Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Marriage calculations

Today we are launching a fascinating marriage calculator. Based on the work of a Wharton professor using US Census data,it allows users to see the current (and historical) divorce rates for people that statistically "look like them." In addition, it estimates the divorce rate for your peer group over the next 5 years.

I am fascinated by demographics. Play around with the calculator a bit and you will see big swings in the results based on age and education.

My own numbers are as follows: My peer group has a 22% divorce rate and I have a 5% chance of divorcing in the next 5 years.

My wife's numbers are 17% with a 5% chance of divorcing. Five percent is about average in terms of our chances over the next 5 years. Hey, we are average!!!

You can also go back in time - for example, I have a friend who married very young. If I calculate his "score" five years into his marriage, at that time he had an 18% chance of getting divorced in the next 5 years and about 10% of people like him had already divorced. Tough odds. Unfortunately, my friend divorced in his fifth year of marriage as well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Is it time to move all-in to CDs?


If you believe it is "always darkest just before the dawn," then the stock market is clearly close to a sunrise. It has been a brutal few months,with many mutual funds down 30$ to 45% for the year!!! To lose almost one-half of your value in a short period of time sounds brutal - and it has been for me anyway.

I know that rationally, I shouldn't even look at my 401(k), as I am years from retirement, but I can't help myself, It is depressing!

After years at Bankrate, I know a bit about CDs - perhaps I should just dump my savings into them! 4.5% sounds terrible,until you compare it to -40%!!!

This blog on CDs and investing had a depressing poll - Where is the economy going in 2010? I gotta be honest,I selected "I believe unemployment will increase, the stock market will fall further and we will approach a depression."


Usually, when things lookthe bleakest, that is the time to buy. When is that? Now,or a year from now?

Friday, October 31, 2008

What nationality is Wal*Mart?

So I own a Toyota. Toyota is headquartered in Japan,yet it has a substantial US presence.

from Wikipedia:

United States employees and investments
Toyota directly employed around 34,675 people in the United States, invested USD $15.5 billion, produced 1.2 million vehicles using US and foreign auto parts, sold 2.54 million vehicles, and donated USD $340 million to nonprofits. [34] It has in total 10 plants, USD $2.9 billion per year payroll, purchased USD $28 billion in parts and supplies from 30 states. It created around 386,000 jobs in the United States as result of Toyota's spending and demand from suppliers.

But most people wouldn't consider it a "US" company - would you?

Bill Bishop wrote the following about traditional "US" companies rooting for the Chinese Olympic teams

No ‘Home Team’ For U.S. multinationals
Many U.S. multinationals have a big presence in Beijing. Some, like Coca-Cola (see an earlier post on their Beijing Olympic market efforts here and McDonald’s, are Olympics sponsors.

While from a business perspective I understand why they are doing it, as an American I find viscerally strange to see U.S. corporate icons rooting for the Chinese team. McDonald’s is running ads with the slogan “Cheering for the Chinese team 24 hours a day,” and in at least one Beijing Wal-Mart (not an Olympic sponsor) employees wear shirts with slogans supporting the Chinese team.

What these companies are doing is necessary to be successful in the China market. But it does, to me at least, bring home the point that at least some of these American corporate icons don’t seem to have a home team anymore.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Feeling lonely?

Feeling lonely? Don't talk to enough people during the day? Wish more people called you?

Start a business.

We get 5-7 telemarketing calls a day. All of them ask/whine/beg/demand to talk to the owner. At first I (innocently) took most of them (we are a small company, no "screening" here!).

They almost always want to sell us something we don't need - a satellite dish for TV (we are a business?), credit card processing (it took too much time getting our current one to work) or Miami Heat tickets (if cold calling a tiny Internet company 90 miles from Miami is your best sales lead, I wish I could short the Heat...).

Once a month a collector calls, looking for Mrs X - apparently someone had this number and several companies would really like to speak with her. They never believe that this is a business phone now, apparently pretending that the number changed is a common scam (really? amazing!).

My current favorite call comes from AT&T. The caller ID always says "Provo UT - (801) 221-2893" or similar (I am from the rural south and sound like it, so I can never speak ill about someones accent, but it seems safe to say the callers don't sound like they are calling from Utah, a state I have spent much time in). When you answer, there is always a telltale pause, as some gremlin / outbound dialing machine connects your live voice to someone in a huge telemarketing center... "My I speak to the owner? this is X from AT&T." He tries to sell us some modification to our phone service, which we don't need and don't want. I always ask him to take me off of the calling list, at which point he/she hangs up on me. The number is always disconnected if you try a call back. This is annoying.

Is it really AT&T? Who knows? They clearly say they are. Perhaps is is some rogue vendor. If it is AT&T, the people charged with monitoring their outbound sales efforts suck at their jobs.

