The Best 29 Seconds in Television History: June 26th is Dog Ate Dan’s Heart Day


I’m pleased to announce that today is Dog Ate Dan’s Heart Day, in honor of this clip:

Frequently Asked Questions about #DADHD:

Which one is Dan?
This guy, I presume:
Dan

Who are the other people?
I don’t know.

Why does Dan need a new heart?
I don’t know.

Why does everyone just stare at each other instead of stopping the dog?
I don’t know.

Why is there a dog in the hospital?
I don’t know.

Why is that guy carrying around a human heart in a styrofoam cooler from Walmart?
I don’t know.

Did they get that ice from one of those hotel ice cube makers that are right next to the vending machines?
I don’t know.

Do you think Doctor Casper and Nurse Henderson are getting busy in a supply closet?
I don’t know.

How did the heart move three feet from one cut to the next?
I don’t know.

What happens to Dan?
I don’t know.

What happens to the dog?
I don’t know.

Can I pet the dog?
Sure, why not?

What TV show is this from?
One Tree Hill

Wait, that clip was actually shown on network television?
It was on the CW, so sort of.

OMG Peyton Lucas Haley blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh
I don’t know.

Why is June 26 Dog Ate Dan’s Heart Day?
I first tweeted out this clip on June 26th last year, and I invented a reason to share it again.

Also, I wanted to encourage my wife to push her blog live, even if not every post is a work of genius. Real artists ship.

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17 Terrible Answers to Business School Admissions Interview Questions

Ridiculous clip art that pops up when I do an image search for “Business School.”

Late January is peak interview season for MBA admissions. In the years since I graduated from business school, I have met with over 50 candidates. They often failed to take the interview seriously; this did not bode well for their prospects.

Let’s Start With The Takeaway

Whether it’s an admissions interview or a job interview, do not wing it. It’s obvious to anyone who is paying attention. (And why would you want to go to school–or work–at a place where they don’t care that you don’t care?) The application is a sales process, and the interview is your time to close. So practice.

The Aforementioned Terrible Answers

Below is my interview script, along with the worst answers I received for each question. (I don’t mention my graduate school by name in this post; they wouldn’t want this kind of attention. If you’re curious, click here. The script itself is no secret, and similar ones are all over the web.)

I ran a pretty standard interview. There were no questions designed to trip people up. Interviews are stressful enough, and anyone who asks trick questions is an ass.

As the interview began I’d speak for a minute or two so they could gather their thoughts. I’d share what year I graduated, what I do now, and so on. I also told them that I was going to close the interview by asking for 1 or 2 sentences about why the school should admit them.

1. “Tell me about yourself.”
This should be 30 seconds. It’s a marketing statement. I can always ask for more details, but it’s awkward for me to interrupt and ask for less. The average answer was around 2 minutes, which is way too long.

Terrible Answer: One person talked for 27 minutes without interruption. I tried to break in, but he just talked over me. I decided to see how long he’d go, so I answered email and made a grocery list, all while sitting across from him. Periodically he would remind me that the component numbers for his product were “important” and that I should “write this down.”

More absurd b-school clip art.

2. “Walk me through your resume.”
Short answers are best.

Terrible Answer: “I went into medical devices because I wanted to help people.” I did not request platitudes.
Bonus Terrible Answer for Bostonians: Passing off Harvard Extension School as Harvard College.

3. “Why do you want an MBA?”
Terrible Answer: “Because my dad made me apply.” Followed by tears.

4. “Why do you want to go to this school?”
Not-Terrible-But-Still-Pretty-Lousy Answer: “Because it’s ranked highly.” Give me something more compelling than that.

5. “What do you want to do after school? How will an MBA help?”
Terrible Answer: Not Applicable. Even the worst candidates had pretty good answers. Sometimes they were just making things up–especially the consultants getting their tickets punched–but at least they had a story.

6. “If you get into every school you applied to, how will you pick? Keep in mind that I don’t want to know where else you’re applying.”
You’d think that, because I said I didn’t want to know where they were applying, people would respect that. You’d be wrong: over half of the candidates told me. A third gave me their order of preference.

Terrible Answer: Two candidates didn’t rank my school–the place they were interviewing for–as their first choice.

7. “If you don’t get into any business school, how will you continue working toward your goals?”
Most said they’d stay at their current job and reapply in a year or two. That’s a fine answer. Others indicated that waiting another year to get an MBA would throw off the cost-benefit calculation. That’s an even better one.

Terrible Answer: Several candidates were offended by the question and insisted they’d get in. They did not.

