of folks who may or may not legitimatlly also be using the internet for spam purposes.

I was happy to speak my own mind around 10 minutes into the video on an exchange that occurred right here on this blog back on July 18 where Jason promised me and others that there would be search results for the term “WordPress” in Mahalo by days end. As said in the session, I don’t really care that there isn’t but the fact that as of his session, August 11, there still was not any results demonstrates a principle that I’d like to talk about today in terms of trust and user perception in the success of a business. (Disclosure: there is now a WordPress Mahalo result page) But first, the video:

Now here’s the problem that Calacanis has. He has the authority to speak on entrepreneurial issues and he has the track record of success to believe that he can make a company like Mahalo work. He has a problem that the populous doesn’t believe him.

Brand is built on trust and perception and if people don’t trust you, they won’t trust your brand. It’s a principle. It’s tried and true. Geraldo Rivera can tell you that because he has been laughed off Fox News, despite his overwhelming success in previous ventures. George W. Bush can testify because he was a successful business owner prior to becoming the President of the United States and now has zero credibility.

The success of a company is as much entwined in the persona of who the founder is as the business model itself. In other words, Mahalo is doomed not because it’s a bad idea or has bad delivery (though that could certainly be argued in a different post), but because of Jason. We don’t trust Jason. We don’t sympathize with Jason. Jason has not won the hearts and minds of the people. You. And me. The readers. The proletariat. The longtail.

In order for Mahalo to be successful, there must be a critical mass in terms of adoption. Any idea can be good but if there is not market share, there is no value. Jason is challenged on every side. He is polarizing. He is not trusted.

I’m not making this stuff up to write a post villainizing Jason Calacanis. The Gnomedex user base speaks for itself.

Mahalo has a fantastic principle. Fight spam via human interaction and human generated search results. Eliminate conflict of interest by producing stringent content guidelines. Interact with community leaders by producing excellent evangelism of the product – such as what he has done on this blog.

The problem with Mahalo is largely not about Mahalo but about Jason. Jason has created a persona that causes people to dislike him and not trust him. Sure he is a successful entrepreneur, having created Weblogs Inc and the new Netscape. Sure he brings good ideas to the table and takes industry offenders to task. Sure he is an entrepreneur in residence at Sequoia Capital. But we don’t trust him. You and I. Readers. The average joe. The proletariat. The long tail.

With a crisis of conditions at hand, can we really expect success? I doubt it.

Of course, Calacanigroupies will probably stop by and praise Jason’s success in the past and claim that as a planted flag for future success. I think you don’t have to look past the opinions of those who followed Jason’s advertorial to hear the underlying message.

But few take the time to point out that his candidness is usually quite calculated and geared for maximum business leverage””thus, not truly candid. ~ Adario Strange, Wired Magazine

Jason is an interesting guy. He certainly likes attention, either good or bad. His new startup, Mahalo, is pretty… pretty… lame. I see so many problems that I probably need more time to write a full blog entry about the things that won’t work with it.

Either way, when you start justifying a new business “we want to go back to 1994 feeling when all the sites were good” it’s not the right start. Going back is never a good plan. Sorry. (quoted in full) ~Marcello Calbucci

Jason brought up many valid points about spam and the need for better search results. But I was disappointed that each point he made felt like a tailor-made opportunity to mention Mahalo. I think Winer was right to call him out. ~The Nordquist Blog

The people are speaking and I’m not convinced Jason will hear or understand – since understanding is as much a part of this as hearing is. Ultimately, rock solid business plans can only go as far as the trust of the user base and their ability to “buy in”. That’s my theory anyway.

Gnomedex Update: The spat has become known as being “Winered”. Dave challenges Jason and Jason counters. My additional contribution to this spat is only to ask Jason what he expected from Gnomedex. This is a user-centric, anti-establishment bloggers conference. You expect a free pass? Come on, mate!

Aaron Brazell

Live from Ravens Training Camp

I’m leaving tomorrow for Gnomedex so I don’t anticipate any last minute blogging. Instead, I’ll leave you with a video cast that I produced today from Ravens Training Camp in Westminster, MD for my Suicide Fan weekly sports podcast. For those of you who are sports fans, I hope you enjoy. For everyone else, well… Gnomedex is on Thursday and I’m sure I’ll be posting things you’ll want to read.


Aaron Brazell

Your Resumé is Causing Hiring Companies to Laugh at You

You know that companies are laughing at you right now, don’t you? It’s true. For a variety of reasons, you shoot for the moon and hope for the stars and hope that someone will be stupid enough to hire you. Why? Lots of reasons but it boils down to five main reasons.

You Didn’t Read the Job Requisition

It’s true. I get resumés all the time for positions at b5media and it’s apparent that the job posting and requirements were not read. It’s nice that you have 8 years of Java/J2EE experience, but if we are soliciting for a PHP developer, your experience doesn’t matter to me.

