RIP Resume. Apply with LinkedIn is now Live.

Just a quick blog post tonight, after a full day of meetings explaining the new Apply with LinkedIn plug-in that we launched today.

Jon Seitel put up a great blog post on LinkedIn about the feature. I’m not going to try to duplicate here, but for those of you curious about what we launched today, here’s the intro:

Our goal with Apply with LinkedIn is to help every professional put their best foot forward, anywhere across the web, when they take that leap to apply for a new position, a dream job.

We are going to make it easy for you to submit your profile for any job application on the web with one simple click.  Some of the first companies to debut “Apply with LinkedIn” button on their company websites (besides our own) include Netflix, TripIt, Photobucket and over a thousand other companies. In addition, we’re also working closely with the top Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to help them and their customers match the best candidates for the right jobs.

Instead, I just want to use this space on my personal blog to say thank you to the full team at LinkedIn for taking this concept from vision to reality. With all great products simplicity can be the most difficult goal to achieve. Apply with LinkedIn will permanently change the way millions of professionals find their next great opportunity, and the way companies will find their best talent.

Apply with LinkedIn is just an early example of what LinkedIn can achieve as it builds out it’s vision of a professional operating system for the web.

So a special thank you to the whole team in Mountain View.

Now, Next Play.

‘Twas The Night Before Hackday

A quick parody of a classic to celebrate the LinkedIn Hackday tomorrow (July 15th).  Apologies in advance for the inside jokes / names.  It may not make complete sense to those of you who are not LinkedIn employees.

Twas the night before Hackday, when all through LinkedIn
Not a person was stirring, not even Stegman.

The fridges were stocked with cans of Redbull

The cups were all stacked, the bins were all full.

The hackers were nestled with text editors,

The build was still stable, with normal errors.

iPhones were docked, and Droids were all sleeping,

And MacBooks were purring with power lights breathing.

All of a sudden the InGraphs start flashing,

The NOC is alerted; what is now crashing?

Henke & Kevin were quickly online,

What could be causing this kind of flatline?

Before the team could dive into root cause,

The problems had ended and everyone paused.

Elliot checked, and the metrics were fine

2011 would be over the line.

Suddenly a voice boomed from across the LinkedGym

There was no doubt: the Wizard of In!

He comes every month, for the same simple reason:

Hackday is coming, and it’s coding season

“Forget all your meetings, tell Outlook to shove it.

Hackday’s for coding, just try it, you’ll love it.

Inspire your colleagues, show what you wrote,

Win their applause, and count Twitter votes!”

The Wizard began to run even faster,

and shouting the names of past Hackday Masters,

“Go Crosa, go Ragade, go Efrat & Heuser. Go Gillick, go Jiong, go Blackburn &
Go John, go Matthew, go Shoup & Grishaver. Go Peter, Go Sam, Go Shannon &

As he ran by the kitchen, he stopped for a second:

“I need a Coke Freestyle, this thing is just heaven.”

Quick as he came, he ran out the door,

“Happy Hackday to all, you are all h@x0rs”

How to Make a Great T-Shirt: Metrics

This is the third post in my series on “How to Make a Great Tech T-Shirt“.

Define Success to Achieve Success

On the consumer web, product managers succeed and fail based on their ability to define, measure and understand their product metrics.  When new Product Managers start at LinkedIn, one of the first tasks that I give them is to thoroughly reassess the metrics in the area they are taking over, and prepare a new set of metrics that they will use to measure success with their area on an ongoing basis.

As a result, it’s not completely surprising that I believe that if you want to make great t-shirts for a technology organization, you have to first define a clean, objective measure of success.  You then have to experiment, measure, learn and iterate to produce truly great t-shirts.

Key Metrics: T-Shirt Success

The key to a good metric is simple.  Objectivity.  The problem with t-shirts is that *everyone* has an opinion about what they want in a t-shirt.  Unfortunately, almost no one has ever tested out their pet theories in an objective way.  Thus, T-Shirt choices get made based on the personal opinions of the people making them, rather than what will be most successful for the organization.

