Monthly Archives: June 2008

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York [read this book]

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro is a masterful book.    It is really long (1162 pages) and very dense and took me over three months to read.   but it is worth it.  

I now have had a chance to read all four Caro books (three are on Lyndon Johnson) and they are four of the best biographies I have ever read.   I hope and pray that Caro blesses us with another biography soon.  

Rapleaf looking for Incredible Systems/Network Ops Administrator

Incredible Systems/Network
Administrator (Employee #16)


Rapleaf ( is a


startup (we’re currently at 15 people). We
gather publically available information from the social web on hundreds of
millions of people to enable developers and
companies to give their consumers a better user experience
. Rapleaf has
built the largest portable social graph in the world. We provide rich insight on
costumers for clients such as retailers, airlines, hotel chains, social
networks, lead gen firms, telcos, political campaigns, financial services, and more (these companies
learn about their consumers in order to give them a better user
experience).  The company has processed
over 160 million unique searches for
businesses and consumers.


You will maintain Rapleaf’s
entire infrastructure and enhance the system to do great things as we’re on the
trajectory to change the world.   Helping grow
one of the largest and most complex databases for a small start-up.  



Manage all Rapleaf servers (Linux – CentOS, Redhat), backups, web servers
(Apache clusters)

Manage relationship with hosting provider and hardware

Scalability and expansion (Hadoop)

– Systems administration

– Some
scripting (Shell, Ruby, Python, or Perl)

Administer MySQL databases (multi-master replication, snapshot

– Learn
how to scale with Ruby on Rails

– Manage complex Java

Manage billions of data items of pages being served

On-call duty


this job is really hard. You’ll be working with some of the top search engineers
in the world and they are going to expect that you kick ass. We’re doing things
that no one has ever done before and solving problems that have been open for



Master of all things Internet and Linux.

Incredibly smart, can learn fast, and takes no

– Learn new platforms fast. We
use Ruby on Rails and Java … you can pick
this up quickly.

Intensely driven and proactive person.

Extremely hard working. This is a start-up – team members work long

– Quick
learner and real doer. Err on execution over

Thrive on working with A-players. Too good to spend long hours with

Likeable person who garners respect on and off the

Thrive on chaos, risk, and uncertainty.

Should be easy to get along with, nice, fun, smart, ethical, and

Strong desire to build a more ethical society.

Desire to be an early employee and want to be a real owner in Rapleaf’s

– Want
to work with extremely large datasets and indirectly build portable APIs that
thousands of other companies can build applications on top

Ability to lift and install servers (50 lbs)

Should want to live in or near


(relocation available if




San Francisco





and 3rd)



– Good
salary/stock compensation.

Personal MacBook Pro or Linux based machine

Medical insurance, 401k.

Kitchen stocked with food

– Work
with some of the smartest engineers

Contribute to the Rapleaf Dev blog


Rapleaf, we’re only looking for people that really want to change the

interested, please email If you know someone who may be
interested, we also offer a $10,007 referral bonus.


RateItAll gets funding

There was a nice article in TechCrunch last week on RateItAll.    This small company has quietly built a loyal following (and for most of the time they only had a one-person team).    I’ve been on their advisory board for the last two quarters and have been very impressed with Lawrence Coburn, Matt Spolin, and the rest of the team.    Congrats guys and looking forward to a lot of success!

The Art of the Job Offer: Encourage Candidates to Turn You Down

Build the best team by lowering
your job offer acceptance rate


people go about giving a job offer in the wrong way.  They try to sell the candidate and win them
over.  There’s a better strategy.


As a
hiring manager, your objective is to get great employees who are always
thinking about the challenges ahead, love their job, and are a good fit with the
company culture.  It is possible, with
the right interview, to determine if someone is a great engineer … but too
often hiring managers only go after people with great talent.  They forget about fit and that’s because fit
is so hard to interview for and assess.  


One great
way to determine fit is not to explicitly assess it all.  Instead, let the candidate make the choice
and opt-out.  We’ve been extraordinarily
successful at hiring here at Rapleaf and that’s because we encourage candidates
to turn us down.