8. “Tell me about an accomplishment. What did you learn? What would you do differently?”
I was primarily interested in the follow-up questions. Since business school is a time to reflect upon one’s career to date, I wanted some thoughtfulness about how they could do better.

Terrible Answer: Desperate silence as they realize they had learned nothing.

9. “Tell me about working in a team. What role did you take? Can you think of an instance when you played a different role?”
A lot of work at many business schools is team-driven. If someone can’t switch roles and adapt to a new situation, no one will want to work with that person.

Terrible Answer: “I am the leader. Always.”

10. “Tell me your strengths/weaknesses.”
Terrible Answer: “I work too hard.” Give me a real weakness, and tell me how you’re addressing it.

11. “Tell me about an unpleasant decision.”
I am looking for a time when the candidate made an unpleasant decision, not a bad decision. Perhaps he or she had to lay someone off, or report on a colleague for misconduct, or decide which project to cut.

Terrible Answer: A longwinded story about how the applicant committed voter fraud.

12. “Which of the school’s extracurricular programs interest you?”
Terrible Answer: Not having a clue. Hint: spend 3 minutes skimming the program’s website.

13. “What do you do outside of work?”
Terrible Answer: If one claims to have done something notable–something important enough that dozens of articles have been written about it–it would be more convincing if it were true.

Folsom Prison. Not a business school.

14. “Is there anything about your application that you want to further explain?”
Only one person ever answered this; she acknowledged her horrible GMAT scores. She was also the only person whom I recommended who was not admitted.

Fictional Terrible Answer: “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.”

15. “Have you visited the school?”
Terrible Answer: There isn’t one, although people got panicky if they hadn’t. I used this as an opportunity to suggest that they spend time at every school they were considering. Because fit is critical. (More on this later.)

16. “Do you have any questions?”
Terrible Answer: People think it’s bad not to have questions, but usually they had rambled on so long that we were both itching to leave. Most people asked me why I chose this particular school, and I’d tell them it was all about finding the right fit. (Again, more on this later.)

17. “Give me 1 or 2 sentences about why this school should admit you.”
I warned them that I was going to ask this, but 80% hadn’t thought of anything. Those people did not get in.

Good Answer: Two sentences.
OK Answer: Five sentences.
Bad Answer: Ten sentences.
Terrible Answer: I cut them off after they start to hyperventilate two minutes in.

Final Thoughts

Who has 2 thumbs and loves MBA clip art? This guy!

  • Do not call me up in a blind rage if you aren’t admitted. Also, if you’re the kind of person who does stuff like this, you’re not getting in.
  • Do not try to flirt with me. Do not repeatedly cross and uncross your legs. Do not play with your hair. Do not lean in as I ask a question, then giggle as you deliver you answer.
  • Do not go to a school where you don’t fit. I told candidates that I would be happy to talk with them about their decision, regardless of which programs they were considering. One person was offered admission at my alma mater and our cross-town rival. On paper, he was a much better fit for my school. He called me up and said he felt he belonged at the other place. As far as I was concerned, his choice was clear.

Good luck to the applicants, and my sympathies to the interviewers.

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Uncle Matt from the Fraggles Visits San Francisco, Muses on Product Management

I’ve lived in the Mission–a district in San Francisco–for a little over a year. Its weirdness strikes me as simultaneously charming and affected. I don’t feel like I truly belong here: I am an observer, not a member.

A Cliff’s Notes Guide to the Mission

It’s tough to describe this neighborhood without offending someone in some fashion, but I’ll try my best. Contrary to these reports, this is an absolutely terrible place to find a “meth head prostitute”. However, they’re correct that the sidewalks are in perpetual need of a good scrubbing.

The area’s most visible residents are Mexicans, hipsters, Mexican hipsters, and Central Americans tired of being called Mexicans. There are murals, pirate supply stores, an old-fashioned barbershop aimed at men called “Beauty Salon Chica Sexy“, garage parties, taxidermy shops, the World’s Largest Torta Cubana, a store that sells both eyeglasses and live edge hardwood lumber, a bewildering number of prepaid cellphone dealers, old movie theaters that have been converted into dollar stores, and the best restaurants in the city.

Fraggles, Product Management, and Whatnot

I’m a product guy at heart. I observe people for a living, and I figure out what’s going to make them happy.

Other people have different strategies for being a product manager. I’ve worked with PMs who were visionary types, and I’ve worked with PMs who were their own target customer. That can be tremendously valuable at the start, but after a couple of years they all either ran out of steam or went off on some wild tangent. They lost their implicit understanding of the market.