My Advice: Read through the job posting. If you feel like you have comparable experience, then apply. What do I mean? I mean that Java positions and .NET positions, while they are good experience for many companies, do not compare with people who do web scripting. This is a completely different ballgame and requires a different set of skills. If I ask for a PHP developer, I may be willing to talk to an ASP or Ruby developer. You’ll have to convince me, though, on Java or .NET. Likewise, if I advertise for a Linux engineer, we are looking for a semblance of Unix/Linux experience. Windows Server 2003 is helpful in some environments, but we know that you’re not qualified for a Linux position if the only server experience you have is in a Windows environment.

You Cite an MCSE as a Qualification

Many companies do still want MCSE’s. I’m not quite sure why because it’s a piece of paper that demonstrates no real world experience. Companies are more impressed by demonstrated experience in your environment than a piece of paper that only demonstrates that you had the wherewithal and money to buy a piece of paper.

MCSE means nothing in the real world. It’s great that you have an understanding of Active Directory. But can you make Active Directory dance? Have you transitioned from competent Active Directory admin to Active Directory ninja? Can you document verifiable accomplishments.

My Advice: Make sure that you can provide bullet point accomplishments. Your accomplishments are more worthwhile to a hiring manager than your piece of paper. Make me see that you are qualified for the position you applied for – don’t just tell me you are.

Your Resumé is Irrelevant

One thing I’ve learned from doing my share of job searches is to have a relevant resume for every sector you want to work in. As a hiring manager, I really don’t want to see how much help desk support you have if I’m recruiting for a development job. It’s obvious you are too lazy to actually tell me why I should hire you. In these cases, I delete your resume. I don’t hold on to it for further consideration later. I don’t pass it on to other hiring managers that might be able to use your skillset.

My Advice: Stay relevant. Tell the hiring manager why he should hire you with a resumé that is pertinent to the job you’re applying for. Include a cover letter that is sufficiently balanced between formal and informal so that the manager can read and have a good understanding of who you are outside of your resumé. I personally have three different slightly different resumés. I have one for development, one for systems and one for management. Take your time when applying and send the right one.

You Don’t Know Who You’re Talking To

In most cases, the company that is hiring has identified themselves. You have Google. You have blog searching. You have a variety of different ways of finding out about the company you are applying to. But you don’t use any of these tools. You don’t even find out what the company’s corporate website is. You haven’t taken the time to do your homework and find out if this is the kind of company you actually want to work for. Your laziness has been demonstrated once again.

For instance, at b5media, we make no secret that we are a blog network and that we’re proudly powered by WordPress. While having a blog and using WordPress are not things we require of our employees, it sure is nice if the candidate knows what blogs and WordPress are. It’s sort of important for our business.

My Advice: Use the tools at your disposal to formulate your resumé. Find out who you’re applying to. If you want to apply at b5media, you should probably know what a blog is. On a technical level, understanding of WordPress is fairly important. Make sure that if you’re applying as a junior developer at a non-profit organization, chances are you’re going to end up with junior developer pay with senior developer responsibilities and experience. Know who you’re dealing with before you go in.

Your Resumé is longer than two pages and Is Filled with Fluff

Yes, contrary to popular belief, we hiring managers expect that if you list every technology in the book, that you are able and willing to use them. However, we also know when people are stuffing their resumés with keywords. I know you were taught to do this by employment coaches and universities instructing you on how to search for a job. It’s really a bunch of hogwash though because we know. Let me repeat that: We Know!

We’re also not impressed by long resumés. We don’t have time to go through 4 pages of fluff to see if we can find the stuff we need to know in your resumé. It’s not a good way to win brownie points with me if you’re wasting my time.

My Advice: Recognize that very few people know everything and that you’re probably not the exception to the rule. It’s okay! Really! I’m not impressed by know-it-all’s anyways. However, your ability to distill a job requisition and figure out what we need to know without making us tell you is a good sign. You can get a lot of mileage out of a relatively short resumé that actually does hit the keywords we are looking for. (Hint: Refer to point #4 for helpful information gathering tips).

See? It’s important for your future and career to understand these points. I’m betting if more people understood these things, unemployment would be lower and you’d have a job that you really love. We want to hire those kinds of people. We want to hire you if you become that guy (or girl). It takes some effort but whoever thought that having a perfect situation without putting out the effort should be the norm, was smoking something.

At b5media, we want to hire the best of the best. Mark Jaquith and Brian Layman were both hired because they really fit everything I said above. Plus, it was easy to know about them because they blog, they use and develop on WordPress, they have the skillsets we needed for their positions.

Chad was hired because he has a reputation as a great ad sales guy and thats what he does.

I was hired, not because I have an MCSE (I don’t!) or a Computer Science degree from University of Maryland (again, I don’t even have a degree), but because I understood the company, the technology and the platform – all very critical for my job.

We have several tech jobs available right now. We’re hiring a Systems Engineer with Unix and architecture experience. This is not a gig, it’s full time, so if you’re not ready to quit your job, don’t apply. We’re hiring a support person, ideally in Toronto, but open to virtual support too. This is for blogger and channel editor support. It does require an understanding of WordPress.

I really want to find the right people, so if you are the right person and you can meet the above points, send me your resume at aaron [at] b5media [dot] com. :-)