We are going to stop answering these calls.

If you are selling a product via the phone, I would be looking (hard) for a new delivery mechanism. You may have the greatest product in the world, but you can't sell it if people don't answer. I believe that day is coming... The bad guys are winning.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Sushi Nazi(s)

I'll show my country-bumpkin ways by howling at this article in the WSJ today - Sushi Bullies.

My favorite part, this series of quotes

Geri-Ayn Gaul had her first encounter with a raw-fish autocrat in August at Ino, in San Francisco. First, she tried to add some soy sauce to her seaweed salad. Big mistake. Chef Noboru Inoue scolded her, she says, telling her, "No, no, no. No soy sauce!" Then, she had the temerity to scrape some wasabi off a piece of sushi, because she doesn't like spicy food. The chef's response, she says: "'No. It needs the wasabi.'" She obeyed, and choked down the fish.

"I was so nervous, I spilled my miso soup," says Ms. Gaul, whose meal for two, with no alcohol, cost $75 -- before tip.

So, let me get this straight. You Geri-Ayn are the customer. You know you don't like wasabi. Yet because you are "ordered" to do so by the chef, you choke it down and pay $75 for the privilege?

Is it just me, or is this some version of "the chef has no clothes?" I understand that the chef is an expert and we should possibly defer to them, but at all times and in all ways? This is silly.

Would you buy - and wear - something you hate just because the designer told you to? Would you buy an ugly house because the architect said to?

This is 100% about being in the club, the hazing is the price you pay to get into the fraternity. It has nothing to do with food, everything to do with feeling like you belong.

Which is ok. I may have to go next time I'm in California. I like to belong too!

Monday, October 13, 2008

What's that smell?

Its fear.

Apparently a lot of people I know (me included!) had money in the stock market. Money that was there (and theirs!) a month ago and now sadly, 40%+ is gone.

I have heard friends and friends of friends say that they are no longer going on vacation/buying a new car/purchasing that cabin on the lake/eating out (?!).

With the market falling everyday, and the cable pundits screaming "don't sell," or "sell if you ever want to see your money again - or in the next 5 years," or "12 more days like today and the Dow will be zero," it is easy to see why many Americans are confused and more than a little panicked.

My favorite quotes so far came from a WSJ article:

Investors seem, above all, to be in a state of shock, bludgeoned into paralysis by the market's astonishing volatility. How is Theodore Aronson, partner at Aronson + Johnson + Ortiz LP, a Philadelphia money manager overseeing some $15 billion, holding up in the bear market? "We have 101 clients and almost as many consultants representing them," he says, "and we've had virtually no calls, only a handful." Most of the financial planners I have spoken with around the country have told me much the same thing: Their phones are not ringing, and very few of their clients have even asked for reassurance. The entire nation, it seems, is in the grip of what psychologists call "the disposition effect," or an inability to confront financial losses. The natural way to palliate the pain of losing money is by refusing to recognize exactly how badly your portfolio has been damaged. A few weeks ago, investors were gasping; now, en masse, they seem to have gone numb.

In my family we have a saying: "Ignore it - it will go away." Annoyingly, it doesn't work, but each of us have tried (and failed) to go with this advice on one occasion or another.

Apparently our family saying has been adopted by the country?

A friend's mother announced she wasn't reviewing her brokerage statements "for a while." Just wasn't going to look. If only it were that easy?!

What are you doing? Not content to sit and watch,I am at least generating some commissions. I shifted much of my beleaguered portfolio out of weaker stocks and into high dividend paying blue chips, beaten down in the frenzy of last week (best example? swapping Tim Horton(THI), the Canadian donut shop for GE, with its 7% yield. Call me crazy.)

Also, I having been buying my old friend Berkshire (BRK.B). Buffett has got to be going nuts in this market - why not having the world's best picking stocks for you? I have been a big fan of his since 1991 - when as a graduation gift, a friend got me the collected ramblings of Warren's shareholder letters. Amazing stuff. He hasn't let me down yet!

Monday, September 15, 2008

"The new phone book is here!"

Few of us ever got as excited as Steve Martin's character did in The Jerk at the arrival of the new phone book (here is the scene recreated in the Sims!?).

That said, for years we have dutifully brought in the new phone book and recycled out the old one.

Not this year. This year, I recycled it the day it arrived.

What's the point in keeping it? We never use it.

How much longer will they keep printing them? If I need a number, I can go online and get it easier and quicker. Not at a computer? Google's free service (1-800-GOOG-411) is just as good as the "411 and more" service provided by my cellphone carrier - and it is free.

When is the last time you actually saw a print encyclopedia? (don't count garage sales!). An essential part of every book report I ever did, the encyclopedia was the guilty purchase of middle-class parents in the '60s and '70s ("You want you child do be smart, don't you Mrs. Jones?"). This staple of my childhood is nowhere to be found today...