No matter where I’ve worked, I’ve never been the demographic target for what I’ve built, so my market understanding has always been based on observation. It’s how I operate in my non-work life, too; I engage with people about what interests them. This is how I end up spending most of a wedding reception in a heated argument with teenage girls about whether Dair or Chair was endgame on Gossip Girl.

My role model in this is Uncle Matt from the Fraggles. He was the one who explored ‘Outer Space’, as he called the surface world, and shared his observations with Gobo through postcards. Overall, he demonstrated a profound lack of understanding of how human society works. Perhaps it’s vanity, but I believe my success rate is a little higher than Uncle Matt’s.

I recently purchased a new phone, which meant it was time to recycle my outdated-when-new HTC Hero. As part of this, I cleared out a year’s worth of photos from the camera. Virtually all of them were trashed immediately: the camera on this thing was awful, and the photographer was not much better. I was left with half a dozen usable images.

The Mission in Six Photos

Car culture is big in San Francisco. So are rims. Bonus points for: 1) Mural 2) Hipster 3) Fixie.

Contrary to the name, Romanesco broccoli is actually a cauliflower. It’s notable because it’s mildly fractal-like. Note the anti-establishment spelling and pricing schemes.

People like to poop on subway escalators, which causes them to not work so well.

Did someone mention Heathcliff? Oh wait, that was me.

How many doormats did this person go through before deciding to chain it down?

Don’t worry, ma’am. Birdcages make me want to take my clothes off, too.

San Francisco Is Weird, Part I

On Thursday I was riding the BART home from a drinky/schmoozy event. I recognized one of the speakers from the shindig, and we introduced ourselves to each other. I informed him that I’d recently moved here, and this city is totally freaking nuts. He strongly disagreed and asked which part of the city I lived in. It turns out we both live on the same tiny little street, and we entered into a discussion about whose block is cooler. This is what his block does for Halloween, so I guess he wins:

The next day I was walking along the Embarcadero, and in a five minute span, the following things happen.

This city is weird. Q.E.D.

I Have a New Job

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve joined instaGrok. This post is long overdue—I came aboard a few months back—but I remain awed by the possibilities of what we’re doing, and the grind of Getting Things Done hasn’t taken that away.

What does instaGrok do?

instaGrok is a research engine for learning and sharing: Users explore graphical concept maps that show how ideas connect. They can also customize the maps (with key facts, links, and images) and pass them on to friends. As Pinterest changed how we curate and share photos, instaGrok will do the same for what we learn.

For those of you who are mathematically inclined:

instaGrok =
(Google – Links + Concept Maps) *
(Pinterest – “Keep Calm and Carry On”)

So it’s not a search engine?

Nope. Search engines just give you links, so it’s up to you to read a bunch of pages and figure out how concepts relate. instaGrok scans all the pages you would’ve gotten as search results, and then it builds a concept map of the important ideas.

Can I try it out?

Sure. It’s open to the public, and we’re getting tons of users. Here’s a concept map on the American Dream that I made in a minute or so.

Who is it for?

K-12 education is our first market. However, we think instaGrok will be useful for everybody who uses the internet to learn (a.k.a. all of us).

Doesn’t Wikipedia cover this?

We respectfully disagree:

  • Wikipedia is linear. There’s no adaptivity or interactivity. You can’t zoom in to focus on a particular topic.
  • Wikipedia doesn’t know if you’re a beginner or an expert. Check out the introduction to the article on Gravity.Curvature of spacetime“, anyone?
  • You can’t customize a Wikipedia entry and pass it on to a friend, saying, “Here is what I think is important about this topic.”

What’s your role?

We’re a small team, and inevitably everyone does a little bit of everything. Somehow that ends up being terribly unglamorous.

Awesome! How can I help?

  1. Try it out.
  2. Tell us what you think.
  3. Tell your friends—especially friends who are educators—and help spread the word.
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How to Catch Runaway Dogs in San Francisco

Perhaps you suspect that the title of this blog post is a fake-out, and I’m going to launch into some wacky parable about startups or marketing or something. Well, you’d be wrong: it’s literally about catching dogs.

This city is one giant Heathcliff cartoon

Be prepared for some ridiculous nepotism on the part of Captain Kelly:

Since moving here six months ago, my wife and I have corralled three loose dogs. There’s a law about everything in San Francisco, so there must be a leash law; based on what I’ve witnessed, I suspect it’s illegal to use them.