First, don’t use the offer as an opportunity to
sell the candidate
.  Try to be honest
and open with each candidate.  Tell them
your goal for all employees is for them to love their jobs and that they should
not take the job if they have doubts. 
You’ve only been able evaluate the person for a dozen hours – but the
candidate has known herself all her life.  
She will be a much better judge if she fits the culture.


Next, be completely honest about the culture.   At Rapleaf, we take at least 15 minutes to
spell out, in detail, the company culture.  
Tell them your organization’s quirks and what is expected of
employees.  Some of the many things that
are particular to Rapleaf that we tell all candidates:


  • We’re frugal. 
    We’ll wait until we’re very profitable before we pay for fancy
  • We give each other a good dose of constructive criticism.  We happily give and take criticism.  We want to better ourselves and the
    others around us. 
  • We do not value our own ideas more than those ideas
    generated by our teammates.  
  • We work long hours. 
    We believe great things are accomplished 5% inspiration and 95%
  • We believe the perfect is the enemy of the good.  This means we focus on getting things
    done, not on building the most perfect system.  We strongly believe in rapid iteration.


talk through the culture during the offer.  
If you want your employees to work long hours, you better tell them that
is expected before they accept the offer.  Conversely, if you believe strongly in a
40-hour workweek, tell the candidate because many people are looking to change
the world and they want to work with people who really make the company mission
a priority.  


essential take-away is not to sugar-coat the experience.  Be completely honest.  


Then, tell the candidate your concerns about them.   Tell them what you like about them and what
they will need to improve upon to be a productive employee.  And tell them not to take the job if they
don’t think they can make those improvements. 
This is the toughest thing for a hiring manager to do but it is
important because it really sets the expectations.


Fourth, don’t give candidates a long time to make
a decision
.   Two days is fair.   If they don’t know they want to work for you
in two days, then they should probably turn down your job offer.


And give a salary that is a bit below market but give them a lot of stock.  You want to make sure candidates REALLY want
to work at your company.   Then you
should make sure you take care of your employees and give them frequent raises
so they end up being paid above market.  
This way you get the both worlds – employees who are really excited
about the company and who are happy that they are appreciated by management
(because of the frequent raises).  And  when your company increases its value, you want to make sure your employees benefit from the increased stock price.


Your goal as
a hiring manager is get the best team member, not just the best athlete.   If you’re managing a basketball team, you
want someone that is a great player.  
But you also need someone that will work well with the other team
members and makes them all better.


United and Continental cooperate — this seems good for flyers

message i just got from United:

As a valued Mileage Plus member, we wanted you to be among the first to hear that Continental and United today announced plans to cooperate globally, linking our networks and services worldwide to deliver new benefits to you. In addition, Continental plans to join United in the Star Alliance(R), the most comprehensive airline alliance in the world.

Once implemented, this new partnership, will easily enable you to take advantage of the resources of both airlines to enhance your overall travel experience, and receive more value from your Mileage Plus membership.

First and foremost, this partnership will include new frequent flier reciprocity that will enable you to earn miles when flying on either airline and redeem awards on both carriers. Travel on either carrier will count toward earning elite status. Similarly, members of either airline's airport lounge program will have access to both Continental's Presidents Club network and United's Red Carpet Club(R) lounges.

Second, together with Continental, we will be able to offer you a more comprehensive domestic route network and together with our Star Alliance partners, greater choice of service throughout the entire world.

Starting in the U.S., you are going to see United and Continental develop extensive code-sharing that will facilitate travel whenever your itinerary involves both carriers. We will be able to provide you with a coordinated process for reservations/ticketing, check-in, flight connections and baggage transfer.

Internationally, Continental and United will establish joint ventures that will allow us to cooperate with each other and with other Star Alliance airlines throughout the world.

These joint ventures will enable us to provide you with highly competitive flight schedules, fares and service to more destinations than we do today.

In short, once regulatory approval is obtained, this new partnership between United and Continental will expand your choice of flights and destinations, and improve your ability to earn both miles and elite status in Mileage Plus.

Together we will offer you more value whenever you fly. We expect to bring you the benefits of our cooperation starting some time in 2009, and until then, we will keep you informed about our progress.

We appreciate you and your business, and we look forward to seeing you on your next flight.