How long 'til phone books are in the same boat?

(One interesting sidenote - in our neighborhood, by my count by far the #1 advertisers in the Yellowpages are attorneys who handle personal injury cases.... what does that say about the current demos of phone books? Or at least my part of the world?)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Shes cheating on herself....

There is a very special community on our spectacular divorce site. (Well, we think its spectacular).

Anyway, we do enjoy a terrific community of users. We regularly see difficult, real world issues - abandonment, cheating, the breakdown of marriages. Tough stuff. We try to be respectful in the way we handle everything - it is what people deserve and at the end of the day, these are people's lives!

A recent post caught my eye is being unusual and something that could only happen in today's modern world. A woman's husband is cheating on her - but with her! I'll let her describe the situation.

We wish the family well - and hope things work out for them.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chrome - Google's new browser

I have been playing around with Chrome, Google's new browser.

First, like other Google products I use, I like it.  So far my favorite aspect is that its super sleek design gets more of a page above the fold, which I think is important.  You could always do this with other browsers, but it was hard, not the default, and still not as small as this.  It seems designed to be super-fast (also a huge win to me). 

One thing - it doesn't accept the Google toolbar? (I know, this would be expanding the area I thought was too big on other browsers, but).  That seems um, super stupid.....  What if I want to see page rank, etc? I'm trying to picture the conversation at Google justifying that ("People don't need Page Rank or one-click access to Google Maps, lets just ship the thing, and if enough complain, we can add it later...")


Friday, August 22, 2008

testing,testing, testing

The best part of the Web is that unlike retail or newspapers or direct mail etc, you can test new ideas super fast / cheap / easy. You don't have to move concrete or reshoot an ad or anything. In a few hours we can almost totally redo big parts of our site.

Of course, the corollary is that the worst part of the Web is that unlike retail or newspapers or direct mail, etc., you can test new ideas super fast / cheap / easy.

Got an idea? lets throw it up and see what happens. It is tough to stay focused, stay disciplined, measure and learn from it. Especially when you need something fixed NOW.

Having worked with companies online since, um, 1993 (oooof), I believe one of the the dirty secrets of the Web is most companies don't test ad positions, navigation, images, etc. It is "set it and forget it!!!"

We are seeing good to great conversions from our new landing page.

All comments welcome and appreciated!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Really odd prenups!

I Don't if You Do: From Pets to Smoking, Prenups Contain Almost Anything

read more | digg story

Woman's Day

We are seeing a nice fit with our new partnership with Woman's Day Online .

Check out the latest article: divorce360 on Woman's Day Online. The article, 10 Habits of Happy Couples, is an interesting read. Not sure I'm hitting all 10 at home....

Friday, August 15, 2008

Most popular states for divorce360.com traffic

I love statistics and data. Here are the states that have contributed the most traffic to our site...

Traffic rank (population rank)

1. California (1)
2. New York (3)
3. Texas (2)
4. Florida (4)
5. Pennsylvania (6)
6. Illinois (5)
7. Georgia (9)
8. Ohio (7)
9. North Carolina (10)
10. Virginia (12)

No huge surprises, but interesting. next I'll include % of divorces reported by state....

Thursday, August 14, 2008

5 weeks in paris!

I read a number of blogs - most are VCs / investing / Web-SEO type stuff. But one that I enjoy that is very untraditional for me is Gotham Gal, a fine writer and wife of uber VC Fred Wilson.

I like her blog because it is a sort of sneak peek into her life - a life different than my own in many ways, but also similar (both our families seem to eat out a lot, although they seem to go to nicer places than we do~!). Also, she seems to very open in her blogs - something I have struggled with a bit.

GG and family spent about 5 weeks in Paris this summer. If you like Paris (and I do) or if you just like traveling, the entries make for interesting reading. They rent an apartment, they (sort of) start a fire, shop, eat out, etc.

Their adventure got me thinking - if I could take off a month with the family and live anywhere, where would I want to live? A big European city-London, Paris, Rome? A city in the Far East-Beijing, Sidney, Hong Kong, Saigon? Cape Town? Somewhere closer to home-Toronto, New York, LA? Something off-the-beaten-path-Wyoming, Arkansas, Alaska? Something way-off-the-beaten-path rural Mexico, Patagonia? Month-long drive across the USA?

I'm still thinking......

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Woman's day

We have a new content distribution deal with the terrific Woman's Day Magazine web site (sample divorce360 story here). Also, check out this article on "gravity-defying homes." How cool is #5??! (I like #8 too!)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Got No Game

Twitter is a fascinating product. If you haven't heard of it (really?), it allows people to post short micro-blogs from a cellphone, blackberry, the Web, etc. The classic "Twitter is so useful story" is the guy who posts "I'm in INSERT CITY, where can I find some good sushi?" and they got 10 thoughtful responses/suggestions..... I think of it as sort of a group IM.