Over my years of making t-shirts at LinkedIn, I’ve narrowed my success metrics to a simple measure:

  • What percent of people who received a t-shirt wear it after a 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, and 12 month time periods

That’s a lot to absorb, but it’s really quite simple.  Let’s say you made 100 t-shirts in October 2009:

  • How many people wore your t-shirt to work in November 2009?
  • How many people wore your t-shirt to work in January/April/October 2010?

Clearly, if the more people wearing your shirt on an ongoing basis, the more successful your shirt was at achieving its objectives.

If You Make A T-Shirt and No One Wears It…

  • Q: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?  (A: yes)
  • Q: If you make a t-shirt and no one wears it, was it worthwhile to make a shirt? (A: no)

In my blog post, Why T-Shirts Matter, I outlined over half a dozen reasons why t-shirts are important to technology organizations.  None of those justifications come true, however, if no one wears the t-shirt.  That’s why success is defined by how often people wear the t-shirt, and for how long.

If you’ve made t-shirts before, then you probably recognize the pattern of failure.  In the failure case, everyone takes a t-shirt, but somehow, you never see people wear them around the office.  Sure, maybe a couple people wore them the day after you handed them out.  But a few weeks later, it’s like they never existed.  When you ask about them, people tell you “Oh, I wear it on the weekend” or “I use it for the gym”.  Listen, let’s be honest.  A lot more people in technology talk about going to the gym than actually doing it.  These are the white lies people tell you to avoid telling you the truth: “I took a t-shirt because, for some uncontrollable reason, I have to take any t-shirt that is offered.  But I’m never going to wear it.”

Experiment With Your Shirts

You should be making at least one new t-shirt per quarter for your technology organization, so you have time to learn and experiment.  As we go through the upcoming blog posts on t-shirt quality and design, you’ll see that there are a variety of choices.  There is no one universal answer, but if you are attentive to what t-shirts “work” in your organization, you’re more likely to make new t-shirts that work.

For example:

  • Should you make women’s sizes?  The answer is simple – if it increases the number of people who will wear the shirts to the office and for longer, then yes, you should.  (At LinkedIn, this is absolutely true.)
  • Are certain colors more successful than others?  Absolutely.  (At LinkedIn, the best colors are black, navy, charcoal grey, and heather grey).
  • Should you spend more on higher quality t-shirt manufacturers and materials?  Absolutely.  T-Shirts that go bad quickly or shrink end up never getting worn.  Better to spend $12 for shirts you’ll see for the next two years than $5 on shirts you won’t see again.

I think the more you think about the simplicity of this metric, the more you’ll see that it will help you quickly spot at your workplace what are the shirts people love, and thus which shirts were worth the time & money.


How To Make A Great T-Shirt: Goals

This is the second post in my series on “How to Make a Great Tech T-Shirt“.

Know Why You Are Making the Shirt

Believe it or not, one of the most important steps in making a great t-shirt is having clarity on why you are making the shirt in the first place.

In my original blog post, “Why T-Shirts Matter“, I covered a lot of the high level reasons that T-Shirts are important for high tech companies.  In terms of setting goals for your project, however, it’s important to clearly understand the purpose of the t-shirt.

  1. Celebrating a Product Launch.  This is a common shirt at high tech companies, and represents a type of wearable trophy for the team.  Typically, these t-shirts don’t go to everyone at the company, unless the product really is a company-wide event.  These shirts tend to focus primarily on the product name, rather than the team or company.
  2. Team Identity.  New teams are creating in technology organizations periodically.  When they are formed, there’s always a challenge communicating to the rest of the company that the team exists, and establishing a sense of pride in the new entity.  T-Shirts can solve this problem elegantly.  These shirts typically are made only for the team itself, but in some cases, giving them out to the whole company can help establish visibility more effectively than any number of company-wide emails or announcements.
  3. Event.  These shirts are made to celebrate an event or a one-time program.  This can be a news event, like announcing a milestone for the company, or a company-wide function like a summer picnic.  These shirts tend to focus on a combination of the event and the date, providing living proof that “you were there”.  Typically, they are given only to the people who helped attend the event.
  4. Publicity.  These shirts tend to skew towards the Marketing side of the house, but sometimes shirts are made in volume to help publicly represent the company or a product.  They are designed to be mass replicated, and typically have more cost constraints due to the volume.  Ironically, most people inside the company don’t get these shirts, since they are produced for potential customers or partners.
  5. The Company Shirt.  These shirts are generic, but are the simple, best representation of the company.  There’s no excuse for these shirts not to be high quality and well thought out.  Once they are designed, they tend to be replicated over and over again since they are a staple for both new employees and giveaways.

