Jed Cohen

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Archive for August, 2009

I am the Long Tail

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You may have heard of the long tail.  It’s one of those Internet buzzwords, but if you haven’t, here’s Chris Anderson’s original Wired article on it.  Here’s a quick description: the cost of storing and distributing small quantities of a variety of slightly popular goods becomes economically feasible thanks to the larger audience the internet provides.  If a retailer were to stock these same products on their shelves, they would not be able to sell through their inventory because their shoppers are bound by the need to physically travel to the store to purchase the item.  Some say the long tail is dead.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.  Regardless, the mathematics behind the long tail (the Pareto principle) apply to a variety of circumstances and phenomena.

Including this blog.

How so?  Well, I imagine that the Pareto principle (or the 80/20 rule, or the law of the vital few, or whatever else you call it) applies to Internet traffic too.  Think about it.  If you run a website, how many visitors do you get?  And how many do you think the most popular websites in your field get?  If the 80/20 rule holds true here, then statistically speaking you probably fall within the 80% of the Internet that provides only 20% of the total web traffic.  But chances are there are a few sites within your field that dominate over the rest, at least traffic wise.

Let’s use my blog, this website, as an example.  Here’s my Google Analytics statistics from July 1st to today:

Google Analytics Statistics

I also had 395 visitors when this blog was hosted on WordPress.com, and most of those were from one post – Twitter, the Psychology of Reciprocity, and Self-Reinforcing Micro-Networks.

Anyway, it’s safe to sat that this is not one of the most visited sites on the web (even if we exclude porn and spam).  I’m okay with this.  Here’s why:

I am not here to tell you how to do whatever it is that you do.

I’m much more interested in having a conversation with you than telling you to do things the way I like to do them.  I want to create content that you find “valuable,” that makes you think or exposes you to something you haven’t heard about before.  Yes, I do try to be timely and interesting and witty while doing this, but I truly hope that I do not come off as preachy.  I am not an expert.  I truly hope that you do not get the impression that I’m trying to be one.

I don’t promote this blog very much.

Okay, so this is related to the point above.  I use some simple WordPress SEO, I tweet about my posts, and I have set up accounts on StumbleUponTechnorati, and so on, but I don’t spend hours trying to increase the number of eyeballs that take in the content here.  I’d like to think that you like what I write, and I hope you leave a comment with your thoughts, but I’m not going to freak out if only eight people read this post.  Sure I have Google Analytics enabled, but that’s because it appeals to my scientific data geek side, not because I run marketing campaigns designed to increase traffic.

I’m not here to make money.

Seriously.  There are no ads or sponsors on this website.  I’m doing this because I want to experiment and learn what works for me, not because I’m expecting to make money.  Maybe one day, but not today.  (In the meantime, at least I’ve got that whole “personal branding” thing covered).

So what’s the point again?

This post was supposed to be about web traffic, not an explanation for why I blog or a justification for why I’m okay that only a few people read this thing.  I was going to make a point about how the Internet allows me to find an audience for my writing (and the writing of others) that traditional media would not be able to.  And I was going to discuss how we shouldn’t necessarily expect the proportions of the 80/20 rule to change.  That just because the Internet is the “great equalizer” doesn’t mean that the majority of people won’t still read the same content, especially in light of the low time investment involved in surfing the web (aka if you don’t like something you close the browser window).

Obviously that didn’t happen.  Sorry about that.  Maybe another post?

In the meantime, let me leave you with this:

Justine Ezarik, aka iJustine, describes herself as “the Internet.”  To give you a frame of reference, Alexa gives her websitetraffic rank of 48,998, while this blog is ranked 3,586,457.  So if Justine is the Internet, I guess that makes me the long tail.  And maybe you too.

Written by Jed

August 18th, 2009 at 9:28 am

Biased Negotiations

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I’ve already written about how I am a virtual intern for CAREEREALISM, a a blog/discussion forum focused on offering advice concerning the shifting concept of “career.”  Well, I have a guest post up at CAREEREALISM today called “Negotiating with Employers – It’s Not As Bad As You Think.”

The post came about because I started writing the following piece on some common mental biases that occur during negotiation.  As I was writing, I realized that I needed to provide a whole bunch of background information to make sense of what I talk about.  So I wrote a bit on integrative negotiation and realized that it was right up CAREEREALISM’s alley.  I sent it to JT O’Donnell, who graciously agreed to post it and made it CAREEREALISM friendly.

So go and check it out!  And then come back and read the rest of this – my original post on negotiation biases (you can just read the rest of this without visiting CAREEREALISM, but I do use a few terms that are defined there and not here).  So without further ado….