It is growing at a crazy pace, all the cool kids on the Internet claim to be addicts and it has the kind of media buzz/attention that the rest of us dream of.

I have tried Twitter, but to be honest, when it works for me (which is less than you would think, given its popularity), the experience is not that great.

I Twitter poorly. I got no game.

I'm sometimes funny, I am an OK writer, but I have no, um, zip on Twitter. No gift for Twitter gab. A little dry. Nothing going on. Ugh. Also, most of my real-world friends either don't use it or do use it even more sporadically than I do. I can see that if you are young and in San Francisco that Twitter would be tons of fun ("big party at Zeke's"), unfortunately (or fortunately) I am neither.

On Twitter you can follow the posts (tweets) of other Twitter users. I follow an odd mix of people - tech bloggers, VCs, friends from previous jobs, crazies, people that follow me. My favorite person that I follow is the Zappos CEO, Tony. He keeps this semi-insane schedule that makes me feel better about my own. He's funny, he has an interesting life, he is the CEO of a cool company that I actually use, he lives in Vegas, a town I know semi-well, he posts about the right amount (enough-to-keep-you-interested-but-not-so-much-you-get-burned-out). But I don't know him, so I'm not sure even he can keep my interest forever.

It does feel occasionally creepy to know someone's sked when you don't know them - I know that Tony, the Zappos guy had a big party over the 4th, that he was in NYC for a day a few weeks ago, etc. I don't post my own schedule online as I think that it feels like advertising you are out of town, sort of "hey - go steal my stuff!" but I'm clearly in the minority (see here, here). This is something reporters, athletes, sportscasters and TV anchors have had to deal with for years (all of whom have way more stuff to steal than me), so I suspect I'm just being silly/paranoid.

I think "courtesy" could kill twitter. (if their IT doesn't first - when you have a Facebook group dedicated to your downtime, when super-influential tech bloggers like Michael Arrington tweet "jesus twitter sucks" it seems safe to say it isn't going well technology-wise). Courtesy dictates that in general, you should follow people that follow you - yet I get probably 2-5 follows a day (I suspect the top twitter'ers get 100s/day or 1,000s) from people that are using the time-tested method of following everyone they possibly can, in the hopes that a small percentage will follow them - and an even smaller percentage will go to their site, buy their product, whatever.

full disclosure - we do this a bit. We have been testing a twitterfeed of our site articles at twitter.com/d360. It is working ok, but not driving much traffic, so I'm not yet convinced it is worth the effort (granted, the effort is minimal)....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Closing in on 10,000 members...

We have about 8,900 members of our site, divorce360.com. At our current rate of adds, we should hit 10,000 in July. We should commemorate such a milestone, but how? Any ideas?

PS - if you havent already, join today!

Madonna divorcing?

According to one study, Catholics divorce at a lower rate than the general population....

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Feeding the Fussies

So a few months ago, we had a family over for a little BBQ. Hey, it’s Florida, so we can eat out and throw the kids in the pool 365 days a year. So I bust out the Weber (I’m a purist – charcoal only!) and start grilling.

No cook here, but I can grill the big three (“B3”) - chicken, burgers and ‘dogs - with the best of ‘em. So I am about 5 minutes into the prep and the Guest Mom (no names, call me a wuss!) sidles over and asks what I am doing.

I don’t really know her well, so I laugh and announce I am (trying) to prepare the grill the “B3.”

It turns out her kids don’t eat any of those.

And by the way, Guest Dad wants his burger “Charred on the outside, but super rare” (is that even possible? Given my very basic grilling skills, the answer is no!). Guest Mom wants her chicken “Well-cooked, to avoid diseases, but not overcooked”?! Really? Who doesn’t?

He wants Becks beer. Sorry. We have both kinds of beer - Bud and Bud Light.

One kid wants Motts Apple juice (only Motts! Is he related to them or something?).

I smile and nod politely, but inside I’m thinking “How soon can I show these tools the door?” Of course, no doors were shown in the name of marital harmony.

Next were the sides – unfortunately my daughter made the salad with – horrors – dressing already on it (not on the side), which was the cause of great consternation and concern. One of their kids wouldn’t eat tomatoes that had touched another food (and the tomatoes were nuzzling some onions I think). And of course, the chips weren’t “Baked.”

The condiments were a disaster – no fat free mayonnaise, wrong brand of ketchup (I tore the label off in an attempt to fool the kid) and I think we were without some fancy mustard. Yellow only.

We entertain enough to know this is a onetime thing (literally), but…. Whatever happened to manners? Are our kids growing up in a world where their EVERY whim is law? (7-up not Sprite? No chocolate chips? Yes, dear, Daddy is on it!) .