Anyway, here’s your chance to learn from my mistakes.

Runaway Dog #1

Location: Ashbury Heights
Month: April
Breed: Don’t know. Don’t care. I’m not a dog person.
Details: We were heading home when a dog joined us on our stroll. No humans were in sight. At first we thought he was tailing us, but then he took the lead, so we followed him. He trotted past several streets before heading up some steps to a front door. My wife rang the bell. A woman answered, and my wife asked if this was her dog. “No, but I’m his walker! Hello Gordon! Did you come to visit? Is it time for our walkies? You’re such a good boy! Yes you are…”
Advice to prospective dog catchers: If a loose dog seems to know where he’s going, give him the benefit of the doubt.

Runaway Dog #2

Location: the Mission
Month: June
Breed: Don’t Know. Don’t care. I’m still not a dog person.
Details: A little pup sprinted into a cross street between Mission and Valencia. We stood in the road to stop traffic. The dog ran in circles as we made futile attempts to catch him. Eventually a preteen boy showed up, and the dog meekly followed him home.
Advice to prospective dog catchers: Some of your classier neighbors ‘walk’ their dogs by pushing them out the door and letting them crap in the street. Sometimes those dogs make a break for it. It’s tough to blame them.

Runaway Dog #3:

Bernadette hitches a ride home with the author

Location: Noe Valley
Month: August
Breed: Even I know this is a corgi.
Details: We saw this girl motoring through a busy intersection with no regard for her personal well-being. I bolted after her while my wife found the owner. (He was the guy yelling, “I’m sixty-nine years old. I can’t run fast!” Apparently the dog had just arrived in town a few hours before: she was a ‘retired’ breeder dog from Arkansas and had never been off the farm. Cars and traffic were totally foreign to her. Thus her total obliviousness to the rules of the road.) The entire chase was under 10 minutes, but may I remind you that San Francisco is hilly? Especially Noe Valley, where the streets have sidestairs, not sidewalks. Wrangling her was a team effort: at intersections, drivers would point which way the dog headed.
Advice to prospective dog catchers:
  • You are out of shape. Even a chubby little dog can outrun you. And you should really take off your fancy zip cardigan before you sprint up hills in San Francisco. It will get sweaty.
  • Don’t bother trying to tackle the dog. Instead, just push her to the ground and hold her there.
  • Keep your hands away from the dog’s mouth. She will bite.
  • After she’s bitten you, keep your hands away from her mouth. She will bite again.
  • For the love of God, KEEP YOUR HANDS AWAY FROM THE DOG’S MOUTH.
  • Remember that zip cardigan you were supposed to remove but didn’t? Yeah, she’s going to poop on it.
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Testing a Hypothesis: IKEA is like a Fancy Restaurant

As a new resident of San Francisco, I’m required to write about how hard it was to rent an apartment. Bloggers get competitive about this topic. I swear that some of them do SEO, and I’ve spotted one instance of plagiarism.

So here’s my advice: it’s not hard, and it doesn’t take a long time. Just lower your expectations, and be prepared to pay up. (Obligatory startup note: yes, money is tight. So is time.)

The real challenge: furnishing our place

Far more arduous was equipping our new home when all our worldly possessions were 3056 miles away. (We were selling our condo in Boston—more on that another day—and our realtor strongly suggested leaving it furnished. So my wife and I would be spending a couple of months in an unfurnished apartment, sans stuff.) Apparently this is not an uncommon problem for new arrivals; last weekend we had dinner with a couple facing the exact same issue. In case you find yourself in such a situation, feel free to learn from my mistakes.

The hypothesis: be a cheap bastard

In 2002 I helped paint a mural at a children’s hospital in Warsaw; there I met the funniest person I know. A few years later he and I were getting dinner in Chicago, and he detailed his foolproof method for choosing wine at a nice restaurant. His reasoning was ridiculously complex, and he’d obviously suffered some sort of psychotic break, but I’ll summarize it here:

I have embraced his logic wholeheartedly, and I apply it everywhere I go.

The experiment: buy the cheapest of everything at IKEA

We only needed the stuff to last a few months. What could go wrong?

The results: things go horribly, horribly wrong

  1. The cheapest salad bowl: $4
    • The first time I used it, it cracked from thermal shock.
    • If I had a time machine, I’d: get a set from Amazon.
  2. The cheapest cutting boards: 2 for $3
    • I used one once, and it added strips of brightly colored plastic to my dinner. It might look like a Fruit Roll-Up, and it might feel like a Fruit Roll-Up, but it does not taste like a Fruit Roll-Up.
    • If I had a time machine, I’d: head to Amazon again.
  3. IKEA spoons are Smurf-size. This is especially odd because Swedes are tall.

