Monthly Archives: May 2006

Book: Takedown

055352883101_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_Takedown : The Fall of the Last Mafia Empire
by Rick Cowan

This is a riveting audiobook (and available on Audible). really enjoyed it. true story about a New York City police officer that goes undercover for three years in the early 1990s to break-up the mafia’s garbage cartel. this a can’t-put-me-down book … and well worth the read. and if you get the audiobook (as i did) the narrator, Christopher Meloni, does a great job with all the New-Yawk voices.

detective Cowan ultimately lead to over 50 convictions and the elimination of one of the mafia’s most profitable lines of business.

summation: a great book about the lack of competition and one’s man’s mission (with a great team behind him) to bring New Yorkers and better deal.

book: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow

A few weeks I was grabbing coffee with Craig Newmark … giving him the update on Rapleaf and getting his advice on our project to make it more profitable to be ethical. “you’re talking about Whuffie,” he said.

I admit, I rarely read fiction. I’ve limited myself to reading one fiction book a year … and last year it was a novel that a was written by a friend. But Craig convinced me. “Rapleaf is about Whuffie.” He said I needed to read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom right away. I have a huge amount of respect for Craig … so of course I went out and bought the book right away

… and then it languished on my bookshelf for a few weeks while we were big fixing. But I finally had a chance to down the book.

And Craig was right … this is a fantastic book.

And one that really defines what a futuristic portable reputation is. Cory Doctorow’s weaves a great story of Jules and his adventures in a futuristic Disney World. And it goes very well with the Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil which I read earlier in the year.

In this world, the reputation of the person is his currency. Wikipedia’s definition of Whuffie:

The usual economic incentives have disappeared from the book’s world. Whuffie has replaced money, providing a motivation for people to do useful and creative things. A person’s Whuffie is a general measurement of his or her overall reputation, and Whuffie is lost and gained according to a person’s favorable or unfavorable actions. The question is, who determines which actions are favorable or unfavorable? In Down and Out, the answer is public opinion. Rudely pushing past someone on the sidewalk will definitely earn you negative points from them (and possibly bystanders who saw you), while composing a much-beloved symphony will earn you positive Whuffie from everyone who enjoyed it.

1. always listen to Craig Newmark’s suggestions
2. if you are interested in reputation and musings about the future, read this book

Thanks Craig!

vertical search engines and vertical advertising networks

Rapleaf is launching in a few days … so i have been taking some time away from blogging.   Luckily, i followed Reid Hoffman’s advice and created 30 blog posts last December.   so i have ammunition for the blog by just cutting and pasting:

There are a bunch of vertical search
engines … everyone talks about them. We
all know them. Simplyhired (jobs),
Indeed (jobs), Oodle (classifieds), (shooping), Trulia (real
estate), Feedster (blogs), etc … vertical search engines galore. These sites look to aggregate users in one
central location to help them find useful information. A few of these sites make some money now —
most are better they will become more popular in the future. Many will get bought or mimicked by Yahoo or


Then there are vertical ad
networks. These companies, like
Adteractive, Quinstreet, NetBlue, etc. make a great deal of money today. Instead of creating one central location, they
specialize in finding people wherever they are on the web. 


We are seeing a huge proliferation
of both types … one is a central location, one is more distributed…


My hunch is
that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg on these vertical ad networks. Today we see a huge lead business in
mortgages, higher education, and services like NetFlix. 


But lead
gen can be applied to a lot of verticals that it hasn’t yet been applied


instance, for the last six months I have been trying to convince the military
to develop a distributed leads gen model for its recruits (note: I’ve had
little luck. even though I have met with
most of the generals in charge of recruiting, they are the government and are
slow to adopt new practices). 


And also
any financial product to consumers could be great for lead gen. so can leads for customers of enterprise
software, hot candidates you might want to hire, new couples for wedding
planners, and clients for lawyers. And
we’ll see these businesses increasingly proliferate and the companies that will
make all the money won’t just be the ones that provide a great service but also
the ones that provide the hot leads to those firms. 

In our
Always-Be-Closing society, thee vertical ad networks are becoming increasingly
important. And while the vertical
search engines are cool and provide a great service, their total addressable
market 10-100 times smaller than the vertical ad networks.

Book: I Didn’t Do It for You

I Didn’t Do It for You : How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation
by Michela Wrong

this is a great book on Eritrea — its colonialism, its struggle for independence from Ethiopia, and its disheartening collapse afterwards.   Wrong is a great author — mixing in some personal anecdotes with her fluid history.

summation: for a good book on east africa, try this one.    it was very enjoyable.