I swear – If you invite me to your home, we will be 10 minutes late, we will bring you little gift as a thank you for having us over and we will not whine. At all.

Unless you serve Hunts.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Comcast 2.0


Ok, so 4 hours after blogging my semi-humorous attempt to "chat" with Comcast customer service, i got a blog comment from....

Comcast customer service. "Call us, happy to help." (read for yourself, below)

I did and they were.

Literally one day later - and one service call later - my Internet works fantastic. The power of the blog! Who knew?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Preemptive strike! Comcast has a new way to deal with customers

I am very sympathetic to customer service / tech support reps. I suspect it is a thankless job.

I am our family "tech" and have spent many an hour hooking up my relatives stuff: Tivo's, Ipods, computers, routers, etc. It is not always easy to explain things to them over the phone (“O.K. on the Tivo remote, press the ‘thumbs up’ button three times…”) - I have learned this the hard way!!

Comcast supplies my home Internet connection. It has been a bit buggy for the past month or so - not a huge deal, but annoying. It just drops out for a few minutes every 10-15 minutes or so. While watching TV last night, I thought I would see if Tech Support at Comcast had anything to say.

It is important you understand – I have rarely called Comcast customer service, I had not called in at least six months and I had never complained about this particular issue before…

Here is the transcription of our chat (note – I deleted the rep's last name and for readability took out some of the line breaks and time stamps, but the rest is a complete and unedited transcript of our chat – including all typos... )

Comcast chat room for Internet Tech Support – Sun Jun 01 2008 22:18:38 GMT-0400 (EDT)

After waiting approximately 45 minutes, I reach the top of the cue and begin my conversation

user GC has entered room

GC > we are having intermittent internet issues. it goes fine for 5 mins then dies for a minute or two, then its back. I have rebooted the cable modem many times....

analyst Angelica has entered room

Angelica > Hello GC_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Angelica. Please give me one moment to review your information.

Angelica > I understand.

GC > ok

Angelica > GC, I understand that we need to get this matter resolved and We are doing everything we can to resolve this concern. The outage is really affecting a lot of people and we have our best engineers and technicians working to get this ironed out. But instead of chatting or talking to another rep and still would not get anywhere, I would want to suggest to you to instead make use of the time to do some worthwhile activities while the outage is being fixed. That way, it would not get you to the hassle of waiting on queue for the next available representative or argueing with someone to get things done since the outage is now being worked on.

GC > what? this is my first time emailing in - i havent argured with ayone

Angelica > I understand.

Angelica > We just wanted to reassure you that the outage will be lifted a few hours from now.

GC > so you are saying everyone has this problem? i have had it a month or so

Angelica > Yes, GC.

Angelica > It is affecting nationally.

GC > so everyone in the US has had spotty internet for the last month?

Angelica > Yes, GC.

GC > wow, ok

Angelica > But do not worry, Comcast is doing everything in its power to restore internet back. The engineers are working on it right now.

And that was that.

Somethings speak for themselves... (although I must add I love the part about how I should do something more productive with my time than wait for them to tell me what is wrong.....)

For what it is worth, my connection did seem better last night.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Adweek article

Adweek wrote a piece on divorce360.com (our site) and our efforts.

Definitely a great read! Obviously, I am a bit biased...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Who’s lifecasting is it anyway?

By now you may be familiar with lifecasting, the concept where people broadcast their life 24x7 on the Internet.

To me, this concept is so foreign, it leads to more questions than answers… So I did some digging, and -

Could it possibly be interesting to watch another person live their life? Apparently. Sometimes it is fake, which is probably more interesting.

24x7 should lead to some, uh, fairly personal moments. Do we have to watch them pee? No, most seem to edit a bit, turn off the camera or have a stationary camera, pointing away from the bathroom.

Do they not date? Not sure I want to kiss my girlfriend in front of 1,000s? See “pee” answer, but also do not underestimate the draw of being near the “famous.”

When you say 1,000s, that’s a typo, right? Uh, no. There is someone who is broadcasting the view from a pilot car as they drive in front of “wide loads” across the country. 56,000+ people have watched it – 91 were watching it at once this afternoon!

Is it a coincidence that, for the most part, they are cute? Well, cute usually = interesting (so I hear). Also, never underestimate that apparently, boys will always be boys. Here is a snippet of an interview with Justine, one of the most famous ‘casters. “Justine's viewers were urging her to head to the nearby beach, in the hopes of seeing her in a bikini. ‘Guys, can you just be nice?’ she said, addressing her webcam. ‘Come on. Why does this always have to be like that?’”