    The cheapest flatware: 16 piece set for $4
    • They’re finished as well as the keychain I made in junior high shop class; I scratched my lip on a metal burr. But they work.
    • If I had a time machine, I’d: buy two sets on the first trip. Plus an angle grinder.
  4. The cheapest can opener: $3
    • It doesn’t open cans so much as it repeatedly dents them until they cry out for a swift and merciful death. I rarely use it, which pisses off my cats.
    • If I had a time machine, I’d: bring my nice can opener with me from Boston.
  5. The cheapest sheets: $8
    • Itchy and ugly.
    • If I had a time machine, I’d: buy the 2nd cheapest set.
  6. The cheapest kitchen chairs: $14 apiece
    • Also functions as a desk chair. Surprisingly comfortable, probably because the plastic has a frightening amount of flex.
    • If I had a time machine, I’d: buy 2 more as spares for when these break.
  7. The cheapest desk: $8
    • The legs are $3 apiece (not included in the price above). Do yourself a favor and get them, even if you’re tempted to just stick the desktop on top of a big box.
    • If I had a time machine, I’d: buy the legs on the first trip.
  8. The cheapest kitchen knives: $4 for 3
    • Chopping root vegetables usually ends in a stalemate. It’s like the Korean War on my kitchen counter. But they haven’t broken.
    • If I had a time machine, I’d: very reluctantly buy them again.
  9. The cheapest lounge chair: $49
    • In under a month, it broke under the weight of my cat. (Yes, it was the chubby one.) I disassembled it, lashed it together with twine, and added a layer of bubble wrap for extra cushioning. It looks like Mickey Rourke’s face, but it’s holding together.
    • If I had a time machine, I’d: kill it with fire.

Conclusion: hypothesis is disproved

Buying stuff at IKEA is not like buying wine at a fancy restaurant. It’s not a bargain if you have to replace it after one use, so don’t be a cheap bastard: if you get stuff from IKEA, buy the second cheapest item.

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If You’re Reading This, You Don’t Know Jack About Incubators

Dear reader, if you are viewing this blog post, chances are good that some variation of the following scenario played out recently:

  1. You told me about your startup.
  2. I asked if you considered joining an incubator.
  3. You badmouthed incubators.
  4. I was too buzzed to talk through it then, so I suggested that you read this post.

Since I closed down my company, I’ve attended several “networking events” at local bars. In case you want to steer clear of me, my nametag usually looks like this:

Even in the Bay area, I’m amazed to run into so many people who doubt that joining an incubator will help their business. If this applies to you, one of the following is true:

  1. You’re a rock star.
  2. You weighed the pros and cons, then concluded your business doesn’t fit the incubator model.
  3. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

Just in case you fall into category #3, allow me to assist.

The Benefits

  • Getting accepted is difficult. For a Tier 1 or 2 incubator, the odds are worse than getting into the Ivy League. Of course, most applicants have no serious shot–sort of like a highly selective college–so it’s not as daunting as it looks. The upshot is that being accepted is a proof point by itself. To an investor, you’ve already been vetted.
  • It’s a great alumni network. Let’s be honest: your startup is probably going to fail. Most do. Mine did, and it was way better than yours. Since you’re unlikely to get rich off of this idea, why not hang out with people who will?
  • The 5 or 6% an incubator takes is non-dilutive capital. Forget the money they provide: that’s trivial. Hanging out with really smart people for 3 months is going to increase the value of your company by far more than 5%.
  • You get to know your cofounders really well. In my case, we moved across the country, rented a house together, and managed to not murder each other. That’s called chemistry, my friends.

Weird Stuff That’s Not Immediately Obvious

  • Incubators work best for businesses where substantial progress can be made in 12 weeks. If you have a long sales cycle, or if your app requires a year to build, you’re not a great candidate.
  • Simpler businesses work better. Nuance doesn’t fly when you have 2-4 minutes to present on Demo Day.
  • Speedometer > odometer. This car has lots of miles, but it’s not going anywhere.

    Joining an incubator is a corporate reboot, and being a more mature company isn’t necessarily helpful. Growth rate trumps traction.
  • Incubators are getting huge, and some are specializing in either a vertical or a geography. Not surprisingly, the former (for instance, here and here) makes more sense to me. YMMV.
  • Some animals are more equal than others. Let’s pick on YC for a second: 3 companies are responsible for the overwhelming majority of YC’s success. If I were running an incubator, I’d place my bets early, and I’d spent most of my time working on the home runs. This isn’t the end of the world for the base hits, however: it just means that the next step will be more work.
  • Some of us needed a little help to get through Demo Day.