The reason that picking a goal matters is that when we get to different design options, the purpose naturally affects the choices you make in terms of text and design.  If a shirt is being distributed outside the company, for example, typically simple representation of the brand is preferred.  The smaller the audience, the more idiosyncratic it can be.

Example: LinkedIn for Android

For example, this shirt was made to celebrate the launch of LinkedIn for Android (Goal #1):

This was the front of the shirt.  The back just says: “LinkedIn for Android”.  We printed it on an American Apparel tri-blend shirt (50% poly, 25% cotton, 25% rayon), in a very fitted / modern cut.  (Thanks to @bhaggs on the Twitter team – got the idea for the shirt type from their company shirt).

The truth is, this was a high enough quality execution that we easily could have morphed this to Goal #3, since basically the whole company wanted one.  That’s not atypical when you execute Goal #1 or Goal #2 particularly well.

We’ll cover more design options in an upcoming post.  For now, if you are beginning a t-shirt project, it’s worth thinking ahead of time what the goal of your project really is.

How To Make A Great Tech T-Shirt

Late last year, I happened to write one of my most popular blog posts ever called: Why T-Shirts Matter

One the best t-shirts: LinkedIn Breast Cancer Awareness T-Shirt 2010

Since then, this blog post has been viewed over 36,000 times.  It has been referenced from Hacker News, TechCrunch, Zazzle, and many other blog posts.

Ironically, that blog post has a cliff hanger at the end of it:

It turns out that this is a lot harder than it appears.  Mario always tells me my blog posts are too long, so I’m going to save this topic for the next post…

So Where Is It?

One of the most common questions I get now is “when are you going to write the post on how to make great tech t-shirts?”  Let’s be frank – it has been over eight months since the original post.  Procrastination is one thing, but at this point you’ve got to wonder whether or not this is a Duke Nukem situation.

One Post or Eight?

One of the reasons I haven’t been able to put this post together is that there really is a lot to cover.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about this problem, and as a result, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of content on it.

So I’ve made a decision.  Rather than tackle this beast all at once, I’m going to turn this into a theme for this week.  Every day, I’ll post another aspect of how to make a great tech t-shirt.  At the end, I’ll add a summary post for those of you who prefer cliff notes.

How To Make a Great Tech T-Shirt

  1. Introduction
  2. Goals: Why Are You Making the T-Shirt
  3. Metrics: How Do You Measure Success
  4. Quality: Picking the Right T-Shirt
  5. Design: Styles That Work
  6. Execution: Avoid the Camel
  7. Operations: Collecting Sizes, Ordering & Distribution
  8. Summary: How to Make a Great Tech T-Shirt

Tomorrow, I’ll begin the series, adding links here as an index.  Can’t wait to get started.

Proposed Solution: Quicken 2007 & Mac OS X Lion

Right away, you should know something about me.  I am a die-hard Quicken user.  I’ve been using Quicken on the Mac since 1994, which happens to be the point in time where I decided that controlling my personal finances was fundamentally important.  In fact, one of my most popular blog posts is about how to hack in and fix a rather arcane (but common) issue with Quicken 2007.

So it pains me to write this blog post, because the situation with Quicken for the Mac has become extremely dire.  Intuit has really backed themselves into a corner, and not surprisingly, Apple has no interest in bailing them out.  However, since I love the Mac, and I love Quicken, I’m desperately looking for a way out of this problem.

