LinkedIn and the dangers of A-B Testing

LinkedIn brags about their use of A-B testing.1

Here is a fucking clue, guys. When you vary where a mail header (from:2, to:, subject: line, etc.), you bypass peoples’ mail filters and of course e-mail open rates will test higher.

Fuck you, LinkedIn

So many companies don’t know the limits of analytics. To those idiot business analysts that are data-driven instead of data-informed: please DIAF. ktnxbai!


  1. Never mind the fact that LinkedIn took years to go viral and only after Reid Hoffman became on Tagged’s Board of Directors. 
  2. invitations@linkedin.com, member@linkedin.com, invitations-noreply@linkedin.com, communication@linkedin.com, messages-noreply@linkedin.com, updates@linkedin.com, communication@linkedin.com, connections@linkedin.com, … 

Thoughts on Brendan Eich’s departure

(Disclaimer: None of the views here are those of the Wikimedia Foundation.)

Brendan Eich, creator of Javascript, resigned as CEO of Mozilla mostly over his unrepenting anti-gay views.

I must admit a brief bit of schadenfreude because I predicted that this change would happen on Prop 8 specifically. The only thing that surprises me from those six-year-old articles is the quickness of the sea change around this issue.Continue reading about Eich and other thoughts after the jump

The peering story

At my first startup, I had a CTO, who was a year younger than me, used to tell me stories of his time at UUNET and what whiney little cheap turds most of the first generation dotCom billionaires were before their tiny little ISP’s sold for hundreds of millions.

This story isn’t about that.

As a Korean, he was asked to set up the asian version of UUnet. Back then Korea’s networking should have been trivial as its a peninsula and most of the population lives in or around a single city, Seoul. Instead it was terrible because none of the Korean networking companies would set up peering points with each other. “See,” he told me, “When you need to connect two networks to each other, you have to set these up, and while they’re free to run, they’re costly to build. How do you decide who pays for the point?”

You might think 50-50 is fair and propose that. If you’re a new player in this space, since you’re the one asking to set up these points, you probably benefit more than network you are trying to pair up with so they expect you to pay all or most of it. You get nowhere with this offer. This is what happened to him.

Korea wasn’t the powerhouse Internet trendsetter they are today. I remember, back then it was often faster to connect to a US site then to another Korean one because your packets to the latter would have to go through peering in the US since there wasn’t any in Korea. In other words, to talk to your neighbor, your message would be sent from Korea, across the Pacific to the US, and then back across the Pacific to Korea. This was the Korean Internet in the early-mid 90’s, all because of a lack of peering there.

On a lark, a friend of his wanted to set up a BBS or something and he dropped a server on his network for his friend to use for free.

Then one day, months later, companies that had previously refused to peer up were contacting him to peer up. As I’ve outlined just now, being the asker is a huge concession in the negotiation. He wondered what changed and looked at his traffic. It turned out that his friend’s BBS or something had become hugely popular in Korea and a lot of that network’s customers were demanding better service to it.

The lesson here is if you have what the other party wants, you hold the cards and the other side has to make the concession.

I bring this story up when I have to explain a basic business principle to others to understand what is going on.

Want to understand why Office is finally out on iOS? Look no further than the peering story.

Mailing list talk has consequences

One of my engineers was leaving the building for a late lunch and held the door open for me and another director. Before we parted, we had a short chat in the doorway about approvals on a purchase order.

“Hey, I need to see your ID!” Building security yelled at us.

“Huh? What?” H— replied?

“That’s the new policy. I need to ask to see everyone’s keycard.”

“It must be related to that mailing list thread.” I told H—, matter-of-factly. (For over a week now, an internal mailing list thread has been going on about building security. I stopped reading when someone suggested that the only way to solve this was to install lasers to detect when two people enter with one card, and another one argued that we should just make an HR policy to fire anyone who lets anyone in without proper ID. The reason I stopped was because neither post was trolling us in jest.)

The building security guy continued indignantly, “Even if I know you, even if you’re a manager—and I know you two are managers. L—, the head of the company, said I must to ask for your ID or call her down to greet you in the lobby.” (Sidenote: L— is not the head of the company. On the other hand, poor L— suggested on the mailing list that any solution hopeless because building security is seriously underpaid by the owners, perhaps to the point of illegality.)

I joked, “Even if I thought the discussion that touched off this policy was a waste of everyone’s time?”

Building security apparently has about as much humor as our company mailing list. So I reluctantly dug through my wallet and and pulled out a blank white piece of plastic, that may or may not have been my car parking card—they’re identical and I do not have an RFID reader on my person.

He let me through anyway.

That’s good, because to this day I do not know the average airspeed of an unladen swallow.

