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How to Get the Most Out of Meetings

21 May

Taking meetings with smart people is extremely valuable. There’s no faster way (that I’ve found) to learn and build a relationship.

This comes with a catch. Busy people are, well, busy. Meetings with the busiest of people tend to last 10-30 minutes – this doesn’t give you a lot of time to ask about whatever it is you want to know.

While at lunch with the awesome Scott Britton, I talked through the basic question framework I use when meeting a busy person. I like to learn as much as I can in a short period of time, then spend the rest of a meeting building a relationship. In general, I’ve found the less you talk about business and the more you talk about stuff you both care about (women, careers, ideas, interests, whatever), the better relationship you have.

Let’s see this in action. If I wanted to learn about running a sales team, here’s what I’d ask:

1. What’s the 80/20 I should know about sales? What if you had to boil it down to 2-3 things?

2. What do you wish you knew when you started running a sales team? Why those things specifically?

3. If you were in my position now, what would you focus on for the first week? First month? First 6 month?

4. At what point would you re-evaluate how things are working? What metrics would you look for in doing such an evaluation?

Asking these few questions will take you right to the heart of whatever you want to know, and have the added benefit of nearly always sounding intelligent. If you can follow these basic questions with more specific ones based on their answers, boom. You’re suddenly impressive!

The Easiest Way for Wikipedia to Make Money

24 Apr

“Nonprofits that create a transformational societal impact like Wikipedia often go deeper into the negative direction of economic impact the bigger they get, because it takes more donation dollars to support their growth.”          - Max Marmer (via HBR)

Wikipedia should start putting affiliate book links in the Bibliography/External Links portion of many of their information pages. On the Ruby on Rails page, there are links to 7 different programming books in the Bibliography. All links go to some catalogue or other listing of the book – how much more valuable would a link to an Amazon page be? If I’m looking at the Wikipedia page, it would seem that I am interested enough in the topic that I may consider buying a book about Ruby on Rails. Putting an affiliate link in the bibliography doesn’t detract from my experience with Wikipedia in any way, and would lead me to a page where I can see reviews from others who have gone through the book.

Sure, this could lead to complications and gaming the system, though I believe those could easily be combatted by only allowing certain users to post affiliate links. Or, list all books on the topic with at least a 4 star rating and 20 reviews on Amazon – something along those lines. Either way, the potential for revenue is enormous. Wikipedia requires $10m a year to operate (source). With Amazon affiliate fees ranging between 4-8.5% based on sales volume, Wikipedia could fund and grow their operations just by implementing this relatively simple program. Here’s the math (with very conservative assumptions) on their potential revenue:

With 340 million visitors each month, assuming 15% of those page views are on topics that would work well with this, that’s 51 million visitors reading a topical page each month. Say only 20% of those individuals are interested in learning more about a topic, and the other 80% are just brushing up on their knowledge – 10,200,000 engaged and interested visitors each month. Of that, if only 5% were interested in buying a book, we have 510,000 potential purchasers. At an 8% affiliate commission – and assuming an average price of $15 per book – Wikipedia is looking at $612,000 in monthly revenue from something that is none too difficult to implement. That covers more than 60% of their annual operating costs!

I commend other organizations like who are working on ways to become self-sustaining. Charles Best, the founder of DonorsChoose, has made sustainability his mission by implementing an affiliate program for others who drive donations to their site, and by asking for an (optional) percentage of each donation to towards covering operational costs. We need organizations like Wikipedia and DonorsChoose. The more self-sustaining they are, the better they can fulfill their mission.

What do you think? Would this make sense for them to do? How else could they make money without negatively impacting the user experience?

How to Find Anyone’s Email

27 Sep

I recently figured out a way to use a service, Rapportive, to find almost anyone’s email who has a profile a social network. Rapportive is a free plugin for Gmail that replaces Gmail ads with information about the person you are emailing (or received a message from). It gives links to various social profiles, along with a picture they lift from one of the various social networks. Recently, I figured out how to get anyone’s email address using Rapportive.

Once the application is installed, open up a new message. Then, type in some email combinations you think are likely that the individual will have. Below, I tried


That’s not the correct email address, as you can tell by the “?” in the Rapportive image screen. Also, the email did not return any social profiles that were registered with that email address. Let’s try something else..


Got it! This is an easy way to find someone’s email address that you may not have been able to find using Google. Just be sure you use this intelligently, and don’t spam. For high profile individuals, it’s always best to get an introduction. I use this when I want to meet someone interesting who may not have a strong online presence, and it’s allowed me to meet with some very interesting people.