Problem: Mac OS X Lion (10.7) is imminent

Yesterday, I got this email from Intuit:

It links to this blog post on the Intuit site.  The options are not pretty:

  1. You can switch to Quicken Essentials for Mac.  It’s a great new application written from the ground up.  In their words, “this option is ideal if you do not track investment transactions and history, use online bill pay or rely on specific reports that might not be present in Quicken Essentials for Mac.” Um, sorry, who in their right mind doesn’t want to track “investment transactions”?  Turns out, at tax time, knowing the details of what you bought, at what price, and when are kind of important.  At least, the IRS thinks so.  And they can put you in jail and take everything you own.  So I’m going with them on this one.  No dice.
  2. You can switch to Mint.  I love Mint, and I’ve been using it for years.  But once again, “This option is ideal if maintaining your transaction history is not important to you.”  Yeesh.  For me, Mint is something I use in addition to Quicken.  Unfortunately, Mint is basically blind to anything it can’t integrate with online.  Which includes my 401k, for example.
  3. You can switch to Quicken for Windows.  Seriously? 1999 called and they want their advice back.  Switch to Windows?  Intuit would get a better response here if they just sent Mac users a picture of a huge middle finger.  By the way, to add insult to injury:  “You can easily convert your Quicken Mac data with the exception of Investment transaction history. You will need to either re-download your investment transactions or manually enter them.”

This is an epic disaster.  I’m not sure how many people are actually affected.  But the Trojan War involved tens of thousands of troops, so I’m going with Homer’s definition of “Epic”.

What’s the Problem?

There are really three issues at play here:

  1. Strike 1. Around 2000, Intuit made the mistake of abandoning the Mac.  Hey, they thought it was the prudent thing to do then.  After all, Apple was dying.  (The bar talk between Adobe & Intuit on this mistake must be really fun a few drinks into the evening.)  Whoops.  This led Intuit to massively under-invest in their Mac codebase, yielding a monstrosity that apparently no one in their right mind wants to touch.  From everything I hear, Quicken 2007 for the Mac might as well be written in Fortran and require punch cards to compile.  Untouchable.  Untouchable, unfortunately, means unfixable.
  2. Strike 2. Sometime in the past few years, someone decided that Quicken Essentials for the Mac didn’t need to track investment transactions properly.  I’ve spent more than a decade in software product management, so I have compassion for how hard that decision must have been.  But in the end, it was a very expensive decision, and even if it was necessary, it should have mandated a fast follow with that capability.  It’s a bizarre miss given that tracking investment transactions is a basic tax requirement.  (See note on the IRS above)
  3. Strike 3Apple announces the move from PowerPC chips to Intel chips in June 2005.  Yes, that’s *six* years ago.  Fast forward to June 2011, and Apple announces that their latest operating system, Mac OS X Lion, will not support the backwards compatibility software to allow PowerPC applications to run on Intel Macs.

Uh oh.

This is Intuit’s Fault.

With all due respect to my good friends at Intuit, this problem is really Intuit’s fault.  Intuit had six years to make this migration, and to be honest, Apple is rarely the type of company to support long transitions like this.  You are talking about the company that killed floppy drives almost immediately in favor of USB in 2000, with no warning.  They dropped support for Mac OS Classic in just a few years.  It’s not like Apple was going back to PowerPC.

If you examine the three strikes, you see that Intuit made a couple of tactical & strategic mistakes here.  But in the end, they called several plays wrong, and now they are vulnerable.

Intuit would argue that Apple could still ship Rosetta on Mac OS X Lion.  Or maybe they could license Rosetta to Intuit to bundle with Quicken 2007.

Apple’s not going to do it.  They want to simplify the operating system (brutally).  They want to push software developers to new code, new user experience, and best-in-class applications.  They do not want to create zombie applications that necessitate bug-for-bug fixes over the long term.  Microsoft did too much of this with Windows over the past two decades, and it definitely held them back at an operating system level.

A Proposed Solution: VMware to the rescue

I believe there is a possible solution.  Apple has announced that Mac OS X Lion will include a change to the terms of service to allow for virtualization.  If this is true, this reflects a fundamental shift in Apple’s attitude toward this technology.