Biased Negotiations

Negotiations can be highly charged affairs.  People tend to get emotionally invested, and reason can often go right out the window.  So it can help to have a grasp of some common psychological traps that can harm you during the course of a negotiation.  We’re going to look at three here:

  • The agreement bias
  • The anchoring and adjustment heuristic
  • Framing

The agreement bias

This is exactly what it sounds like – being biased in favor of reaching an agreement.  The problem here is that people fail consider their alternatives!  If the offer on the table is worse than your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement), it’s up to you to recognize it and take the appropriate action (that would be to turn the offer down, in case you were wondering).  Just be sure not to do the opposite, which is to walk away from the table when the deal is good.

Anchoring and adjustment heuristic

The second tendency is the anchoring and adjustment heuristic.  If you haven’t heard of the term before, a heuristic is a basic guide to decision-making during complex situations.  It’s kind of a mental shortcut, and a good portion of the time these basic psychological rules will give you the right answer.  This is one of those times when it is not your friend.  The anchoring and adjustment heuristic says that when primed with an initial reference point, we start there and move towards our end goal.  But we don’t move enough.  (Want to learn more?  Read Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman’s original paper on heuristics).

Anchoring and adjustment tells us that when you walk into a negotiation, you want to be focused on your target price and not your reservation price.  Why?  Because if you start out primed with a low set of numbers, you’re not going to move as far up as if you started high and moved down.  Keep this in mind when considering numbers thrown out by the other party – they can anchor you just as well as your own needs and wants.  Anchoring and adjustment can also be used to your benefit though; making the opening move can anchor the other party as well.  Just be aware of overstepping your bounds based upon the social dynamic between you and the other party.

Framing

Framing is all about context.  The way we are exposed to a deal can impact how we approach it.  The effect of framing can be summed up as “losses loom larger than gains.”  In other words, if I position something in terms of what you gain from accepting my terms, you’re more likely to avoid risk than if I position something in terms of what you loose by not accepting.  This can be tricky during negotiations, as the way you perceive a proposal can influence your willingness to take risk.

Overcoming your own mind

Hey, I never said this would be easy.  Or simple – negotiating is complicated.  But you’ve actually taken the first step towards overcoming biases during negotiations – you’ve read this.  Now that you know about these mental quirks, you can watch your own behavior for them and work on overcoming them.

Which is why the best advice I can give you is this: practice.  Remember the old cliche “practice makes perfect?”  While you’ll never be perfect at negotiation, practicing can make you more comfortable and provide you with feedback that you can use to improve.  The more you try negotiating, the more comfortable you’ll be with your own style, and the better you’ll understand the highs and the lows.

Written by Jed

August 10th, 2009 at 8:28 am

How Do You Do, Squidoo?

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One of the pretty very interesting people I follow on Twitter is Susan Villas Lewis.  I started following her because someone (I forget who) tweeted about her job search.  Instead of going out and submitting resumes, Susan decided to hire a boss.  Which I think is awesome.  It’s an amazing, creative spin on the often frustrating job hunt and something I wish I had thought of myself – although I don’t have anywhere near the kind of qualifications Susan has.  Anyway, a few days ago she tweeted about this internship at Squidoo with Megan Casey, the Squidoo Editor-in-Chief.  Seeing as to how my internship with Careerealism is ending soon, I’ve decided to go ahead and apply.

You know, it’s kind of funny that through my college career, when people often intern everywhere, I basically worked in one place.  Now that I’ve graduated, I’m applying for internships even with a full time job.

But that’s beside the point.  The point is that the application process is to create a Squidoo lens featuring what you’ve done.  So I did.  It’s all about my undergraduate degree, and it’s kind of a chronological walk through my experience at Gallatin.  Check it out (although some of the content was featured here, so it may be a bit of a repeat).

I’ve been working on it for the last few days, and it was an interesting experience.  Any Squidoo lens consists of a series of modules, and you can mix and match modules to create the layout you want.  It’s an interesting system, kind of a mixture of blogging and outside sources of content.  I was able to tie in videos, photos, and Amazon listings into the lens, and it’s that last bit that is particularly interesting.

Squidoo’s revenue is split, 45% to the company, 5% to charity, and 50% to the writer.  And it’s across your lens, so it includes Amazon referrals and Google ad revenue.  I like that they let you donate everything to charity (which is what I’ve done).  I also see the potential for spam – don’t you?

Overall, creating the lens was quite a fascinating and reflective experience, even if I’m not selected for the internship.  I also wonder how many people have joined Squidoo in hopes of landing a position (by the way, Megan commented on the internship announcement saying they’ve already received 50 submissions, so this ought to be interesting), so from that perspective alone I find this interesting.

Do you use Squidoo?  If so, how?  I’m going to start working on another lens soon, but I need some ideas.  Leave a comment and let me know what you think I should write on!

Written by Jed

August 6th, 2009 at 10:05 pm