    Voilà: you’re now a stage actor. While speaking in front of +/- 1000 people is an interesting talent, so is hacky sack. They’re equally applicable to growing a business.
  • The whole “We’ll accept a team without an idea” thing is crazy talk. Yes, some startups change their ideas. But there’s a big difference between having the wrong idea and having no idea. Plus, the whole thing is too Pygmalion and Galatea for me.

My Personal Experience

As I mentioned, we shut down our company, so the result was not what we hoped it would be. But one should never conflate correct decisions with good outcomes, and joining Imagine K12 was the right call. If I had a time machine, I’d do it a thousand times over.

TL;DR version

    1. An incubator will likely help your company, so you should apply.
    2. But don’t sweat it: you probably won’t get in.
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A Grand Unified Theory for Naming Websites

My old domain lives here.

Several weeks ago I found myself wanting to share some thoughts on a topic, and I realized it was finally time for me to get my own site; my hop onto the blogging bandwagon was seven years overdue. (Or perhaps a little early: I last had a personal website in the late 90s, and it was an eerily close approximation of today’s standard blog format. It may have looked ridiculously amateurish, however. Some Googling indicates that the name was taken over by a restaurant in Belize.)

While I have plenty of URLs lying around–many were purchased during bouts of insomnia for projects that looked significantly less brilliant the next morning—none of them seemed appropriate. It was time to pick something new. Plus, naming things is a blast.

What I was looking for

Rather than dive right in and register something, I first established my criteria.

  1. It should tell people how to feel. We all promote an image of ourselves to help shape what people think about us. While this certainly isn’t a professional site, it’s not exactly personal, either: I was searching for something timeless, something a little nerdy-cool but not hip, and something that shows I don’t take myself too seriously.
  2. It should be a good domain. That is, it should be easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to remember. No puns and no swapped/missing/duplicated letters.
  3. It should be available. I’m cheap, and my religion prohibits me from buying already-registered domains.
  4. It should be simple to illustrate. I’m not an artist, so I wanted to use preexisting images. And since I like money, I wanted to use ones in the public domain. It had to be easy to construct a site that wouldn’t embarrass me and my hypothetical future children.

The results

Hey kids! ReflexFurnace.com is still available!

It’s 2012, so pretty much any English word is long gone. I’m either inventing a new word, disemvoweling something (yuck), or choosing a compound word. I like door number 3, which meant it was time to come up with some themes, root words, prefixes, suffixes, and whatnot. After much abuse of Whois and crossing off everything Robotech-related, I came up with Sputnik 11. It immediately felt right, and five minutes later, it was mine.

  • Everyone thinks they know what Sputnik is, but this name lets me share the history of Sputnik 11.
  • The name evokes a nostalgia for a future that never was. Sputnik makes people smile. Based on the success of Mad Men, so does this entire era.
  • Those of you familiar with my background know my affection for the number 11. The ‘Eleven Learning’ name was a conversation starter, and our users loved it.

Several years ago a coworker of mine declared that anyone whose email address contained a number was just lazy. Her statement was aimed directly at me. I’ll have to ask her what she thinks of URLs with numbers in them.

I am sick of startups with terrible names

This is my plea: if you’re picking a URL—even if it’s for something as inconsequential as the site you’re reading now—have a process. Hell, you could do worse than using mine.

  1. It should tell people how to feel. Don’t recycle one you already have. Don’t choose something at random. Pick it because your audience will like it, not because you do.
  2. It should be a good domain. This reminds me of how I once talked myself out of a sure-thing consulting gig by pointing out that prospective users wouldn’t know how to spell the URL…
  3. It should be available. This is a no-brainer for a vanity blog, but it’s also true for startups. I die a little when I hear about companies that spend half their cash on a domain. And by the time a fancy domain is in their budget, their current name will have so much traction that they shouldn’t change. (The exception is when people call a site by something other than its URL, like thefacebook.com or twttr.com.)
  4. It should be simple to illustrate. OK, maybe this one just applies to me.

“We came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds’. And that’s exactly what the product was.”
Jack Dorsey

Next up

Time to pick obnoxious hipster names for those hypothetical kids.

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Hello there. Please check back soon.

More is coming. I promise.

- Andrew

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