Role models, mistakes, and learning

On the way to work this morning, M— mentioned two contrasted successful people in public relations. She said, “When I think of X and compare him to Y, I’d rather take Y as a role model. Do you have any role models?”

*Do I? Feynman? Wozniak? Jobs? Mayer?* I paused for a long time.

“No,” I said.

M— laughed.Continue reading

Some of your clients are clearly misogynist tourists

She complains, “There’s just no appreciation on their end. I got them ___, and they’re still trying to tell me how to do my job. It’s so frustrating. I have clients that I feel I’m under-servicing and this one takes up all my time. They have a low retainer, but they act like they own me. That’s the last time I let them talk me down on my retainer.”

“You shouldn’t have let that happen so you shouldn’t be surprised.”

“How so?”

“I once visited Venice when I was a kid. Many stores didn’t have prices, but some of the stores did. No matter which, you didn’t have to pay the listed prices — there was an expectation that you could haggle over the price.”

“And?”

“Well with this client: they don’t know your field so they don’t know what the expectation is. **You** set that. Letting yourself get talked down on that amount is like buying something in Venice. Imagine if we were in the United States, and someone walked into your store and said, ‘Hey, I know it says it cost $15, but how about I give $10?’”

She laughs.

“Exactly! The only place you can do that here is at a car dealership. If you treated their counteroffer like you just treated this hypothetical, they would have learned to go somewhere else and be someone else’s problem, or deal with you on the terms you set. When you created your own business, it was because you didn’t want companies to feel they owned you, and you wanted to be free to be honest with them. You need to set those terms down in this way.”

“Yeah, they said that they wanted _____ in the long term but didn’t have enough money right now, so they wanted a two month contract at a lower rate to try it out. I should have known they never really valued the work I do.”

“That’s another thing right there! Imagine, I was single right now and asking you out. What if I told you, ‘Hey, I really want have a committed relationship and get married someday. Why don’t we fuck so I can try you out?’ Would you?”

“When you put it that way, definitely not.”

“Exactly.”

The fundraising team is happy today

Today was the first official UTC day of the fundraiser, [the previous days were tests][fundraiser 2012]. This year they’ve decided to only run it in 5 english speaking countries in December with the rest of the world to follow in April (to make translations, etc. to not be [bottlenecked on testing][2012 tests]).

Fundraiser statistics - Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Fundraiser this year and the previous two years. See http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Special:FundraiserStatistics.

If you can’t read the graph, they’re on track to have their first $2 million revenue day in history. 🙂

Thanks to all of you who donated and support Wikipedia.

Time to go up to the 6th floor and mooch the Fundraiser first-day cake. 🙂

[fundraiser 2012]: http://terrychay.com/article/wikipedia-2012-fundraiser.shtml “Wikipedia 2012 Fundraiser”
[2012 tests]: http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fundraising_2012/We_Need_A_Breakthrough “Fundraising 2012/ We Need A Breakthrough—Meta Wiki”

Wikipedia 2012 Fundraiser

Wikimedia is gearing up for the 2012 fundraiser that pays my salary. Here are the banners they seem to be testing today.

2012 Fundraising banner test (11/15 featured article)

Today’s featured article on Wikipedia, logged out version. Mouseover for the flyout.

Pretty cool, team! Though, I’ll be missing that double-take of people on the street when they recognize my co-workers, but don’t quite remember from where. 😉

(Yes, the fundraising engineering team *technically* reports to me, but all I am is a useless middle-management PHB.)

The only people who read TechCrunch are your competitors

> I’m playing video games and drinking champagne because after all the press I got, the only thing my client can say is “Aww. No TechCrunch? Is it too late to give them an exclusive?” [FML][]

I’ll repeat a rant I first said five years ago to a CTO friend told me his co-founder and CEO was obsessed with getting on TechCrunch.

“Why the f— does anyone want to be on TechCrunch? The only people who read TechCrunch are your goddamn competitors. Think of your product, do your customers even know WTF TechCrunch is, let alone read it?”

No. Fucking. Way.

TechCrunch for Humans

This is what TechCrunch looks like to a normal human being

Anyone who gives a shit about being on TechCrunch is someone sending a big [signal][wp signalling] that they don’t give a shit about their customer, or that their **real** customer is their investors who are stupid enough to sink money in that person’s latest grift. Anyone who wants to be on TechCrunch has a a big inferiority complex and values their ego more than their business.

> It’s okay I’m enjoying killing zombies with my friends who don’t even know what the fuck a TechCrunch is, thank God!

More dead zombies, less ‘Crunch.

[FML]: http://www.fmylife.com “F— My Life”
[wp signalling]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signalling_(economics) “Signalling (economics)—Wikipedia”