So I started thinking about lifecasting, celebrities and the paparazzi. I believe there are two camps of celebs – those that tolerate (read: use) the paparazzi and those that despise them. I have been told that in many cases, despising is an act – that in many cases, celebrities and paparazzi feed off of each other. And that publicists “issue” a schedule of specific celeb activities to the swarming photogs - “Becky will be at the beach today, next to the pier, 1-3 PM. Look for the blond in a red suit. Call my cell if you can’t find her.” For many celebs, I suspect the only thing worse than 20 paparazzi hanging around them is no paparazzi hanging around them…

On to the point. I think it is only a matter of time until someone starts lifecasting a celebrity –without permission. Sort of involuntary lifecasting? Paparazzicast? Hang out in front of the celeb’s house, videoing the driveway, follow/video them into Whole Foods, video them as they select from the produce, etc. External view only, but…. If 91 people will sit and watch the highway in front of a pilot car somewhere between Maine and Oregon, how many people would tune in to watch Britney drive to the mall? I’m betting a lot. From someone who is mostly famous for being famous, this would be a gift from heaven, I would think. And a little scary.

Friday, April 18, 2008

freecreditreport.com ads

Pirate ad.....

"They say a man should always dress for the job he wants.
So, why am I dressed up like a pirate in this restaurant?
It's all because some hacker stole my identity
And so I'm stuck here every evening serving chowder and iced tea
Should've went to freecreditreport.com
I could've seen this coming at me like an atom bomb!
They monitor your credit and send you email alerts,
so you don't end up selling fish to tourists in t-shirts!"

This is a really funny ad. My kids (13 & 11) were singing the lyrics in the car the other night.

I'm a big believer in gaining consumer attention is 90% of the game - I think people have a only the vaguest notion as to ad specifics. The best they can hope for is that consumers sort of remember that freecreditreport.com somehow helps prevent identity theft and that is good. From that standpoint, this ad is a home run. A+. 100!

One question though. Does identity theft force you to work in fast food?

Full disclosure - freecreditreport.com is an advertiser on Divorce360.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

youtube + divorce...

Tricia Walsh Smith has used youtube to discuss her pre-nup, her sex life, embarrass her husband's assistant and probably do herself no favors judge-wise in the effort.

That said, the video has been viewed over 500,00 times - with half of these views coming in the last 2 hours or so!

She has also gotten national attention, with articles on CNN, a bunch of local papers etc. Divorce360 discussed it here.

What's the over/under in days until someone uses youtube as the method to announce to their spouse his/her decision decision to divorce?

I'm guessing 30 days....

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Florida! The New California*

A South Florida Saturday morning – I’m up early, had to run some errands.

So around 8am, I’m in-line, waiting to go into a “gated community.” The entrance represents the Florida real estate go-go days of a year ago – huge fountain, plants everywhere, big guard gate, where the guards carry guns and require photo IDs to enter (why? I have no idea. It is easier to get past airport security than to get into some of these places).

I’m in a line of seven cars or so waiting to get it, so I can see the cars leaving the community coming out the other side. Lexus, Audi, Lexus, Lexus, Porsche, Maserati? vintage Ford Mustang! nice!

Baaaallllllooooooooooommmmmmm! A huge rumble to my left. I look up just in time to see five guys leaving on terrific looking, awesome bikes. Leathers, dirt, patches – these guys look great. Tough. Probably a little mean. The lure of the road. Calling them.

From their gated community.

For nothing screams bad-ass like a bunch of guys roaring out from behind the guarded gates that surround their multi-million dollar golf course homes.

Florida! The New California*

(*stolen from the NYT)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The call-back

I'd like to think I returned every call I received in my career.

But I know that would be a lie.

As former COO of Bankrate I definitely took my fair share of unsolicited calls / e-mails from people of all stripes – customers, potential vendors, salespeople, credit card companies, long distance resellers, etc.

I think you can break them into a few camps:
Customers (as a publisher, this includes both advertisers and consumers): must take. Not always fun, but you gotta do it. To be honest, the consumer calls were always interesting. Mortgage brokers are pretty opinionated as a group, and more than once I wish I could talk faster so I could get the hell outta there, but I’d say 95% of the time I learned something very useful (One percent of all random callers to a public company are mad (insanely mad) at the world and it is the receivers turn to take it). Talking to your customers – there’s a revolutionary idea!

Vendors you know or have heard of or that were referred to you: again, a must take. The risk of passing on the next great partnership/product/whatever is too high. Everyone fears the call from the boss: “Have you seen the new module by vendor X on competitors Ys site? It’s awesome!” You: “Yes, X called me a few months ago, never called ‘em back. I suspect that was why they were calling…..”