The answer:

  • Custom “headless” install of Mac OS X 10.6.8, stripped to just support the launch of Quicken 2007.
  • Quicken 2007 R4 installed / configured to run at launch
  • Distribution as VMware image

OK, this solution isn’t perfect, but it is plausible.  Many system utilities are distributed with stripped, headless versions of Mac OS X.  In fact, Apple’s install disks for Mac OS X have been built this way.  A VMware image allows Intuit to configure & test a standard release package, and ensure it works.  They can distribute new images as necessary.

The cost of VMware Fusion for the Mac is non trivial, but actually roughly the same price as a new version of Quicken.  I’m guessing that Intuit & VMware might be able to work out a deal here, especially since Intuit would be promoting VMware to a large number of Mac users, and even subsidizing it’s adoption.

Will Apple Allow It?

This is always the $64,000 question, but theoretically, this feels like really not much of a give on Apple’s part.  They are changing the virtualization terms for Mac OS X Lion, so why not change them for Snow Leopard to0.

Can We Fix It? 

I’m a daily VMware Fusion user, which is how I use both Windows & Mac operating systems on my MacBook Pro.  If Intuit can’t work this out, I just might try to hack this solution myself.

In the end, I’m a loyal Intuit customer.  I buy TurboTax every year, and I use Quicken every week.  So I’m hoping we can all find a path here.

Feel free to comment if you have ideas.



The Game Mechanics of Silicon Valley Careers

Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been a huge fan of game mechanics for years.  Game mechanics is a loose term for a variety of insights into the neurological and sociological underpinnings of the games that humans like to play.  In the past decade, there has been a massive growth in our understanding of game mechanics, even to the point now where you can’t go 10 feet in the Valley without tripping over a venture capitalist dropping the term in conversation.

This past weekend, I had the chance to chat with an old friend from a former start-up, and I was talking about why I love Zynga, and why game mechanics were one of the more interesting product insights to come out the last few years of product design.  The conversation moved on to catching up on old friends and careers, and the obvious hit me: our very careers in Silicon Valley are based on game mechanics.

Primal Response Patterns: Schedules of Reinforcement

In Amy Jo Kim’s lecture, Putting the Fun in Functional, she outlines some of the basic neurological drivers for response patterns to reward.

I’m going to grotesquely simplify the concept for the purposes of this post.  Real students of psychology & neurobiology – hold your nose while you go through this section.

It turns out that there are demonstrated patterns for response (neé addiction) for different types of reward systems:

  • Simple: You hit the lever, you get a treat.  Most animals will understand and play this game. (Hello, Pavlov)
  • Variable Interval: You hit the lever, but sometimes you get a treat, sometimes not.  This game turns out to be even more addictive, likely due to the combination of uncertainty (triggers fight-or-flight) and then the rush of the intermittent reward when it comes. (When you go to puppy school, you learn to *not* give your dog a treat every single time they do something right.)
  • Variable Interval, Variable Payout.  The most addictive of games.  You hit the lever, and sometimes you get a treat, and sometimes you don’t.  But sometimes the treat is big, and sometimes the treat is small.  (Hello, slot machine)

I was explaining this fact to my friend, when it occurred to me that this is the game that we all play in Silicon Valley.

Addiction: Hypergrowth Tech Companies

This pattern explains a lot about why Silicon Valley is so… addicting.  Venture capitalists invest capital into startups seeking outstanding returns.  Most engineers, on the other hand, invest their human capital to get the same result.  Engineers join hypergrowth companies with the assumption of receiving an equity stake.  That equity stake is the difference between making a good salary, and potentially hitting a step-function in their net worth.

Let’s play out the reward pattern:

  • Variable Interval: Tenure at tech companies can be anywhere from a few months to a few decades, however it averages about 2-3 years.  Sometimes startups go bankrupt less than 2 years after you join or found them.  Sometimes they get acquired.  Sometimes they become truly large, successful ongoing companies.  The timing definitely varies.  Many people would count themselves lucky if one in three of the companies they join turns out to be successful at a level that provides a meaningful value for their equity.
  • Variable Payout: Sometimes tech companies go bankrupt.  Other times they can produce equity worth 2x your salary.  Sometimes 10x.  Sometimes 100x+.

The lever is joining, and the payout is equity.

Is it any wonder that, after three decades, we’re all still addicted to this game?