Email Deliverability is crucial to achieve consumer Internet virality

In the side
conversations at the founders brunches, it seems that all people can talk about
is invite deliverable.   The most
important subset of invite deliverable is email deliverable.   Many B2C companies go viral by convincing
current users to upload their address books and email their friends.   You can do all the viral tuning you want,
but if your emails are going to someone's spam filter, they ain't gonna see
your genius.   And that's a shame.


So what to

1. check if
you are on any blacklists.   Three sites
I like are:


2.  make sure you can be accepted by carriers by
setting up SPF, Sender ID, and DomainKeys/DKIM.   To get more information on these, check out:

Email Authentication


Then follow
these steps:

– check your current configuration:

– set up SPF/Sender ID:

– set up DomainKeys/DKIM:



3. Monitor
your emails and make sure you unsubscribe anyone that hits the spam key.   Some good services to sign up for are:


– Spamcop:



4. Set up
feedback loop (FBL)

– MSN/Hotmail:

– AOL:



5. Get
whitelisted/remove yourself from blacklists


Microsoft: set up FBL:


– Gmail: none 

Earthlink: email or

Bellsouth: email or email




AT&T: email,, or check
and email email

Road Runner:



6. Monitor
your email deliverability:

            – DeliveryMonitor:


7. Pay for
professional whitelisting (not recommended for startups on a tight budget
unless email deliverability is truly your lifeblood):




8. Ask your
users to add your company’s email address to their address book and to
whitelist you


9.) Other

Zone File: make sure this is accurate and doesn’t
have errors (check with your sys admin)

Privacy policy:
There should be a link from all sites to a privacy policy

– web: Ensure
that unsubscribe links are placed on all the homepages of sites the domains of
which are used as senders for bulk email

Unsubscribe links – email: Ensure unsubscribe links are
placed in all emails to make them CANSPAM compliant

Civic Address: Ensure your business civic address
is placed at the bottom of all mailings to make them CANSPAM compliant.

Unsubscribe Headers: see:

X-headers: Precedence list / Precedence bulk
– consider implementing these.


10. And
read one of the best blogs on this topic:





thanks to my office mate, Vivek Sodera, for his help on putting this together)



counterpoint to referral based hiring

People often believe that hiring people that were referred to you works out the best.

I started thinking …

Could that be this is a result of the fact that most people who were NOT referred are low quality. I have found that the worst quality job applicants, on average, applied from a job advertisement they see somewhere (though I have seen plenty of exceptions).

Referrals often are not coming from an advertisement but instead are usually happily employed but open to a new position (passive job seekers).

Especially in today’s job market, passive job seekers are generally going to be better than active job seekers.

So if the only passive candidates you are seeing are referrals, than referrals are going to be much better than the alternative.

However, you can actively recruit passive candidates. You can contact people directly who are not looking for jobs and try to convince them to apply. A good recruiter should do this. And it is not clear that these passive candidates would be much worse than the passive candidate that was referred to the organization.

And actively recruiting passive candidates is the recruiting function that most companies fail on.

Read Hughes — the brilliant eccentric [book]


By Richard Hack

Howard Hughes was, for a while, the richest person in the world and possible the world’s most complex person too. A movie director, world class pilot, brilliant idea person, and over-the-top eccentric, Hughes still remains a mystery. This is a good biography of Hughes and worth reading (or listening if you are an Audible fan). Recommend it.

customer service reactions in an ever-changing world

I got this email from a CEO of a hot Internet company and though it was blog-worthy:



Here’s a topic I think it interesting and doesn’t seem to be well addressed in this new online environment:

Dealing with Consumer Reactions in the Ever-changing Consumer Internet World

The issue is that in consumer internet we are able to iterate so quickly, and technologies move so quickly, and features are added so quickly that entire websites get re-done frequently (linkedin recently, facebook coming soon, etc). In addition to that consumers have never had more ability to voice their (dis)approval than now through forums, groups, etc right on our own websites! How do we deal with this now? 🙂 How can we be positive and sensitive and show that we listen, but keep doing what is best for the company? How do we manage backlashes about our companies when those uprisings happen right on our own sites!?


I’ve been thinking about this and will soon be publishing some answers and tidbits from readers.