Vendors you don’t know, don’t need or have never heard of: these are a mixed bag. If it was something we didn’t need or didn’t use and it was painfully obvious they had spent zero time on our web site, I didn’t call them back. (I got many, many calls trying to sell me banking-type products – Bankrate isn’t a bank, 3 minutes on the site would show this, I felt it was just lazy). If the offer/idea/product seemed interesting, I’d try to call ‘em back, or refer them to a more appropriate colleague. Unfortunately, all too often I just got tied up and didn’t call back.

Now, I’m on the other side of this equation. I am the little guy, the startup CEO trying to get people to take his call / e-mail. It is hard. I suspect somewhere, in some telemarketing convention, someone is (many are?) smiling at the thought of my pain.

There is an old joke that if you want to know if someone is your friend, ask ‘em for a loan. I’m not asking for a loan, but you definitely see who your friends are when you start a business. It’s been amazing. Certainly there are exceptions, but people who I knew and thought were my friends and I believed would be eager to do business with us haven’t / won’t return my calls/e-mails, where as guys who I never had met and didn’t know from Adam have gone out of their way to be gracious. I can never repay the kindness of some of these strangers who have helped us so much. I don’t want to overplay this – many, many friends have been terrific and will always be terrific, and have been a boon to our business, and we wouldn’t be here without them. But…

Another interesting phenomenon – a cold e-mail is never returned on the first attempt at contact. I’m just starting to keep count, but I would say my experience is you have to usually send 3-4 emails to get a response. This is even true when contacting salespeople selling something you want to buy. If they sense you are a small fry, then you can hang, buddy. (It’s especially true when you are trying to sell someone something, but that’s for another post…). It is now to the point that I write my follow-up email (“hey – just checking in, wanted to see if you had a chance to review….”) at the same time as my original email and queue it in my calendar for delivery a few days later, ‘cause I will definitely have to send it, and it is easier to write this stuff when you are on a roll. Lesson here? Persistence is mandatory! Even when you are buying! (Again, maybe not a big shock, but interesting to me)

Final point. Now that I am on the receiving end, you would think I had reformed my own ways, right? Ran to return every call, every e-mail? No! I’m still only so-so at that. But now, I know what it feels like, and it makes me want to be better. We will see.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Apple stores

I love Apple - I love the whole "design matters" aspect of the brand. Design does matter.

I love my macbook. It is tough and smart.

I love my iPod. I have probably have purchased - no lie, 10. Each of my kids has one, I have had a couple, I bought my wife one a week ago. Arguably, the video version is the greatest thing that happened to my flying since I made Delta Medallion and started getting upgraded.

I love iTunes. I don’t care that it is not perfect quality music, or it is a closed system. For me, it is a one-click wonder. I love it. But...



The "too-cool-to-have-a-real-checkout" drives me bananas. I get the whole Starbucks "hey come in and chill" vibe they are going for.

I just don’t want it.

I want to pick up an iPod, walk to the counter, pay and leave. I don’t want to hang with a bunch of hipster doofuses. I just want to pay and go. Get a real checkout, please?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Stuff I read this week I thought was worth sharing

c|net and TechCrunch - Fascinating interview and follow on discussion of Federated Media

Divorce360 - MTV does divorce - Interestingly, MTV takes its reality show to the divorce world - we first heard bout this when they starting using our site to recruit...

NYT - on the Credit Crunch - different look at the credit crisis

NYT - Haggling at Home Depot - ?! I cant get out of BestBuy without almost getting into a fistfight with the cashier 'cause I wont give my telephone number. Now it is OK to negotiate? This I gotta see...

WSJ - Time Warner's HBO Is Caught Up in Midlife Crisis (sub req) - I'm still stuck on the fact that someone could walk away from a series they have $18M in........

Old NYT - Simulscribe - I'm a user for a year - BEST GADGET EVER!!!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Weekend reading - March 17

Some fascinating stuff this week:

Slate - The Wisdom of the Chaperones Digg, Wikipedia, and the myth of Web 2.0 democracy.

WP - When Mom or Dad Asks To Be a Facebook 'Friend' I love the whole "worlds colliding" aspect of some of the social networks......

divorce360 - Husband Caught Paying for Sex? Spitzer inspired

Because there are only 2,000 different sites where you can track the NCAA basketball brackets

footnoted.org - The cost of feeding Playboy’s Girls Next Door… now you know

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Stuff I read this week.....

Not necessarily published this week, I just happened to read 'em this week:

Web Analytics Demystified - great post on the always mysterious web metrics. Must read - basic review of a tool of the business.

TechCrunch on Startups and spending - great take on the topic - Mike's a smart smart guy - I agree with 95% of this.

Our own
- Mortgage Crisis Causing Divorce? - interesting take on potential cause/effect in our current situation in real estate / mortgage

Small social networks growing (cool!)

Navigating TV's Shifting Taste Boundaries - love TV programming discussions

Interesting profile of - wait for it - Al Gore (2004)

Colleges Reduce Out-of-State Tuition to Lure Students - interesting issue

Radio Show

I was on the radio Saturday with Susan Saper Galamba, a family law attorney. She has a weekly program where she discusses divorce and related topics. She's a great host - thanks Susan! If you live in Kansas City or the surrounding areas, check her program out.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


I took my kid to see the U23D movie. This was actual great on several levels.

  1. I love U2. If you were in school in the 80s (or anytime since!), you probably love 'em too.
  2. I have never seen U2 live - this may be as close as I get for a while.
  3. I thought it was a hoot to take 'em to see this - but I'm not sure I converted anyone to the U2 cause tonight.
  4. This was 1000x more enjoyable way to check out the newish digital 3D technology than going to the Hannah Montana movie.
  5. Sunday nite movies are a treat. Always a great way to start the week / end the weekend.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

All-time favorite business stories - #3

Years ago, I ran a credit card portfolio for H&R Block (credit cards? H&R Block? Yup). At the time, Block owned CompuServe, one of the original online services (the others were Prodigy and the then upstartish AOL). The card was the CompuServe Visa – one of the first bank cards to allow consumers to go online, see their statement, email customer service – all stuff we take for granted today. It was awesome. And thanks to the CompuServe Visa, I caught the online bug.

We did traditional card marketing for customers – direct mail and telemarketing primarily. For $27/hour/representative, you could hire an Omaha-based firm (at the time, Omaha was THE capitol of telemarketing, which probably says something about Omaha, telemarketing or both) to make calls to the CompuServe customer base. We would take the customer list to a credit bureau, pre-screen them for credit-worthiness and throw the “passes” into the calling queue.

Interestingly, people who signed up for our card via telemarketing used the card far less than those who responded to the direct-mail solicitation, but there was enough interest in the card to guarantee a pretty high sign-up rate.

A colleague was in charge of monitoring these outbound telemarketing calls to insure we met CompuServe quality control standards (it wasn’t hard - as the service was growing so quickly, internal QC standards were pretty lax – as I recall, CompuServe at the time blocked almost 50% of the customer’s attempts to call its customer service number. That’s correct – 50% of the people who called CompuServe customer Service got the infamous ‘fast busy’ signal. Hey, keep trying!)

One day this person came to work after monitoring calls over the weekend, and reported the following exchange between our representative and a potential customer:

Potential Customer: “Hello?”

Credit Card Telemarketer: “Bill Thompson, please”

Potential Customer: “this is Billy…”

Credit Card Telemarketer: “Bill, congratulations! You have qualified for the CompuServe Visa. With up to a $20,000 line of credit and the ability to manage your account online, it is one great card! If you will answer just a few questions…”

Potential Customer: “Um, OK.”

Credit Card Telemarketer: “That’s terrific! If I could confirm your mailing address as 101 East Nowhere Drive…”

Potential Customer: “Yeah, it is 101 East Nowhere”

Credit Card Telemarketer: “And your phone number is 501-555-1212?”

Potential Customer: “Yeah – 555-1212”

Credit Card Telemarketer: “Terrific. And now [interruption]

Potential Customer: “This is Billy’s mom, Mrs. Thompson – who’s calling? What’s this all about?”

Credit Card Telemarketer [flustered – while interruptions and hang-ups were very common, not many moms interrupt]: “Hello Mrs. Thompson, this is Larry with CompuServe Visa. I’m calling to let Bill know he’s been pre-approved…”

Potential Customer [now very excited]: “What!? He can’t have a credit card?!?! He’s a minor!”

Credit Card Telemarketer [smooth as silk now, yelling is unfortunately part of the deal]: “Mrs. Thompson, we don’t care what Bill does for a living, he is pre-approved for our 2.9% rate, now if you can put him back on the phone….”

At this point our monitor pushes the panic button, calls a supervisor and explains the differences between a miner and a minor.

Supposedly Bill Sr. called later and took the card…

(side note – this was the classic Jr/Sr problem – the service was in Bill Thompson, Sr.’s name, credit check was run on him, fine, no problem, but Bill Thompson, Jr. (age 9) answered the phone. The rep should have asked for Bill Thompson, Sr.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

dust settles

We have been at this for about two months now - "at this" meaning running our site on a daily basis - tending the garden - adding content, watching how people use the site.

It is a daunting task. We are trying to help people work through a very difficult time in their lives. There is much pressure to "get it right." We are a startup, which is code for "expenses exceed revenue." There is much pressure in that as well.

I know the common perception of an Internet startup (what phrase is more stereotyped than that?) is 4 twenty-year olds that code all night and somehow develop the new new thing.

That is undoubtedly true somewhere in the US, and it may be the way things should be. I do know that that is not the case with us. I don’t know if we are wiser, but we are definitely older.